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Archive for August, 2018

Sometimes when I have my camera in my hands, my attention is drawn to the amazing shapes, colors, and pattern of the natural world—I don’t need a specific animate subject to shoot. Here are a few of my more abstract shots from Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Even though I may not have had a main subject, in the traditional sense,I wouldn’t say that I was photographing nothing—au contraire, I was photographing everything.

ferns

grass

lily pads

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I just love the colors of this Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) that I photographed on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I mean, really, how can you not like an insect that sports the red, white, and blue?

You don’t have to be American to like those three colors—it seems like there are an awful lot of countries that use them in various shades and patterns in their national flags.

Red Admiral

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I was thrilled to capture some shot of a Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio troilus) this past weekend at Green Spring Gardens as it fed on a lantana flower. I am so used to more muted colors when I am shooting in the “wild” that the brightness of these flowers seem almost unnatural.

If you look closely at the butterfly’s legs in the first image, you will see that one of them is blurred. Obviously the butterfly was moving about and my camera’s shutter speed was too slow to stop the motion. In many cases I would be disappointed with that lack of sharpness, but I find that it acceptable here, because it doesn’t really distract the viewer’s eyes.

There are a number of dark-colored swallowtails in our area, but the Spicebush Swallowtail is the only one with a blue swoosh on its wings in the middle of a row of orange spots.

Spicebush Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The vegetation at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge was so high recently that these two foraging wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) disappeared from view each time they leaned forward. It was like a game trying to figure out where they would pop up next. I played the game for for quite some time before I was able to capture them both in a single frame with their eyes visible—in most of the other shots the turkeys were looking away from me.

wild turkeys

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Imagine an insect so powerful that it is reportedly able to take down a hummingbird. Then give it the macabre monniker of Red-footed Cannibalfly (Promachus rufipes). If I were an insect, I would be really worried. Actually I don’t think that I would want to allow one to bite me, because a cannibalfly stabs its prey with its proboscis and injects saliva that help to liquify the prey’s insides. Then the cannibalfly sucks out the liquid through its proboscis.

I don’t know why exactly, but the last week or so I have seen a lot of Red-footed Cannibalflies during my trips to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Here are a few of my recent shots. The first one reminded one of my Facebook viewers of The Lorax, a Dr. Seuss character with a big mustache. Maybe this insect needs to overhaul its public image so that it is viewed as being less threatening. One possible first step might be to change its name to the Bee Panther, a nickname that is sometimes used for this species.

On a side note, each of the last four years, including this year, a 2013 posting entitled simply Red-footed Cannibalfly has been my most viewed posting. If I calculated correctly, the posting has been viewed almost 2400 times, including 293 times in 2018.

Why is that posting so popular? Apparently a lot of people do Google searches for “red-footed cannibalfly” and stumble onto my blog posting. I’m proud of a number of my postings and the images that I have captured, but I must confess that I don’t consider that 2013 posting as one of my best.

It’s a little scary to think that I may be inextricably linked in some people’s minds with Red-footed Cannibalflies. Yikes!

Red-footed Cannibalfly

Red-footed Cannibalfly

Red-footed Cannibalfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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There were only a few water lilies in bloom at the small pond at a local garden that I visited this past weekend. Surprisingly, they were all pink in color and not the white ones that I am more used to seeing—perhaps it is late in the season for the white ones. Not surprisingly, there were quite a few dragonflies buzzing about and I decided that I wanted to get a shot of one of them perched on one of the water lilies.

So I waited and hoped and waited some more. My patience was eventually rewarded when a tiny male Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) landed on a partially open water lily bud and perched momentarily.

I really like the image that I managed to capture because of the way it conveys a sense of the mood of the moment, a calm, almost zen-like feeling of tranquility. The colors are subdued and the composition is minimalist—there is a real beauty in simplicity.

Dragonfly and water lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Last night I was playing again with watercolors and found inspiration in some videos about Chinese sumi-e brush painting, particularly one by Daleflix on YouTube that showed him painting a dragonfly and a frog. I really like the way that sumi-e painting, which is often done in ink on rice paper, emphasizes the importance of each brush stroke.

My painting skills still need a lot of work, but I especially like how the dragonfly turned out. There is a kind of minimalism in the dragonfly that appeals to me. It was really all-or-nothing when I painted it. Each of the wings, for example, was a single brush stroke, with a little bit of outlining done later. Similarly, the segmented body was done in a single pass.

I kind of got a little lost after I had painted the frog and the dragonfly and tried to add some contextual elements. The water ended up way too dark and some of the branches got too thick. In case you are curious, the painting is 4 x 6 inches in size (10 x 15 cm), so the brush strokes were pretty small.

Still, I like the overall feel of this little painting, which represents a new step for me as I explore watercolors. I think that I may explore this style of painting some more.

dragonfly and frog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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