Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘abstract

Vendredi: vues verticales*

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⇧ Fraying leaf tip of a sotol, Dasylirion sp.

⇧ Cattail leaves (Typha sp.) at sunrise.

⇧ Annual sumpweed inflorescences, Iva annua.

These portraits are from the pond at Gault Lane and Burnet Road on October 11, 2020.

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* In case French isn’t among your languages, the doubly° alliterative title means “Friday: vertical views.” The Spanish equivalent would also work, “Viernes: vistas verticales,” as would the Italian “Venerdì: viste verticali.”

The greatest number of different possibilities for having a post title alliterate with a day name is seven because a week consists of seven days. (If you’re wondering how that came to be, you can check out this Britannica article.) Whether any language has all seven of its day names beginning with different sounds, I don’t know. English falls one short of the maximum because Saturday and Sunday begin with the same sound. (Tuesday and Thursday begin with different sounds, despite the initial written letter being the same; that’s because th represents a single sound.) French also has six, because mardi (Tuesday) and mercredi (Wednesday) both begin with m. Likewise for Spanish martes and miércoles.

° Although all 3 words in the title of today’s post begin with a v, the 2nd v creates only the 1st instance of alliteration, so the 3rd v would constitute the 2nd instance of alliteration. In that sort of “it takes two to tango” analysis, the number of alliterations will be 1 less than the number of identical initial letters. On the other hand, you could still make the case for triple alliteration in today’s title by considering the v-words in pairs: vendredi with vues, vendredi with verticales, and vues with verticales.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 15, 2021 at 4:39 AM

Giant ragweed flowers and drying leaf

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On September 24th along the Brushy Creek Regional Trail in Cedar Park I noticed plenty of giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida) flowering. The portrait above shows one inflorescence with some happily out-of-focus patches of blue sky peeking through the canopy of trees. (Not so happy was my nose: those yellow clumps in little downward-opening holders are pollen grains, which were getting released into the air whenever the breeze blew strong enough or something like a hapless photographer bumped up against the plant.)

Where I managed to get a clear shot of the sky I made a sculptural portrait of a drying and curling giant ragweed leaf. What let me stop down to f/25 for good depth of field was flash, which also caused the sky to register as a preturnaturally dark blue-indigo. But hey, what’s reality, anyhow? That’s a question I and a zillion philosophers have asked many times. We’re all still waiting for an answer.

For a different diagonal take on a drying leaf, check out this monochrome composition by Alessandra Chaves.

During one of my photographic stops along the Brushy Creek Regional Trail that morning several women walked past me and I heard a single sentence that one of them said to the others: “She spent $30,000 on her dog, including therapy.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 7, 2021 at 4:29 AM

Sensitive briar seed pods

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A week ago you saw an August 22nd view of a sensitive briar flower globe (Mimosa roemeriana) in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183. Now from that same photo foray you get a look at some prickle-covered sensitive briar pods in front of one of those flower globes.


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“Systemic racism”?

I deplore the practice of labeling every little thing “racist.” If everything is “racist,” then nothing is, and the word has no meaning. Similarly, we often hear the claim that America is “systemically racist.” Of course that was once true, most notably during slavery and then during the century of so-called Jim Crow that followed. While there are—and, given human nature, presumably always will be—individual people of one race who bear ill will toward people of another race, it’s no longer true that institutions in the United States are systemically biased against the groups they used to discriminate against.

Except in education. The American education bureaucracy has done and keeps doing an amazingly efficient job of making sure black and brown kids don’t get a decent education, even as educationists hypocritically decry the racist treatment of those groups.

For decades the National Center for Education Statistics (NAEP) has gathered data about how “well” American students of various ages perform academically. The results are sorted into three categories:

Basic “denotes partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at each grade.” [As a math teacher I’ll add that having only a partial mastery of the prerequisites for the new material being taught makes it very difficult for a student to understand the new material.]

Proficient “represents solid academic performance for each grade assessed. Students reaching this level have demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter, including subject-matter knowledge, applications of such knowledge to real world situations, and analytical skills appropriate to the subject matter.”

Advanced “signifies superior performance beyond proficient.”

The other day I looked at the NAEP’s chart for the 2019 performance in grade-12 mathematics [go to page 9 in that document]. The results were predictably and persistently appalling for historical minorities.

A scandalous 66% of black 12th-graders fell below even the basic level in mathematics! Only 26% scored at the basic level, and 8% at the proficient level. Add those three numbers together and you get 100%. That’s right: so very few black 12th graders reached the advanced level that their numbers rounded to 0% for the top category.

Hispanics did only a little better. 54% of Hispanic 12th-graders fell below even the basic level in mathematics. Only 35% scored at the basic level, and 10% at the proficient level. Just 1% of Hispanics made it into the advanced category.

Did you have any idea how very bad the situation is?

What’s to be done? Come back next time and I’ll offer a suggestion.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 14, 2021 at 4:32 AM

Prairie parsley seeds by purple bindweed flowers

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From August 22nd in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 comes a portrait of prairie parsley seeds (Polytaenia sp.) in front of several purple bindweed flowers (Ipomoea cordatotriloba). I don’t remember taking a picture like this one before, so here’s to novelty. Pitchforks, anyone?


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Another Recent Case of Media Censorship
(I could probably post a new example every day.)

Facebook Suspends Instagram Account of Gold Star Mother Who Criticized Biden.

Facebook’s later admission that the account was “incorrectly deleted” is technically true but doesn’t
change the fact that once again an employee or a politically biased algorithm did delete an account.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 2, 2021 at 4:35 AM

“Clouds” of Clematis

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Look at the great fluffy mounds of Clematis drummondii I found at the southeast corner of FM 1325 and Shoreline Dr. in far north Austin on July 31st. This is a later and more feathery stage than what you saw in a July 28th post, which was later than the flowering stage shown the day before.


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Yesterday was a shameful day for the United States government. Through the gross negligence of pulling too many American soldiers out of Afghanistan too quickly, it allowed the situation there to collapse. For days we’d been hearing that the American government was processing papers for thousands of Afghanis who’d served as translators or done other work, so that they could move to safety in the United States. Why the sudden nitpicking over paperwork, when in the single month of July the American government allowed some 212,000 people to illegally come across the southern border as “undocumented immigrants.” All the government had to do in Afghanistan was start a round-the-clock airlift, get as many of those Afghanis out as quickly as possible, and deal with the paperwork later. Any Afghanis who helped the United States that get left behind can expect the Taliban to behead them. Nice going, current American administration.

And it’s a shameful day, week, month, year, decade for the United Nations for not intervening to put a stop once and for all to the barbaric medieval fanaticism of the Taliban. With that group back in control, any gains that Afghani women made in the past 20 years are immediately wiped out. Word has already gone out that all women must wear burqas. Afghani girls, say goodbye to school; the Taliban thinks your purpose is to grow up and breed, so why do you need an education? Nice going, United Nations.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 16, 2021 at 12:37 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , , , ,

Portraits from our yard: episode 11

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On July 15th artsy me couldn’t resist making this portrait of a Turk’s cap flower
(Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii) viewed from the tip of its long central column.


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Probably not a day goes by when I don’t learn about yet another outlandish thing going on in my country. Look at the headline for an August 5th article in Blaze Media: “Female inmate now pregnant after California pro-trans policy forces women’s prisons to house biological men despite prisoners’ pleas, warnings….” Yup, California passed a law allowing any male prisoner who “identifies” as female to request a transfer to a women’s prison.

“Female prisoners and women’s advocacy groups pled with the state of California not to implement a new pro-transgender law that would force state prisons to accept biological males. The inmates and their advocates warned Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and his administration that nothing good could come of it, citing fears of abuse, sexual disease, and pregnancy.

“In response to these concerns, the state … handed out condoms and pregnancy resources.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 13, 2021 at 6:37 AM

Portraits from our yard: episode 8

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In a comment on an earlier post showing a Turk’s cap flower (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii) in our yard on July 15th, Gallivanta asked whether the characteristic long central column is always upright. The fact is that while most of those columns do grow straight, some curve and some eventually fall off or get broken off. Today’s post shows you those two situations.


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There’s no “official” name for the beliefs that constitute a large part of current leftist ideology. Some people use the term “wokeism,” others “illiberalism,” and still others “critical race theory” (CRT). By whatever name you care to call that ideology, the American educational establishment is increasingly pushing it into our public schools. When opponents of that indoctrination call out the educational establishment for their illiberal beliefs and practices, some of the people in charge have resorted to the sophistic defense that what they’re promoting is not CRT. That’s what the head of the second-largest teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), did on July 6th: “Let’s be clear: Critical race theory is not taught in elementary schools or high schools. It’s a method of examination taught in law school and college that helps analyze whether systemic racism exists.” But as Shakespeare reminded us in Hamlet: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” The lady in question is named Weingarten.

Shakespeare also wrote, this time in Romeo and Juliet: “That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet”—only in this case, that which teachers unions refuse to call critical race theory, by any other name would be as foul. When we consider recent utterances by people in the teachers unions, as well as recent documents they’ve produced, it’s clear that they are pushing transgressive beliefs. (You’re welcome to read a student’s confirmation.) The largest American teachers union is the National Education Association (NEA). Look at this New Business Item from the period June 30–July 3, 2021:

The NEA will, with guidance on implementation from the NEA president and chairs of the Ethnic Minority Affairs Caucuses:

A. Share and publicize, through existing channels, information already available on critical race theory (CRT) — what it is and what it is not; have a team of staffers for members who want to learn more and fight back against anti-CRT rhetoric; and share information with other NEA members as well as their community members.

B. Provide an already-created, in-depth, study that critiques empire, white supremacy, anti-Blackness, anti-Indigeneity, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism, and other forms of power and oppression at the intersections of our society, and that we oppose attempts to ban critical race theory and/or The 1619 Project.

Aside from the jargony crock pot of crackpot shibboleths enumerated in the last paragraph, notice the irony in the largest teachers union wanting to “fight back against anti-CRT” and to “oppose attempts to ban critical race theory”—the very thing they claim they’re not teaching!

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 9, 2021 at 4:43 AM

The silky strands are better known than the flowers

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When it comes to the Clematis drummondii vine, the swirls of silky strands that spring from its fertilized flowers garner much more attention than the flowers themselves. I sure paid plenty of attention to the lustrous strands I found in the northwest quadrant of Howard Lane and Heatherwilde Blvd. on July 17th. Click to enlarge.


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In a survey by the Cato Institute a year ago, about 62% of respondents confirmed that “the political climate these days prevents them from saying things they believe because others might find them offensive. The share of Americans who self‐​censor has risen several points since 2017 when 58% of Americans agreed with this statement.” While the latest survey included respondents across the political spectrum, conservatives were half again as likely (77%) to feel intimidated as people on the political left (52%). Given all the turbulence over the 12 months since last year’s survey, I imagine the numbers would be even higher today. It’s a shame that in a supposedly free country any people should have to worry about speaking their mind.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 28, 2021 at 4:37 AM

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

Tagged with , , , ,

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