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Archive for the ‘Autumn’ Category

As I was going through my photos again from last week I came upon this image of an Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) that I had spotted at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I already posted another shot of this dragonfly species from that day, but I like this shot even more, because it shows some of the details of the leaves on which the little red dragonfly was perched. I think the leaves help to give a better sense of the environment and emphasize the “autumn” in the name of the species.

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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At this time of the year I have to work hard to get photographs of birds. If I am lucky, I will spot a Bald Eagle or another raptor, but most of the time I walk slowly down the trails, looking and listening for small birds. I know that they are there, but even with the leaves gone from most of the trees, the birds often remain hidden from view.

One of my favorites is the White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis), like this one that I spotted last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Maybe it is the effect of the season, but this sparrow always makes me think of Santa Claus. With the white “beard” and the distinctive yellow stripe over the eye, this sparrow is also relatively easy to identify, a real plus considering how many sparrow species are similar in appearance to each other.

An even smaller bird is the tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula), which is about 4 inches in length (10 cm) and weighs only 0.2-0.3 ounces (5-10 g). This one was bouncing in and out of the vegetation so much that I thought I would never get a clear shot of it. Eventually I was more or less successful. What a sweet little bird.

 

White-throated Sparrow

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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With the recent onset of cold and rainy weather here in Paris, it is hard to remember that we had a bit of sunshine earlier in the week. As I was walking along the banks of the Seine River during one such sunny period, I grew entranced by the shadows that trees were casting onto the embankment walls. People passing by me must have wondered what I was photographing, given that I was facing a seemingly blank wall and had my back to the river.

The images show mostly skeletal tree forms, but some show evidence of hardy leaves persistently clinging to the branches, not yet ready to fall. If you examine the photos carefully, you can see some of the details and textures of the materials used to build these embankments. Just a few yards above, there is busy world, full of cars and people hurrying about, but here, life moves at a slower pace.

I love too seeing the giant iron rings intermittently embedded in the embankment walls.  These, I believe, are a legacy of past commerce along this river, places where barges would tie up, perhaps for safety or sleep, or simply to silently surveil the scenic surroundings. There are times in our lives when we could all use spots like that.

shadow tree

Shadow Trees on Seine River

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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We had crazy weather yesterday, with two big rainstorms, intermittent blue skies, and  thunder and lightning. The biggest surprise for me, though, was a hailstorm that dropped a coating of pea-sized hailstones everywhere.

There was such an accumulation of hail that in the first photo it looks almost like snow had fallen on the outdoor seating of the cafe. When I arrived at my apartment, however, I examined the small table on the balcony of “my” apartment up close and could see the individual, spherical hailstones. Wow!

I carefully tried to avoid the patches of hailstorms when walking after I nearly fell—hailstones on cobblestones are a treacherous mix.

Hail to Paris

Hail to Paris

 

Hail to Paris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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After I did the posting called Sunrise on the Seine earlier today, I realized that it did not truly give readers a sense of location. Yes, it was in Paris, and yes, it was on the Seine River. The image was pretty, but it didn’t really speak “Paris.”

I shot a lot of photos this morning as I walked and stopped on the paved pathway down near the water level of the river. I was hoping to be able to capture an image of Notre Dame at sunrise. The angles and timing did not quite work out as I expected. By the time Notre Dame came into view, the sun had already risen a little too high and was directly in front of me.

When sorting through my photos, I initially rejected this image because the bright sun created a hot spot in the image. Later today, I decided to revisit the image and decided I liked it. Why? It has Notre Dame in the frame, of course, but it also shows the effects of the early morning sun as the rays illuminate the boat on the right and the concrete barrier along the pathway.

So, I decided to break my normal pattern and post multiple images today. It’s Paris, after all—I am sure I will be forgiven if I feel extra inspired here.

 

Notre Dame at sunrise

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Evenings in Paris can be magical. Many of the buildings are wonderfully illuminated and it is easy to feel a sense of enchantment. The moon was moving in and out of the clouds yesterday evening as I walked past the Louvre, providing some natural illumination. I managed to capture this two second image of part of the traditional Louvre building by leaning my camera against a railing.

I am gradually getting used to the I. M. Pei glass pyramid that stands in the middle of the traditional courtyard. It was early evening and there were still a lot of people around, preventing me from capturing the simple geometric view I had in mind. In the end I settled for a somewhat closer view that cut off the lower corners of the pyramid.

The final shot is a view of the St Eustache church that is located not far from where I am staying. This church was built between 1532 and 1632 and, according to Wikipedia, its façade is in a Gothic style, while its interior is in the Renaissance and classical styles. I have not yet gone inside it, but definitely plan to do so. I also would love to be able to hear the church’s organ that has 8,000 pipes and is the largest pipe organ in France.

Louvre Museum

Louvre Museum

St Eustache

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How do you photograph a structure like the Eiffel Tower that is so iconic and so well-known? The first choice is to decide which side of the Seine River you want to be on when taking the photos. You can get some good photos from the hilly area across the river called Trocadéro, or you can stay on the same side as the tower itself. I chose the latter option.

There are some real limitations, because the grassy areas leading away from the tower are fenced off.  If you get far enough away, you can get the traditional full-length shot like the second image below. I personally like to move closer and shoot upwards.

Unfortunately, my favorite angle is no longer available. In 2011 I was able to walk right underneath the tower and shoot direct upwards while standing in the middle of the four legs. Now there are plexiglass barriers surrounding the entire tower that are used to funnel visitors to a single entrance with fees and security checks for those who want to climb the tower or take the elevator.

The first show below is my favorite. I like the angle and was able to wait for the clouds to move into a photogenic position. I took the shot with a DSLR and a zoom lens. Recently, I bought my first real smartphone, an iPhone 11, and during this trip I am learning how to use it. I am still not used to the idea of taking photos with a phone and it feels so unnatural to hold at arms length to take a photo. However, this iPhone has a super-wide mode and I decided to use it to take the final photo. The perspectives are a little distorted, almost like a fisheye lens, but I like the effect.

As you probably have noticed, I am combining the roles of a tourist and a photographer, thinking a lot about my shots as I take them. Unlike most of the tourists I saw yesterday, though, I don’t plan to spend a lot of time taking multiple selfies.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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