Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘patterns

Textures of different kinds

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At the Doeskin Ranch in Burnet County on March 24th I focused on textures of different kinds. The photograph above reveals a prickly pear cactus pad from which all the outer covering and inner cells and water had passed away, leaving only the sturdy structure that once supported them. In contrast, the picture below shows a rounded, colorful patch of lichens on a boulder.

For those interested in the art and craft of photography, I’ll add that the first photograph exemplifies point 4, and the second one point 15, in About My Techniques.

* * * * * * * * * *

A theme I’ve been pursuing here for a week now is that it’s common to hear politicians and activists bandy about the phrase “common sense,” which is a loaded and misleading term because some or even many things that a majority of people believe to be common sense can be shown not to be true.

Here’s a simple example from the everyday world of buying and selling. Suppose an item in a store goes up 50% in price and later comes down 50% in price. A lot of people would say it’s “common sense” that the rise in price and then the fall in price by the same percent would bring the item back to its original price; in this case the +50% and the –50% would cancel each other out.

Alas, that bit of “common sense” isn’t true. To see that it’s not, let’s give the item in question a specific price, say $40. After that price goes up by half (+50%), it’s $60. After the $60 price gets reduced by half (–50%), it drops to $30. The new price is less than the original $40 price, not equal to it.

Now let’s go a step further. In the real world, switching the order of two actions usually leads to different results. For example, mixing the ingredients for a cake and then baking them will give a very different cake than the one you’d get by baking the ingredients first and then mixing them. Waiting for an empty swimming pool to fill up and then diving head-first into it is recreational; diving head-first into an empty swimming pool and then waiting for it to fill up could well be fatal.

With those examples in mind, it seems “common sense” that if we go back to our example of prices and reverse the order of the two equal-percent changes, we might well get a different result. Specifically, what will happen if this time we first apply a 50% decrease to a price and then a 50% increase? Last time the final price ended up lower than where it started. By reversing the order of the changes, might the price now end up higher than where it started? As I used to say to my students: when in doubt, try it out. Beginning once again with a price of $40, if we reduce it by half (–50%) the new price is $20. If we now increase that $20 price by half (+50%) the final price is $30. The result comes out exactly the same as before: the original $40 price will still end up getting reduced to $30. Unlike many things in the real world, in this situation reversing the order of our actions makes no difference.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 14, 2021 at 4:28 AM

Ice is nice, part 4

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Here’s what you learned in part 1: In a shaded part of Great Hills Park on January 12th I discovered that thin sheets of ice had formed close to the ground. Most importantly for my purposes, I found that I could slowly lift up a small section of ice and it would come away in shapes that were irregular yet didn’t break apart. Over and over I did my light lifting, each time facing toward the sun and holding the little panel erect against a background of shaded trees so that backlighting would reveal details in the ice.

In addition to that, I held some of the pieces up higher, against the sky, to make portraits of a different sort, one of which you’re seeing here. Admittedly this is a combination you probably wouldn’t ever find in nature, but the urge to experiment came over me and I yielded.

And here’s a humorous quotation for today: “When a man gits perfektly kontented, he and a clam are fust couzins.” [When a man gets perfectly contented, he and a clam are first cousins.”] — Josh Billings, the pen name for Henry Wheeler Shaw. Wikipedia notes that “Shaw attended Hamilton College, but was expelled in his second year for removing the clapper of the campus bell.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 4, 2021 at 4:28 AM

Ice is nice, part 3

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Here’s what you learned in part 1: In a shaded part of Great Hills Park on January 12th I discovered that thin sheets of ice had formed close to the ground. Most importantly for my purposes, I found that I could slowly lift up a small section of ice and it would come away in a piece that was irregularly shaped yet didn’t break apart. Over and over I did my light lifting, each time facing toward the sun and holding the little panel erect against a grove of shaded trees so that backlighting would reveal details in the ice.

In contrast to the monochrome portraits in part 1 and part 2, today’s post offers you a couple of abstractions in which the ice picked up colors from the surroundings. The bottom picture bears impressions of the vegetation the ice ended up lying upon as the water froze. Because it’s hard to see the details at this small scale, I’ve included an excerpt from the second picture that you can click to zoom in on the ice bubbles:

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 2, 2021 at 5:07 AM

Ice is nice, part 2

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Here’s what you heard in part 1: In a shaded part of Great Hills Park on January 12th I discovered that thin sheets of ice had formed close to the ground. Most importantly for my purposes, I found that I could slowly lift up a small section of ice and it would come away in a piece that was irregularly shaped yet didn’t break apart. Over and over I did my light lifting, each time facing toward the sun and holding the little panel erect against a group of shaded trees so that backlighting would reveal details in the ice.

Today’s post offers you a few more monochrome ice abstractions.

Pictures like these seem to lend themselves to pareidolia,
so if you imagine things in them, you’re welcome to say what they suggest.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 31, 2021 at 4:34 AM

Beetle galleries

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While waiting on January 18th for a leaking tire to get dealt with I went for a one-hour walk, a main portion of which took me along Stonelake Blvd. north of Great Hills Trail. The properties lining both sides of the road there are owned by the University of Texas but have never been developed. At one point, only several feet in from the sidewalk I noticed a couple of leaning dead tree trunks whose outer bark had mostly come off and revealed in the phloem, or inner bark, the trails of insects that had lived there.

From an informative article I learned that those trails are known as beetle galleries because the insects that produce them are beetles. Another reason for the term is that the original sense of gallery was architectural, ‘a covered part of a building, commonly in the wings, used as an ambulatory or place for walking,’ and it’s the walking around of the insects that create the trails in the phloem. By a happy coincidence, the main current meaning of gallery also fits the fact that many people consider these designs to be works of art, specifically woodcarvings. To maintain the abstraction I’ve tightly cropped the photographs

I don’t know what local species produced the beetle galleries in these pictures, but you’re welcome to look at some characteristic galleries identified by species.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 30, 2021 at 4:31 AM

Ice is nice, part 1

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So on January 10th we had one of our rare snowfalls, from which you’ve seen a bunch of pictures. You may recall that the temperature hovered near freezing, which meant that some of the snow turned to liquid even as it landed. As the next day wore on, a lot of the snow had melted, much of the ground was visible, and I figured that after five hours of taking pictures on the previous day I wasn’t going to find more to photograph. On January 12th I had second thoughts and wished I’d gone out on the day after the snowfall for another look. With that in mind, even though it was now two days after the snowfall, I headed out again to see if I could find any interesting traces of snow or ice that had managed to survive in shady places—and find some I did.

In one shaded area in Great Hills Park I discovered that thin sheets of ice had formed close to the ground. Most importantly for my purposes, I found that I could slowly lift up a small section of ice and it would come away in a piece that was irregularly shaped yet didn’t break apart. Over and over I did my light lifting, each time facing toward the sun and holding the little panel erect against a background of shaded trees so that backlighting would reveal details in the ice. The arcs in the lower part of the first photograph are impressions that the ice had picked up from plant parts beneath it. In the second photograph, sunlight passing through a liquifying bit of ice created a sunburst. Do you see it? It’s hard to appreciate at this small picture size but you can click the thumbnail below for a closer look and for the revelation that the starburst, like many stars that astronomers find, is actually twins. The enlargement also reveals smaller starbursts.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today:
“One man who stopped lying could bring down a tyranny.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 29, 2021 at 4:31 AM

A seeping cliff, a shrine, a medallion

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The cliff on the west side of the Capital of Texas Highway just south of FM 2222 seeps water, especially in the days after rain. The picture above shows how a section of the cliff looked on January 2nd after we’d had rain a few days earlier; I’d say you’re looking at a height of about 20 ft. (6m) here. In one place on the face of the cliff some southern maidenhair ferns (Adiantum capillus-veneris) adorned a small natural shrine whose not deep but deep-shadowed interior a flash provided visual admission to. Notice how a few drops of water, inviters and sustainers of ferns, hung from the little grotto’s upper lip

Elsewhere the same kind of ferns made up part of a large medallion. The many darkened ferns testify to the previous period of several months when we’d had almost no rain.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 19, 2021 at 4:39 AM

Two more views of pickerelweed

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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

Mottled

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As the pads of a prickly pear cactus (Opuntia engelmannii) die, they often become
mottled in ways that are bound to intrigue a nature photograph—or at least this one.

I made these portraits on September 3rd near the Sierra Nevada entrance to Great Hills Park. The overcast skies preceding rain led me to use flash for a change, and that had the advantage of letting me stop down in all three of these pictures to f/14 for good depth of field and crisp details. In the last picture the drying needles and little fruits had fallen from an Ashe juniper tree (Juniperus ashei).

And here’s a thought for today: You’ve probably heard someone say “You can’t prove a negative.” It depends. Some negatives can be proved. For example, take the question of whether a fraction exists such that when you multiply the fraction by itself the result is exactly 2. An infinite number of fractions exist, so you can’t multiply each and every fraction by itself to find out whether the result is ever 2. Maybe you’ll get close: for instance, 99/70 multiplied by itself gives 9801/4900, which is close to 2, but you can see that the top is just slightly more than twice the bottom. It turns out that no fraction has the property that when you multiply it by itself you get exactly 2. Maybe equally surprising is the fact that smart people were able to prove that negative as long ago as ancient Greece. Hats off to the ancient Greeks.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 5, 2020 at 4:34 AM

A torch-like take on a familiar subject

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If 2020 has been a good year for new takes on Mexican hats, it has also turned into a good year for novelty with Clematis drummondii. This portrait from July 29th on the Blackland Prairie in far northeast Austin is unlike any I’d done in my two decades exploring the most prolific of our three native Clematis species. You can see that I played an opening bundle of silky fibers off against already loosened strands a little further away. Because the vertical bundle strikes this former New Yorker as rather torch-like, for today’s quotation let’s have the poem “The New Colossus,” which Emma Lazarus wrote in 1883 to raise money for the construction of a pedestal for the giant statue* that France had given to the United States to commemorate the country’s declared independence in 1776:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities** frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

UPDATE: You can listen to the famous part of the sonnet set to music by an immigrant to the United States, Israel Beilis, better known as Irving Berlin.

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* The French title of the statue that sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi designed was Liberté éclairant le monde, Liberty Enlightening the World, but Americans know it as the Statue of Liberty.

** The twin cities were New York and Brooklyn, which weren’t consolidated until 1899.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 21, 2020 at 4:37 AM

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