Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘river

Racing against the sun

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Two months ago today we drove from Lost Maples to Kerrville. The route eventually runs alongside the Guadalupe River, and by the time we reached the town of Ingram the sun didn’t have much longer to stay above the trees. I hurried to take a few pictures by that last and very warm light. One was the abstraction above, showing the upper parts of sunlit sycamore trees (Platanus occidentalis) reflected in the river. The camera sensor’s weakness—its limited dynamic range compared to the human retina—worked in my favor by rendering details on the river bank very dark in comparison to the water and the reflections; processing pushed the dark to black. The more conventional scene below, no longer lit by direct light, features a bald cypress tree (Taxodium distichum) that had turned russet.




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“Have you heard? The world’s about to end.” Well, of course it isn’t. In a seven-minute video John Stossel highlights a bunch of cataclysmic predictions that failed to come true. And no, the predictions of doom didn’t come from leaders of religious cults—unless, of course, you recognize climate catastrophism for the secular religious cult that it is.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 27, 2023 at 4:34 AM

Still more from Colorado Bend State Park

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Colorado Bend State Park really does border a bend of the Colorado River in central Texas. Above, from our February 9th visit, you see a dense tangle of vines, including mustang grape (Vitis mustangensis), on the river bank. Within sight of the river we found an ancient black willow tree (Salix nigra) with the twistiest bark I’ve ever seen on one.


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One of the most astounding conclusions of some postmodernists is that all of reality is socially constructed. They have even taken issue with the conclusions of Newton and Einstein, on the basis that the privilege of those scientists is obvious in their equations and, as old white guys, their biases inherently prevented them from knowing anything real of the world. People of particular phenotypes, this ironically biologically deterministic and regressive worldview argues, can’t possibly have access to truth.

How do you come to be this confused, to believe that all reality is socially constructed? Have little experience in the real world. No carpenter or electrician could believe that all of reality is socially constructed. No forklift operator or sailor could. Nor, we would’ve thought, could any athlete. There are physical ramifications of physical actions, and everyone operating in the physical world knows this.

If you have not thrown or caught many balls, or used hand tools, or laid tile, or driven stick shift—in short, if you have a little or no experience with the effects of your actions in the physical world, and therefore have not had occasion to see the reactions they produce, then you will be more prone to believing in a wholly subjective universe, in which every opinion is equally valid.

Every opinion is not equally valid, and some outcomes don’t change just because you want them to. Social outcomes may change if you argue or throw a fit. Physical outcomes will not.


That’s another passage from Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein’s A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century: Evolution and the Challenges of Modern Life. You can also watch many presentations by them on their Dark Horse podcasts.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 1, 2022 at 4:33 AM

Three takes on bushy bluestem

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At Chalk Ridge Falls Park in the outskirts of Belton on January 17th I did several takes on the native grass known as bushy bluestem, Andropogon tenuispatheus. Above, you see a stand of it on the opposite bank from where we walked along the Lampasas River. Soon afterward I had a chance to get close to some on our side of the river.

Elsewhere I worked quickly to record a bushy bluestem plant while it was still backlit. A few minutes later
and the moving sun—actually of course the moving earth—would have deprived me of the chance.

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Last week I finished reading the 2015 book Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and One Scholar’s Search for Justice. My personality normally sets me at odds with activists, many of whom I see increasingly pushing ideologies despite objective reality contradicting those ideologies. Yet this activist, Alice Dreger, is also a historian, and she upholds historians’ traditional ethics: do the research and document the truth, whether it matches your preconceptions or not.

Here are a few people’s recommendations for Galileo’s Middle Finger:

Elizabeth Loftus, Distinguished Professor, University of California, Irvine
Galileo’s Middle Finger is a brilliant exposé of people that want to kill scientific messengers who challenge cherished beliefs. Dreger’s stunning research into the conflicts between activists and scholars, and her revelations about the consequences for their lives (including hers), is deeply profound and downright captivating. I couldn’t put this book down!”

Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University; author of The Blank SlateEnlightenment Now, The Better Angels of Our Nature, and Rationality:
“In activism as in war, truth is the first casualty. Alice Dreger, herself a truthful activist, exposes some of the shameful campaigns of defamation and harassment that have been directed against scientists whose ideas have offended the sensibilities of politicized interest groups. But this book is more than an exposé. Though Dreger is passionate about ideas and principle, she writes with a light and witty touch, and she is a gifted explainer and storyteller.”

Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel and The World until Yesterday: 
“Alice Dreger would win a prize for this year’s most gripping novel, except for one thing: her stories are true, and this isn’t a novel. Instead, it’s an exciting account of complicated good guys and bad guys, and the pursuit of justice.”

Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor, Emeritus, Harvard University (who died this past December 26th): 
“In this important work, Dreger reveals the shocking extent to which some disciplines have been infested by mountebanks, poseurs, and even worse, political activists who put ideology ahead of science.”


I’ll give more information about Galileo’s Middle Finger in a follow-up commentary.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 4, 2022 at 4:32 AM

Worlds of tiny bubbles

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At Milton Reimers Ranch Park on January 14th I focused some of my attention on the many tiny bubbles emanating from algae in the shallow margins of the Pedernales River. In one place a tiny fly seemed to perform the miracle of walking on water; later the walker flew away.


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A recent “woke” aggression into our public schools is a propaganda game called Privilege Bingo. If you want, you can read a second article about that. You can even have a third one. Heck, why not go for a fourth?

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 31, 2022 at 4:43 AM

Chalk Ridge Falls Park

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It’d been at least a decade since we visited Chalk Ridge Falls Park about an hour north of us near the town of Belton in matchingly* named Bell County, so on a sunny and mild January 17th we drove up there. The fact that the falls were partly shaded and partly sunlit made them hard to photograph, and I did what I could during processing to even out the brightnesses. More interesting esthetically, and easier to deal with thanks to mostly even lighting, were winter trees and other vegetation reflected in the Lampasas River.

* The WordPress editor red-underlined matchingly. Granted, some dictionaries don’t include matchingly; others do. That raises the question of why with adjectives ending in -ing that come from verbs we sometimes add an -ly to make an adverb but in other cases we resist. I probably wouldn’t say *runningly or *workingly. The other day in an interview I heard someone say ongoingly; would you say that? On the other hand, we’ve heard about people getting along swimmingly, even exceedingly swimmingly. I’ll bet there’s a graduate student in linguistics out there somewhere who’d willingly study why some verbal adjectives ending in -ing add an -ly more resistingly than others do.


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To work at the CBC [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation] in the current climate is to embrace cognitive dissonance and to abandon journalistic integrity.

It is to sign on, enthusiastically, to a radical political agenda that originated on Ivy League campuses in the United States and spread through American social media platforms that monetize outrage and stoke societal divisions. It is to pretend that the “woke” worldview is near universal — even if it is far from popular with those you know, and speak to, and interview, and read.

To work at the CBC now is to accept the idea that race is the most significant thing about a person, and that some races are more relevant to the public conversation than others. It is, in my newsroom, to fill out racial profile forms for every guest you book; to actively book more people of some races and less of others.

To work at the CBC is to submit to job interviews that are not about qualifications or experience — but instead demand the parroting of orthodoxies, the demonstration of fealty to dogma.

That’s from a January 13th article by Canadian journalist Tara Henley, who has described herself as being on the political far left, explaining why she resigned from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. You’re welcome to read the rest of her revealing account.

And in her article “How Did We Get Here?” she analyzes the ascendancy of “wokeism.” Here’s a passage:

But whatever you choose to call it, the social justice movement that’s sprung out of all this is focused mainly on shifting language and speech norms, on symbolic victories like toppling statues, and on building a vast, identity-focused human-resources apparatus that provides university graduates with lucrative administrative jobs.

This is how we wound up during the pandemic, in Toronto, with a largely racialized working-class population stuck on packed public transit, working precarious warehouse jobs for very little pay and filling emergency rooms — while the conversation on the left was almost entirely focused elsewhere.

You can also watch a discussion between Tara Henley and Megyn Kelly beginning at 51:07 in this video.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 30, 2022 at 4:37 AM

Milton Reimers Ranch Park

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The last time we’d been to Milton Reimers Ranch Park was maybe 20 years ago, when it was still privately owned. Eventually Travis County acquired it in its largest parkland acquisition ever. We visited on January 14th and drove down to one of the portions along the Pedernales River, where we found the water flow as reduced as you see in the top picture. The stumps on the far shore are from bald cypress trees (Taxodium distichum), a bunch of which I once read got cut down at the time the Highland Lakes dams were built in the middle of the last century; I never understood the necessity for that. The stumps at Reimers bore unmistakable evidence of having been sawed across at a height of several feet above the ground, but maybe that happened in the 1800s, when settlers prized the wood of bald cypress trees.

In any case, the dry stumps gave me opportunities for abstract
closeups of designs in the wood, as you see above and below.

UPDATE: I just came across an article pointing out that a 2,674-year-old bald cypress tree in North Carolina is the oldest known living tree in eastern North America.

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“Syracuse [University] punishes student for asking man at party if he’s a Canadian sex offender.” That’s the headline from a January 19th article posted by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Syracuse University has a policy that bans inflicting “mental harm,” and of course the problem with such a nebulous concept is that “mental harm” is subjective: hyper-sensitive people can claim that any action causes them “mental harm.” Many people in my country who espouse “woke” policies cause me mental distress, but that doesn’t give me any right to punish those people or have institutions punish them on my behalf. You’re welcome to read the particulars of the Syracuse University case on the website of FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education; it’s a non-partisan legal organization that defends the free-speech and due-process rights of students and teachers.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman 


Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 23, 2022 at 4:31 AM

More from Yoho National Park and vicinity

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Four years ago today we spent some scenic time in and around British Columbia’s Yoho National Park. One highlight was Natural Bridge Falls, with its intriguing rock formations on the Kicking Horse River. Carloads and busloads of tourists swarmed the site, so it took patience and some judicious framing to get pictures without any people in them, like the first one below.

Along the Trans-Canada Highway a little west of Yoho National Park
we saw a bunch of female bighorn sheep, including the one
in the bottom portrait, whose texture and coloring seem
to me now to match those of the rocks in the top picture.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 7, 2021 at 4:38 AM

Pedernales Falls State Park

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On March 4th we visited Pedernales Falls State Park, which lies about an hour west of Austin.

Did you know that the Spanish word pedernal (with plural pedernales) means ‘flint’?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 15, 2021 at 4:39 AM

The Colorado River at Dawn

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I came away with my one moonshot when I’d driven up to the heights along W. Courtyard Dr. on the morning of February 3rd hoping for a good sunrise. As things turned out, the sky offered only subtle colors but I did manage this view of the Colorado River and the downtown Austin skyline in the hazy distance.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 17, 2021 at 4:37 AM

North Fork of the San Gabriel River

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On November 30th we spent some time on the North Fork of the San Gabriel River near Tejas Camp in Williamson County. For lack of rain the river had gone down a lot, revealing bedrock that’s more often hidden. The dropping water level left some algae draped over a rock, which the sun did a good job of spotlighting:

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 20, 2020 at 4:35 AM

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