Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘age

The view from below, with an addendum

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And here’s a view of a dried-out basket-flower seen from below. The stalk that was a vibrant green when fresh has dulled down now to a reddish-brown that I still find pleasant. If the noontime sky seems preternaturally dark, it’s not from of an eclipse of the sun but from an “eclipse” of the background light due to the small lens aperture I wanted for greater depth of field; in order to compensate for the loss of light, I added some flash to keep my subject bright. (There he goes with that day-for-night technique again.)

When I saw this photograph enlarged on my computer monitor I noticed something I’d overlooked (underlooked?) at the time I took the picture: beneath the basket-flower are two very small white ovals. The tiny objects appear to be insect eggs, and if you click the icon below you can see an enlargement of one of them. That closer view will let you see that the egg is attached by a very slender filament emerging from a foothold in the basket of the basket-flower.

Stay tuned for a more dramatic connection between an insect and a basket-flower next time.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 4, 2012 at 12:59 PM

Perdurable too, but in a different way

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Another thing that can and usually does last through the Austin winter, even a normally cooler one, is the fluff of Clematis drummondii, a native vine known colloquially as old man’s beard.* When the fibers produced by the fertilized female flowers are still fresh, they can form a wonderful swirling tangle, as an early post in these pages revealed. Today’s picture shows a later stage than that, when the dried-out fibers take on a more feathery look. The lingering tuft shown here was one of several I found in the same place as the mistflowers and goldeneye along the west side of Mopac on the productive morning of February 1.

In the photograph last July and a follow-up in August, I used flash so that I could stop my macro lens way down to f/25 and f/20, respectively, and extend the focus to as many details as possible in the tiny tangled world that this Clematis species so often draws me into. In this new picture from five days ago I took a different approach. I used natural light and a relatively broad aperture of f/6.3; that combination has kept some parts of the plumes sharp but has let the rest drift off into a soft dreaminess appropriate to the feel of the fibers on fingers.

For those of you interested in other photographic aspects of this image, points 1, 2, 6 and especially 18 in About My Techniques are relevant.


* That the description could be seen as applying to features of the photographer is purely coincidental.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 6, 2012 at 5:40 AM


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Which way is up in this image? From the fact that trees normally branch as they rise, you might think that the picture is upside down, but that’s not the case. Here’s the story. On the morning of January 4th I’d come walking along the north bank of the north fork of the San Gabriel River near Tejas Camp in Williamson County, and at one point I encountered the remains of a long-dead and much-deteriorated tree, an Ashe juniper I think, that had fallen down and was jutting horizontally over the top of the rock strata that lined that stretch of the river. The embankment was just high enough that I could recline part-way on my back against it and still have enough room to lift the camera overhead to take the photograph you see here. The picture, then, looks straight upward. Now that that’s settled, we can go on to acknowledge that there were some wonderfully wispy clouds above me and above central Texas that Wednesday morning.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 12, 2012 at 5:07 AM

Still stately

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Though it’s been a while since there have been any traces of green or yellow in the Maximilian sunflowers that you first saw flourishing on the restored prairie at Austin’s former Mueller Airport in early September, as the year wound down in late December I found that the remains of the erect plants in that location were still stately. I’ve long been intrigued by the scraggly shapes and toned-down colors of plants that have dried out, so from time to time some of them will appear here to keep the fresh and bright ones company.

For more information about Helianthus maximiliani, including a state-clickable map showing the many places in the United States and Canada where you may find these wildflowers still standing stately, you can go to the USDA website. For those of you who are interested in the craft of photography, points 1, 3 and 8 in About My Techniques are relevant to today’s photograph.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 8, 2012 at 5:08 AM

Still golden after all these weeks*

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Now I get to tell you that as of today, January 6, the solitary goldeneye plant growing wild on a low limestone embankment by the side of Morado Circle in my Great Hills neighborhood has kept on flowering. Every day for weeks I’ve looked to see whether the little daubs of yellow have still been there, and so far I haven’t been disappointed. You’ve seen this fall-blooming species before, on October 19 and more closely on October 20, but never as closely as now, in a photograph that comes from some roadside sitting I did on December 28.

I like to show different stages in the development of a plant, and even more than one stage simultaneously, as here. The stylized star-shaped remains of the seed head in the foreground are characteristic of many plants in the sunflower family, while the daisy-like flower heads of Viguiera dentata also identify it as a member of that large family. That the radiating floral yellow in the background is a softer echo of the dried-out central form is a pictorial bonus.


* The title is reminiscent of Paul Simon’s song “Still Crazy After All These Years,” which some might be tempted to apply to the photographer rather than the songwriter.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 6, 2012 at 5:11 AM

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