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During a visit yesterday to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia, I was reminded of my favorite artist—Claude Monet. During the last thirty years of his life, water lilies (Nymphéas in French) were the main focus of his artistic production. One of the museums that I most love visiting is the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris, because it houses eight massive water lily murals by Monet in two specially-built oval rooms. It is incredibly peaceful to just sit in one of those rooms, surrounded by those amazing paintings.

I was delighted and a little surprised yesterday to see that some water lilies were already in bloom. There was a lot of vegetation surrounding the pond in which the beautiful flowers were floating, so there were some limits to my ability to compose my shots. Still, I am pretty happy with the images that I was able to capture.

Perhaps you will find yourself as captivated by the water lilies as I was.

Water lily

Water lily

water lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

When I first started getting serious about photography almost seven years ago, I often went shooting with my photography mentor Cindy Dyer. Cindy is accomplished in many areas of photography, but she is particularly passionate about capturing the beauty of flowers with her trusty macro lens. I learned a lot about the art of photography by shooting flowers side by side with her and reviewing my images with her.

Yesterday she and I made a short visit to Green Spring Gardens, a historical, county-run garden not far from our neighborhood, and it was wonderful to see how many flowers were in bloom. I was especially attracted by the poppies that I saw growing in several areas of the gardens—the star-like centers of the poppies seemed to beckon me.

Here are a few photos of those wonderful poppies, which came in a surprising variety of colors.

purple poppy

white poppy

purple poppy

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Did you know that not all spiders build webs? Some, like jumping spiders, rely on stealth and speed to capture unsuspecting prey. One of my favorite spiders, the Six-spotted Fishing Spider (Dolomedes triton), sits at the edge of the water with some of its long legs fully extended. When it senses vibrations of a potential prey on the surface of the water, a fishing spider can walk on the water to seize insects, vertebrates, tadpoles and occasionally small fish or even dive underwater up to 7.1 inches (18 cm), according to Wikipedia.

Here are a couple of images of a Six-spotted Fishing Spider that I spotted earlier this week at Prince William Forest Park. I really like the way that you can see most of the spiders eight eyes in these images and the way that the environment looks almost alien and other-worldly.

Past experience has shown me that viewers will be split in their reactions to these images—some will find them to be really cool and fascinating, while others will find them to be completely creepy. As you might suspect, I am in the former group.

Six-spotted Fishing spider

Six-spotted Fishing spider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Whenever folks of my generation catch sight of a spotted fawn, we invariably think of the animated Disney movie Bambi, a movie that is an integral part of  our collective memory of childhood. Perhaps we remember the friendship of Bambi, Thumper,  and Flower or the love of Bambi and Faline  or the shocking death of Bambi’s mother. Our memories of the movie may vary, but I think we all feel a soft spot in our hearts if we are lucky enough to catch sight of a fawn.

I spotted this little deer on Tuesday at Prince William Forest Park in Triangle, Virginia. It was down in a small valley at the edge of some heavy vegetation. I watched from a distance from my higher vantage point as the fawn poked about in the vegetation. At some point, the fawn became aware of my presence and looked straight at me through its soft brown eyes. The deer held its gaze for what seemed like a long time and it faded into the underbrush and the spell was broken.

Thanks, Bambi, for sharing those magical moments with me.

Bambi

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

It was quite startling to see the bright orange color on the head of this Broad-headed Skink (Plestiodon laticeps) yesterday at Prince William Forest Park in Triangle, Virginia. We do not have many lizards in our area and they all tend to blend in much better with their surroundings than this one did.

According to information from the Virginia Herpetological Society, adult males of this species are uniformly brown most of the year. However, during mating season in the spring the head of the males becomes enlarged and turns bright orange. The color of their heads gradually fade and the head is reduced in size the rest of the year.

Broad-headed Skink

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Do you like to hang out in the swamp? Swamps may not be the most hospitable place for humans, but they provide a wonderful environment for all kinds of photogenic creatures. For example, the bright yellow Prothontary Warbler that I featured yesterday likes to hang out in a wooded swamp, unlike most warblers that prefer trees in a drier environment.

As I was photographing that bird two weeks ago at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I noticed some very large dragonflies flying around in the same area.  I recognized them as Swamp Darner dragonflies (Epiaeschna heros) and I was thrilled when one of the females decided to deposit some eggs in a fallen log not far from where I was standing observing the warbler. I had to bend down a bit, but essentially my feet stayed in the same spot.

It is definitely cool to be able to photograph two such colorful species from the same spot. The experience is a good reminder not to get so focused on your primary subject that you lose sight of what is happening around you. You never know when an equally good or even better subject may be at your feet, above your head, or to your right or left.

Swamp Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

A couple of weeks ago I spotted a colorful Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) building a nest in a nesting box at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The warbler made multiple trips to the nest carrying a variety of materials in its bill. Each time that it got ready to leave the box, the warbler would stick its head out and look around. Although I tried repeatedly to capture the bird in flight as it left the box, the last image was the only one that was partially successful.

I am finally catching up on a backlog of photos—normally I post my photos within a few days of shooting them.

Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.