Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘mountains

We’ll take the high road

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On October 18th, having spent the morning hours in the mountains above Santa Fe reveling in fall foliage, we drove down into town, freshened up, and set back out again. This time we headed north, up US 84, thinking we’d go to Chimayó and perhaps on to Taos. After 16 miles, in Pojoaque, we turned right on New Mexico Highway 503, which forms a part of the High Road to Taos Scenic Byway, and went east toward Nambé Pueblo. It wasn’t long before we had good views of the snow-covered Sangre de Cristo Mountains. I believe the prominent peak is Santa Fe Baldy, which rises to 12,632 ft (3,850 m). Later we saw a cottonwood tree (Populus deltoides ssp. wislizeni) that had turned bright yellow.



© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 29, 2022 at 4:32 AM

A day of indulgence

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I’ll beg your indulgence for one more post about the colorful aspen trees (Populus tremuloides)
we found in the mountains northeast of Santa Fe on October 18th.



I could keep showing pictures of them for days.



But I won’t. In the next post I’ll move on.



I owe that last picture to construction, which had a stretch of the road’s two lanes down to one. Cars going in opposite directions got alternating use of the open lane every 15 minutes or so. Since I was stuck there anyhow I didn’t have to worry about finding a place to park. I got out and walked around taking pictures, including this one where backlighting lit up the foliage.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 28, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Vertical takes on aspen trees

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On October 18th we drove up Highway 475 into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains northeast of Santa Fe in a quest for fall foliage, especially from aspen trees (Populus tremuloides), as you saw last time. Stands of bare aspen trunks also constitute a photographic talisman,* with seemingly every nature photographer under the sun taking a crack at them. Lacking long-term access to the subject, I didn’t expect to take pictures like the best of those. Even so, I came away with a view of white trunks that pleased me, one that differs from what I’ve seen; it leads off today’s trio. Most photographers frame aspen groves horizontally to include as many trunks as possible. I took some of my pictures that way, too, but in these three photographs I went for a narrow view to emphasize verticality. In the middle picture, notice (how could you not?) the way one evergreen stood out among the many aspen crowns.



In the third view, the day’s bright blue sky played an important role.



* The Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries defines talisman as ‘an object that is thought to have magic powers and to bring good luck.’ Now compare that with the much more elaborate definition in Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language.

1. A magical figure cut or engraved under certain superstitious observances of the configuration of the heavens, to which wonderful effects are ascribed; or it is the seal, figure, character or image of a heavenly sign, constellation or planet, engraven on a sympathetic stone, or on a metal corresponding to the star, in order to receive its influence. The talismans of the Samothracians were pieces of iron, formed into images and set in rings, etc. They were held to be preservatives against all kinds of evils.

Talismans are of three kinds, astronomical, magical and mixed. Hence,

2. Something that produces extraordinary effects; as a talisman to destroy diseases. 


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 26, 2022 at 4:34 AM

The day after October 17th

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October 17th was the only day in our 12-day trip that I didn’t take any nature pictures. We did cultural things in Santa Fe like visiting the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the New Mexico Museum of Art, both of which we walked to from our conveniently located hotel. We visited a former Austin friend now living in Santa Fe whom we hadn’t seen in two decades. We visited our used laundry and made it clean.

As if to compensate for the photographic day off, on October 18th, which happened to be the Lady Eve’s birthday, I had one of the busiest and best photographic days of this trip or any other. Although in the 1970s I’d spent weeks in the Santa Fe area, neither then nor on brief visits in later decades do I recall ever having driven up Hyde Park Rd. (Highway 475) into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains northeast of the city, where people go skiing in the winter. That’s where we spent our morning, and a glorious morning it was.

As the road climbed we began to see isolated aspens (Populus tremuloides) or small groups of them whose leaves had turned their famous yellow. The top picture, taken during a brief stop at Hyde Memorial State Park, is an example of that.

And then we drove higher and eventually got to a place where suddenly a whole mounded hillside of yellow-leaved aspens loomed into view, as the second photograph shows.



For a different sort of “mound,” consider the frozen puddle
I found at my feet during one photo stop in the mountains.



© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 25, 2022 at 4:30 AM

Looking back at the Sandia Mountains

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Late in the afternoon on October 15th we drove up to Sandia Crest, which at 10,679 ft. looms large to the northeast of Albuquerque. The previous post showed views from there. The next morning in our hotel’s parking lot I noticed that the view back toward the mountains, now covered with fog and clouds, was dramatic—at least if I could ignore light poles, buildings, billboards, highways, and other trappings of the city. To exclude as much of that as possible, for the top picture I zoomed my telephoto lens to its maximum focal length of 400mm. With a change of scale and locale you might see an ocean wave breaking near the shore. Three-quarters of an hour later and miles further north as we wended our way toward Santa Fe, the land added color to the still-shrouded mountains.








Look at this:


1    3    5    7    9    11    13    15    17    19    21    23    25    27    29  …


If I asked you what it is, you’d say it’s the odd numbers.

(Or if you wanna get fancy, you’d say it’s the positive odd numbers.)

You’ve been seeing these numbers for a long time, ever since you were in elementary school.

Now here’s something you might never have noticed.


The “sum” of the first 1 odd number is 1, which is 1 x 1, or 1 squared.

The sum of the first 2 odd numbers is 1 + 3, or 4, which is 2 x 2, or 2 squared.

The sum of the first 3 odd numbers is 1 + 3 + 5, or 9, which is 3 x 3, or 3 squared.

The sum of the first 4 odd numbers is 1 + 3 + 5 + 7, or 16, which is 4 x 4, or 4 squared.

The sum of the first 5 odd numbers is 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 + 9, or 25, which is 5 x 5, or 5 squared.

The sum of the first 6 odd numbers is 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 + 9 + 11, or 36, which is 6 x 6, or 6 squared.

The sum of the first 7 odd numbers is 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 + 9 + 11 + 13, or 49, which is 7 x 7, or 7 squared.


Now if I skipped ahead 93 lines and asked you what the sum of the first 100 odd numbers is, you wouldn’t have to do any adding at all. You’d chime right in and say with verve and élan that the sum of the first 100 odd numbers is 100 x 100, or 10,000.*


If you’d like a nifty visual explanation for why the sum of
the first however many odd numbers is always a square, here it is:



But if you’d also like an explanation of where the word nifty came from, you’re outta luck: no one knows.


* One day in the early 1970s I was in a supermarket in my home town of Franklin Square, New York. As I walked down an aisle in that large store I passed a woman who was telling her young daughter that ten times ten is a hundred and a hundred times a hundred is a thousand. Why she was saying that, I don’t know; why I didn’t intervene and correct her I also don’t know. Evidence points more to politeness than a lack of boldness. That’s because in the same supermarket minutes later when I heard two women talking about pressure cookers, with each saying they had one but didn’t use it, I approached them and asked if I could have those pressure cookers that they didn’t use. I ended up several days later with two pressure cookers, one of which, a fancy stainless steel model with a copper bottom, had been a wedding present and was essentially brand new. I used it for decades until finally part of the handle came loose and the rubber gasket no longer sealed properly, and replacement parts were no longer available for such an old pressure cooker.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 23, 2022 at 4:26 AM

More from the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site

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By popular acclaim—or just because I felt like it—here are six more pictures from our
October 12th wanderings at the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site near Tularosa, New Mexico.



⇡ We might take the main shape as a heart, but is that how whoever made the petroglyph saw it?



⇡ Is that an animal? Perhaps a rabbit leaping?

⇣ This seems to be another longhorn sheep.



⇣ In the odd-numbered pictures here, the landscape is as appealing as the petroglyphs.



⇣ You can conjure up your own tale (or tail) about this one:





§        §        §



We did not fight a Civil War about oboe players. We did fight a Civil War to eliminate racial discrimination.”
— John Roberts, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court; October 31, 2022.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 3, 2022 at 4:35 AM

Waiting not for Godot but for sunset

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We’d found a good place for scoping out the Organ Mountains at sunrise and sunset: the eastern end of Paseo de Oñate in Las Cruces, New Mexico. On October 11th, after freshening up at our hotel following a busy day at White Sands National Park and the Aguirre Springs Recreation area, we headed over to the Paseo de Oñate a little before sunset and hoped for a great display. Unfortunately we didn’t get one, as you see above. Eventually some clouds turned pastel colors that were pleasant enough but not fantastic:



We walked back to the car and headed for our hotel. As we drove west along East Lohman Avenue, the clouds in front of us turned from pastel to fiery. I hastily pulled into the parking lot for some stores, scampered about for vantage points that would exclude or at least minimize buildings, poles, signs, and wires, and finally got my saturated New Mexico sunset.



© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 27, 2022 at 4:32 AM

Before and after White Sands National Park

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It takes about an hour to drive northeast along US 70 from Las Cruces, New Mexico, to White Sands National Park. The highway climbs over a part of the Organ Mountains and then comes down into the plain* that is the home of the sprawling White Sands Missile Range, near the northern boundary of which the first atomic bomb was detonated. That history and continued missile testing aside, the top picture shows you how peaceful the range looked on the misty morning of October 11th. In the distance may be the San Andres Mountains. In the afternoon we returned to Las Cruces along the same route and saw this view of the Organ Mountains:



After I saw a sign for the Aguirre Springs Recreation Area I impulsively turned off US 70 and followed the country road to get closer to the mountains. One peak seemed almost conical:



* I originally wrote plane, which is etymologically the same word as plain.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 26, 2022 at 4:36 AM

Posted in nature photography

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White Sands National Park

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A big reason for our spending time in Las Cruces, New Mexico, was the proximity of White Sands National Park, which we visited on the morning of October 11th. Because the sand there got created from gypsum, and because rain had recently drenched the area, we found walking on the dunes easy, as contrasted with typical sand dunes that take a lot of effort to walk in. Confounding my life as a nature photographer was that people had tramped over or slid down virtually all of the dunes close to parking areas. I had to go farther afield to search for pristine areas, but find some I did. Me being me, I maximized some minimalist views. In the second one, mountains made the scene a little less minimal.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 23, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Back to the Land of Enchantment

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Bet you can tell these pictures aren’t from Austin. On the morning of October 10th we headed west from home and pushed the 620 miles to Las Cruces, New Mexico. Past trips had taken us through there and across southwestern New Mexico but only as a means of getting to Arizona or California. On this trip I intended to spend some time in that part of New Mexico for its own sake before driving up to the more familiar and better known northern part of the state.

Late in the afternoon on October 10th, as we set out to find a place for supper in Las Cruces, I noticed—how could I not?—that a good sunset was taking place. Unfamiliar with the town, I drove east looking for a high vantage for pictures. By the time I found one, it was too late. We went back there the next morning to see what sunrise was like over the Organ Mountains: the top picture shows you.


About half an hour later, a little north of Las Cruces,
the clouds over the Organ Mountains were still photogenic.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 22, 2022 at 8:45 AM

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