Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘minimalist

White on white

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Speaking of Liberty Hill on May 6th—as I did in yesterday’s post—here’s a stark double portrait I made of white milkwort, Polygala alba, in front of a blackfoot (but white-flowered) daisy, Melampodium leucanthum.

And speaking of Liberty Hill today, I’ll add that a country isn’t worth a hill of beans if its citizens don’t have the liberty to say what they think without having it suppressed. And it doesn’t matter who’s doing the suppressing: the government, heads of corporations, people in sports, the news media, students on campuses, gangs in street mobs, ideological fanatics in online mobs—suppression is still suppression.

On a lighter note about liberty, I’ll add that the Latin word for ‘children’ was līberī, literally ‘the free ones.’

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 2, 2021 at 4:37 AM

What is this?

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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.

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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

A new take on pearl milkweed flowers

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If it’s a colorful and detailed take on the flowers of the pearl milkweed vine that you’re after, I’ve already shown Matelea reticulata that way. On April 25th in my neighborhood the low-angle glancing sunlight was such that I went for the unconventional view you see here, with its high contrast, minimalism, and abstraction. The little spectrum-like line segments at the lower right came from spider silk refracting the light.

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“Reformers used to look for the next wrong to right. Now activists look for the next right thing to make wrong.” — S.S.

Illiberal ideologues in my country have been increasingly pushing the crazy notion that objectivity is a tool of white supremacy. Those obsessed activists include mathematics in the objectivity they despise, and they claim it’s not really important for students to get right answers in mathematics. That’s the same mathematics that allows us to deliver electricity to homes and businesses to run appliances and machines; that lets researchers determine whether a new medicine is effective; that lets companies build computers and smart phones and bridges and cars and planes; that lets engineers calculate the orbits of the satellites that enable global navigation and communication; and on and on and on. While the American educational establishment is busy making sure students here don’t learn much of anything except secular religious dogma, Chinese leaders continue relentlessly forward in their plan for ever greater hegemony.

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) measures the international scholastic performance of 15-year-olds in mathematics, science, and reading. You can see the 2018 results for 77 or 78 countries. In all three subjects China was #1. The United States came in 13th in reading, 18th in science, and a dismal 37th in mathematics. I guess our innumerate ideologues don’t know enough arithmetic to understand that when it comes to rankings, larger numbers aren’t better than smaller ones—either that, or those zealots are happy that American kids are showing their anti-racism by refusing to internalize as inherently white supremacist a subject as mathematics.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 3, 2021 at 4:42 AM

Texas persimmon trunk

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Call it chiaroscuro or yin-yang, this is the most abstract and minimalist portrait I’ve ever made highlighting (literally) the trunk of a Texas persimmon tree, Diospyros texana. As an article on the website of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center notes: “This well-shaped, small tree is valued primarily for its striking trunk and branches, which are a smooth, pale greyish white or whitish grey, peeling off to reveal subtle greys, whites, and pinks beneath.” Today’s photograph is from the Zilker Nature Preserve on November 17th.

The picture reminds me now of the stylized serpent that people imagine they’re seeing at Chichén-Itzá’s Pyramid of Kukulkan during the spring and fall solstice.

And here’s a relevant quotation for today: “Wo viel Licht ist, ist starker Schatten.” “Where there’s bright light there’s a dark shadow,” or more loosely “The brightest light casts the darkest shadows.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in the play Götz von Berlichingen, 1773.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 15, 2020 at 4:26 AM

Time again for ladies’ tresses orchids

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Last fall I found exactly zero Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchids (Spiranthes magnicamporum) at a site in northwest Austin that I’ve been going to for over a decade to photograph them. This year, tipped off by Meg Inglis on October 19th that the ladies’ tresses in her area a little west of Austin had already been coming out for a while, I went to “my” property on October 24th and soon located a dozen or so, even though it was unusually early in the season for me to expect any there. I photographed several of the orchids from the side, which is “normal,” but I also had the urge to do some limited-focus portraits looking down from above for a change. The brown around the spike of spiraling flowers came from drying leaves on the ground.

UPDATE. It occurred to me that you may not know what a ladies’ tresses orchid looks like, so here’s a conventional view taken at the same site six years ago. Within that post is a link to a more esthetic view from the side.

And here’s a relevant quotation for today: “To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” — Elliott Erwitt.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 30, 2020 at 4:26 AM

Little bluestem in front of gayfeather flowers

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You’ve already had two posts from September 15th along FM 2769 in far northwest Austin showing Liatris punctata, known as gayfeather and blazing-star. In one you saw normal purple flowers, and in the other white flowers. In today’s photograph the gayfeather plays a supporting role (though colorfully a dominant one) behind a stalk of little bluestem grass, Schizachyrium scoparium, a part of which had turned brown in anticipation of approaching autumn.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “When a theory really has got your brain in its grip, contradictory evidence—even evidence you already know—sometimes becomes invisible.” — Jordan Ellenberg, How Not to Be Wrong.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 7, 2020 at 4:44 AM

Paloverde parts

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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

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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

Limited-focus abstract views of Clematis drummondii strands

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On August 22nd I went to Great Hills Park and spent quite a while among a group of Clematis drummondii plants that had produced their characteristic strands. Because of rain the day before, some of the strands had stuck together, especially at their tips. In both of today’s pictures limited focus led to abstract portraits that are pretty different from the many other pictures of this species that have appeared here over the years.

Instead of a quotation or a fact, how about a question? Okay, that was already a question, but not the one I had in mind. Here it is: which independent country has the lowest population density? (I included the word independent because Greenland, which is the least densely populated geographic entity, is a territory of Denmark.) You’ll find the answer at the end of the next post.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 20, 2020 at 3:50 AM

Spiderwebbed Mexican hat seed head on a sinuous stalk

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After photographing a broomweed plant silhouetted by reflections of the rising sun in a pond along The Lakes Blvd. on August 19th, on the same property I made a portrait of this spiderwebbed Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera) seed head on a sinuous stalk. The year of the Mexican hat, which is a name I conjured up for one focus of my photography earlier in 2020, had continued.

The fanciful name Mexican hat reminds me that German refers to a thimble as a Fingerhut, i.e. a finger hat. Another thing you might cover fingers with is a glove, which German calls a Handschuh, which is to say a hand shoe. The next time you’re in a department store, try asking a clerk where the handshoes are. I bet the reaction will be quite different from the answer you’d get if you asked where the handbags are.

As for the white webbing on the Mexican hat in today’s photograph, I recently mentioned that spider actually means ‘spinner,’ based on the webs that spiders spin. And that leads us to our quotation for today: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave,/ When first we practise to deceive!” — Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field, an 1808 historical romance in verse by Sir Walter Scott (who really was a Scot).

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 17, 2020 at 3:55 AM

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