Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘Texas Hill Country

Pointillism in red

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The manifold fruits made manifest in Texas by the dropping of the leaves on the possumhaw trees (Ilex decidua) toward the end of fall are a pointillist pleasure. I’ve usually waited till January each year to go out scouting for fruit along what I’ve nicknamed the Possumhaw Trail, the stretch of TX 29 between Liberty Hill and Burnet. With others’ reports and my own observations of good fruit already by late November of 2018, we did the drive on December 15th. The densest specimen we found was the one shown here a little west of Bertram. Note that while some leaves remained on the tree, they were turning pale and wouldn’t linger.

Photographically speaking, this picture exemplifies point 15 in About My Techniques.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 3, 2019 at 4:44 AM

Cardinal flower: a cluttered view and one that’s less so

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On the pleasant afternoon of November 1st we traipsed along the boardwalk around one side of the pond at River Place. I was surprised when I looked down over the railing and saw bright red atop a lone cardinal flower plant (Lobelia cardinalis). In photographing plants I rarely aim straight down because that’s the most likely way to end up with lots of clutter in a picture, as you see here in the photo I took with my 24–105mm lens zoomed to its maximum focal length:

Normally I reduce background clutter in a wildflower portrait by getting close and aiming horizontally, or by getting low and aiming upward. In this case the plant was growing in shallow water, in addition to which the railing and the raised boardwalk prevented me from getting close to the cardinal flower. What to do? I switched to my 100–400mm lens, zoomed it to its maximum, leaned as far as I could over the railing, and then even stretched my arms out so my eye was no longer at the camera’s viewfinder. Guessing at framing my subject and relying on the camera’s autofocus, I ended up with this portrait:

The cardinal flower ranges across an enormous territory from Mexico to Canada, including California through Maine in the United States, as you can verify on a map. You’ve got to hand it to a plant that tolerates the winters in Quebec as well as the summers in Nevada. That last location strikes me as especially surprising, given that this species has to grow near water.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 21, 2018 at 4:55 PM

Ways of flowing

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On October 22nd, right by where Bull Creek crosses under Old Spicewood Springs Rd. at flood gauge #6, I experimented with pictures of the patterns the current was making as it flowed over rocks. Below are two adjacent frames of the same place showing you what a difference 61/375 of a second makes.

That unfamiliar fraction—yes, I’ve taken the liberty of assuming you’ve never seen it before—is the difference between the 1/6 of a second at which I made the first version and the 1/250 of a second at which I made the other one. If you have a preference, here’s your chance to speak up and say why you favor the version you do.

Speaking of ways of flowing, not far south of that creek crossing some rain-emboldened water made its way down an embankment on the east side of Spicewood Springs Rd. I recorded it at 1/400 of a second:

And here for comparison is a horizontal take from a little farther left at 1/5 of a second:

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 31, 2018 at 4:44 AM

Blackfoot daisies, one and many

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Way back on March 31st I made a portrait of a blackfoot daisy flower head, Melampodium leucanthum, along Yaupon Dr. in my extended neighborhood. Then on April 17th I photographed a colony of flowering blackfoot daisies beneath the power lines west of Morado Circle.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 11, 2018 at 4:44 AM

Yuccas flowering up high

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To allow FM 1431 to cross the Colorado River just south of Kingsland in the Texas Hill Country, engineers had to cut the roadbed through the flank of a steep hill. The result was an even steeper cliff, and it was at the interface between that cliff and the untouched hillside above it that these yuccas were flowering on April 4th. Sources show three species of yucca in that county. I’m leaning toward Yucca torreyi; Yucca pallida and Yucca constricta are the other possibilities.

Note the pads of prickly pear cactus (Opuntia spp.) that are such a common sight in Texas. Here’s a closer look at both kinds of plants:

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 9, 2018 at 4:50 AM

A multitude of white

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On March 30th in a meadow underlain with limestone I found a dense colony of flowering Valerianella amarella, known by the strange common name of corn salad. By comparing the size of the prickly pear cactus pads, you can see that corn salad flowers are small. In fact they’re even smaller than you might think, because each dab of white in the picture above is actually a cluster of little flowers. Here’s a closeup of one cluster:

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 6, 2017 at 4:55 AM

Dense snow

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At the risk of snowing you under, here for the third post in a row is a view of snow-on-the-mountain, Euphorbia marginata. Again from September 29th along TX 46 in Comal County, this view emphasizes the chaos of details when plants farther back are seen through the spaces in the closer plants. Notice also the complementary red in all those stalks.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 22, 2016 at 5:19 AM

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