Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘shadow

Winecup flower center

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In this closeup of a winecup (Callirhoe sp.) at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on March 25th the shadow struck me as appropriate for the profile of a gnome or ogre or some such creature.

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It’s common to hear politicians and activists bandy about the phrase “common sense.” That’s a loaded and misleading term because some or even many things that a majority of people believe to be common sense are easily shown to be untrue. Over the next week I’ll give some examples, starting now.

Suppose you live in City A. One morning you get on an Interstate highway, drive to a place in City B, and with light traffic you end up averaging 70 mph for the trip. Three days later you return along the same route, but this time traffic is heavy, and in addition rain pours down for much of the time. As a result, you end up averaging a pitiful 30 mph for your return trip from City B to City A. Now here’s my question: what was your average speed for the round trip? Most people who are given these facts and asked that question will say the average speed for the round trip was 50 mph, which they got by averaging 70 and 30: 70 + 30 = 100, and 100 ÷ 2 = 50. It’s common sense, right?

So simple, so easy—and so wrong! People who come up with an answer of 50 mph don’t understand what an average is. An average is the total of one kind of thing divided by the total of another kind of thing. The very label “miles per hour” tells you what to do: take the total mileage traveled on the round trip and divide by the total number of hours spent doing it.

Let’s suppose City A and City B are 210 miles apart. Driving that 210 miles on the way from A to B at an average of 70 mph took you 3 hours. Returning another 210 miles from B to A at an average 30 mph hour took you a whopping 7 hours. The total distance you drove was 210 miles out plus 210 miles back, or 420 miles. The total time you spent was 3 hours out plus 7 hours back, for a total of 10 hours. As a result, 420 miles ÷ 10 hours gives an average speed of 42 miles per hour for the round trip.

Now, most people’s “common sense” would probably have them objecting: Wait a minute, not so fast (which is a convenient play on words in an example about speeds). These people would assume the average speed depends on how far apart City A and City B are. Well, in fact it makes no difference at all how far apart City A and City B are. Pick any distance you like, do the same kinds of calculations I did (which may mean you’ll need to pull out a calculator because the numbers probably won’t come out so pretty), and you’ll still end up with an average of 42 mph for the round trip.

The reason the true round-trip average speed ends up below the “common sense” but wrong average of 50 mph is that you spent more time driving at a slow speed of 30 mph than at a fast speed of 70 mph, and that pulls the average speed down. In summary, the truth is that despite “common sense” you can’t generally average averages.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 8, 2021 at 4:43 AM

What do these two have in common?

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What the great blue heron (Ardea herodias) has in common with the variegated stone and its shadow is that I photographed them both at Muir Beach in California four years ago today. You might also find that the forms and colors of the heron’s feathers resemble those on the stone.

And here’s a relevant poem for today:

“The Peace of Wild Things”
by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 1, 2020 at 4:39 AM

Zebra mesquite

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On June 17th, when I saw how the sun cast shadows of mesquite tree leaflets (Prosopis glandulosa) onto a thorn and the branch it was on, the word zebra popped into my head.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 3, 2020 at 4:47 AM

Shadow as an emblem of a bird in flight

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Along the North Walnut Creek Trail on the morning of September 19th I looked down at a mushroom and saw a dark bird winging west. Oh, the world of illusions we live in. Casting the magic shadow spell was a straggler daisy plant, Calyptocarpus vialis.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 27, 2018 at 4:46 AM

Fallingwater, falling light

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After decades of reading articles and seeing documentaries about it, on June 14th we finally made our way to Mill Run, Pennsylvania, for Fallingwater, the house that the architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed to straddle a waterfall rather than sit alongside it. The places where I most wanted to stand for pictures, the base of the main waterfall and the banks of the creek flowing away from it, unfortunately remain off limits to visitors. I can’t show you the pictures I might have made, so here instead are a few idiosyncratic takes on light and shadow at Fallingwater.

While I couldn’t look up from the base of the falls, I could and did aim straight down from the top.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 22, 2018 at 4:54 AM

A hoodoo begets a head

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Click for greater size.

This heady panorama is from the morning of September 3rd at Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta, where strange cloud shadows in the sky had greeted us a couple of hours earlier.

If you’re interested in the craft of photography, point 6 in About My Techniques is relevant to today’s picture.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 28, 2017 at 4:51 AM

A rare milkweed

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welshs-milkweed-on-coral-pink-sand-dunes-5246

At Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in southern Utah on October 23, 2016, I encountered the rare Welsh’s milkweed, Asclepias welshii.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 2, 2017 at 5:02 AM

Spider shadows

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Tiny Spider on Rain-Lily 4531

I don’t think I’ve ever recorded such a vivid and elongated spider shadow as I did on this rain-lily, Cooperia pedunculata, that I photographed on August 19 near the eastern end of Balcones Woods Dr. You may find me strangely unobservant, but I was so intent on getting the spider in focus that I don’t believe I noticed its shadow at the time.

If you’d like a closer look at the spider and its happily-discovered-later shadow, click the excerpt below.

Tiny Spider on Rain-Lily 4531 Detail

If you’re interested in the craft of photography, you’ll find that point 24 in About My Techniques applies to the larger image.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 13, 2016 at 4:59 AM

Greenity*

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Gall on Common Milkweed Leaf 7886

At the risk of greening you out with a third post in a row that’s heavy on that color, here’s another view of common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, this time from Illinois Beach State Park on June 14. I no longer remember what cast the pleasantly undulating shadow on the left side of the leaf, but one lobe of that shadow worked to highlight the lone gall there.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman


* We don’t normally stick a Latin-derived suffix on a native English word the way I’ve done with greenity, but some hybrids (for example outage) have entered our standard vocabulary. In searching the Internet now I see that I’m not the first person to come up with greenity.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 9, 2016 at 5:12 AM

Lizard

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Whiptail Lizard 2393

Behind the visitor center in the Tucson Mountain District of Saguaro National Park on September 29, 2014, I saw this lizard. I don’t know what species it is, but you’re welcome to read a page about some of the lizards that inhabit that national park.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 12, 2015 at 5:39 AM

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