Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘colors

We interrupt fall color to bring you fall color

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The interrupted fall color is from New Mexico; it will resume tomorrow. Interrupting it are two colorful views from Austin. For a couple of months I’d watched the fruit forming on the yaupon tree (Ilex vomitoria) outside my window. First it was green, then yellow, then red. Finally on the sunny afternoon of November 13th I figured I was ripe enough to take some pictures of it, which I did with my telephoto lens. Notice that not all the little fruits ripened at the same rate.

The second view is from yesterday along the Capital of Texas Highway in my hilly part of Austin. The picture shows a seasonally colorful colony of poison ivy, Toxicodendron radicans. As much as we may crave order, nature is often a jumble, and there’s no such thing as personal space when it comes to plants.

  

 

 

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Two generations ago, my father, an immigrant from Mexico, benefitted from programs that gave him access to job opportunities and scholarships that were not available to my mother, whose Ashkenazi ancestry had imbued her with lighter skin. My wife, who immigrated to North America as a refugee from Ukraine when it was part of the former USSR, was similarly excluded from work and educational opportunities due to her ancestry. At what point can we start to hold every person to the same standards, and seek to grant them access to the same opportunities—regardless of skin color, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, or other immutable characteristics?

Discriminating against a person based on the color of that person’s skin upends this nation’s foundational tenets of equality, while sacrificing our humanity in the process. Hard-earned principles and freedoms formed over centuries through the democratic process should not be abandoned. Treating applicants as representatives of identity groups, rather than as unique individuals with intrinsic value, elevates institutional interests over individual rights. In turn, this promotes division, resentment, and dehumanization.

 

So wrote Bion Bartning in a November 18th article for FAIR,
the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism.
You can read the full article.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 27, 2022 at 4:30 AM

Second encounter with fall foliage

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October 16th in northern New Mexico was overcast and sometimes rainy. Arriving in Santa Fe hours too early for our hotel room to be ready, we drove north of the town on US 84 to see what interesting things we might find. In the vicinity of Tesuque Pueblo colorful fall trees, mostly but not only cottonwoods (Populus deltoides subsp. wislizenii), made their presence known.

 

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 24, 2022 at 2:01 AM

The median with more than the median amount of wildflowers

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It’s hard to stop showing colorful pictures from the median of US 290 east of TX 21 as it looked on April 6th. Of the three main wildflowers—bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis), Texas dandelions (Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus), and Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja indivisa)—different colors predominated in different parts of the median. The paintbrushes that constituted the largest share in the top view put in only a minor appearance below, where bluebonnets and Texas dandelions marshaled* roughly equal forces in the field of floral fracas.

* Here’s the history of marshal that Merriam Webster gives:

Although most French words are derived from Latin, a few—among them marshal—are Germanic. In the last centuries of the Roman Empire, the Germanic Franks occupied what is now France and left behind a substantial linguistic legacy, including what became medieval French mareschal. Mareschal came from a Frankish compound noun corresponding to Old High German marahscal, composed of marah, meaning “horse” (Old English mearh, with a feminine form mere, whence English mare), and scalc, meaning “servant” (Old English scealc). The original marshal was a servant in charge of horses, but by the time the word was borrowed from French into English in the 14th century, it referred primarily to a high royal official.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 22, 2022 at 4:02 PM

New Zealand: Waimangu Volcanic Valley

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Five years ago today, on our second trip to New Zealand, we spent some hours in the Waimangu Volcanic Valley in the geothermally active area near Rotorua on the North Island. What you might take for low clouds in the top picture of Cathedral Rocks is steam.

The yellow in the second photograph, like the frequent odor we noticed in the air around Rotorua, comes from sulphur. I don’t know what made the green. The last picture shows what’s called Frying Pan Lake. While the water’s a pretty blue, the steam says a swim there would be your last anywhere.

 

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Respect for reason has waxed and waned throughout history. Today, its tide is receding. University professors resign in frustration from what were once our bastions of rationality. Increasingly, the barbarians are not merely at the gates, but running the show in a vast swathe of humanities departments. After decades of decay in our academic training grounds, radical identitarianism and other irrationalities are spreading with accelerating speed, and we are woefully short of thinkers capable of fighting them.

That’s the beginning of a good article by John Hersey about reasoning entitled “Five Lessons from Julia Galef’s ‘The Scout Mindset.’” Check it out. Links in that article lead to other good ones.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 5, 2022 at 4:37 AM

Maroon, orange, pale green

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The opening picture a few days ago showed that the flow in the Pedernales River at Milton Reimers Ranch Park on January 14th was reduced enough to have left portions of the river bed dry or largely so. That provided me opportunities for views of algae, like the orange patch above with a maroon sycamore leaf (Platanus occidentalis) in it, or the green algae below that was corrugating and turning pale as it dried out.

 

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Large-scale American government lawlessness every day

 

Footage from FOX News reporter Bill Melugin shows large numbers of single adult men being dropped off by bus, processed, and sent to the airport after crossing the border illegally near Brownsville, Texas.

“These are all single adults being released, almost all of them men. No children, no family units. Single adults are supposed to be expelled from the country,” Melugin reported.

“We followed their taxi cabs… and those migrants were just dropped off at the airport to fly around the country,” he explained. “We talked to a couple of them who said they were going to Atlanta, Houston, and Miami and they had just crossed illegally and paid the cartels $2000 to do so.”

 

It’s been said that crime doesn’t pay, but this story contradicts that adage. The people who enter illegally pay the Mexican cartels, and our government then uses our tax money to pay contractors to transport the illegal entrants to places inside the United States. One cynic described the contractors who transport the illegal entrants as “travel agents” for them.

You can read the full story in a RealClear Politics article and a New York Post article. The first video embedded in the RealClear Politics article reports that last month (December) the border patrol reported 178,840 encounters with people who had illegally crossed the border. That number is slightly more than the total for December 2018, December 2019, and December 2020 combined. What the 178,840 figure does not include are the tens of thousands of illegal entrants who completely evaded the overworked, stressed-out, stretched-thin border patrol in December 2021.

Like I said, lawlessness.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 28, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Winter leaf colors from a native grass

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Inland sea oats is a common native grass in the woods in my northwest part of Austin. The second word in the grass’s scientific name, Chasmanthium latifolium, means ‘wide leaf,’ and while I don’t consider this grass’s leaves especially wide, they’re certainly wide enough to have offered up some colorful foliage in Great Hills Park on the second day of the year.

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The other day I came across a quotation on the Internet: “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” The website attributed the quotation to Thoreau. Having long ago learned not to trust Internet quotations to be accurate, I went searching to find out whether Thoreau really expressed that thought, and if so, whether the wording was correct. My quest led me to an excellent site, The Henry D. Thoreau Mis-Quotation Page, where I learned that the idea was indeed Thoreau’s; the wording wasn’t. On August 5, 1851, Thoreau had written in his Journal: “The question is not what you look at, but what you see.”

If such things interest you, check out The Henry D. Thoreau Mis-Quotation Page, which includes incorrect wordings as well as sayings attributed to Thoreau that he never said. Of all the improper wordings, probably the most widely disseminated is the one that changes a word in the last part of this sentence from Thoreau’s essay “Walking”: “The West of which I speak is but another name for the Wild; and what I have been preparing to say is, that in Wildness is the preservation of the world.” People often quote the last eight words in isolation and turn wildness into wilderness.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 16, 2022 at 4:32 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Colorful backlit oak leaves

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During our sunny morning circuit of Balcones District Park on December 8th, which led to pictures of bright ash and cedar elm trees, I also noticed a few colorful oak trees along the trail. While I don’t know what species they were, I do know that their leaves looked richly colorful with the light passing through them and the blue sky beyond them. Notice the leaf miner trail in the second leaf.

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A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.

We have all experienced the futility of trying to change a strong conviction, especially if the convinced person has some investment in his belief. We are familiar with the variety of ingenious defenses with which people protect their convictions, managing to keep them unscathed through the most devastating attacks.

But man’s resourcefulness goes beyond simply protecting a belief. Suppose an individual believes something with his whole heart; suppose further that he has a commitment to this belief, that he has taken irrevocable actions because of it; finally, suppose that he is presented with evidence, unequivocal and undeniable evidence, that his belief is wrong: what will happen? The individual will frequently emerge, not only unshaken, but even more convinced of the truth of his beliefs than ever before.

So begins the 1956 book When Prophecy Fails, by Leon FestingerHenry Riecken, and Stanley Schachter. They studied cases in which a person felt inspired to issue a prophecy, only to have the prophecy fail to materialize at the predicted time. The “prophet” then typically rationalized and explained that the prophecy was valid but there had been a mistake of some sort in its interpretation. Nowadays we’d say the person “doubled down.”

While the cases in When Prophecy Fails are extreme, it’s a sad truth of human psychology that easily verifiable facts often fail to change people’s opinions.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 22, 2021 at 4:32 AM

Non-minimalist and minimalist fall color

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I think you’ll agree that the top picture, which shows backlit leaflets of flameleaf sumac
(Rhus lanceolata) against a blue sky, exhibits non-minimalist fall color.

Mature grasses offer up fall color on a small scale. That was the case with this hairy grama (Bouteloua hirsuta) seed head that I photographed on a redder-than-usual stalk. I also noticed a single spike of gayfeather (Liatris punctata var. mucronata) that had turned fluffy and that the sun lit up.

All three pictures are from November 22nd on the same property
that provided the pictures you recently saw of ladies’ tresses orchids.

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Free expression keeps meeting suppression. Canada seems to be as bad as the United States.

Toronto School Board cancels Yazidi Nobel Peace Prize winner because
her account of being a sex slave at the hands of ISIS ‘would foster Islamophobia’

The Toronto School Board also canceled high-profile criminal defense lawyer Marie Hunein.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 12, 2021 at 4:28 AM

Lost Horizon not always lost

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When the day number was most recently twice the month number, I stationed myself late in the afternoon at a place with a good vista along Lost Horizon Drive in our Great Hills neighborhood and waited for what I hoped would be a colorful sundown. Most of the sky stayed clear, however, which doesn’t make for good sunsets, so I decided to use a long lens to get close looks at the layers of wispy clouds close to the horizon. Zooming in like that to magnify the relatively small band of colorful clouds gave the resulting photographs a lot more drama than a person standing there would have perceived in the scene as a whole; call it not poetic license but photographer’s license.

Thanks to the orientation of the horizon, sunset pictures are usually horizontal, so for variety I experimented with a few vertical takes like the one below that came four minutes after the one above. The second picture excludes the horizon and is therefore also more abstract.

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With regard to the current pandemic, an article from Our World in Data clears up the confusion that some or maybe even many people have about the risk of dying from Covid-19. The easy-to-follow article distinguishes between, and offers simple numerical examples of, three ways to estimate or determine that risk: the case fatality rate, the crude mortality rate, and the infection fatality rate. I wrote “estimate or determine” because only the infection fatality rate is the number we really want to determine. The case fatality rate (which is often reported in the media), like the crude mortality rate, likely misses the true value by a wide margin.

 

That website’s About page also offers the following insights:

 

To work towards a better future, we also need to understand how and why the world is changing.

The historical data and research shows that it is possible to change the world. Historical research shows that until a few generations ago around half of all newborns died as children. Since then the health of children has rapidly improved around the world and life expectancy has doubled in all regions. Progress is possible. 

In other important ways global living conditions have improved as well. While we believe this is one of the most important facts to know about the world we live in, it is known by surprisingly few. 

Instead, many believe that global living conditions are stagnating or getting worse and much of the news media’s reporting is doing little to challenge this perception. It is wrong to believe that one can understand the world by following the news alone and the media’s focus on single events and things that go wrong can mean that well-intentioned people who want to contribute to positive change become overwhelmed, hopeless, cynical and in the worst cases give up on their ideals. Much of our effort throughout these years has been dedicated to countering this threat.

Researching how it was possible to make progress against large problems in the past allows us to learn. Progress is possible, but it is not a given. If we want to know how to reduce suffering and tackle the world’s problems we should learn from what was successful in the past.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 8, 2021 at 4:38 AM

Two takes on smartweed

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From the Arbor Walk Pond on October 8th come these two flowerless and abstract takes on smartweed (Polygonum or Persicaria sp.). In the top picture you’ll recognize the way backlighting increases color saturation, particularly in the reddish patches that contrast with the soft and subdued blue of the sky. How smart of smartweed to produce leaf nodes that offer themselves up to smart photographers.



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For a couple of years I’ve been aware of The Babylon Bee, a parody website like The Onion in which everything is made up. To get a feel for The Babylon Bee, you can check out a few stories:

The Babylon Bee is clearly a satirical website. No reasonable person would ever think that a story with the headline Report: More Unborn Babies In New York Identifying As Convicted Criminals So They Can’t Legally Be Executed is real. Nevertheless, one peculiarity of the times we live in is that so-called fact-checking organizations have occasionally investigated The Babylon Bee’s made-up stories and rated them for truthfulness! Politifact, for example, gave a Pants on Fire rating to the story “ISIS Lays Down Arms After Katy Perry’s Impassioned Plea To ‘Like, Just Co-Exist.’”

For more information, you’re welcome to watch an interview with The Babylon Bee’s CEO Seth Dillon that begins at about 49:00 into a recent episode of the Megyn Kelly Show.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 11, 2021 at 4:38 AM

Posted in nature photography

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