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Archive for the ‘abstract’ Category

In Northern Virginia, where I live, we generally do not have the spectacular changes in the colors of the autumn foliage that I experienced while growing up in New England, Instead, the leaves often seem to fade gradually from green to brown before they fall off of the trees and are trampled underfoot. I love the reds and yellows of the autumn and am constantly on the alert for patches of these bright colors.

This past Saturday during a visit to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens with some friends, I was very conscious of the transitioning seasons and I tried to capture my impressions in some of my photos. The first image has an almost impressionist feel to it, caused largely by the ripples on the surface of the pond. Although the colors may be the traditional ones of autumn, I believe that almost all of the yellow was a reflection of the goldenrod plants that were blooming in abundance.

The second image is a bit more moody, though you can still see some of the autumn colors reflected in the dark waters, where lotuses and lilies were blooming earlier in the season. The final shot showcases the heart-shaped leaf of a lotus plant that is well past its prime. I was really taken by the way that the light shining through the leaf from behind highlighted its veiny structure. The deterioration of the leaf gives this image a tinge of sadness, a poignant reminder of the inexorable passage of time and the inevitable changes that it brings—nothing in nature lasts forever.

reflection of autumn

reflection of autumn

reflection of autumn

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I searched a stream in vain for dragonflies last weekend, but became fascinated by the abstract patterns of the water moving through areas festooned with moss, algae, and grasses. Later in the year I am almost certain to find Gray Petaltail dragonflies near this stream and the surrounding seeps. For the moment I was content to let my mind run wild, feeling a bit like I was underwater as I observed the abstract shapes created by the moving water.

stream

stream

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What does a wildlife photographer photograph when there is no wildlife to be seen? That was my dilemma, yesterday when we finally had some sunshine after a series of dreary days. I wanted to be out in nature with my camera, but I also wanted to avoid people as much as possible. Weekends are particularly problematic as crowds of people flock to popular areas, so I deliberately chose a remote trail at Huntley Meadows Park that took me past a partially-frozen pond.

There were no ducks or other birds at the pond. Instead I encountered a series of wonderfully abstract patterns in the thin ice atop the pond. A long telephoto zoom lens might not have been my first choice for these kinds of shots, but it worked remarkably well in capturing some of these patterns.

Initially my favorite image was the star-like pattern in the first photo below. Increasingly, though, I am drawn to the final photo that brings to mind a satellite or drone photo of a frozen mountain range at the edge of a sea.

ice

ice

ice

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The electric gates at my favorite wildlife refuge slide open at seven o’clock in the morning and sometimes I will be sitting in my car waiting for the parting of the gates to maximize my chances of seeing the sun rise. Traffic was a little heavier than I had anticipated last Tuesday and the gates were already open when I drove into Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge a few minutes after seven.

Dark clouds were covering much of the sky and although some color was starting to appear in the few open patches, it was clear that I was not going to see the sun itself rise. I rushed down the trail toward the water as it grew lighter and lighter, racing against the rising sun. I never did see much of the sun itself, but the reflected light was amazingly beautiful. At times it seemed like the skies were aflame with an orange flow and a few minutes later the skies were tinged with a softer pink.

Forecasters can tell me at what time the sun will rise, but they cannot predict the look and feel of any sunrise. For that, I have to be there in person, waiting expectantly with my heart full of hope. It is a wonderful way to start a new day.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1)

 

winter sunrise

winter sunrise

winter sunrise

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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The skies over the water were full of clouds one afternoon last week as I visited Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was utterly fascinated by the horizontal layers of cloud that seemed to be stacked up, reminding me of a stone wall of stacked stones.

Many of you know that I rarely take landscape photos, but sometimes I feel compelled to do so. To be fair, though, I should probably characterize this image as a “cloudscape,” rather than as a “landscape,” since the land plays only a minor role in it.

clouds

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Often I am mesmerized by light and shadows and reflections. It doesn’t take much to capture and hold my attention, like these pieces of wood that I spotted in the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

reflection

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Looking up into the trees at Huntley Meadows Park during a recent trip and lamenting the lack of brilliant fall foliage, I glanced down into the dark waters of the duckweed-spattered marsh and saw these wonderful abstract patterns of colorful shapes and textures. I love the fall.

floating fall foliage

floating fall foliage

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I love the beautiful curves a fiddlehead forms as it gradually unfurls into a full-fledged fern frond. I have no idea how long this entire process takes, but it was amazing to see the various stages of development of the many fiddleheads that I spotted on Tuesday while exploring in Prince William County.

The clouds in the sky and the unseasonably cold temperatures seemed to have prompted all of the dragonflies to remain in secluded spots and I did not spot a single one that day.

fiddlehead fern

fiddlehead fern

fiddlehead fern

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Here are some bright colors to kickstart your day as you look into the center of one of the spectacular tulips in the garden of my friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer. Have a wonderful day!

tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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For a short time each spring, tiny wildflowers spring up from the forest floor, giving the forest a magical feel. Many of the forest flowers are white and at first glance they all look the same. When I looked more closely, though, I discovered a wide variety of petal shapes and patterns.

Within this group of three flowers, I can identify only the middle one, which I am pretty sure is a Star Chickweed (Stellaria pubera). If you happen to recognize the others, I would appreciate your help in identifying them. Thanks.

UPDATE:  Steve Gingold has identified the first flower as Bloodroot and the third one as Wood Anemone. Thanks, Steve.

forest flower

forest flower

forest flower

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Beauty is everywhere, including in the abstract patterns of nature. Last week my eyes were drawn to the interplay of light and shadows in the leaves of some iris plants that have not yet bloomed in the garden of my neighbor Cindy Dyer. I love the series of triangles and straight lines in the resulting image and there is something soothing and peaceful about the various shades of green.

When I posted this image in Facebook, my pastor noted that these leaves reminded her of the palms that we would normally be waving in a procession to begin the celebration of Palm Sunday. In a few hours we will be celebrating in a different way, via Zoom teleconferencing software, but we have been asked to gather some branches or colorful pieces of cloth to wave in front of our cameras as we say, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.” This pandemic has changed some of the outward aspects of our worship, but we continue on.

Whether you are Christian or not, my prayer is that this Sunday finds you feeling thankfulness in the midst of this crisis for what you still have and not merely lamenting that which you have lost. I also pray that you are filled with the joyful hope that we will eventually make it through this difficult time. If there is one thing we have certainly learned, it is that we are truly all in this together.

leaves

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Nature is full of wonderful shapes, like the spiral of this curled-up fern—at this stage it is know as a fiddlehead—that I spotted on Monday while exploring in Prince William County. A few days afterwards, Gary Bolstad published a photo of a fiddlehead in New Zealand in his blog krikitarts.wordpress.com. Gary is an amazing photographer and you should really check out his wonderful blog.

In replying to a comment I made about his posting, Gary explained that “The Māori name for a fiddlehead is Koru, and the spiral shape is an essential part of their culture and probably the most common shape used in the design of their carved greenstone (jade) jewelry. It can represent creation, perpetual movement, return to a point of origin, equilibrium/harmony in life, and new life.”

I think we could all use more equilibrium and harmony in our lives during these unsettling times.

fiddlehead

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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From a distance, I noticed yesterday that some yellow tulips were getting ready to bloom in the garden of my neighbor and photography mentor Cindy Dyer. Cindy deliberately chooses colorful, photogenic flowers for her garden, so I love visiting it frequently. As I got close, I noted the spectacular two-color patterns of these tulips. When I sent a photo to Cindy, she informed me that they are known as “broken tulips.”

Perhaps she told me some time in the past what “broken tulips” are, but I rushed to Google to find out why they are considered to be “broken.” This term refers to the dramatic color-breaking of these flowers, an effect highly sought after during the 17th-century Dutch “tulip mania,” according to Wikipedia. Historically, these changes are caused by a virus infects the tulip bulb and causes the cultivar to “break” its lock on a single color, resulting in intricate bars, stripes, streaks, featherings or flame-like effects of different colors on the petals.

Unfortunately, the virus weakens the bulbs and as a result some famous color-broken varieties no long exist. Today’s “broken tulips” are no longer caused by a viral infection, but are stable variants produced through breeding. Cindy noted to me that her tulips have been going strong for at least five years.

I was feeling creative yesterday when I took these photos and tried a lot of different angles and settings to get some unusual looks. I decided mainly to feature the areas with the different colors and deliberately shot with a shallow depth of field that causes the edges that are away from the center to be soft and out of focus. I think it worked out pretty well.

I decided to post these images today as a counterbalance to the photograph of a wolf spider that I posted earlier, a kind of “beauty and the beast” set of postings. I am guessing that almost everyone will like at least one of the two postings.

broken tulip

broken tulip

broken tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Need a blast of bright color? Here you go, a shot I took of the inside of a gorgeous red tulip blooming this morning in the garden of my neighbor and photography mentor Cindy Dyer.  This view straight down into the tulip reminds me of the kaleidoscopes that fascinated me endlessly when I was a youth. I managed to frame this shot almost exactly as I had envisioned, so I decided not to crop it at all, which is pretty unusual for me.

tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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With the weather so warm recently in my area, it is hard to remember that the puddles were iced over last Thursday when I captured this early morning shot of one of them at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Winter in my area has been exceptionally mild—we have had almost no snow and only occasional periods of below-freezing temperatures. I have always been fascinated by the abstract patterns that form as water freezes, but this was the first time this season that I was able to capture a shot like this.

I am even more in awe of the amazing photos that I occasionally come across of individual snowflakes—capturing a shot like that is on my list of aspirational goals in photography.

ice

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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It was gray and overcast early last Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge when I captured this shot of a small flock of Bufflehead ducks (Bucephala albeola) flying away from me. Normally “butt shots” are undesirable, but in this case I like the almost abstract patterns of the birds’ wings and their reflections in the water.

Although this looks like I converted the image to black and white, this is more or less what it looked like color-wise straight out of the camera. No matter how I played with saturation, I could not bring out any colors in the shot. I think, though, that the monochromatic look of the final image is a pretty good match for the mood of that moment.

bufflehead

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was walking across the Key Bridge from Georgetown on Wednesday night, I glanced down at the Potomac River and saw that the Kennedy Center was aglow with rainbow colors. I believe that the colors were part of the celebration of the Kennedy Center Honors, an annual honor given to those in the performing arts for their lifetime of contributions to American culture. Honorees receive a medallion that hangs from a rainbow colored ribbon.

Most of the landmarks shown here will be familiar only to locals, but some of you may recognize the Washington Monument in the middle left in the photo. In case you are curious, I took this shot with a Canon A620 camera, an old 7.1 megapixel point-and-shoot camera that I carry with me sometimes because it fits easily into my pocket. I leaned against the railing of the bridge to take this shot in what turned out to be a one second exposure.

Although I know what the subject matter of the image is, I enjoy it equally as a kind of abstract, man-made landscape, a beautiful combination of lines and shapes and colors, with some of them reflected in the dark waters of the river.

Kennedy Center Honors

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The spiderweb was tattered and the spider was absent, but the globular drops of dew gave the scene a magical feel as the early morning light turned them into transparent pearls. As I looked more closely, I saw there was a miniature upside down version of the landscape in many of the drops.

For the ease of the viewer, I flipped a cropped version of part of the scene 180 degrees in the first photo below to give a better sense of the “landscapes” that are shown right side up. The second image shows a wider view of the strings of glistening drops. The final image is the same as the first one, but rotated back to its original orientation, so that the normal rules of gravity apply and the dew drops are hanging down from the silken strands of the spider web.

 

tiny landscapes

tiny landscapes

tiny landscapes

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Raindrops can enhance the beauty of many subjects, like this spider web that I photographed on Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. As I looked at the drops, they somehow brought to mind an elaborate necklace of loosely strung pearls.

wet spider web

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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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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Many of us are old enough to remember when wall phones had long coiled cords that usually ended up stretched out and elongated. That’s exactly what I was thinking of when I spotted these coiled tendrils of some kind of flower yesterday when I was exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

I wasn’t sure how to capture them in an image and tried a couple of different approaches. The image below was my favorite. It is kind of a natural abstract image, but I included the flower in the corner of it to give the image a sense of context.

Those who read my postings regularly know that this is not the usual kind of photo that I post—sometimes it is fun to venture outside of my normal box.

coil

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I don’t often shoot landscape images, but I was so taken with the stark beauty of the ice-covered world that I encountered on New Year’s Day at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge that I decided that I should attempt to capture a sense of the moment. I used the wide-angle capabilities of my Canon SX50 superzoom camera in the first two images below and shot the third one with the Tamron 150-600mm lens, the lens that I use on my Canon 50D for a significant number of my the photos featured on this blog.

icescape

icescape

icescape

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It seems a little late in the season for Calico Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis elisa) to be mating, but I nevertheless spotted this couple in action this past Saturday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Woodbridge, Virginia. In case you are curious, the male is the red one near the top of the image that is clasping the female by its head. I like the way that the soft background and simple composition draw our eyes to the shapes, colors, and patterns of the dragonflies, rendering the subject in a beautifully abstract way.

calico pennant dragonflies

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When it comes to dragonflies, what catches your eye? Is it their bright colors or their acrobatic flying skills? When it comes to male Twelve-spotted Skimmers (Libellula pulchella), it is definitely the bold brown-and-white pattern on their wings that irresistibly attracts me. I somehow feel compelled to chase after one whenever I spot it.

Yesterday I made a brief trip to Lilypons Water Gardens in Adamstown, Maryland. This sprawling facility has over 150 acres of amazing ponds and water gardens with fantastic displays of water lilies, which are for sale. (I’ll feature some of the different colored water lilies in an upcoming post.) Although I saw a lot of dragonflies there, I saw only a few Twelve-spotted Skimmers.

Most of them were remarkably elusive, but one finally perched on some vegetation overhanging the water. The bank was fairly steep, so there was no way that I could get a side shot or a head-on shot, which is one of my favorite shots of a dragonfly. What was I going to do?

Then it dawned on me that I had a perfect view of the magnificent wing patterns as I looked straight down the body of the dragonfly, facing in the same direction that he was facing. Boldly I decided to commit what is normally a cardinal sin for a photographer—I intentionally chose not to focus on the subject’s eyes. Lightning did not strike me as I pressed the shutter and I captured an almost abstract portrait of the dragonfly. For me, there is a real beauty in the simplicity and minimalism of this image.

In case you get confused about counting the twelve spots, you’re supposed to count only the brown spots. According to Wikipedia, though,some folks prefer to count the white spots and therefore call this dragonfly a “Ten-spot Skimmer.”

Twelve-spotted Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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I never quite know what I will see when I wander about in the back areas of Huntley Meadows Park. This past Monday I came upon this partially deteriorated turtle shell. Initially it was in a muddy area adjacent to a beaver pond, but I moved it onto branches of a fallen tree to take the photos.

I just love the organic shapes and designs of the shell and the way that you can see some of its underlying structure.

turtle shell

turtle shell

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The skies over Huntley Meadows Park were amazing around 3:00 (15:00 hrs) yesterday afternoon when a cold front was blowing in. When certain clouds were illuminated by the sun they were transformed into pastel shades of the rainbow. At times there were varying shades of orange, green, aqua, and purple.

I suspected that moisture in the clouds was responsible for the colors, but I had never seen anything like it and did not know what it was called. After searching about on the internet, I learned that this diffraction phenomenon, known as cloud iridescence, is caused by small water droplets or ice crystals individually scattering light. According to Wikipedia, ” If parts of clouds have small droplets or crystals of similar size, their cumulative effect is seen as colors. The cloud must be optically thin, so that most rays encounter only a single droplet. Iridescence is therefore mostly seen at cloud edges or in semi-transparent clouds, and newly forming clouds produce the brightest and most colorful iridescence.”

cloud iridescence

cloud iridescence

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The leaves of the lotuses at Green Spring Gardens were well past their prime, but they turned out to be fascinating subjects for a series of abstract images.

lotus leaf

lotus leaf

lotus leaf

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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