Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘sunset

Racing against the sun

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Two months ago today we drove from Lost Maples to Kerrville. The route eventually runs alongside the Guadalupe River, and by the time we reached the town of Ingram the sun didn’t have much longer to stay above the trees. I hurried to take a few pictures by that last and very warm light. One was the abstraction above, showing the upper parts of sunlit sycamore trees (Platanus occidentalis) reflected in the river. The camera sensor’s weakness—its limited dynamic range compared to the human retina—worked in my favor by rendering details on the river bank very dark in comparison to the water and the reflections; processing pushed the dark to black. The more conventional scene below, no longer lit by direct light, features a bald cypress tree (Taxodium distichum) that had turned russet.

 

  

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“Have you heard? The world’s about to end.” Well, of course it isn’t. In a seven-minute video John Stossel highlights a bunch of cataclysmic predictions that failed to come true. And no, the predictions of doom didn’t come from leaders of religious cults—unless, of course, you recognize climate catastrophism for the secular religious cult that it is.

 

© 2023 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 27, 2023 at 4:34 AM

Finally first fall foliage

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Late in the afternoon on October 15th, hoping for a good sunset, we drove up to Sandia Crest, which at 10,679 ft. looms over Albuquerque to its southwest. As we climbed into high altitudes we began to see quaking aspen trees (Populus tremuloides) with their leaves turned yellow. Unfortunately those trees were in full shade, but even if they’d been better illuminated, the road didn’t offer safe places to pull over near them. Up we went to the top, and finally I found one aspen with sunlight on it. Whether the trees with yellow leaves that I could see lower down from that sunlit perch were also aspens, I don’t know.

 

  

We didn’t have to wait long for the sun to set:

 

   

Of the 27 posts so far showing scenes from our New Mexico trip, this is the first one dealing with a place we’d previously visited. The goal was to see new spots, and new spots aplenty did we see.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 22, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Waiting not for Godot but for sunset

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We’d found a good place for scoping out the Organ Mountains at sunrise and sunset: the eastern end of Paseo de Oñate in Las Cruces, New Mexico. On October 11th, after freshening up at our hotel following a busy day at White Sands National Park and the Aguirre Springs Recreation area, we headed over to the Paseo de Oñate a little before sunset and hoped for a great display. Unfortunately we didn’t get one, as you see above. Eventually some clouds turned pastel colors that were pleasant enough but not fantastic:

 

 

We walked back to the car and headed for our hotel. As we drove west along East Lohman Avenue, the clouds in front of us turned from pastel to fiery. I hastily pulled into the parking lot for some stores, scampered about for vantage points that would exclude or at least minimize buildings, poles, signs, and wires, and finally got my saturated New Mexico sunset.

 

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 27, 2022 at 4:32 AM

Lost Horizon not always lost

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When the day number was most recently twice the month number, I stationed myself late in the afternoon at a place with a good vista along Lost Horizon Drive in our Great Hills neighborhood and waited for what I hoped would be a colorful sundown. Most of the sky stayed clear, however, which doesn’t make for good sunsets, so I decided to use a long lens to get close looks at the layers of wispy clouds close to the horizon. Zooming in like that to magnify the relatively small band of colorful clouds gave the resulting photographs a lot more drama than a person standing there would have perceived in the scene as a whole; call it not poetic license but photographer’s license.

Thanks to the orientation of the horizon, sunset pictures are usually horizontal, so for variety I experimented with a few vertical takes like the one below that came four minutes after the one above. The second picture excludes the horizon and is therefore also more abstract.

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With regard to the current pandemic, an article from Our World in Data clears up the confusion that some or maybe even many people have about the risk of dying from Covid-19. The easy-to-follow article distinguishes between, and offers simple numerical examples of, three ways to estimate or determine that risk: the case fatality rate, the crude mortality rate, and the infection fatality rate. I wrote “estimate or determine” because only the infection fatality rate is the number we really want to determine. The case fatality rate (which is often reported in the media), like the crude mortality rate, likely misses the true value by a wide margin.

 

That website’s About page also offers the following insights:

 

To work towards a better future, we also need to understand how and why the world is changing.

The historical data and research shows that it is possible to change the world. Historical research shows that until a few generations ago around half of all newborns died as children. Since then the health of children has rapidly improved around the world and life expectancy has doubled in all regions. Progress is possible. 

In other important ways global living conditions have improved as well. While we believe this is one of the most important facts to know about the world we live in, it is known by surprisingly few. 

Instead, many believe that global living conditions are stagnating or getting worse and much of the news media’s reporting is doing little to challenge this perception. It is wrong to believe that one can understand the world by following the news alone and the media’s focus on single events and things that go wrong can mean that well-intentioned people who want to contribute to positive change become overwhelmed, hopeless, cynical and in the worst cases give up on their ideals. Much of our effort throughout these years has been dedicated to countering this threat.

Researching how it was possible to make progress against large problems in the past allows us to learn. Progress is possible, but it is not a given. If we want to know how to reduce suffering and tackle the world’s problems we should learn from what was successful in the past.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 8, 2021 at 4:38 AM

Dusk colors

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Hot off a colorful sunset in Driftwood on October 17th, the next evening I stationed myself
at a place with a pretty good view on Lost Horizon Dr. in my neighborhood and hoped for more. I got it.


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“You can resolve to live your life with integrity. Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me. The simple step of a courageous individual is not to take part in the lie. One word of truth outweighs the world.” — Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 13, 2021 at 4:30 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Driftwood sunset

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On October 17th we drove about 45 minutes southwest to Driftwood, in Hays County, to see for the first time the home and property our friends David and Jolyn bought and moved to last year.

Because their new home is up in the hills, it offers some scenic views of the nearby countryside. We took advantage of that by all sitting outside and watching day give way to night, as the sunset pictures in this post confirm. Metadata says I took the photographs at 6:58, 7:00, and 7:09, respectively.

If you compare the top two pictures, you’ll notice that the clouds in the first photograph are a small subset of those in the second. That’s because in the first picture I zoomed the lens to its maximum 105mm (and later cropped off strips across the top and bottom to make more of a panorama). For the middle photograph, I zoomed out to the lens’s widest setting, 24mm, to pull in a lot of higher clouds. Call me upwardly mobile for the final view: I aimed the camera mostly overhead, rather than outward as I had for the first two shots.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 26, 2021 at 4:27 AM

The golden hour

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Nature photographers use the term “the golden hour” to refer to the first hour after sunrise and the last before sunset, in both of which the low sun casts a warm light. It was in the latter of those golden hours on November 16th that I rounded a curve on Rain Creek Parkway and noticed a great egret (Ardea alba) in the creek that flows through the golf course there. I pulled over, put on a long lens, and got off just a couple of shots before the egret took flight. Not having time to focus properly, I took four more pictures in quick succession. The one shown here was the best of the lot because it kept the center of the bird in focus from its tail to its head.

And how about the light in that golden hour? The phrase reminds me now of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Children’s Hour”:

Between the dark and the daylight,
      When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
      That is known as the Children’s Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
      The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
      And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
      Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
      And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
      Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
      To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
      A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
      They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
      O’er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
      They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
      Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
      In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
      Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
      Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
      And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
      In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
      Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
      And moulder in dust away!

(Alice, Allegra, and Edith were the actual names of Longfellow’s daughters.)

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 8, 2020 at 4:33 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery

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Four years ago today we were heading down California’s Highway 1 in waning daylight when I saw a sign for the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery near San Simeon and drove in to check it out.

In chronological order, you’re seeing three of the pictures I took there. You may be surprised, as I am when I look back at these photographs now, that the first one came about 17 minutes before the second one, and the third followed the second by about 16 minutes. In other words, we got two differently colored sunsets a little over half an hour apart. Hail, metadata, as good an elucidator as a sunset! (Let that last line live on as an idiosyncratic quotation for you today.)

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 3, 2020 at 4:35 AM

New Zealand: our best sunset

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I believe the best sunset on our 2017 New Zealand trip was the one we watched in Napier on March 4th.
The first view is one of the few pictures I’ve ever shown here that includes the moon.

The fiery follow-up came just a minute and a half later, so I assume I aimed in a different direction.

©2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 4, 2020 at 4:38 AM

Sibonga sunsets

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As you heard a few posts back, on December 23rd last year I wanted to see what the sunset along Sibonga’s waterfront might look like. What put the idea in my head was that on December 15th we’d been at the town square not far from the shore and I’d taken a few sunset pictures on my iPhone, including this one:

Late in the afternoon on the 23rd we walked out to the tip of the pier that juts into the Cebu Strait. Here’s one of the first pictures I took of the developing sunset:

Twelve minutes later, the view east toward Bohol had turned a pleasant rosy blue:

And six minutes after that we saw a more orange view looking west, back toward the town:

Notice how shades of gray distinguish “layers” of hills.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 22, 2020 at 4:40 AM

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