Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘rock

Vertical and horizontal takes on maidenhair ferns

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After much-needed bouts of rain on two consecutive days, I headed out on the morning of May 25th to see how the land looked. My third and last stop was along the cliff on the west side of the Capital of Texas Highway a bit north of the Colorado River. Water seeping through the rocks there supports plants on the cliff face and at its base. In particular, for several years now that water has sustained a grand column of southern maidenhair ferns (Adiantum capillus-veneris), as you see above. The trees atop the cliff are Ashe junipers (Juniperus ashei), with possibly some eastern red cedars (Juniperus virginiana) mixed in.

My second stop of the morning had been close to there, at Bull Creek District Park, where tree shadows falling across maidenhair ferns and wet rocks had me taking a bunch of pictures.

 

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Gasoline prices just hit new record highs, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg, inflation-wise. As consumers know, but federal officials seem slow to admit, everything is becoming more expensive. And while the purchasing power of our money is expected to erode more slowly in the months to come, getting from here to there will be painful. Unless you’re a politician looking for a sneaky way to cover the government’s bills, there’s nothing good about inflation, which damages the economy while doing the greatest harm to the most vulnerable.

The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline across the United States is currently $4.62, according to AAA. That’s up from $4.17 a month ago and $3.04 at this time last year. The White House wants to blame Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for the soaring cost of driving (at least, when not hailing an “incredible transition” to green energy), which comes just in time to hobble Americans’ summer travel plans. But, while that war certainly squeezed energy supplies, prices were rising before troops crossed borders in February, and they climbed for all sorts of goods and services as money lost its purchasing power.

That’s the opening of the article “Politicians Cause Real Pain With Inflationary Policies” by J.D. Tuccille that appeared yesterday on the website of Reason. The summary beneath the title says “Inflation damages the economy while doing the greatest harm to the most vulnerable.” You can check out the full article.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 2, 2022 at 4:31 AM

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“Bloom” patterns at Inks Lake State Park

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On May 6th we drove the roughly one hour west to Inks Lake State Park, which by coincidence we’d visited exactly one year earlier. Because of the continuing drought, the place wasn’t the coreopsis-covered wonderland we’d found there in the spring of 2019. One thing that caught my attention last week that wasn’t there when we’d last visited, in November 2021, was bright green algae in several places along the lakeline, where the algae contrasted in color with the granite that underlies the region. Shape-wise I saw similarities to the many lichens on the selfsame granite in rocks and boulders.

  

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The Bill of Rights consists of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution of the United States. Perhaps the best known of the 10 is the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It’s become common these days to hear people say that the First Amendment came first because it states the most fundamental rights of American citizens. As conveniently symbolic as that justification sounds, it’s not true. An article on Thoughtco.com explains:

Drawing on the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, and Virginia’s Declaration of Rights, mainly written by George Mason, James Madison drafted 19 amendments, which he submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives on June 8, 1789. The House approved 17 of them and sent [them] to the U.S. Senate, which approved 12 of them on September 25. Ten were ratified by the states and became law on December 15, 1791.

When the Senate’s 12 amendments were submitted to the states for ratification, the first two of them failed, so the remaining 10 that got approved all moved up two slots. What was originally the third of the 12 amendments became our First Amendment. To learn more of the details, including information about the two amendments that failed in 1789—one of which finally got approved two centuries later—you can read the full article.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 13, 2022 at 4:30 AM

Exaggerations

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Despite what you’ll find frequently quoted, Mark Twain didn’t say “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” That’s an exaggeration. Here’s the explanation from dictionary.com:

The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated is a popular misquote attributed to author Samuel Clemens, known by his pen name, Mark Twain. The humorous quote is based on a letter Twain sent to a newspaper reporter who had asked Twain about rumors that he was dying.

Although it’s not an accurate quote, The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated remains associated with Twain. Twain was known for his humor, which the quote perfectly represents. Often, this quote is brought up to praise Twain’s skill as a humorist.

The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated is often used to humorously comment on a person’s absence from society or to refer to something that appears dead or hopeless but still has a slim chance of success.

In May 1897, there was a rumor among journalists that author Mark Twain was either dead or dying of a serious illness. Looking for confirmation, journalist Frank Marshall White of the New York Journal contacted Twain to see if there was any truth to the rumors. Twain responded to White with a letter in which he humorously said “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” In classic Twain fashion, the author jokingly expressed more offense with the rumors that he was poor than the rumors of his death.

The popular misquote of Twain’s words seems to come from a biography written by Albert Paine in the early 1900s. In the biography, Paine alters the incident so that Twain speaks to an unnamed reporter in person and humorously tells him that “The report of my death has been grossly exaggerated.” This misquote then changed over time to use the word greatly instead of grossly.

I bring this up because the word millipede is also an exaggeration. Latin mille meant ‘a thousand,’ and millipede therefore means ‘a thousand feet,’ but obviously each of the little critters in today’s photographs, which are in fact millipedes, has far fewer than a thousand limbs. On the other hand, there might be a thousand strands in the webbing around the millipedes, which I can say with no exaggeration were dead.

These pictures come from December 22, 2021, along the Shoal Creek Trail. The first section of the trail heading south from 32nd St. closely skirts a rock cliff with some overhangs in it, and that’s where the millipedes hang out, as shown in the two top photographs. In the third picture, the webbing served to anchor a dry leaf, which became the star of that portrait.

To get enough light to photograph in those shaded places I had to use flash, which also revealed the colors in some of the rocks themselves, which unaided eyes might not have noticed.

UPDATE: Scientists have discovered a new species of millipede with 1306 legs.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 11, 2022 at 4:38 AM

Yucca high, yucca low

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Inks Lake State Park; May 6; Yucca sp. How about those lines and shadows?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 17, 2021 at 5:24 AM

Valley Spring Creek Waterfall

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Another water feature we visited for the first time at Inks Lake State Park on our May 6th visit was the Valley Spring Creek Waterfall. The view below, which looks about 90° left from the angle of the view above, shows some of the rock formations and pools adjacent to and downstream from the waterfall.

The other day I became aware of a horrible proposal being put forth by the current government of my country. The proposal calls for spending large amounts of public money to impose racism in America’s schools. You read that right: racism, which is the treating of people differently depending on their ethnic heritage and the color of their skin. You can read about the proposal in a brief summary prepared by the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism.

I encourage those of you who are American citizens to go to the U.S. government website that is accepting comments on the proposal and to speak out forcefully against it. The May 17th deadline for comments is almost here, so you’ll need to act quickly.

Here’s what I wrote in my dissent:

“I am against this proposal with all my heart, mind, and soul. The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution requires equal treatment of all citizens. Yet the government’s proposal calls for treating different categories of citizens differently. That violates the 14th Amendment and is therefore illegal. Officials in our government have sworn an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, not to fly in the face of it. If the government insists on flouting the United States Constitution, the Supreme Court will rule the move unconstitutional and will strike it down. This racist and unconstitutional proposal should be immediately withdrawn.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 15, 2021 at 2:32 AM

Devil’s Waterhole

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There’s nothing diabolical about the Devil’s Waterhole at Inks Lake State Park. Though we’d been to the park several times in recent years, we’d never wandered all the way down to this end until we visited on May 6th. The first picture is a closer and more abstract take (you know me with abstractions), while the second photograph retroactively sets the scene.

 

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Among things diabolical I include the alarming rise in my country of freedom-hating zealots on the rampage to “cancel” and “deplatform” anyone who has different ideas from them. I’d remind those historyphobes—but of course they’d refuse to listen—how quickly things devolved in the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Fascist regimes in Germany and Italy, China’s [anti-]Cultural Revolution, the insanity of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the dictatorship of the Kim dynasty in North Korea, and other disastrous ideological regimes. As George Santayana warned in the first decade of the 20th century, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Good people have to speak and act now, before it’s too late.

 

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 13, 2021 at 4:40 AM

Lichens at Enchanted Rock

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Yesterday you heard that on April 12th we visited Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.
How about the red-orange color of the lichens in the abstract view above?
Below, see the way pale gray lichens almost completely covered the rock in the foreground.

And here’s little lichen ring you can slip on your rough imagination’s finger:

For a concise and colorful primer on lichens, check out “Why Lichens Matter.” As for what makes matter matter, the answer is existence. An English-language etymologist would add that matter, which traces back to mater, the Latin word for ‘mother,’ is the universe’s ‘mother stuff.’

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 25, 2021 at 4:46 AM

Maidenhair ferns withstanding ice

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Maidenhair ferns (Adiantum capillus-veneris), which thrive in places where the banks of Great Hills Park’s main creek form cliffs, go dormant in droughts but seem to have held up pretty well to the rare ice and snow that descended on us in mid-February. You’ll see some of those ferns protruding from the ice in each of the first picture’s three tiers, and you get a better look in the close-up below, both taken on February 20th.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 7, 2021 at 4:40 AM

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Ice formations on a cliff in Great Hills Park

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February 18th saw my third foray into Great Hills Park in quest of ice, and second in search of snow. I pushed further into the park than two days earlier and eventually got to a place where I saw icicles and ice flows up on a cliff. Before I’d left home I knew I’d have to walk a treacherous half mile each way just getting to and from the park, plus more inside the park, so I’d left my heavy camera bag behind and brought only my camera with a 24–105mm lens (and flash) attached. Without a telephoto there was no way I was going to take decent pictures of the icicles high on the cliff unless I climbed at least part-way up the steep slope to get closer. Using two trekking poles for balance and stability, I slowly worked my way higher than I’d ever previously done there even without snow and ice. Intrepid or foolish: take your pick. The longest icicles were in a place that ultimately proved too difficult to get close to, so I got as near as I dared and took a few pictures, aware that I’d have to crop in a lot when I processed them. Fortunately my camera gives 50-megapixel images to work with; what you see in the top photograph represents about one-third of a full frame.

I did manage to get over onto a ledge that put me near several other
ice formations, two of which are shown above and below.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 3, 2021 at 4:33 AM

Icicles and tangled branches

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On February 16th I went into Great Hills Park from the Floral Park Dr. entrance and cut over to the main creek as soon as possible. At a rock overhang on the creek’s west bank I found that many icicles had formed amid a tangle of dead branches. Let’s hear it for complexity.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 23, 2021 at 4:38 AM

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