Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘Austin

Pale green crab spider

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On May 1st, about half an hour before I encountered the fawn you recently saw here, I stopped to photograph a rain-lily flower (Zephyranthes drummondii) that was turning pink as it shriveled away at the end of its inevitably brief life. Once I got close to the flower I found a pale green crab spider on it. A somewhat orange prickly pear cactus flower (Opuntia engelmannii) provided a great backdrop. I don’t recall ever previously photographing this combination of colors.

If you’re interested in the art and craft of photography, points 1, 5, 6 and 7 in About My Techniques apply to this picture.

And here’s a quotation for today: “I find that sometimes when I go into a community that’s not my own, or a community that has a lot of issues attached to it, I have to resist wanting to say something about how I think they could be better, or how I think the government has wronged them.” — Chloé Zhao, 2021 Academy Award winner for best director.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 14, 2021 at 4:35 AM

Visiting nerve-ray

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On the first day of May this Tetragonotheca texana (known by the strange name nerve-ray) had two simultaneous morning visitors. Whether the non-me visitor was a non-bee. i.e. a bee-fly, I’m not sure. Nerve-ray is one of the few yellow daisy-type flowers that’s fragrant. Where the conventional wisdom is to stop and smell the roses, I always stop and bend down to enjoy the subtle fragrance of nerve-ray flowers.

Another colloquial name for nerve-ray is square-bud daisy. The starkly lit portrait below explains that name.

I’ll grant you that this bud looks a bit off from being exactly square—hey, nature’s not perfect. For that matter, neither is language. As nice and succinct as square is, English doesn’t have a simple word to designate ‘any four-sided closed figure in a plane.’ English has occasionally used Greek-derived tetragon, following the same pattern in the familiar pentagon and hexagon. Nowadays, though, English is pretty much stuck with the unwieldy five-syllable Latin-derived quadrilateral. If only we could follow the model of German, a related language, which has Viereck, literally ‘four-edge(s),’ and call a quadrilateral a fouredge or a fourside.

Speaking of quadrilaterals, here’s something interesting you may not know, or if you did learn it in high school geometry have probably forgotten. Take any quadrilateral you like, whether convex, concave, or even with two of its sides crossing each other. Connect the midpoints of the four sides (going in order from each side to the next) with straight line segments and you’re guaranteed to end up with a parallelogram. That’s just how the universe is. As a picture is often worth a lot of words—some say a thousand, others a myriad—you’re welcome to look at an example with a convex quadrilateral.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 11, 2021 at 4:32 AM

Rain-lily bud and flower

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Zephyranthes drummondii; April 27 in my neighborhood.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 10, 2021 at 4:33 AM

When is a dandelion not a dandelion?

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One answer to the question in today’s title is when it’s silverpuff, Chaptalia texana. As similar as its seed head is to that of a dandelion, nobody would ever confuse the two species’ flower heads, as you see from the silverpuff flower head below. Both of these photographs come from a wooded area in my neighborhood on April 28th. Because the woods were so shady, for once I used flash. That had two fringe benefits: good depth of field for my subjects and darkness beyond them.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 9, 2021 at 4:32 AM

What startled me when I raised my glance

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So there I was on May 1st on a path coming off Yaupon Dr. on the far side of my neighborhood. I walked slowly, gazing down at either side of the path in search of native wildflowers, when something at the top of my field of vision brought me to a standstill: not far in front of me, lying right in the middle of the trail, was a fawn. I remembered reading that a fawn instinctively stays put and doesn’t move when its mother leaves it alone, and that was the case with this fawn. During the several minutes that I took a few pictures, it never budged an inch. Had I been a coyote or an off-leash dog, the fawn’s immobility would have been useless.

A few minutes earlier, before advancing this far, I’d looked ahead and spotted an adult deer that stared at me for five or ten seconds from farther down the trail, then moved away. That must have been the fawn’s mother.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 8, 2021 at 4:00 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Prickly pear cactus flower opening

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Note the ants on this Opuntia engelmannii flower opening in my neighborhood on April 28th.

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About 20 years ago I got to meet a distant relative of mine from another country who came to stay with us for several months. He enjoyed nature, so one morning we set out for an attractive place west of Austin. During the drive we talked about various things, and at one point he startled me by admitting that he would say something he knew to be false if it furthered a cause that he favored. And just the other day I came across something similar in Michael Shellenberger’s Apocalypse Never. He quoted a Sierra Club member saying “I think that playing dirty, if you have a noble end, is fine.”

I’m too wedded to the truth to lie or play dirty, but alas, those tactics have become all too common in the past several years and especially since 2020. Time after time I’ve encountered media “news” stories putting forth a claim that readily available evidence shows isn’t true. What usually happens in those cases is that if you bring the refuting evidence to the attention of the people making the false claim, they still continue making it, sometimes even more fiercely than before.

Another practice unethical people in the “news” media engage in is to quote something that a person said but to leave out words that cast the statement in a different light, often the opposite of what seems to be the case in the edited version. If you see an ellipsis (three dots indicating words have been omitted) in a quotation that seems damning, don’t draw any conclusions until you see what has been left out, along with the statements preceding and following the quoted words. In short, get the full context. It’s disheartening to see activists suppress evidence and quote people in purposely misleading ways, but that’s the sad world we’re living in.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 7, 2021 at 4:41 AM

What is this?

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I’m guessing you’ll have no idea what this is. If you’re up for a challenge, pause for a bit to contemplate the photograph and try to figure out what you’re seeing, then continue reading below for an explanation. Of course you’re welcome to tell us what you imagined this abstract picture shows.

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On April 25th I found that some rain-lilies (Zephyranthes drummondii) in my neighborhood had gotten well past the flowering stage and had produced seed capsules, so I set about photographing a few of them. Rain-lily leaves are typically only a third of an inch wide yet can grow to 12 inches long. Given those dimensions, the leaves usually end up lying on the ground, but I noticed that one rain-lily leaf had draped itself over a prickly pear cactus pad, with the result that the leaf’s distal portion was suspended in the air. I conceived the idea of taking pictures tip-on, so to speak, even as a bit of breeze complicated my task by causing the leaf to move somewhat. This minimalist portrait with almost nothing in focus is one result of my experiments. Prickly pear cactus buds on an adjacent pad became the orange orbs you see at the lower right.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 5, 2021 at 4:41 AM

Green and red will knock you dead

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Okay, so I don’t really expect today’s picture to kill you, but look at the bold contrast between this katydid nymph (I think) and the saturated red of the cedar sage flowers (Salvia roemeriana) it was on. This picture comes from April 25th in my neighborhood.

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I’d like to point you to a draft version of an important article entitled “The Empowering of the American Mind,” by Greg Lukianoff, co-author of the book The Coddling of the American Mind. This draft puts forth 10 principles, the first of which is that there must be no compelled speech, thought, or belief. The article includes quotations from various court decisions, including the following three from West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, United States Supreme Court, 1943.

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.

[F]reedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.

Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.

And from Greg Lukianoff comes this: “Any ideology that cannot be questioned is indistinguishable from fundamentalist religion.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 4, 2021 at 4:43 AM

A new take on pearl milkweed flowers

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If it’s a colorful and detailed take on the flowers of the pearl milkweed vine that you’re after, I’ve already shown Matelea reticulata that way. On April 25th in my neighborhood the low-angle glancing sunlight was such that I went for the unconventional view you see here, with its high contrast, minimalism, and abstraction. The little spectrum-like line segments at the lower right came from spider silk refracting the light.

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“Reformers used to look for the next wrong to right. Now activists look for the next right thing to make wrong.” — S.S.

Illiberal ideologues in my country have been increasingly pushing the crazy notion that objectivity is a tool of white supremacy. Those obsessed activists include mathematics in the objectivity they despise, and they claim it’s not really important for students to get right answers in mathematics. That’s the same mathematics that allows us to deliver electricity to homes and businesses to run appliances and machines; that lets researchers determine whether a new medicine is effective; that lets companies build computers and smart phones and bridges and cars and planes; that lets engineers calculate the orbits of the satellites that enable global navigation and communication; and on and on and on. While the American educational establishment is busy making sure students here don’t learn much of anything except secular religious dogma, Chinese leaders continue relentlessly forward in their plan for ever greater hegemony.

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) measures the international scholastic performance of 15-year-olds in mathematics, science, and reading. You can see the 2018 results for 77 or 78 countries. In all three subjects China was #1. The United States came in 13th in reading, 18th in science, and a dismal 37th in mathematics. I guess our innumerate ideologues don’t know enough arithmetic to understand that when it comes to rankings, larger numbers aren’t better than smaller ones—either that, or those zealots are happy that American kids are showing their anti-racism by refusing to internalize as inherently white supremacist a subject as mathematics.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 3, 2021 at 4:42 AM

Two views of a pink evening primrose flower

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In the first view the pink evening primrose flower (Oenothera speciosa) serves as a backdrop for a Texas bindweed flower (Convolvulus equitans). For the second picture I lay on the ground and aimed upward so the pink of the flower would play off the blue of the sky as much as possible.

I made these portraits on April 20th at the same place in Austin where I photographed a cucumber beetle and greenthread flowers.

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Two days ago I mentioned that if you run fast you move quickly but if you stand fast you don’t move at all. A word like fast that has opposite meanings is called a contronym or Janus word or auto-antonym. You’re welcome to read an article that gives other examples of such words. If you’re aware of contronyms in any other language, I’d be glad to hear them.

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Now here’s a new English language challenge: can you come up with a sentence containing the words “adopted finished stirred”? The three words must appear exactly that way, with no punctuation marks or other words between them, and the full sentence must be grammatical. I’ll give a solution in a couple of days.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 30, 2021 at 4:35 AM

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