Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘clouds

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

Vernal pools at Enchanted Rock

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Enchanted Rock is known for its vernal pools, shallow depressions in the stone where water accumulates and fosters plant life. In past years I’ve seen water in some of the vernal pools there, but on April 12th all the ones I noticed had no water standing in them. That didn’t mean there wasn’t residual moisture that plants were still taking advantage of. In the first picture you see a closeup of a vernal pool only a few inches across filled with stonecrop plants (Sedum nuttallianum).

The middle picture shows a much larger vernal pool with plenty of lush vegetation in it. The flowers are spiderworts (Tradescantia sp.) and the cacti are prickly pears (Opuntia engelmannii). Below, notice how a bunch of vernal pools had obligingly lined up.

Two days ago I posed a few questions. Robert Parker proved by his answers that he’d been holding out on us and that he’s really Mr. World Geography.

Which river touches the most countries? It’s the Danube, which borders or passes through 10 countries: Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine, in that order. The river that touches the next highest number of countries is the Nile, with 9.

Which country is the least densely populated? It’s Mongolia, with not quite 2 people per square kilometer. Greenland (whose name is misleading because it’s largely covered with ice) has a significantly lower population density but it’s not an independent country (Denmark owns it).

Which country borders the greatest number of other countries? Russia and China tie at 14 apiece.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 29, 2021 at 4:41 AM

More from Enchanted Rock

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In both of these April 12th views at Enchanted Rock you see intrusive seams in the rock.
For me the clouds in the top picture are anything but intrusive.

Here are three world geography questions for you.


Which river touches the greatest number of countries?

Which country is the least densely populated?

Which country touches the most other countries?


I’ll post the answers in a couple of days.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 27, 2021 at 6:15 AM

Lichens at Enchanted Rock

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Yesterday you heard that on April 12th we visited Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.
How about the red-orange color of the lichens in the abstract view above?
Below, see the way pale gray lichens almost completely covered the rock in the foreground.

And here’s little lichen ring you can slip on your rough imagination’s finger:

For a concise and colorful primer on lichens, check out “Why Lichens Matter.” As for what makes matter matter, the answer is existence. An English-language etymologist would add that matter, which traces back to mater, the Latin word for ‘mother,’ is the universe’s ‘mother stuff.’

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 25, 2021 at 4:46 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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Ice is nice, part 4

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Here’s what you learned in part 1: In a shaded part of Great Hills Park on January 12th I discovered that thin sheets of ice had formed close to the ground. Most importantly for my purposes, I found that I could slowly lift up a small section of ice and it would come away in shapes that were irregular yet didn’t break apart. Over and over I did my light lifting, each time facing toward the sun and holding the little panel erect against a background of shaded trees so that backlighting would reveal details in the ice.

In addition to that, I held some of the pieces up higher, against the sky, to make portraits of a different sort, one of which you’re seeing here. Admittedly this is a combination you probably wouldn’t ever find in nature, but the urge to experiment came over me and I yielded.

And here’s a humorous quotation for today: “When a man gits perfektly kontented, he and a clam are fust couzins.” [When a man gets perfectly contented, he and a clam are first cousins.”] — Josh Billings, the pen name for Henry Wheeler Shaw. Wikipedia notes that “Shaw attended Hamilton College, but was expelled in his second year for removing the clapper of the campus bell.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 4, 2021 at 4:28 AM

The temperature dropped 15° in as many minutes

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There I was lying on the ground at the edge of Lake Pflugerville on December 30th last year to photograph this bare bald cypress tree (Taxodium distichum) against menacing clouds when suddenly the wind picked up and the temperature dropped, both noticeably, as the predicted cold front came through. Adding some brightness to the bleak sky and dark branches were the colorful lichens on the tree’s trunk:

Unrelated thought for today:  “Credulity is always greatest in times of calamity.” — Charles MacKay,
Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, first published in 1841.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 10, 2021 at 4:39 AM

Paloverde tree with great wispy clouds

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Parkinsonia aculeata; Roy G. Guerrero Park; December 21, 2020.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 7, 2021 at 4:36 AM

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Three views of sunrise clouds

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When I went outside my house on the morning of December 22nd last year I saw colorful sunrise clouds, as shown above at 7:15. The trees across the street partially obstructed the view, so, hoping for a better shot, I drove east and at 7:23 pulled into a parking lot. Below is what I saw from there, which I think you’ll agree had gotten more fiery.

Then I continued a little further east. At 7:27 from another parking lot I photographed this beguiling cloud:

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 4, 2021 at 4:38 AM

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Our majestic cottonwood trees

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On December 21st, the date of the winter solstice in 2020, I witnessed another display of colorful year-end foliage in the form of two venerable eastern cottonwoods, Populus deltoides subsp. deltoides. Botanist Bill Carr describes the cottonwood tree in Travis County as “uncommon but, due to its massive size, usually conspicuous in gallery woodlands along perennial streams and impoundments.” The two I found were on opposite sides of Pleasant Valley Rd. just south of the Longhorn Dam on the Colorado River. The first picture shows a lower portion of the cottonwood tree on the west side of the road. The other cottonwood, pictured below, had leaves that the different angle of the light made look a little more yellow-orange.

It’s not obvious that some of the leaves were larger than
a person’s face; here’s one in isolation by the Colorado River:

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 2, 2021 at 4:35 AM

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