Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘flowers

Different horsemint portraits

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In contrast to last time’s sharp portrait at f/18, the pictures in today’s post represent a limited-focus approach (f/2.8 and f/3.2) to photographing a horsemint, Monarda citriodora. The yellow behind the subject came from a Mexican hat, Ratibida columnifera. To show how much an image depends on the way it gets processed, compare the portrait below, which I took about a minute later than the first one, and which I processed with a darker tonality. Remember that neither view accords with that you’d have seen with your eyes and brain if you’d been there in person.

These pictures date from June 2nd at the Junior League of Austin,
which was looking good but not as fabulously floriferous as in the spring of 2020.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 10, 2021 at 4:36 AM

A horsemint portrait

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Here’s yet another floral portrait from the Capital of Texas Highway on June 14th.
This one shows the tiered inflorescence of a horsemint, Monarda citriodora.


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“It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.” — Mark Twain, Following the Equator, 1897.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 9, 2021 at 4:46 AM

It wasn’t Ezekiel who saw this wheel way up in the middle of the air

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Like the silverleaf nightshade you saw a picture of the other day, this firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella) was also growing along the Capital of Texas Highway on June 14th. As in that other photograph, because I used my ring flash and a small aperture (this time f/18), the bright sky came out in an unnatural way, but one I find pleasant. You can decide whether the tiny spider is a pleasant addition.

The title of today’s post is a reference to an African-American spiritual based on the Book of Ezekiel in the Jewish Bible.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 8, 2021 at 4:21 AM

Yellow with a blush of pink

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Our two local species of Tetraneuris both go by the common name four-nerve daisy. The one that I find in much larger numbers and that I’ve therefore most often shown here is T. linearifolia. On June 18th in the town of Cedar Park I came across the other species, T. scaposa, and took advantage of the find to make a portrait with some nearby mountain pinks offering their contrasting color in the background.


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Here’s an interesting bit of history I learned from an article by Jarrett A. Lobell in the July/August 2021 issue of Archaeology, which is one of the magazines I subscribe to: “When it was built nearly 5,000 years ago, the Great Pyramid of Giza was the tallest structure in the world, a title it would retain for more than 3,500 years, until it was surpassed by several of England’s medieval cathedrals.”

Since 2010 the world’s tallest building has been the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. I can’t imagine it will retain its title for another 3500 years; it’s highly unlikely to still even exist 350 years from now. Sic transibit gloria mundi.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 2, 2021 at 4:43 AM

Pristinity

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On June 14th in northwest Austin I photographed this close-to-fully-open flower head of a blackfoot daisy, Melampodium leucanthum. Some would speak of its pristinity, others of its pristineness.


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Anything but pristine is the increasing push to clamp down on free speech and the expression of ideas. If that worries you, as it does me, you may appreciate watching a BookTV program in which Nadine Strossen, former director of the American Civil Liberties Union, interviewed writer Jonathan Zimmerman and cartoonist Signe Wilkinson about their book Free Speech: And Why You Should Give a Damn.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 29, 2021 at 4:36 AM

Time again for mountain pinks

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Flowers and bullet-like buds of Zeltnera beyrichii on June 18th in Cedar Park.
Thinks to Kathy Werner for tipping me off to the location.
(In return I tipped her off to the location of some bluebells near there.)


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A few days ago I finished reading Douglas Murray’s excellent book The Madness of Crowds, in which he pointed out something I’d begun noticing, too: the hits that come up in response to certain searches on Google are biased. Murray gave several examples, one of which was that when he searched for “straight couples,” many of the pictures that came up in Google Images showed gay couples. His book is from 2019, so I tried that experiment for myself last week to see what sort of results I’d get in mid-2021.

The top row of hits I got for “straight couples” contained seven pictures. The first showed a lesbian couple. The second showed a gay male couple. The third showed a male-female couple. The fourth showed a lesbian couple. The fifth showed a male-female couple. The sixth and seventh both showed lesbian couples. In summary, only two of the seven pictures in the top row matched the search string “straight couples.”

It’s practically impossible for a set of hits so different from the search string to come up by chance. To understand why, imagine all the pictures of couples out there on the internet; billions of them have been posted. Now imagine that you searched for pictures of couples without specifying any particular kind of couple. Using the estimate that 5% of couples are same-sex, I did the calculations to find out how often a random grab of seven pictures of couples would yield an assortment with five gay couples and two straight couples. The arithmetic shows you can expect that to happen only 0.14% of the time, or approximately 1 out of every 700 times. And remember, that’s without specifying what kind of couple you’re after. The fact that I searched specifically for straight couples makes the 5-gay-and-2-straight result I got much less probable than the already tiny 0.14% we’d expect if we didn’t specify the kind of couple.

The only conclusion possible, in fact the one Douglas Murray came to, is that Google is cooking the books—and since Google is a search engine and not accounting software, cooking the books means rigging the search algorithm to distort reality. And this from the company whose original motto was “Don’t be evil.”

Oh, and just in case anyone feels an overwhelming ad hominem urge to label Douglas Murray homophobic for pointing out what he did about Google, he happens to be gay.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 28, 2021 at 4:27 AM

Orange-and-yellow and yellow

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If you need your day brightened, here’s some Texas lantana (Lantana urticoides) in a colony of four-nerve daisies (Tetraneuris linearifolia) as I saw them along Yaupon Dr. on June 2nd.


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One thing that can brighten my day is mathematics. In 1514 the great German artist Albrecht Dürer did an engraving called “Melencolia 1.” In the engraving’s upper right corner appeared the following lattice of numbers, the bottom two center cells of which not by chance echoed the year of the engraving:

The numerical lattice that Dürer showed is an example of what mathematicians call a magic square. What’s “magic” about this magic square is that if you add up the numbers in any of the four rows, four columns, or two diagonals, you always get the same total, in this case 34. While the rows, columns, and diagonals add up to a constant in any magic square*, this one is even better because it includes other patterned groups of four cells that also give a total of 34. More than a dozen of them exist. Be the first kid on your block (or in your time zone) to find and point out some of those patterned foursomes that add up to 34. (By “patterned” I mean arranged in an orderly or symmetric way. The set of 5, 7, 9, and 13 wouldn’t count, because although they do add up to 34, the numbers are scattered about in the lattice in no particular way.)

* By tradition, the numbers that fill a magic square are consecutive, with 1 as the smallest number. That needn’t be so, however. For example, you could add 5 to each number in Dürer’s square and the new square would still be magic, except the total in each row, column, and diagonal would now be 54. Or you could double each number in Dürer’s square to get a new square whose magic total would be 68.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 24, 2021 at 4:30 AM

A pretty yellow

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A few prickly pear cacti (Opuntia engelmannii) were still putting out flowers in June.
I’d made this bold portrait of one in Allen Park on May 15th.


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Four days ago I saw a car with the custom license plate MRSCORN.
Was that Mrs. Corn or was it Mr. Scorn?
Or was it both, with the Mr. scorning the Mrs.?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 21, 2021 at 4:33 AM

Mexican hat: en masse and solo

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Above, from Fireoak Dr. on June 5th, behold a happily flowering colony of Mexican hats, Ratibida columnifera. Below is a fresh new Mexican hat flower head along Capital of Texas Highway on June 14th.


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Yesterday I quoted from the speech that Martin Luther King Jr. gave in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1963. Probably the most famous line from that speech is this one: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Now it’s 58 years later, and it pains me to have to say that Dr. King’s color-blind approach to human interaction is falling out of fashion. For some Americans it’s completely gone, and they insist on categorizing and analyzing everything according to race. One such person is Ibram X. Kendi. Where Dr. King strove to end discrimination, Kendi applauds it: “The only remedy to racist discrimination is anti-racist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”

Now, you might say that Kendi is just one person, and so what if he’s a racist?* Unfortunately Kendi has had one best-selling book after another. The U.S. Navy has put his How to Be an Antiracist on its recommended reading list. Institutions have paid him and keep on paying him tens of thousands of dollars to deliver speeches.Time magazine included him in its 2020 annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Boston University has appointed him to the Andrew Mellon Professorship in the Humanities. And on and on the insanity goes.

What a sorry state my country has fallen into!

Some people are speaking out (and writing out) against the insanity. If you’d like a detailed article along those lines, you can read one by John McWhorter, a linguistics professor at my alma mater, Columbia.

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* Notice the Orwellian way this racist calls himself an antiracist, just as a certain violent fascist group calls itself antifa, i.e. anti-fascist.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 20, 2021 at 4:29 AM

Blue curls and firewheel

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Been a long time since I showed you any blue curls, Phacelia congesta. In Allen Park on May 15th
I spotted one flowering close enough to a firewheel, Gaillardia pulchella, for me to contrast their colors.


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Today is Juneteenth, which became a national holiday this week. The name is short for June Nineteenth, which was the day in 1865 when Union forces brought the news to Galveston, Texas, that all former slaves were now free. This is the first new American holiday since Ronald Reagan signed into law the establishment of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.

Martin Luther King Jr. is famous for a speech he gave in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1963, that has become known as “I have a dream” because that line figured repeatedly in the speech. Here’s a portion:

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.

It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”…

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I’m all for that, and I expect you are, too.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 19, 2021 at 4:40 AM

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