Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘autumn

Chimayó: a sactuary for fall foliage

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The little town of Chimayó, about 25 miles north of Santa Fe, is famous for its Catholic shrine, El Santuario de Chimayó [The Santuary of Chimayó]. Now a National Historic Landmark, it receives some 300,000 visitors per year, and we two were among them on October 18th. We did enter the small church but spent almost all our time outside, where the trees on the property were putting on a great display of fall foliage. The tallest tree in the top picture is a cottonwood (Populus deltoides subsp. wislizenii), and the ones below it seem to be willows (Salix sp.). A stream, apparently called the Potrero [pasture, paddock] Ditch, which forms a border of the property, may account for the trees’ vigor. You see the yellow-bordered stream in the second photograph.



Even the nearby hills added a bit of pastel warmth to the autumn show:



© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 4, 2022 at 4:23 AM

A day of indulgence

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I’ll beg your indulgence for one more post about the colorful aspen trees (Populus tremuloides)
we found in the mountains northeast of Santa Fe on October 18th.



I could keep showing pictures of them for days.



But I won’t. In the next post I’ll move on.



I owe that last picture to construction, which had a stretch of the road’s two lanes down to one. Cars going in opposite directions got alternating use of the open lane every 15 minutes or so. Since I was stuck there anyhow I didn’t have to worry about finding a place to park. I got out and walked around taking pictures, including this one where backlighting lit up the foliage.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 28, 2022 at 4:31 AM

We interrupt fall color to bring you fall color

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The interrupted fall color is from New Mexico; it will resume tomorrow. Interrupting it are two colorful views from Austin. For a couple of months I’d watched the fruit forming on the yaupon tree (Ilex vomitoria) outside my window. First it was green, then yellow, then red. Finally on the sunny afternoon of November 13th I figured I was ripe enough to take some pictures of it, which I did with my telephoto lens. Notice that not all the little fruits ripened at the same rate.

The second view is from yesterday along the Capital of Texas Highway in my hilly part of Austin. The picture shows a seasonally colorful colony of poison ivy, Toxicodendron radicans. As much as we may crave order, nature is often a jumble, and there’s no such thing as personal space when it comes to plants.





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Two generations ago, my father, an immigrant from Mexico, benefitted from programs that gave him access to job opportunities and scholarships that were not available to my mother, whose Ashkenazi ancestry had imbued her with lighter skin. My wife, who immigrated to North America as a refugee from Ukraine when it was part of the former USSR, was similarly excluded from work and educational opportunities due to her ancestry. At what point can we start to hold every person to the same standards, and seek to grant them access to the same opportunities—regardless of skin color, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, or other immutable characteristics?

Discriminating against a person based on the color of that person’s skin upends this nation’s foundational tenets of equality, while sacrificing our humanity in the process. Hard-earned principles and freedoms formed over centuries through the democratic process should not be abandoned. Treating applicants as representatives of identity groups, rather than as unique individuals with intrinsic value, elevates institutional interests over individual rights. In turn, this promotes division, resentment, and dehumanization.


So wrote Bion Bartning in a November 18th article for FAIR,
the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism.
You can read the full article.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 27, 2022 at 4:30 AM

Vertical takes on aspen trees

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On October 18th we drove up Highway 475 into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains northeast of Santa Fe in a quest for fall foliage, especially from aspen trees (Populus tremuloides), as you saw last time. Stands of bare aspen trunks also constitute a photographic talisman,* with seemingly every nature photographer under the sun taking a crack at them. Lacking long-term access to the subject, I didn’t expect to take pictures like the best of those. Even so, I came away with a view of white trunks that pleased me, one that differs from what I’ve seen; it leads off today’s trio. Most photographers frame aspen groves horizontally to include as many trunks as possible. I took some of my pictures that way, too, but in these three photographs I went for a narrow view to emphasize verticality. In the middle picture, notice (how could you not?) the way one evergreen stood out among the many aspen crowns.



In the third view, the day’s bright blue sky played an important role.



* The Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries defines talisman as ‘an object that is thought to have magic powers and to bring good luck.’ Now compare that with the much more elaborate definition in Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language.

1. A magical figure cut or engraved under certain superstitious observances of the configuration of the heavens, to which wonderful effects are ascribed; or it is the seal, figure, character or image of a heavenly sign, constellation or planet, engraven on a sympathetic stone, or on a metal corresponding to the star, in order to receive its influence. The talismans of the Samothracians were pieces of iron, formed into images and set in rings, etc. They were held to be preservatives against all kinds of evils.

Talismans are of three kinds, astronomical, magical and mixed. Hence,

2. Something that produces extraordinary effects; as a talisman to destroy diseases. 


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 26, 2022 at 4:34 AM

The day after October 17th

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October 17th was the only day in our 12-day trip that I didn’t take any nature pictures. We did cultural things in Santa Fe like visiting the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the New Mexico Museum of Art, both of which we walked to from our conveniently located hotel. We visited a former Austin friend now living in Santa Fe whom we hadn’t seen in two decades. We visited our used laundry and made it clean.

As if to compensate for the photographic day off, on October 18th, which happened to be the Lady Eve’s birthday, I had one of the busiest and best photographic days of this trip or any other. Although in the 1970s I’d spent weeks in the Santa Fe area, neither then nor on brief visits in later decades do I recall ever having driven up Hyde Park Rd. (Highway 475) into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains northeast of the city, where people go skiing in the winter. That’s where we spent our morning, and a glorious morning it was.

As the road climbed we began to see isolated aspens (Populus tremuloides) or small groups of them whose leaves had turned their famous yellow. The top picture, taken during a brief stop at Hyde Memorial State Park, is an example of that.

And then we drove higher and eventually got to a place where suddenly a whole mounded hillside of yellow-leaved aspens loomed into view, as the second photograph shows.



For a different sort of “mound,” consider the frozen puddle
I found at my feet during one photo stop in the mountains.



© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 25, 2022 at 4:30 AM

More from Liberty Hill

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I’ll be showing plenty more pictures from our October trip to New Mexico and west Texas, but to keep from falling too far behind in what the Austin area is doing I’m occasionally interspersing a local post.

As you heard last week in a yellow post, on the afternoon of October 21st, as we concluded our trip by driving back into the Austin area from the northwest, I noticed a lot going on in a lot on the north side of TX 29 in the fast-growing town of Liberty Hill (whose population from 2014 to 2021 jumped from 1,015 to 6,801.) The next morning I went back there so I could photograph some of our native plants that predominate in the fall. In these two pictures, I played some wind-blown poverty weed (Baccharis neglecta) off against the morning’s equally wispy clouds. Two years ago I presented a poverty weed photograph with its colors partially desaturated. I experimented with this year’s Liberty Hill photographs by converting one almost completely to black and white:





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Yesterday morning I was reading a book. The television was on in another room. Just as I read the phrase “in the nation” in my book, I could hear a man on the television saying “in the nation.” I don’t know how to calculate the probability that I’ll read a word or phrase at the same moment someone completely independent of me speaks the same non-trivial* word or phrase. The probability must be tiny, given the large number of words and phrases in any language. That kind of simultaneous event doesn’t often happen, and yet it does sometimes happen. In fact I’ve noticed that there have been periods in my life when it has happened a bunch of times over several days. I don’t know what to make of it. Have you had that experience?

* I included the phrase “non-trivial” to rule out instances in which I read a common function word like the or a at the same time someone speaks that word. I probably wouldn’t even notice such a trivial occurrence.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman



Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 9, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Liberty Hill frees up fall flowers

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I’m nowhere near the end of pictures from our October trip to New Mexico and west Texas, but to keep from falling too far behind in what’s going on in central Texas, I’m occasionally interspersing a post about what’s been happening locally.

Late in the afternoon on October 21st, as we concluded our 12-day, 2700-mile trip by driving back into the Austin area from the northwest, I couldn’t help noticing a lot going on in a lot on the north side of TX 29 in the fast-growing town of Liberty Hill (whose population from 2014 to 2021 jumped from 1,015 to 6,801.) The next morning I went back there so I could play (photographically) among some of our native plants that predominate in the fall. In the top picture, the small and more-numerous yellow flowers are broomweed, Amphiachyris dracunculoides, and the larger yellow ones are Maximilian sunflowers, Helianthus maximiliani. Below, the Maximilian sunflowers brightened up a stand of little bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium, that had advanced to its warm-toned seed-head stage. Notice the tip of an aging flower spike of Liatris punctata var. mucronata inserting itself at the bottom.


That was 13 days ago, and I’m still seeing some Maximilian sunflowers as I drive around the Austin area.



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Etymologists—people who study word origins—have figured out where most English words came from.
That means the origins of some English words remain a mystery. Here are a few of the unknowns:











































(the) willies

































© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 4, 2022 at 4:29 AM

A tale of two sumacs, part 2

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In yesterday’s post you saw that Rhus trilobata, one of Austin’s three native sumac species, produces colorful fall foliage, though not on the scale of our renowned flameleaf sumac. The third species, Rhus virens, is known as evergreen sumac. (In fact Latin virens means ‘being green’; compare verdant, from the same root.) Normally evergreen sumac’s leaves do remain green, but some of them occasionally turn warm colors. In my experience, that seems to be when something afflicts the tree, e.g. a freeze, or when a branch gets broken and dies. From Allen Park on December 17th, here are two different-hued examples of evergreen sumac not being green. The sheen on the leaves characterizes this species.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

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My father and his parents and brother fled from the Soviet Union in the 1920s, so I’ve always been aware and leery of the tyranny of ideological regimes. Another Russian escapee, Anna Krylov, recently had a letter published in The Journal of Physical Chemistry in which she drew on her own early life in the USSR, “where communist ‘ideology permeated all aspects of life, and survival required strict adherence to the party line and enthusiastic displays of ideologically proper behavior.’ I noted that certain names and ideas are now forbidden within academia for ideological reasons, just as had been the case in my youth.”

Normally these days the people who uphold cancel culture lash out at anyone who speaks up against enforced ideologies. The reaction against Anna Krylov, however, was better than has recently been the case with many other people that illiberal ideologues have attacked: “I expected to be viciously mobbed, and possibly cancelled, like others before me. Yet the result surprised me. Although some did try to cancel me, I received a flood of encouraging emails from others who share my concern with the process by which radical political doctrines are being injected into STEM [science, technology, engineering, math] pedagogy, and by which objective science is being subjugated to regressive moralization and censorship. The high ratio of positive-to-negative comments (even on Twitter!) gave me hope that the silent liberal majority within STEM may (eventually) prevail over the forces of illiberalism.”

You can read more about this in Anna Krylov and Jay Tanzman’s article in Quillette, “Academic Ideologues Are Corrupting STEM. The Silent Liberal Majority Must Fight Back.” The article includes lots of links to related stories.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 28, 2021 at 4:37 AM

A tale of two sumacs, part 1

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The title of this post aside, Austin is home to three native sumac species. By far the most colorful is the aptly named flameleaf sumac, Rhus lanceolata, which you’ve often enough seen here putting on great displays of fall foliage. Less well known is Rhus trilobata, the species name of which tells you that each leaf is made up of three leaflets, each of which can be seen as having three primary lobes. Vernacular names include three-leaf sumac and skunkbush, though nothing about this small tree has ever smelled skunky to me. In any case, the leaves of this species tend to turn colors in the fall, and that’s what you see in this portrait from Allen Park on December 17th. I’d gone out that morning with my ring flash so I could stop down for good depth of field.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman


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I recently came across the term cancel culture fittingly recast as coward culture in an op-ed by Bret Stephens. He wrote that “our universities are failing at the task of educating students in the habits of a free mind. Instead, they are becoming islands of illiberal ideology and factories of moral certitude, more often at war with the values of liberal democracy than in their service.” You’re welcome to read the full op-ed.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 27, 2021 at 5:52 AM

More red from Inks Lake

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At the same place in Inks Lake State Park on November 29th where Virginia creeper vines announced their presence by turning bright red, Eve noticed and drew my attention to a nest in a prickly pear cactus (Opuntia sp.) It provided a deep red via its tunas, which is what the fruits of this kind of cactus are called in Spanish and increasingly even in English (they’re the supposed “pears” in “prickly pears”). One tuna on a different pad was in fact a twin tuna. Here’s a view looking straight down at that pear pair:


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Linguistics professor John McWhorter‘s book Woke Racism was recently released. I encourage you to watch an excellent 18-minute summary of the book via a PBS interview of McWhorter by Walter Isaacson.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 21, 2021 at 4:30 AM

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