Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for October, 2016

I grew up in the suburbs and have never lived in the country, but somehow I love the beauty of old tractors. During my recent visit to a local produce center that I have featured the last few day, my eyes were inexorably drawn to the a green tractor and its ghoulish driver. Oh, Deere. The scene was staged at the edge of the property, so it was hard to get a shot that did not include barbed wire and chain link fence.  Here are a few shots from different angles to give you an overall view (yes, the driver is wearing overalls)  as well as a wide-angle view.

Happy Halloween!

Halloween tractor

 

Halloween tractor

 

Halloween tractor

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Some very creative people must work at the local pumpkin patch at Nalls Produce Center in Alexandria, Virginia. As I wandered about, I encountered numerous mini-scenes celebrating farm life and/or Halloween.

One of my favorites featured a crazed–looking cat in overalls conversing with a cow. I also really liked the jack-o-lantern made with all natural materials. I can’t recall ever before seeing a jack-o-lantern with hair.

Halloween

Halloween

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I love the way that the folks at Nalls Produce Center chose to display their wide variety of autumn produce—it is almost like a work of art. It was a challenge to photograph the wall of produce and I never did get the angles quite right. so all my photos were crooked to one degree or another. I thought about trying to photograph individual boxes, but decided to photograph them in multiples of varying numbers.

As I look overt the images I continue to marvel at the differences in size, shape, color, and texture of the fruits and vegetables on display.

autumn produce

autumn produce

autumn produce

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Nothing quite says autumn like a visit to a pumpkin patch. In this case it was a brief excursion to Nalls Produce Center, a nearby establishment that has an amazing assortment of produce and plants. Normally I think of pumpkins as being orange and there are plenty of orange pumpkins there of all shapes and sizes. They also have an incredible variety of pumpkins of different colors, including the multi-colored ones in the final photo. They are known by a number of different names including Turk’s Turban and Mexican Hat.

pumpkin patch

pumpkin patch

pumpkins4_blog

Mexican Hat pumpkin

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I never get tired of watching the Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) at Huntley Meadows Park. Quite often they ignore me and focus intently on catching a fish. I marvel at their patience and persistence.

During one recent encounter, though, I had eye-to-eye contact with a heron. The heron looked right at me and seemed to be sending a distinct warning message that it was not going to share the small fish that it had just caught.

I backed off and let the heron enjoy his fish appetizer in peace. It was gone in a quick gulp and the heron went back to work and I moved on in search of more subjects.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I grew up in the suburbs and don’t know much about domestic fowl, but it seems to me that this colorful bird must be some kind of funky chicken. I love the colors and the patterns in the feathers of this chicken.

I spotted this chicken during a visit to Nalls Produce Center, a wonderful location in our area to see all kinds of colorful produce and plant. While there, I also took some shots of pumpkins that I will probably feature in a posting later this week.

funky chicken

funky chicken

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

How do you capture the beauty of autumn? If you live in a location where there are broad expanses of trees full of brightly colored leaves, it would be pretty easy, I think. In Northern Virginia where I live, the colors tend to be muted and isolated. There are patches of colors here and there, but it seems like many of the leaves go straight from green to brown.

On some recent trips to Huntley Meadows Park, my favorite shooting location, I tried to capture some glimpses of the changing season using my telephoto zoom lens. The colors and patterns of the fall foliage turned into abstract patterns when viewed through a telephoto lens.

Here are some of my favorite shots as I focused in on the autumn foliage. I am also including a final image that attempts to capture the feeling of walking down a trail in the crisp morning air with fallen leaves crunching underfoot.

fall foliage

fall foliage

fall foliage

fall foliage

fall foliage

autumn trail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Common subjects like this Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) have a special appeal and challenge for me. Can I photograph them in an unusual way?

The foreground and background in this image almost blend together and highlight the beauty and personality of the mockingbird. The background makes it look a bit like it was taken in a studio setting. Only the chipped paint gives away the fact that the curious bird was perched on the man-made railing of a boardwalk. I also really like the way that the color and pattern of the weathered wood almost perfectly match the bird’s feathers.

Northern Mockingbird

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

As I was exploring yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park, I came upon this Rough Green Snake (Opheodrys aestivus) stretched out in the thorns at the edge of one of the fields. My first instinct was to move in close, but I actually remembered to take a shot of the entire snake before doing so.  The “wide-angle” shot was taken with my 150-600mm telephoto zoom lens, which gave me a slightly wider view than the 180mm macro lens that I used for the close-up shot.

Rough Green Snake

Rough Green Snake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

Generally it’s best to have the sun behind you when taking photos, but sometimes you are forced to shoot almost directly into the sun. When the conditions are right you can sometimes get wonderful silhouettes, like these images of Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) that I spotted on the Potomac River near Dyke Marsh in Alexandria, Virginia this past Monday.

The shot of the perched cormorant was a conscious composition—I assessed the light and knew that I was shooting a silhouette. In the case of the flying cormorant, however, I was reacting to the movement of a bird taking off from the water and trying so hard to hard to capture focus and keep the bird in focus that I was not paying much conscious attention to the lighting.

Double-crested Cormorant

Double=crested Cormorant

 

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Periodically I’d catch a glimpse of a warbler in the trees of Huntley Meadows Park last Friday, but they mostly remained hidden deep within the branches. This Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata), however, ventured out of the shadows just enough that I was able to get this long-distance shot of it.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I am not about to make a sign proclaiming that “The End is Near,” but I couldn’t help feeling a slight sense of impending doom when I spotted an Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) this past weekend. In our area, Autumn Meadowhawks are the ultimate survivors of the dragonfly season and they can usually be found well into December and occasionally into January.

This pretty red and brown dragonfly is a harbinger of doom—inexorably  winter is approaching and dragonflies will eventually cease to fly until the spring.  For now, though, I’ll continue to search for these spectacular aerial acrobats and enjoy their beauty and skill when I am lucky enough to find one.

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Yesterday I spotted this beautiful Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) in the vegetation along the shore of the Potomac River as I explored Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve in Alexandria, Virginia. Although “heavy-boned” is a euphemism sometimes used for large people, it is literally true for cormorants and is one of the reasons why they ride so low in the water. Additionally, their feathers don’t shed water like those of ducks and can get waterlogged, which makes it easier to dive deeper, but requires them to dry them out periodically.

I hoped to catch a cormorant with its wings extended for drying, but none of the cormorants I saw were accommodating in that regard yesterday. I’m no psychic, but I foresee a return trip to that area in the near future.

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

At first glance I thought that this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) was getting ready to swallow a flying bird, but then I realized it was “only” a small, freshly caught fish that the heron had tossed into the air last week at Huntley Meadows Park.

A split-second later, the fish had disappeared.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I am not sure if it is the cooler autumn weather or the impending winter, but all of the sudden the trees are alive with the sounds of woodpeckers. I can hear them pecking away  and calling out to each other high in the trees. Unfortunately there are still a lot of leaves on the trees, making it hard to spot these busy birds.

On Friday at Huntley Meadows Park, I did manage to get a clear view of a beautiful little Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) feverishly  foraging in a tree. Suddenly the woodpecker turned its head in my direction as though it wanted to proudly show me the bright red fruit that it had discovered.  With the fruit firmly in its bill and a slight smile on its face, the woodpecker flew away, perhaps to cache its find for another day.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Bluebirds are often considered to be a symbol of happiness and I was definitely happy to spot this beautiful Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park. I saw bluebirds a number of times during my walk around the park on a sunny autumn day, but this was one of the only ones that was within range of my camera.

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Many dragonflies are very skittish and will fly away as you get close. Blue-faced Meadowhawks (Sympetrum ambiguum), however, appear to be unusually inquisitive, like this one that perched on my knee Monday at Huntley Meadows Park as I was trying to photograph another dragonfly.

He seemed to want to check me out at close range and I returned the favor.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Have you ever tried to shoot a group portrait? You get everyone lined up and facing the camera, but there is always one uncooperative subject. That was certainly the case with these Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) at a little suburban pond on Monday. The gaggle of geese was preening and cleaning themselves all in a row on a on a concrete bar sticking out of the water.

Canada Geese

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Last Friday about 5:30 pm I was in the Georgetown area of Washington D.C. right at the time when a small group of protesters caused M Street to be closed by sitting in middle of the lane heading toward Key Bridge, one of only a few bridges linking the capital city with Virginia. Here are a few shots of the protesters and the police.

Readers who follow my blog know that I am not used to this kind of photography and I wasn’t really sure how to approach the subject. Roads and intersections were blocked off with yellow tape, preventing me from getting good angles for the shots. It was a small group of protesters and they looked to be of college age, prompting me to wonder if they were from nearby Georgetown University. All varieties of policemen were present to control the crowd and direct traffic onto side streets—there were bicycle cops and motorcycle cops in addition to the expected police squad cars.

I was happy that I happened to have my Canon SX50 superzoom with me, because the zoomed allowed me to frame some shots differently without having to move around a lot. In the end I chose three shots to post that captured different aspects of protest, mostly focusing on the human element.

Protest in Georgetown

Protest in Georgetown

Protest in Georgetown

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

As we move deeper into fall we will be seeing more and more migrating birds in Northern Virginia, where I live . Some will just be passing through the area, but others will probably overwinter here, like these Ring-necked ducks (Aythya collaris) that I spotted yesterday at a small suburban pond less than a mile from my townhouse.

Unlike most of the ducks that I see, Ring-necked ducks are diving ducks, not dabbling ducks. As a consequence, they spend most of the time in the middle of the pond, making them a bit tough to photograph. Fortunately the sun was shining brightly yesterday, so that I was able to capture the ducks’ golden eyes even when shooting at a distance.

Ring-necked duck

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

The beautiful orange and brown colors of this Eastern Comma butterfly (Polygonia comma) that I recently spotted at Huntley Meadows Park make it a perfect symbol of this autumn season. This species seems to like to perch on trees, sometimes facing downward, as was the case this time.

Not long ago I did a posting that featured a Question Mark butterflya species that closely resembles this one, but the relatively clear white marking on the hind wing make me think this is an Eastern Comma butterfly. My recent record in correctly identifying butterflies has not been great, however, so I welcome a correction if my identification is incorrect.

It is not immediately apparent from this image, but Eastern Comma butterflies blend in really well with the bark of the trees. The sun was shining through the wings from behind, making the orange color of the inner wings much more prominent than usual, allowing us to see both the colors and the shape of this beautiful butterfly.

Eastern Comma

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

This spooky spider image that I took late Friday afternoon while hiking along part the Potomac Heritage Trail is probably more suitable for later in the month, but I just couldn’t wait until Halloween to share it.

Normally when I use fill flash I try to be subtle, attempting to add a little pop without making it obvious that I used flash. In this case, you can’t help but notice my use of the popup flash. Normally I would take a shot of a spider like this with my macro lens, but I was travelling light with just my superzoom Canon SX50. The 50x zoom of this camera has helped to bring distant subjects closer, but I had never tried to use the camera’s macro mode. I quickly learned that you have to be really close to your subject, literally only a few inches away. I was pretty happy when I was able to get the second shot below, but wanted to add to the drama of the shot.

I dropped the exposure compensation in the camera down to a minus three stops and got my favorite shot. The darkened sky and the way that the flash illuminates the spider give the image a kind of creepy look that feels appropriate for a spider that was just about at eye level.

spooky spider

spooky spider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Earlier this week I chased after this beautiful little butterfly at Green Spring Gardens, in Alexandria, Virginia. I am pretty sure that it’s a Clouded Sulphur butterfly (Colias philodice), but have no idea of the identity of the flower on which it is feeding. Although at first glance it may look like I used flash for this image, a close examination of the shadows shows the direction of the bright sunlight. I was using spot metering for this light-colored subject, which meant that the background was significantly underexposed when getting a proper exposure of the primary subject.

Clouded Sulphur

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I love trying to capture images of fierce raptors and other large birds, but there is something equally gratifying about getting a glimpse of gentle little birds, like this Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) that I spotted recently at Huntley Meadows Park. Most of the time birds like this are invisible to me, hidden among the leaves high in the trees. On the day I took this shot, however, the phoebe was perched in a sheltered area, perhaps because of the intermittent rain, and I was able to capture this simple little portrait.

Eastern Phoebe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Cabbage White butterflies (Pieris rapae) are quite common, but many people ignore them, assuming they are “only” moths. I find real beauty in their simple elegance, like this one I spotted last weekend in the garden of my friend Cindy Dyer.

The butterfly was already white and black, so I decided to play around and remove color from the rest of the image too. I like the look of the black-and-white image, but decided to include the color version so that you can decide for yourself which one you prefer.

Cabbage White

Cabbage White

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I love ladybugs but don’t see them very often.  I was therefore pretty happy on Monday when I spotted this one crawling around in the vegetation at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetlands Refuge. So often a ladybug will keep its head so close to the vegetation that it’s hard to see it, but this one cooperated by raising its head, almost like it was posing for me.

ladybug

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

There are a lot of fallen leaves scattered all about my neighborhood and at first I thought this butterfly was merely one of them. Then it opened its wings, revealing its inner beauty. Wow!

I am pretty sure this is a Question Mark butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis), though there is also a chance that it might be an Eastern Comma butterfly (Polygonia comma). Yes, there are butterflies named after punctuation marks.

How do you tell them apart? Well. there is a little white marking on the wings and if it has a single part, it’s a comma, and if it has two parts, it’s a question mark. My challenge in this case was that the marking was not very distinctive. I looked through a lot of material and photos on the internet and the wing shape and coloration started to push me toward the Question Mark, but I still had questions. I came across a posting by TrekOhio.com that illustrated the differences in the spots on the inner wings and I convinced myself the spots in the second photo look like those of a Question Mark.

Whatever the case, the butterfly’s resemblance to a fallen leaf and its beautiful orange color are reminders to me that autumn is surely here, my favorite time of the year.

Question Mark butterfly

Question Mark butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I am not sure what this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) was doing when I spotted it this past weekend at Huntley Meadows Park, but it looked to be admiring its most recent manicure.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

It’s probably good for the ego to have “great” in your name, like Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets. Hopefully this little bird’s self-esteem is not damaged by being called a Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla). I spotted this diminutive beauty last week at Huntley Meadows Park before the start of all of the recent rain. The extremely dry weather had made the water very shallow in some portions of the marsh and had attracted tiny shore birds like this one.

Least Sandpiper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

On a cloudy, misty afternoon yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park, this female Belted Kingfisher ( Megaceryle alcyon) couldn’t make up her mind where to perch, flying from one rotted tree to another in the marshland. I was thrilled to get this shot when she took off from one of her perches.

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

“How can you just leave me standing? Alone in a world that’s so cold?…Why do we scream at each other? This is what it sounds like when hawks cry.” (Apologies to Prince for changing the words of the song “When Doves Cry.”)

On a gray, gloomy day at Huntley Meadows Park,  hawks were crying out all afternoon. One hawk would start to scream and its call would be echoed back from somewhere in the distance. Sometimes I would hear a cry from the cloud-covered sky, but I never got a glimpse of the passing hawks.

I was fortunate to be in the right place when one hawk started crying. From the cry, I knew that the hawk was nearby, but I had trouble locating it as I scanned the trees. Finally I spotted it, a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus). I snapped off a couple of images and then started to adjust the camera’s settings. I had barely taken the camera from my eye when the hawk took off.

The moment was gone and for a short period of time the marsh was silent.

Red-shouldered Hawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »