“Trailside Showy Lady Slipper ”
“We only know a tiny proportion about the complexity of the natural world. Wherever you look, there are still things we don’t know about and don’t understand. […] There are always new things to find out if you go looking for them.”
― David Attenborough
There are moments in our lives that leave us breathless. For me, one of those moments occurred last year, when I came across this small cluster of Showy Lady Slipper orchids. They are native to my region and seem to be fairly scarce, as I have not seen them anywhere else, but here. The ‘grove’ currently consists of five flowering plants and two non-bloomers, all tightly grouped around a rotting balsam log, right next to a trail. I’m encouraged in that I spotted a few new plants, just in leaf, popping up nearby and I’m hoping this expansion continues.
I wrote about my discover around this time last year and my anxiety that someone might pick them or dig them up before they bloomed. The plants are quite stunning, being almost a half meter tall with large, intricate blossoms. As I photographed them this year, I was dismayed, as someone had picked one of the blossoms and another had been trampled down, likely by the same person, in their quest for the largest flower. Unfortunately, the plants grow quite close to the trail and are easily visible, if you are looking for them.
I’m getting better at picking up on the cycles of these magnificent wildflowers, based on other companion plants, saving me numerous trips back to this locale, which is also a haven for mosquitoes, which hungrily buzzed around me as I squatted low to get my photos. Oh, the joys of nature photography. It’s all worth it for even a single image like this.
One final challenge, bugs aside, is the poor lighting conditions. The orchids grow in a heavily wooded lowland, thick and dark and green. So it’s a real challenge to set white balance. To get the desired details, I also had to push my ISO higher than I like to get good detail. It was also windy, adding unwanted movement and limiting my exposure time. All in all, a good lesson on lighting and adapting camera settings, since I did not want to blow this opportunity to capture a good image. A return trip is unlikely till next weekend.
Tamron SP AF 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 (272ENII)@90mm
1/15 sec, f/18.0 ISO 1000