Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for the ‘patterns’ Category


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Ashe juniper at Pedernales Falls State Park; click for greater clarity.

My eyes and nose and throat yesterday morning told me that here in central Texas we’ve entered the season for what local tradition calls cedar fever. I don’t know about other people, but I have no fever, and the tree whose pollen causes my allergic symptoms isn’t actually a cedar but an Ashe juniper, Juniperus ashei, an evergreen that’s quite common in these parts.* At this time of year the males of the species release large amounts of pollen to make the female trees happy, even if many males and females of the human species suffer as a result.

Anyhow, thinking about that and about an old black and white portrait that I linked to in one of yesterday’s comments, I got the idea to do something different today by jumping back to a photograph of an Ashe juniper that I took early one August morning in 1976 at Pedernales Falls State Park, some 45 miles west of Austin. Landscape photographers are known for getting up and going out in the dark so they can set up for the “magic light” of dawn, and this was one of the rare times I did something like that, even if I was using black and white film. The film also happened to be infrared, which records light in the range that certain animals can see but that we can’t. As a result, the foliage of the juniper and of other plants and trees, though dark green, showed up as a frosty white (and anyone who knows Texas in August knows the irony of using the word frosty to describe it). The early morning sky, though blue, showed up black, thanks to a red filter I used on my camera to enhance the infrared effect.

About a third of the way down the picture you may have noticed the layers of an early morning cloudbank that I think soon dissipated. In the lower portion of the photograph you see the Ashe juniper reflected in water from the Pedernales River. I found the sinuous shape made by the tree and its reflection to be attractive, and I still do after three dozen years.


* If you’ve been reading this column for a while you may remember that in addition to yesterday’s post a couple of earlier ones showed this type of tree:

one from the end of September about a squirrel in the Ashe juniper outside my window;

one from the first month of this blog about the way the Ashe junipers were shedding leaves and fruit during the drought.


© 1976 and © 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 13, 2012 at 5:10 AM

Inadvertent Halloween

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Click for greater detail.


October 19 found me wandering uphill through the woods adjacent to Stillhouse Canyon in northwest Austin, where I came across this partly decayed leaf of what appears to be a redbud tree, Cercis canadensis. I was fascinated by the way the white, reticulated portion of the leaf contrasts with the backlit orange that largely surrounds it. This being October, the color and rounded shape of the leaf, as well as the eaten-out pattern of white, reminded me of another rounded orange member of our native plant world that has come to be an emblem of Halloween, which not coincidentally is today.

For those interested in photography as a craft, points 1, 2, and especially 4 in About My Techniques are relevant to today’s photograph.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 31, 2011 at 5:34 AM

How numerous?

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Cooperia drummondii; click for greater detail.

“How numerous did you say the rain-lilies were?”

This numerous, seen in the last light before the sun settled behind the nearby trees. The interspersed bits of pink are from the first rain-lilies to have passed their peak and already be wilting.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 15, 2011 at 5:17 AM

To Have and Have Not

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Click for greater detail.

Yes, once we had water. Ponds along whose banks I’ve taken pictures in years past have dried up. A week ago I went to Waller Creek, a place in central Austin where I’ve occasionally photographed, and found that it too was completely dry. I remember that I was there in the fall of 2006, when, looking down through my camera’s macro lens at bubbles and algae on the surface of the slow-moving creek, I could have repeated García Lorca’s words: “Verde que te quiero verde,” “Green how much I love you green.”

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 14, 2011 at 7:04 AM

Camphorweed Triumphant

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Fully open flower head of camphorweed, Heterotheca subaxillaris.

This is what a camphorweed looks like when its rays are fully extended. Of all the camphorweed flower heads I’ve come upon in recent years, few were spread out as wide as this one at Austin’s former Mueller Airport three days ago, so I felt compelled to make a portrait of what I saw as a prairie pinwheel and mandala.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

(For those interested in technique, see points 2 and 4 in About My Techniques.)

Rembrandt comes to central Texas

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Seed head of a Texas thistle, Cirsium texanum; click to enlarge.

Yes, here’s a Rembrandtesque view of a Texas thistle drying out and coming apart, which it must do to accomplish its purpose of disseminating seeds. As pretty as a thistle flower head can be when it’s fresh, it has a different appeal—but still an appeal, even if chaotic—when it’s drying out. Shown here is a Texas thistle, Cirsium texanum, that had already advanced to that stage on the Brushy Creek Regional Trail in Williamson County in mid-May of this year.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 7, 2011 at 2:41 PM

Close view of Texas thistle flowers

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Flowers in the head of a Texas thistle; click to enlarge.

And here’s a close-up of the disk flowers (which are the only type of flowers) in a Texas thistle, Cirsium texanum. I took this photograph in May of 2007 in Great Hills Park, a nature preserve with an entrance just half a mile downhill from my house. This was one of those times when I used flash even in broad daylight; that way I could stop my 100 mm macro lens down as far as it would go, to f/32, in order to keep as many details in focus as possible.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Texas thistle bud beginning to open

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One of the joys of the Texas thistle is an early glimpse of its tightly packed flowers when a bud begins to open.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

(For more information about the Texas thistle, including a clickable map showing where it grows, you can visit the USDA website.)

Snow White

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Detail of a rain-lily, Cooperia pedunculata.

The tepals of a rain-lily are delicate and translucent, and their edges have a visual texture surprisingly like that of snow or ice. Unlike this morning’s equally close view of a rain-lily, this one lets you see the color that can appear in the tip of a tepal.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

(For more information about this species, including a clickable map showing where it grows, you can visit the USDA website.)

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 29, 2011 at 9:41 PM

Sunflower stalk

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Stalk of a sunflower, Helianthus annuus.

But it isn’t just the flowers of the sunflower that attract me, whether fresh or fading: here a flower head is relegated to an indistinct patch of yellow visible through the notch of the branching plant in the foreground. How could I not be attracted to this rough beauty, with its alternating regions of chartreuse and maroon, and its white hairs that are coarser than my own?

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 23, 2011 at 6:52 AM

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