Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘flowers

First wildflower for 2023

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About a week ago I checked out a property a couple of miles from home where I expect ten-petal anemones (Anemone berlandieri) to spring up early in the year. I found exactly two of those flowers, and both were the worse for wear (and apparent nibbling). A day or two later we had a little bit of rain, so I returned to the property yesterday to see if the watering had had its effect. It had, and this time I found a bunch of anemone flowers scattered about. The “petals” on a ten-petal anemone are actually sepals, and 10 is more typically a lower bound than a requisite number. I count a dozen on the flower above. There are also more than 12 droplets of rain, thanks to the drizzly morning.

Hoverflies in the genus Toxomerus outnumbered me dozens to one on that property.
For the first time ever I managed to photograph three of them together on a flower.




⥥      ⥥      ⥥


Over half a year ago I requested Julian Baggini and Jeremy Stangroom’s Do You Think What You Think You Think? from the Austin Public Library system. When month after month went by without the book showing up for me at my local branch, I figured maybe the system’s one copy had gotten lost and the long delay came from a new copy having to be ordered. Last week I unexpectedly got a notice that the book was in. Upon picking it up, I found it was an old, worse-for-wear copy, so where it had been for over half a year remains a mystery.

Anyhow, one question the book takes up is: what makes a great work of art? The authors say that “six broad types of answers have been given time and again in the history of art theory and aesthetics”:

  • The work displays great technical ability.
  • The work is enjoyable.
  • The work conveys the feelings of the artist.
  • The work conveys an important moral lesson or helps us to live better lives.
  • The formal features of the work are harmonious and/or beautiful.
  • The work reveals an insight into reality.

As is true for each topic in the book, what follows is a quiz in which you rate each of those six factors from 0 (not important at all) to 4 (vital). After a second quiz, this time comparing the works of two artists, the authors analyze your ratings. I won’t discuss them here, so anyone who wants to get the book and take the quizzes can do so with a blank slate, so to speak.

Other topics dealt with are reason, morality, taboo, God, ethics, being alive, and freedom. Interesting stuff. If that sounds interesting to you, too, check out Do You Think What You Think You Think? (and if you literally try to check it out of your public library, let’s hope it doesn’t take more than half a year for you to get it).



© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 30, 2023 at 4:36 AM

In the pink

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The last stop on our 12-day trip last fall was Midland, a Texas city we’d never been to. On the morning of October 21st we spent time there at the I-20 Wildlife Preserve, whose website describes it as “one of the few urban playas in the state of Texas, an ecotourism destination, and a science education resource of the Permian Basin.” If you’re not familiar with playa lakes, you can read about them in a Texas Parks and Wildlife article. Along one edge of the lake densely flowering smartweed plants (Persicaria sp.) turned the area pink and made a pleasant contrast with the green of the cattail plants beyond them. Below, a black willow sapling (Salix nigra) had arisen in front of the smartweed colony.



For those of you interested in the craft of photography,
point 15 in About My Techniques applies to the top image,
and point 20 to the bottom one.



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In English-speaking countries increasingly many institutions that once dedicated themselves to the quest for truth have been turning despotic:

The University of Sussex forced Kathleen Stock into exile for challenging the concept of gender identity. Evergreen State College ran out Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying, after refusing to protect them from violent student protesters. Portland State did the same to assistant professor of philosophy Peter Boghossian after he dared to question politicized scholarship. MIT canceled a lecture that University of Chicago geophysicist Dorian Abbot was set to give, citing an op-ed he’d written opposing affirmative action. UC Irvine fired Aaron Kheriaty, a professor of psychiatry and its director of medical ethics, for refusing the Covid vaccine on ethical grounds. Princeton fired Joshua Katz—supposedly over a decades-old offense he had already been punished for—right after he wrote an essay criticizing anti-racism policies.

That’s from a January 7th article by Neeraja Deshpande in The Free Press titled “Will Jordan Peterson Lose His License for Wrongthink?” You can read the full article.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 11, 2023 at 4:33 AM

One from the home front, another from the side

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On December 8th I took some pictures at home. From the front yard comes the portrait above of a Turk’s cap “pinwheel,” Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii, and from the side a somewhat more than dual portrait of Pavonia lasiopetala, known as rock rose, rose pavonia, and pavonia mallow.



© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 27, 2022 at 4:28 AM

Texas lantana flowering in December

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Lantana urticoides in the woods in my Great Hills neighborhood on December 10th.
A floral mandala, don’t you think?


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 26, 2022 at 4:31 AM

A scarcity of ladies’ tresses

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On November 17th I hunted for Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchids (Spiranthes magnicamporum) on a property in northwest Austin where I count on finding that species each fall. After 20 minutes of looking in likely spots and not finding any of those flowers, I sat down to photograph an ironweed; when I next looked up, I noticed a single orchid a few feet away. The inflorescence wasn’t very long and its lower flowers were already beginning to turn brown, but at least I found one. This year’s drought may be responsible for the fact that the orchid had no kin accompanying it.


(Pictures from our time in New Mexico will resume in the next post.)




“Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.”
— a Zen Buddhist saying.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 9, 2022 at 4:25 AM

Two takes on goldeneye

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After I saw frost on my neighbor’s roof the morning of November 13th I hied me down to Great Hills Park hoping for some pictures of frost-bedecked native plants. Though I found no frost at all there, some of the plants I photographed did have water droplets on them. One was the goldeneye (Viguiera dentata) you see above. And look how a spider had folded the ray florets of another goldeneye flower head:



Now it’s three weeks later and some goldeneye flowers are still making their presence known in Austin.


Today’s pictures continue the “golden yellow” theme of recent posts
about New Mexico. That state will be back next time.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 6, 2022 at 4:28 AM

Dramatic goldenrod

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On a prairie remnant along The Lakes Blvd. in northeast Austin on October 29th I lay on the ground and photographed some goldenrod against the sky. Use of full flash brightened my subject and by contrast made the morning’s clouds seem darker and more ominous than they actually appeared to me. Call it interpretation, call it transformation; though not true to life, the visual drama pleases me.


(Pictures from our New Mexico/west Texas trip will resume next time.)





So I caught the end of the 1946 movie rendition of Great Expectations on television the other day. As the main character, Pip, approaches and walks into a decaying mansion that has played a big part in the story, we hear lines by various characters that were spoken much earlier in the movie at the corresponding spots. If we had been re-shown those early scenes we would call them flashbacks. It occurred to me that the sound-only versions should be called soundbacks. I don’t find the word in any dictionary but I give you leave to use it.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 21, 2022 at 4:28 AM

From Apache plume to plumy clouds

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On October 15th in a garden outside the Albuquerque Museum I spent time photographing native plants. Among those I photographed was Apache plume, Fallugia paradoxa, which I couldn’t resist playing a flower of off* in a minimalistically** appealing way against some wispy clouds that intrigued me, as you see above.



Over a span of about half an hour I also couldn’t resist portraying
some of the wispy clouds in their own right as they shifted shapes.



* Few native English speakers realize that off and of were originally the stressed and unstressed form, respectively, of the same word. Speakers of foreign languages who are learning English have to be taught which form to use when.

* * The sesquipedalian adverb minimalistically doesn’t practice what it preaches.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 20, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Apache plume in Albuquerque

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I enjoyed looking at the historical paintings of New Mexico in the Albuquerque Museum on October 15th, but when I arrived and noticed a bunch of native plants in a garden outside, I spent the better part of an hour there before viewing the museum’s exhibits. Among the native plants I photographed was Apache plume, which I get to see only when I travel to far west Texas or further west. Botanists classify this member of the rose family as Fallugia paradoxa, the only species in its genus. When I first glimpsed the plant years ago, its fluffy stage made me think I was looking at some kind of Clematis. The top picture shows the resemblance.



The flowers are white, but as the one above began to shrivel and produce the characteristic plumes, one petal was turning a rich red. I scrolled through several hundred pictures online and didn’t see an Apache plume flower with a red area like this one. Maybe the red is typical and people just tend not to put up photographs of shriveling flowers. On the other hand, I saw two flowers with a petal turning red, so maybe it’s common.



In any case, the Apache plume flowers attracted a slew of insects, mostly ants, but also
this syrphid fly, which is apparently Paragus haemorrhous (thanks, bugguide.net).


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 19, 2022 at 4:27 AM

Two purples and more in Liberty Hill

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October 22, the day after our return from New Mexico and west Texas, found me in Liberty Hill, a fast-growing town three suburbs north of Austin. There I got low to the ground to photograph some lingering gayfeather flower spikes (Liatris punctata var. mucronata) against wispy clouds, as shown above. At times the breeze was brisk and it blew the fluffy branches of poverty weed (Baccharis neglecta) into graceful arcs that harmonized with the wispy clouds, as you see below. The rich purple was eryngo (Eryngium leavenworthii) and the yellow at the left came from a Maximilian sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani).



(Pictures from the New Mexico trip will resume next time.)


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 15, 2022 at 4:25 AM

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