Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘wind

A blowing stack of black-eyed susans

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In the ditch along San Gabriel Blvd. in Leander on June 14th that you heard about in the last post, I couldn’t help but notice a lushly flowering black-eyed susan plant, Rudbeckia hirta. Aiming the camera horizontally wouldn’t have kept the sloping sides of the ditch out of any portraits I made, so the only thing was to lie at the base of the plant and aim high enough for the blue sky to isolate and contrast with the bright yellow flowers. Complicating things was the wind, which I’m estimating blew at a pretty steady 15 mph, with gusts even stronger. While lying on the ground I steadied the plant against the wind as best I could with my left hand and manipulated the camera with my right. I also set the shutter speed to a high 1/800 of a second, which turned out to be fast enough to keep the ray florets from blurring while still capturing a sense of their movement. That’s particularly noticeable at the upper left, where you can see how the wind was blowing the florets to the right.

When I returned two days later and found the wildflowers in the ditch had gotten a reprieve from the mowers, I took some more pictures, including the one below showing a basket-flower, Plectocephalus americanus.

   

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Yesterday was June 19th, and to coincide with the date the Austin PBS television station showed “Juneteenth Jamboree: Soldiers, Cowboys, and Indians.” Not far into that program, I heard the narrator telling how Columbus, after landing on an island in 1492, captured some native people and by so doing introduced slavery into the New World. Do the people writing this stuff not know there are such things as history books? If those people are too lazy to read books, at least they could go to the Internet. It doesn’t take much checking to confirm that slavery was well entrenched among the indigenous peoples of the New World long before Columbus’s time.

Even Wikipedia, as biased as it has been becoming, has a whole article on slavery among the Aztecs. And an article entitled “Maya Social Structure” from the Tarlton Law Library at the University of Texas begins with this sentence: “Maya society was rigidly divided between nobles, commoners, serfs, and slaves.” As the article tells us later on: “There was an active slave trade in the Maya region, and commoners and elites were both permitted to own slaves. Individuals were enslaved as a form of punishment for certain crimes and for failing to pay back their debts. Prisoners of war who were not sacrificed would become slaves, and impoverished individuals sometimes sold themselves or family members into slavery. Slavery status was not passed on to the children of slaves. However, unwanted orphan children became slaves and were sometimes sacrificed during religious rituals. Slaves were usually sacrificed when their owners died so that they could continue in their service after death. If a man married a slave woman, he became a slave of the woman’s owner. This was also the case for women who married male slaves.”

So if anyone in your presence makes the claim that white people invented slavery or introduced slavery into the Americas, please tell them it isn’t so. And if they try to give you an argument, point them to the linked articles or the many others that confirm the existence of slavery in the Americas long before Europeans came here. And if those people still keep giving you a hard time in spite of all the evidence, you’ll know they’re not sincere and don’t care about the truth.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 20, 2022 at 4:28 AM

White prickly poppies in the wind

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The wind blew incessantly on April 6th. When my first photo stop came on US 77 south of Lexington in Lee County, I set a shutter speed of 1/500 of a second to stop the motion of these white prickly poppies (Argemone albiflora).

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 22, 2022 at 4:21 AM

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Go with the blow

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The blowing of the wind, that is, which I had to deal with on April 2nd at the cemetery in Stockdale, about a hundred miles south of home. First I took a bunch of wildflower pictures at high shutter speeds to try and stop the motion. Then I relented—literally—and switched to slow shutter speeds, knowing that the blowing would bring blurring. I’ll anticipate some comments and say that the resulting photographs suggest Impressionist paintings.

I took the top picture at 1/8 of a second and the bottom one at 1/15th of a second. The magenta/hot pink flowers are a Phlox species; the red-orange ones Indian paintbrush, Castilleja indivisa; the blue sandyland bluebonnets, Lupinus subcarnosus; the yellow Nueces coreopsis, Coreopsis nuecensis; the white are white prickly poppies, Argemone albiflora.

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Two posts back I noted that it’s common to hear politicians and activists bandy about the phrase “common sense.” I said that’s a loaded and misleading term because some or even many things that a majority of people believe to be common sense are easily shown to be untrue. In that post and yesterday’s I gave examples of “common sense” leading to incorrect conclusions. Here’s another.

Suppose you live in an old house with a carport. Because of the topography, whenever you get a heavy enough rain, water flows onto your carport and collects there, taking hours and hours to eventually drain away. It’s a nuisance, but you put up with it because having an engineering company fix the problem would cost thousands of dollars. One night you get home from a long trip and are so exhausted you go to bed and quickly fall into a sound sleep. It’s such a deep sleep that nothing disturbs you, and you wake up the next morning feeling refreshed. A little later you open your side door and see water a couple of inches deep on your carport. What happened?

“Common sense” would lead many if not most people to say it must have rained hard during the night and that’s why the carport got flooded. You must have been sleeping so soundly that the rain didn’t wake you up.

Anyone who concludes that it must have rained is committing an error of logic. Just because event A (in this case a hard rain) always leads to event B (in this case a flooded carport), you can’t “reason” backwards and assume from the occurrence of event B that event A must have occurred. It just so happens that our previous house in Austin did suffer from a flooded carport after sustained downpours, and one morning I did open the side door and see water flowing through the carport—and yet it hadn’t rained. Instead, we’d had a sustained freeze, and a poorly insulated pipe leading from the house out to the washing machine at the back of the carport had burst. You can think of other explanations. Maybe the next-door neighbor’s sprinkler system had gone awry. Maybe a large water tanker truck had gotten into an accident nearby and the tank had split open. Maybe a water main in the street out front had ruptured. Maybe a dam had collapsed and flooded the whole neighborhood.

You get the point: just because something is plausible or even likely doesn’t mean it’s true. The world could be saved so much misery if only people investigated situations rather than jumping to conclusions—and worse, acting on hasty and unwarranted assumptions.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 10, 2021 at 4:38 AM

The answer, my friends

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You usually get straight photography here, but once in a while I show something different, like these 1/5th- and 1/6th-of-a-second pictures of greenthread flower heads (Thelesperma filifolium) as the wind blew them about. Experimental photographs of this type depend heavily on chance, so I can’t know how they’ll turn out. With that in mind, I take a bunch and see if I like any of the results. These two drew my attention. The first portrait is from the front and the other from the back; the darker one looks sideways and the brighter one looks upward. Whether you’ll look askance at these diversions remains to be seen.

In contrast, I’ve more often used a high shutter speed to stop the motion of something blowing about.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 9, 2019 at 4:41 AM

Blowing in the wind

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One of the highlights in the cemetery at Christ Lutheran Church in New Berlin on March 18th was the Nueces coreopsis (Coreopsis nuecensis), whose range doesn’t reach Austin and that I get to see only when I travel south. The wind made closeups difficult but I did my usual thing of getting on the ground, setting a high shutter speed, and taking enough pictures that a few of them would likely be okay.

The orange in the background came from Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja indivisa) and the blue from bluebonnets (Lupinus spp).

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 22, 2019 at 4:41 AM

Arc, the here-old grasses swing

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In addition to the bushy bluestem grass that’s a delight here in the fall, little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) also has its autumn appeal. On the afternoon of December 1st I stopped at an undeveloped lot on the corner of Heatherwilde Blvd. and Yellow Sage St. in Pflugerville to photograph the backlit clump of little bluestem you see above. The wind kept blowing the normally upright stalks into arcs that I was able to record unblurred before they sprang back up by setting my camera’s shutter speed to 1/1000 of a second.

Five days earlier I’d gotten down in a ditch along Spicewood Springs Rd. so I could aim up into a clear blue sky while also portraying some little bluestem seed heads forming arcs in the breeze. That time 1/500 of a second sufficed. If you’re reminded of Hokusai’s Great Wave off Kanagawa, so am I.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 19, 2018 at 4:45 AM

Mount Katahdin

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I’ve been reading Laura Dassow Walls’s recent biography of Thoreau. Near halfway through comes an account of Thoreau’s 1846 visit to Mount Katahdin, which at 5267 ft. (1605m) is the highest point in the state of Maine: “From Quakish Lake they got their first glimpse of Mount Katahdin*, still twenty miles away, its summit veiled in clouds.”

On June 2nd of this year, driving north on Interstate 95, we took the pullout for a scenic view of the mountain. Unfortunately, as you can see in the photograph, we had the same experience Thoreau originally did, and the summit remained obscured by clouds. Oh well, maybe another time. No clouds obscured my view of some birch trees (Betula papyrifera, I believe) adjacent to the pullout’s parking lot. Given the briskness of the breeze, I used a shutter speed of 1/500 of a second to keep the leaves from blurring yet still let them convey a sense of the wind.

* By a curious coincidence, in the evening on the same day that I updated the draft of this post to include the information about Thoreau, we watched an unrelated documentary I’d taken out of the library. As the introductory credits appeared, we saw that the company that had made the documentary was Katahdin Productions.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 4, 2018 at 4:40 AM

Speaking of Kananaskis

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Speaking of Alberta’s Kananaskis Range, the site of the previous post, here’s Lower Kananaskis Lake as we saw it on September 11th. Wind gusts created ripples on the lake’s surface that must have resonated with the folds of my cerebrum, because I felt compelled to keep taking pictures of the changing ripples.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 19, 2017 at 4:50 AM

Wind on the Blackland Prairie

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Yesterday morning I went back to the west side of Heatherwilde Blvd. in Pflugerville, back to a piece of the Blackland Prairie that I’d found in full flower the day before. With the wind gusting to perhaps 25 mph (40 km/hr), I took many pictures at a high shutter speed to stop the plants’ movements. The photograph in this post came into being at 1/1000 of a second.

The yellow flowers are square-bud primroses, Calylophus berlandieri. The clusters of much smaller yellow flowers atop tall plants are prairie parsley, Polytaenia nuttallii. The yellow-fringed red flower heads are Gaillardia pulchella, known as firewheels and Indian blankets. The blowing grass is purple three-awn, Aristida purpurea, which arcs over even without any wind and still suggests it’s being blown sideways.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 2, 2017 at 5:02 AM

Chopping an Onion

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Submerged Rocks in Wind-Swept Onion Creek 2666

The wind, that is, chopping up Onion Creek at McKinney Falls State Park in southeast Austin on January 21. I’d been to the site plenty of times, but never with so strong a breeze, which gave this broadly open part of the creek a surface texture like none I’d seen on it till then. The resulting photographs, with their interlocking patches of color, differ from any I recall taking, whether there or elsewhere, and appeal to me in their abstractness.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 8, 2016 at 5:02 AM

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