Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Time again for ladies’ tresses orchids

with 37 comments

Last fall I found exactly zero Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchids (Spiranthes magnicamporum) at a site in northwest Austin that I’ve been going to for over a decade to photograph them. This year, tipped off by Meg Inglis on October 19th that the ladies’ tresses in her area a little west of Austin had already been coming out for a while, I went to “my” property on October 24th and soon located a dozen or so, even though it was unusually early in the season for me to expect any there. I photographed several of the orchids from the side, which is “normal,” but I also had the urge to do some limited-focus portraits looking down from above for a change. The brown around the spike of spiraling flowers came from drying leaves on the ground.

UPDATE. It occurred to me that you may not know what a ladies’ tresses orchid looks like, so here’s a conventional view taken at the same site six years ago. Within that post is a link to a more esthetic view from the side.

And here’s a relevant quotation for today: “To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” — Elliott Erwitt.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 30, 2020 at 4:26 AM

37 Responses

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  1. A classic Schwartzman perspective, but especially intimate. This really draws me in.


    October 30, 2020 at 4:55 AM

    • I seldom think about the subtitle I picked for this “Portraits of Wildflowers” blog. You’ve reminded me that it’s “Perspectives on Nature Photography.” In this portrait I certainly took an unconventional perspective.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 30, 2020 at 8:21 AM

  2. I enjoy your imaginative flower images, Steve.


    October 30, 2020 at 5:12 AM

    • Thanks, Michael. I’ve been taking at least some pictures in unconventional ways for a long time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 30, 2020 at 8:23 AM

  3. I always enjoy your photos, but occasionally I stand in awe of one. This is high art, and quite an accomplishment, given the nature of ladies’ tresses. It’s just perfection.


    October 30, 2020 at 6:51 AM

    • Thanks, Linda, for your standing-in-awe comment. Being familiar with ladies’ tresses, you appreciate what went into making a portrait from above.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 30, 2020 at 8:38 AM

  4. Bravo to you for choosing to “look down” for such a lovely perspective. It’s always interesting to note what the background is composed of – in this case the drying leaves really showcased the spike of spiraling flowers.


    October 30, 2020 at 7:09 AM

    • I do pay attention to backgrounds, even for casual pictures of people on my iPhone. In this case the dark leaves really helped out. So did the fact that a close view looking down at the tip caused the ground to go out of focus.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 30, 2020 at 8:41 AM

      • Going “out of focus” seems to be popular in many places these days! 😉


        October 30, 2020 at 9:08 AM

        • The etymologist in me is reminded that the Latin word focus originally meant ‘hearth, fireplace.’ On cold days people focused on and gathered around that warm place.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 30, 2020 at 9:15 AM

  5. Nice POV. You’re absolutely correct about the lateral viewpoint being the typical one. Of course, that’s meant for identification purposes, mostly. I have noticed that you’ve gone into the more abstract, aesthetic direction in a lot of your postings lately. Can’t say that it’s a bad thing. You do title this blog “Portraits of Wildflowers.” Last time I saw Ladies Tresses was in 2014 in the Texarkana area, also in October. Meg Inglis is a good person. Thank you for the different point of view and thanks to Meg for letting you know when they were starting to bloom.


    October 30, 2020 at 8:54 AM

    • Meg has been my ladies’ tresses alarm clock for years now, and appreciated for her service.

      Yes, I’ve felt myself called toward abstraction more this year than any other. Back in the spring I noticed how much I was leaning that way. Thanks for noticing. With regard to art, some say that transformation’s the thing, and I’m happy to go along with that.

      Regarding the title “Portraits of Wildflowers,” today’s first comment reminded me of the blog’s subtitle, which I often forget about. It’s in the upper right of each page: “Perspectives in Nature Photography.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 30, 2020 at 9:10 AM

  6. Thanks for the conventional view, which in turn gave more meaning to the unusual but beautiful Schwartzman creation!

    Peter Klopp

    October 30, 2020 at 9:27 AM

    • You’re welcome. I’m glad I thought to add the conventional view to allow a greater appreciation of the unconventional view.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 30, 2020 at 10:18 AM

  7. This one’s fascinating with a really abstract feel. Great idea trying this. And I appreciate the link to the more typical view. It helps puts things into perspective, not that we need that to appreciate the beauty of the image.

    Todd Henson

    October 30, 2020 at 11:48 AM

    • Hail, abstraction! I’m glad indeed that I tried the downward view. One of the flower spikes had a flatter top, but this pointier one really pushed the bounds of limited focus.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 30, 2020 at 3:02 PM

  8. Wow! That’s a great shot! I love it!


    October 30, 2020 at 12:57 PM

  9. Cool perspective, Steve. One of the few wildflowers that we have in common.

    Eliza Waters

    October 30, 2020 at 6:28 PM

    • I was really happy with this perspective. There are many species of Spiranthes, and they look similar. This one doesn’t make it to New England, but others do, as you pointed out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 30, 2020 at 7:16 PM

  10. Your technique creates the impression of motion, Steve. The bloom appears to be swirling in the wind.


    October 30, 2020 at 10:11 PM

  11. Great idea and shot!


    October 31, 2020 at 3:07 AM

  12. Great that you thought to photograph it this way … it’s an awesome image!


    October 31, 2020 at 1:04 PM

  13. Lovely and impactful image, Steve!

    Sheila Creighton

    November 1, 2020 at 2:47 PM

  14. That’s an amazing shot, Steve. The shallow depth of field really works well here.

    Steve Gingold

    November 1, 2020 at 7:06 PM

    • Thanks. It’s the latest success in this year’s quest for new abstractions. Yes, the shallow depth of field made the effect possible; f/3.2 also made focusing difficult.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 1, 2020 at 8:38 PM

  15. It’s exciting for me to see this, Steve, after my obsessive Spring spent tracking down orchids here. Mostly I was after Rein orchids but I found Ladies tresses, too, and tried one time to photograph one from above, with the top in focus and the rest not, but it didn’t work. This, this!!! Perfection. I’m glad your spot is producing this year. 🙂


    November 11, 2020 at 7:01 PM

    • How nice that you also thought to take pictures from the non-conventional looking-down viewpoint. Some of my tries also didn’t work out, given the difficulty of getting the tip in focus, but I ended up with a few portraits from “on high” that succeeded. Thanks for appreciating it.

      I meant to go back to this spot in the three weeks since then but haven’t made it over there so far.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 12, 2020 at 8:15 AM

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