Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Racing against the sun

with 18 comments


Two months ago today we drove from Lost Maples to Kerrville. The route eventually runs alongside the Guadalupe River, and by the time we reached the town of Ingram the sun didn’t have much longer to stay above the trees. I hurried to take a few pictures by that last and very warm light. One was the abstraction above, showing the upper parts of sunlit sycamore trees (Platanus occidentalis) reflected in the river. The camera sensor’s weakness—its limited dynamic range compared to the human retina—worked in my favor by rendering details on the river bank very dark in comparison to the water and the reflections; processing pushed the dark to black. The more conventional scene below, no longer lit by direct light, features a bald cypress tree (Taxodium distichum) that had turned russet.




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© 2023 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 27, 2023 at 4:34 AM

18 Responses

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  1. That reflection is brilliant.


    January 27, 2023 at 6:19 AM

  2. Both photos are lovely. That first one is an interesting composition. I like the effect.

    Lavinia Ross

    January 27, 2023 at 7:28 AM

    • It’s different from what I’ve normally done. Not all experiments produce good results, of course, but I was happy with this one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 27, 2023 at 7:36 AM

  3. Fiery piece of nature’s abstraction cast into the river!

    Peter Klopp

    January 27, 2023 at 9:43 AM

  4. From the color of the trees in the first photo, I would have guessed cypress rather than sycamore. In the second photo, the green, russet, and almost-blue of the bare branches complement one another beautifully. That river road’s one of my favorite drives in the area.


    January 27, 2023 at 4:39 PM

    • When I put this post together some six weeks after the fact, I, too, thought maybe the trees in the top picture were bald cypresses, especially because I’d been on a bald cypress quest. However, in looking at much broader pictures I took of that bank of the river, I saw that all the trees there were sycamores. The atypical redness came from the very-late-in-the-day sunlight. In the second picture, the bare branches were an important feature for me, which is why I didn’t crop in from the right to leave the bald cypress taking up a greater part of the frame. And yes, the river road’s a great drive. I’ve done it a bunch of times.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 27, 2023 at 8:50 PM

  5. Lovely photographs.
    Lovely memories of Lost Maples.

    Thank you for conjuring both.

    Wally Jones

    January 28, 2023 at 3:20 PM

  6. The sycamore here in the Central Valley doesn’t change colors. I wish it did, it’s a prevalent tree here. I like the abstraction.

    Alessandra Chaves

    January 29, 2023 at 9:01 AM

    • The sycamores here, too, don’t normally turn bright colors; their leaves usually become yellowish brown. It was the setting sun that added so much red to them in this case.

      I’m glad to hear the abstraction works for you. This take is different from other pictures I’ve made, and I didn’t know whether it would appeal to people.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 29, 2023 at 10:36 AM

  7. That top shot is a real beauty … golden wonder


    February 1, 2023 at 12:19 PM

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