Unlike those that construct elaborate webs, some spiders instead perch at the shore with extended legs and sense prey through vibrations on the surface of the water. When the prey is detected, the spider runs across the top of the water, prompting some to call it the “Jesus spider.”

I spotted this cool-looking Six-spotted Fishing Spider (Dolomedes triton) in the shallow water of a pond this past Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Six-spotted Fishing Spider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

I can’t identify this flower and I am not certain what kind of skipper butterfly this is, but the two of them sure did combine well in this image that I captured this past weekend at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens. (I’m leaning towards this being a Peck’s Skipper (Polites peckius), but there are so many different kinds of skippers that it’s hard to be sure.)

In many ways this is the kind of image that I aspire to capture. The subject is active, engaged in probing the flower with its extended proboscis, rather than in a static pose. Of equal importance, the image has an artistic feel, a kind of beauty in its composition and colors. There are so many uncontrollable elements in nature that there is no way to guarantee results like this, but it is sure is nice when it happens.

UPDATE: Helpful folks on Facebook and readers of this blog have helped to identify the butterfly as a Zabulon Skipper (Poanes zabulon) and the flower as an Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana). Thanks, Drew and Molly.

skipper and flower

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


Gold-tinged wings

I love the stunning red-orange coloration of a male Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami), especially when the sunlight dances across its gold-tinged wings, as it did on Monday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Generally I prefer an uncluttered background for my subjects, but in this case I think the soft patterns of the grasses in the background enhance the image more than would have been the case with a uniform single color.

Needham's Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


Normally I aim for extreme realism when taking photos. Sometimes, however, I like to try an “artsy” approach, like in this image of a flower (a zinnia, I believe) from this past weekend at Meadlowlark Botanical Gardens.

In this case, I deliberately tried to distort perceptions and make it look like the grass and the sky had switched places. In reality, the blue is not from the sky, but is a gravel path.

I like to try to vary the angle at which I am shooting and the results can often be fun and different. I never know when I will find myself sprawled on the ground or standing in the mud, so I tend to wear clothes that are rugged and often ragged.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

It was wonderful to travel to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in nearby Vienna, Virginia with some friends this past weekend. Although I really enjoy going back repeatedly to familiar spots, sometimes it’s nice to move outside of the “box” and see something different, or at least in a different environment.

One of my favorite subjects of our little photo trip was this delightful Green Heron (Butorides virescens) that I spotted at one of the small ponds at the park. Green Herons are a lot lower to the ground than Great Blue Herons and are often difficult to find. I was lucky to see this one from a distance as I was circling the pond and managed to carefully creep close enough to have a low shooting angle and an unobstructed view.

green heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

I am always excited to see Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus). Over the years there have been numerous reports of this species becoming endangered, primarily because of the loss of habitat. Some years, I have spotted only a few Monarch during an entire summer. This year I have been fortunate enough to see them at several of the locations that I frequent.

I spotted this spectacular Monarch butterfly yesterday while visiting Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in nearby Vienna, Virginia with some fellow photographers. Each of us has a different style of shooting and preferred subjects and we usually shoot separately. It is always a lot of fun when we reassemble after shooting and share our photos and experiences with each other over dinner at a restaurant.

Monarch butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Wild Turkey in August

This past Monday I spotted this Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as it basked in the warmth of the early morning sunlight. Earlier this year I would see turkeys regularly as I walked the trails at the wildlife refuge, but the last couple of months such sightings have been rare.

wild turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.