Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘sky

Dramatic goldenrod

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On a prairie remnant along The Lakes Blvd. in northeast Austin on October 29th I lay on the ground and photographed some goldenrod against the sky. Use of full flash brightened my subject and by contrast made the morning’s clouds seem darker and more ominous than they actually appeared to me. Call it interpretation, call it transformation; though not true to life, the visual drama pleases me.

 

(Pictures from our New Mexico/west Texas trip will resume next time.)

 

 

Soundback

 

So I caught the end of the 1946 movie rendition of Great Expectations on television the other day. As the main character, Pip, approaches and walks into a decaying mansion that has played a big part in the story, we hear lines by various characters that were spoken much earlier in the movie at the corresponding spots. If we had been re-shown those early scenes we would call them flashbacks. It occurred to me that the sound-only versions should be called soundbacks. I don’t find the word in any dictionary but I give you leave to use it.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 21, 2022 at 4:28 AM

From Apache plume to plumy clouds

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On October 15th in a garden outside the Albuquerque Museum I spent time photographing native plants. Among those I photographed was Apache plume, Fallugia paradoxa, which I couldn’t resist playing a flower of off* in a minimalistically** appealing way against some wispy clouds that intrigued me, as you see above.

 

 

Over a span of about half an hour I also couldn’t resist portraying
some of the wispy clouds in their own right as they shifted shapes.

 

 

* Few native English speakers realize that off and of were originally the stressed and unstressed form, respectively, of the same word. Speakers of foreign languages who are learning English have to be taught which form to use when.

* * The sesquipedalian adverb minimalistically doesn’t practice what it preaches.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 20, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Two purples and more in Liberty Hill

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October 22, the day after our return from New Mexico and west Texas, found me in Liberty Hill, a fast-growing town three suburbs north of Austin. There I got low to the ground to photograph some lingering gayfeather flower spikes (Liatris punctata var. mucronata) against wispy clouds, as shown above. At times the breeze was brisk and it blew the fluffy branches of poverty weed (Baccharis neglecta) into graceful arcs that harmonized with the wispy clouds, as you see below. The rich purple was eryngo (Eryngium leavenworthii) and the yellow at the left came from a Maximilian sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani).

 

  

(Pictures from the New Mexico trip will resume next time.)

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 15, 2022 at 4:25 AM

More from Liberty Hill

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I’ll be showing plenty more pictures from our October trip to New Mexico and west Texas, but to keep from falling too far behind in what the Austin area is doing I’m occasionally interspersing a local post.

As you heard last week in a yellow post, on the afternoon of October 21st, as we concluded our trip by driving back into the Austin area from the northwest, I noticed a lot going on in a lot on the north side of TX 29 in the fast-growing town of Liberty Hill (whose population from 2014 to 2021 jumped from 1,015 to 6,801.) The next morning I went back there so I could photograph some of our native plants that predominate in the fall. In these two pictures, I played some wind-blown poverty weed (Baccharis neglecta) off against the morning’s equally wispy clouds. Two years ago I presented a poverty weed photograph with its colors partially desaturated. I experimented with this year’s Liberty Hill photographs by converting one almost completely to black and white:

 

 

 

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Yesterday morning I was reading a book. The television was on in another room. Just as I read the phrase “in the nation” in my book, I could hear a man on the television saying “in the nation.” I don’t know how to calculate the probability that I’ll read a word or phrase at the same moment someone completely independent of me speaks the same non-trivial* word or phrase. The probability must be tiny, given the large number of words and phrases in any language. That kind of simultaneous event doesn’t often happen, and yet it does sometimes happen. In fact I’ve noticed that there have been periods in my life when it has happened a bunch of times over several days. I don’t know what to make of it. Have you had that experience?

* I included the phrase “non-trivial” to rule out instances in which I read a common function word like the or a at the same time someone speaks that word. I probably wouldn’t even notice such a trivial occurrence.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 9, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Liatris on the prairie

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At the Wildhorse Ranch subdivision in Manor on October 2nd I got low and photographed these flower spikes of Liatris punctata var. mucronata, known as gayfeather and blazing star, doing their autumnal thing on the Blackland Prairie. The greenbrier vine (Smilax bona-nox) climbing on the central flower spikes was a nice addition. Before I left the site I made sure to use the wispy clouds as a great backdrop for a tall exemplar of Turris electrica var. pratensis.

  

(I’m still traveling, so my presence here continues to be mostly virtual.)

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 17, 2022 at 4:32 AM

Snow-on-the-prairie revisited

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In a post last month you saw the snow-on-the-prairie plant (Euphorbia bicolor) I’d gotten low to photograph against a cloudy sky on September 3rd at the Wildhorse Ranch subdivision in Manor. On October 2nd I went back there and ended up photographing a different snow-on-the-prairie plant. The sky was bluer and the clouds fleecier than a month earlier, so the overall effect was quite different.

Because the clouds were so appealing I took dozens of pictures of them in their own right. Stieglitz called his cloud portraits “equivalents.” I’ll call mine “cloudtraits.” In the one below, I took the rare (for me) step of converting to black and white.

 

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In some of my commentaries I’ve complained about how poorly the American education “system” educates America’s children. On October 4th, the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal focused on the state of Illinois:

Statewide, in 2019, 36% of all third grade students could read at grade level. That’s an F, and that’s the good news. That number drops to 27% for Hispanic students and 22% for black students statewide. In certain public school systems, the numbers plummet to single digits. In Decatur, 2% of black third-graders are reading at grade level and only 1% are doing math at grade level.

We aren’t often speechless, but the extent to which that performance is betraying a generation of schoolchildren is hard to put into words. Third grade children are eight years old, full of potential with minds like sponges to absorb what they are taught. Third grade is the year that children need to achieve a level of reading fluency that will prepare them to tackle more complex tasks in upper elementary grades that require comprehension.

A child who can’t read in third grade can’t do word problems in fourth or science experiments in fifth. Promoting Decatur children to the fourth grade when 99% are below grade level in math condemns them to future failure. By 11th grade, 5% of Decatur’s students are reading at grade level and 4% are on par in math. Why shouldn’t every single adult presiding over the Decatur schools be fired?

Why indeed? You can read the full editorial.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 15, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Sunflower Sunday

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A fresh and fully open sunflower, Helianthus annuus, brings cheer to many an onlooker—
and in my case an uplooker. This view is from August 14th in the northeast quadrant of US 183 and Mopac.

 

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Several times in the past year I’ve highlighted government programs that flagrantly violated the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I summarized them in a commentary in June that provided links to more details. The latest example of illegal discrimination I’ve become aware of is in Minneapolis. The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers has colluded with the Minneapolis Public Schools to include a vile provision in the district’s contract with teachers. In most school districts, whenever there’s a teacher layoff, teachers are laid off in reverse order of seniority: teachers who have been working the least amount of time get laid off before teachers who have been working there longer. In the new contract, however, white teachers must be laid off ahead of less-senior minority teachers. Of course courts will strike down such blatant racism. The question I have is how the officials in the school district and the teacher’s union could even think of doing something so obviously illegal. Have they no sense of decency and fair play? Obviously not.

You can find more information in an August 17th New York Post article.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 21, 2022 at 4:30 AM

Redwing blackbird

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On the dozenth day of this month I spent time at Cypress Creek Park along Lake Travis. At one point I noticed a redwing blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus, had settled near me atop the remains of a dead tree. I went to my camera bag, took off my macro lens and attached my telephoto lens, turned around, and found the bird had flown away. Off with the telephoto lens, back on with the macro. Except a moment later the blackbird came back. Another round of lens changing, and this time I managed to get three avian pictures. Even without the blackbird the spiderwebbed dead whitened tree called for a portrait.

 

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Disingenuous

 

For decades I watched the television program CBS Sunday Morning, first with its original host, Charles Kuralt, and later with its second host, Charles Osgood. What I and presumably everyone else in the program’s audience enjoyed about it was that its stories were what you would call “human interest,” not dealing with politics or current world events. Beginning in 2018, however, after the third host took over, politicized and ideological segments began appearing. Needless to say—it’s CBS after all—those segments leaned in one and only one ideological direction. Things got to the point where I gave up watching the show I’d looked forward to for decades.

This past Sunday, I’m not sure why, I turned on the show for the first time in several years and caught a few of its stories. One, about the son of singer/songwriter Jim Croce, was fine, just like in the old days. Another feature was not. It was a narrated animation about how “ravenous for ancient sunshine” we are today. The narrator talked about Kentucky, a state that mines plenty of coal, which is a major fuel in the generation of electricity. Coal, the narrator explained, was formed aeons ago from trees. He stated the average amount of electricity a Kentucky home uses, then worked backwards to determine how much coal and therefore how many ancient trees a Kentucky home consumes each year. The program made it seem as if the burning of coal formed from trees millions of years ago is just like cutting down vast forests of trees today. That’s disingenuous. The trees that turned into coal died millions of years ago. Refraining from burning coal today isn’t magically going to bring those trees back to life.

Then the narrator launched into a similarly disingenuous shtik about oil, which he told us formed from microscopic organisms millions of years ago. It turns out we now use up the equivalent of trillions upon trillions of those ancient organisms when we burn petroleum to get energy. Once again the program seemed to suggest that burning oil that formed millions of years ago somehow amounts to destroying trillions of organisms that are currently alive.

Hey, I can play that game too. Let me talk about how many zillion photons of light a solar panel steals from the sun every day. What’s more, those photons were generated just eight minutes earlier—the time it takes for light to travel from the sun to the earth—not millions of years ago like the trees and microscopic organisms that went into the making of coal and oil. If consuming the byproducts of entities that died millions of years in the past is bad, then for solar panels to consume photons born of the sun’s fiery womb just eight minutes earlier is downright solar infanticide.

I told you I could be just as disingenuous as the people on CBS Sunday Morning.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 22, 2022 at 4:32 AM

Two interesting clouds

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In southeast Austin on April 14th I photographed the oval cloud formation shown above.
Right afterwards I noticed the formation below that reminded me of a feather.

 

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White guilt has influenced many of America’s racial policies toward a paternalism that makes it difficult for blacks to find their true mettle or to develop a faith in their own capacity to run as fast as others. The most vivid examples of this are the many forms of preferential treatment that come under the heading of affirmative action—an escapist racial policy, I believe, that offers entitlements rather than development to blacks. A preference is not a training program; it teaches no skills, instills no values. It only makes a color a passport. But the worst aspect of racial preferences is that they encourage dependency on entitlements rather than on our own initiative, a situation that has already led many blacks to believe that we cannot have fairness without entitlements. Here one falls into Orwellian doublespeak, where preference means equality. At the heart of this confusion, I believe, is an unspoken black doubt about our ability to compete that is covered over by a preoccupation with racial discrimination. Since there are already laws to protect us against discrimination, preferences only impute a certain helplessness to blacks that diminishes our self-esteem. The self-preoccupied form of white guilt that is behind racial preferences always makes us lower so that we can be lifted up.

Recently Pennsylvania State University launched a program that pays black students for improving their grades—a C to C+ average brings $550, and anything higher brings $1,100. Here is the sort of guilty kindness that kills. What kind of self-respect is a black student going to have as he or she reaches out to take $550 for C work when many white students would be embarrassed by so average a performance? What better way to drive home the nail of inferiority? What more Pavlovian system of conditioning blacks to dependency than shelling out cash for grades? Here black students learn to hustle their victimization rather than overcome it, while their patrons escape with the cheapest sort of innocence. Not all preferential treatment is this insidious, but the same dynamic is always at work when skin color brings entitlement.

That’s from Shelby Steele‘s book The Content of Our Character, published in 1990. Elite white guilt, entitlements, and the claims of perpetual victimization have increased massively in the 32 years since then. During the same period, black students’ objective academic performance has on average remained abysmal. If you want to know how abysmal, check out my commentary from last September, which gives the statistics.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 20, 2022 at 4:30 PM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

First snails for 2022

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As you’ve seen here many a time, land snails are common in central Texas. This year I photographed my first pair of them in Luling on March 28. The soft congregation of vapors near the bottom of the picture pretended to be another snail but I wasn’t taken in: two’s company, three’s a cloud.

 

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Picasso went through his Blue Period and his Rose Period. Me, I went through my Infrared Period from 1976 through 1983. During those years I extensively used black and white film that could record light in wavelengths the unaided human eye can’t see. I even showed one of my vintage infrared nature photographs in a post here ten years ago. Now the cleverly satirical publication The Babylon Bee has come out with a story headlined “Pride Flag Switches To Infrared Spectrum After Running Out Of Visible Colors.”

MALIBU, CA—Organizers of the Transgender Day Of Visibility unveiled an updated pride flag this week at a ceremony in Malibu. After running out of colors in the visible light spectrum, the new pride flag features colors that are only visible with special infrared goggles. 

“Human beings are only capable of seeing around a million different colors with the naked eye,” said designer Wesley Arturio. “Obviously there’s, like, way more than a million different genders and sexual orientations, so we moved to the infrared spectrum, which is about 3,000 times wider than the visible light spectrum.”

You’re welcome to read the full story.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 7, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Posted in nature photography

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