Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘chiaroscuro

A different take on an anemone

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Two weeks ago you saw a ten-petal anemone (Anemone berlandieri) with a tiny spider on it. During that same March 1st photo session I photographed several other anemones, including the one shown here.

I processed this picture differently from the last one, pulling down the tone curve from its default diagonal line to darken the image, especially in the background, and emphasize the backlit glow at the heart of the flower. I then slightly lightened or darkened a few small areas to produce an overall effect that pleased me.

 

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I recommend Asra Q. Nomani’s article “Anti-racism betrays Asian students.”

It helps if you understand that “anti-racism” is wokespeak
for ‘racism that’s anti-white and anti-Asian.’

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 16, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Inaugurating the new year

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On New Year’s morning I went to Great Hills Park to try out a new camera: I’ve taken the plunge with a Canon mirrorless camera, the EOS R5. Although that means a reduction in picture size of about 11% compared to my EOS 5DS R, a review I’d read said the better resolving power of the five-year-newer sensor could make up for that loss, and in addition there would be greater dynamic range and less noise at each ISO, particularly the higher ones.

One thing that caught my attention in the park was some shelf fungi on the stump of a black willow tree, as shown above. I worked hand-held and without flash at the high ISO of 2500, which let me stop down to f/14 to keep most details sharp. Yes, some noise appeared in the image, but it was tolerable, and processing let me reduce it even more. The next day I returned with my earlier camera and my ring flash to make some more-abstract, edge-on views of the fungi, like the one below.

Does it look to you, as it sometimes does to me, like the front edge of the fungus in the second picture is protruding forward from the plane of your monitor?

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Last year I reported on two attempts by the current American administration to illegally give out money to people according to their race. One program involved farmers, and another program involved restaurant owners. Thankfully, judges eventually ruled both programs unconstitutional because they discriminated against people based on their race.

Now New York State is flouting the equal-rights protection that the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees to all citizens. On December 27, 2021, the state’s Department of Health announced that it is going to prioritize giving certain Covid-19 medicines to non-white people: “Non-white race or Hispanic/Latino ethnicity should be considered a risk factor, as longstanding systemic health and social inequities have contributed to an increased risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.” The organization America First Legal has threatened to sue if New York State doesn’t rescind that illegal policy of prioritizing medicines based on the race of an ill patient.

The obvious solution is to prioritize people based on their actual conditions. The aged are at high risk, as are the obese and people with other co-morbidities. Those are the groups who should get priority. If it so happens that more non-whites than whites fall into those categories, fine, but the rationing of medicine will be on medical grounds, not prima facie—and illegally—according to race.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 7, 2022 at 4:39 AM

Avian remains two days apart

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At Brushy Creek Lake Park on December 14th I found a small white feather covered with dewdrops. Two days later while walking a trail in my neighborhood I somehow noticed a small dead bird on the ground. Shannon Westveer has identified it as a chipping sparrow (Spizella passerina). It didn’t seem to have been dead for long but already ants had found it. Because you might not care to see that scene, I’ve not included a photograph in today’s post but only a link to it that you can click if you wish. And this sparrow, seen or unseen, may remind you of a New Testament passage: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

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As someone who has taught math and statistics, and of course as a citizen, I find it disturbing when a governmental agency cites a flawed study to support an agenda, then refuses to disavow the study even after the many problems with it, including persistent lack of transparency, are pointed out. You can read about that in David Zweig’s article “The CDC’s Flawed Case for Wearing Masks in School” in the December 2021 issue of The Atlantic, which by no stretch of the imagination qualifies as a right-wing publication. In fact David Zweig has written for plenty of left-leaning organizations; among them are The New Yorker, The New York Times, CNN, Salon, Slate, The New Republic, and New York Magazine.

You can also get a much more detailed and animated account in a December 17th Megyn Kelly interview with David Zweig that goes from about 1:00 to about 49:00 in this YouTube video. (The timeline slider lets you skip through a couple of two-minute commercials; one or two very brief commercials dismiss themselves, and in another one or two you can click to dismiss the ads.)

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 23, 2021 at 4:35 AM

An archaeology of light

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An adage says “Out of sight, out of mind,” and yet the saying’s first two words could just as well be replaced by “in.” Familiarity breeds a sort of visual contempt in which ordinary objects might as well be buried.

To let light uncover those everyday objects around the house is to practice an archaeology of light.

On the technical side, I took the first two pictures with my “real” camera
and the third with my iPhone. I prepared this post in 2020 but kept postponing it.

And here’s a thought about photographic esthetics: “Now to consult the rules of composition before making a picture is a little like consulting the law of gravitation before going out for a walk.” — Edward Weston. A bunch of different wordings occur on the Internet. Research leads me to think this one is the most likely to be authentic. I came across a version of the quotation in an article by David duChemin called “Are Your Photographs Poetic?“, which I recommend to you.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 26, 2021 at 4:46 AM

Waterfall Wednesday #4

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On June 5th I spent time at Stone Bridge Falls on Bull Creek. To play up the details in the churning creek below the falls, I chose a shutter speed of 1/3200 of a second. While the resulting image might seem black and white, it does harbor some dark brown in its upper part.


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Here’s a passage from Douglas Murray’s thoughtful 2019 book The Madness of Crowds.
 

Even when it does not identify itself as such, the Marxist and post Marxist trend on the political left can always be recognized by the set of thinkers whom it cites and reveres, and whose theories it tries to apply to any and all disciplines and walks of life. From Michelle Foucault these thinkers absorbed their idea of society not as an infinitely complex system of trust and traditions that have evolved over time, but always in the unforgiving light cast when everything is viewed solely through the prism of ‘power’. Viewing all human interactions in this light distorts rather than clarifies, presenting a dishonest interpretation of our lives. Of course power exists as a force in the world, but so do charity, forgiveness and love. If you were to ask most people what matters in their lives very few would say ‘power’. Not because they haven’t absorbed their Foucault, but because it is perverse to see everything in life through such a monomaniacal lens.

Nevertheless for a certain type of person who is intent on finding blame rather than forgiveness in the world, Foucault helps to explain everything. And what Foucault and his admirers seek to explain in personal relations they also attempt to explain on a grand political level. For them absolutely everything in life is a political choice and a political act.

… And always and everywhere is the aim — taken from French literary theory — to ‘deconstruct’ everything. To ‘deconstruct’ something is as significant in academia as ‘constructing’ things is in the rest of society. Indeed, it is one curiosity of academia in recent decades that it has found almost nothing it does not wish to deconstruct, apart from itself.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 30, 2021 at 4:34 AM

Texas persimmon trunk

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Call it chiaroscuro or yin-yang, this is the most abstract and minimalist portrait I’ve ever made highlighting (literally) the trunk of a Texas persimmon tree, Diospyros texana. As an article on the website of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center notes: “This well-shaped, small tree is valued primarily for its striking trunk and branches, which are a smooth, pale greyish white or whitish grey, peeling off to reveal subtle greys, whites, and pinks beneath.” Today’s photograph is from the Zilker Nature Preserve on November 17th.

The picture reminds me now of the stylized serpent that people imagine they’re seeing at Chichén-Itzá’s Pyramid of Kukulkan during the spring and fall solstice.

And here’s a relevant quotation for today: “Wo viel Licht ist, ist starker Schatten.” “Where there’s bright light there’s a dark shadow,” or more loosely “The brightest light casts the darkest shadows.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in the play Götz von Berlichingen, 1773.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 15, 2020 at 4:26 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

Engelmann daisy flower head and bud

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From April 26th along Old Lampasas Trail comes this gialloscuro* portrait
of Engelmann daisies (Engelmannia peristenia).

* The Italian term chiaroscuro means literally bright-dark. I replaced the first part with giallo,
the Italian word for yellow, to get gialloscuro. In Englitalian that’s yellowscuro.
And let me add that gi in Italian represents the same sound
as j in English, so giallo is pronounced jáhl-lo.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 30, 2020 at 4:38 AM

Crinkliest of flowers

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A.E. Housman began a poem with the words “Loveliest of trees, the cherry….” An Austin counterpart could begin with “Crinkliest of wildflowers, the white prickly poppy….” I made these two portraits of aging Argemone albiflora flowers in Great Hills Park on April 30th.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 19, 2020 at 4:43 AM

Chiaroscuro times two

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I found myself doing many more chiaroscuro takes than usual this spring, including these two from the Doeskin Ranch on April 8th. Above is a gall, and below an aging four-nerve daisy, Tetraneuris linearifolia.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 30, 2020 at 4:37 AM

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