Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘landscape

Brazos Bend State Park

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On the morning of September 18th Eve and I met up with Linda Leinen and Shannon Westveer at Brazos Bend State Park southwest of Houston. It was the first time we’d all gone on a hike together since the fall of 2019, at the time of the annual Native Plant Society of Texas meeting that year in League City. Those two naturophiles live in the region and know Brazos Bend well, which was a big help to the visiting Austinites who’d never visited that park before. You’re looking at 40 Acre Lake above, and then a great egret, Ardea alba, near an edge of the lake.

 

   

And here from a different place in the lake is a closer look at the egret,
whose bill is the reverse of the dry vegetation sticking up parallel to it from the water:

 

  

 

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It’s common in politics for X to say something bad about Y, and for Y to reply that X’s statement was politically motivated. Imagine that: a politically motivated statement in politics. Who’d ever have believed such a thing? Sarcasm aside, the appropriate question is whether a politically motivated statement is true:

 

A truth that’s told with bad intent
Beats all the Lies you can invent.

— William Blake, Auguries of Innocence.
Written in 1803; published posthumously in 1863.

 

 A more famous passage comes a little earlier:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

(Capitalization was inconsistent.)

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 26, 2022 at 4:35 AM

Ripple reflections on Bull Creek cliff

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Not having been to the main section of St. Edward’s Park for a long time, I went there on the morning of June 24th. At one of the access points to Bull Creek I noticed that sunlight was reflecting off ripples in the creek and creating shimmers on the cliff. Those shimmers of light in turn appeared upside down as they reflected off the surface of the water on their way to my eyes and to the camera that I put between my eyes and them.

Southern maidenhair ferns (Adiantum capillus-veneris) created the horizontal green band of foliage across the cliff just above the water level. Starkly uneven lighting (which I could only partly even out while processing the image) produced a strange effect: the ferns in the right half of the photograph are clearly reflected in the water, while the main group of ferns in the left half doesn’t have an obvious reflection.

 

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One of the most important developments in the study of racial inequality has been the quantification of the importance of pre-market skills in explaining differences in labor market outcomes between Black and white workers. In 2010, using nationally representative data on thousands of individuals in their 40s, I estimated that Black men earn 39.4% less than white men and Black women earn 13.1% less than white women. Yet, accounting for one variable—educational achievement in their teenage years—reduced that difference to 10.9% (a 72% reduction) for men and revealed that Black women earn 12.7 percent more than white women, on average. Derek Neal, an economist at the University of Chicago, and William Johnson were among the first to make this point in 1996: “While our results do provide some evidence for current labor market discrimination, skills gaps play such a large role that we believe future research should focus on the obstacles Black children face in acquiring productive skill.”

That’s from Roland Fryer’s June 2022 article in Fortune magazine entitled “It’s time for data-first diversity, equity, and inclusion.” That passage supports what I’ve been saying for decades: the single most important thing our society can do for underprivileged children is give them a good education. Instead, the people in charge of education keep making excuses and adopting policies which practically guarantee that those children won’t learn much. It’s a disgrace.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 30, 2022 at 4:26 AM

A monumental mountain pink colony at Belton Lake

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On June 14th I got a tip from Rhonda Frick Smith in Morgan’s Point Resort about a huge colony of mountain pinks (Zeltnera beyrichii) close to the dam that sustains Belton Lake, so on June 16th I drove the hour north to check it out. I have to say it was the largest colony of these flowers I’ve ever come across, probably larger than all the others I’ve seen put together. What appears in the photograph above is merely one portion of the vaster colony. (An aerial photograph in the article I linked to shows the “barren” field that was home to this enormous mountain pink colony.)

 

Mountain pinks have a knack for growing in rocky and seemingly unpromising ground, as the middle photograph shows from a somewhat sparser portion of the colony. And speaking of rocky, here’s a closer look at all the fossilized tube worm casings in the slab of rock in the upper left of that second picture:

  

These are remnants from an era when what is now Texas lay beneath the sea.

 

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The developed world became wealthy through the pervasive use of fossil fuels, which still overwhelmingly power most of its economies. Solar and wind power aren’t reliable, simply because there are nights, clouds and still days. Improving battery storage won’t help much: There are enough batteries in the world today only to power global average electricity consumption for 75 seconds. Even though the supply is being scaled up rapidly, by 2030 the world’s batteries would still cover less than 11 minutes. Every German winter, when solar output is at its minimum, there is near-zero wind energy available for at least five days—or more than 7,000 minutes.

This is why solar panels and wind turbines can’t deliver most of the energy for industrializing poor countries. Factories can’t stop and start with the wind; steel and fertilizer production are dependent on coal and gas; and most solar and wind power simply can’t deliver the power necessary to run the water pumps, tractors, and machines that lift people out of poverty.

That’s why fossil fuels still provide more than three-fourths of wealthy countries’ energy, while solar and wind deliver less than 3%. An average person in the developed world uses more fossil-fuel-generated energy every day than all the energy used by 23 poor Africans.

 

I invite you to read Bjørn Lomborg‘s full commentary in the June 20th Wall Street Journal entitled “The Rich World’s Climate Hypocrisy.” The subtitle is “They beg for more oil and coal for themselves while telling developing lands to rely on solar and wind.”

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 26, 2022 at 4:25 AM

Aotearoa comes to Padre Island

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June 2nd was the first night we spent away from home in the two-and-a-quarter years since the pandemic hit. We drove 200 miles south from Austin to see the sea, or more properly the Gulf of Mexico, which is a branch of the Atlantic Ocean. Our first nature stop on the coast was the Padre Island National Seashore, where both of these dune scenes reminded me of Aotearoa, the Māori name for New Zealand that supposedly means ‘the land of the long white cloud.’ I took these pictures two minutes apart, and although a long white cloud inhabits each one, I went for different photographic treatments.

 

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Speaking of places with beaches, in a feature that aired on September 27, 2021, Sharyl Attkisson looked at the potential Puerto Rico has to supply pharmaceuticals domestically and thereby lessen the heavy dependence of the United States on foreign countries, most notably China, for our medicines. The nine-minute video focuses on two immigrants, one from Viet Nam and the other from the Dominican Republic, who are opening a pharmaceutical plant in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. Credit also goes to the mayor of that town, who shortened the process of getting all the required approvals down to a single day from what would typically take a year (why?!). Have a look.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 7, 2022 at 4:33 AM

Vertical and horizontal takes on maidenhair ferns

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After much-needed bouts of rain on two consecutive days, I headed out on the morning of May 25th to see how the land looked. My third and last stop was along the cliff on the west side of the Capital of Texas Highway a bit north of the Colorado River. Water seeping through the rocks there supports plants on the cliff face and at its base. In particular, for several years now that water has sustained a grand column of southern maidenhair ferns (Adiantum capillus-veneris), as you see above. The trees atop the cliff are Ashe junipers (Juniperus ashei), with possibly some eastern red cedars (Juniperus virginiana) mixed in.

My second stop of the morning had been close to there, at Bull Creek District Park, where tree shadows falling across maidenhair ferns and wet rocks had me taking a bunch of pictures.

 

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Gasoline prices just hit new record highs, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg, inflation-wise. As consumers know, but federal officials seem slow to admit, everything is becoming more expensive. And while the purchasing power of our money is expected to erode more slowly in the months to come, getting from here to there will be painful. Unless you’re a politician looking for a sneaky way to cover the government’s bills, there’s nothing good about inflation, which damages the economy while doing the greatest harm to the most vulnerable.

The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline across the United States is currently $4.62, according to AAA. That’s up from $4.17 a month ago and $3.04 at this time last year. The White House wants to blame Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for the soaring cost of driving (at least, when not hailing an “incredible transition” to green energy), which comes just in time to hobble Americans’ summer travel plans. But, while that war certainly squeezed energy supplies, prices were rising before troops crossed borders in February, and they climbed for all sorts of goods and services as money lost its purchasing power.

That’s the opening of the article “Politicians Cause Real Pain With Inflationary Policies” by J.D. Tuccille that appeared yesterday on the website of Reason. The summary beneath the title says “Inflation damages the economy while doing the greatest harm to the most vulnerable.” You can check out the full article.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 2, 2022 at 4:31 AM

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Red and green at Inks Lake State Park

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One reason I headed out to Inks Lake State Park on May 6th was that some of the prickly pear cactus flowers there in other springtimes have displayed more red than I see in their Austin counterparts. The top picture shows that was true this year, too. In contrast to that red, look at all the placid green around one inlet.

  

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Did you hear about how the imaging technique of photogrammetry has revealed details of cave art in Alabama from about 2000 years ago? “The motifs, which depict human forms and animals, are some of the largest known cave images found in North America and may represent spirits of the underworld.” Check it out.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 15, 2022 at 4:27 AM

The largest dense bluebonnet colonies this year

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I got to experience my largest dense bluebonnet colony for 2022 on April 14 in the southwest quadrant of Metropolis Dr. and US 183 across from Austin’s airport. Because bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) vary in height, en masse they often seem to have waves passing through them, even without any wind. The few daubs of red in the blue-purple sea were Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja indivisa). A little earlier that morning on FM 1327 slightly west of US 183 down near Creedmoor I saw a bluebonnet colony that was even larger but it was fenced, so I couldn’t go in and experience it the way I did with the colony along Metropolis Dr. Instead I shot over the barbed wire fence with a telephoto lens, as shown below.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 19, 2022 at 4:31 PM

Classic combo

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Probably the best-known combination of spring wildflowers that Texas lays claim to is bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) and Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja indivisa). That’s what compelled me to stop at the field you see above along TX 105 southwest of Navasota on April 8th. Looking in the opposite direction, toward the highway embankment I’d scampered down, I got low to photograph a cluster of pale paintbrushes nestled among bluebonnets.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 16, 2022 at 4:22 PM

Texas groundsel covering the ground

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On April 8th along US 290 west of Ledbetter in eastern Lee County I stopped to photograph a great display of Texas groundsel, Senecio ampullaceus. You’re looking at just one portion of the colony.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 14, 2022 at 4:03 PM

Bluebonnet bookends

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On March 28th we set out on what turned into a six-hour, 239-mile quest for wildflowers south and southeast of Austin, where we hoped to find more than the paltry offerings in town so far this spring. Our first photo stop came in what I take to be Mustang Ridge, where a colony of bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) on an embankment along TX 130 ran parallel to a line of distant clouds.

One place we drove a good distance to check out was the field in Dubina that had looked so good on March 29 last year. No luck: the bluebonnets there had come up again, but much more sparsely. Our last stop before turning west and heading for home came on FM 609 a little south La Grange, where Eve spotted a dense colony of bluebonnets with some bright red phlox mixed in. Because the bluebonnets grew in someone’s front yard, and because they looked a lot better than any others we’d seen in the area, I assumed the flowers had been planted. I assumed wrong. The woman who lived there was out on the opposite side of the yard, so Eve went over and struck up a conversation with her. The woman said that the wildflowers come up by themselves in that part of her yard each spring, with some years better than others. This was obviously a good year.

 

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A few weeks ago I quoted from Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein’s A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century: Evolution and the Challenges of Modern Life. The passage I cited pointed out the dangers of overprotecting children. Later I came across the City Journal article “Bring Back Risk,” by Allison Schrager, that includes this paragraph:

Long before Covid-19, risk-taking was increasingly discouraged. Between 1970 and 2019, the page count of the federal code of regulations on business and industry thickened from 54,000 to more than 185,000. State and local regulations can be even more of an economic burden, especially for small businesses. The number of jobs that required a license, for instance, rose from 5 percent in the 1950s to 22 percent today. Small wonder that the rate of new business creation fell 10 percent between the 1980s and 2018. Other factors influence this decline, including an aging population and changing market structures that reward larger firms, but surveys from the National Federation of Independent Business consistently rank regulatory compliance as a top economic concern. An example of the state and local bureaucratic obstacles that someone launching a small business can face: San Franciscan Jason Yu recently spent over $200,000 seeking permits to open an ice cream shop in 2019, before giving up in frustration.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 30, 2022 at 4:36 AM

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