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Archive for the ‘Insects’ Category

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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There were lots of flowers in bloom yesterday at Green Spring Gardens, a historic county-run garden not far from where I live. One of my favorites was the Zowie Zinnia and a Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) seemed to like it a lot too.

I was at the garden with my dear friend and photography mentor, Cindy Dyer, and her husband. We were all taking a break at one point and I told CIndy that I was going to return to a patch of Zowie Zinnias to see if I could get a shot of a butterfly landing on one. We both recalled a photo that she took in 2010 (check out her blog posting) when an Easter Tiger Swallowtail butterfly appeared out of nowhere and landed on one of the two Zowie Zinnias that she was focusing on with her camera on a tripod.

Imagine her surprise when a couple of minutes later I returned with this photo. She grabbed her camera and went to the patch of zinnia, but, alas, the butterflies were not as cooperative for her as they had been for me.

Monarch butterfly and Zowie Zinnia

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I suppose that I should call this a royal posting for it features both a viceroy and a queen. Of course, here in the USA we don’t have a monarchy, but that doesn’t keep us from having Viceroy butterflies (Limenitis archippus) and Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota). I spotted this royal pair on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge where the Viceroy repeated probed the clusters of Queen Anne’s Lace.

You probably have noticed that the coloration of the Viceroy butterfly matches that of the Monarch butterfly. One of the easiest ways to tell them apart is the black line across the hind wings which is present with Viceroys but not with Monarchs.

Viceroy butterfly

Viceroy butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Unlike those that construct elaborate webs, some spiders instead perch at the shore with extended legs and sense prey through vibrations on the surface of the water. When the prey is detected, the spider runs across the top of the water, prompting some to call it the “Jesus spider.”

I spotted this cool-looking Six-spotted Fishing Spider (Dolomedes triton) in the shallow water of a pond this past Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Six-spotted Fishing Spider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I can’t identify this flower and I am not certain what kind of skipper butterfly this is, but the two of them sure did combine well in this image that I captured this past weekend at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens. (I’m leaning towards this being a Peck’s Skipper (Polites peckius), but there are so many different kinds of skippers that it’s hard to be sure.)

In many ways this is the kind of image that I aspire to capture. The subject is active, engaged in probing the flower with its extended proboscis, rather than in a static pose. Of equal importance, the image has an artistic feel, a kind of beauty in its composition and colors. There are so many uncontrollable elements in nature that there is no way to guarantee results like this, but it is sure is nice when it happens.

UPDATE: Helpful folks on Facebook and readers of this blog have helped to identify the butterfly as a Zabulon Skipper (Poanes zabulon) and the flower as an Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana). Thanks, Drew and Molly.

skipper and flower

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I love the stunning red-orange coloration of a male Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami), especially when the sunlight dances across its gold-tinged wings, as it did on Monday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Generally I prefer an uncluttered background for my subjects, but in this case I think the soft patterns of the grasses in the background enhance the image more than would have been the case with a uniform single color.

Needham's Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I am always excited to see Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus). Over the years there have been numerous reports of this species becoming endangered, primarily because of the loss of habitat. Some years, I have spotted only a few Monarch during an entire summer. This year I have been fortunate enough to see them at several of the locations that I frequent.

I spotted this spectacular Monarch butterfly yesterday while visiting Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in nearby Vienna, Virginia with some fellow photographers. Each of us has a different style of shooting and preferred subjects and we usually shoot separately. It is always a lot of fun when we reassemble after shooting and share our photos and experiences with each other over dinner at a restaurant.

Monarch butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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