Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘blue

Beyond its accustomed time

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Indian paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa) is an early-spring wildflower in central Texas. Individual plants don’t always know that, as evidenced by today’s portrait from June 14th along Capital of Texas Highway. In case you’re not familiar with paintbrushes of the floral kind, let me point out that the bright red elements are not petals but bracts, which is to say modified leaves. The actual flowers in this genus are pale and small, and therefore inconspicuous.

As with other recent pictures you’ve seen here, this one shows the effects of a ring flash and a small aperture (f/18), one consequence of which is the darker-than-life sky color.


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Did you hear about the appropriately named Zaila Avant-garde, who was indeed the avant-garde, i.e. winner, in this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee? In the linked video she describes being interested in getting an education as a gate-opener. Good for her for saying so!

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 12, 2021 at 4:38 AM

It wasn’t Ezekiel who saw this wheel way up in the middle of the air

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Like the silverleaf nightshade you saw a picture of the other day, this firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella) was also growing along the Capital of Texas Highway on June 14th. As in that other photograph, because I used my ring flash and a small aperture (this time f/18), the bright sky came out in an unnatural way, but one I find pleasant. You can decide whether the tiny spider is a pleasant addition.

The title of today’s post is a reference to an African-American spiritual based on the Book of Ezekiel in the Jewish Bible.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 8, 2021 at 4:21 AM

July 4, 2021

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Today being July 4th, here’s a vintage red-white-and-blue picture of Ipomopsis rubra, known as standing cypress and Texas plume. The sky was filled with plumes of its own in Williamson County on that long-ago day (May 20, 2009), so I included both kinds of plumes in the portraits I made.

And here’s a quotation that relates to July 4th:

may it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings & security of self-government. that form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. all eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. the general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view. the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of god. these are grounds of hope for others. for ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.

That’s from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to Roger Weightman on June 24, 1826. (I’ve preserved the idiosyncratic punctuation and capitalization of the original.) It was the last letter Jefferson ever wrote. He died on July 4, 1826, as did John Adams. The story (perhaps slightly embellished) has come down to us that Adams’s last words were “Thomas Jefferson lives”; unbeknownst to Adams, however, Jefferson had died hours earlier in Virginia. Was any other simultaneous death ever as symbolic as that of the second and third presidents of the United States, both of whom were deeply involved in creating the Declaration of Independence and seeing it adopted exactly 50 years before the day they died?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman (whose age today and for a year to come will match the Spirit of ’76).

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 4, 2021 at 4:45 AM

Make my day

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I haven’t shown a photograph of a dayflower (Commelina erecta) here since 2012. Today’s picture is from Allen Park on May 15th. You could say figuratively that the two tiny flies on the dayflower made my day flower.


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What doesn’t make my day flower is the craziness that descended upon many American colleges and universities in recent years. You may or may not have heard about something called micro-aggressions. Those are innocuous or even traditionally aspirational statements that now upset the permanently distraught inmates who run academia. Here are examples of statements now considered so terrible that if you utter them you’ll be branded a bigot and get reported to a “bias response team“:

America is a land of opportunity.

People are likely to succeed if they work hard.

When there’s a job opening, the most qualified person should get the job.

Where are you from?

There’s only one race, the human race.

All lives matter.

That last sentiment has recently gotten person after person after person after person fired from or forced out of their jobs. Purges like those show how microaggressions have led to megasuppressions that have metastasized out of academia and into many other institutions.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 27, 2021 at 4:42 AM

Blue lightning strikes again

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You may remember that at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area on April 12th I saw my first-ever common collared lizard, Crotaphytus collaris. On May 6th at Inks Lake State Park I saw a second one, shown above. Then, not quite an hour later, I found yet another, which soon scurried into the crack between rocks that you see below.

And here’s a thought that’s as relevant today as when it was put forth in 1941: “In times of change and danger, when there is a quicksand of fear under one’s reasoning, a sense of continuity with generations gone before can stretch like a lifeline across the scary present.” — John Dos Passos.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 6, 2021 at 4:38 AM

Prairie celestials

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Tipped off by native plant aficionado Bob Kamper about a goodly number of prairie celestials (Nemastylis geminiflora) in the greenbelt beyond his back fence in Round Rock, a suburb that borders Austin on the north, I went there on April 11th and took pictures of those flowers—many pictures, in fact, because I rarely come across that species. Most of the celestials were in the shade, and so the majority of my portraits were soft, like the one above. Occasionally I found a celestial with at least some direct sunlight on it, and then I was able to make a more contrasty portrait like the one below.

Anything but celestial are the ways in which increasingly many American schools are indoctrinating their students. You’re welcome to read a parent’s testimonial that classical liberal Bari Weiss recently disseminated.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 23, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Nueces coreopsis alone and in combination

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On March 29th in Colorado County I photographed mixed colonies of Nueces coreopsis (Coreopsis nuecensis) and sandyland bluebonnets (Lupinus subcarnosus). I also got on the ground and aimed upward so I could get a different blue overhead and use it to isolate one of the Nueces coreopsis flower heads.

In the last post I noted that it’s common to hear politicians and activists bandy about the phrase “common sense.” I said it’s a loaded and misleading term because some or even many things that a majority of people believe to be common sense are easily shown to be untrue. The first example came from arithmetic, and now here’s one from chemistry.

Suppose that you have an empty one-quart clear glass container with markings on the sides so you can tell how much liquid is in the container. Now pour a measuring cup’s worth of water and then a measuring cup’s worth of alcohol into the container. How much liquid will you have in the container? “Common sense” will tell most people that 1 cup plus 1 cup equals 2 cups, but that’s not correct here. Water molecules and alcohol molecules interpenetrate somewhat, so the volume in the container will fall short of the 2-cup mark on the glass container. You’re welcome to watch a couple of cheerful kids perform the experiment.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 9, 2021 at 4:39 AM

Texas bluestars

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An online report on the morning of March 24th quickly prompted a 45-minute drive northwest to the Doeskin Ranch in Burnet County, where I hoped to see some flowering Texas bluestars, Amsonia ciliata, a species I almost never come across in Austin. After a mile-and-a-half of wandering I found the reported colony.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 2, 2021 at 4:37 AM

A study in colors and shapes

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On March 19th we drove an hour south to Gonzales to see how the spring wildflowers were coming along. On the whole the results disappointed us, especially compared to the great spring of 2019 in that area. One okay place was the McKeller Memorial Park just north of Gonzales, which did host a colony of bright red phlox (Phlox sp.) and some bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis). The breeze dictated a high shutter speed, which in turn meant a rather shallow depth of field. As a result I experimented with some abstract studies like this one, in which only the tip and an adjacent bit of the unfurling phlox bud were in focus.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 26, 2021 at 4:41 AM

Clouds over central Texas on February 4th

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Sometimes we get wispy clouds. Sometimes we get cottony clouds. Sometimes we get both.

The long tradition of referring to the skies as the heavens leads us to a quotation for today: “Can you see yourselves as spiritual beings having a human experience, rather than human beings who may be having a spiritual experience?” — Wayne Dyer, 1988. (A Quote Investigator article discusses the sentence’s origin and variations in its wording.)

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 11, 2021 at 4:45 AM

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