Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘photography

New Zealand: Boiling mud eruption

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Mud Eruption 7466

Speaking of strange shapes reminiscent of objects in Surrealist paintings, how about this eruption in a pool of boiling mud? I took the picture on February 24th at Wai-O-Tapu*, which is in an active geothermal area in the vicinity of Rotorua on the North Island. The sputtering of the boiling mud was unpredictable, so I set my camera to 1/500 sec. and tried to press the shutter release at the first hint of a splatter. Many of my attempts didn’t succeed, but this photo did a pretty good job of capturing the phenomenon.

Today’s image of a geothermal feature is the first one from my New Zealand trip to appear here, but it won’t be the last.


* After I prepared this post I saw that the Wai-O-Tapu website says TripAdvisor calls the location “One of the 20 Most SURREAL Places in the World.”

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 5, 2015 at 5:07 AM

Just your ordinary highway roadside in Texas in the spring

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Indian Paintbrush and Bluebonnet Colonies 2767

Along FM 1431 in Granite Shoals on April 7th I found these interpenetrating colonies of wildflowers. The red ones are Indian paintbrushes, Castilleja indivisa, and the bluish-purple ones are bluebonnets, Lupinus texensis. This combination occurs naturally in Texas but people across the state are also fond of planting a mix of the two species because they bloom at the same time and their colors go so well together.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 30, 2015 at 5:30 AM

Trout lily in dappled light

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Trout Lily Flower 8815

I hope you’ve been enjoying the pictures from New Zealand, but I’m going to interrupt that sequence for a little while to catch you up on what’s been happening in central Texas, which you can summarize in one word: spring.

On March 13th I drove out with Nan Hampton to her country place near Lometa, which is in Lampasas County about an hour and a half north-northwest of Austin. The main botanical purpose for my going out there was to see the trout lilies (also called dogtooth violets), Erythronium albidum, that were coming up. For years I’d noticed the entry in Marshall Enquist’s Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country but had never seen the plant in the wild, so this was an opportunity to check off one more species from that book.

Bill Carr describes this native perennial as “a striking spring wildflower of forested areas of eastern North America, here at or near the southwestern limit of its range. Rare in oak-juniper woodlands on mesic limestone slopes.” I’ll add that trout lilies typically grow in the underbrush and stay pretty close to the ground, so photographing them meant I had to get close to the ground too and gingerly push aside low branches. Another difficulty was the dappled sunlight coming through the underbrush, but rather than try to work around it, which probably would have been impossible, I lived with the dappling and incorporated it into my portraits, along with artifacts created by the interaction of the bright spots of light with the glass elements in the camera’s lens. You know what they say: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. This time you can consider me a joiner.

Note in the lower left a part of one of the trout lily’s characteristically mottled leaves.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 26, 2015 at 5:05 AM

New Zealand: Bellbird

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Bellbird 3973

Click for greater clarity.

At the Tiritiri Matangi Open Sanctuary on February 8th I saw a bellbird, known natively as korimako and scientifically as Anthornis melanura. You can read more about the korimako in New Zealand Birds Online.

On the technical side I’ll add that there wasn’t a lot of light in the bush (forest, for most of the rest of us), so I raised my camera’s ISO to 4000 and lowered the shutter speed to 1/200, which even with image stabilization is slower than I’d normally go with a 280mm (equivalent, thanks to a 1.4x extender) focal length. Not all the pictures I took of the bellbird came out well, but this one isn’t bad (except maybe for the movement of the bird’s lower bill, but we’ll act like educational bureaucrats and claim that that gives the picture authenticity).


For two weeks you’ve been seeing some wonderful things from New Zealand. I’ve by no means run out of them, but for the next week and a half I’ll catch you up on the spring that was slow to arrive in central Texas this year because of cold temperatures but that is now in full force. After that I’ll go back to another round of photos from picturesque Aotearoa.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 25, 2015 at 5:24 AM

Red buckeye leaves opening

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Red Buckeye Leaves Opening 0377

Aesculus pavia var. pavia is a small tree that’s commonly known as red buckeye. Here you see some of its foliage opening on February 22, 2012, in the greenbelt behind the Austin Nature Center. Isn’t that sheen something?


I’m away from home. You’re welcome to leave comments, but please understand if I’m slow in responding.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 19, 2015 at 5:11 AM

Masses of sunflowers and boulders

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Sunflowers and Boulders 3767

Having begun to head for home on October 3, 2014, and with Tucson already behind us in the west, I pulled over at the Texas Canyon rest area on Interstate 10 in Arizona. What prompted my stop was the natural piles of boulders along the highway there, but as I started down the exit ramp for the rest area I noticed various kinds of wildflowers. The ones you’re looking at here are obviously in the sunflower family, but I’m afraid I can’t be more specific: stranger in a strange land, and all that.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 29, 2015 at 5:28 AM

Ball moss on twig

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Ball Moss on Dead Twig 9967

Here’s a ball moss, Tillandsia recurvata, on a dead twig at Devine Lake Park in Leander on November 26, 2014. In the Truth in Advertising department, let me add that a ball moss forms a clump or cluster rather than a ball and isn’t a moss but an epiphyte. That second reality means that these plants sometimes grow on non-living things like outdoor sculptures and metal fences.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 28, 2015 at 5:25 AM

ISO 5000

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Fox Squirrel on Ashe Juniper by Yaupon Fruit 0997

Austin was often overcast this past December, including the morning of the 14th, when I noticed this fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) on a branch of the Ashe juniper (Juniperus ashei) outside my window. There was so little light for a photograph that I cranked up the ISO on my Canon 5D Mark III to 5000, which is most likely the highest I’ve ever gone. The resulting pictures were a little grainy but still passable.

A yaupon tree (Ilex vomitoria) is responsible for the small red drupes visible in several places in the photograph. It’s not unusual from late autumn through winter to see a squirrel bite off and eat one of those fruits, or even several in succession. I don’t think a human would find them palatable, but then a squirrel probably wouldn’t find ketchup or cherry pie or marinara sauce or strawberry jam palatable (I’m thinking red here, folks).

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 27, 2015 at 5:10 AM

Possumhaw’s time to shine again

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Possumhaw with Dense Fruit 0351

While walking along the trail that parallels the south shore of Lady Bird Lake yesterday afternoon I spied some possumhaws, Ilex decidua, with lots of little fruits on them. This iPhone picture lets you see the colorful view but you’ll have to imagine feeling the 72° (22° C) that the temperature got up to.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 19, 2015 at 5:25 AM

“Who reports the works and ways of the clouds, those wondrous creations coming into being every day like freshly upheaved mountains?” *

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Sunset Clouds 1637

After driving through intermittent heavy rain on September 27, 2014, and with less than an hour to go to reach Phoenix, we pulled over at the Sunset Point rest area on Interstate 17. It seems that Sunset Point is aptly named, but we were a little too late for anything grand that might have preceded our arrival there. Still, I managed to get off a few shots of the last bit of sunset color above the darker type of clouds that had covered us for much of the afternoon.

From the decreasing saturation and increasing brightness of the blue and pink as you read across the sky, you can tell that I was aiming the camera generally southward and that the sun had settled out of sight off to the right.


* An answer to the title’s question, which John Muir posed in one of his journals, is, at least for this post: I do.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 18, 2015 at 5:00 AM

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