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An archaeology of light

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An adage says “Out of sight, out of mind,” and yet the saying’s first two words could just as well be replaced by “in.” Familiarity breeds a sort of visual contempt in which ordinary objects might as well be buried.

To let light uncover those everyday objects around the house is to practice an archaeology of light.

On the technical side, I took the first two pictures with my “real” camera
and the third with my iPhone. I prepared this post in 2020 but kept postponing it.

And here’s a thought about photographic esthetics: “Now to consult the rules of composition before making a picture is a little like consulting the law of gravitation before going out for a walk.” — Edward Weston. A bunch of different wordings occur on the Internet. Research leads me to think this one is the most likely to be authentic. I came across a version of the quotation in an article by David duChemin called “Are Your Photographs Poetic?“, which I recommend to you.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 26, 2021 at 4:46 AM

Almost camouflaged

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On June 16th we walked a portion of the main trail in Great Hills Park. If this Texas spiny lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus) had kept its head down and in line with the rest of its scaly body it would have blended into the rough bark of the tree it was on and we might have walked right past it. Instead, its sunlit head extended beyond the tree’s profile and contrasted with the darker background, allowing me to notice it and take a picture with my iPhone. As soon as I moved a little closer, the lizard scampered away.

© 2020

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 26, 2020 at 4:46 AM

Posted in nature photography

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More about snails, on and off the prairie

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On May 7th I went to a surviving piece of the Blackland Prairie in Pflugerville and photographed my first basket-flowers (Plectocephalus americanus) of the season. One of them caught my attention because a two-toned snail had slid all the way up the stalk and onto the flower head’s “basket.”

On May 6th I’d gone to an adjacent part of the property, where snails had also been abundant. On the morning of the 7th I went to get my phone, which was charging right next to my camera bag. Imagine my surprise when I found a snail on the phone’s USB cable. As best I can make out, the snail hitchhiked home on or in my camera bag, then slid out overnight and found its way onto the USB cable.

Now it’s 10 days later.

And the small snail, never moving, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid iPhone cable just above my chamber’s floor;
    And his eyes have all the seeming of a mollusk’s that is dreaming,
    And the light bulb o’er him streaming throws his shadow toward the door;
And that snail from off that cable that lies coiling near the floor
            Shall be lifted—nevermore!
© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 17, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Sibonga sunsets

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As you heard a few posts back, on December 23rd last year I wanted to see what the sunset along Sibonga’s waterfront might look like. What put the idea in my head was that on December 15th we’d been at the town square not far from the shore and I’d taken a few sunset pictures on my iPhone, including this one:

Late in the afternoon on the 23rd we walked out to the tip of the pier that juts into the Cebu Strait. Here’s one of the first pictures I took of the developing sunset:

Twelve minutes later, the view east toward Bohol had turned a pleasant rosy blue:

And six minutes after that we saw a more orange view looking west, back toward the town:

Notice how shades of gray distinguish “layers” of hills.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 22, 2020 at 4:40 AM

Lake Pflugerville

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This morning we walked part of the path around Lake Pflugerville on the Blackland Prairie.
One thing that caught my attention was the reflection of a bare tree.

Another thing was a shaft of light in the clouds.

At the edge of the lake near the main parking lot I noticed seed head remains of bushy bluestem
(Andropogon glomeratus) and cockleburs (Xanthium strumarium) among the cattails (Typha domingensis).

I took these photographs with my iPhone.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 4, 2019 at 5:00 PM

Etwas anderes

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This post’s title, which is something different because it’s in German, means “something different.” That applies to the post’s photograph, which is also something different in these pages because it doesn’t show nature (at least not unless you consider geometry a part of nature). Oh well, I hope you won’t mind if once in a while I jump out of my box. The subject, which I photographed with an iPhone at the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan on May 29th, is the Oculus, designed by Spanish-born architect Santiago Calatrava.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 9, 2018 at 4:40 AM

Unusual clouds

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The last unusual clouds you saw here were from Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta on September 3 of last year. Two days ago when we headed out to run a few errands, the atypical combination of clouds overhead caught our attention. Rather than go back home for a real camera, lazy me pulled over and used an iPhone.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

UPDATE: Unbeknownst to me at the time, the last of the several pictures I took included a jet plane. It appeared to be flying parallel to the prominent cloud, yet the airplane produced no contrails at all. The long white cloud remains a mystery.

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 6, 2018 at 4:36 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Beginning of winter in Austin

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bald-cypress-turning-colors-with-scalloped-clouds-and-dry-giant-ragweed-1131

Thanks to two bridges, on the first official day of winter (December 21) we walked a two-mile circuit around a portion of downtown Austin’s Lady Bird Lake. At Vic Mathias Shores on the south side of the lake I pulled out my iPhone and recorded this view of bald cypress trees, Taxodium distichum, turning their end-of-year colors. The tall, bare plants in the foreground are giant ragweed, Ambrosia trifida. How could I pass up a sky like this as a contrasting background?

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 16, 2017 at 5:02 AM

Like a pink storm

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Gulf Muhly Seed Heads 0584

While waiting at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center a little before 5 o’clock on October 15th for the opening reception of the Native Plant Society of Texas symposium, I pulled out my iPhone, knelt, and took this picture. When gulf muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) matures and produces seeds, I see it as a local pink storm, such is the sense of movement that I get from it, even though the grass doesn’t move unless the wind is blowing. Do you feel that implied movement in this stillness?

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 20, 2015 at 5:06 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Periscope up!

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My friend Joe Smith recently told me about a new communications app for cell phones called Periscope. Using the Periscope app, people broadcast videos that other people can watch live and that then stay available for viewing for just 24 hours. (Can you spell ephemeral?) I’ve gone ahead and joined, which is free, and while I was out doing my usual thing this morning I also created a few brief test videos about the native plants I was seeing. These are very much on-the-fly productions without the controlled quality of the still images that appear on this blog, but if you’re curious you’re welcome to have a look. Videos have a couple of advantages over still images: [1] things move (plants in the breeze, for example, and me)  [2] there’s sound, so you get to hear my mellifluous narration (along with the noise of passing cars, etc.).

You can download the free Periscope app for iPhone at

https://itunes.apple.com/app/id972909677

and the free app for Android at

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=tv.periscope.android

Once you have the app running on your phone, you can search for people by touching the icon at the bottom right of the screen, the one made up of three stylized people’s heads. I’m listed as Steve Schwartzman; you can also search for Portraits and the app will find my name. Once you find a person whose videos you want to see, you can press the circular icon with the plus sign to the right of the person’s name. From then on you’ll be notified of any new videos the person posts. And of course you may want to start posting videos of your own.

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 18, 2015 at 2:35 PM

Posted in nature photography

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