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Archive for the ‘Insects’ Category

I was really thrilled to spot this spectacular Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) last week as it fed on some kind of thistle plant at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. There are several dark swallowtail species in our area and I often have trouble telling them apart. In this case, though, I could see the distinctive back dot inside the orange dot which is telltale sign that this is Black Swallowtail. I highly recommend a helpful posting by Louisiana Naturalist that points out way to distinguish among four dark swallowtails—it is a reference that I repeatedly return to when I have a question about a dark swallowtail.

Black Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This tattered male Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) seemed to be auditioning for a role as a replacement for the goose on this sign on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Or perhaps he was merely seeking a place of refuge—all dragonflies are welcome here.

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Liaison dangereuse? Living life on the edge? That’s how I would characterize these mating Big Bluet damselflies (Enallagma durum) that I spotted on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Neither of them was harmed during their “activity,” though those thorns look really menacing.

It is definitely not what I would call “safe sex.”

Big Bluet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Friday I spotted this female Blue-tipped Dancer damselfly (Argia tibialis) alongside a creek in Prince William County, Virginia. The fallen leaves provided a nice backdrop for the damselfly and remind me that the days of the summer are numbered.

Some of you undoubtedly noticed that there is no blue tip on this Blue-tipped Dancer. As is often the case for species names for insects (and for birds too), the name applies primarily to the males of the species. There is, however, some variety among female Blue-tipped Dancers, with a blue variant, as seen below, and a brown variant.

Blue-tipped Dancer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Dragonfly wings are amazing, but most of the time they are so transparent that it is hard to see all of the tiny little “cells” that make up the wings. Last Friday, though, I captured this shot of an immature male Calico Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge that really highlights the beautiful mosaic-like pattern of its hind wings. Wow!

Calico Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Does you mood affect how you react to images? When I am reviewing images that I have captured, most of the time I use an analytical approach. I seek to identify the species of my subject and then look at the technical aspects of the photo, such as the sharpness of the focus. Finally I will see if I can improve the composition by cropping the image.

For some images, though, I respond initially with my heart and not my head. I don’t worry about “what” it is and simply enjoy the beauty of the shapes and colors that make up the image. That was the case with this shot of a male Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) that I captured during a recent visit to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

I love the contrast between the orangish-red of the dragonfly’s body and the green background. The shape and texture of the vegetation, which I believe is Eastern Gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides), also really grabbed my eye (in part because I missed focus a little and the sharpest part of the image is the grass in front of the dragonfly). The composition is simple and straightforward and is pretty much the way I shot it.

We all like what we like. Most often we don’t even ask ourselves why we like something. I personally find it beneficial to try to articulate why I like something. Words fail me quite often when attempting to describe with words what is primarily an emotional reaction, but I think that the effort itself makes the process worthwhile.

Needham's Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Are you always in search of new subjects or are you content to photograph the same subjects over and over again? Several years ago I came across an author who described two different types of people—those who prefer to live “widely” and those who prefer to live “deeply.” Those in the first group are always seeking new experiences and traveling to new places and, as photographers, are constantly looking for new things to photograph. By contrast, those in the second group are looking for a deeper experience and are likely to repeatedly return to the same locations over and over and photograph the same limited set of subjects.

As you might suspect, I see myself primarily as a member of the second group. Many of you have undoubtedly noted that I tend to hang out a lot in the same wildlife refuges throughout the year and often photograph familiar subjects. Why? For me, each encounter is unique—the lighting is different, the poses are different, and the age and genders of my subjects vary. I enjoy documenting the seasonal changes in fora and fauna at these locations. Each time I strive to capture different and, if possible, better images.

So, I am posting another photo of a Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina), even though I posted several images of this species last week. My angle of view for this image from this past weekend was better; the lighting was coming from a better direction; and the slight breeze prompted the dragonfly to move its wings in a way that created a better pose. Consequently, I like this image more than the ones I posted earlier.

My simple approach to blog postings is to present something that is interesting to viewers. The photos may be visually appealing or show details or behavior that you may not have noticed before. You may learn something from my words or may have a better understanding of how the images came into being. Each day we have new opportunities to fill our lives with beauty and meaning. Photography and blogging have become part of my daily journey and I feel blessed to be able to share my experiences with so many of you.

Halloween Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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