Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘seeds

Limited-focus abstract views of Clematis drummondii strands

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On August 22nd I went to Great Hills Park and spent quite a while among a group of Clematis drummondii plants that had produced their characteristic strands. Because of rain the day before, some of the strands had stuck together, especially at their tips. In both of today’s pictures limited focus led to abstract portraits that are pretty different from the many other pictures of this species that have appeared here over the years.

Instead of a quotation or a fact, how about a question? Okay, that was already a question, but not the one I had in mind. Here it is: which independent country has the lowest population density? (I included the word independent because Greenland, which is the least densely populated geographic entity, is a territory of Denmark.) You’ll find the answer at the end of the next post.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 20, 2020 at 3:50 AM

Two kinds of feathers

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At Raab Park in Round Rock on August 18th I noticed quite a bunch of small feathers on the ground that seemed to tell the story of a bird having met its demise there. Because the feathers were so small and light, a few of them had gotten caught on nearby plants, including the firewheel seed head (Gaillardia pulchella) above and the camphorweed seed head (Heterotheca subaxillaris) below.

Eventually I noticed a much larger feather near by, which I picked up and photographed. I began to wonder if it came from a raptor that had killed the bird that all the small feathers belonged to. If an avian maven among you can shed light on these feathers, please fly to our rescue.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 18, 2020 at 4:39 AM

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Spiderwebbed Mexican hat seed head on a sinuous stalk

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After photographing a broomweed plant silhouetted by reflections of the rising sun in a pond along The Lakes Blvd. on August 19th, on the same property I made a portrait of this spiderwebbed Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera) seed head on a sinuous stalk. The year of the Mexican hat, which is a name I conjured up for one focus of my photography earlier in 2020, had continued.

The fanciful name Mexican hat reminds me that German refers to a thimble as a Fingerhut, i.e. a finger hat. Another thing you might cover fingers with is a glove, which German calls a Handschuh, which is to say a hand shoe. The next time you’re in a department store, try asking a clerk where the handshoes are. I bet the reaction will be quite different from the answer you’d get if you asked where the handbags are.

As for the white webbing on the Mexican hat in today’s photograph, I recently mentioned that spider actually means ‘spinner,’ based on the webs that spiders spin. And that leads us to our quotation for today: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave,/ When first we practise to deceive!” — Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field, an 1808 historical romance in verse by Sir Walter Scott (who really was a Scot).

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 17, 2020 at 3:55 AM

A colorful revisiting of Emerald Lake

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Hard to believe today marks three years since we stood at the edge of Emerald Lake in British Columbia’s Yoho National Park. Smoke from forest fires obscured the lake’s far shore but the turquoise color still came through to set off the slender red seed capsules of the fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium) in the first photograph. On a different fireweed plant there I found the caterpillar of a bedstraw hawkmoth, Hyles gallii.

Although it was only a week into September,
so far north some foliage was already beginning to turn colors.

I was attracted to a bush with small white fruits and reddening leaves
that I take to be common snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 7, 2020 at 5:00 AM

Mesquite pod and dry leaflets by pond

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While I was avoiding hikers near the boardwalk pond in River Place on August 10th, I made some portraits of honey mesquite pods (Prosopis glandulosa). The dark-looking water and otherwise black background in today’s photograph might make you think I used flash. I didn’t. The sunlit pod was bright enough to make the background dark by comparison, and in my processing of the image I played up that difference. (If clicking the photograph in your browser brings up a black page around the image, as Chrome does, so much the better; the picture, in particular the blue-indigo of the water, looks more vivid that way.)

While we’re on the subject of mesquite, you may remember I photographed what I called a zebra mesquite thorn back in June. I’m sorry to say that within weeks of my taking that picture the site was razed for construction. That’s at least the fourth loss in 2020 of a place where I’d taken nature photographs.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 30, 2020 at 4:40 AM

I cotton to snake cotton

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I rarely come across snake cotton (Froelichia gracilis), so I got excited on August 2nd when I discovered a colony of it in a dry sump at the edge of Great Hills Park. On one of the snake cotton plants I noticed spiderwebs and soon saw the spider. Below is the picture I took of it using daytime flash and a small aperture; that combination gives the impression of dusk rather than broad daylight.

Then on August 14th out beyond Bastrop I found a few stalks of snake cotton
and was able to get a picture showing one of the plant’s small and inconspicuous flowers:

Here’s an unrelated quotation for today:
“Qui grate beneficium accipit primam eius pensionem solvit.”
“Anyone who receives a benefit with gratitude repays the first installment of it.”
Here’s an alternate translation (I wanted to make it sound more colloquial):
“If you accept a favor with gratitude you’ll repay the first installment on what you owe.”
Seneca the Younger in De Beneficiis (On Benefits).

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 28, 2020 at 4:32 AM

A bitterweed bud and bloom and beyond and a bee

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It’s been a couple of years since I showed you the common wildflower known as yellow bitterweed, Helenium amarum var. amarum. The native-bee-bedecked portrait above is from August 18th in Round Rock. At the same time I took what I believe are my first pictures ever of a bud in this species, so here’s one of those:

Toward the opposite end of the development cycle, here’s what a seed head looks like when it’s decomposing:

Many parts of the United States are experiencing a summer drought now. People longing for cooler and wetter times may find the following cold-weather fact welcome, and probably also surprising: if a lake has a solid covering of ice 12 inches deep, an 8-ton truck can drive on it. If you want to know how much weight other thicknesses of ice can bear, check out this chart. Notice that the relationship isn’t linear: doubling the thickness allows the ice to bear a lot more than twice the weight.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 26, 2020 at 4:38 AM

Austin’s still snailiferous

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Now well past May’s peak of limaciferousness in central Texas, the land beneath our baking sun has continued to host many a snail. Whether the small creatures I’ve found were living or dead has been mostly beyond my ability to say. They haven’t, however, been beyond my ability to photograph. I found the one above on August 6th near the tip of a Mexican hat seed head (Ratibida columnifera), and the one below on a bed of dry fallen Ashe juniper leaves (Juniperus ashei). In that portrait, taken on July 10th, I’d gone for a shallow-depth-of-field approach, with little more than the apex of the spiral in focus.

The last image, from June 15th in Great Hills Park when things were still more colorful,
shows a snail on a living Ashe juniper with a firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella) beyond it.

And here’s a quotation about photography:

“Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.”
Ansel Adams in American Way, October 1974.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 23, 2020 at 4:33 AM

A torch-like take on a familiar subject

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If 2020 has been a good year for new takes on Mexican hats, it has also turned into a good year for novelty with Clematis drummondii. This portrait from July 29th on the Blackland Prairie in far northeast Austin is unlike any I’d done in my two decades exploring the most prolific of our three native Clematis species. You can see that I played an opening bundle of silky fibers off against already loosened strands a little further away. Because the vertical bundle strikes this former New Yorker as rather torch-like, for today’s quotation let’s have the poem “The New Colossus,” which Emma Lazarus wrote in 1883 to raise money for the construction of a pedestal for the giant statue* that France had given to the United States to commemorate the country’s declared independence in 1776:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities** frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

UPDATE: You can listen to the famous part of the sonnet set to music by an immigrant to the United States, Israel Beilis, better known as Irving Berlin.

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* The French title of the statue that sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi designed was Liberté éclairant le monde, Liberty Enlightening the World, but Americans know it as the Statue of Liberty.

** The twin cities were New York and Brooklyn, which weren’t consolidated until 1899.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 21, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Color comes to Clematis

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Clematis drummondii flowers and the lustrous fibers that emerge from the ones that get fertilized don’t have a lot of intrinsic color. For these three portraits I’ve used external colors to enhance my subjects. In the picture above of a female flower, the blue came from a small pond on the Blackland Prairie on July 29th, and the brown and green from the land on the far and near sides of the water, respectively. In the second portrait, made during the same outing, I used a shallow depth of field to focus on (in both senses) the seemingly metallic sheen at the base of a flower beginning to produce silky fibers. A nearby sunflower, Helianthus annuus, provided a golden aura to accompany the silvery strands.

The last picture, taken in my neighborhood on July 11th, shows the swirling fibers that this species is best known for. I got low and aimed at an angle that let me include some blue from the sky.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 12, 2020 at 4:26 AM

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