Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘Blackland Prairie

Twi-light, yet not twilight

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On the morning of November 15th I spent a good couple of hours in a field on the north side of US 290 east of Bois d’Arc Rd. in Manor. Making that piece of prairie fabulous to behold and photograph were the extensive colonies of goldenrod (Solidago sp.) and bushy bluestem (Andropogon glomeratus) that had gone into their fluffy autumn stage. In some places the two colonies were mostly distinct; in others they interwove, as you see here. Notice in the lower right of the top picture that one goldenrod plant was still flowering.

The post’s title interweaves etymology and photography. The word twilight means literally ‘two lights,’ the two being the fading light of day and the oncoming darkness of night. I took these two pictures not in different parts of the day—they were only seven minutes apart—but in different parts of the field and, more importantly, facing in opposite directions. The first photograph shows the effects of the morning sunlight falling directly on the subject; the second picture looks in the direction of the sun, whose light on the way to the camera passed through much of the fluff and in so doing outlined the seed heads. The first landscape is softer and more colorful, the second starker and more dramatic. Both have their appeal.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 25, 2020 at 4:32 AM

It’s snow-on-the-prairie time

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Went out onto the Blackland Prairie in Manor on September 19th.
Saw snow-on-the-prairie (Euphorbia bicolor) in several places.
Couldn’t decide which view to show, so am showing two.

If you’re interested in the art of photography, points 6 and 15 in About My Techniques are relevant.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 25, 2020 at 4:30 AM

Black vulture eating an armadillo

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“Wait a minute, not so fast,” you say, “your title can’t fool me. Neither of these pictures shows a black vulture eating an armadillo. The first is of a bull nettle flower (Cnidoscolus texanus), and the second shows yellowing Lindheimer’s senna leaflets (Senna lindheimeriana) backlit by the sun.” That’s what you say, and you’re right.

The fact remains that maybe once a year in my part of Austin I’ve come across and photographed vultures eating a dead animal. I’ve never posted any of those pictures because even if scenes like that are a part of life in the natural world, many viewers would find them gross. On August 5th, driving back home from the outing in my neighborhood that produced the two pictures above (along with those of the two green herons you recently saw), I had my latest encounter, this time with an armadillo providing the food for a black vulture (Coragyps atratus). If you’re up for such a picture, you can follow this link to see it. If you’d rather stick with the pretty white flower and backlit yellowing leaflets, no one will blame you.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 25, 2020 at 4:36 AM

More from the July 29th outing on the Blackland Prairie

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Let me continue with the July 29th photo session near a pond on the Blackland Prairie in far northeast Austin that produced the torchlike Clematis drummondii picture you saw here last time. On another of those vines I noticed that some of its silky strands had been pulled together; by getting close I made a soft portrait that included the spider that had done the pulling together. Click the excerpt below if you’d like a closer look at the spinner (which is what spider means).

I also made a pretty pastel picture of marsh fleabane buds (Pluchea odorata).
It’s been five years since that species last appeared in these pages.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “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.” — U.S. Supreme Court, “West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943).

UPDATE: In yesterday’s post I’ve added a link below Emma Lazarus’s sonnet so you can hear the famous part set to music by a famous immigrant to the United States.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 22, 2020 at 4:45 AM

Bluebell bud and flower

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Way back on June 8th I went to a little pond I know on the Blackland Prairie in far northeast Austin because in some previous years I’d found good amounts of bluebells (Eustoma sp.) there. No luck then, but I did better when I returned on July 29th. Well, only slightly better: I found exactly three scattered bluebells, and all of them had been partly eaten (by what, I don’t know). By getting on the ground and aiming judiciously, I managed to make this portrait of a bluebell bud rising in front of a non-nibbled part of one of the flowers.

In our Ancient History Department, the magazine Archaeology reports in its July/August 2020 issue the discovery at Abri du Maras in France of the earliest known piece of cord. It dates back 46,000 years and was made, surprisingly, by Neanderthals. The article says that the “cord was made of three separate strands of fiber taken from the inner bark of a coniferous tree… The strands were then twisted in a clockwise direction to hold the fibers together, after which they were twisted together in a counterclockwise motion to make the cord.” That led archaeologist Bruce Hardy of Kenyon College “to believe that Neanderthals shared a cognitive capacity for mathematics with modern humans.” You can read more about this find in a Science News story.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 19, 2020 at 4:46 AM

A pond as a pleasant background, twice

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Pink evening primroses reach their peak here in the spring, when large colonies of Oenothera speciosa sometimes form. Even so, individual plants are often found flowering through the summer and fall, like this one that I photographed on July 24th at the edge of a pond off Naruna Way on the Blackland Prairie. I also coaxed the pond to pose behind a spiderwebbed Texas thistle seed head, Cirsium texanum.

And here’s an unrelated but relevant quotation for today: “So we must beware of a tyranny of opinion which tries to make only one side of a question the one which may be heard. Everyone is in favour of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.” — Winston Churchill in the U.K. Parliament on October 13, 1943.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 8, 2020 at 4:38 AM

Green milkweed pod releasing its seeds

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After I took pictures of a large sunflower colony along Gregg-Manor Rd. east of TX 130 on June 10th, I noticed on the other side of the road a green milkweed plant (Asclepias viridis) with a split-open pod whose seeds and silk the breeze was freeing. As is my common practice, I got close to the ground so I could aim upward to position the seeds and silk against the morning’s blue sky. And as has occurred from time to time over the years that I’ve been doing nature photography, a good Samaritan stopped—right in the road, with a few cars behind her—to see whether I was ailing and needed help. After I stood up and turned around she saw my camera and realized what I’d been doing. And now that we’re back on Gregg-Manor Rd., I might as well add another view of the yellowlicious sunflower colony that caused me to pull over there in the first place, and without which I probably wouldn’t have caught sight of the opened milkweed pod.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 21, 2020 at 4:37 AM

A good sunflower colony

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Click to enlarge.

A recent post focused on two sunflowers in a large colony. Now here’s a panorama showing how wild sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) can take over a field. I found this bright yellow colony on the Blackland Prairie along Gregg-Manor Rd. east of TX 130 on June 10th. Texas knows how to do wildflowers, yes indeed.

I’m tempted to say the way I cropped this photograph shows the influence of my Indian friend Pano Rama, but I would never say such a thing.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 15, 2020 at 7:45 AM

Sunflower, king of the prairie

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Okay, so the title that actually popped into my head when I was on the prairie two days ago was “Sunflower, king of the universe.” As much as I liked it, it struck me as maybe a little hyperbolic, so I toned it down. This was the field of sunflowers I’d headed out to find when I stumbled across the one that brightened up the background in yesterday’s picture. A member of the Texas Wildflowers group on Facebook had shown a few pictures of this large colony, which turned out to be in the northwest quadrant of E. Howard Lane and Harris Branch Parkway way out on the Blackland Prairie in Austin’s full-purpose annexation zone.

Note: this is Helianthus annuus, the anything-but-common “common” sunflower.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 12, 2020 at 4:47 AM

Velvet gaura backlit

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Velvet gaura (Oenothera curtiflora) is indeed velvety, and never is that more noticeable than when the plant is backlit by a sun not far above the horizon. So stood the sun and even lower stood I at 7:16 in the morning on September 3rd. The location was the Blackland Prairie just east of Lake Pflugerville.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 16, 2019 at 4:45 AM

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