Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for the ‘seeds’ Category

Day for night

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Each of the last two posts has featured a sunny and colorful wildflower in a bright blue sky, so let me put off another picture of that type till tomorrow; too much of a good thing may be too much of a good thing.

After taking today’s photograph on December 27, I was reminded of day for night, a term used in cinematography for any of several techniques that allow a scene filmed in daylight to simulate a night scene. That wasn’t my intention, but the sun behind this cattail was so bright compared to the plant in front of it that I set my camera to underexpose by 3 f/stops, and then to compensate for the underexposure I used my flash to keep the cattail from coming out black and devoid of detail. The result is as you see it here, with the background seeming to be almost a nighttime sky even though I took the picture at 1:43 on a bright and clear winter afternoon. I’ve long been intrigued by the way the seed heads of cattails, Typha latifolia, blow apart in the breeze, but this was a new way for me to photograph that unraveling.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 29, 2011 at 5:11 AM

Seeds and fibers

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Seeds of Clematis drummondii coming undone; click for greater detail.

Today is the two-month anniversary* of this blog’s first post, so I had the idea, number-nurturer that I am, of looking back to see what I’d photographed on August 4 during the last two years and posting a picture from each of those dates. The only problem with that idea is that when I checked my archives I discovered that I hadn’t taken a single nature photograph on August 4 in 2010 or 2009. Undeterred, I went back a year further and found that on August 4, 2008, I’d gone to the prairie in northeast Austin and had photographed—hardly a surprise to recent readers of this column—some Clematis drummondii in its “old man’s beard” stage. The picture from this year that I posted on July 23 also showed approximately the same phase, but things weren’t as far along as in the image above from three years ago. In this advanced view, the seeds had begun coming undone from both of the cores visible in the picture, one at the left and one in the center. As a reminder of scale, everything in this image occupies perhaps a little more than one cubic inch. Notice that the seeds shown here were browner than in this year’s view, and the feathery strands attached to them are more copper-colored than silvery white. It doesn’t take much imagination to see a resemblance between these long-tailed seeds from the plant kingdom and spermatozoa from the animal kingdom, which though much tinier serve the same purpose.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

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* Today is coincidentally Eve’s and my 24th wedding anniversary.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 4, 2011 at 5:42 AM

Camphorweed Chaos

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Seeds caught on drying flowers of camphorweed, Heterotheca subaxillaris; click for more detail.

Yesterday’s post showed a fully open flower head of camphorweed, Heterotheca subaxillaris, on the prairie site of Austin’s former Mueller Airport. Call that the idealized camphorweed picture.

Within a few feet of that bright and well-behaved day’s eyedaisy to us now—was the miniature landscape you see today. This is more typical of what’s out there in nature: chaos. Failure mixes with success. The two flower heads in the center are drying out—notice their tightly curling rays—perhaps without ever turning into the tan puffballs that are normally their next incarnation. Chalk it up to the drought, and no one will argue with you. As is true for most plants, this one has spiderwebs on it, spiderwebs that collect debris, dust, stray objects blown by the wind. Now add the stickiness of camphorweed itself. Result: parachuted seeds trapped in places where they do no good. Do you see five of them? Let’s count:

•  the long, dark seed at the bottom, a bit left of center;
•  the one resting on its side on the rim of the narrower flower head;
•  the one stuck to the bulging base of that flower head;
•  the one at the top of the picture, a bit left of center;
•  the one stuck to a stem in the upper right.

Will any of these seeds ever make it into the prairie soil and begin to grow? If not these, then others, because dozens of camphorweed plants had sprung up around the place where I sat. But all, they and any descendants whose seeds don’t blow far enough away, are still doomed, for this part of the old airport is scheduled to be built on.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

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