Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘native plants

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

A new way of looking at broomweed

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In the recent post about experiments in zooming I mentioned that the fountain at the Lakes Blvd. and Howard Lane hadn’t gotten turned on by 7:10 in the morning, so I left and did other things. One of the first was to see what sorts of images I could make with the disc of the rising sun reflected in a nearby pond. I used those bright reflections to silhouette a broomweed plant, Amphiachyris dracunculoides.

Here’s an unrelated thought for today: “The notion that nothing might be anything is quite something.” — S.S.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 10, 2020 at 4:47 AM

Carstopper

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While driving on Park Road 1C in Bastrop County on August 23rd I spied a plant standing right at the edge of the pavement that was so unusual it made me pull over as soon as I could. It turned out to be the same Liatris aspera, known as tall gayfeather and tall blazing-star, that you recently saw here (do have a look back at the second picture in that post for comparison), but fasciation had greatly distorted the upper part of this budding specimen. The closer view below, which shows the plant rotated about 90° from its orientation when I took the first picture, reveals details of the super-duper wide flattened stalk, along with other irregularities. Call it strange and you’ll get no argument from me.

I chose to post these pictures today to coincide with Wonderful Weirdos Day, even if the creators of that celebration, being people, had their own kind in mind. All I can say is fasciated plants are my kind of people.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 9, 2020 at 4:40 AM

Clematis drummondii after the rain

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On August 3rd we finally had some rain, so on the morning of the 4th I went down to Great Hills Park with my macro lens and a ring flash to see if I could get some good pictures of raindrop-covered plants. In particular I had in mind Clematis drummondii, which I don’t recall ever before photographing with drops on it. This vine’s fibers often have a metallic-looking sheen to them, which the flash enhanced. Below, an enlargement from a different picture gives you a good look at raindrops on metalically shining Clematis strands.

And speaking of metals, here’s a relevant quotation for today: “I did not know that mankind were suffering for want of gold. I have seen a little of it. I know that it is very malleable, but not so malleable as wit. A grain of gold will gild a great surface, but not so much as a grain of wisdom.” — Henry David Thoreau, “Life Without Principle,” 1863.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 29, 2020 at 4:39 AM

Two abstract cattail leaf portraits

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Many long-time artists try new things. In the first of two recent experiments, I played off a yellowing cattail leaf (Typha domingensis) against differently colored cattail leaves behind it that were parallel to one another but not to it. I held the foreground leaf in focus to convey its texture, while making the background leaves as free of details as possible. In the image below of a shallow cattail leaf arc, I channeled my inner Michael Scandling: barely anything is in focus, and the overall effect is of pastel colors.

Here’s a vaguely related quotation for today:

“L’homme n’est qu’un roseau, le plus faible de la nature; mais c’est un roseau pensant. Il ne faut pas que l’univers entier s’arme pour l’écraser : une vapeur, une goutte d’eau suffit pour le tuer. Mais quand l’univers l’écraserait, l’homme serait encore plus noble que ce qui le tue, parce qu’il sait qu’il meurt, et l’avantage que l’univers a sur lui, l’univers n’en sait rien.” — Blaise Pascal, Pensées (Thoughts).

“Man is but a reed, the weakest in nature; but he’s a thinking reed. It doesn’t take the whole universe up in arms to crush him; a vapor, a drop of water is enough to kill him. But even if the universe did crush him, man would still be nobler than the thing that kills him, because he’d know that he’s dying, whereas the advantage that the universe has over him, the universe would know nothing about.” — Blaise Pascal, Pensées (Thoughts).

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 24, 2020 at 4:34 AM

Two experiments

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When I worked at the base of a cliff along the Capital of Texas Highway on June 27th, some of my pictures were experiments in abstraction. In the one above, I noticed that several cattail leaves (Typha domingensis) had dried out to the point that they turned white, and I played an in-focus leaf off against a few out-of-focus ones. A couple of hundred feet away I noticed that some leaflets on a flameleaf sumac tree (Rhus lanceolata) had turned prematurely red. Not only that, but the breeze was blowing the branches about, so I decided to go with the (air)flow and do some long exposures that would make the movement a key element. The picture below, taken at 1/6 of a second, flaunts its rich red; in contrast, the first photo is close to black and white.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 7, 2020 at 4:39 AM

Bulrushes with wispy clouds

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Austin botanist Bill Carr describes the southern bulrush, Schoenoplectus californicus, as “the tallest of our sedges, forming large dense colonies, vaguely reminiscent of those of cat-tails, in shallow to fairly deep water….” Also called the California bulrush, the species is nevertheless native in Texas and more than a dozen other states. You’re seeing a colony that stands by the pond at the Arbor Walk as it looked on April 15th. By getting low enough and aiming high enough I managed to turn the bulrushes into classy cloud-climbers and also exclude the traffic on Mopac as well as the office buildings on the far side of the expressway.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 22, 2020 at 4:22 AM

New Zealand: Otari-Wilton’s Bush

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Five years ago today we spent time at Otari-Wilton’s Bush in Wellington.
That calls for five pictures, the first being a typical bush scene there.

The next one shows you a Marlborough rock daisy, Pachystegia insignis.

I’m a sucker for lichens, as you see in the following two pictures.

The lichen in the first of these was on the trunk of a tawa tree (Beilschmiedia tawa).

And how could I not show you another tree fern, especially from above?

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 20, 2020 at 4:49 AM

White wandered in

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White wandered into Austin sometime between late Wednesday night and early yesterday morning in the form of a slight coating of snow or something akin to snow. Whatever it was, I knew it would melt as soon as the sun rose high enough and the day warmed up, so out I went yesterday morning to take photographic advantage of something that happens here only once every several years.

The dry seed heads in the second picture are horsemint, Monarda citriodora.
The leaf below belongs to a greenbrier vine, Smilax bona-nox.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 7, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Toot toot again

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After a post early in 2019 that shamelessly showed pictures of mine from the Native Plant Society of Texas photo contest of 2018, this first post for 2020 shows winners from the 2019 contest, which once again categorized entries according to Texas’s 12 ecoregions. Click any picture that you’d like to see in more detail.

Arizona/New Mexico Mountains: Fallugia paradoxa.

Chihuahuan Deserts: Fouquieria splendens.

East Central Texas Plains: various species.

Edwards Plateau: Coreopsis tinctoria.

High Plains: Phacelia integrifolia.

Western Gulf Coastal Plains: Vaccinium arboreum.

Southwestern Tablelands: Dalea formosa.

Texas Blackland Prairies: Liatris punctata. var. mucronata.

Gulf Coast Prairies and Marshes: Mimosa strigillosa.

©2020 Steven Schwartzman

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 1, 2020 at 4:36 AM

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