Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘water

Dewdrop-bedecked spiderweb

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Raindrops on roses, dewdrops on spiderwebs. Clichés though they be, what veteran photographer hasn’t had a crack at one or both? On the misty morning of December 14th at Brushy Creek Park in the town of Cedar Park I spied a dewdrop-bedecked spiderweb in an inaccessible place and partly blocked by branches from most vantage points. I tried out different positions and did what I could with my telephoto lens zoomed to its maximum 400mm focal length.

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Back on August 28th last year I wrote a commentary called “FOLLOW THE SCIENCE!”. I reported on a large Israeli study showing that the protection against Covid-19 afforded by so-called natural immunity (i.e from having caught the disease and recovered) was stronger than the protection provided by getting two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech anti-Covid vaccine. I also pointed out that our government was ignoring the strong result of that study by refusing to recognize natural immunity as sufficient to allow people access to places that require proof of vaccination.

Now here we are five months later and jurisdictions in the United States are still refusing to recognize natural immunity as at least equal to vaccination. In other words, they’re still refusing to follow the science. Let’s hope that’s finally about to change. On January 19th Reuters ran an article headlined “Prior COVID infection more protective than vaccination during Delta surge -U.S. study.” Here’s the article’s first paragraph: “People who had previously been infected with COVID-19 were better protected against the Delta variant than those who were vaccinated alone, suggesting that natural immunity was a more potent shield than vaccines against that variant, California and New York health officials reported on Wednesday.” Now, it’s true that studies have shown that people with natural immunity who’ve also gotten vaccinated have the best protection of all, but there’s no reason for an institution or jurisdiction that accepts proof of Covid-19 vaccination not to also accept proof of natural immunity. That’s what the science requires.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

  

  

  

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 21, 2022 at 4:32 AM

We welcomed winter

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We welcomed the first day of winter, December 21, by hiking along Panther Hollow Trail and Little Fern Trail at River Place. One stretch of Little Fern Creek widens into a natural pool, at the bottom of which sits a rounded basin in the bedrock that’s visible through the water. An adjacent sign says that people have assigned the name Story Hole to this area. What intrigued me there were the ripples on the creek, and I made an abstract portrait of them. In the center of the photograph you may be able to make out the rounded contours of the darker area that corresponds to the basin in the bedrock. The way the ripples created visual cells reminds me, albeit with different colors, of the way Gustav Klimt portrayed Adele Bloch-Bauer during his “gold period.”

I experimented with flash for some of my pictures. Unfortunately, for my purposes, that extra light revealed too many unwanted details of the bedrock and sediment and therefore detracted from the abstraction I was after. In the interest of geology rather than aesthetics, if you’d like a view that’s closer to what the scene “really” looked like, you can have it.

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Critical Race Trove From California District Tells Students How To Use Witchcraft On People Who Say ‘All Lives Matter.’ That’s the hard-to-believe-it’s-true-but-it really-is-true headline of an article discussing the many ways one California school district promotes the tenets of what’s been called “critical race theory” and “wokeism.” Proponents of that ideology often deny that schools are pushing it, but evidence speaks louder than sophist denials. The article includes links to many documents confirming educationists’ racialized orientation.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 30, 2021 at 4:35 AM

Palmetto State Park revisited

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After this January’s little freeze but before February’s horrendous freeze and snow and ice, we drove 65 miles south to Palmetto State Park, as you saw in posts from early this year. On a sunny and mild November 23rd we revisited the park for the first time since then. The palmettos (Sabal minor) looked pretty good, don’t you think? Where the top picture sets the scene and provides context, the closer view below leans into abstraction and follows a more-is-more aesthetic.

Back to nature: apparently the great February freeze hadn’t seriously hurt the palmettos. It’s normal for there to be some tan and brown fronds as old leaves die and new ones emerge. Such is the great chain of being.

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What follows is a bit long. I hope you’ll read at least the second part.

Last week we heard that a new Covid-19 variant is spreading. All the variants of the virus so far have been named with consecutive letters of the Greek alphabet. The most serious and now dominant variant is Delta, which is the 4th letter in the Greek alphabet. The latest variant is Omicron, the 15th letter in the Greek alphabet. English speakers are not nearly as familiar with the letter omicron as with the letter delta, which our language has borrowed as the name for the area where a river widens out and deposits sediment as it flows into the sea. Americans also recognize Delta Airlines, named for the delta of the Mississippi River.

Because people are less familiar with omicron, they aren’t always sure how to pronounce it. If you’ve listened to the news for any length of time over the past week, you’ve probably heard some people pronounce the first syllable ah, while others say oh. English dictionaries accept both (but certainly not the omnicron that some people have mangled the word to). I’ve always pronounced the first syllable oh because omicron is the Greek letter that Latin and then English borrowed as our letter o.

Omicron is more than the name of a Greek letter, it’s a description of the sound the letter originally represented. Omicron is o micron, literally ‘little o’ (think about microscope and microprocessor). Greek has another letter that’s also pronounced o; it’s omega, meaning ‘big o’ (think of megaphone and megachurch). Those descriptions correspond to the fact that Greeks in ancient times held the o sound of omicron for a shorter time than the o sound of omega, which was what linguists call a long vowel. From what I’ve read, Greek lost the pronunciation distinction between little o and big o a long time ago.

Omega (written 𝛀 as a capital and 𝛚 in lower case) is the 24th and last letter of the Greek alphabet (hence the alpha and omega, the first and last, of Christianity). How Covid-19 variants will get named after the 24th one, I don’t know. I’ve joked that maybe we’ll switch to Chinese ideograms, of which there are thousands.

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Yesterday American authorities announced the first detected case of the Omicron Covid-19 variant in the United States. That caused something of a panic in certain quarters and has added one more consideration to ongoing discussions of pandemic travel restrictions. At a news conference yesterday, reporter Peter Doocy posed a couple of questions to White House Coronavirus Response Team member Dr. Anthony Fauci: “You advised the president about the possibility of new testing requirements for people coming into this country. Does that include everybody?” Dr. Fauci replied: “The answer is yes.” Peter Doocy followed up by asking: “What about people who don’t take a plane, and just these border crossers coming in in huge numbers?” Dr. Fauci’s response was “That’s a different issue.”

It shouldn’t be a different issue—at least not if you believe in science. In case you didn’t catch what an evasion Dr. Fauci’s answer was, and how illogical and hypocritical, I’ll be happy to explain. The Centers for Disease Control hosts a What You Need to Know page for international airplane travel:

  • If you plan to travel internationally, you will need to get a COVID-19 viral test (regardless of vaccination status) before you travel by air into the United States. You must show your negative result to the airline before you board your flight.
    • Fully vaccinated: The viral test must be conducted on a sample taken no more than 3 days before the flight’s departure from a foreign country if you show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
    • Not fully vaccinated: The viral test must be conducted on a sample taken no more than 1 day before the flight’s departure from a foreign country if you do not show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • If you recently recovered from COVID-19, you may instead travel with documentation of recovery from COVID-19 (i.e., your positive COVID-19 viral test result on a sample taken no more than 90 days before the flight’s departure from a foreign country and a letter from a licensed healthcare provider or a public health official stating that you were cleared to travel).

At the same time, people illegally coming across the American border from Mexico do not have to show proof of full or even partial Covid-19 vaccination. Unless they’re exhibiting obvious respiratory distress, they don’t even need to be tested for the virus. The current administration has let hundreds of thousands of illegal border-crossers with unknown vaccine status and unknown infection status continue on into our country since January, and in many cases the administration has even paid for their bus and plane tickets into the interior of our country. In sum, unvaccinated and untested non-citizens coming into our country illegally during a pandemic don’t have to follow the health and safety requirements that the American government imposes on its own citizens. That’s lawless. That’s hypocritical. And of course with regard to controlling a pandemic, it’s anti-science.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 2, 2021 at 4:29 AM

No poverty of approaches

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As October advanced I noticed more and more poverty weed bushes (Baccharis neglecta) putting out their many little white flowers. The typical visual effect is shown above in a view from alongside Bull Creek on October 14th. Notice the characteristic herringbone pattern of the branches at the right. Overnight rain had left the bushes wet, and I took advantage of that to do closeups of sodden poverty weed flowers.

As different as the last two photographs look, I took both of them at f/22 using flash. In the bottom view I aimed upward toward the cloudy-bright sky; in the middle photograph I aimed sideways.



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“For the contemporary reader, much of English literature can induce a kind of moral peanut allergy.” That’s one zinger from Michael Lewis’s article in the November 2021 issue of Commentary, “Wokeness and the English Language,” which I recommend.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 29, 2021 at 4:37 AM

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Another fountain

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A year ago today I was driving on Lake Victor Drive in the rapidly grown and still growing Austin suburb of Pflugerville when I noticed a path between houses that seemed to lead somewhere interesting. After parking, I walked through and found myself at a new place: a large pond apparently connected to an apartment complex. The immediate shore all the way around had been heavily mowed and looked like it was always kept that way. Even so, I still found some plants and non-plants to photograph. In the latter category was a fountain of the type that shoots water straight up into the air. The top picture reveals the top of the jet at 1/2000 of a second. Below is a view at 1/1250 of a second showing how sunlight created a rainbow in the water that was mistified* as it fell back into the pond.

* In case you’re mystified by mistified, I’ll add that I created it on the pattern of words like liquified and solidified. Following that pattern, mistified means ‘turned into mist.’


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Alexis de Tocqueville, a Frenchman who came to the United States in 1831 and ended up writing the classic book Democracy in America, had extraordinary insights into the spirit of the young country. Here’s an example:

What good does it do me, after all, if an ever-watchful authority keeps an eye out to ensure that my pleasures will be tranquil and races ahead of me to ward off all danger, sparing me the need even to think about such things, if that authority, even as it removes the smallest thorns from my path, is also absolute master of my liberty and my life; if it monopolizes vitality and existence to such a degree that when it languishes, everything around it must also languish; when it sleeps, everything must also sleep; and when it dies, everything must also perish?

That strikes me as even more relevant in 2021 than it was in 1831.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 19, 2021 at 4:40 AM

Widow’s tears revisited

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On July 19th I got an e-mail from Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine with the photographic want list for their October issue. In the “Flora Fact” category, the species for that month will be Commelina erecta, the dayflower, which you saw here on June 27th. I’d also shown a few dayflower pictures here years ago, so I quickly searched back through old posts to see if any of those earlier portraits might be suitable to submit to the magazine. The first old dayflower photograph I found was from a post in 2012, and in it I noticed that I’d taken the picture nine years earlier to the day. Ah, coincidences.

Next I delved into my archive to see what other photographs I might have taken during that outing near Lake Travis. Turns out I took plenty, only a very few of which I’d processed. Of course some weren’t worth processing, but others were. As a result, today’s picture is a never-before-seen one from July 19, 2012. It shows why one vernacular name for the species is widow’s tears. Clear liquid collects in a keel-shaped part of the inflorescence called a spathe (from the Greek spathē that meant ‘broad blade,’ and that has also given English the kind of spade in a deck of playing cards, and has given Spanish its word for ‘a sword,’ espada). People noticed that if you gently squeeze the sides of a dayflower’s spathe, drops of the clear liquid inside emerge from the tip of the structure. Here I managed to record one such drop in the split-second when it was breaking loose from the tip of the spathe. Notice how the drop acted as a lens that focused an upside-down image of nearby trees.


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Two days ago Robert Contee, Police Chief for Washington, D.C., gave an impromptu press conference in which he expressed his frustration with the courts there for coddling violent criminals. Failure to keep those predators in jail lets many of them go on to commit more crimes, even as earlier cases against them are still pending. You can read more about the press conference by Chief Contee, who grew up in the District and who is black, in a Federalist article. Within that article is a 7.5-minute video clip from the press conference, which I recommend you watch, in which Chief Contee speaks about “the brazenness of the criminals…. We have a vicious cycle of bad actors who do things with no accountability, and they end up back in [the] community… [T]he way that we’re going and the things that we’re trying to do, we want to help people, yes we should. But you cannot coddle violent criminals, you cannot. You cannot treat violent criminals who are out here making communities unsafe for you, for your loved ones, for me, for my loved ones. They might not want a job, they might not, they might not need services. What they may require is to be off of our streets because they’re making it unsafe for us. And if that’s what it requires, then that’s what it requires. And we have to own that. We have to own it, because if not, we see more of this.”

I happened to catch most of Chief Contee’s impassioned press conference live. At one point it occurred to me to check CNN and MSNBC to see if they were carrying it. They weren’t.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 25, 2021 at 4:41 AM

Waterfall Wednesday #6

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Looks like ice formations, don’t you think?
Yet it was water coming over Stone Bridge Falls in Bull Creek on June 5th.
A shutter speed of 1/3200 effected the transformation.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 14, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Valley Spring Creek Waterfall

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Another water feature we visited for the first time at Inks Lake State Park on our May 6th visit was the Valley Spring Creek Waterfall. The view below, which looks about 90° left from the angle of the view above, shows some of the rock formations and pools adjacent to and downstream from the waterfall.

The other day I became aware of a horrible proposal being put forth by the current government of my country. The proposal calls for spending large amounts of public money to impose racism in America’s schools. You read that right: racism, which is the treating of people differently depending on their ethnic heritage and the color of their skin. You can read about the proposal in a brief summary prepared by the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism.

I encourage those of you who are American citizens to go to the U.S. government website that is accepting comments on the proposal and to speak out forcefully against it. The May 17th deadline for comments is almost here, so you’ll need to act quickly.

Here’s what I wrote in my dissent:

“I am against this proposal with all my heart, mind, and soul. The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution requires equal treatment of all citizens. Yet the government’s proposal calls for treating different categories of citizens differently. That violates the 14th Amendment and is therefore illegal. Officials in our government have sworn an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, not to fly in the face of it. If the government insists on flouting the United States Constitution, the Supreme Court will rule the move unconstitutional and will strike it down. This racist and unconstitutional proposal should be immediately withdrawn.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 15, 2021 at 2:32 AM

Devil’s Waterhole

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There’s nothing diabolical about the Devil’s Waterhole at Inks Lake State Park. Though we’d been to the park several times in recent years, we’d never wandered all the way down to this end until we visited on May 6th. The first picture is a closer and more abstract take (you know me with abstractions), while the second photograph retroactively sets the scene.

Among things diabolical I include the alarming rise in my country of freedom-hating zealots on the rampage to “cancel” and “deplatform” anyone who has different ideas from them. I’d remind those historyphobes—but of course they’d refuse to listen—how quickly things devolved in the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Fascist regimes in Germany and Italy, China’s [anti-]Cultural Revolution, the insanity of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the dictatorship of the Kim dynasty in North Korea, and other disastrous ideological regimes. As George Santayana warned in the first decade of the 20th century, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Good people have to speak and act now, before it’s too late.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 13, 2021 at 4:40 AM

Texture, reflection, abstraction

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Onion Creek in McKinney Falls State Park; March 15, 2021.

And here’s an unrelated observation from Sense and Sensibility (1811): “…When people are determined on a mode of conduct which they know to be wrong, they feel injured by the expectation of any thing better from them.” Throughout the novel, Jane Austen’s comments about many of her characters are trenchant, acerbic, cynical, sardonic. Those observations are unfortunately lost in movie versions of the novel. Perhaps someday a director will make a version with voice-overs to preserve the author’s commentary. Here’s another passage:

“On ascending the stairs, the Miss Dashwoods found so many people before them in the room [at a store], that there was not a person at liberty to tend to their orders; and they were obliged to wait. All that could be done was, to sit down at that end of the counter which seemed to promise the quickest succession; one gentleman only was standing there, and it is probable that Elinor was not without hope of exciting his politeness to a quicker despatch. But the correctness of his eye, and the delicacy of his taste, proved to be beyond his politeness. He was giving orders for a toothpick-case for himself, and till its size, shape, and ornaments were determined, all of which, after examining and debating for a quarter of an hour over every toothpick-case in the shop, were finally arranged by his own inventive fancy, he had no leisure to bestow any other attention on the two ladies, than what was comprised in three or four very broad stares; a kind of notice which served to imprint on Elinor the remembrance of a person and face, of strong, natural, sterling insignificance, though adorned in the first style of fashion.”

How about “sterling insignificance” as a zinger?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 22, 2021 at 4:40 AM

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