Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘chiaroscuro

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

Corn salad flowers, many and few

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The blossoms of the strangely named corn salad (Valerianella sp.), while small and never rising far from the ground, have the collective power to cover a limestone-lined wildflower meadow in central Texas with what could be taken for a dusting of snow. In the second picture you get a closer look at the characteristically rectangular inflorescence; each five-petaled flower is between 1/16 and 1/8 of an inch (1.5–3mm) across.

I took these pictures west of Morado Circle on March 19th.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 2, 2020 at 4:45 PM

New Zealand: Shadows and light at Riccarton Bush

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Three years ago today in Christchurch we visited Riccarton Bush,
where dense foliage created interplays of shadows and light.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 1, 2020 at 4:28 AM

Light and dark in Galveston County

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As you saw a couple of posts ago, on October 4th we went on a field trip to a property in Galveston County managed by the Marathon Oil Company. The visit produced these two moody portraits showing the opening bud on a green milkweed, Asclepias viridis, that we found growing there. I can’t help thinking of side and front views on a prison rap sheet, only here it’s native plants that are wanted.

The contrast between white and black stood out in this growth on a fallen and decaying pine trunk:

Dark and light characterized the seed head remains of a brown-eyed susan, Rudbeckia hirta:

On a much larger scale, a venerable tree (perhaps an ash) at another property on the field trip also intrigued me with its interplay of light and shadow as well as the hollowed-out part of its trunk:

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 18, 2019 at 4:48 AM

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