Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘landscape

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

Vernal pools at Enchanted Rock

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Enchanted Rock is known for its vernal pools, shallow depressions in the stone where water accumulates and fosters plant life. In past years I’ve seen water in some of the vernal pools there, but on April 12th all the ones I noticed had no water standing in them. That didn’t mean there wasn’t residual moisture that plants were still taking advantage of. In the first picture you see a closeup of a vernal pool only a few inches across filled with stonecrop plants (Sedum nuttallianum).

The middle picture shows a much larger vernal pool with plenty of lush vegetation in it. The flowers are spiderworts (Tradescantia sp.) and the cacti are prickly pears (Opuntia engelmannii). Below, notice how a bunch of vernal pools had obligingly lined up.

Two days ago I posed a few questions. Robert Parker proved by his answers that he’d been holding out on us and that he’s really Mr. World Geography.

Which river touches the most countries? It’s the Danube, which borders or passes through 10 countries: Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine, in that order. The river that touches the next highest number of countries is the Nile, with 9.

Which country is the least densely populated? It’s Mongolia, with not quite 2 people per square kilometer. Greenland (whose name is misleading because it’s largely covered with ice) has a significantly lower population density but it’s not an independent country (Denmark owns it).

Which country borders the greatest number of other countries? Russia and China tie at 14 apiece.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 29, 2021 at 4:41 AM

More from Enchanted Rock

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In both of these April 12th views at Enchanted Rock you see intrusive seams in the rock.
For me the clouds in the top picture are anything but intrusive.

Here are three world geography questions for you.


Which river touches the greatest number of countries?

Which country is the least densely populated?

Which country touches the most other countries?


I’ll post the answers in a couple of days.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 27, 2021 at 6:15 AM

Lichens at Enchanted Rock

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Yesterday you heard that on April 12th we visited Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.
How about the red-orange color of the lichens in the abstract view above?
Below, see the way pale gray lichens almost completely covered the rock in the foreground.

And here’s little lichen ring you can slip on your rough imagination’s finger:

For a concise and colorful primer on lichens, check out “Why Lichens Matter.” As for what makes matter matter, the answer is existence. An English-language etymologist would add that matter, which traces back to mater, the Latin word for ‘mother,’ is the universe’s ‘mother stuff.’

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 25, 2021 at 4:46 AM

Enchanted Rock a year and a half later

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Not having been to Enchanted Rock since November 2019, and not having gone anywhere that far from home in all of 2020 due to the pandemic, on April 12th we drove the two hours it takes to get to the largest pink granite monadnock in the United States. We ended up spending four sometimes strenuous hours there. The top view looks off to the side from part-way up the main dome. Below is a hoodoo that we got to after climbing all the way to the top of that dome and then descending part-way down the far side.

The first and third pictures show that “boulder-strewn” describes some parts of the site well.

And from the Philippine island of Cebu, here’s an account of a barking dog and an abandoned baby in Sibonga, which happens to be the home town of the Lady Eve.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 24, 2021 at 4:24 AM

A strangely desaturated landscape

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While out driving in Austin on March 20th with no particular destination, I turned north off McNeil Dr. onto the confusingly named E. McNeil Rd. Soon we couldn’t help noticing that the land and trees on our left seemed oddly faded, almost as if we’d been teleported into a drier climate than Austin’s. The view on our right side offered an explanation: a tall stack and other machinery of the Austin White Lime Company. Ever-present rock dust from the quarry had settled wherever the wind blew it in the vicinity, causing the strangely washed-out look that caught our attention. If you’re familiar with the normal green of Ashe juniper trees (Juniperus ashei), compare that to the dullness of the two in the first picture’s lower left and the one below. Another comparison could be to a photograph last fall in which I purposely reduced the color saturation.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 27, 2021 at 4:41 AM

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