Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘shadows

Light and shadow play on palmetto leaves

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On December 15th of the recently ended year we went to Palmetto State Park about an hour south of Austin so I could record the ways light and shadows played on the leaves of palmettos (Sabal minor), whether green and alive as above, or brown and dead as you see below.

 

  

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Outrage! Outrage! Read all about it!

 

You’ve probably heard the proverb “Not all that glitters is gold.” It means that different things can look alike and that appearances can be deceptive. Iron pyrite glitters but it isn’t gold. Water can glitter, and yet it’s certainly not gold. Illusions exist among words, too. Take outrage. It’s easy to assume the word came about from conduct so far outside the bounds of decency that it sends people into a rage. Nice story. All it lacks to make it true is the truth. The word actually arose from Old French outre, from Latin ultra, meaning ‘beyond.’ The rest of the word is a common suffix, the same -age we find in blockage, orphanage, postage, percentage, voltage, and outage. So even though outrage looks like it’s out + rage, it isn’t. Not all that glitters is gold.

Ideologues would do well to check the origins of words before assuming things about them that aren’t true. One such was a member of the House of Representatives named Emanuel Cleaver, who gave a prayer during the opening of the 117th Congress in January 2021. At the end of his prayer he said “Amen and awoman.” He apparently believed that amen contains the English word men, which is why he felt the need to balance amen with awoman—though the plural awomen would have been the logical parallel. The truth is that amen is an ancient Hebrew word that meant ‘certainly, truly.’ That origin led one wit to quip about the closing of Representative Cleaver’s prayer: “If Amen is Hebrew, Awomen must be Shebrew.” Touché.

 

© 2023 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 13, 2023 at 4:29 AM

Pictures of a different nature

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Every once in a while I show pictures that don’t feature nature. While the previous post about the Pecos National Historical Park did deal with nature, most people visit the place to learn about the cultural interchange between Spaniards and indigenous people that took place there several centuries ago.

 

 

The site is home to the remains of various structures, including a pueblo, a kiva, and most notably a church.

 

  

In my treatment of the church I mostly emphasized light, shadows, and textures while
going for minimalist compositions. In other words, I was playing art photographer.

  

  

Oh, what pretensions.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

  

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 12, 2022 at 4:27 AM

Shadows and textures

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At White Sands National Park on October 11th shadows and textures
on the gypsum dunes drew out the abstract photographer in me.

 

 

The plant that cast the shadows in the middle picture was a yucca.
I don’t know what kind of remains cast the crooked shadow below.

 

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 24, 2022 at 4:34 AM

On this date

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This date in 1939 marked the beginning of World War 2. To accord with that, here’s a picture from this past Saturday morning at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio. You’re looking at Charles Umlauf‘s cast stone sculpture “War Mother,” which he created in 1939 and which now sits on a pedestal in an outdoor alcove along an edge of the museum’s central garden courtyard. At the right time in the morning, light from the unclouded sun reaches the beams of an overhead lattice and casts striking parallel shadows onto the Umlauf sculpture and adjacent walls.

In commemoration of today’s date 83 years ago I invite you to read W.H. Auden‘s poem “September 1, 1939,” with its memorable ending:

 

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

 

(I hope you don’t mind today’s change of pace from nature photography. Long before I specialized in portraying native plants I made photographs more like today’s than the ones you normally see here. That said, the earlier styles came to inform later and current ones. Ah, continuity: we still are what we were.)

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 1, 2022 at 4:31 AM

The nature of metallic nets

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Maybe the nature in this post’s title can justify the inclusion of today’s two pictures in a blog ostensibly devoted to photographing nature. Even if it can’t, headstrong me went ahead and included them.

On a sunny March 10th we drove the 90 miles down to San Antonio’s Phil Hardberger Park and checked out the year-old Robert L.B. Tobin Land Bridge over Wurzbach Parkway. (You’ve seen two jimsonweed pictures from that jaunt.) After leaving the park we stopped for lunch at the nearby Green Vegetarian Cuisine. Some of the restaurant’s outdoor furniture was made of metal, with tabletops and chair seats being net-like. The abstractions produced by those horizontal grids and their shadows on the concrete below proved irresistible, so as an appetizer while waiting for the meals we’d ordered to arrive I went to work with my iPhone. Its camera’s very short focal length proved an advantage for these kinds of pictures, simultaneously focusing things at different distances from the lens.

 

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In Woke Racism, professor John McWhorter makes the case that what he names in the title of his book constitutes a new religion, complete with dogma, sin, priests, proselytizing, and the expulsion of heretics. McWhorter believes that we can no more argue with the followers of that religion about the beliefs they take on faith than you can with the devout believers of any other religion about its doctrine.

So what to do about the reality that many blacks in America lag behind members of other ethnic groups? McWhorter offers three proposals (which I happen to have been proposing for decades now—yay me!):

  • Fight to end the war on drugs.
  • Make sure kids not from book-lined homes are taught to read with phonics.
  • Advocate vocational training for poor people and battle the idea that “real” people go to college.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 27, 2022 at 4:26 AM

Light and shadow, and light

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Central Texas is home to several species of Sesbania, including the Sesbania vesicaria that botanists have now reclassified as Glottidium vesicarium, known as bladderpod sesbania or bagpod sesbania for the shape of its pods. In Bastrop State Park on September 23rd I played with the light and shadows on some of the many pods in evidence there that morning. I also took advantage of bright sunlight to portray a gray hairstreak butterfly (Strymon melinus) on the flowers of what I take to be tall bush clover (Lespedeza stuevei), a species I’d never photographed before and that is therefore making its debut here today.


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Here’s more from Xi Van Fleet, a woman who escaped from the depredations of Mao’s [Anti-]Cultural Revolution and who sees worrisome parallels in the increasing repression and censorship in the United States. (I have a personal connection to such stories because my father and his parents and brother managed to escape from the terror of the Soviet Union in the 1920s.)

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 19, 2021 at 4:26 AM

An archaeology of light

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An adage says “Out of sight, out of mind,” and yet the saying’s first two words could just as well be replaced by “in.” Familiarity breeds a sort of visual contempt in which ordinary objects might as well be buried.

To let light uncover those everyday objects around the house is to practice an archaeology of light.

On the technical side, I took the first two pictures with my “real” camera
and the third with my iPhone. I prepared this post in 2020 but kept postponing it.

And here’s a thought about photographic esthetics: “Now to consult the rules of composition before making a picture is a little like consulting the law of gravitation before going out for a walk.” — Edward Weston. A bunch of different wordings occur on the Internet. Research leads me to think this one is the most likely to be authentic. I came across a version of the quotation in an article by David duChemin called “Are Your Photographs Poetic?“, which I recommend to you.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 26, 2021 at 4:46 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

Texas persimmon trunk

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Call it chiaroscuro or yin-yang, this is the most abstract and minimalist portrait I’ve ever made highlighting (literally) the trunk of a Texas persimmon tree, Diospyros texana. As an article on the website of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center notes: “This well-shaped, small tree is valued primarily for its striking trunk and branches, which are a smooth, pale greyish white or whitish grey, peeling off to reveal subtle greys, whites, and pinks beneath.” Today’s photograph is from the Zilker Nature Preserve on November 17th.

The picture reminds me now of the stylized serpent that people imagine they’re seeing at Chichén-Itzá’s Pyramid of Kukulkan during the spring and fall solstice.

And here’s a relevant quotation for today: “Wo viel Licht ist, ist starker Schatten.” “Where there’s bright light there’s a dark shadow,” or more loosely “The brightest light casts the darkest shadows.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in the play Götz von Berlichingen, 1773.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 15, 2020 at 4:26 AM

Slide Rock State Park

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Oak Creek Canyon

On this date in 2016 we spent a few hours in Slide Rock State Park near Sedona, Arizona.

A strangely deformed alligator juniper (Juniperus deppeana)

Overwhelmed by so many other scenic places on that trip, I never showed any of the Slide Rock pictures.

How about those shadows?

After four years, finally you get to see a few of those views.

Oak Creek’s rocks and water came in for a lot of attention.

And here’s a question rather than a quotation: how often do you renew your poetic license?

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 20, 2020 at 4:40 AM

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