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Archive for July, 2016

Have you ever tried to photograph a wedding reception? I now have a greater appreciation for those photographers who do this for a living.

Yesterday I was blessed to be able to attend the joining in marriage of my 57 year old brother and his new bride.  They met as teenagers at a summer camp more than 40 years ago and now their lives are joined together forever. The wedding was a joyous celebration of family and friends.  The food was great and there was live music too.

However, the ceremony and the reception took place in a private club that appears to be used most often for live music. It was crowed and cluttered and it is an understatement to say that the lighting was variable. The bride, who is a big fan of my wildlife photography, asked me to take some photos of the wedding. I agreed, but only after ascertaining that there would be an “official photographer.”

The relatively dim lighting in the club meant that flash would be required for virtually all shots, and I did have an external flash with me, but I was using it for the first time. Throughout the reception, I ended up doing a lot of experimentation as I twisted and pointed the head in different directions to bounce the light.

As I was getting seated at my table, I decided to take some test shots of the little white bucket that served as my seating card. I was initially confused when I saw that all of my shots had a purple tinge to them.  What was I doing wrong? One of my brothers helpfully pointed out that there was a purple light shining down on us from right behind where I was sitting.

name1_blog

I quickly learned that uncluttered backgrounds were almost impossible to get and that composing shots of moving people in confined spaces is near impossible (and it’s even harder to get shots with decent expressions on their faces).  There was a live band and I managed  to get some decent shots of some of the band members, who were relatively stationary, though the constantly changing lighting made it a challenge.

singer1_web

singer2_web

The groom has more than forty tattoos, including many of the characters of the Wizard of Oz, and the wedding cake featured numerous scenes from that wonderful movie.

cake1_web

I did eventually manage to get some candid shots of people during the reception, but I haven’t yet decided if I will share them on this blog—I’ll  probably check with the bride and groom to see what they think.

What did I learn? Most of the “official” wedding shots probably need to be staged, preferably in an outdoor setting or a place where you can control lighting and background. The candid shots from the reception that  look spontaneous and fun are really, really difficult to get and there are no guarantees that you will get good ones—you really do need a second shooter to increase the odds. Finally, it takes a lot of energy and stamina to take photos at a reception—I got a good workout doing all kinds of stretches and deep knee bends trying to get shots.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Normally Blue Dasher dragonflies (Pachydiplax longipennis) perch on plants growing upwards, but this one decided to be different by perching on hanging vegetation. I love how the lighting makes it look like the image  was shot in the studio. I think I will call his position the “downward-facing dragonfly.” (I captured the image this morning in Woburn, MA at a small canal just outside of my hotel.)

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was beginning to think that another year would go by without seeing a Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) when yesterday I spotted one of them in the most unlikely of places—in the mulched plants at the back of the hotel where I am staying in Woburn, Massachusetts.

After a grueling eleven-hour ride from Northern Virginia, I arrived at the hotel yesterday afternoon ready to relax. Unfortunately, I was told that my room would not be ready for at least an hour. I grabbed my camera and decided to walk around the grounds of the hotel, which is adjacent to a small canal, to see what there might be to photograph.

As I was walking, I caught sight of an orange-and-black butterfly that kept landing momentarily on the low plants, never staying still long enough for me to get a good shot (I was shooting with a 100mm macro lens). I kept chasing and eventually got some shots. It has been such a  long time since I last saw a Monarch that any photo at all is a bonus, so it doesn’t bother me that these are far from being great shots.

My excitement at seeing a Monarch is tempered a bit by the fact that I did not get the right angle to conclusively exclude the possibility that this is a Viceroy butterfly. If that were to turn out to be the case, I’ll be out again chasing butterflies in search of the first Monarch of the season.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Butterflies were really active this past Monday at Huntley Meadows Park, especially around the buttonbushes (Cephalanthus occidentalis). A dark swallowtail butterfly caught my eye and my mind raced to remember how to distinguish among the various dark swallowtails. Fortunately I had enough presence of mind to capture some images, knowing I could search different resources when I got home.

I’m pretty confident that the butterfly in question is a Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor). One of its distinguishing characteristics is a single row of orange spots in the shape of a C. As I was searching the internet, I came across a wonderful posting by Louisana Naturalist that has side-by-side photos of four different dark swallowtails —the Black Swallowtail, the dark morph of the female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, the Spicebush Swallowtail, and the Pipevine Swallowtail.

As I was trying to get a shot of this butterfly, which was in constant motion, another insect decided to photobomb us. I think it is a bee and I am including a photo of the photobombing insect just for fun.

Pipevine Swallowtail

Pipevine Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How do birds manage to survive the unbearable heat of summer? Monday, on a day when temperatures soared to 100 degrees (38 degrees C), I spotted this Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) at Huntley Meadows Park. It was sitting in the shade and looked like it had fluffed up its feathers or was drying off after a dip in the pond in an effort to stay cool.

I was the crazy one standing in the sun.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When the temperature is 96 degrees outside (about 36 degrees C), it’s hard to have the energy to go far with my camera. Fortunately, my neighbor, fellow photographer Cindy Dyer, has an awesome garden. I was glad to be able to capture this shot of some gladiolas that were blooming there this past weekend.

Thanks, Cindy.

gladiolas

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The bright colors and distinctive shape of sunflowers never fail to bring a smile to my face. Here’s a shot of one from my trip last Friday to McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Poolesville, Maryland.

sunflower

Normally a shot like this is easy to get when the towering sunflowers reach tall into the sky. In reality, however, the sunflowers at this site were not that tall and I had to crouch low to the ground to capture this image. In addition, many of the sunflowers were a bit wilted and past their peak. One of my Facebook readers commented that it looked like the flowers had their heads bowed in prayer in the following shot, which gives you and idea of the conditions in one area of the field of sunflowers.

sunflower

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How do you get your subject to smile when you want to take a picture? This Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) didn’t need any prompting at all when I went in for an extreme close-up shot yesterday at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Maryland.

Start each day with a smile.

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was walking through a field of sunflowers at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Poolesville, Maryland, I spotted an unusual dragonfly that I couldn’t immediately identify. It turned out to be a Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly (Dromogomphus spinosus)—a cool name for a cool-looking dragonfly.

When I first caught sight of the dragonfly, the dragonfly’s long, skinny abdomen and the enlarged area near the end suggested to me that it was a member of the clubtail family of dragonflies. (You can get a really good sense of the shape of the “clubtail” when you look at the shadows in a couple of the images). The only clubtails that I have seen with any kind of regularity have been Common Sanddragons and Unicorn Clubtails, and this was clearly not one of them. When I am out in the field, I don’t worry too much about identification—I practice what I call the “Law of the West,” i.e. “shoot first and ask questions later.”

Later in the day my shooting partner was able to identify the dragonfly after I pointed her to the website “Dragonflies of Northern Virginia.” This website is my favorite resources for information and photos of dragonflies in my area. I checked my past blog postings because I had a vague recollection that I had seen this species before and found a posting indicating that I saw one almost exactly a year ago on a trip to a different part of Maryland.

Black-shouldered Spinyleg

Black-shouldered Spinyleg

Black-shouldered Spinyleg

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Yesterday I traveled with my photography mentor Cindy Dyer to McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in nearby Poolesville, Maryland to check out the large fields of sunflowers that are planted there each year. We just missed the peak blooming period and many of the sunflowers were drooping and seemed a little wilted. Cindy, who has visited this area multiple times, noted that the sunflowers were not as tall or as dense as in previous years.

Several American Goldfinches (Spinus tristis) that I observed in the fields, however, were definitely not disappointed—they were gorging themselves on sunflower seeds. The goldfinches were pretty skittish, but occasionally were distracted enough when feeding that I was able to get some shots, despite the fact that I was shooting with my 180mm macro lens.

American Goldfinch

 

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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During a quick trip to Jackson Miles Abbott Wetlands Refuge at Fort Belvoir, Virginia last weekend, I was thrilled to see that the spectacularly patterned Banded Pennant dragonflies are still around. This is the only location that I visit regularly where I have spotted this dragonfly species and I am never quite sure when an encounter will be the last one of the season.

As I was looking over the two shots that I chose to use with this posting, I realized that they represent two different approaches that I use when photographing dragonflies. Ideally I will try to position myself so that the camera’s sensor is parallel with the dragonfly’s wings and most of the dragonfly will be in focus. That was the case with the second shot and it really highlights the beautiful pattern of the wings. However, the image seems a bit too static for my taste. I prefer the first shot, in part because the pose is more dynamic and the direct eye contact with the dragonfly draws me in.

Banded Pennant

Banded Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Blue Dasher dragonflies (Pachydiplax longipennis) have become for me one of the signs of summer in the area in which I live. When the weather turns hot and humid, they can often be seen flying lazily over the marshes and ponds, perching frequently on vegetation growing out of the water.

On a recent trip to Green Spring Gardens, I captured some images perched male Blue Dasher dragonflies. In the first shot, the dragonfly was perched on the edge of a lotus leaf. I really like the curves and softness of the leaves, which contrast with the details of the dragonfly. I think too that the shadow cast on the lower leaf adds some additional visual interest to the  image.

The second image features a Blue Dasher in the obelisk pose. It is generally believed that some dragonflies assume this pose to dissipate heat by reducing the amount of their bodies that is exposed to direct sunlight. I was shooting partially into the sun, which forced me to overexpose the image a bit and accounts for the lighter background. However, the surface of the water was covered with a lot of duckweed and was not uniform in color. As a result, the background ended ended up with some ugly gray patches that I seemed to be impossible for me to remove.

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I first spotted this small Common Buckeye Butterfly (Junonia coenia) as it was flying low above a grassy patch at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetlands Refuge. Periodically it would stop and I would attempt to get a shot of it. It was probably hilarious to watch our little pas de deux—the butterfly would fly and perch and I would bend my knees and crouch, which served as a signal for the butterfly to take off again.

I’m pretty patient, so we danced this way for quite a while before the butterfly decided to perch on some low vegetation rather than on the bare ground. I was finally able to capture a shot, though the butterfly didn’t pose long before taking off again.

Common Buckeye

As I continued the chase, my knees started getting a bit sore. I was thinking of giving up the chase when suddenly the butterfly flew higher into the air and landed on a buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis). These bushes are a virtual magnet for butterflies and I love the spiky spheres of the plant. I wasn’t able to get very close to the buttonbush, but captured this image that I really like.

Common Buckeye

The chase ended here and we went our separate ways. I hope that I never get too old or too self-conscious to chase butterflies, a pursuit that makes me feel like a carefree child again.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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This weekend when I visited Green Spring Gardens I was shocked to see that not a single lotus flower was blooming, given that so many were blooming recently at nearby Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens. As I looked in vain for a flower, I somehow became fascinated with the shapes of the leaves of the lotus plants and their interplay with the light and captured these almost abstract images.

These images are definitely different from the ones that I normally post, but I thought I would share them to show you what unexpectedly caught my eye that day.

lotus leaf

 

lotus leaf

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some folks are really into chasing imaginary creatures with their cellphones. I prefer to chase living creatures with my camera and captured this image of a beautiful Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) yesterday as it was feeding at Green Spring Gardens, a county-run historic garden in Northern Virginia.

The butterfly gave me multiple opportunities to get shots as it flew around a small area of the gardens, but it rarely gave me an obstructed view. Often it was partially buried in the flowers or turned away from me at an angle. When I took this shot, the butterfly had opened its wings and offered me a rare look at its body as well as its amazingly long proboscis.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I absolutely love the vibrant colors of the daylilies in the garden of my neighbor, Cindy Dyer. Cindy is best known for her photos of flowers that have appeared multiple times on U.S. postage stamps, but she photographs a wide variety of subjects. On a more personal level, she has served as my photography mentor over the past four years and has been a constant source of encouragement and inspiration for me.

As I was capturing some images of the daylilies, I thought back to one of my earliest lessons with Cindy in which she reassured me that I didn’t have to capture the entire flower when I photographed it. That simple insight helped me realize that I was doing something more than simply documenting reality—I was creating my own version of reality through a series of artistic and technical choices.

I learned a powerful and liberating lesson that day that has continued to shape the way I approach most of my photography.

daylily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do your remember what it was like to be young and in love? You and your beloved couldn’t beat to be separated—you were always together, always close, always touching, like these two Shasta Daisies growing in the garden of my neighbor and fellow photographer Cindy Dyer.

As I was looking for information about the Shasta Daisy, I came across this fascinating information on the history on the flower at lutherburbank.org:

“2001 marked the 100th anniversary of Luther Burbank’s introduction of the Shasta daisy, one of America’s most beloved garden flowers. Burbank spent 17 years developing this quadruple hybrid which he named after Mt. Shasta. Others have continued Burbank’s work and many new varieties of the Shasta daisy have been introduced since Burbank completed his work more than 100 years ago.”

Shasta Daisy

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What do you want to be when you grow up? I wonder if these ducklings were dreaming of growing to be as big as a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) when they swam toward its reflection yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park.

growing up

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Yesterday I spotted this spectacular female Swamp Darner dragonfly (Epiaeschna heros) at Huntley Meadows Park. At almost 3 1/2 inches long (90 mm), Swamp Darners are one of the largest dragonflies in our area.

It was a rare treat for me to capture shots of one perching—usually I see them only in flight. Like most darners, Swamp Darners hand vertically from vegetation, often low to the ground. I was fortunate to see this beautiful dragonfly fly to the perch and it remained there long enough for me to maneuver into position for a clear shot with my long zoom lens. I actually had to pull back from the maximum 600mm focal length of the lens in order to be able to fit the dragonfly’s entire body in the frame.

If you want to get a higher-resolution look at some of the wonderful details of this dragonfly, including the amazing colors of its eyes, be sure to click on the image.

Swamp Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the colorful patterns on the wings of a Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina), but rarely have the chance to see one. Therefore, I was pretty excited when I spotted one from a distance last week at Huntley Meadows Park, my favorite marshland location for nature photography.

I moved a little closer to get some initial shots with my Tamron 150-600mm lens fully extended. Generally I use my long zoom for birds more often than for dragonflies.  In this case, however, the lens turned out to be a better choice than my macro lens, because the dragonfly flew away when I took a couple of steps toward it and I never saw it again.

Most of the Halloween Pennant dragonflies that I have observed in the past have had wings that were more amber-colored than those of this individual, but the wing pattern is so distinctive that I am pretty sure about my identification. In addition to the wonderful wings, I was really struck by the length and two-toned color of this dragonfly’s legs.

Halloween Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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There is something really special about water lilies (g. Nymphaea)—it’s easy for me to understand why impressionist painter Claude Monet was obsessed with them. During my recent visit to Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in Washington D.C. many of the water lilies were closed up, probably because of the extreme heat of the midday sun, but I did manage to get some shots.

The traditional white water lilies tend to have a calming effect on me. For those folks looking for a bit more passion, there were also some fiery red water lilies.

Water lily

water lily

water lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How far do you usually travel when you want to take some photos? I capture a lot of my wildlife/nature images in my local area, but generally I get into my car and travel at least a few miles before I begin shooting.

Sometimes, though, I feel the urge to shoot, but don’t really want to travel far. In those moments I will usually walk over to the townhouse of my neighbor, fellow photographer Cindy Dyer, who always seems to have an assortment of photogenic flowers in bloom.

Last week I chased a Cabbage White butterfly (Pieris rapae) that I spotted fluttering about the flowers in garden. It passed by the globe thistles and the cone flowers and finally perched for a moment on a lavender plant. The sun was shining brightly, which I knew would create problems in getting a proper exposure of the dazzling white wings of the butterfly. I switched my metering to spot metering and the wings retained their details, but the background became really dark, creating a dramatic lighting effect that I really like. As always, I was thrilled to be able to see the beautiful green eye of this common butterfly that is often ignored or simply taken for granted.

Cabbage White

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Normally I try to move in really close to my subjects using a telephoto or macro lens. Yesterday, however, I decided to try to “see” the world differently by using a wider lens (24-105mm) during a quick trip with my photography mentor Cindy Dyer to Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in the Anacostia area of Washington D.C. to check out the water lilies and lotus flowers.

The trip was a spur-of-the-moment decision while we were eating lunch, so we knew that we would miss out on the soft early morning light that we both prefer. However, the weather was beautiful, with the temperatures and humidity less oppressive than in recent weeks, so we decided to brave the Washington D.C. area traffic to check out the park.

Cindy is no stranger to the park. Last year four of her images of water lilies from the park appeared on US postage stamps, which were so popular that half a billion were printed. Check out this link to see information about these stamps. Earlier this year, one of Cindy’s images of Sacred Lotuses at the park was on one of the 16 postage stamps issued to commemorate the centennial of the National Park Service. Check out this link for more information about that stamp.

Here are some of my images of Sacred Lotuses (Nelumbo nucifera) from yesterday as I tried to step back a bit and see the flowers as part of a larger landscape. Initially I struggled a bit as I kept focusing on details, but my mind and my eye grew accustomed to the idea that the lens was not going to let me get in close. Gradually I started to see things differently and to frame my photos accordingly.

Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens

Acres and acres of lotuses

Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens

Lotuses fading into the distance

Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens

Lotus and seed pod

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Ebony Jewelwing damselflies (Calopteryx maculata) like to hide in the shadows, but they really do sparkle like jewels when the light hits them right.

I spotted the beautiful female damselfly in the first photo this past weekend at Huntley Meadows Park—only females have white spots on their wings. I really like the way that the tones of the background complement the colors of the damselfly.

Ebony Jewelwing

I captured this shot of a male Ebony Jewelwing damselfly only a few minutes later. The lighting was brighter and the stance seems almost confrontational, which gives this image a totally different feel from that of the female.

Ebony Jewelwing

I’ll leave it to others to make broader inferences about the mysteries of the fairer gender versus the in-your-face directness of the average male.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How many large fish can there possibly be in the tiny man-made pond at Green Spring Gardens? That was my initial thought when I stumbled upon a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) intently focused on the water at one end of the pond. I crept as close as I could, acutely aware that I had a non-zooming macro lens on my camera, and watched and waited.

I was somewhat surprised when the heron finally made a strike and was amazed when it pulled out a large fish. Almost immediately, the heron headed for dry land, probably fearing that it might drop the fish into the water. Playing it safe proved to be a good choice for the heron subsequently did drop the fish onto the ground. I am not sure if it was an accidental drop or if it was an intentional maneuver to grab the fish, but the heron had no trouble retrieving the fish.

It took a little while for the heron to position the fish, but once the fish was in place, the heron swallowed the fish in a single gulp. The heron then stretched out its neck and I could almost watch as the fish made its way down the neck and into the heron’s stomach.

Great Blue Heron

Pulling the fish out of the water

Great Blue Heron

Heading for dry land

Great Blue Heron

Initial positioning

Great Blue Heron

Dropped fish

Great Blue Heron

The end is near

Great Blue Heron

Trying to swallow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Early yesterday morning, an immature Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea) flew up to the top of a nearby tree as I slowly approached it on the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park. From its elevated perch, the beautiful little bird seemed to be surveying the landscape, contemplating the start of a new day.

At this time of the year there are quite a few large white wading birds at my favorite marshland park. I think that most of them are Great Egrets (Ardea alba), but the coloration and shape of the bill of the bird in this photo suggest to me that this is a Little Blue Heron. When Little Blue Herons are mature, they are a dark grayish blue and would never be mistaken for Great Egrets, but when they are young, the feathers of a Little Blue Heron are all white.

Little Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Despite their differences in size and appearance, the Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera) and the Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia) dragonflies were able to co-exist peacefully and both were able to enjoy the same perch this morning at Huntley Meadows Park.

Why is it so hard for us to do the same?

coexist1_8Jul_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I should probably be able to remember my own anniversary, but I am a guy. Therefore I was caught a bit by surprise yesterday evening when WordPress notified me that it was the fourth anniversary of the start of my blog. Where has the time gone?

Blogging has become part of my daily life since I first started. I never suspected that I would get such joy and satisfaction from exploring my creativity in words and in photos and from sharing that journey with the wonderful folks that I have encountered through the blog. Thanks to all of you for your support, encouragement, and helpful tips. I sometimes like to say that I write this blog primarily for me, but I know that is not entirely true—I write it for all of you too. My photography mentor, Cindy Dyer, deserves special thanks. She helped me to start the blog and has been a continuous source of inspiration for me.

WordPress statistics indicate that I have made 2030 postings (which includes a dozen or more repostings of  posts written by friends) and have had 110749 views from well over 100 countries. Statistics are only a relative measure of success and I know that my best postings and my best photos are not necessarily the ones that have had the most views.

Over the past four years my skill and my confidence with my camera have grown. I now consider myself a photographer, albeit not a professional. My interests have expanded and my winters are now spent chasing birds, something I never imagined that I would find interesting. My fascination with dragonflies has remained constant and I have learned a lot about them. I think it is altogether appropriate to reprise today the short text and photo from my first posting

Text of my first posting in WordPress on July 7, 2012:

I photographed this Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens this morning.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Blue Dasher

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Although I was still here in Northern Virginia, the colors and desolate character of the landscape surrounding this Variable Dancer damselfly (Argia fumipennis violacea) reminded me of the desert Southwestern portion of the United States. It looked almost like the damselfly was posing for a photo while perched at the edge of the Grand Canyon.

The reality was a little less exciting. I spotted this Variable Dancer during the 4th of July weekend while I was exploring Pohick Creek in Springfield, Virginia, only a few miles from where I live.

Variable Dancer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How quickly can you change gears when a new subject unexpectedly presents itself? Can you make the necessary physical and mental adjustments to take advantage of a fleeting moment?

This past weekend I made another trip to Jackson Miles Abbott Wetlands Refuge at nearby Fort Belvoir, Virginia to search for dragonflies and damselflies. I didn’t see all that many dragonflies, but there seemed to be a lot of damselflies. I focused my attention and my camera on these tiny beauties, attempting to get close enough to fill as much of the frame as I could with them.

As I was getting close-up shots of what I believe is a Variable Dancer damselfly (Argia fumipennis violacea), I caught sight of some motion out of the corner of my eye and turned my head to see what it was. Here’s the subject on which I was concentration before I turned my head.

Variable Dancer

Looking up into the sky, I noticed a large bird approaching. At first I thought it might only be a seagull, but decided that I should take some shots in case it turned out to be a raptor. Obviously I was not going to have time to change lenses, so I quickly checked my camera settings and pointed my macro lens up into the sky and managed to get some shots of an osprey (Pandion haliaetus) as it slowly flew over the pond.

osprey

osprey

It’s amazing for me to look at these three photos and realize they were all taken at the same location within minutes of each other with the same lens and similar settings. The osprey images were cropped quite a bit more, but the details of the bird held up pretty well.

I tend to think of myself as an opportunistic shooter and this was definitely a case when I tested my ability to react quickly to a new subject. My trusty Tamron 180mm macro lens proved to be pretty capable too. The lens can sometimes be a bit noisy and slow when focusing and it has no built-in image stabilization, but as the osprey images show, it can capture some pretty nice in-flight shots under the right conditions.

 

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I didn’t really intend to photograph birds this weekend and had my macro lens on my camera. As I was walking around Hidden Pond Nature Centerhowever, I came face to face with a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) and actually had to back up a little to take this shot.

My macro lens is a 180mm Tamron and can serve pretty well as a telephoto lens in certain circumstances, though normally when I am planning to photograph birds I will use a longer lens. Sometimes you just have to shoot a subject with the lens on your camera at that moment. I had a zoom lens in my camera bag, but suspect that the heron would have flown away before I would have been able to switch lenses.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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