Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘photography

Zooms, not blooms

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A few other photographers I’m familiar with have recently shown pictures created with intentional camera movement, which often means sliding or swiveling the camera from side to side while the shutter is open. In this post’s pictures I took a different approach, holding the camera body as still as I could while zooming the lens during the time the shutter stayed open. In the first picture I zoomed my 24–105mm lens during a one-second exposure. The vine climbing the rough-barked tree trunk was poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), which caught my attention because the summer drought had turned some of its leaves red.

On the morning of August 19th while it was still dark I went back to the fountain you saw here recently, hoping to get some warm colors in the water at sunrise. Eventually the sun came up but the water never did—at least not by 7:10, when I left to do more-conventional portraits because it was already light out. The visit wasn’t in vain, though, because while I was hanging around waiting I experimented with some more zooms. The next picture, in which I zoomed my 100–400mm lens for two seconds, strikes me as intriguingly mysterious and abstract.

I also looked in the opposite direction from the pond, at the power lines and poles across the road,
which I portrayed in a three-second exposure that conveniently caught the layered colors of dawn:

And here are not one, not two, not three, but four similar and timely quotations from the founding era of the American republic:

“… Nothing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which has, at all times, characterized political parties. For in politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.” — Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers, No. 1, published October 27, 1787.

“The common and continual mischief’s [sic] of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and the duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it. It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passion.” — George Washington in his farewell address delivered to Congress on September 19, 1796.

“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.” — John Adams in a letter to Jonathan Jackson on October 2, 1780.

“If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would rather not go at all.” — Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Francis Hopkinson on March 13, 1789.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 1, 2020 at 4:43 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


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5 is a pleasant number. It’s a prime in its own right and is also the sum of the first two primes, 2 and 3. In addition (can you anticipate the pun?), 5 is the sum of the squares of two consecutive integers, 1 and 2. Those lesser integers 1, 2, and 3 are Fibonacci numbers, as is 5 itself. The most common stylized star that people draw has 5 points. Some plants have compound leaves with 5 leaflets. Other plants produce flowers with 5 petals or rays or stamens or sepals or bracts.

If I’m dwelling on the number 5, it’s because today marks the fifth anniversary of daily posts in Portraits of Wildflowers. Who’d have expected such day-after-day fidelity? Not I, going into it, yet WordPress tells me today’s post is number 1986 (on some days I did more than one). Breathe and drink and eat we must, but five years is a long time for a voluntary daily activity to last. Now I think it’s time to ease the pace a bit and not feel honor-bound, or maybe more realistically obsession-bound, to post every single day. There’ll still be plenty to see and show, especially as this has been a good wildflower spring. Here are two examples of that.

The first photograph portrays a colony of Gaillardia pulchella (firewheels, blanket flowers, Indian blankets) with some Engelmannia peristenia (Engelmann daisies) in the background along TX 20 east of Lockhart on May 3. Note in the lower left the seed pods of some Lupinus texensis (bluebonnets). The dark, dry vertical plants scattered among the firewheels seem to have been the remains of Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja indivisa).

Firewheel Colony with Engelmann Daisies and Bluebonnet Pods 2682

The second example of this spring’s great wildflowers comes from a still-undeveloped property along Louis Henna Blvd. in southern Round Rock on May 17. You’re looking at basket-flowers (Centaurea americana), Indian blankets (Gaillardia pulchella), greenthread (Thelesperma filifolium), and prairie bishop’s weed (Bifora americana).

Basket-Flower Colony with Other Wildflowers 4744

Now you’ve seen them. If you want to know the moral:
Landscapes are good when they’re abundantly floral.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman



Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 6, 2016 at 5:01 AM

The difference that processing can make

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Wispy Sunset Clouds over Santa Elena Canyon 0140B

Wispy Sunset Clouds over Santa Elena Canyon 0140A

Here are two versions of the same photograph showing pre-sundown clouds over Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park on November 22. The first view was the default that Adobe Camera Raw presented me with, while in the second I adjusted that default to bring out the details in the shadows that my eyes had easily seen when I took the picture. Click the thumbnails to enlarge them. The first view, a quasi-silhouette, is more abstract and therefore perhaps more dramatic. The second offers much more information about the cliffs and canyon. Favor either view or both, as you wish.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 24, 2015 at 4:53 AM

The day with two dawns

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Airplane Wing and Sunrise 0487

As Phileas Fogg found to his great relief (in the form of a gain rather than a loss of £20,000), and I merely as a curiosity, travelers crossing the International Date Line from west to east gain a calendar day. For me the most recent eastward crossing of the Line took place on February 27th, which I remember as the day with two dawns. You’ve already seen pictures taken during the first one, which I lived through at Little Manly Beach on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula north of Auckland. The second dawn, shown through the safety of an airplane window and the convenience of an iPhone camera, came to me over the Pacific Ocean as we approached the California coast.

Here then, after five installments, you’ve finally reached the last of the photographs you’ll see from the great and fondly remembered New Zealand venture of 2015. Any of you who’d like to take a stroll (or more properly scroll) back through all 70 (!) of the posts about New Zealand may click here.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 24, 2015 at 4:56 AM

New Zealand: Kākā

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Kaka Bush Parrot 6460

Taking a one-day pause in the sequence of geological and climatological photographs that predominated at the end of the New Zealand trip, let’s back up a few days for one more picture from my February 21st visit to Wellington’s Zealandia. There I managed to get several portraits of the native parrot Nestor meridionalis, which I assume got its Māori name of kākā from the sound the bird makes, much as English transliterates the repeated call of a crow as caw caw.

There are two subspecies of kākā, and this appears to be the northern one. You’re welcome to read more about the kākā, whether a current overview or a historical account.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 16, 2015 at 3:42 AM

New Zealand: One Tree Hill

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Clouds Seen from One Tree Hill 8186

Driving up from Hamilton to the Whangaparaoa Peninsula on February 26th, we stopped at two high points we hadn’t managed to visit during our main time in Auckland at the beginning of the trip. The first high point was the extinct volcano called Mount Eden, and the other, also an extinct volcano, was One Tree Hill, where Eve ran into some Filipinos whom she didn’t know but who turned out by a striking coincidence to be from her home town. While they were busy talking and figuring out mutual acquaintances, I photographed the clouds that seemed especially well arranged that afternoon and that reminded me of the types of abstracted clouds that Georgia O’Keeffe painted.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 12, 2015 at 5:26 AM

White prickly poppies and Mexican hats

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White Prickly Poppies in Mexican Hat Colony 1770

So here are the white prickly poppies (Argemone albiflora) and Mexican hats (Ratibida columnifera) that I’d stopped to photograph in the southern portion of Great Hills Park on May 19th when I noticed the deer you saw yesterday. Notice that the leaves of the prickly poppy, aside from having sharp spines on them, are glaucous.

As for the Mexican hats, they were (and still are) doing well this year, but unfortunately the mowers at the entrance to the main part of the park across the street cut down the colony there before it even had a chance to flower, much less produce seeds. The mowed-down Mexican hat stand was the one that had produced 10 of the unusual doubly rayed flower heads you saw in a post last spring. I was hoping some more of those strange heads would appear there this year, but now they won’t.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 1, 2015 at 5:15 AM

Lush maidenhair ferns

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Maidenhair Ferns 2889

Because of the ample rain this spring, some of the maidenhair ferns in Great Hills Park have been thriving. It was April 13th when I saw this group of Adiantum capillus-veneris* on a steep embankment of the main creek that flows through the park.

The dark curve making its way across the lower part of the picture marks the water line, so the little patches of green below the line are reflections on the water’s surface of some of the fern leaves above.


* The Latin species name capillus-veneris means ‘hair of Venus’ (think capillary).

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 24, 2015 at 5:35 AM

New Zealand: When isn’t a “lizard” a lizard?

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Tuatara 6409

A “lizard” isn’t a lizard when it’s a tuatara (a Māori term meaning ‘peaks on the back’). According to the relevant Wikipedia article: “Tuatara are reptiles endemic to New Zealand… which, although resembling most lizards, are part of a distinct lineage, the order Rhynchocephalia. The two species of tuatara are the only surviving members of their order, which flourished around 200 million years ago.”

What distinguishes tuatara from reptiles? “Their dentition, in which two rows of teeth in the upper jaw overlap one row on the lower jaw, is unique among living species. They are further unusual in having a pronounced photoreceptive eye, the ‘third eye’, which is thought to be involved in setting circadian and seasonal cycles. They are able to hear, although no external ear is present, and have a number of unique features in their skeleton, some of them apparently evolutionarily retained from fish.”

While the members of Sphenodon punctatus don’t normally adorn themselves with colored beads—that’s in the domain of Homo sapiens and especially Femina sapiens—the one in today’s photograph is so identified as part of the breeding and study program being carried out at the Zealandia Sanctuary in Wellington, which I visited on February 21st.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 9, 2015 at 5:10 AM

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