Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘yellow

Another look back at fall foliage

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The last months of 2022 in Austin were excellent for fall foliage—so much so that I couldn’t show nearly as many pictures as I’d have liked to when they were still current or even a few weeks old. “Better late than never,” as the adage goes. Today’s pictures are from November 26th along the Capital of Texas Highway near Lakewood Dr., a few miles from home. The first two play up the color contrast between the ephemeral red of a Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) that had climbed high into the canopy of a cedar elm tree (Ulmus crassifolia) and the similarly transient yellow of the elm tree’s leaves.



In the pair above you, you see how different orientations (horizontal versus vertical) and different focal lengths (70mm versus 24mm) can produce different results (not surprisingly) even when two pictures are taken from the same spot. In the top view, blue appears only in subdued little patches visible through holes in the foliage. In the second view, blue, along with white, dominates the photograph.



For a different perspective, to take the last picture I worked my way
through the woods to get under the Virginia creeper so I could aim straight up.


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UPDATE. Two days ago I reported on a high school in Virginia whose administrators apparently on purpose failed to notify students about their Merit Scholarship commendations. A January 16th editorial in The Wall Street Journal revealed that even more Virginia schools have been discriminating against Asian students in that way than was initially known. You’re welcome to read William McGurn’s “The New Structural Racism,” whose sub-head is “In Northern Virginia, affirmative action has hardened into a war on high achievers.”


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From Elizabeth Weiss’s January 11th article in Quillette, “A Report From the Stanford Academic Freedom Conference,” I learned about the comments of Jerry Coyne:

Jerry Coyne, Professor Emeritus of Biology at the University of Chicago and author of the popular blog Why Evolution is True, speaks with some authority on the left-right cancel-culture divide, as he has spent much of his career battling right-wing social conservatives who promote creationism (or “intelligent design”) as an alternative to evolution. But in recent years, he noted, four popular false ideas (what he calls “ideological pollution”) now originate with the progressive side of the political spectrum: (1) that sex is not binary, but rather a spectrum; (2) that males and females are “biologically identical on average in behavior, mentality and choices”; (3) that “the fundamental premises of evolutionary psychology are false”; and (4) that “race is a purely social construct with no biological value.” In every case, he noted, there was a parallel with Marxism, which imagines people as being “infinitely malleable” according to their social environment.

Coyne, who is now retired from day-to-day academic life, expressed less concern than other speakers in regard to the formal repercussions inflicted on academics who violate these taboos (though he did describe the case of a professor in Maine who faced severe backlash after stating that there are only two sexes). Rather, he emphasized the manner by which this ideological system encouraged self-censorship:

What I’m worried about is being demonized, ostracized, simply for saying that there’s something like biological meaningfulness in ethnic groups. It is enough to get you called a racist, which I have been. If you say that the sexes are bimodal or even just binary, you get called a transphobe … And, to any good liberal, and I’m a good liberal … the moniker of racist or transphobe is horrifying and makes you just shut up and so this kind of demonization occurs fairly regularly.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 18, 2023 at 4:26 AM

Western soapberry trees turning yellow

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Yet another source of fall foliage on our 12-day trip to New Mexico and west Texas was the western soapberry trees (Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii) that I hadn’t expected but was happy to see at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in the Texas panhandle on October 20th. The place where I found the biggest concentration of them is appropriately called the Soapberry Day Use Area. You’re seeing two pictures from there.



Five weeks later, no identifying sign accompanied the young western soapberry trees I saw
putting on a display of backlit yellow gorgeosity in Austin’s Pease Park on November 30th:




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Did you hear about the world’s only surviving nonuplets?


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 6, 2023 at 4:28 AM

Yellow flowers in December before the freeze

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On December 22, knowing that a freeze was imminent, I went over to Gault Lane to see what flowers I could still find. A paloverde tree stll had a few blossoms remaining on it, one of which you see above. All those red splotches give it character, don’t you think? I also found a bit of zesty zexmenia, Wedelia acapulcensis var. hispida).



The view from below reveals other features.



UPDATE. Three posts back I mentioned that in the second photograph of icicles I imagined seeing something which wasn’t actually there (that phenomenon is called pareidolia). Wanting to give people a chance to look for themselves, I didn’t identify it then but will now. Below and to the right of the sunburst I seem to see a face with one Cyclopean eye, a bright nose, and an open mouth.



If you go back to the full image maybe now you’ll see the face
in there too, or maybe not. Pareidolia is quite subjective.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 2, 2023 at 4:26 AM

More fall color from individual leaves and leaflets

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Poison ivy, Toxicodendron radicans; December 1st in Great Hills Park.




Cottonwood tree, Populus deltoides; December 12th near the Riata Trace Pond.



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A main theme of my commentaries for the past two years has been the distortion of language for ideological purposes. The other day a great trove of data came my way from the EHLI, or the Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative at Stanford University, which “identifies as” “a multi-phase, multi-year project to address harmful language in IT [Information Technology] at Stanford.”

In particular I’m referring to the document the group released on December 19th, which is a compendium of “harmful” words and phrases, along with suggested and therefore presumably non-harmful alternatives to them, plus notes putting the items in “context.” Preceding the list of frowned-on items are bold-faced words of caution:

Content Warning: This website contains language that is offensive or harmful. Please engage with this website at your own pace.

You wouldn’t want to encounter too many horrific words too quickly or you might get a heart attack or stroke. You know, terrible words like “American.” That’s right, you’re not supposed to say “American” any more because there are lots of countries in North American and South America, not just the United States.* The recommended replacement is “U.S. citizen.” I don’t see how that can last, given that the kind of ideologues who would think of putting together a list of forbidden terms also want people in the country illegally to have all the same benefits as citizens.

The document is divided into sections according to the kinds of people the forbidden terms are supposedly offensive to. The first section is Ableist. In case you’re not familiar with that word, the document explains it: “Ableist language is language that is offensive to people who live with disabilities and/or devalues people who live with disabilities. The unintentional use of such terms furthers the belief that people who live with disabilities are abnormal.”

Notice the phrase “people who live with disabilities.” That itself is the suggested replacement for “the disabled.” It’s one of many instances of “person-first” language, in which a word or short phrase gets turned into something more cumbersome. “Handicapped,” for instance, is now “person with a disability.” As if the “dis-” in “disability” doesn’t still indicate that the person has a handicap compared to people without that disability. Similarly, the four-syllable “mentally ill” becomes the thirteen-syllable “person living with a mental health condition” and the two-syllable “senile” becomes the ten-syllable “person suffering from senility.” For the sake of inclusion, shouldn’t we extend this pattern to categories other than persons? In meal-first language, rather than say “I ate breakfast” we’ll have to say “I ate the meal that persons call breakfast” or “I ate the meal usually but not always consumed in the early part of the day.”

Some of the replacements are baffling. Rather than “committed suicide” we’re supposed to say “died by suicide.” Could the point be to shift agency and therefore remove blame from the person to the mental health condition? Or maybe “committed” has overtones of “committed to a mental institution.” Or maybe there’s no reason for the change except to make us jump through more language hoops and increase the chances for woke ideologues to call us out when we mess up on one of their shibboleths.

In the “Violent” section we’re admonished to replace “rule of thumb” with “standard rule” or “general rule.” The “context” for this is: “Although no written record exists today, this phrase is attributed to an old British law that allowed men to beat their wives with sticks no wider than their thumb.” The writers admit that there’s no evidence for the claim that “rule of thumb” originated in men beating their wives with sticks no wider than their thumbs,” but we’re supposed to ignore the lack of evidence and pretend that that cockeyed claim is true. If the writers had bothered to look up the etymology for “rule of thumb” they’d find it’s straightforward. The American Heritage Dictionary notes that the phrase comes from “the use of the thumb as a makeshift ruler or measuring device, as in carpentry.” Similarly, the English system uses “foot” as a familiar measurement, and the height of horses is traditionally measured in “hands.”

Another instance of fake history occurs in the “Additional Considerations” section. We’re advised to avoid “hip hip hooray” because “this term was used by German citizens during the Holocaust as a rallying cry when they would hunt down Jewish citizens living in segregated neighborhoods.” You should immediately be suspicious: why would German-speaking Nazis use an English interjection when hunting down Jews in countries where English wasn’t the native language? The obvious answer is that they wouldn’t. Once again the writers of the document could have looked up the actual origin of “hip hip hooray,” but apparently going to a dictionary was a step too far. English speakers were already using “hip hip hooray [or hurrah]” in the early 1800s.

 You’re welcome to work your way at your own pace through as much of the EHLI document as you want to or can stand.


* When I arrived in Honduras as a Peace Corps volunteer 55 years ago this month I quickly learned that people there refer to Americans as norteamericanos, i.e. North Americans. The compilers of the Stanford document will have to chide Hondurans and other Spanish speakers for their lack of inclusivity: aren’t Canadians and Mexicans also North Americans? In fact Wikipedia tells us there are a whopping 24 countries in North America.


UPDATE: On January 11th Inside Higher Ed published an article by Susan D’Agostino titled “Amid Backlash, Stanford Pulls ‘Harmful Language’ List.” Let’s welcome any move toward sanity in academia.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 22, 2022 at 4:27 AM

Inimical but visually luscious yellow and red

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Poison ivy is hardly anyone’s favorite native plant. Still, you’ve got to admit it can look great
in the fall, as it did in Great Hills Park on November 22nd (above) and December 1st (below).



© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 16, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Return to Lost Maples

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Normally for me a return to a distant scenic place means the passage of years or at least months. Not this time: the November 27th visit to Lost Maples State Natural Area about 150 miles west-southwest of Austin proved so colorful and photographically fruitful that we went back the very next morning. We’d spent the night in Kerrville and were therefore only an hour away, not the three hours away we’d have been if we’d returned to Austin on the 27th. Being a Monday, the place wasn’t mobbed the way it had been on the weekend, so reserving an entrance permit was easy.



Here are four views of bigtooth maples, Acer grandidentatum, from that second-day-in-a-row visit, when we initially walked a part of the West Trail, where the stripe of color shown in the top picture caught my attention. The second photograph shows the glowy advantage of backlighting. In the third view, notice all the ball moss, Tillandsia recurvata.



While physicists make much of black holes, the last photograph is one of a bunch I took
showing how blue holes sometimes emerge in the midst of all the colorful foliage.




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Dictionary.com has chosen woman as its word of the year for 2022. You can read the reasons why, and in the process you’ll learn that the word in older English was the equivalent of wifeman*, where wife originally meant ‘female,’ whether married or not, and man was a generic term for ‘person,’ as in mankind and “Man does not live by bread alone.”

* In case you’ve ever wondered why the o in the plural women is pronounced like a short i, now you can see it’s a carry-over from the original form of the word. Why the first vowel in the singular form changed, I don’t know.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 15, 2022 at 4:27 AM

A banner year for cedar elms

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The leaves of Austin’s many cedar elm trees (Ulmus crassifolia) turn yellow in the fall. The degree to which they do that, as with so many processes in nature, varies from year to year. This has been an excellent one, as you see in these three November 30th photos from Pease Park. The patches of green on the cedar elm in the middle picture are mistletoe (Phoradendron sp.).



I took the last photo inside the Pease Park Tree House,
which I hadn’t even known existed till I came upon it that morning.



(So many things have been going on in nature locally this fall that I decided to postpone the remaining posts from our New Mexico and west Texas trip. They’re already going on two months out of date, so there’s no harm in pushing them down the line a few weeks more to a period that traditionally is less busy here.)



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A year ago I reported on Anna Krylov, an escapee from the old Soviet Union who has lamented the way ideologues are working to turn the United States into a version of the oppressive state she’d fled from. In particular she wrote an article about the way authoritarian ideology is taking over STEM—science, technology, engineering, mathematics—in our universities. Now the National Association of Scholars has issued a report about that based on over 30 GB of data in more than 280,000 files gleaned from “university webpages, university Twitter accounts, annual programs of academic associations, grants of major scientific research funders, and publications of scientific research.”

The study found that “of the 100 university websites we surveyed, the number of webpages that use both STEM and DEI [diversity, equity, inclusion] terms grew from 110 in 2010 to 2,891 in 2021. This finding suggests that DEI is being linked with STEM over 26 times more frequently than it was a decade ago.” In addition, “between 2010 and 2021, scientific publications and preprints that incorporate DEI or antiracist language grew between 3 to 42 times faster than scientific topics in general in the Web of Science. Similar patterns are observed in the data from Google Scholar and PubMed. The number of preprints on arXiv that incorporate DEI or antiracist language has grown significantly in the last two years, with increases varying depending on the DEI or antiracist term.”

You can read the executive summary and the full report.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 13, 2022 at 4:26 AM

Best year for fall foliage

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As you’ve seen in recent posts here, 2022 has provided me with some excellent fall foliage. In fact this has probably been my best autumn for it since my early years in New York, where every fall meant great tree leaf colors. In addition to the New Mexico trip, another thing that made the autumn of 2022 such a stand-out was our visit on November 27 to Lost Maples State Natural Area about 150 miles west-southwest of Austin.  



The place is famous for its bigtooth maples, Acer grandidentatum, which in optimal years put on great color displays. When we visited in 2014 the show was pretty good but the yucky gray-white sky ruined many potential pictures for which I would have had to aim upward into the dull murk. Our 2021 trip there was worse: the maples themselves hadn’t turned colorful. On this year’s visit we finally hit it right, with brilliant yellow and orange and some red foliage, plus a bright blue sky to play those colors off against, as you see above. In the somewhat softer view below, I aimed sideways rather than partly upward.



(Pictures from the New Mexico trip will resume next time.)


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 11, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Fall colors at Pecos National Historic Park

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On October 19th we spent time at Pecos National Historical Park in north-central New Mexico. While most people visit the place for insights into the ways the Spaniards and native people interacted, as a photographer I still found things in nature to photograph—even if my task was made harder by a prohibition against wandering off the trails because this was a historic site with artifacts yet to be unearthed and restored.



The top picture shows how I looked down from a high place at trees turning bright yellow. At first I assumed the group at the right was cottonwoods (Populus deltoides subsp. wislizenii) but now the white bark makes me wonder if they were aspens (Populus tremuloides). The second photograph is one I could have taken at home because fragrant sumac (Rhus trilobata) grows in Austin. Below, chamisa, also called rubber rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa) was flowering, sometimes exuberantly.



One group of those plants attracted lots of butterflies, including a painted lady, Vanessa cardui, which I also could have photographed back in Austin (though not on chamisa). The smaller butterfly looks like it might have been a checkered skipper, Pyrgis communis, which also frequents central Texas.



© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 10, 2022 at 4:32 AM

Last day in New Mexico

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We drove out of Santa Fe on the morning of October 19th knowing it would be our last day in New Mexico. By late afternoon we’d be back in Texas—not Austin, but another Texas A: Amarillo (which is conveniently the Spanish word for ‘yellow’). We planned to take sinuous Interstate 25 to check out a much less famous Las Vegas than the one in Nevada, then dip down to Interstate 40 and eastward into the Texas panhandle. Not too long after we started following Interstate 25 I saw a sign to exit for the Pecos National Historical Park, which I’d never heard of. It sounded interesting, so we turned off on New Mexico Highway 50 and drove east to the little town of Pecos. That’s where I saw the colorful roadside row of trees that I take to be cottonwoods (Populus deltoides subsp. wislizenii), but if someone said they’re actually aspens (Populus tremuloides) it wouldn’t surprise me.

Then it was south on New Mexico 63, where before reaching the entrance to the park we stopped at an informational display about the Battle of Glorieta Pass. Who knew that an important battle of the American Civil War took place in New Mexico? As Wikipedia explains:

The Battle of Glorieta Pass (March 26–28, 1862) in the northern New Mexico Territory, was the decisive battle of the New Mexico campaign during the American Civil War. Dubbed the “Gettysburg of the West” by some authors (a term described as one that “serves the novelist better than the historian”), it was intended as the decisive blow by Confederate forces to break the Union possession of the West along the base of the Rocky Mountains. It was fought at Glorieta Pass in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in what is now New Mexico, and was an important event in the history of the New Mexico Territory in the American Civil War.

There was a skirmish on March 26 between advance elements from each army, with the main battle occurring on March 28. Although the Confederates were able to push the Union force back through the pass, they had to retreat when their supply train was destroyed and most of their horses and mules killed or driven off. Eventually the Confederates had to withdraw entirely from the territory back into Confederate Arizona and then Texas. Glorieta Pass thus represented the climax of the campaign.

From that stretch of NM 63 we had a good view of a broad and imposing mesa:



Looking 90° to the right, in the distance we could still make out
the snow-topped Sangre de Cristo Mountains that we were leaving behind.




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Been a while since I commented on recent spam I’ve gotten. The awkward English in a lot of spam points to foreign origins. Take, for example, “Thanks the information” and “I discover something tougher on diverse blogs everyday. Most commonly it is stimulating to learn content from other writers and use a little something from their website. I’d would rather apply certain using the content in this little blog regardless of whether you do not mind.” At least it didn’t say irregardless.

Some comments are actually in a foreign language. Google Translate tells me the “установка окон иркутск” I received the other day is Russian for “window installation [in] Irkutsk.” Too bad I don’t live in Siberia, or I might jump on the offer. Here’s one in Portuguese: “Muito boa a materia, gostaria de ver uma sobre pousadas no pantanal.” It means: “Very nice material, I’d like to see one about inns in wetlands.” Maybe the poster of the first comment can fly from Siberia to Brazil to install windows in the wetland inns that the second commenter conjured up.

And then there was the mysterious “A red apple invites stones.” An internet search indicates that it’s an Arabic/Kurdish/Turkish proverb. One website explains it as meaning “Good will be envied,” which seems a plausible interpretation. While searching for an explanation I came across a page with 85 Kurdish proverbs. Check them out, and you can be the first kid on your block to sprinkle your conversation with Kurdish proverbs like “Listen a hundred times; ponder a thousand times; speak once” and “When a cat wants to eat her kittens, she says they look like mice.”

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 8, 2022 at 4:27 AM

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