Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘leaf

Two takes on smartweed

with 19 comments

From the Arbor Walk Pond on October 8th come these two flowerless and abstract takes on smartweed (Polygonum or Persicaria sp.). In the top picture you’ll recognize the way backlighting increases color saturation, particularly in the reddish patches that contrast with the soft and subdued blue of the sky. How smart of smartweed to produce leaf nodes that offer themselves up to smart photographers.



☙      ☙
☙      ☙      ☙
☙      ☙

For a couple of years I’ve been aware of The Babylon Bee, a parody website like The Onion in which everything is made up. To get a feel for The Babylon Bee, you can check out a few stories:

The Babylon Bee is clearly a satirical website. No reasonable person would ever think that a story with the headline Report: More Unborn Babies In New York Identifying As Convicted Criminals So They Can’t Legally Be Executed is real. Nevertheless, one peculiarity of the times we live in is that so-called fact-checking organizations have occasionally investigated The Babylon Bee’s made-up stories and rated them for truthfulness! Politifact, for example, gave a Pants on Fire rating to the story “ISIS Lays Down Arms After Katy Perry’s Impassioned Plea To ‘Like, Just Co-Exist.’”

For more information, you’re welcome to watch an interview with The Babylon Bee’s CEO Seth Dillon that begins at about 49:00 into a recent episode of the Megyn Kelly Show.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 11, 2021 at 4:38 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , , ,

Giant ragweed flowers and drying leaf

with 18 comments

On September 24th along the Brushy Creek Regional Trail in Cedar Park I noticed plenty of giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida) flowering. The portrait above shows one inflorescence with some happily out-of-focus patches of blue sky peeking through the canopy of trees. (Not so happy was my nose: those yellow clumps in little downward-opening holders are pollen grains, which were getting released into the air whenever the breeze blew strong enough or something like a hapless photographer bumped up against the plant.)

Where I managed to get a clear shot of the sky I made a sculptural portrait of a drying and curling giant ragweed leaf. What let me stop down to f/25 for good depth of field was flash, which also caused the sky to register as a preturnaturally dark blue-indigo. But hey, what’s reality, anyhow? That’s a question I and a zillion philosophers have asked many times. We’re all still waiting for an answer.

For a different diagonal take on a drying leaf, check out this monochrome composition by Alessandra Chaves.

During one of my photographic stops along the Brushy Creek Regional Trail that morning several women walked past me and I heard a single sentence that one of them said to the others: “She spent $30,000 on her dog, including therapy.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 7, 2021 at 4:29 AM

Two shades of green

with 36 comments

Under overcast skies a year ago today I went to the Sierra Nevada side of Great Hills Park. We’d had a bit of rain, and I noticed a prominent raindrop (and a tiny one) on the leaflet of a Lindheimer’s senna plant (Senna lindheimeri). I knew to look because the leaflets of that species are covered with little hairs that trap water. Nearby I scooted beneath some Ashe juniper branches (Juniperus ashei) to check out the low remains of a few trunks. In the dim light two narrow areas on a decaying trunk seemed to glow lime-sherbet green. I’m assuming those green areas were made up of fine lichens.


◊         ◊

Racist “anti-racism”

… [A] positive white identity is an impossible goal. White identity is inherently racist; white people do not exist outside the system of white supremacy. This does not mean that we should stop identifying as white and start claiming only to be Italian or Irish. To do so is to deny the reality of racism in the here and now, and this denial would simply be color-blind racism. Rather, I strive to be “less white.” To be less white is to be less racially oppressive. This requires me to be more racially aware, to be better educated about racism, and to continually challenge racial certitude and arrogance.

If there’s anyone whose racial certitude and arrogance need to be continually challenged and forcefully repudiated, it’s Robin DiAngelo, author of the White Fragility from which the quoted racist trash comes. As one example of how far the United States has fallen from its ideals this year, consider that the people in charge of the American military are now forcing soldiers to read this garbage. Gone is Martin Luther King’s aspiration: “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.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 3, 2021 at 4:31 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , , ,

What is this?

with 34 comments

I’m guessing you’ll have no idea what this is. If you’re up for a challenge, pause for a bit to contemplate the photograph and try to figure out what you’re seeing, then continue reading below for an explanation. Of course you’re welcome to tell us what you imagined this abstract picture shows.

(Pause)

(Pause)

(Pause)

(Pause)

(Pause)

(Pause)

(Pause)

On April 25th I found that some rain-lilies (Zephyranthes drummondii) in my neighborhood had gotten well past the flowering stage and had produced seed capsules, so I set about photographing a few of them. Rain-lily leaves are typically only a third of an inch wide yet can grow to 12 inches long. Given those dimensions, the leaves usually end up lying on the ground, but I noticed that one rain-lily leaf had draped itself over a prickly pear cactus pad, with the result that the leaf’s distal portion was suspended in the air. I conceived the idea of taking pictures tip-on, so to speak, even as a bit of breeze complicated my task by causing the leaf to move somewhat. This minimalist portrait with almost nothing in focus is one result of my experiments. Prickly pear cactus buds on an adjacent pad became the orange orbs you see at the lower right.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 5, 2021 at 4:41 AM

Palmetto leaf arcs

with 30 comments

I wouldn’t do justice to Palmetto State Park, which we visited on January 29th, without showing you at least one close view of designs in the leaf of a palmetto, Sabal minor.

And here’s a quotation for today from Schiller’s 1801 play Die Jungfrau von Orleans, which is to say The Maiden from Orleans (meaning Joan of Arc):

Unsinn, du siegst und ich muß untergehn!
Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.

The original doesn’t rhyme but I ended up making a loose modern-day translation that happens to rhyme:

Madness, you’ve won the day and I’ve got to give in!
Against stupidity the gods themselves can’t win.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 10, 2021 at 4:38 AM

A new source of fall color for me

with 34 comments

Driving about on the Blackland Prairie on November 11th, we came upon a pond that was new to us. Located along Kingston Lacy Blvd. in Pflugerville, a plaque identified it as Mirror Lake. Some of the usual water-loving species were growing around the edge of the pond, including Iva annua, known as annual sumpweed or annual marsh elder. On one of those plants I noticed a leaf that caught my attention for two reasons: it was bright yellow, and it stayed pressed to the stem from which it grew. As I’d never seen a sumpweed leaf like that, it was a welcome new source of fall color.

The Romans had a saying, Nihil sub sole novum, which Wiktionary says was borrowed from the Hebrew אֵין כָּל חָדָשׁ תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ‎ (en kol chadásh táchat hashámesh), “There’s nothing new under the sun.” Sorry, proverb, but this sunny leaf was new to me.

And speaking of old and new, the Illinois Wildflowers page for this species tells us that “Sumpweed has an interesting archaeological history because its seeds were used by early Amerindians as a source of food prior to the arrival of the squash-bean-corn complex from Mexico. The primary region of use was the lower to middle Mississippi region and the lower Midwest along the Ohio River. A cultivated variety of Sumpweed, Iva annua macrocarpa, was used for this purpose, as its seeds were about twice as long and wide in size (about 7 mm. in length and 4.5 mm. across) as the seeds of the wild varieties of Iva annua. Unfortunately, this cultivated variety of Sumpweed is now extinct with non-viable seeds existing only at archaeological sites or inside caves….”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 3, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Two more views of pickerelweed

with 33 comments

Pontederia cordata; August 13th at a pond near E. Howard Lane
on the Blackland Prairie in northeast Austin.

And here’s an unrelated thought for today: “We can finish nothing in this life; but we may make a beginning, and bequeath a noble example. Thus Character is the true antiseptic of society. The good deed leaves an indelible stamp. It lives on and on; and while the frame moulders and disappears, the great worker lives for ever in the memory of his race. ‘Death,’ says the Philosopher, ‘is a co-mingling of Eternity with Time. In the death of a good man, Eternity is seen looking through Time.'” — Samuel L. Smiles; George Moore, Merchant and Philanthropist.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 10, 2020 at 4:39 AM

Two disparate emblems from the Blackland Prairie

with 20 comments

On September 7th I headed out to the Wildhorse Ranch subdivision that’s been going up on the west side of Manor for the past few years. Ever on the lookout for new ways to portray familiar subjects, I noticed I could line up the soft bract of a snow-on-the-prairie plant (Euphorbia bicolor) with a sunflower (Helianthus annuus) beyond it, as you see above. I wasn’t the only one plying my trade there: men were working on nearby houses to the accompaniment of Mexican music. Because it was a construction site, I noticed a certain amount of junk lying around on the ground. One thing that caught my fancy was an “empty” and partly scrunched water bottle, inside of which the remaining bits of liquid had evaporated and then re-condensed on the inner surface. Picking up the bottle carefully so as not to dislodge the drops, I photographed the abstraction.

And here’s a quotation relevant to the second picture: “A drop of water, if it could write out its own history, would explain the universe to us.” — Lucy Larcom, The Unseen Friend, 1892.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 9, 2020 at 4:39 AM

Paloverde parts

with 23 comments

From August 25th at Mopac and US 183, here are the ever cheery flowers of a paloverde tree (Parkinsonia aculeata). I also did a closeup of one of the tree’s drying pods.

Below is a minimalist view of a paloverde leaf whose curling tip had turned reddish.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today:
“Sensible people don’t grieve over what they don’t have but rejoice in what they do have.”
Epictetus, Fragments.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 23, 2020 at 4:41 AM

A predilection to turn red

with 35 comments

The leaves of smartweed plants (Polygonum sp.) tend to turn yellow and red. On August 25th I positioned myself with the sun in front of me so that its light would transluce this smartweed leaf and saturate the red. Cameras don’t like looking into the sun—which is to say photographers generally don’t like it—because the light bouncing around off the lens elements can create unwanted artifacts. That’s how there came to be orbs at the top of this picture. Technically it’s a defect, and I could easily remove it, but you may find it’s a smart look for a smartweed leaf. The plant’s stems also noticeably have red in them:

The answer to yesterday’s question asking which independent country has the lowest population density is Mongolia, with only about 2 people per square mile. Eliza Waters quickly came up with the right answer, and Peter Klopp soon followed.

When we look at a globe of the world, we’re accustomed to seeing countries represented in proportion to their areas. For a change, you may want to check out a map that represents countries according to their populations (click the map there to enlarge it). You’ll notice some countries appear smaller or even much smaller than you’re used to seeing them (e.g. Canada, Mongolia, Australia, Ireland, Russia, Algeria, Saudi Arabia), and others larger (e.g. Nigeria, India, the Philippines, Japan, Bangla Desh).

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 21, 2020 at 3:51 AM

%d bloggers like this: