Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Light and shadow play on palmetto leaves

with 30 comments


On December 15th of the recently ended year we went to Palmetto State Park about an hour south of Austin so I could record the ways light and shadows played on the leaves of palmettos (Sabal minor), whether green and alive as above, or brown and dead as you see below.




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Outrage! Outrage! Read all about it!


You’ve probably heard the proverb “Not all that glitters is gold.” It means that different things can look alike and that appearances can be deceptive. Iron pyrite glitters but it isn’t gold. Water can glitter, and yet it’s certainly not gold. Illusions exist among words, too. Take outrage. It’s easy to assume the word came about from conduct so far outside the bounds of decency that it sends people into a rage. Nice story. All it lacks to make it true is the truth. The word actually arose from Old French outre, from Latin ultra, meaning ‘beyond.’ The rest of the word is a common suffix, the same -age we find in blockage, orphanage, postage, percentage, voltage, and outage. So even though outrage looks like it’s out + rage, it isn’t. Not all that glitters is gold.

Ideologues would do well to check the origins of words before assuming things about them that aren’t true. One such was a member of the House of Representatives named Emanuel Cleaver, who gave a prayer during the opening of the 117th Congress in January 2021. At the end of his prayer he said “Amen and awoman.” He apparently believed that amen contains the English word men, which is why he felt the need to balance amen with awoman—though the plural awomen would have been the logical parallel. The truth is that amen is an ancient Hebrew word that meant ‘certainly, truly.’ That origin led one wit to quip about the closing of Representative Cleaver’s prayer: “If Amen is Hebrew, Awomen must be Shebrew.” Touché.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 13, 2023 at 4:29 AM

30 Responses

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  1. Fascinating! I’d never considered the origins of outrage, but now it makes me think of the phrase ‘beyond the pale’.

    Ann Mackay

    January 13, 2023 at 6:26 AM

  2. To my eye, palmettos are equally attractive whether green or brown. They make a wonderful canvas for the play of light and shadow. What’s even more interesting in this pair is the difference in texture between the two: the smooth linear ribs in the first, and the mottling in the second.


    January 13, 2023 at 7:49 AM

    • With many plants, seed head remains hang around a lot longer than the flowers that preceded them did. In contrast, when I think back to our Palmetto visit, I seem to remember a lot more green palmettos than brown ones.

      I can’t remember if you visited Palmetto State Park, which is not far from Cost, which I know you’ve been to. If not, this spring may well be the time. The day we visited we arrived late in the morning, and although the park office opens at 8 AM, the ranger told us we were the first people to come to the headquarters that day.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 13, 2023 at 8:02 AM

  3. The first photo gives me the impression of a large concert hall with dark pillars holding up the wonderfully lit building.
    As to the misuse of amen, I have come across similar nonsense with the use of atonement. Someone tried to convince me that it means at-one-ment.

    Peter Klopp

    January 13, 2023 at 9:29 AM

    • I like your vision of dark pillars holding up a wonderfully lit concert hall. Let the music begin.

      The English word one is unusual in having picked up a [w] sound at its beginning and in having its vowel sound changed from the earlier [o]. The original pronunciation survives in compounds like only (literally ‘one-ly’) and alone (literally ‘all [by]one[self]’). After my warning that outrage is not out + rage, you’ll probably be surprised to learn that atone really is at + one, and it preserves the older pronunciation of one. You can find brief and readable accounts of atone and one at


      So sometimes a glittering thing really is gold.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 13, 2023 at 9:50 AM

  4. I like these almost-abstract shots and I agree with Linda, the palmetto is attractive whether green or brown.
    From years of reading history books, “palmetto” is associated in my mind with Charleston, SC in 1776, where a British fleet banged away at Fort Moultrie, which was made of palmetto and sand. The cannonade was totally ineffective, the shots were absorbed by the soft logs and sand, and the British sailed away having taken pretty heavy losses.

    Robert Parker

    January 13, 2023 at 10:50 AM

    • I tagged these portraits “abstract” but “almost-abstract” is okay by me. I can’t remember if I’ve read/heard about Fort Moultrie. Even I have, I didn’t know about the palmettos, soft logs, and sand that thwarted the British bombardment. In an era of guided missiles and drones I’m afraid those things wouldn’t provide the same protection.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 13, 2023 at 1:20 PM

  5. The palmetto photos are quite pleasing to look at, especially the first one with its green and gold.

    Lavinia Ross

    January 13, 2023 at 11:17 AM

    • You might say green and gold never gets old. I was happy with the way the dark shadows interacted with the pleated palmetto leaf.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 13, 2023 at 1:22 PM

  6. Since Sabal minor is native to Oklahoma, and Washingtonia filifera is the only palm that is native to California, Oklahoma has as many native palm species as California does.


    January 13, 2023 at 2:51 PM

  7. I prefer the greener of the two. Warmth and light appeal.

    Steve Gingold

    January 13, 2023 at 4:23 PM

  8. Your playing with light and shadow resulted in some seriously attractive photographs! The contrasting appearance of the same plant in a different stage of existence is fascinating.

    Many local pine forests seem to have nothing but palmetto as understory. Long before I took up birding, I learned underneath palmetto fronds were favorite places for quail to seek shade. Unfortunately, rattlesnakes have the same idea.

    I was going to call your images outrageous but became lost among the etymological weeds and decided “seriously attractive” might suffice.

    Wally Jones

    January 15, 2023 at 10:34 AM

    • Thanks. I’ll take “seriously attractive” (so there’s no need for “outrageous”). I’ve often photographically followed a species through its phases. And speaking of understory, the palmettos at this park fill that role with respect to trees, too—just not pine trees.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 15, 2023 at 10:52 AM

  9. I love your photography, it’s extremely refreshing, and very interesting conceptually. I stumbled upon it and it reminded me a little of my own, even though you have much more skill! Thank you for reigniting my desire to buy a new camera!


    January 17, 2023 at 1:28 PM

    • Happy re-ignition and happy picture taking.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 17, 2023 at 1:32 PM

      • Thanks! Are either of you into 35 mm old school camera photography? I am going to eventually replace my stolen one and begin working on mastering that.. if you have any advice.


        January 17, 2023 at 4:41 PM

        • In 1999 I began using a very early digital camera, and by 2004 I’d moved completely away from film and chemicals. I have so much more editing freedom in the digital world that I wouldn’t want to go back. Sorry I don’t have any good suggestions.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 17, 2023 at 4:51 PM

          • I appreciate both, and I am trying both at the same time, well that’s a lie, because I have to re-buy my camera. Your reply is much appreciated! It gives me new hope I am not going to be totally lost till I buy another camera, any digital suggestions? Even phone related?


            January 17, 2023 at 5:20 PM

            • In the upper part of the right sidebar, in the Information section, there’s a link to About My Techniques, where I’ve outlined several dozen photographic techniques that you can consider.

              Steve Schwartzman

              January 17, 2023 at 6:14 PM

  10. I just noticed how much the color change gives the photo a wooden quality!


    January 17, 2023 at 6:30 PM

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