Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘wildflowers

Turnabout is fair play

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On June 23rd I took pictures, for only the second time ever, at the end of Vaught Ranch Rd. Not surprisingly, I saw mostly the same species of wildflowers there as I had the year before. The two shown in today’s post are Lygodesmia texana, known as the Texas the skeleton plant, and Wedelia acapulcensis var. hispida, called zexmenia (or as many a local botanist or native plant person likes to joke, sex mania). They say that turnabout is fair play, so you get to see each flower head as both subject and background glow. Notice that zexmenia has more orange in its flowers than most of the other DYCs (darn yellow composites) in central Texas.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 14, 2020 at 4:43 AM

Germander, not gerrymander

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The first time this season that I saw a good colony of flowering American germander (Teucrium canadense) was way back on May 26th in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183, not long before some menacing lenticular clouds put an end to my picture-taking for the morning. The yellow-flowering colony bordering the germander there that day was a Coreopsis species. On July 2nd I found another American germander colony still going pretty strong along Fireoak Dr. in my neighborhood. Several of the flower stalks in that colony had a penchant for curving, like the one shown below. Notice how many buds were yet to open.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 13, 2020 at 4:40 AM

The picture is the right way

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You might think I mistakenly rotated this picture 90° counterclockwise from its actual orientation. I didn’t. Zeltnera beyrichii is commonly called mountain pink, and although there are no real mountains in central Texas, the 19th-century Anglo settlers in this region called the hills mountains, which they might as well been, given the obstacles to movement they created in a land without many roads. More to the point, mountains are made of stone, and mountain pinks do often seem to emerge right out of solid rock. On July 6th I came across several of these plants growing horizontally out of the vertical face of a limestone ledge (the grey at the right) on Fireoak Dr. in my “mountainous” northwest part of Austin.

Over the years I’ve often I’ve used a small aperture and aimed more directly into a bunch of dense mountain pink flowers and buds to create a “more is more” sort of picture that plays up all the complexity of the inflorescence; this time I went for a softer approach by shooting from the side with a wider aperture.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 12, 2020 at 4:43 AM

Two more takes on Mexican hats

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In 2020 I’ve made more portraits of Mexican hats (Ratibida columnifera) than in any previous year. In this vertical pair you can sense the different mood created by light clouds versus dark ones. I took the pictures in Great Hills Park on June 2nd, in both cases concentrating on flower heads with long brown central columns. The first view keeps reminding me of colorful hot air balloons over Albuquerque, New Mexico. Fortunately I didn’t even have to leave my neighborhood to see Mexican hats put on a show.

This post could serve as an add-on to the one called Hello Yellow that appeared in New Zealand earlier today.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 5, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Firewheel seed head on a sinuous stalk

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Today’s portrait of a firewheel seed head (Gaillardia pulchella) comes from June 17th near the northeast corner of Mopac and Braker Lane. If you count the color on the curiously bent and re-bent stalk as red, then the picture provides the requisite red, white, and blue that have come to symbolize Independence Day in the United States, those being the three colors of the American flag. The firewheel’s sinuous stem when viewed sideways, whether left or right, conveniently traces out the first letter in both names of the photographer, whose birthday has never failed to coincide with the national holiday.

Perhaps because of that coincidence in dates, and certainly because of my nature, I’ve always felt a connection to the founding period in this country’s history. The story goes that when the delegates to the Constitutional Convention finally emerged from their Philadelphia meeting room in 1787, a woman stopped Benjamin Franklin and asked him what form of government they’d given the country. His famous two-part reply, first factual and then oracular, was: “A republic, if you can keep it.” Now here we are 233 years later, and recent events make it seem more and more likely we won’t be able to keep it. I hope we can.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 4, 2020 at 4:40 AM

Cowpen daisy buds and flowers

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For whatever reason, I rarely come across cowpen daisies (Verbesina encelioides) except in a few places, all of which conveniently happen to be near each other in my own neighborhood. On June 6th (D-for-Daisy Day) I was coming home “the back way” on Rain Creek Parkway when I spotted some wildflowers by the side of the road bordering the Great Hills Country Club and stopped to investigate.

The Wikipedia article on this species gives the additional common names golden crownbeard, gold weed, wild sunflower, butter daisy, American dogweed, and South African daisy. That last is strange because this species is native in North America, not South Africa.

In contrast to the yellowscuro portrait above, look at how different the second picture is. I’d made it two minutes earlier by getting low and aiming upward toward a patch of bright blue sky rather than downward toward a partly shaded area the way I did in the top portrait.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 2, 2020 at 4:43 AM

Two takes on bumps

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Some Mexican hats (Ratibida columnifera) have a bump on the tip of their column. Here are two quite different takes on that theme: the first pastel, on a mostly straight stalk, and with the column still developing; the second darker, on a stalk that took a right-angle turn, and with its column already going to seed. The background color in the picture above came from another Mexican hat, and below from a horsemint (Monarda citriodora). I made these contrasting portraits in Great Hills Park on June 2nd.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 28, 2020 at 4:23 AM

The Junior League of Austin shows its true colors

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I was sorry a couple of years ago when a property on Bluffstone Drive where I’d been taking nature pictures for a few years became a construction site. Once the building went up, I learned it was the new home of the Junior League of Austin’s Community Impact Center. When we drove by there on May 29th it was apparent that the people in charge of landscaping the site value local native plants and had sown a nice mix of them. The photograph above shows the eye-catching wildflowers fronting Bluffstone Drive. The stacked purple tiers are Monarda citriodora, known as horsemint or beebalm. The red-centered ones with yellow fringes are Gaillardia pulchella, called firewheel or Indian blanket. Here’s a portrait of one of them:

A little later I walked over to one side of the building and found a somewhat spiderwebbed brown-eyed susan, Rudbeckia hirta, among other wildflowers.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 27, 2020 at 4:38 AM

Wet sunflower with dark clouds

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Six years ago today I took some pictures of a sunflower (Helianthus annuus) against dark clouds after a rain. Until recently I assumed I’d shown one of those photographs here in 2014, but a search proved that somehow I never did. Today’s post makes up for my negligence. What I unfortunately can’t make up for is the loss of the property where I photographed this sunflower and many other native plants for a couple of years before a Wendy’s and a Holiday Inn Express finally occupied that land.

Given this picture’s small size, you may have trouble recognizing a crab spider at about the 9 o’clock position on the sunflower. If you’re interested in the craft of photography, points 3 and 8 in About My Techniques apply to today’s image.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 25, 2020 at 4:37 AM

A glorious bluebell colony

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Yesterday I drove up to San Gabriel Parkway in Leander to photograph what may have been the largest colony of Texas bluebells (Eustoma sp.) I’ve ever seen. The property had a barbed wire fence around it, so I had to take my pictures from the outside. For the second view, I bent over and shot between the strands of wire.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 24, 2020 at 4:40 AM

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