Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘water

Small waterfall abstraction

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On May 25th I stood over a small waterfall in a tributary to Bull Creek, aimed straight down, and did abstract takes at slow shutter speeds like the one-quarter of a second that produced today’s portrait. Some people see flows of white hair. I see flows of the imagination.



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But supposing that the world has become “filled up,” so to speak, with liberal democracies, such that there exist no tyranny and oppression worthy of the name against which to struggle? Experience suggests that if men cannot struggle on behalf of a just cause because that just cause was victorious in an earlier generation, then they will struggle against the just cause. They will struggle for the sake of struggle. They will struggle, in other words, out of a certain boredom: for they cannot imagine living in a world without struggle. And if the greater part of the world in which they live is characterized by peaceful and prosperous liberal democracy, then they will struggle against that peace and prosperity, and against democracy.

That passage from Francis Fukuyama’s 2006 book The End of History and the Last Man was prescient, given the social upheaval we’ve seen in the past few years and especially since the moral panic of 2020. You may be interested in listening to a one-hour conversation between Francis Fukuyama and Andrew Sullivan from May 27th. Among other things, Fukuyama speaks about what he considers deformations of liberalism on both the political left and right.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 5, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Rain, rain lilies, rain

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Rain lilies (Zephyranthes drummondii) took their common name from the fact that they come up a few days after a decent rain. We got that rain on April 25th, and by the 28th I noticed plenty of buds in the area where I photographed lace cactus flowers that day. I returned on the 29th and found almost all the buds had become flowers. I went back again on the 30th to follow their progress. A little light rain had me going back and forth to my car for shelter twice, but then I got to photograph rain-covered rain lilies. The picture above shows a still-fresh flower; the rain lily below was already beginning its decline.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 2, 2022 at 4:21 AM

Sunlight at the base of a waterfall

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Look at how sunlight illuminated the splashing water at the base of a small
waterfall along the Twin Creeks Historic Park Trail in Cedar Park on March 12.


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On television a couple of days ago I heard someone quote Voltaire: “Anyone who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” I wondered whether Voltaire really said or wrote that, so I went searching. On the Cato Institute website I found a 2020 article by Walter Olson called “The Origins of a Warning from Voltaire,” which linked to this passage from Voltaire’s Questions About Miracles (1765):

Il y a eu des gens qui ont dit autrefois : Vous croyez des choses incompréhensibles, contradictoires, impossibles, parce que nous vous l’avons ordonné ; faites donc des choses injustes parce que nous vous l’ordonnons. Ces gens-là raisonnaient à merveille. Certainement qui est en droit de vous rendre absurde est en droit de vous rendre injuste. Si vous n’opposez point aux ordres de croire l’impossible l’intelligence que Dieu a mise dans votre esprit, vous ne devez point opposer aux ordres de malfaire la justice que Dieu a mise dans votre cœur. Une faculté de votre âme étant une fois tyrannisée, toutes les autres facultés doivent l’être également. Et c’est là ce qui a produit tous les crimes religieux dont la terre a été inondée.

Formerly there were people who said: “You believe things that are incomprehensible, contradictory, impossible, because we have commanded you to believe them; now go and do unjust things because we command you to.” Those people show admirable reasoning. Surely whoever can make you be absurd can make you be unjust. If the God‐​given understanding of your mind does not resist a demand to believe what is impossible, then you will not resist a demand to do wrong to the God‐​given sense of justice in your heart. As soon as one faculty of your soul has been tyrannized, all the other faculties will be tyrannized as well. And that’s what has produced all the crimes of religion which have overrun the world.

So the version I heard on television is a pithier, stronger version of the original. Voltaire was criticizing religion, presumably Christianity. Two and a half centuries later, we can apply his analysis to the secular “woke” religion of our time, in which people are demanding that we believe things as absurd as that men can give birth. More about that next time.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman



Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 25, 2022 at 4:35 AM

New Zealand: Cathedral Cove

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Five years ago today we found ourselves on New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula, on whose eastern side we visited Cathedral Cove. The place hosted plenty of tourists, whom you don’t see, and many birds, which you do. In the top photograph you can barely make them out on the central rock and the one a little farther away at its right; you have no such trouble in the second view.

 Four years ago I showed two other portraits of gulls from the Cathedral Cove excursion.


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You may have heard that Elon Musk, the world’s richest person, heeded Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky’s urgent request to maintain communications with the outside world by enabling the Starlink satellite system for Ukraine and sending ground receiving units there.

You probably know that Elon Musk is in charge of Tesla, which makes more all-electric vehicles than any other company in the world. It’s clear Elon Musk is producing all those cars as a way to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere, which in turn should slow global warming and its harmful effects on the world’s climate.

Depending on the news outlets you follow, however, you may not have heard what Elon Musk announced on March 5. As The Hill reported:

Tesla CEO Elon Musk urged the United States to increase its oil and gas production following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, despite the negative impact on his company.

“Hate to say it, but we need to increase oil & gas output immediately. Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures,” Musk tweeted on Friday.

“Obviously, this would negatively affect Tesla, but sustainable energy solutions simply cannot react instantaneously to make up for Russian oil & gas exports,” he added.

You’re welcome to read the full story, especially if this comes as news to you. [Update: yesterday Elon Musk also called for Europe to restart dormant nuclear power stations and increase power output of existing ones.] Musk’s stance on oil is in stark contrast to that of the current American administration, which wants to keep importing oil from Russia [update: that finally changed] and is negotiating to re-allow another dictatorship, Iran, to sell its oil on the open market—all while obstinately refusing to take any steps to increase oil production in the United States. You can find further details in a story by the Federalist. And news broke yesterday that the current administration is negotiating with yet another dictatorship, the one in Venezuela, to start buying oil again.

As I pointed out in a commentary on February 12, no matter where oil comes from, the burning of it and its derivatives sends the same amount of carbon into the atmosphere.* As a result, we should get as much oil as possible from our own country, or from a friendly nation like Canada. What we should not be doing is giving in to the current administration’s obsession—because that’s what it is—of getting oil from hostile and unfree countries like Russia and Iran and Venezuela. If reducing the warming power of carbon in the atmosphere is important, so is reducing the power of dictatorships to keep oppressing their own people, and in the case of Russia other people as well.

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* Actually I was wrong, but the correction makes for an even stronger argument to use our own oil. As The Federalist reported on March 5th: “According to the International Energy Agency’s global methane tracker, Russia was the world’s leading producer of methane emissions last year with its oil and gas operations producing 30 percent more per unit of production than the United States. Iranian producers emitted 85 percent more methane per unit of production when compared to U.S. operators.” The reason that’s so bad is that methane contributes to global warming at a much higher rate than an equal weight of carbon dioxide.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 7, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Yet more from Colorado Bend State Park

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Here’s a last installment from Colorado Bend State Park on February 9th. The first post you saw from there showed separate views of the pool with green water and the orange-brown rocks in Spicewood Springs Creek. Today’s top photograph combines those features and throws in stark shadows for good measure. The picture below shows that I played around with abstractions. Hardly a surprise.

 What did come as a surprise was a little ice surviving at the base of a tree a few paces away.


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Michael Shellenberger’s timely article in Bari Weiss’s Common Sense on March 1st bears the title “The West’s Green Delusions Empowered Putin,” and the subtitle reads “While we banned plastic straws, Russia drilled and doubled nuclear energy production.” The article explains how Russia ended up in such a strong position and Europe in such a weak one.

How is it possible that European countries, Germany especially, allowed themselves to become so dependent on an authoritarian country over the 30 years since the end of the Cold War? 

Here’s how: These countries are in the grips of a delusional ideology that makes them incapable of understanding the hard realities of energy production. Green ideology insists we don’t need nuclear and that we don’t need fracking. It insists that it’s just a matter of will and money to switch to all-renewables—and fast. It insists that we need “degrowth” of the economy, and that we face looming human “extinction.” (I would know. I myself was once a true believer.)

Michael Shellenberger’s article is short yet provides all the figures needed to justify his claims. Have a look.

 © 2022 Steven Schwartzman











Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 4, 2022 at 4:36 AM

New Zealand: Matakatia Bay

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Seven years ago today, on the last afternoon of our first fabulous trip to New Zealand,
I took pictures from the Matakatia Bay side of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula a little north of Auckland.

From that vantage point I photographed the coastal bluff shown in the top picture, the seastack
known as Kotanui or Frenchman’s Cap* shown in the middle picture, and Rangitoto Island.

* Due to persistent supply chain problems, New Zealand has had a chronic shortage of apostrophes in proper names. I’ve graciously supplied the apostrophe that was lacking.


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For some years now I’ve been calling for a United Nations 2.0. Reasons for jettisoning the old organization include those that I gave in my December 31 commentary: “Starting on January 1, 2022, a staggering 68.1% of the UN Human Rights Council will be dictators and other serial human rights abusers. Despite UN Watch’s detailed report on their gross abuses, Qatar, Cameroon, Eritrea, Kazakhstan and Somalia were all elected in October to the UN’s top human rights body, joining China, Cuba, Russia, Libya, Pakistan and Venezuela.” And “in an April 2021 secret ballot, the UN’s Economic and Social Council elected Iran’s gender apartheid regime to a 4-year term on its Commission on the Status of Women, the ‘principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.’” The article that detailed those abuses included seven others.

Now comes the Russian dictator’s invasion of Ukraine. The current United Nations was unable to do anything about it before or after—didn’t really even seem interested in trying. That ought to be impetus enough for the creation of a new United Nations that no despotic countries will be allowed to join.

At the same time, all civilized nations should expel every Russian diplomat and no longer allow any flights or ships from Russia to land in their countries.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 26, 2022 at 4:40 AM

A new part of Walnut Creek

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Austin’s Walnut Creek meanders from northwest to southeast for 20 miles before emptying into the Colorado River. On February 19th we walked along a new (to us) portion of the creek adjacent to the western branch of the Copperfield Nature Trail. The flow of water over bedrock beguiled some abstract pictures out of me. Patterns just a few feet apart differ substantially.


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My commentary from February 12th about oil and gas became all the more relevant this week when the dictator of Russia sent armies into Ukraine to take over that country. The American president, in collaboration with European countries, imposed economic sanctions that will effectively do nothing. That’s because dictators easily outlast financial sanctions; look how many decades the dictators in Cuba and Iran and North Korea have survived in spite of sanctions.

One effective measure that the United States and Europe could have taken was to cut Russia off from the world’s SWIFT system, which lets countries interchange money with one another. The Europeans wouldn’t go along with that move because they’re so heavily dependent on Russia for oil and gas, which Russia would stop selling to them in retaliation for getting cut off from SWIFT. The United States could supply Europe with oil and gas—except that the current American administration has done everything it could since its very first day in office to strangle our country’s oil and gas production, including canceling the Keystone XL pipeline that would have brought in oil from Canada. In 2020 we were energy-independent; just a year later we weren’t. In the 14 months since the current régime took over, gasoline here has risen to its highest price in years, and some analysts are predicting that the war in Ukraine and its aftermath will drive prices even higher.

In Biden’s address to the world yesterday he could have announced the equivalent of an Operation Warp Spreed to ramp up American oil and gas production as fast as possible so that we could soon supply Europe with any sources of energy that Russia might refuse them. But we heard not a peep about any such measure. The people who comprise the most “woke” administration in American history won’t hear of it. Thus dogma doth make cowards of them all.

The guests on the Megyn Kelly show yesterday made similar points and added others.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 25, 2022 at 4:00 AM

Right side up or upside down? You decide.

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There’s a story—maybe true, maybe not—that after General Cornwallis surrendered to the Americans at Yorktown in 1781, the British band played the song “The World Turned Upside Down.” That’s a good lead-in to today’s picture from Southeast Metropolitan Park on February 11th. While I was processing the photograph of the choppy water (thanks, breeze), the thought came to me that a person viewing the picture would be hard-pressed to decide if it’s right side up or upside down. With that it mind, I’ve presented it both ways. Take a minute and see if you can you tell which one matches reality and which one has been rotated 180°.

This prompts the linguist in me to ask two other questions. Why does English fuse the up and the side in upside down but keep the right separate from the side in right side up (or hyphenate it)? And why does English normally say upside down rather than the synonymous downside up? Google’s Ngram viewer shows that in 2018 upside down occurred about 1500 times as often as downside up.

Do you think you’ve figured out which version of the photograph is the correct one? To find out, scroll on down. Let me know if you got it right or wrong.

Call the picture at the top topsy turvy. The second version of the photograph is the one that is true.

And now I’ve reminded myself of the great comedic routine
in which the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 23, 2022 at 4:32 AM

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Reflection as indirection for abstraction

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A recent post presented pictures of sycamore trees (Platanus occidentalis) with white bark. In the first of those views I’d aimed at a conspicuous part of my subject and zoomed in tightly to heighten the abstraction. Another way to go for abstraction is to look at a subject indirectly, and probably the most common way to do that is via a reflection. Here are two examples from January 22 of that approach to white-branched sycamores along Brushy Creek just west of the round rock in the creek that gave Round Rock its name.


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Do you think citizens have a right to know what their government’s employees have done? I do, and I hope you agree. The Capitol Police Department’s leaders disagree. They don’t want to make public the following things:

  • Email communications between the U.S. Capitol Police Executive Team and the Capitol Police Board concerning the security of the Capitol on January 6, 2021. The timeframe of this request is from January 1, 2021 through January 10, 2021.
  • Email communications of the Capitol Police Board with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security concerning the security of the Capitol on January 6, 2021. The timeframe of this request is from January 1, 2021through January 10, 2021.
  • All video footage from within the Capitol between 12 pm and 9 pm on January 6, 2021.

The organization Judicial Watch is suing to get that information. Good for them. We the people have a right to know what our government does. The fact that the government is fighting to keep that information away from its citizens can only fuel suspicions that the government was derelict in its planning for that day, or worse, did something unethical or nefarious.

 © 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 16, 2022 at 4:37 AM

The dripping

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One difficulty in taking pictures at Bull Creek District Park on February 5th was the rain of seepwater and meltwater coming down from parts of the overhang. Some places where I wanted to stand were therefore off limits, and even some places where I stood didn’t fully stop splashes from getting on the glass in front of my lens, which I had to wipe with a handkerchief from time to time.

If dripping caused problems, it also made for some good pictures.



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I think it was last year, though it could have been 2020, when I mentioned that incidents of ideologically motivated repression, canceling, firing, disparate treatment, intimidation, and the like have become so common that I could report a new one every single day. I haven’t done that—it’s a depressingly sad commentary on how far supposedly free countries have fallen—but I have reported some prominent cases. Here’s one from a few days ago.

Thousands of Canadian truck drivers—known as the Freedom Convoy—have been protesting Covid-19 restrictions. The truckers have repeatedly said they intend their protests to remain peaceful. Supporters started a fundraiser for the truckers on the website GoFundMe, which is probably the largest and best-known such site. On February 4, GoFundMe “froze the convoy’s official campaign, claiming law enforcement convinced the company that the convoy had become violent and unlawful. GoFundMe encouraged donors to submit a refund form….” Now, GoFundMe has the electronic trail of every donation, and the company could have issued an automatic refund to all the donors without forcing each one to apply separately to get their money back. What’s worse, GoFundMe also announced “that any funds not properly returned to donors” would be donated elsewhere. Some news sources said the redirecting of funds would be to “credible and established charities verified by GoFundMe,” while other sources said the redirecting would be ”to a charity chosen by the Freedom Convoy.” The first of those is worse than the second, but either way, GoFundMe would divert money to organizations the donors did not intend or authorize.

After donors objected, and after the state of Florida threatened to investigate GoFundMe for fraud, GoFundMe reversed itself and said it would issue refunds automatically—which of course it could have done from the outset, but questionably chose not to do.

And then there’s the hypocrisy. You’ll recall the riots, arson, looting, destruction (at least $2 billion worth), and even killings that came from Black Lives Matter “protests” month after month in 2020. In spite of the violence and death, GoFundMe allowed fundraisers for Black Lives Matter to continue. Talk about double standards.

After GoFundMe’s cancellation, supporters of the Freedom Convoy moved their fundraiser to the Christian site GiveSendGo, which soon reported what it believed to be denial-of-service and bot attacks. That’s the kind of world we’re living in.

And let me add that while protesting government policies is a right, I don’t think the truckers in Canada or anywhere else should block roads. There’s plenty of room to protest without impeding the flow of traffic and inconveniencing people.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 9, 2022 at 4:32 AM

Posted in nature photography

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