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Archive for August, 2015

Blue-tailed skink

I especially love seeing skinks when they are juveniles and their tails are blue. I spotted this Common Five-lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) last week at Huntley Meadows Park.

Common Five-lined Skinks are a variety of small lizards that I see from time to time in my local area. According to the Virginia Herpetological Society, the average length of these skinks is from 5 to 8 and a half inches (12.5 to 21.5 cm).

This skink was on the trunk of a rotten tree when I encountered it. It was quickly clear that I was going to have to switch my camera from landscape orientation, which is how I take most of my shots, to portrait orientation, because of the length of the skink’s body.

I like both of these shots for different reasons. I find the curve in the body in the first shot to be more interesting, but the second shot is much sharper and shows greater detail. Which shot is “better?’ You have to make that call—I keep going back and forth in attempting to decide.

Common Five-lined Skink

Common Five-lined Skink

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Walking down one of the informal trails at Huntley Meadows Park this past Friday, I spotted a dark shape in a distant tree. The moment that I got my camera focused on what turned out to be a bald eagle, it took off.

My camera settings were not optimal, but I somehow managed to capture some images of the eagle in flight as it flew away. The final shot in this posting shows my initial view of the eagle, just seconds before he took to the air.

As I have noted before, it’s a wonderful day for me whenever I see a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and especially so when I am able to photograph this majestic bird.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do herons laugh? Herons remind me of many people in the Washington D.C. area—they are serious, focused, and driven. How do herons relieve their stress?

Yesterday morning I was observing a Green Heron (Butorides virescens) at my local marshland park. Suddenly he opened his mouth wide in a huge smile and appeared to be laughing.

I am not sure what prompted his actions, but I couldn’t help but smile. Laughter, after all, is contagious.

Green Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the dramatic lighting, the graphic quality, and the simple composition of this shot of a male Widow Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula luctuosa) that I took earlier this month at Jackson Miles Abbot Wetlands at Fort Belvoir, a nearby military installation here in Virginia.

There is a real beauty in simplicity.

Widow Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It had been quite a while since I had last seen a Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia), so I was pretty excited to see one during a visit this past weekend to Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, a tidal wetlands park along the Potomac River in Virginia.

The spider must have sensed my presence too, because she began to oscillate the entire web vigorously. I had to wait for her to settle down before attempting to get some shots. I was on an elevated boardwalk and the spider was considerably below the level of my feet. As a result, I had somewhat limited options for framing my shots, though I was able to photograph the spider from a couple of different angles, and was not able to get really close to the spider.

I was happy that I managed to capture the really cool zigzag portion of the spider’s web, a distinctive characteristic of this particular species.

Argiope spider

Argiope spider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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To post or not to post? For over a week, I have gone back and forth in my mind, trying to decide if I should post this image. Most of my deliberation has centered around the indisputable fact that significant parts of the main subject, a young White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), are obscured by the leaves and branches. Does the foliage add to the image or detract from it?

Ultimately, I decided that the emotional impact of the fawn’s gentle eyes, staring out at me from behind the curtain of leaves, trumped all other consideration. The leaves actually help to draw attention to those eyes, with their unbelievably long lashes.

What makes a good photo? I think a lot about that question as I go over my images. How heavily do I weigh technical and creative considerations? Most of the time, as was the case here, I’ll decide with my heart.

fawn

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A group of small birds was foraging in the shallow waters of a stream and I approached them quietly, hoping to get close enough to isolate one of them with my camera. They seemed to be in constant motion and I followed them, waiting and hoping. Finally they stopped for a moment and I crouched low and took this shot of what I believe to be a Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla).

I thought about cropping the image a little so that the bird would not be quite as centered, but I decided that I like the ripples in the left corner too much to cut them off. What you see in this posting, therefore, is the framing as the image came out of the camera.

Least Sandpiper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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