Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘flower

Tube-tongue

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Welcome to tube-tongue (Justicia pilosella), a little wildflower making its debut here today. On June 14th I’d gone out driving along Capital of Texas Highway looking for mountain pinks, which normally appear along that road by mid-June. I didn’t find any, but the colony of tube-tongue made up for it. The plants stood only several inches tall, and the flowers are only about an inch in size, so getting decent pictures had me down on the ground—and my neck too close to some stinging nettles, I’m afraid. Ah, the occupational hazard of being a nature photographer in Texas. On the technical side, I used flash and a small aperture, so the bright sky got rendered as a dark blue-grey (that’s more apparent if you look at the picture against a black background).


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It’s by no means only people with conservative or libertarian leanings who are appalled at the illiberal policies being imposed on America, particularly those that clamp down on freedom of expression, inject “wokism” into everything, and rouse mobs to “cancel” anyone they disagree with. Also speaking out against those harmful trends are what I’ll call classical liberals, who generally identify themselves as being on the political left or center-left. Here are a few whose recent doings and writings you may want to check out.

Steven Pinker

Bari Weiss

Jonathan Haidt

Greg Lukianoff

Nadine Strossen

John McWhorter

Glenn Greenwald

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 22, 2021 at 4:44 AM

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Two quite different takes

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On May 15th in Allen Park I found a nice group of silverpuff plants (Chaptalia texana) with prominent seed heads. I took the top picture by natural light, of which there wasn’t a lot, so the resulting broad aperture of f/2.8 led to a dreamy portrait with little in focus. For the closer view below I used my ring flash and an aperture of f/13 so I could keep a lot more details sharp. Fireworks, anyone?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 13, 2021 at 4:36 AM

Ten years

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Today marks 10 years since I put up the first post on Portraits of Wildflowers. Even after a decade I’m happy to occasionally bring you native wildflowers that haven’t appeared here before, like the snake herb you saw the other day and now this yellow passionflower, Passiflora lutea.* Less flashy than some other passionflower species, it puts out flowers no more than about 3/4 of an inch (18mm) across—meaning that the image of this one is significantly larger than life, thanks to my trusty macro lens. Looking only at the flower, could you have predicted its buds would be bullet-shaped, as confirmed by the two in the upper right? I took this photograph on May 21st in a thankfully undeveloped (but more often mowed than I’d like) lot on Balcones Woods Dr. a couple of miles from home.

* While it’s true that you’ve never seen a flower of this species here before, I did show an abstract portrait of a tendril way back in 2012.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 4, 2021 at 4:38 AM

A new month, a new wildflower

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I remember seeing snake herb flowers (Dyschoriste linearis) at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center years ago. I don’t recall ever seeing any in the wild till this spring, when I’ve come across the species at least three times. Either it’s having a good year or my eyes have opened. To give you a sense of scale, let me add that snake herb flowers range from about 3/4 of an inch (18mm) to an inch (25mm) across. The picture above is from Allen Park on May 15th. I’d found the bud below in Liberty Hill on May 6th.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “One of the most treacherous forms of censorship is self-censorship—where walls are built around the imagination and often raised from fear of attack.” You’re welcome to read the full article about PEN International, the 100-year-old organization that upholds writers’ freedom and works against censorship.

In a poll of 2000 people in the United States in mid-2020, 62% of respondents said the political climate prevents them from sharing their political views. After all that has ensued in the year since then, I suspect the percent of self-censorers is higher now.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 1, 2021 at 4:37 AM

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Euphoria

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I often see Euphoria beetles in prickly pear cactus flowers (Opuntia engelmannii). On May 21st I noticed this pair apparently living up to their genus name. For a closer look, click the excerpt below.

For the origin and meanings of euphoria, the word, here’s a brief account.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 27, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Pale green crab spider

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On May 1st, about half an hour before I encountered the fawn you recently saw here, I stopped to photograph a rain-lily flower (Zephyranthes drummondii) that was turning pink as it shriveled away at the end of its inevitably brief life. Once I got close to the flower I found a pale green crab spider on it. A somewhat orange prickly pear cactus flower (Opuntia engelmannii) provided a great backdrop. I don’t recall ever previously photographing this combination of colors.

If you’re interested in the art and craft of photography, points 1, 5, 6 and 7 in About My Techniques apply to this picture.

And here’s a quotation for today: “I find that sometimes when I go into a community that’s not my own, or a community that has a lot of issues attached to it, I have to resist wanting to say something about how I think they could be better, or how I think the government has wronged them.” — Chloé Zhao, 2021 Academy Award winner for best director.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 14, 2021 at 4:35 AM

Rain-lily bud and flower

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Zephyranthes drummondii; April 27 in my neighborhood.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 10, 2021 at 4:33 AM

Prickly pear cactus flower opening

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Note the ants on this Opuntia engelmannii flower opening in my neighborhood on April 28th.

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About 20 years ago I got to meet a distant relative of mine from another country who came to stay with us for several months. He enjoyed nature, so one morning we set out for an attractive place west of Austin. During the drive we talked about various things, and at one point he startled me by admitting that he would say something he knew to be false if it furthered a cause that he favored. And just the other day I came across something similar in Michael Shellenberger’s Apocalypse Never. He quoted a Sierra Club member saying “I think that playing dirty, if you have a noble end, is fine.”

I’m too wedded to the truth to lie or play dirty, but alas, those tactics have become all too common in the past several years and especially since 2020. Time after time I’ve encountered media “news” stories putting forth a claim that readily available evidence shows isn’t true. What usually happens in those cases is that if you bring the refuting evidence to the attention of the people making the false claim, they still continue making it, sometimes even more fiercely than before.

Another practice unethical people in the “news” media engage in is to quote something that a person said but to leave out words that cast the statement in a different light, often the opposite of what seems to be the case in the edited version. If you see an ellipsis (three dots indicating words have been omitted) in a quotation that seems damning, don’t draw any conclusions until you see what has been left out, along with the statements preceding and following the quoted words. In short, get the full context. It’s disheartening to see activists suppress evidence and quote people in purposely misleading ways, but that’s the sad world we’re living in.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 7, 2021 at 4:41 AM

A new take on pearl milkweed flowers

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If it’s a colorful and detailed take on the flowers of the pearl milkweed vine that you’re after, I’ve already shown Matelea reticulata that way. On April 25th in my neighborhood the low-angle glancing sunlight was such that I went for the unconventional view you see here, with its high contrast, minimalism, and abstraction. The little spectrum-like line segments at the lower right came from spider silk refracting the light.

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“Reformers used to look for the next wrong to right. Now activists look for the next right thing to make wrong.” — S.S.

Illiberal ideologues in my country have been increasingly pushing the crazy notion that objectivity is a tool of white supremacy. Those obsessed activists include mathematics in the objectivity they despise, and they claim it’s not really important for students to get right answers in mathematics. That’s the same mathematics that allows us to deliver electricity to homes and businesses to run appliances and machines; that lets researchers determine whether a new medicine is effective; that lets companies build computers and smart phones and bridges and cars and planes; that lets engineers calculate the orbits of the satellites that enable global navigation and communication; and on and on and on. While the American educational establishment is busy making sure students here don’t learn much of anything except secular religious dogma, Chinese leaders continue relentlessly forward in their plan for ever greater hegemony.

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) measures the international scholastic performance of 15-year-olds in mathematics, science, and reading. You can see the 2018 results for 77 or 78 countries. In all three subjects China was #1. The United States came in 13th in reading, 18th in science, and a dismal 37th in mathematics. I guess our innumerate ideologues don’t know enough arithmetic to understand that when it comes to rankings, larger numbers aren’t better than smaller ones—either that, or those zealots are happy that American kids are showing their anti-racism by refusing to internalize as inherently white supremacist a subject as mathematics.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 3, 2021 at 4:42 AM

Cream paintbrush

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Most Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja indivisa) are red, like the one in the backround in this picture from the town of Manor on April 20th. Occasionally a paintbrush is yellowish or cream or white, like the one in the foreground here that is the real subject of the portrait.

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Two days ago I posed an English language challenge: to come up with a sentence containing the words adopted finished stirred. The three words had to appear exactly that way, with no punctuation or other words in between, and the full sentence had to be grammatical. That seems like a difficult task, and no takers have come forward. (This is primarily a nature photography blog, after all.)

Languages allow for the nesting, i.e. embedding or insertion, of one sentence inside another. With that in mind, let’s begin with three simple sentences, each containing one of the verbs in the challenge (I’ve italicized those verbs).

1: The book stirred emotions.
2: The girl finished the book.
3: The family adopted the girl.

Now let’s nest 2 inside 1 as a way of including what we know about the book:

2 inside 1: The book that the girl finished stirred emotions. (Notice how stirred now immediately follows finished. Do you see where this is going?)

Now let’s nest 3 inside the nested combination of 1 and 2 as a way of including what else we know about the girl:

3 inside 2 inside 1: The book that the girl that the family adopted finished stirred emotions.

Grouping symbols make the nesting structure clear:

The book [ that the girl [[ that the family adopted ]] finished ] stirred emotions.

If you drop what’s inside the double brackets, what’s left makes sense. Likewise, if you drop everything that’s inside the single brackets, what’s left makes sense.

There’s no theoretical limit to how many levels of nesting you can have, but even with just the two levels of nesting in our final sentence, comprehension begins to falter as verbs pile up toward the end of the combined version.

For example, suppose we add just one more sentence to the original three:

4: The senator visited the family.

Nesting that inside what we already had gives us:

4 inside 3 inside 2 inside 1: The book that the girl that the family that the senator visited adopted finished stirred emotions.

I doubt whether even German speakers, who have a head start by often putting two verbs together at the end of a sentence, could follow this.

In fact the sentence could be even more opaque. Through a peculiarity of English, we’re not obliged to include that when it’s the object of the following verb. For example:

2 inside 1: The book the girl finished was long.

If we suppress every such that in a sentence with multiple levels of nesting, not only do verbs pile up toward the end, but noun phrases pile up at the beginning:

4 inside 3 inside 2 inside 1: The book the girl the family the senator visited adopted finished stirred emotions.

Try reading that out loud to someone, even slowly, and I’m pretty sure the person won’t understand it. What fun!

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 2, 2021 at 4:33 AM

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