Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘clouds

Great clouds over El Paso

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November 9, 2016, gave us our first daylight time back in Texas since we’d left on our great southwestern trip three weeks earlier. What impressed me the most that morning was the fantastic clouds that stayed with us as we drove from El Paso to Hueco Tanks. The picture above features a yucca, and the one below shows sand sagebrush, Artemisia filifolia, both on the east side of El Paso.

In lieu of a quotation today, let’s welcome some relevant etymology. English acquired nuance from French, where it was the noun made from the verb nuer. That verb, which meant ‘to shade,’ ultimately goes back to Latin nubes, which signified ‘a cloud, mist, vapor.’ A nuance is a metaphorical ‘shading,’ which is to say ‘a slight difference in meaning, expression, or feeling.’ The fancy verb obnubilate means literally ‘to darken or obscure with clouds, to becloud.’ It also has the figurative sense ‘to make unclear, indistinct, vague.’

Here ends the retrospective of the great 2016 southwestern trip. Next time I’ll jump back into central Texas, where nature has kept on happening throughout the past few weeks.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 9, 2020 at 4:40 AM

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Desert views

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Four years ago today we drove across the southern California desert on our way to Tucson. In the picture above of the Salton Sea, mist made the mountains beyond the western shore unclear, and it’s also unclear to me what range it is (perhaps the Borrego Mountains). The second picture comes to you from along Interstate 8. A lot of the dunes there allow recreational vehicles, and as a result I couldn’t take pictures in many of the places I wanted to because vehicle tracks marred the scene. While the dunes below do show a slight amount of disturbance, I hope you’ll still find this panorama pleasant.

But if you insist on arenaceous purity and no tracks, I’ll backtrack two weeks to October 23rd of 2016, when we stopped at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in Utah. Though it also allows recreational vehicles, we stayed long enough for me to wander around and find undisturbed parts of the dunes to photograph.

And here’s a relevant quotation for today: “J’ai toujours aimé le désert. On s’assoit sur une dune de sable. On ne voit rien. On n’entend rien. Et cependant quelque chose rayonne en silence….” “I’ve always loved the desert. You sit down on a sand dune. You see nothing. You hear nothing. And yet something glows in silence….” — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le petit prince, The Little Prince.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 6, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Sunrise at Morro Bay, California

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Four years ago this morning I went out early to see if I could catch the sunrise at Morro Bay, California. I did. The vertical view above, with its dark strip of land across the middle and a border around it gives me the illusion now of looking through a two-pane window. I also made a tight one-pane portrait of a seemingly unshy gull, which I take to be Larus occidentalis. The red patch on the lower bill apparently characterizes a breeding adult; imagine if breeding people had a red patch on their chin.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 4, 2020 at 4:41 AM

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery

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Four years ago today we were heading down California’s Highway 1 in waning daylight when I saw a sign for the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery near San Simeon and drove in to check it out.

In chronological order, you’re seeing three of the pictures I took there. You may be surprised, as I am when I look back at these photographs now, that the first one came about 17 minutes before the second one, and the third followed the second by about 16 minutes. In other words, we got two differently colored sunsets a little over half an hour apart. Hail, metadata, as good an elucidator as a sunset! (Let that last line live on as an idiosyncratic quotation for you today.)

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 3, 2020 at 4:35 AM

Not minimally

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In Leander on October 16th I confirmed once again that the Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) have been good to us in central Texas this fall, as they usually are. In the first photograph, the relatively stationary cloud bank struck me as a good thing to play the flower spikes off against, so I lay on the ground and aimed upward. The brisk breeze pushing those spikes back and forth led me to set a shutter speed of 1/640 second. In the second picture, a Maximilian sunflower shone as the predominant yellow among the many smaller flower heads of broomweed (Amphiachyris dracunculoides).

And thanks to The Quote Garden for pointing me to today’s thought about yellow: “Yellow is the colour nearest approaching to light, and is most advancing and brilliant, either alone or in connection with other colours…. The effect of yellow upon the mind is of a bright, gay, gladdening nature, owing to its likeness to light. Yellow is sometimes employed to express the richness of autumn, and also the season itself, although deeper and richer colours are more suitable, as russets and browns.” — W. J. & G. A. Audsley, Taste versus Fashionable Colours: A Manual for Ladies on Colour in Dress, 1863. We’ve yet to see whether November offers central Texas some comely russets and browns.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 27, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

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Four years ago today we visited the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area on the west side of Las Vegas, Nevada. We arrived in the morning, when clouds still hung over the mountains.

Note the yuccas in the second picture. I believe they’re young Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia).

And notice the cholla cactus that looks like a running stick figure in the third picture.

The first three views don’t seem to support the name Red Rock, so here’s a picture that does.

Instead of a quotation today, let’s have an English vocabulary question. A mailman delivers mail. A fisherman catches fish. A fireman puts out fires. A salesman sells things. What does a henchman do?

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 25, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Nevada’s Valley of Fire

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Four years ago today we spent hours at Nevada’s scenic Valley of Fire State Park. The day was overcast and at times we had rain, but at least the subdued light reduced the desert’s normally harsh shadows

In the second and third pictures, note the tafoni in the rocks.

As dusk approached, the sun sank for a short while beneath the level of the clouds.

The setting sun’s warm light made the reddish earth and rocks seem even redder, as in the last two pictures.

And here’s a thought for today: “On n’a guère de défauts qui ne soient plus pardonnables que les moyens dont on se sert pour les cacher.” “Almost all our faults are more forgivable than the means we use to hide them.” — François de la Rochefoucauld.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 24, 2020 at 4:43 AM

Two quite different views of the same mountains in Zion National Park

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From Zion National Park on October 23, 2016, here are two quite different views of the same mountains (you can match up the profiles, going from the right). The picture above shows many details in the rocks and the vegetation, most conspicuously a gaily flowering rabbitbrush colony (Ericameria nauseosa). The heavily silhouetted view below shows details only in the clouds. We can describe the pair as differently dramatic.

And speaking of different appearances, here’s a quotation that’s ancient, though not as ancient as the mountains of Zion or even the behavior the words describe: “Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is that man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another.” Homer, The Iliad.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 22, 2020 at 4:48 AM

3-D

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Here’s something different: a stereo* pair I took at a quarry in Cedar Park on September 14, 1980—40 years ago today! To see the image in 3-D, I suggest you get about 15 inches away from the screen and line each eye up with the matching half of the pair. Look straight ahead, then relax your eyes. Once you get used to things, the left half should drift a bit to the left, the right half a bit to the right, and in between them should appear a fused image of the two halves. If you manage to discern that middle image, your brain will interpret it as 3-D and you’ll see the big slab and the boulders behind it as having depth; the cloud was too far away from the foreground to have any depth. People’s vision varies enormously, so to get 3-D you may have to enlarge or shrink the images on your screen, or view the screen from closer or farther away, or put on or take off glasses, or drink a magic potion. Whatever you do, don’t close one eye; it takes two eyes to see 3-D, which is why we have two eyes. (People who have lost the sight of one eye or close one eye retain their sense of how things look in the physical world and may imagine they’re still seeing in 3-D, but they aren’t.)

Here’s a related fact for today: well-known movies filmed in 3-D include “House of Wax” (1953), “Kiss Me Kate” (1953), “It Came from Outer Space (1953), “Creature from the Black Lagoon” (1954), and “Dial M for Murder” (1954).

* We’ve grown up with the word stereo referring to music played through two speakers. More than a century before scientists applied the term to sound, though, they applied it to sight. The Greek original meant ‘solid,’ and solidity, i.e. three-dimensionality, is what a photographic stereo pair conveys.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 14, 2020 at 4:31 AM

Smoke in the Canadian Rockies

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When I look at my photo archive I’m impressed by how much we accomplished on this date in 2017, all of it accompanied by varying amounts of smoke from forest fires. The first picture shows a view along the Trans-Canada Highway as we drove east that morning from our hotel in Golden, British Columbia.

We continued on to two scenic and therefore much-visited lakes in Alberta’s Banff National Park. The photograph above shows Moraine Lake, with its richly colored water, later in the morning. The view below lets you see how sunshine radiated through the clouds and smoke over Lake Louise as dusk approached.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 8, 2020 at 4:12 AM

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