Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchids revisited

with 27 comments

Last month you heard how on November 1st I went in search of Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchids (Spiranthes magnicamporum) on a property in my part of town that I rely on for those flowers yet found only a few. Exactly three weeks later I returned and after much wandering about managed to find a few more orchids that I’d missed the first time around. One of those is shown above in a soft approach. In contrast, I made the portrait below when a shaft of light coming through the canopy of trees briefly lit up one of the orchids.


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“I would like to see CNN evolve back to the kind of journalism that it started with, and… actually have journalists, which would be unique and refreshing.” — John Malone in a CNBC interview on November 19, 2021. Malone is the top shareholder of Discovery, which is poised to take over CNN. For a long time now I’ve lamented the devolution of CNN, which I remember from the 1990s, when you could tune in even at 3 AM and get news of the world.

And how ’bout this for a strange story? “A dentist in Italy faces possible criminal charges after trying to receive a coronavirus vaccine in a fake arm made of silicone.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 6, 2021 at 4:34 AM

27 Responses

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  1. These are really awesome shots, I love wild orchids 🙂


    December 6, 2021 at 4:37 AM

    • This is the only kind of wild orchid I normally see here. We have a few other kinds but I almost never come across them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 6, 2021 at 6:24 AM

  2. The quick response of the master photographer to a shaft of light coming through the trees created a wonderful image of the orchid. Amazing shot, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    December 6, 2021 at 9:01 AM

    • The light on the orchid in the second picture lasted several minutes before dimming, so I had a little more time than “briefly” might have made it sound.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 6, 2021 at 9:34 AM

  3. It’s beautiful. I really like the second one.


    December 6, 2021 at 9:14 AM

    • You’re the second commenter in a row to single out the second picture. That sort of stark approach is the one I’ve most often used with ladies’ tresses orchids, given the drama of white against black. The softer approach was a departure from my normal side view of these orchids.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 6, 2021 at 9:38 AM

  4. Both are nice shots of the Tresses.

    There is a lot of this going on recently. Free speech is a right but that doesn’t dismiss the severity of how it is used by young people in schools as well as adults in society. Shame they’re not being taught the history of racism because some sensitive white kid might feel hurt. Meanwhile lots of sensitive black kids and other minorities have their feelings hurt on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. Some even commit suicide. And then there are certain Representatives who think wrapping themselves in the flag makes their spoken bigotry excusable.Of course articles like this are just a bunch of left wing bull to force people to be nice against their will.

    Steve Gingold

    December 6, 2021 at 9:25 AM

    • I’m against racialization no matter who’s doing it. I’ve heard the critique from some people that American students are “not being taught the history of racism.” If you’re aware of any public high school in the United States that doesn’t teach about slavery, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights movement, please give me the name of that school.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 6, 2021 at 9:43 AM

      • How many teach the in depth problems that still exist among the people of the United States? How about the 1921 Tulsa massacre? The lynchings that continued up until the 60’s and some of the things that occur today are the modern form of a lynching. I cannot do a school by school search of classroom teaching any more than you can. I don’t have to prove my point as it is reported daily by many news sources. You choose to simplify the problems to one argument. It is much more complex than that. If you think simple glossed over history lessons will get through to kids whose parents are still incredibly prejudiced then you are kidding yourself. Teachers are getting run out of schools for teaching anything that parents decide is CRT related even though most don’t even know what it is.. What teacher is going to risk their job teaching these issues when some idiot parent will get them fired? The old ways of teaching have done little to reduce the racism as we see more and more each day. It’s evident even in the halls of Congress. New ways are required and if CRT is too overbearing then tuning it to be less so makes more sense than throwing all the efforts out.

        Steve Gingold

        December 6, 2021 at 9:57 AM

        • Hey, for decades I’ve been advocating better teaching of all subjects. It’s a great irony that the people yelling the loudest about racism have advocated (and instituted, alas) policies that make it harder for kids at the academic bottom (disproportionately black and Hispanic) to move up. I’ll be citing a letter about that in my post tomorrow.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 6, 2021 at 11:29 AM

  5. Like the soft lightened exposure in the first, as well as the contrast with the bright light and “edgier” lady in the second shot. Almost as if they were taken by two different photographers. For good measure, though, you should have, instead of limiting yourself to “Both sides of story,”included views from below and looking down from above (the latter, If I recall, you did in the previous post). Not criticizing, just observing and commenting. And appreciating. Thanks!


    December 6, 2021 at 9:49 AM

    • I intentionally varied my approaches in the two portraits. As you said, they could have been the work of different photographers. I don’t believe I’ve ever attempted a view of one of these orchids from below; short of digging a large hole, there’s not enough space to get the camera that low. You correctly remember the view from above—which is easy to do—that I showed last month.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 6, 2021 at 12:04 PM

  6. Lovely pictures. I like seeing the blossoms at different angles, and not in stiff symmetry.

    Robert Parker

    December 6, 2021 at 3:27 PM

    • In both of the pictures in my previous post about ladies’ tresses orchids at

      Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchid

      I avoided symmetry. In the first photo, the flower spike as a whole had a slight curve to it. In the second view, I shot obliquely from above and put the tip of the spike way off-center.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 6, 2021 at 3:43 PM

  7. […] down close to the ground on November 22 photographing the Great Plains ladies tresses’ orchids you saw last time, I noticed some oak leaves near by that looked bright red from backlighting by […]

  8. I’m thinking it might be time to revisit and revise my post from a decade ago that referenced the sociological classic, When Prophecy Fails. Leon Festinger et al. worked from a thesis that “believers [in a coming event or a theory] would find it difficult to abandon their beliefs in the face of disconfirmation, would use their available social support to maintain their beliefs, and try to increase consonance by recruitment through proselytizing, on the grounds that ‘If more and more people can be persuaded that the system of belief is correct, then clearly it must after all be correct.'”

    It occurs to me that current references to people ‘living in a bubble’ or in an ‘echo chamber’ are different ways of talking about the same dynamic. The D.C. corridor and the isolation of the Idaho valleys aren’t the only bubbles in the world filled with people determined to validate one another’s views.

    That said, what a marvelous — perhaps even unique — view of the ladies’ tresses in the first photo. The watercolor-like background and the softened lines of the flower still allow for the details to shine. Rather than attribute the quite different images to two photographers, I’d say they represent the ability of one photographer to see the same reality in wonderfully different ways.


    December 7, 2021 at 7:49 AM

    • Thanks for your vote of confidence in a versatile photographer. And speaking of seeing things in different ways, it’s fair to say we all have our predilections. Books that I’ve read about recent DNA research make me think those predilections are substantially influenced by genetics, though by no means definitively determined. While I naturally gravitate toward certain ways of interpreting reality, I look for evidence to support my positions. So many of the tendentious claims that ideologues have made in the past several years don’t hold up under scrutiny, which is to say that the facts don’t support the claims. For example, my recent commentary about the Rittenhouse trial pointed out a bunch of incorrect claims made by people in the media. Of the people who’ve claimed and keep claiming that American schools don’t want to teach about slavery and Jim Crow, I’ve yet to find a single critic who’s pointed to a single American school that doesn’t teach about those things.

      I’m glad you mentioned When Prophecy Fails, which I just downloaded through the Austin Public Library and will take a look at. I don’t know which groups the book documents, but I’ve heard about some in the past few decades. When those those groups’ prophecies didn’t come true, they groups explained them away and recast them for a future fate. There’s no end to how far self-delusion can go.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 7, 2021 at 11:20 AM

  9. I have seen only a few wild orchids, but this species is not among them. I’m glad your time and effort were rewarded with a few more sightings and photographs. I think the shafts of light and dark background help to highlight the flower’s details.


    December 7, 2021 at 3:24 PM

    • I was pleasantly surprised when I came across more of these orchids after wandering around looking for a while. Most of the ladies’ tresses photographs I’ve shown here for the past decade have played up the whiteness of the orchids against a dark background.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 7, 2021 at 7:50 PM

  10. That first one has a very painterly look to it. Orchids are fascinating in their almost endless variety. And I like the different looks of the soft versus hard light.

    Todd Henson

    December 8, 2021 at 8:52 AM

    • I see what you mean about the painterly look of the first take. Impressionist paintings have influenced the way our culture sees things. Regarding the pictures as a pair, it’s fun for a photographer to try different approaches to the same subject.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 8, 2021 at 9:29 AM

  11. […] the two ladies’ tresses pictures featured here three days ago, this pair of photographs contrasts a soft approach using natural light and a wide aperture with a […]

  12. […] All three pictures are from November 22nd on the same propertythat provided the pictures you recently saw of ladies’ tresses orchids. […]

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