Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘Austin

Leafhopper

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I’ve had trouble remembering which of two similar common names is which: planthopper and leafhopper. A glance at an article about leafhoppers convinced me that’s the kind of insect in today’s picture. This one sure is colorful, don’t you think? And what big bulgy eyes for such a small (maybe a third of an inch long) critter. I found it on the stalk of a sunflower (Helianthus annuus) a couple of miles from home on June 17th. If you’d like to zoom in for a more detailed look, all you have to do is click the excerpt below.

Thanks to the diligent folks at BugGuide, I declare this leafhopper to be Oncometopia orbona, known as a broad-headed sharpshooter (hey, that could just as well apply to photographer me). To see and learn about some other leafhoppers in Austin, you can visit Val Bugh’s Austin Bug Collection.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 8, 2020 at 4:38 AM

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Two experiments

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When I worked at the base of a cliff along the Capital of Texas Highway on June 27th, some of my pictures were experiments in abstraction. In the one above, I noticed that several cattail leaves (Typha domingensis) had dried out to the point that they turned white, and I played an in-focus leaf off against a few out-of-focus ones. A couple of hundred feet away I noticed that some leaflets on a flameleaf sumac tree (Rhus lanceolata) had turned prematurely red. Not only that, but the breeze was blowing the branches about, so I decided to go with the (air)flow and do some long exposures that would make the movement a key element. The picture below, taken at 1/6 of a second, flaunts its rich red; in contrast, the first photo is close to black and white.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 7, 2020 at 4:39 AM

Miscellany

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Apropos of nothing in particular, don’t you love how stilted some spam comments are? Here’s a recent one I got: “A person essentially lend a hand to make significantly posts I would state. This is the first time I frequented your web page and up to now? I surprised with the analysis you made to make this particular submit extraordinary. Magnificent job!” What can I say? I’ve made to make all my submits extraordinary.

I’m reading Charles MacKay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds, which first appeared in 1841. What ever could have made me turn to such a book?

Because of the pandemic, people in nudist resorts are having to wear face masks. Yes, and they’re not happy about it; they say it ruins the experience. Oh well, in this case it’s better to be completely virus-free than completely clothing-free, don’t you think?

And because this is a nature photography blog, I guess I should include a picture. Here from June 6th in my neighborhood is a flowering silverleaf nightshade (Solanum elaeagnifolium) with some spider silk on it.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 6, 2020 at 4:41 AM

Two more takes on Mexican hats

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In 2020 I’ve made more portraits of Mexican hats (Ratibida columnifera) than in any previous year. In this vertical pair you can sense the different mood created by light clouds versus dark ones. I took the pictures in Great Hills Park on June 2nd, in both cases concentrating on flower heads with long brown central columns. The first view keeps reminding me of colorful hot air balloons over Albuquerque, New Mexico. Fortunately I didn’t even have to leave my neighborhood to see Mexican hats put on a show.

This post could serve as an add-on to the one called Hello Yellow that appeared in New Zealand earlier today.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 5, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Firewheel seed head on a sinuous stalk

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Today’s portrait of a firewheel seed head (Gaillardia pulchella) comes from June 17th near the northeast corner of Mopac and Braker Lane. If you count the color on the curiously bent and re-bent stalk as red, then the picture provides the requisite red, white, and blue that have come to symbolize Independence Day in the United States, those being the three colors of the American flag. The firewheel’s sinuous stem when viewed sideways, whether left or right, conveniently traces out the first letter in both names of the photographer, whose birthday has never failed to coincide with the national holiday.

Perhaps because of that coincidence in dates, and certainly because of my nature, I’ve always felt a connection to the founding period in this country’s history. The story goes that when the delegates to the Constitutional Convention finally emerged from their Philadelphia meeting room in 1787, a woman stopped Benjamin Franklin and asked him what form of government they’d given the country. His famous two-part reply, first factual and then oracular, was: “A republic, if you can keep it.” Now here we are 233 years later, and recent events make it seem more and more likely we won’t be able to keep it. I hope we can.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 4, 2020 at 4:40 AM

Zebra mesquite

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On June 17th, when I saw how the sun cast shadows of mesquite tree leaflets (Prosopis glandulosa) onto a thorn and the branch it was on, the word zebra popped into my head.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 3, 2020 at 4:47 AM

Cowpen daisy buds and flowers

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For whatever reason, I rarely come across cowpen daisies (Verbesina encelioides) except in a few places, all of which conveniently happen to be near each other in my own neighborhood. On June 6th (D-for-Daisy Day) I was coming home “the back way” on Rain Creek Parkway when I spotted some wildflowers by the side of the road bordering the Great Hills Country Club and stopped to investigate.

The Wikipedia article on this species gives the additional common names golden crownbeard, gold weed, wild sunflower, butter daisy, American dogweed, and South African daisy. That last is strange because this species is native in North America, not South Africa.

In contrast to the yellowscuro portrait above, look at how different the second picture is. I’d made it two minutes earlier by getting low and aiming upward toward a patch of bright blue sky rather than downward toward a partly shaded area the way I did in the top portrait.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 2, 2020 at 4:43 AM

More views of Texas bindweed

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You recently saw a Texas bindweed flower (Convolvulus equitans) with a basket-flower serving as a complementary concentric halo. On June 2nd I was working near a different entrance to Great Hills Park and found that another purple flower, the horsemint (Monarda citriodora), provided an out-of-focus backdrop for a softly questing Texas bindweed tendril. (Google turns up no hits for the phrase softly questing tendril, so today is my latest turn as a neologist.)

Jumping ahead to June 15th, I noticed that a Texas bindweed vine had twined itself around a Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera). Riding the flower head was a bug that entomologists call Calocoris barberi, which I’ve learned is most often found on Mexican hats. As far as I can tell, this bug has no common name, so maybe the Entomological Society of America should hold a contest to come up with one.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 30, 2020 at 4:44 AM

Ferns and mosses at Bull Creek Park

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Five years ago today I visited Bull Creek District Park, where I found these mosses and southern maidenhair ferns (Adiantum capillus-veneris) thriving on a cliff along Bull Creek after heavy rains in May.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 29, 2020 at 4:44 AM

Two takes on bumps

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Some Mexican hats (Ratibida columnifera) have a bump on the tip of their column. Here are two quite different takes on that theme: the first pastel, on a mostly straight stalk, and with the column still developing; the second darker, on a stalk that took a right-angle turn, and with its column already going to seed. The background color in the picture above came from another Mexican hat, and below from a horsemint (Monarda citriodora). I made these contrasting portraits in Great Hills Park on June 2nd.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 28, 2020 at 4:23 AM

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