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Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

I love the way that Bufflehead ducks (Bucephala albeola) run across the surface of the water to gain speed before taking off, like this male bufflehead that I spotted last Saturday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The images were already pretty much monochromatic because of the limited light, so I decided to do a black-and-white conversion of them.

If you look closely at the first image, you will see that my camera’s shutter speed was fast enough to freeze the motion of the water, but slow enough that the wings are blurred, which I think enhances the sense of speed. The wing tips are blurred in the second image as well and we also have a really cool reflection of the bufflehead after it has successfully taken to the air.

bufflehead

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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When I am out in the wild with my camera, my eyes are almost always in constant motion, scanning the skies and the ground, the trees and the fields, searching for subjects to photograph. Sometimes, though, I’ll stop, overwhelmed by the natural beauty of my surroundings, and may remain stationary for an extended period of time.

I had such an experience earlier this week when I was checking out a small pond at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The early morning light was just beginning to illuminate the tops of the trees. Although most of the leaves on the trees have turned brown, the sunlight caused them to glow a little, restoring them for a few precious moments to their former glory.

It may not be traditional to shoot a landscape photo with a telephoto lens, but that is what I had on my camera that moment. I zoomed out my 150-600mm lens to its widest position and tried to compose an image that captured the feeling of the moment.

I don’t shoot landscape images very often and probably violated some of the normal guidelines, but I am pretty happy with this image. Although generally I crop an image to focus a viewer’s attention on my primary subject, that did not seem necessary in this case.

 

morning light

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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During a recent morning walk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I came across some spiderwebs in the fields that glistened in the sunlight thanks to rain the previous night. Many of the webs were only partial webs and I wondered if perhaps the torrential rain had ripped them apart.

Light was mostly coming from the front, which made it a little tricky to get a correct exposure, but that kind of backlighting is the reason why the webs are visible.

The backgrounds were different for the different webs and most of the time I had to deliberately underexpose the images to have the webs “pop,” which meant that the backgrounds looked really dark. I was thrilled when I managed to capture the first image below with a background full of autumn colors.

autumn web

autumn web

autumn web

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As the early sunlight pierced the foliage at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, it created a magical world, filled with visible rays of light in the misty morning air.

The word “breathtaking” is perhaps overused, but it perfectly describes my physical reaction when I came upon this scene as I was walking a path that runs parallel to the water of Occoquan Bay. I knew that the light was coming from in front of me, so I wasn’t really expecting to take any photos until the path curved a bit and the sun was in a better position.

I marveled at the visible rays of sunlight and wondered if there was any way that I would be able to capture the incredible scene in front of me. My 150-600mm lens was affixed to my DSLR and even at 150mm, there was no way I could use it to capture the “big picture.”

Fortunately I have taken to carrying my Canon SX50 camera that has a zoom lens that goes all the way from wide angle to super zoom (an equivalent angle of view of 24-1200mm). I was able to frame the image as you see in the image below and the camera did a decent job in rendering the scene.

It is moments like this that keep me going out in the early morning, traipsing the trails at a time of the day when many folks would prefer to be sleeping.

rays of sunlight

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I suspected that this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge would be silhouetted because I was shooting into the light. I was going to make some adjustments to my camera settings, but it took off before I could do so and I captured a cool series of images.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

I liked the way that a few details of the feathers were visible in the images and the pink and blue streaks in the background were a nice touch. I decided, however, to play around with one of the images and opened the second shot in SIlver Efex Pro 2, a black and white conversion software program that is part of the Nik Collection.

One of the filters turned the heron into a completely black silhouette—with some birds, identification would be a problem, but the shape of the heron is unmistakable here. Another filter created the effect of a pinhole camera and you can see the result in the final images. There is something about that final image that really appeals to me.

I tend to strive for realism in my photos and normally do only a minimal amount of post-processing. I had so much fun, though, playing around with the different effects you can achieve with software that I suspect I will consider doing so again in the future.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© 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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