Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘abstract

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

Lichen on moss

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When I visited the Stillhouse Hollow Nature Preserve on July 7th I hadn’t been there for several years. Rain in the weeks before my visit left parts of the place looking a little Pacific-Northwest-ish, as evidenced by the lichens on moss on a dead tree branch that you see busily filling the frame in today’s close-up.


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In the last post I provided governmental evidence to prove that the “Hands up, don’t shoot!” meme that some people still push developed from a false story about Michael Brown. One organization that has continued to push the false narrative is Black Lives Matter. When I checked the national organization’s website in July of 2020, it included Brown as a “victim” of an unjust system. When I re-checked the website a couple of days ago, it still memorialized the petty criminal who stole from a store, shoved the employee who confronted him, then a little later attacked a policeman and tried to grab his gun.

One thing that has disappeared from the Black Lives Matter website between July of last year and now is this statement: “We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.” It’s not that those in charge don’t still want to disrupt the nuclear family. They do, but saying so on their website was bringing them too much adverse publicity, so they took their “What We Believe” page down.

Three times the “What We Believe” statement used the word collective or collectively, and twice the word comrades. Those words made it clear that this is an organization that advocates Marxism, the ideology that in the Soviet Union and China in the 20th century caused the deaths of tens of millions of people. One of the founders of Black Lives Matter, Patrisse Khan-Cullors, was proud to identify herself as a Marxist in 2015: “We actually do have an ideological frame. Myself and Alicia [Garza] in particular, we’re trained organizers. We are trained Marxists. We are super versed on ideological theories.” (You can watch her saying that at about one minute into a YouTube video.)

You shouldn’t be surprised that this recent American incarnation of Marxism is as unethical and hypocritical as every other one has been. For example, even as millions were driven to starvation in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, those in control got wealthy and lived the good life. Similarly, North Koreans today lead miserable lives while Kim Jong-un gets fat. This spring brought the revelation that Patrisse Khan-Cullors, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter who revels in being a Marxist and is therefore presumably a champion of the masses and an enemy of capitalism, nevertheless managed to buy not one, not two, not three, but four houses worth some 3.2 million dollars in all. I guess that’s supposed to set an example of fair housing practices, though it seems to be a new form of Redlining.

Many people who support Black Lives Matter do so because they want fair treatment for everyone, regardless of race. That’s a noble goal, one that I support, too, but just be aware that the national Black Lives Matter organization stands for things other than those you may think it does.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 23, 2021 at 4:38 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Walking the walk, stalking the stalk

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My nature walk in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 on July 10th had me stalking sunflowers (Helianthus annuus), not just their buds and flower heads but also their rough stalks that present so many opportunities for photographic abstractions. For this portrait I aimed down at a horizontal portion of a thick stalk. Note the two small ants on it. Note also that the stalk meaning ‘a stem’ and the stalk meaning ‘to pursue’ are unrelated. It’s not unusual for two words in a language to start out different and then coincidentally evolve in ways that lead them to end up the same.


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One morning two or three decades ago I was watching a Sunday television talk show. At one point the moderator interviewed a partisan who came on the show to oppose a bill that was pending in Congress. The partisan said that passage of the bill would cause X to happen, where X was some dire consequence that I no longer remember. The moderator, however, had done his homework; he pulled out a copy of the pending bill and read aloud the section relevant to the partisan’s claim that X would happen. It was clear to everyone listening that the provision in the bill would not cause X to happen. The partisan was now exposed as being at best incorrect, or at worst a liar. Nevertheless, twice more during the interview the partisan claimed that if the bill passed X would happen. What do you make of people who persist in repeating a verifiably false claim?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 21, 2021 at 6:45 AM

Waterfall Wednesday #6

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Looks like ice formations, don’t you think?
Yet it was water coming over Stone Bridge Falls in Bull Creek on June 5th.
A shutter speed of 1/3200 effected the transformation.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 14, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Waterfall Wednesday #4

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On June 5th I spent time at Stone Bridge Falls on Bull Creek. To play up the details in the churning creek below the falls, I chose a shutter speed of 1/3200 of a second. While the resulting image might seem black and white, it does harbor some dark brown in its upper part.


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Here’s a passage from Douglas Murray’s thoughtful 2019 book The Madness of Crowds.
 

Even when it does not identify itself as such, the Marxist and post Marxist trend on the political left can always be recognized by the set of thinkers whom it cites and reveres, and whose theories it tries to apply to any and all disciplines and walks of life. From Michelle Foucault these thinkers absorbed their idea of society not as an infinitely complex system of trust and traditions that have evolved over time, but always in the unforgiving light cast when everything is viewed solely through the prism of ‘power’. Viewing all human interactions in this light distorts rather than clarifies, presenting a dishonest interpretation of our lives. Of course power exists as a force in the world, but so do charity, forgiveness and love. If you were to ask most people what matters in their lives very few would say ‘power’. Not because they haven’t absorbed their Foucault, but because it is perverse to see everything in life through such a monomaniacal lens.

Nevertheless for a certain type of person who is intent on finding blame rather than forgiveness in the world, Foucault helps to explain everything. And what Foucault and his admirers seek to explain in personal relations they also attempt to explain on a grand political level. For them absolutely everything in life is a political choice and a political act.

… And always and everywhere is the aim — taken from French literary theory — to ‘deconstruct’ everything. To ‘deconstruct’ something is as significant in academia as ‘constructing’ things is in the rest of society. Indeed, it is one curiosity of academia in recent decades that it has found almost nothing it does not wish to deconstruct, apart from itself.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 30, 2021 at 4:34 AM

Time again for mountain pinks

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Flowers and bullet-like buds of Zeltnera beyrichii on June 18th in Cedar Park.
Thinks to Kathy Werner for tipping me off to the location.
(In return I tipped her off to the location of some bluebells near there.)


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A few days ago I finished reading Douglas Murray’s excellent book The Madness of Crowds, in which he pointed out something I’d begun noticing, too: the hits that come up in response to certain searches on Google are biased. Murray gave several examples, one of which was that when he searched for “straight couples,” many of the pictures that came up in Google Images showed gay couples. His book is from 2019, so I tried that experiment for myself last week to see what sort of results I’d get in mid-2021.

The top row of hits I got for “straight couples” contained seven pictures. The first showed a lesbian couple. The second showed a gay male couple. The third showed a male-female couple. The fourth showed a lesbian couple. The fifth showed a male-female couple. The sixth and seventh both showed lesbian couples. In summary, only two of the seven pictures in the top row matched the search string “straight couples.”

It’s practically impossible for a set of hits so different from the search string to come up by chance. To understand why, imagine all the pictures of couples out there on the internet; billions of them have been posted. Now imagine that you searched for pictures of couples without specifying any particular kind of couple. Using the estimate that 5% of couples are same-sex, I did the calculations to find out how often a random grab of seven pictures of couples would yield an assortment with five gay couples and two straight couples. The arithmetic shows you can expect that to happen only 0.14% of the time, or approximately 1 out of every 700 times. And remember, that’s without specifying what kind of couple you’re after. The fact that I searched specifically for straight couples makes the 5-gay-and-2-straight result I got much less probable than the already tiny 0.14% we’d expect if we didn’t specify the kind of couple.

The only conclusion possible, in fact the one Douglas Murray came to, is that Google is cooking the books—and since Google is a search engine and not accounting software, cooking the books means rigging the search algorithm to distort reality. And this from the company whose original motto was “Don’t be evil.”

Oh, and just in case anyone feels an overwhelming ad hominem urge to label Douglas Murray homophobic for pointing out what he did about Google, he happens to be gay.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 28, 2021 at 4:27 AM

Waterfall Wednesday #2

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Last week you heard how on June 3rd, before the day turned and stayed rainy, I drove three miles to a tributary of Bull Creek where a picturesque waterfall was flowing at full strength. In addition to many straightforward photographs taken at slow shutter speeds like an eighth or a half of a second, I experimented with even slower shutter speeds and zoomed the lens or otherwise moved the camera while the shutter was open. I’ve included two of the results here, each from a four-second exposure. Look how different these views are from the ones you saw last week; in particular, they’re more abstract and less recognizable.


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Yesterday I mentioned the horrendous depredations of the Anti-Cultural Revolution in China under the dictatorship of Mao Zedong. Today I’m following up with the story of Xi Van Fleet, a woman who managed to escape the terror of that Chinese Communist regime. She was fortunate to find freedom in America, but now she’s dismayed to discover that her school district in northern Virginia is indoctrinating its students by using some of the same kinds of techniques and lies the Chinese dictatorship did to keep its people brainwashed and in bondage. You can read about her testimony in a New York Post article from last week.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 16, 2021 at 4:23 AM

Centering

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Nature photographers have a field day with basket-flowers (Plectocephalus americanus), which offer themselves up as subjects in so many ways. In this photograph from May 7th on the Blackland Prairie in southern Round Rock I closed in on the center of an open flower head to increase the portrait’s abstraction.

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This reminds me that one of the latest bits of jargon from ideologues and malcontents—but I repeat myself—is center used as a verb. For example, one website describes an activity “to create a visceral learning experience that centers racism in our bodies.” Ugh. I’ll stick to centering wildflowers, thank you.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 8, 2021 at 3:00 AM

A temporary strip of prairie resurgence

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By the spring of 2020 a construction site in southern Round Rock had already replaced a swath of prairie along Meister Lane on the east side of Schultz Lane. Last year I posted a commemorative picture about it. The construction site is still there, and yet when I drove by on the sunny morning of May 7th this year I found to my delight that many prairie plants at the edge of the road, away from where the work is taking place, had come back up. Hooray for them! By next year the strip will probably be paved over or planted with a closely mowed lawn of non-native grass, but at least for now I had another chance to portray some wildflowers there in the way I used to. The picture above shows a developing basket-flower (Plectocephalus americanus) in front of some clasping-leaf coneflowers (Dracopis amplexicaulis). Below, you have a gaura inflorescence (Oenothera sp.) in front of some firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella).

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In yesterday’s post I provided information about an American government plan to spend large amounts of money implementing critical race theory in the schools. While that is still a proposal, the current administration has already begun discriminating against some people based on their race. A recently set-up program to provide debt relief to farmers is not open to farmers who happen to be white. Not surprisingly, some of those discriminated-against farmers are suing the government for violating their equal-treatment rights under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 16, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Devil’s Waterhole

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There’s nothing diabolical about the Devil’s Waterhole at Inks Lake State Park. Though we’d been to the park several times in recent years, we’d never wandered all the way down to this end until we visited on May 6th. The first picture is a closer and more abstract take (you know me with abstractions), while the second photograph retroactively sets the scene.

Among things diabolical I include the alarming rise in my country of freedom-hating zealots on the rampage to “cancel” and “deplatform” anyone who has different ideas from them. I’d remind those historyphobes—but of course they’d refuse to listen—how quickly things devolved in the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Fascist regimes in Germany and Italy, China’s [anti-]Cultural Revolution, the insanity of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the dictatorship of the Kim dynasty in North Korea, and other disastrous ideological regimes. As George Santayana warned in the first decade of the 20th century, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Good people have to speak and act now, before it’s too late.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 13, 2021 at 4:40 AM

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