Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘red

What I couldn’t see

with 10 comments

The cedar sage (Salvia roemeriana) in wooded areas of my neighborhood was out in force by the middle of April. I found plenty of those plants to photograph in Great Hills Park, and then on April 17th I spent time with a group of them on a rocky embankment along Morado Circle. It’s not unusual to see cedar sage flowers that have fallen off, but one really caught my attention—and caught is an apt word. The flower had landed on a leaf and miraculously was standing upright. I assumed the base of the fallen flower had happened to land in a small hole in the leaf, and that accounted for the flower’s apparent defiance of gravity. After taking some pictures of the prodigy I touched it, and only then from the way it swung about did I realize that a strand of spider silk, still invisible to me, had kept the flower from falling over. My 100mm macro lens and camera sensor resolved the strand of silk that my unaided eyes couldn’t see. Now your eyes get to see it. They also get to see some nearby cedar sage buds that had begun opening.

 

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As much as I’ve been the bearer of reassurance in my photographs from nature, I’ve also been the bearer of increasingly dismal social news in my commentaries. For the past decade, and especially since the moral panic of 2020, “wokeism” has rapidly been taking over our institutions. Medicine is no exception. Some professors of medicine have taken to denying biological sex. Medical schools are already plotting to make gender ideology and racist ideology required parts of their curriculum. Faculty and staff who won’t pledge fealty to those delusional and hateful things will risk getting fired, and people who apply to work there but don’t show evidence of sufficiently “woke” fervor won’t get hired in the first place. Medical students will face the same kinds of pressure. You can read the distressing details in John D. Sailer’s article on the website of the National Association of Scholars.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 5, 2022 at 4:33 AM

Cedar sage flourishing

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Cedar sage flowers (Salvia roemeriana) in wooded parts of my neighborhood were out
in force by April 15th, when I found plenty of them to photograph in Great Hills Park.

 © 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 25, 2022 at 4:30 AM

Ditches

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Ditches often provide a good view of nature thanks to the water that accumulates and keeps the soil moist. The ditch in today’s picture lies on the north side of US 290 east of TX 237 between Carmine and Burton in Washington County. I pulled over at the side of the road there on April 8th to photograph the prominent Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja indivisa) on the highway embankment. Then I noticed all the spike rushes (Eleocharis sp.) that had colonized the ditch; they’re a kind of sedge.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 18, 2022 at 4:25 PM

Phlox to the fore, phlox to the rear

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In and near Gonzales on March 28th I let phlox be a subject and separately also relegated it to glowy background duty beyond some tansy mustard, Descurainia pinnata (the USDA map for which shows an unusually broad range).

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 6, 2022 at 4:28 AM

Contortions

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Contorted is how I might describe the branch of a possumhaw tree (Ilex decidua) already leafing out at East Metropolitan Park on March 25th. Five days earlier, as spring officially began, I’d photographed a prickly pear pad in my part of Austin that had reached the end of its life. In addition to the usual drying out and loss of green that a dead pad undergoes, it had contorted itself in a way that made me have to do its portrait.

 

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And speaking of contortion, I recommend Reason for its anti-contorted stance, which is to say its adherence to reason. The magazine of “free minds and free markets” promotes free speech, due process, and the deciding of matters based on evidence and logic. If you check out the Reason website, you’ll notice that it finds things to criticize in camps on both sides of the conventional left~right political divide. You could call that outlook libertarian.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 31, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Two days, two birds

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On January 29th I stopped along Cameron Rd. in northeast Austin to photograph a possumhaw tree (Ilex decidua) with a good amount of fruit on it. After taking several pictures I glimpsed a mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) fairly high in the tree, so I hastened back to the car, switched to my 100–400mm lens, and made it back to the possumhaw, all in just three minutes (thanks, metadata). I hoped the mockingbird would still be there, and it was, though a little higher than before. I did what I could.

The next day we visited the small Selma Hughes Park on the Colorado River for the first time. What caught my attention were several dead trees heavily covered by dense vines, of which I took many pictures. Four days later, while looking through the photographs of those vine-covered trees on my computer screen, I noticed that four frames showed something I hadn’t been aware of at the time I took the pictures: at the very top of one dead tree stood a bird. It wasn’t in previous frames nor in the ones that followed. I’m thinking the interloper that had flown in and out without my noticing it was a bluejay (Cyanocitta cristata).

  

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Which of the following stories, if any, are real?

  1. A gun-control activist fired several shots at and almost killed a mayoral candidate in Louisville, Kentucky. Black Lives Matter posted $100,000 bail for the shooter.
  2. A member of the United States Congress claimed that the recent expiration of pandemic-related child tax credits has contributed to the current rise in crime because parents have been driven to steal baby formula from stores.
  3. More Americans aged 18 to 45 now die from fentanyl overdoses than from automobile accidents, Covid-19, cancer, suicide, or any other cause.
  4. Students in a graduate school course staged a sit-in after the professor corrected errors in spelling and grammar that the students had made in their papers.

Scroll down to find out which ones are real.

All those stories are real. You’re welcome to read the details about

the gun control advocate’s use of a gun in an attempted assassination
and
Black Lives Matter posting $100,000 bail for the assailant

and

the politician who blamed the conspicuous rise in crime on the need to steal baby formula

and

the deaths among Americans due to fentanyl

and

a graduate school protest against a professor who corrected grammatical and spelling
mistakes the students made in their papers [see item 9 in that article].

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 17, 2022 at 4:28 AM

Posted in nature photography

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PQ

with 9 comments

I’ve had a hard time fulfilling my PQ, or possumhaw quota, this winter. For whatever reason—perhaps the sustained freeze last February—most of the possumhaws (Ilex decidua) I’ve seen this season haven’t produced a lot of fruit. A few weeks ago I made sure to check out several that looked fabulous last year; this time they were almost completely bare. Among the best specimens I’ve found was the one shown above on January 26th in a front yard six houses away from us. A bright blue sky as a contrasting backdrop didn’t hurt, and a bird’s nest added a point of interest. A possumhaw within sight of that one that has borne dense fruit in other years was practically devoid of any this year. Three days later along Cameron Road I stopped to photograph another possumhaw that looked pretty good:

 

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I recently learned about the ruling by a United States District Court in the 1967 case “Lee v. Macon County Board of Education.” The court notably found that “It is also axiomatic that a state may not induce, encourage or promote private persons to accomplish what it is constitutionally forbidden to accomplish.” The same principle naturally holds true for the federal government. As the First Amendment to the United States Constitution puts it: “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech….” Unfortunately, members of Congress and the executive branch of our government are increasingly seeking to circumvent that prohibition by urging private companies to do the censoring for them. In a current example, “Chelsea Greene Publishing is suing Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren for allegedly abusing her political authority to push Amazon to censor their book titled ‘The Truth About COVID-19.’ The publisher alleges serious First Amendment violations.”

I don’t know how accurate or inaccurate the statements in that book will eventually prove to be—think about the many times government health officials have reversed themselves about the Covid-19 pandemic, sometimes even later admitting that they’d known what they were saying wasn’t true—but no member of the government should be telling booksellers what books they can and cannot sell.

Not that large companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, and Twitter need much nudging from the federal government—on their own they’ve already been suppressing and canceling people who dissent from whatever the latest orthodoxy is. Elizabeth Warren might as well encourage fire to be hot or rain to be wet.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 13, 2022 at 4:25 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Winter color

with 31 comments

Throughout the first half of January I’d been noticing that some oaks still sported leaves that looked richly red when backlit. A photographically promising stand of oaks that we passed on January 14th unfortunately lay along a narrow, winding road that didn’t allow parking anywhere nearby. Finally on January 19th at Mills Pond I was able to push my way through stalks and branches in the woods and cautiously ease myself into positions that let me see maximum saturated color in some backlit oak leaves.

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You’d expect an organization called National Public Radio (NPR) to be politically balanced, given that the American public consists of people with differing viewpoints. If NPR ever was politically balanced—and I’m not sure it was—that time has long since passed. For a good while now the stories and commentaries on the network have leaned so heavily toward the political left that I gave up listening to Austin’s NPR station years ago.

The latest confirmation of the radio network’s slant came on January 18th, when long-time NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg reported a story involving Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whose diabetes puts her at greater-than-average risk if she catches Covid-19. According to the story, Justice Sotomayor, who not coincidentally is on the political left, participated in a judicial session electronically from her chambers rather than in person because Justice Neil Gorsuch, who not coincidentally is on the political right and who sits next to her when the justices convene, has been refusing to wear a mask even after Chief Justice John Roberts “in some form asked the other justices to mask up.” Totenberg based her story on accounts by anonymous sources.

Totenberg’s claim triggered an unusual joint statement by Justices Gorsuch and Sotomayor denying the validity of the story. After that, Chief Justice John Roberts issued his own statement saying that he “did not request Justice Gorsuch or any other justice to wear a mask on the bench.” Despite those statements in which the three justices named by Totenberg publicly denied the claims that she made, she continued to stick to her story based on sources that still remain unidentified.

You’re welcome to read an analysis of this situation by James Freeman in the Wall Street Journal.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 26, 2022 at 4:35 AM

Posted in nature photography

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One thing that poison ivy is good for

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One thing that poison ivy is good for is color in the late fall and early winter. This portrait comes from the lower portion of Allen Park on December 17, 2021. I’ve read that the sheen on the leaflets attests to the presence of urushiol, the chemical in poison ivy that irritates most people’s skin. “Look but do not touch” remains sound advice. The most interestingly colored poison ivy I ever saw was also in the lower portion of Allen Park, way back in 2006.

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Yesterday we went to the Austin Nature Center, not to visit the indoor exhibits but to walk through the place and onto the trails beyond. When we arrived at the main building we were met with a sign saying everyone has to wear a mask not only inside buildings but outdoors as well. That doesn’t “follow the science.”

Currently 98.3% of all new Covid-19 infections in the United States are from the Omicron variant. According to an NPR article, “…given how contagious omicron is, experts say, it’s seriously time to upgrade to an N95 or similar high-filtration respirator when you’re in public indoor spaces. ‘Cloth masks are not going to cut it with omicron,’ says Linsey Marr, a researcher at Virginia Tech who studies how viruses transmit in the air.” Yet the Austin Nature Center—and presumably every other institution that requires masks indoors—allows cloth masks.

As for outdoor transmission of Covid-19, it’s rare. David Leonhardt noted last year in a New York Times article entitled “A Misleading C.D.C. Number” that “the share of transmission that has occurred outdoors seems to be below 1 percent and may be below 0.1 percent, multiple epidemiologists told me. The rare outdoor transmission that has happened almost all seems to have involved crowded places or close conversation.” Those are hardly the conditions you’ll find outdoors at a nature center, are they?

Following the science, we ignored the mask mandate as soon as we were away from the Austin Nature Center buildings. When we stopped a minute later to look at some rescued raptors in outdoor enclosures, we noticed a young couple who had also stopped there. I saw that they weren’t wearing masks either, and I asked them sarcastically if they weren’t afraid of catching Covid-19. Turns out the couple was visiting from Florida, and the guy said that in his state things aren’t restrictive the way they are in Austin. I told him Austin is the Berkeley of Texas and people here are crazy; then I made sure to add that although Eve and I live here we aren’t crazy.

Later, even farther away from the Nature Center, we encountered first one and then another small group of young children on an outing in the woods. The adult guides were wearing masks, as were many but not all of the little children. Later I was sorry I hadn’t asked if the children’s parents had decided whether their kids had to wear a mask or could go maskless outdoors. We’ve known since early in the pandemic that children are by far the least susceptible group, so there’s no reason for them to be wearing masks when they’re out in nature. That’s the science.

  

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 14, 2022 at 4:38 AM

Posted in nature photography

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A tale of two sumacs, part 2

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In yesterday’s post you saw that Rhus trilobata, one of Austin’s three native sumac species, produces colorful fall foliage, though not on the scale of our renowned flameleaf sumac. The third species, Rhus virens, is known as evergreen sumac. (In fact Latin virens means ‘being green’; compare verdant, from the same root.) Normally evergreen sumac’s leaves do remain green, but some of them occasionally turn warm colors. In my experience, that seems to be when something afflicts the tree, e.g. a freeze, or when a branch gets broken and dies. From Allen Park on December 17th, here are two different-hued examples of evergreen sumac not being green. The sheen on the leaves characterizes this species.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

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My father and his parents and brother fled from the Soviet Union in the 1920s, so I’ve always been aware and leery of the tyranny of ideological regimes. Another Russian escapee, Anna Krylov, recently had a letter published in The Journal of Physical Chemistry in which she drew on her own early life in the USSR, “where communist ‘ideology permeated all aspects of life, and survival required strict adherence to the party line and enthusiastic displays of ideologically proper behavior.’ I noted that certain names and ideas are now forbidden within academia for ideological reasons, just as had been the case in my youth.”

Normally these days the people who uphold cancel culture lash out at anyone who speaks up against enforced ideologies. The reaction against Anna Krylov, however, was better than has recently been the case with many other people that illiberal ideologues have attacked: “I expected to be viciously mobbed, and possibly cancelled, like others before me. Yet the result surprised me. Although some did try to cancel me, I received a flood of encouraging emails from others who share my concern with the process by which radical political doctrines are being injected into STEM [science, technology, engineering, math] pedagogy, and by which objective science is being subjugated to regressive moralization and censorship. The high ratio of positive-to-negative comments (even on Twitter!) gave me hope that the silent liberal majority within STEM may (eventually) prevail over the forces of illiberalism.”

You can read more about this in Anna Krylov and Jay Tanzman’s article in Quillette, “Academic Ideologues Are Corrupting STEM. The Silent Liberal Majority Must Fight Back.” The article includes lots of links to related stories.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 28, 2021 at 4:37 AM

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