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Archive for the ‘Flowers’ Category

Do you worry about how you look when you are taking a photograph? Most of the time I am by myself in remote locations, so I don’t feel at all self-conscious when I kneel and lean or even sprawl onto the ground in order to get a better angle for a shot. Recently, though, I was at Meadowlark Botanical Garden, a relatively crowded public space, with some friends and one of them, my photography mentor Cindy Dyer, photographed me in action.

You probably cannot help but notice my brightly colored sneakers. Since I retired, I have developed a fondness for Chuck Taylor Converse All Star sneakers and have pairs that are aqua, orange, and blue, in addition to the hightop coral ones in the photos. Did you notice that I was using a monopod for additional stability for the macro shot that I was taking? I was also leaning my elbow onto my knee to steady my shot.

What was I shooting? I was photographing a tiny spider on the side of a snowflake flower that is barely visible in the foreground of the photos. I reprised the photo of the spider that I originally included in a posting entitled Spider on snowflake to give you a sense of the distance that I was from the subject. One of the real benefits of the 180mm macro lens is that it lets me get close-up shots without having to be be on top of the subject, as would be necessary with my 60mm macro lens or even my 100mm macro lens.

In case you are curious, I tend to wear more subdued footgear when I am out in the wild. Many of my subjects are probably colorblind, so they would not be mindful of my bright shoes—I am more worried about covering them with mud and dirt, which I seem unable to avoid when I am trekking about in nature.

mike powell

Mike Powell

spider and snowflake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Orchids are rare and beautiful and it is amazing to find them growing in the wild. Last Thursday I went on a hike in a hilly forested area of Prince William County in Virginia. It was cool and overcast, less than idea circumstances for finding the dragonflies that I was seeking. After coming up empty-handed at my favorite dragonfly spots, I decided to switch to Plan B.

I vaguely remembered where in previous years I had seen some Pink Lady’s Slippers (Cypripedium acaule), a beautiful wild orchid that is native to North America, and decided to go off on a quest to find these treasures. I noticed that a lot of trees had fallen over the past year. Although workers at this national park had cleared the trails themselves, the limbs from the fallen trees obstructed my view in my target areas.

Orchids are pretty fragile and require specific habitats and I was worried that those habitats might have been damaged or destroyed. I walked very slowly, scanning the forest floor for hints of red or pink, wondering if I had come too early or too late. Eventually I found one small patch and then a second one a bit later (as shown in the final photo).

Pink Lady’s Slippers are sometimes called “moccasin flowers.” According to the New England Today website, “Native American folklore tells the story of a young maiden who ran barefoot in the snow in search of medicine to save her tribe, but was found collapsed on the way back from her mission with swollen, frozen feet. As a result, beautiful lady slipper flowers then grew where her feet had been as a reminder of her bravery.”

As I did a bit more research I learned more about this delightful flowers, including the specific requirements for them to grow that include a particular type of fungus. According to the U.S. Forest Service, “In order to survive and reproduce, pink lady’s slipper interacts with a fungus in the soil from the Rhizoctonia genus. Generally, orchid seeds do not have food supplies inside them like most other kinds of seeds. Pink lady’s slipper seeds require threads of the fungus to break open the seed and attach them to it. The fungus will pass on food and nutrients to the pink lady’s slipper seed. When the lady’s slipper plant is older and producing most of its own nutrients, the fungus will extract nutrients from the orchid roots. This mutually beneficial relationship between the orchid and the fungus is known as “symbiosis” and is typical of almost all orchid species.”

In a recent posting about Bleeding Hearts, I commented that I really liked heart-shaped flowers. At that time I was referring to the stylized shape that we associate with love. In the case of these Lady’s Slippers, I have always found that they look like actual human hearts, at least as I have seen them in movies that included open-heart surgery. Wow!

Depending on your angle of view, I also find that Pink Lady’s Slippers look like angels. I have tried to show you what I mean in the second photo, in which I have focused on a single flower. Do you see the hovering angel?

The final photo is one that I snapped with my iPhone. It gives you a sense of the habitat in which I found these beautiful little flowers. I feel blessed to have found them again this year and hope to see them again in future springs. According to the U.S. Forest Service article cited above, Pink’s Lady Slippers can live to be twenty years old or more.

Pink Lady's Slipper

Pink Lady's Slipper

Pink Lady's Slipper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It is prime time for the bearded irises in the garden of my dear friend and fellow photographer Cindy Dyer. There are several dozen irises in bloom now in multiple colors, including these beauties, and it looks like even more flowers will be blooming soon.

Beauty is everywhere.

bearded irises

Bearded Iris

Bearded Iris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It did not seem like there was much pollen inside of each little phlox flower, but bees were busily collecting it when I spotted several of them last Saturday at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia. I love the way that some bees, including honeybees, collect pollen in little pouches on their back legs. When the pickings are really good, I have seen those pouches, which technically are called corbiculae, so full and bulging that they seem ready to burst—that was not the case this early in the spring, when not very many flowers were in bloom.

I was pleasantly surprised when I managed to capture a bee in flight in the second photo below as it surveyed the phlox flowers and planned its next assault. My 180mm macro lens is notoriously slow to acquire focus, so I rarely try to use it to try to capture moving subjects. The lens also is so noisy when focusing that one of my friends calls it “The Grinder.” Nonetheless, my trusty Tamron lens is my constant companion during the warm months and it is the one I use most often for my insects and other macro shots.

bee and phlox

Bee and Phlox

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Some of the coolest looking plants that I saw last Saturday at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens were Japanese Jack-in-the-Pulpit flowers (Arisaema sikokianum). There is something so alien and exotic about this plant that it stopped me in my tracks when I first spotted it.

According to the Plant Delights Nursery, Inc. website, the dark pitcher and two five-lobed leaves of this plant emerge on a 12 inch tall (30 cm) fleshy stalk from an underground tuber in early spring. As the pitcher opens, it reveals a swollen, pure white, protruding spadix that provides a dramatic contrast to the purple of the pitcher.

The Japanese Jack-in-the-Pulpit is closely related to the Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), which, according to Wikipedia, is common to the eastern United States. I checked the range map and the Jack-in-the-Pulpit can be found in Virginia where I live, though I have not yet spotted one. When I looked at photos of the American species, it looks fairly similar to the Japanese variant, but the spadix, the part that is the “Jack” in the name, is darker in color and the pitcher more closely matches the leaves. Check out this blog posting by Steve Gingold to see a beautiful photo of a Jack-in-the-Pulpit growing wild in his area of New England.


Japanese Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Japanese Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Japanese Jack-in-the-Pulpit

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am a bit of a romantic, so my eyes are immediately drawn to the heart-shaped blooms of Bleeding Heart flowers whenever they are present in a springtime garden. Most of the time they are reddish in color, as their name suggests, but they also come in other colors. I spotted these beautiful White Bleeding Hearts (Dicentra spectabilis alba) last Saturday at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens.

I was fortunate to be able to get close enough for the first photo to be able to focus on the delicate shape of a single flower. Somehow the little wings on the hearts make me think of angels or maybe the little cherubs that we associate with Valentine’s Day. The second image gives you an idea of the way that these flowers grow in rows, suspended from tiny filaments from a stalk, twisting and turning in the wind.

Bleeding Heart

Bleeding Heart

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the shape and colors of columbine flowers that appear in many of the gardens that I visit during the spring. According to Wikipedia, the genus name for these flowers Aquilegia is derived from the Latin word for eagle (aquila), because of the shape of the flower petals that are said to resemble an eagle’s claw. The common name “columbine” comes from the Latin for “dove”, due to the resemblance of the inverted flower to five doves clustered together.

I spotted several spectacular columbines during a visit to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia last Saturday. The purple columbine was in the middle of a flower bed and I could not get very close to it. I was really happy though that I had to shoot from a longer distance away than normally, because I able to capture some of the shadowy shapes of the ferns in the background.

I did manage to get quite a bit closer to the pretty pink columbine. I smiled when I saw a marker that indicated that this variety is called “Strawberry Ice Cream.” I now have an overwhelming urge to buy some strawberry ice, one of the many ice cream flavors that I love.

columbine

columbine

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As we were photographing some Spring Snowflake flowers (Leucojum vernum) on Saturday at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, my dear friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer noticed what looked like a spider’s leg on the side of one of the flowers and asked me to go around to the other side of the flower to investigate.

Sharp-eyed Cindy was right—I spotted this tiny spider clinging to the side of the snowflake and was delighted that I was able to capture this image of it.

Leucojum vernum

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the rich color, velvet-like texture, and geometric shape of this beautiful little flower that I spotted yesterday at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia. I believe that this is a Red Trillium (Trillium erectum). According to Wikipedia, Red Trilliums are also known as wake robin, bethroot, and stinking benjamin.

I was curious about the name “stinking benjamin,” so I searched on-line and learned that Red Trilliums produce fetid or putrid odors purported to attract carrion fly and beetle pollinators. Some describe the odor as similar to that of a wet dog—I did not get close enough to verify personally the accuracy of this assertion.

Red Trillium

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most flowers have blooms at the end of their stems or at least in places above their leaves. Each spring, though, I encounter Mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum), a weird plant that seems to work in a totally different way. It puts out large umbrella-shaped leaves and eventually a single white blossom appears at the juncture point where the stem branches off in two directions. If you don’t know that the blooms are there, it is easy to miss them, because the large leaves hide them from view.

I saw a large number of Mayapples on Wednesday at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge at the edge of Fort Belvoir, a nearby Army base where I have seen Mayapples in the past, but most often before or after they had flowered. I tried to capture the unique way that this plant grows in these photos, which was a bit of a challenge, because the blooms are so close to the ground.

I came across a fascinating article on the Wisconsin Horticulture website that noted that Mayapple  “typically grows in colonies from a single root in open deciduous forests and shady fields, riverbanks and roadsides…The upright stems grow from a shallow, creeping, branched underground rhizome, composed of many thick dark or reddish-brown tubers connected by fleshy fibers and downward spreading roots at the nodes. Each terminal bud produces a shoot. The mostly unbranched 12-18 inch tall stems are topped with umbrella-like (peltate) leaves. The leaves remain furled as the stem elongates in the spring, unfolding when the stem nears its full height. Each smooth, pale green, rounded, palmate leaf has 5-9 shallowly to deeply cut lobes. There are one or two leaves per stem, each up to a foot across. Only stems with more than one leaf will flower. Mayapple often forms large, dense colonies in the wild.”

As most of you know, I focus mostly on wildlife in my photography, but my almost insatiable sense of curiosity draws me to anything weird and wonderful that attracts my attention, like these Mayapples.

mayapple

Mayapple

Mayapple

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It is now the season for irises. All kinds of irises are starting to pop open in the garden of my dear friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer. We are neighbors in a townhouse community in Northern Virginia, which means there is relatively little space for gardening, but Cindy manages to pack an amazing amount of flower power into her limited area. Fortunately, she and her husband, who is also a Michael, live in an end-unit, so they have a bit more space than the interior units.

Cindy likes to select flowers to grow that she knows will be photogenic and love to pore over the flower catalogues on line. Our challenge is to figure out how to capture the  beauty of these carefully selected flowers in the crowed garden. One of Cindy’s techniques is to use a small artificial background to help to isolate the flower. Often she uses a white foam core board to which she has attached a piece of black velvet-like material. She can then create studio-like images with a black or white background, depending on the flower.

This technique requires two people, because it is almost impossible to hold the background in place and frame a shot at the same time. I took these iris photos yesterday while Cindy held the background in place for me and then we reversed positions. In some of the images it looks like I was using some kind of studio lighting, but it was all natural night on a somewhat cloudy day that diffused the light nicely.

You don’t really need any special equipment to create this effect—you could use almost anything for a background. The day before, our improvised background was a collapsible black storage cube from IKEA that Cindy had just given me. The final photo, taken by Cindy with her iPhone, shows me holding that black cube and gives you a sense of the garden environment and how the technique is used.

bearded iris

bearded iris

bearded iris

iris

background

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Happy Easter. My childhood memories of Easter are full of flowers, with the interiors of churches filled with lilies and tulips. Today, I decided to post images of some of the orchids that I photographed during a recent visit to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. This garden has a wonderful glass-domed conservatory that houses all kinds of exotic plants—it was a fun challenge to try to capture a sense of the beauty of these flowers in such a confined, warm, and humid space.

Not everyone, of course, is celebrating Easter and for Orthodox Christians Easter will come next Sunday. Still, I think that today is a good moment for us all to pause and reflect on what is important to us. My simple prayer is that all of our lives will be filled with peace, love, and with renewed hope, irrespective of whether you are observing this holy day today.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Orchid

orchid

orchid

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was delighted to spot some Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) during a trip last week to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. This spring ephemeral plant has beautiful bell-shaped sky-blue flowers and is native to eastern North America. The bees seemed to be equally excited to see these flowers. My photos suggest that the bees, which appear to be Carpenter Bees, were getting to the nectar through the tube of the flowers rather than through the bell.

I really like the varied shades of blues and pinks in the bluebells in different shades of development. The colors work well together, sometimes even combining to produce a lovely shade of violet.

Virginia Bluebells

Virginia Bluebells

Virginia Bluebells

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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For a brief period each spring, tiny wildflowers spring up from the forest floor, giving the forest a magical feel. Some are colorful and some are pure white, but the wildflowers are all beautiful.

I spotted these little flowers on Monday as I was searching for dragonflies in Prince William County, Virginia. I came up empty-handed that day and am still searching for my first dragonfly of the season. However, I had an enjoyable day, covering almost six miles (9.6 km) on hilly trails through the forest.

The first photo shows a bluet (Houstonia caerulea), a species that is sometimes referred to as a “Quaker Lady,” because its shape is reportedly similar to that of the hats once worn regularly by women of the Quaker faith. The flower in the second shot is a Star Chickweed (Stellaria pubera), I believe. The flower in the final photo is probably a wild violet (Viola sororia).

As you can readily see, I got really close to the flowers and used a macro lens. I love the detailed views of their shapes, patterns, and colors and encourage you to click on each image to immerse yourself more deeply in their beauty. In these troubled times, nature continues to serve as a balm to my soul.

bluet

star chickweed

wild violet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As we move deeper into spring, more and more flowers are popping up in the garden of my neighbor, fellow photographer Cindy Dyer. It is a fun adventure to walk over to the garden every few days to see what new bits of beauty have sprung forth out of the earth.

One of my favorites that I look forward to seeing each spring is the Lady Jane tulip (Tulipa clusiana var. ‘Lady Jane’), featured in the first photo below. It is a small tulip with pointed petals and a delicate pink and white coloration.

The red tulips are a bit more traditional in terms of their shape and coloration. I love to explore them from all angles and their bright, cheery color is a joy to behold.

Some more tulip buds are beginning to mature and it looks like there may be yellow tulips next. Spring is such a beautiful season.

Lady Jane tulip

tulip

tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I love water lilies and one of my favorite places to see them is Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, a National Park Service site located in the northeastern corner of Washington, D.C. My photography mentor Cindy Dyer photographed water lilies there that were featured in 2015 on US Postal Service stamps and I helped her during a presentation she did at the special dedication ceremony for the postage stamps—check out Cindy’s blog posting entitled Special dedication ceremony for Water Lilies Forever Stamps for additional information.

Yesterday I traveled with Cindy to Kenilworth Gardens to drop off some matted prints for the gift store and it was fascinating to see the aquatic gardens in the off-season. It is much too early for water lilies to be blooming, but I could see lots of lily pads floating on the surface of the small ponds.

The lily pads were mostly colored in shades of rust and orange and I was able to capture some “artsy” shots of them. Obviously there photos are different from my more typical wildlife shots, but I like mixing it up and challenging myself to photograph different subjects. It forces me to stretch myself creatively outside of my comfort zone, which I believe is a good thing.

lily pad

lily pad

lily pad

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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In the springtime we often watch and wait in the garden, anticipating the beauty that is to come. Sometimes, as was the case with these tulip buds, we have a sneak preview of the coming colors, but often the blooms take us by surprise. I love those kinds of surprises.

As many of you know, I do not have my own garden. However, fellow photographer Cindy Dyer is one of my neighbors and she has an amazing garden, full of fun flowers to photograph.

tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of the early signs of spring is the emergency of the tiny stalks of Grape Hyacinths (g. Muscari). As their name suggest, these spiky little flowers look a bit like bunches of grapes. Most of the time grape hyacinths are bluish in color, but they come in other colors too and sometimes, as you can see in the second photo, there may be multiple colors on the same flower stalk.

I captured these images in the garden of my dear friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer. Cindy is used to seeing me skulking about in her garden and I usually am able to keep her informed about what is blooming in her own garden.

Using my short macro lens, I was able to capture some of the interesting patterns of these grape hyacinths. In the first image you can see how the little “grapes” grow in a spiral pattern. The second image shows how the “grapes” open up at their ends as they mature. I really like the way that both images feature the raised three-petalled impression on so many of the grapes—the shape looks almost like it was embossed.

Grape Hyacinth

Grape Hyacinth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I note the transition to spring in small ways, quite often in the reappearance of familiar species of plants, insects, and other living creatures. I was delighted on Monday to discover that tiny Virginia Spring Beauty wildflowers (Claytonia virginica) have already started to push their way up from the forest floor in Prince William County. According to Wikipedia, the individual flowers bloom for three days, although the five stamens on each flower are only active for a single day.

On the same day, I spotted an Eastern Comma butterfly (Polygonia comma), the first full-sized butterfly that I have been able to photograph this year. I was not able to get very close to the butterfly, but you can see the beautiful orange pattern of its inner wings in the middle shot below.

The final image shows a Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata) that I spotted last week. This species seems to be found only in shallow marshy areas and I rarely encounter one, so it was exciting to be able to photograph it.

We all celebrate different signs of spring at this time of the year (or of autumn if you live in the Southern Hemisphere). What indications do you look for that signal the change of the season?

Spring Beauty

Eastern Comma

spotted turtle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I spotted this tiny red tulip yesterday morning in the garden of my dear friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer, my first tulip sighting of the year. One of Cindy’s passions is gardening and she deliberately plants a lot of flowers that she believes will be photogenic.

Last fall she planted bulbs for some large, frilly, multi-colored tulips that she hopes will bloom later this year. (See my posting from last spring entitled Fire-breathing dragon to see an example of one of those crazy-looking parrot tulips.) I will be looking for those exotic flowers, but I have to say that am often drawn more to the simple, spare elegance of a single bloom, like today’s tulip.

When I first started to get serious about my photography almost ten years ago, I imitated the type of photographs that Cindy was taking, with a lot of emphasis on macro shots of flowers. Cindy taught me a lot about photography during those early days, lessons that have stuck with me as I have ventured into other areas of photography.

One of those lessons was about the value of a well-composed, graphic image, like today’s simple shot. Anyone, in theory, could have taken this shot, but they would have had to be willing to get on their hands and knees in the dirt to do so, another one of Cindy’s lessons. (If you want to see more of Cindy’s tips, check out her article How to Grow Your Garden Photography Skills that was featured several years ago on the NikonUSA.com website.)

tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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My thoughts have already turned to spring, with visions of colorful flowers and dragonflies dancing in my head. However, it turns out that winter was not quite done and last weekend we had a couple of inches of snow, a final hurrah for the season of winter.

Here are a couple of shots of my “winter dragonfly,” a metal sprinkler in my front yard that I featured in a previous post that showed the intricate detail of the dragonfly. I am also including a shot of some of the green shoots in the garden of my neighbor and fellow photographer Cindy Dyer. I think some of these might be tulips, but must confess that I am pretty clueless when it comes to plants.

Many of you know that I am somewhat obsessed with dragonflies. In 2020 I saw my first dragonflies of spring on the 3rd of April, the earliest I have ever seen dragonflies—see my 6 April 2020 posting First dragonflies of the season. I will probably go out and search for them in earnest during the final week of March. There are a couple of early emerging local species that I will be searching for along with migrant species like the Common Green Darner that might be passing through our area.


dragonfly

dragonfly

plant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Pushing out of the still dormant winter earth, several crocuses in the garden of my dear friend Cindy Dyer were shining brightly yesterday, a hopeful sign of the spring beauty that is yet to come.

For the first image, I shielded the sun with my body to avoid the harsh highlights that the sunlight was creating. I then changed my shooting position so that the sunlight was streaming from another angle, which caused the yellow parts of the flower to glow.

Please continue to pray for the people of Ukraine and for all those affected by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Crocus

crocus

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was walking through my neighborhood yesterday, I was delighted to spot some daffodils (g. Narcissus) that were already in bloom. The ground is still brown and bare and not very photogenic, so it is hard to take a “pretty” picture of these beautiful little flowers.

I used a short macro lens capture these images of the early daffodils, the advance guard for a multitude of spring flowers that will arrive before long. I am ready for the spring.

daffodil

daffodil

daffodil

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The situation in Ukraine is growing increasing grim as Putin’s attacks become more indiscriminate, causing countless civilian casualties and unimaginable suffering and devastation.  Please pray for peace.

#sunflowersforukraine

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sunflowers were already Ukraine’s national flower, but they have emerged as a symbol of resistance after a widely shared video clip appeared to show a Ukrainian woman berating Russian soldiers, telling them to put sunflower seeds in their pockets so that flowers would grow after they died in battle—see this article in Business Insider India for more information on this subject.

I just listened the words of Ukrainian President Zelensky as he described the horrific Russian cruise missile strike on Freedom Square in the center of Kharkiv and the tears are still wet on my cheeks. These sunflowers photos that I have taken in recent years are a visual sign of my support for the ongoing heroic actions of the Ukrainian people. Please pray for all of those affected by Putin’s unprovoked war, especially the Ukrainians, who are paying the highest price.

sunflower for Ukraine

Sunflowers for Ukraine

Sunflower for Ukraine

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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In the deepest darkest days of winter, there is still new growth, like these snowdrop flowers (g. Galanthus) that I spotted yesterday at Green Spring Gardens, a county-run historic garden not far from where I live.

I decided to mix things up a bit and put my macro lens on my camera for the first time in months, hoping that I might find flowers in bloom. What can I possibly find that would be flowering in late January? We have had over a foot (30 cm) of snow already this month and some frigid temperatures, a harsher winter than in recent years. I knew from past experience, though, that there was a good chance that some snowdrop flowers would be in bloom—my challenge was to find them.

I searched in vain in flowerbed after flowerbed, until finally I found several small patches of these pretty white flowers. The words to the song Edelweiss from The Sound of Music, one of my favorite musicals, came to mind. Although edelweiss is a completely different flower, the words of the song seemed to fit my snowdrops so well.

“Every morning you greet me
Small and white, clean and bright
You look happy to meet me
Blossom of snow, may you bloom and grow
Bloom and grow forever.”

snowdrops

snowdrop

snowdrop

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When the urge to take photos strikes me, I am undeterred by drizzle or intermittent light rain, though heavier rain and gusty winds tend to keep me at home. Of course, weather is unpredictable and I have gotten drenched in downpours a number of times. I carry an array of plastic bags and coverings to protect my gear, which is usually my number one priority.

Last Friday, it was raining off and on and I decided to visit Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge to see if any creatures were stirring. Not surprisingly, dragonflies were at the top of my list, though I doubted that any of them would be flying in the rain. I was therefore pleasantly surprised when I spotted this male Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis). I watched him land on a droplet-laden plant and managed to capture the first image below.

As I continued to walk around the small pond, I noticed a Black and Yellow Garden Orbweaver (Argiope aurantia) in its web, patiently waiting for a passing prey to be snagged. I thought the long brown object just below the spider might be a caterpillar or some other insect, but it turned out to be only a small twig.

There were a lot of flowers in bloom and my eyes were attracted to a cluster of small purple asters. The colors seemed really saturated and I liked the way that the droplets of water stood out on the petals.

So, I was able to capture a few photos to share, despite the rain. About the only thing that the images have in common is that they all include raindrops, which I believe add an additional element of interest to what otherwise might have been rather ordinary shots.

Eastern Pondhawk

Argiope aurantia spider

asters

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The thistles  in bloom must have been absolutely irresistible to butterflies on Saturday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was delighted to spot an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) and a Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly (Speyeria cybele) feeding almost side-by-side at a small patch of thistle plants.

I love the color combinations in these shots that contrast the warmer tones of the butterflies with the cooler colors of the flowers and the background. I also really like the texture of the thistles that appear to be hard and thorny, but are actually quite soft to the touch.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Great Spangled Fritillary

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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If photography were an Olympic sport, would it be an individual sport or a team sport? Generally I prefer to go out with my camera on my own, following my own interests at my own pace. I like the sounds of silence punctuated only by the songs of the birds singing or the wind rustling through the treats, rather than by the harsher tones of the human voice.

I also like to keep moving and start to feel restless if I stay in a spot for more than a few minutes. I guess my style would be most closely related to that of the Olympic biathlon. This winter sport combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. Competitors spend most of their time in motion, stopping periodically to take a few shots and then moving on—that is my preferred style. Oh, I can be quite patient at times, like when I am trying to photograph a dragonfly in flight, but that is more the exception than the rule.

One of the consequences of my approach is that I am often in a reactive mode. I chase the action rather than wait for it to come to me, which means I have to react really quickly when a situation presents itself.

I knew from Facebook posts that Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) were active at Green Spring Gardens when I decided to visit last Friday. When I arrived, I immediately spotted a cluster of photographers that had staked out a flower bed, some of whom are shown in the final photo. It was hard to miss them, because many of them had large lenses and heavy tripods.

I avoided this group and went about my solitary pursuit of butterflies and dragonflies with my more modest and portable camera setup. Later in the day I did manage to spot a hummingbird in a distant patch of Cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis). The shots are essentially record shots that merely document the presence of the hummingbird. However, hummingbirds are so cool that I am really happy whenever I manage to capture a recognizable image of one.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Green Spring Gardens

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was definitely exciting to see my first Monarch butterflies of the season last Friday at Green Spring Gardens, but I was equally delighted to see some other beautiful butterflies that day. The one in the first photo is an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) on a flower that I later learned is a Mexican sunflower. I am pretty sure that the butterfly in the second image is a Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus), although the angle of this shot keeps me from being absolutely certain. I am not sure what kind of flower it is feeding on, but it sure was pretty.

Although I spend a lot of time in streams, fields, and marshes, I enjoy visiting gardens from time to time. It is stimulating to all of the senses to see all of the bright colors and smell the fragrant flowers. There were plenty of bees too and occasional forays into the flowers by goldfinches and hummingbirds. It was a good day.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Several times recently I have noted with regret that I had not yet seen any Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) this summer. On Friday my luck changed and I was absolutely delighted to have multiple encounters with Monarchs during a visit to Green Spring Gardens, a country-run historical garden only a few miles from where I live. Obviously I had been looking for Monarchs in all the wrong places.

I felt carefree as a child as I chased the butterflies all over as they flitted from flower to flower. It was a hot, humid day and it was not long before I was drenched in sweat, but I was content in what I was doing.

I will let the beauty of the Monarchs speak for itself through these photos. I will only add that it was definitely worth the wait.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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