A First Glimpse of Spring



Which Texas wildflowers will bloom first, and when, varies from year to year. On March 7, bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis), the coreopsis known as golden wave (Coreopsis basalis), and phlox predominated in the Rockport City Cemetery: thick enough in some places to nearly cover the gravestones.

Despite cool winds and cloudy skies, they had that certain springlike glow about them, delighting both roaming photographers and roaming pollinators. Over the next days, I’ll show some of my favorites from my explorations: a few old friends, and a few new discoveries.


Comments always are welcome.
Click any image for greater size and more detail.

62 thoughts on “A First Glimpse of Spring

    1. It can be challenging when photographing in a cemetery to find a way to block out non-natural decorations, or present gravestones and flowers in a pleasing combination. When I glanced through these branches and saw the variety of colors, inspiration struck.

  1. Speaking of which, we got buzzed by a honey bee yesterday while outside transferring sugar from paper sack to pail and didn’t she just settle in to have a good look around a split second later? It’s astonishing how quickly the snow’s been melting these last few days and I assume the Maples have been running at least as long… Not sure if it’s a good sign either as to how warm and dry this Spring’s shaping up. (It’s just too warm, too soon for up here on the north side of The Lakes.

    1. Once I started paying attention, I was surprised by how many of our flowers have a winter bloom period. Of course, late winter for us is the end of January, so there’s that. There were bees and flies galore last weekend, including some really spiffy metallic ones, and I saw monarchs, swallowtails, and a variety of skippers. It was especially nice to see some “fresh” butterflies that hadn’t yet been nibbled or worn.

  2. My word that is a gorgeous picture. The snow is starting to melt here and soon there will green shoots poking up through the ground, but it will be a while yet before we see colour like that. It is nothing short of spectacular.

    1. Even though it was a dull and cloudy day, there’s something about these spring flowers that manages to overcome even high levels of ‘blah.’ I’m grateful that a friend’s tip sent me this direction. Once spring flowers start to bloom here, there’s nothing measured about it. The next two or three weeks should be wonderful, and I’m hoping to find some equally attractive spots.

    1. It did, indeed. I’m especially fond of this photo, although it took more than a few tries to get the contrast right. Most photos show the branches in sharp focus and the flowers a soft blur, but that wasn’t what I wanted.

      1. Some photographers in this situation would use a tripod and take one picture focused on the branches and another focused on the flowers, then use software to blend the two to create an image that’s sharp throughout. That may be more work than you’d care for.

        1. I noticed Steve Gingold used the technique recently; so did Tom Whelan, using the technique to keep all of his moss water droplets nice and sharp. It certainly leads to some wonderful photos, but I’m still unsatisfied with some of my basic skills, and until I get those under better control, getting “fancy” with technique probably isn’t a good idea.

          Besides, as I mentioned to Judy Lovell, when you add learning to use a tripod to learning Photoshop or Lightroom, that’s a lot of time and quite a learning curve: at least, it seems to me it would be. I have just made the move from Win7Pro to Win10, and am nearly done culling my photo files. Once that’s done, I’ll be ready to take on either PS or LR. Do you have any suggestion about which program would be the better one to start with?

          1. I’ve never used Lightroom, even though it comes with my Photoshop subscription. By subscribing, which is the model now rather than outright purchase, you’d get both, too. My understanding is that the various adjustments you can do in Lightroom are the same ones I do in Adobe Camera Raw, which comes with Photoshop. Adobe Camera Raw lets you make lots of adjustments before bringing a RAW file into Photoshop so you can tweak it and then save it in formats that other people can open, like .tif and .jpg. Photographers I know use Lightroom to catalog all their files and attach keywords to them for easy finding. I’d say it’s best if you can talk to people who use both Photoshop and Lightroom to explain what they use each one for.

            1. I discovered I have more resources than I realized, and that made my decision for me. On impulse, I’d purchased the most recent version of Photoshop Elements, and an instructional book. When I took a better look at the book last night, I discovered it begins (reasonably enough) with the organizer, and then provides a substantial section on working with RAW files. That’s where I’ll begin.

              As if to encourage me, Adobe sent an email yesterday saying there was an update for Camera Raw available. I downloaded and installed it, and I suspect if I follow the book page by page, I’ll make progress. Lightroom can wait. I don’t have thousands of photos to catalog, after all.

            2. I’d thought about Photoshop Elements but didn’t mention it because I thought it might be too limited. From looking online just now I found that Photoshop Elements has a lot more features now than it used to, including layers, so you did well in getting it.

    1. We have plenty of those around here, too: crow poison, bluets, tauschia and others. There are some that are even smaller, but I haven’t identified many of those. It’s on the to-do list.

  3. That’s a different and great shot! The flowers are wonderful, but what’s really neat is how you fitted in just enough of the bold dark limbs, to create a cool mosaic.

    1. I hadn’t thought of a mosaic, but of course. It reminds me now of stained-glass windows, too, with the limbs serving as the strips of lead. The tree was fabulous, and I wished I could have included more of the branches, but it wasn’t possible without also including houses, fencing, artificial flowers, and other unwanted elements.

  4. Beautiful, Linda. Love the framing, and when I zoom in it is like passing through a living window and falling into that magical rainbow field dotted with vibrant colour.

    1. I was so pleased to find a way to include all three of the predominant flowers in the image. It was a bit magical to discover the framing would work, too. I’ve always enjoyed photos that are shot through windows and doors, but I’d never considered that part of the natural world could provide the same sort of framing. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Pete.

  5. I haven’t seen any coreopsis or phlox but while the bluebonnets in the front are sparse this year the patch at the back of the property has grown and is in full bloom. there’s a small clump of indian paintbrush on the easement in front of the shop that has been blooming for months but it seems like some of the open fields around here burst forth with paintbrush overnight. now the evening primrose are starting up.

    1. I came home via Hallettsville, Yoakum, and etc — took 111 across Lake Texana — and it was the paintbrush that were most obvious there. I could see that bluebonnet ‘haze’ in some fields, but it was just the sense of coming color, and not the bluebonnets in bloom. It was odd, really. South of Hallettsville, the paintbrush seem to be fading already, but north of there, they were thick and colorful. It seemed counter-intuitive, but then it occurred to me that rain might have been a factor, too.

    1. We’re in the midst of a fog-shrouded week, thanks to our warm temperatures and colder water, and it was cloudy and gray in the cemetery, too. It’s a testament to the power of the flower’s colors that they could shine like this even without sunlight; it’s the very best kind of flower power.

  6. Such beauty in that photo! Thanks for sharing your spring with us, Linda. We’ve got a cool, damp, gray day here with no spring in sight. The birds, however, are chattering and flapping around like they’re more than ready to begin nesting, ha!

    1. If the birds are chattering and flapping, pay attention to them. They know something that’s not quite as visible to us, yet — the season really is changing. I’m starting to hear more birdsong, too. The cardinals are out early every morning, and every now and then I hear the coo of a dove. I never realize how much I’ve missed the singing — and the flowers — until they appear.

      1. Yes, I’ve read it within the last couple of years. I came across a copy I’d forgotten about when unpacking a box of books and it was so good I immediately read the whole story again. Wonderful!

    1. Isn’t it something? I’m hoping to be able to make at least one more little jaunt this month, just to see what I can see. Now that the days are getting longer, exploring closer to home will be possible after work, too — especially after we lose the fog and get our sunshine back.

  7. I like very much that you chose to leave the foreground branches out of focus in favor of the flowers. An image-merging or even focus-stacking exercise would certainly be another option, but for my eye, you’ve made the right choice.

    1. I spent some time thinking about Steve’s comment, and decided that the kind of focus-stacking I’ve seen recently in other blogs might suit some purposes, but I like this better. In the same way, tack-sharp limbs and blurred flowers didn’t appeal to me nearly as much as this way of seeing the scene. It was interesting to try different perspectives, and see how the results differed. The one constant, of course, is that beautiful color. Soft or sharp, it glowed.

  8. I think the image is very artistic and as it is draws the eye to the flowers and the framing branches you look beyond. Its very pretty.

    But, there are times when that idea of taking two shots, one for the flowers and one for the branches is helpful as combining them if you wanted to & is not a difficult practice. I can remember early on I’d shoot a frame for the rocks/earth and one for the brighter sky with the idea if I needed to I could get detail out of the dark that way. Some people would use a gradient filter on their camera to allow more light on the rocks and less on the sky and balance it out. With digital I’ve never really gotten into on lens filters as my efforts with a polarizer didn’t work out as well as it could have.But, I love photoshop, layers, masking etc as well as neutral gradient lighting shifts…lots of tools to play with.That’s what’s fun about it!!

    1. Well, I don’t have a tripod, I haven’t a clue how to use Photoshop or Lightroom, and my time for photography is extremely limited. I think I’ll pass on the fancy stuff and leave that to the real photographers. I’m glad you enjoy post-processing, but I’m more interested in getting outdoors, learning about the plants, and sharing what I do see, even if the photos aren’t as good as what others post. I’ll be happy enough to be able to get focus and exposure down!

      1. No your photos do look good even great!! And, agreed, better to be out seeing, doing and shooting than stuck in a dim den looking at a computer screen!! I can tell you my abysmal level of fitness shows I sit more than hike!! As for tripods, I have had one a long time,but its in like new condition because I too prefer handheld. LOL!!

        1. A good bit of it is the time factor — the fact that I’m still working, and still have some writing I want to do. And honestly? I am in my seventies, and there aren’t that many years left. Making decisions about how to spend that time seems more pressing than it did when I was forty. For everything we do, something has to remain undone: too bad for us!

          1. I agree completely, feel there’s little time and even feel trapped and unable to do whatever it is I want to do before I run out of time. So hard to believe we are so mortal isn’t it? But, I guess even when young time was still at a premium and decisions had to be made just more time to shift gears.

  9. You couldn’t have staged that better – beautiful. Always appreciated the flowers that blanket graveyards – like Nature kindly provides flowers for each spot even if the descendants can’t.
    (and the bees are really busy right now! That’s good news)

    1. A friend and I went down to Galveston for brunch a couple of weeks ago, and when we passed the Broadway cemeteries we commented on how dead they looked without the wildflowers and with the grass trimmed within an inch of its life. It would be nice if they’d allow the grasses and seedheads to remain through the winter, but I suppose it’s hard enough to beat back the neatniks who want to mow down the wildflowers.

      The bees are exceedingly happy, and I’m seeing more and more butterflies taking advantage of the newly-spread feast.

        1. With a little more thought, it occurred to me that the mowing isn’t a bad thing. After all, it’s done in many situations to encourage growth in the next season. I’ve been seeing photos of gardens designed to be year-round beauties, and native grasses and such, when planned for, extend the attractiveness of the sites considerably. A cemetery’s a different critter — it’s just that it’s so much prettier with the growth flourishing.

  10. The Spring flower cover you have captured in your image would delight any nature lover (or even anyone else craving some colour after winter).

    I wonder if there are any old cemetries near me – I haven’t actually checked since I moved here.

    1. I’ve come to really appreciate cemeteries. When the flowers aren’t blooming, there’s all the history to be found among the stones. There’s humor, too. I can’t find my little list right now, but for a while I was recording the especially interesting or amusing inscriptions I found. If I can’t find the list, I need to start one again.

      It would be great if there was an old cemetery accessible to you, especially if it’s one that allows the flowers to bloom naturally.

    1. I was worried on my way down to Rockport, because there just wasn’t much happening alongside the roads or in the fields. Still, the cemetery certainly was putting on a show. Once I left, I took a more northerly route home, and found more delights here and there. Inconsistent rain and temperatures have slowed things down in some areas, but it certainly was a worthwhile trip.

      Once I saw those tree limbs, there was no question that a photo had to be made. The biggest problem was an abundance of artificial flowers, buildings, and such at the edges of the scene. I had to eliminate some of the great tree branches to keep the other ‘stuff’ out of the photo, but I thought it worked well enough — and how nice that the flowers were so dense in that area.

      1. I think the use of the branches is perfect and without your mention I’d have no idea this was anything resembling a compromise. The flowers are the star and your composition presents them so.

        1. That’s one thing that makes your photos so wonderful. It’s not just your technical skill, it’s your ability to find those interesting compositions to focus on that adds so much. I’ve found that learning to see is as important as learning which buttons to push, and which camera adjustments to make.

          1. Thank you, Linda. It’s really not hard. Sometimes the first look is the best but often we need to just slow down, assuming it’s not a once in a lifetime wildlife shot, and walk around. We often don’t see the distractions with our subject tunnel vision.

            1. And the more looking we do, the more we learn to see. I was astonished yesterday when I picked out a fasciated bloom along a roadside, at 35 mph. I didn’t know precisely what it was, but there was “just something” about it that made me slam on the brakes. All that’s left now is identifying it.

            2. That’s awesome that you spotted something like that. I’ve occasionally seen flowers or insects while driving although not at 35 mph. Here’s a similar story from my blog’s pre-Linda days.
              On the other side of the observant fence, I’ve been known to stop after seeing a bird or mammal in a tree only to have it turn out to be a cluster of leaves. I don’t think I’m the only one though.

            3. That moth is pretty darned impressive, too. So pretty! And you certainly aren’t the only one to see things that aren’t. “Uh… hmmmm… .oh” is a pretty common expression for me.

    1. Thank you! I really was pleased with how it turned out. I’ve seen it as stained glass or a mosaic, as well as just a nice view of a complex and pleasing landscape.

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