Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘light

Sunlight at the base of a waterfall

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Look at how sunlight illuminated the splashing water at the base of a small
waterfall along the Twin Creeks Historic Park Trail in Cedar Park on March 12.

 

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On television a couple of days ago I heard someone quote Voltaire: “Anyone who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” I wondered whether Voltaire really said or wrote that, so I went searching. On the Cato Institute website I found a 2020 article by Walter Olson called “The Origins of a Warning from Voltaire,” which linked to this passage from Voltaire’s Questions About Miracles (1765):

Il y a eu des gens qui ont dit autrefois : Vous croyez des choses incompréhensibles, contradictoires, impossibles, parce que nous vous l’avons ordonné ; faites donc des choses injustes parce que nous vous l’ordonnons. Ces gens-là raisonnaient à merveille. Certainement qui est en droit de vous rendre absurde est en droit de vous rendre injuste. Si vous n’opposez point aux ordres de croire l’impossible l’intelligence que Dieu a mise dans votre esprit, vous ne devez point opposer aux ordres de malfaire la justice que Dieu a mise dans votre cœur. Une faculté de votre âme étant une fois tyrannisée, toutes les autres facultés doivent l’être également. Et c’est là ce qui a produit tous les crimes religieux dont la terre a été inondée.

Formerly there were people who said: “You believe things that are incomprehensible, contradictory, impossible, because we have commanded you to believe them; now go and do unjust things because we command you to.” Those people show admirable reasoning. Surely whoever can make you be absurd can make you be unjust. If the God‐​given understanding of your mind does not resist a demand to believe what is impossible, then you will not resist a demand to do wrong to the God‐​given sense of justice in your heart. As soon as one faculty of your soul has been tyrannized, all the other faculties will be tyrannized as well. And that’s what has produced all the crimes of religion which have overrun the world.

So the version I heard on television is a pithier, stronger version of the original. Voltaire was criticizing religion, presumably Christianity. Two and a half centuries later, we can apply his analysis to the secular “woke” religion of our time, in which people are demanding that we believe things as absurd as that men can give birth. More about that next time.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 25, 2022 at 4:35 AM

An archaeology of light

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An adage says “Out of sight, out of mind,” and yet the saying’s first two words could just as well be replaced by “in.” Familiarity breeds a sort of visual contempt in which ordinary objects might as well be buried.

To let light uncover those everyday objects around the house is to practice an archaeology of light.

On the technical side, I took the first two pictures with my “real” camera
and the third with my iPhone. I prepared this post in 2020 but kept postponing it.

And here’s a thought about photographic esthetics: “Now to consult the rules of composition before making a picture is a little like consulting the law of gravitation before going out for a walk.” — Edward Weston. A bunch of different wordings occur on the Internet. Research leads me to think this one is the most likely to be authentic. I came across a version of the quotation in an article by David duChemin called “Are Your Photographs Poetic?“, which I recommend to you.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 26, 2021 at 4:46 AM

Shedding some light on the colorful limestone overhang

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Last week you heard about and saw two pictures of a limestone overhang in a hard-to-reach section of Great Hills Park. I mentioned that direct sunlight never reaches the overhang’s wall and ceiling. That said, the floor of the overhang is a creek bed; with enough water in it, and with the sun low enough in the sky, some rays of light bounce off the water and onto the ceiling of the overhang. Because the water’s surface isn’t perfectly still, the reflected light shimmers overhead, as you see in today’s picture from June 10th.


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And here’s a clever quotation for today: “If somebody thinks I’m cherry-picking, show me the other part of the tree.” — Steven E. Koonin in a televised interview about his book Unsettled on May 25, 2021. Also unsettled is the question of why English speakers have picked cherry-pick rather than the alliterative peach-pick or plum-pick, or else apple-pick, lemon-pick, or some-other-fruit-pick. Maybe cherries got picked because they’re small, and therefore cherry-picking is like nit-picking. One thing’s for sure: cherries make for a much tastier pie than nits. And did you know that cherries was originally the singular of the word? We got it from Anglo-Norman cherise. But that sounded to the folks in merry old England like it was a plural, along the lines of berries and ferries, so they created a new singular, cherry. Linguists call that process back-formation, for which today’s picture of the geological formations at the back of the overhang is therefore appropriate. What fun to lead you from limestone to linguistic information and back again.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 26, 2021 at 4:32 AM

Ripples over bedrock in Bull Creek

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On my way to Stone Bridge Falls on July 10th I wore rubber boots so I could walk up the creek. In several shallow areas the patterns of the flowing water as it rippled over the bedrock caught my fancy and I gladly took a bunch of pictures. When you’re aiming straight down at such an abstract subject there’s no “proper” orientation; I turned this way and that as I looked to fill the frame in attractive ways. Here are two of them.

Our unrelated quotation for today comes from American humorist Will Rogers (1879–1935):
“I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 6, 2020 at 4:30 AM

New Zealand: Shadows and light at Riccarton Bush

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Three years ago today in Christchurch we visited Riccarton Bush,
where dense foliage created interplays of shadows and light.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 1, 2020 at 4:28 AM

Shimmering light

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One stretch of a Bull Creek tributary in my neighborhood flows beneath a limestone overhang. There are times when morning light filters through the trees, reflects off the surface of the water, and shimmers on the limestone wall of the overhang. July 8th at 9:04 was one of those times.

For the photographically curious: I took these pictures with a simple old 50mm lens wide open at f/1.4. Understandably, given the optics and the flowstoned face of the rocky overhang, not everything came out sharp, but somehow that hasn’t bothered me.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 16, 2019 at 4:46 AM

Fallingwater, falling light

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After decades of reading articles and seeing documentaries about it, on June 14th we finally made our way to Mill Run, Pennsylvania, for Fallingwater, the house that the architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed to straddle a waterfall rather than sit alongside it. The places where I most wanted to stand for pictures, the base of the main waterfall and the banks of the creek flowing away from it, unfortunately remain off limits to visitors. I can’t show you the pictures I might have made, so here instead are a few idiosyncratic takes on light and shadow at Fallingwater.

While I couldn’t look up from the base of the falls, I could and did aim straight down from the top.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 22, 2018 at 4:54 AM

What made the nonagons

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Drops in Spiderweb 8745B

Click for larger size and greater detail.

I believe that light refracted by drops of water caught in the spider’s web you saw last time made the glass elements in my 100mm macro lens produce the nonagonal artifacts that you also saw. What you didn’t see was the drops, so here’s another photograph from the same session at the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, on June 20. Notice that some of the nonagons in this second photograph are elongated.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 27, 2016 at 5:06 AM

Spider and polygons in the morning

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Spider and Nonagons of Light 8737

Another thing I saw on the grounds of the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, on June 20 was this tiny spider, the main part of which my 100mm macro lens resolved quite nicely. The morning sun in front of me lit up some strands of silk in the web while also causing the lens to create polygonal artifacts of light. Those nonagons have better definition than the red ones I showed you in 2013.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 26, 2016 at 4:30 AM

Texas dandelion backlit

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Texas Dandelion Flower Head Backlit 4172

Forget the European dandelion, at least in America, and instead cast your eyes on the native Texas dandelion, Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus. I photographed this one on April 21st at the intersection of Blackjack and Rio Vista Cove east of Lockhart, a town about an hour south of Austin. The backlighting let the rays of the flower head show their translucence, but having the sun in front of me also created polygonal artifacts of light.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 25, 2015 at 5:07 AM

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