Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘Austin

Reflecting on cardinal flowers

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Along Bull Creek on September 12th I reflected on cardinal flowers.

In fact I reflected literally and made some portraits like the first two here,
which show the flowers’ images on the moving surface of the creek.

Even without the cardinal flowers’ rich red, other reflections in Bull Creek made for appealing abstractions.

And here’s a reflection on language: “Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” — George Orwell in “Politics and the English Language,” which is even more relevant now than when it appeared in 1946.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 1, 2020 at 4:33 AM

Dewdrops on yellow and red

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On the sunny morning of September 25th we walked around in and near southeast Austin’s Springfield (Neighborhood) Park for the first time in ages. We found that the recent cool-down of overnight temperatures had brought plenty of morning dew. The first picture shows a dewdrop-covered head of Helenium amarum var. amarum, known as yellow bitterweed. I was also happy to find the year of the Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera) continuing, with some new flowers appearing even this late in the season:

And here’s a related quotation for today: “Manners are the happy ways of doing things…. If they are superficial, so are the dewdrops, which give such a depth to the morning meadow.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 30, 2020 at 4:38 AM

Gayfeather

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While driving along FM 2769 in far northwest Austin on September 15th I caught a glimpse of some telltale purple flowers spikes off to the side and quickly pulled over so I could walk back and take my first pictures for 2020 of Liatris punctata, known as gayfeather and blazing-star. (You recently saw L. elegans and L. aspera in Bastrop.) In this portrait I played up the linear leaves of another gayfeather plant close behind my subject.

As an accompanying quotation, here’s the ending of Wordsworth’s “Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”:

   Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
   Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
   To me the meanest flower that blows* can give
   Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

* English has two unrelated verbs to blow. The common one means ‘to move or cause to move in a current of air.’ The other blow, now at best archaic and unknown to most people, is the one Wordsworth intended; it means ‘to bloom’ (in fact bloom and blossom are related to this blow as well as to Latin-derived words like floral, florid, flourish, Florida, and flower). I could have used both kinds of blow for the first goldenrod in yesterday’s post.

UPDATE: I just found out that full-blown comes from the archaic blow, which makes sense: full-blown is ‘fully flowered.’ Isn’t it funny how we can use a phrase for our whole life and never realize what it’s actually saying? I guess I’d always assumed the expression referred to an object like a balloon that someone had blown up to its maximum size.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 29, 2020 at 4:00 AM

Flowers along Bull Creek

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You’ve seen reflections and curious rocks from my foray in Bull Creek Regional Park on August 26th. Now for a floral touch. Above is a species I don’t often find and that has appeared here only twice before: autumn sneezeweed, Helenium autumnale. (You recently saw another Helenium species that I come across much more often.) Contrasting with that yellow were the buds and flowers of a nearby marsh fleabane, Pluchea odorata.

And here’s an unrelated thought for today: “Impossible things never happen. But improbable things happen a lot.” — Jordan Ellenburg in How Not to Be Wrong. Of those improbable occurrences, Nassim Nicholas Taleb has referred to the ones with great consequences as black swan events.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 24, 2020 at 4:15 AM

Paloverde parts

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From August 25th at Mopac and US 183, here are the ever cheery flowers of a paloverde tree (Parkinsonia aculeata). I also did a closeup of one of the tree’s drying pods.

Below is a minimalist view of a paloverde leaf whose curling tip had turned reddish.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today:
“Sensible people don’t grieve over what they don’t have but rejoice in what they do have.”
Epictetus, Fragments.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 23, 2020 at 4:41 AM

Non-linear mealy blue sage

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The stalks of mealy blue sage (Salvia farinacea) are known to depart from straight lines.

These pictures from August 25th at the intersection of Mopac and US 183 confirm that.

The stalk in the third picture loops us around into a quaint little article called “Dangerous Amusement” that appeared in The Philadelphia Medical Journal on August 10, 1901:

“Loop-the-Loop” is the name of a new entertainment which goes further in the way of tempting Providence than anything yet invented. The “Loop” is an immense circle of track in the air. A car on a mimic railway shoots down a very steep incline, and is impelled around the inner side of this loop. Part of this journey, of course, is made “heads down,” the people in the car retaining their places by the great centrifugal force. The authorities at Coney Island are said to have prohibited “looping-the-loop” because women break their corset strings in their efforts to catch their breath as they sweep down the incline, and moreover, a young man is reported to have ruptured a blood vessel in his liver. We predict other accidents from this contrivance yet. No person with a weak heart or bad arteries should try it.

Loop the Loop opened in 1901 and was discontinued in 1910.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 22, 2020 at 4:08 AM

A predilection to turn red

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The leaves of smartweed plants (Polygonum sp.) tend to turn yellow and red. On August 25th I positioned myself with the sun in front of me so that its light would transluce this smartweed leaf and saturate the red. Cameras don’t like looking into the sun—which is to say photographers generally don’t like it—because the light bouncing around off the lens elements can create unwanted artifacts. That’s how there came to be orbs at the top of this picture. Technically it’s a defect, and I could easily remove it, but you may find it’s a smart look for a smartweed leaf. The plant’s stems also noticeably have red in them:

The answer to yesterday’s question asking which independent country has the lowest population density is Mongolia, with only about 2 people per square mile. Eliza Waters quickly came up with the right answer, and Peter Klopp soon followed.

When we look at a globe of the world, we’re accustomed to seeing countries represented in proportion to their areas. For a change, you may want to check out a map that represents countries according to their populations (click the map there to enlarge it). You’ll notice some countries appear smaller or even much smaller than you’re used to seeing them (e.g. Canada, Mongolia, Australia, Ireland, Russia, Algeria, Saudi Arabia), and others larger (e.g. Nigeria, India, the Philippines, Japan, Bangla Desh).

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 21, 2020 at 3:51 AM

Limited-focus abstract views of Clematis drummondii strands

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On August 22nd I went to Great Hills Park and spent quite a while among a group of Clematis drummondii plants that had produced their characteristic strands. Because of rain the day before, some of the strands had stuck together, especially at their tips. In both of today’s pictures limited focus led to abstract portraits that are pretty different from the many other pictures of this species that have appeared here over the years.

Instead of a quotation or a fact, how about a question? Okay, that was already a question, but not the one I had in mind. Here it is: which independent country has the lowest population density? (I included the word independent because Greenland, which is the least densely populated geographic entity, is a territory of Denmark.) You’ll find the answer at the end of the next post.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 20, 2020 at 3:50 AM

Spiderwebbed Mexican hat seed head on a sinuous stalk

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After photographing a broomweed plant silhouetted by reflections of the rising sun in a pond along The Lakes Blvd. on August 19th, on the same property I made a portrait of this spiderwebbed Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera) seed head on a sinuous stalk. The year of the Mexican hat, which is a name I conjured up for one focus of my photography earlier in 2020, had continued.

The fanciful name Mexican hat reminds me that German refers to a thimble as a Fingerhut, i.e. a finger hat. Another thing you might cover fingers with is a glove, which German calls a Handschuh, which is to say a hand shoe. The next time you’re in a department store, try asking a clerk where the handshoes are. I bet the reaction will be quite different from the answer you’d get if you asked where the handbags are.

As for the white webbing on the Mexican hat in today’s photograph, I recently mentioned that spider actually means ‘spinner,’ based on the webs that spiders spin. And that leads us to our quotation for today: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave,/ When first we practise to deceive!” — Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field, an 1808 historical romance in verse by Sir Walter Scott (who really was a Scot).

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 17, 2020 at 3:55 AM

Interesting geology

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During the same August 26th visit to Bull Creek Regional Park that you saw pictures of last time, I stopped by a limestone overhang where I’d taken pictures in other years. This time I noticed a group of brain-like formations that had somehow escaped me on those previous visits, and that I assume eons of dripping water had created. Close by and higher up, a different sort of formation asked to have its portrait made, as you see below. Note the southern maidenhair ferns (Adiantum capillus-veneris), both green and brown.

And here’s a cautionary quotation that’s as relevant now as it was when it appeared in 1945: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” — Animal Farm, by Eric Blair writing under the name George Orwell.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 16, 2020 at 3:08 AM

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