Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘landscape

Rattan and mustang grape vines interacting

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The falling off of leaves as cold weather comes makes it easier to see the two most common large and woody native vines in Austin: rattan (Berchemia scandens) and mustang grape (Vitis mustangensis). The dull green vines are rattan; the thicker ones with bark are mustang grape. These pictures from Great Hills Park were doubly new: it was the first day of the year, and I was trying out my Canon EOS R5 camera.

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I found the New York Post article “Five college students speak out: We’re fed up with campus ‘wokeness‘” enlightening. One of the students, Aryaan Misra, from India, said: “Progressives back home [which she considered herself] fight for women to have fundamental rights, while progressives on my campus [in the United States] hang pictures of Mao in their dorm room.” She continued: “Another time, my professor taught the class how to find what ‘triggers’ them. Growing up on the streets of Delhi, there are triggers everywhere you look — so-called ‘microaggressions’ are nothing compared to animal carcasses on the streets and malnourished children begging at every red light. I don’t know how my peers who treat every minor insult as a microaggression will survive outside the gates of their liberal campus.” Alas, her fellow students are surviving by trying to force everyone outside the gates of their illiberal campus to submit to their dictates.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 17, 2022 at 4:36 AM

Dusk colors

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Hot off a colorful sunset in Driftwood on October 17th, the next evening I stationed myself
at a place with a pretty good view on Lost Horizon Dr. in my neighborhood and hoped for more. I got it.


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“You can resolve to live your life with integrity. Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me. The simple step of a courageous individual is not to take part in the lie. One word of truth outweighs the world.” — Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 13, 2021 at 4:30 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Joshua Tree National Park revisited

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On this date five years ago we spent much of the day at
Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert of southeastern California.

As tall as some of these “trees” grow, they’re actually members of the yucca family, Yucca brevifolia.

Not all Joshua trees remain erect:

In some places a mountainous wall of boulders dwarfed the Joshua trees.

According to Wikipedia, “The name ‘Joshua tree’ is commonly said to have been given by a group of Mormon settlers crossing the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century: The tree’s role in guiding them through the desert combined with its unique shape reminded them of a biblical story in which Joshua keeps his hands reached out for an extended period of time to enable the Israelites in their conquest of Canaan (Joshua 8:18–26). Further, the shaggy leaves may have provided the appearance of a beard. However, no direct or contemporary attestation of this origin exists, and the name Joshua tree is not recorded until after Mormon contact; moreover, the physical appearance of the Joshua tree more closely resembles a similar story told of Moses.”

The same article lists a whopping 14 scientific names synonymous with Yucca brevifolia. That raises a question I don’t know the answer to: which plant has had the most scientific names?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 5, 2021 at 4:39 AM

Driftwood sunset

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On October 17th we drove about 45 minutes southwest to Driftwood, in Hays County, to see for the first time the home and property our friends David and Jolyn bought and moved to last year.

Because their new home is up in the hills, it offers some scenic views of the nearby countryside. We took advantage of that by all sitting outside and watching day give way to night, as the sunset pictures in this post confirm. Metadata says I took the photographs at 6:58, 7:00, and 7:09, respectively.

If you compare the top two pictures, you’ll notice that the clouds in the first photograph are a small subset of those in the second. That’s because in the first picture I zoomed the lens to its maximum 105mm (and later cropped off strips across the top and bottom to make more of a panorama). For the middle photograph, I zoomed out to the lens’s widest setting, 24mm, to pull in a lot of higher clouds. Call me upwardly mobile for the final view: I aimed the camera mostly overhead, rather than outward as I had for the first two shots.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 26, 2021 at 4:27 AM

Driving up to the Kolob Reservoir

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Five years ago today we drove north on Kolob Terrace Road to the Kolob Reservoir just outside Utah’s Zion National Park. The placid scene shown above of pallid aspen trunks (Populus tremuloides) awaited us at the top. On the way up to the reservoir we’d stopped at the grove of trees shown below, where fire-darkened trunks and branches contrasted with colorful fall foliage.


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You may find it hard to believe that now, so many decades after the Civil Rights Movement led to the end of segregation in the United States, some public schools in this country have gone back to segregating students by race. Concerned Americans have justifiably been fighting back against this neoracism in our schools. As one example, you can read about illegal racial segregation in the public schools of Wellesley, Massachusetts, and the lawsuit that Parents Defending Education has brought against the offending school district. Notice in the article that this public school district has also been guilty of suppressing the free speech guaranteed in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 23, 2021 at 4:33 AM

The high cliff along Bull Creek

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As often as I’ve shown scenes from Bull Creek, I don’t think I’ve ever shown this stretch that includes one of the tallest cliffs along the creek. The second photo offers you a better view of the way some slabs of rock have fallen on the creek bank. If you have trouble making out the yellow flowers, don’t worry; an upcoming post will give you a close look at one along a different part of the creek. Both of today’s pictures are from July 5th.


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As manic as some segments of American society have become, voices of reason and moderation do exist. Two such are Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, whose book Cynical Theories appeared in 2020. Its subtitle is How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender, and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody. Here’s an example of their principled opposition to what I’ll call academania:

We affirm that racism remains a problem in society and needs to be addressed.

We deny that critical race Theory and intersectionality provide the most useful tools to do so, since we believe that racial issues are best solved through the most rigorous analyses possible.

We contend that racism is defined as prejudiced attitudes and discriminatory behavior against individuals or groups on the grounds of race and can be successfully addressed as such.

We deny that racism is hard-baked into society via discourses, that it is unavoidable and present in every interaction to be discovered and called out, and that this is part of a ubiquitous systemic problem that is everywhere, always, and all-pervasive.

We deny that the best way to deal with racism is by restoring social significance to racial categories and radically heightening their salience.

We contend that each individual can choose not to hold racist views and should be expected to do so, that racism is declining over time and becoming rarer, that we can and should see one another as humans first and members of certain races second, that issues of race are best dealt with by being honest about racialized experiences, while still working towards shared goals and a common vision, and that the principle of not discriminating by race should be universally upheld.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 11, 2021 at 4:36 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

Another mini-meadow

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A recent post showed you a mini-meadow in bloom along Yaupon Dr. on the far side of my neighborhood. From the same area on June 2nd, here’s another. The many yellow flower heads are four-nerve daisies (Tetraneuris linearifolia) and those at the left with reddish-brown centers are a species of Coreopsis. The more numerous but smaller flowers are yellow stonecrop (Sedum nuttallianum), which you get a much closer and slightly fresher look at in the photo below, taken nearby on May 21st.

And here’s a relevant quotation:

“Le jaune est le fils aîné de la lumière, et il ne faut pas s’étonner qu’une nation de coloristes, les Chinois, le regardent comme la plus belle des couleurs. Sans le jaune, il n’y a point de spectacle splendide.” — Charles Blanc, Grammaire des arts décoratifs, 1870.

“Yellow is the eldest child of light, and you shouldn’t be surprised that a nation of colorists, the Chinese, regard it as the most beautiful of colors. Without yellow there are no splendid spectacles.” — Charles Blanc, Grammar of the Decorative Arts, 1870.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 7, 2021 at 4:28 AM

Valley Spring Creek Waterfall

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Another water feature we visited for the first time at Inks Lake State Park on our May 6th visit was the Valley Spring Creek Waterfall. The view below, which looks about 90° left from the angle of the view above, shows some of the rock formations and pools adjacent to and downstream from the waterfall.

The other day I became aware of a horrible proposal being put forth by the current government of my country. The proposal calls for spending large amounts of public money to impose racism in America’s schools. You read that right: racism, which is the treating of people differently depending on their ethnic heritage and the color of their skin. You can read about the proposal in a brief summary prepared by the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism.

I encourage those of you who are American citizens to go to the U.S. government website that is accepting comments on the proposal and to speak out forcefully against it. The May 17th deadline for comments is almost here, so you’ll need to act quickly.

Here’s what I wrote in my dissent:

“I am against this proposal with all my heart, mind, and soul. The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution requires equal treatment of all citizens. Yet the government’s proposal calls for treating different categories of citizens differently. That violates the 14th Amendment and is therefore illegal. Officials in our government have sworn an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, not to fly in the face of it. If the government insists on flouting the United States Constitution, the Supreme Court will rule the move unconstitutional and will strike it down. This racist and unconstitutional proposal should be immediately withdrawn.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 15, 2021 at 2:32 AM

Devil’s Waterhole

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There’s nothing diabolical about the Devil’s Waterhole at Inks Lake State Park. Though we’d been to the park several times in recent years, we’d never wandered all the way down to this end until we visited on May 6th. The first picture is a closer and more abstract take (you know me with abstractions), while the second photograph retroactively sets the scene.

Among things diabolical I include the alarming rise in my country of freedom-hating zealots on the rampage to “cancel” and “deplatform” anyone who has different ideas from them. I’d remind those historyphobes—but of course they’d refuse to listen—how quickly things devolved in the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Fascist regimes in Germany and Italy, China’s [anti-]Cultural Revolution, the insanity of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the dictatorship of the Kim dynasty in North Korea, and other disastrous ideological regimes. As George Santayana warned in the first decade of the 20th century, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Good people have to speak and act now, before it’s too late.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 13, 2021 at 4:40 AM

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