Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘creek

Some colorful geology on a small scale

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Nothing in Austin is going to compare to the Badlands of South Dakota. Sorry, Austin, that’s just how it is. Still, we have some much smaller geological formations here that warrant a look. One is a long limestone slab that arches up and then out over a creek in my Great Hills neighborhood. Historically, of course, aeons of water flowing through the creek eroded the limestone to create the overhang. The back wall, which I don’t think ever gets direct sunlight, stays rather dark even during the brightest part of the day. When I went there on June 29th, I stood facing the wall and used flash to reveal the colors and patterns of the always damp and sometimes wet stone.

No more than a hundred feet to the right of the formations shown here are the mud dauber wasp tubes some of you may remember from five years ago. Two years after that, I showed something that wasn’t a tuft of hair on the underside of the overhang.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 9, 2017 at 4:54 AM

July 4th

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July 4th is my birthday. It always has been. While I could commemorate the date by showing you one picture for each birthday I’ve had, I think you’ll agree that would be too onerous for me and certainly for you. Instead, let me focus on the 4 in today’s date and show you four pictures I took in the southern part of Great Hills Park on June 23rd. The first thing that caught my attention, just beyond the metal railing along the sidewalk on that side of Floral Park Drive, was the dense display of Clematis drummondii flowers. Like pale yellow-green stars in a floral firmament they were.

Then I wandered steeply down to the shaded bank of the creek that flows through that section of the park. The creek had mostly dried up, which is common in the heat of the Texas summer. Some water remained pooled up in one small part of the creek bed, and on the surface of the stagnating pool I saw a dry leaf, apparently that of a mustang grape, Vitis mustangensis. Several grapes had fallen in that area and one of them miraculously lay on top of the little raft that the leaf had become for it. Even when the leaf shifted slightly in its floating, the grape didn’t roll off.

When I finished taking pictures of the de facto raft, I noticed on the far bank of the creek, which lay lit up by lambent sunlight, what I feel compelled to call glaucous glop. Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it, at least photographically.

After I walked a minute or so downstream from the glaucous glop, I came across a shed snake skin on a mostly dried-out portion of the creek bed. The snake skin had been rent into several parts that remained near one another. The tail end, shown here, lay flattened onto a level portion of the creek bed. A little piece of dry Ashe juniper, Juniperus ashei, conveniently delineated the wider end of that segment.

Following suit, this sentence conveniently delineates the end of my July 4th tetralogy. Except that I’m adding a sentence to say that if you can slip the words lambent, delineate and tetralogy into a conversation today, it’ll be a fine birthday present for a lover of words.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 4, 2017 at 12:01 AM

Helen Hunt Falls

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On June 7th we visited North Cheyenne Cañon (or Canyon) Park on the west side of Colorado Springs. One of the main attractions in the park is Helen Hunt Falls, named not for the actress but for Helen Maria Hunt Jackson.

Just downstream from the base of the falls, part of North Cheyenne Creek rushes over a smooth area of rock, concave up, that shoots the water diagonally into the air. Below is a view of that splashing dynamic at 1/4000 of a second, with the water moving from right to left.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 2, 2017 at 4:33 AM

Flowing water adjacent to the Great Sand Dunes

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I don’t know about you, but when I think of water and sand dunes together I think about dunes on the seacoast. When I visited Te Paki in New Zealand in February, I was surprised to find a stream separating the parking lot from the dunes. The same thing is true in Great Sand Dunes National Park, where people who want to walk to the dunes from the parking lots have to cross Medano Creek (médano is a Spanish word for ‘dune’). What’s strange about Medano Creek is that it pulses. The phenomenon is known as surge flow, and here’s what the website of Great Sand Dunes National Park says about it:

This is one of the few places in the world where one can experience surge flow, a stream flowing in rhythmic waves on sand. Three elements are needed to produce the phenomenon: a relatively steep gradient to give the stream a high velocity; a smooth, mobile creekbed with little resistance; and sufficient water to create surges. In spring and early summer, these elements combine to make waves at Great Sand Dunes. As water flows across sand, sand dams or antidunes form on the creekbed, gathering water. When the water pressure is too great, the dams break, sending down a wave about every 20 seconds. In wet years, waves can surge up to a foot high!

I noticed the phenomenon when I went to take pictures of sand patterns in Medano Creek. No sooner would I compose and take a few photographs, than a “wave” of water would flow downstream and obscure my subject. The picture above shows the shallow regular flow of Medano Creek; the picture below shows a moment of surge flow.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 27, 2017 at 4:48 AM

Kendall County

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waterfall-on-curry-creek-1096

I hadn’t done much photographing in Kendall County until I made a 230-mile circuit through the Texas Hill Country on September 29. My goal was a waterfall that another Austin photographer had made me aware of. I found it a few miles south of Kendalia, where Edge Falls Road crosses Curry Creek. The actual Edge Falls, which I’ve read is larger, lies upstream but isn’t open to the public. Neither is what you see here; all I could do was look (and photograph, of course) from the little bridge that carries the road over the creek.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 7, 2016 at 4:59 AM

Dunes Creek

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Dunes Creek Colors and Patterns 8222

Most people go to Indiana Dunes State Park to see the dunes and the beach along Lake Michigan. That’s why I went there on June 17, but I also couldn’t help noticing and being intrigued by the colors of Dunes Creek close to where it empties into Lake Michigan. I’ve read that the warm colors are due to tannins released by black oak leaves that fall into the creek and decay there.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 18, 2016 at 5:02 AM

Make that three junipers in a row

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Ashe Juniper Hanging Upside Down from Cliff 2860

It has been said, accurately or not, that when the British surrendered to the Americans at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, the British musicians played the song “The World Turned Upside Down.” Send some of those notes out now for this poor Ashe juniper tree (Juniperus ashei), which had gotten largely uprooted but still clung to life as it hung upside down over a cliff along Bull Creek in northwest Austin. The photograph shows how things looked on July 21, two weeks after I’d first caught sight of the inverted tree. Notice how much of the juniper’s foliage remained green.

This was not my first take on upside-down-ness over Bull Creek.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 31, 2016 at 4:53 AM

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