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Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Today is National Poetry Day in the United Kingdom and in Ireland. To celebrate, I decided to read a little poetry when I went out to photograph nature today at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and brought along with me three poetry collections that were all published during the past two months in the United Kingdom by The Hedgehog Poetry Press (https://www.hedgehogpress.co.uk/).

I am most familiar with Eat the Storms by Damien B. Donnelly, an Irish poet whose blog I have followed for quite some time. One of the highlights of my stay in Paris last November was having a chance to meet Damien in person, shortly before his return to Ireland—check out my blog posting Paris Portraits: Damien. Damien is amazingly creative and has done video versions of a number of his poems that he has featured on YouTube and even on TikTok. The poems in this collection, his first, are full of references to colors that characterize both the physical and psychological landscape, including some steps of his personal journey. Be sure to check out his blog at deuxiemepeaupoetry.com and his newly-created Eat the Storms podcast that features Damien and a host of poets from around the world. The podcast can be found at https://anchor.fm/damieneatsthestorms as well as on Spotify.

The second collection here, Venus in pink marble, was written by Belfast-based Gaynor Kane. I was introduced to her when she did a joint poetry launch video with Damien that was published on YouTube and was entitled “Venus Eats the Storms, A Poetry Launch of two Poets, Gaynor Kane and Damien B. Donnelly.” Both of them are energetic, funny, and engaging as they talk about their individual stories and read selections of their poetry. They apparently had so much fun recording the video that they decided to post an outtake video that is hilarious and can be seen by clicking this link.

The final poetry collection is called Seasons and was written by Katie Proctor, a young poet from Yorkshire, England. I encountered Katie during a Zoom launch presentation in mid-September that presented a “Prickle of Hedgehogs,” with readings from poets, including Katie, whose collections had been published by The Hedgehog Poetry Press. You can learn more about her at her webpage or on Twitter.

You might have had bad experiences from being forced to read and analyze poetry when in school, but I encourage you to give it another shot. The poems by these three poets help me to see and experience the world in different ways, through different eyes. I encourage you to listen to a podcast or two or check out the websites for which I have provided links.

All of these poetry collections are available from Amazon, but I encourage you to order them directly from the poets for two reasons. First of all, it helps to support them more. Secondly, the quality of the books is not the same. I was so anxious to get a copy of Eat the Storms that I ordered one from Amazon and one from Damien. Not surprisingly the one from Amazon arrived first. It was printed in the USA and the paper is of lower quality and is off-white, rather than white like the “original.” The Amazon version also lacks the inner flap photo and biographic information that is found in the UK version.

Let me end with Damien’s standard closing, “Stay Bloody Poetic.”

Hedgehog poets

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am pretty old, but I was not born in 1669. However, a Dutch painter, Maria van Oosterwijck, was fascinated by dragonflies and butterflies, as I am, and included them in a floral painting called Flower Still Life that she completed in 1669. Molly Lin Dutina, one of my faithful subscribers, thought of me when she saw the painting in a museum recently and wrote this delightful blog posting. Be sure to check out her blog Treasures in Plain Sight for more of her postings that are thoughtful, inspirational, and always a joy to read.

Treasures in Plain Sight

He seems to follow me everywhere! His interest in dragonflies, butterflies, flowers and nature in general keep me intrigued with his blog. Until he gets to the snakes. Then I tune him out. Yuck. https://michaelqpowell.com/2020/09/04/dragonfly-and-duckweed/

Because of him I am exponentially aware of dragonflies, though I cannot identify hardly any of them. As my oldest friends are aware I love butterflies, but Mike researches his and posts details about them. I merely admire. Well, except for the monarchs and especially their caterpillars. My husband and I garden milkweed especially for those!

Recently Bob and I made a trip to the Cincinnati Art Museum, wearing our masks and social distancing in the almost deserted museum. One exhibit was called “Women Breaking Boundaries” and this painting was done by Maria van Oosterwijck in 1669 entitled Flower Still Life. I was admiring the flowers: nasturtium, peony, tulip, lily of the valley, carnation or…

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July was a crazy month no matter how you look at it. Who knows what the new month will hold for us all? When I checked the garden of my friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer a few days ago, I was thrilled to see that some of her gladiolas are now in bloom, symbolic of the new life and growth that is still possible in our own lives, even in these troubled times.

gladiolas

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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July is World Watercolor Month, a month-long challenge in which watercolor painters of all ages and skill levels are encouraged to paint daily and post their work on-line. I have joined this challenge and am trying to paint something every day using the daily prompts at worldwatercolormonth.com. So far, I have managed to paint something every single day, generally following the daily prompt. Thanks to all of you for your support and encouragement as I have taken this little artistic detour on my photography journey.

If you want to see the first three installments of my painting efforts this month, check out my previous postings ‘More fun with watercolor‘, ‘World Watercolor Month 2020—part 2 ,’ and World Watercolor Month 2020—part 3.’ This fourth installment highlights my painting efforts of the past six days in reverse chronological order.

The prompt for 22 July was “valuable.” I decided to depict nature in a landscape done entirely in Payne’s Gray, because during this time of quarantine, nature has been a refuge for me, of inestimable value for my peace of mind. There is no particular significance to the color—I imply liked the idea of using a single color and focusing on values.

The prompt for 21 July was “organic.” When I thought of the word organics, all I could think of was fruits, vegetables, and fertilizer, none of which I wanted to paint. Instead I painted an “organic” landscape with no man-made objects in it. As you can see, all of the objects were stylized as I experimented with a different shape and brush strokes for pine trees.

The prompt for 20 July was “wiggle.”  I decided to do a little painting of a Northern Water Snake that I photographed swimming in the shallow water of the Potomac River earlier this year. The color and pattern is not quite realistic, but I like the way that I captured the snake’s undulation.

The prompt for 19 July was “favorite scent.” I love the smell of pine trees, so I tried to paint a mountain scene with pine trees in the mist after watching a YouTube tutorial by Grant Fuller. My version seems to have an almost Asian feel to it that I really like. This is probably my favorite painting of this little group.

The prompt for 18 July was “soft.” It’s a bit of a stretch, but I like to think the two little sumi-e style birds that I painted have soft feathers on their tummies and are soft-spoken. The birds look a little cartoonish, but I like the way that they seem to be engaged in a conversation.

The prompt for 17 July was “spontaneous.” After watching some YouTube videos about painting loose landscapes, I decided to try an imaginary landscape without any reference photo. I had no idea what my result would look like and used techniques that included applying some of the paint with a palette knife, which explains the brilliant splotch of ultramarine blue in the middle of the painting. I like the colors and the feel of the painting and like to imagine that it is a lake in the crater of an inactive volcano, but you may well see something different.

As I look over these six paintings, I realize that I have used no bright colors at all—it seems that everything is blue, gray, or brown. That definitely was not intentional. Perhaps I will try to brighten things up a bit for the next installment as I push on towards the goal of trying to paint each day in July. Thanks again for your support and indulgence as I veer off my normal creative path.

If you want to learn more about World Watercolor Month, click on this link or go directly to doodlewash.com. In addition to raising awareness and interest about watercolor painting, World Watercolor Month raises support for The Dreaming Zebra Foundation, a charity providing support so that children and young adults are given an equal opportunity to explore and develop their creativity in the arts.

valuable

organic

wiggle

scent

soft

spontaneous

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I chuckled when I read this recent posting from one of my faithful followers, Molly Lin Dutina, the author of the blog “Treasures in Plain Sight.” While she was out walking her dog, she stopped to photograph damselflies, a feat that I would never even think of attempting, and thought of me.

Be sure to click though on the “View original post” link to read her entire posting. It is also worth your while to check out her blog for inspiration and to learn more of her delightful adventures in Ohio. Her admiration of my photography, though, does have limits—she is not at all fond of my close-up photos of snakes.

Treasures in Plain Sight

Walking the dog on a trail I had only taken once before on a night walk, I was startled and delighted to see an Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly, I think! I have been following Mr. Powell’s site for quite some time. His photography is amazing.

This photo was taken with my iPhone 8+ and the new dog on a leash in the other hand. I was delighted to capture this. And I immediately thought, “I am playing Mike Powell!”

Then I spotted one I could not photograph as it was too jumpy. It was a delightful almost turquoise. Have no idea what kind of damsel or dragonfly it was. Wished someone else was with me to capture the image.

We left that area and headed back to the car. And voila! There was another sort!

And another shot of same one. I even captured the shadow of it’s wings 🙂

Mike!…

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Wishing you all a sense of inner peace as you begin a new week, something that we all need during these troubled times. That was definitely the feeling that enveloped me as I contemplated this beautiful water lily last Thursday at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens during a short photography expedition there with my friend Cindy Dyer.

water lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Though their petals may shrivel and fall away, these tulips remain beautiful and elegant in my eyes. Is beauty eternal?

I am convinced that, despite the popular adage that “beauty fades,” beauty is in fact eternal when we broaden our perceptions and allow ourselves to look more deeply. One of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite books Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) says, “On ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” (It is only with the heart that you can see well. That which is essential is invisible to the eyes).

Perhaps we need to change the familiar saying that “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” to “beauty is in the heart of the beholder.”

tulip

Lady Jane tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What are your feelings about the future? For me, they are like this tulip bud, full of the promise of new life and beauty that is yet to come. The challenge for us all is to be patient and wait with joyful expectation.

As with all of my other recent tulip shots, I photographed this bud in the garden of my neighbor and friend Cindy Dyer. Thanks, Cindy.

tulip bud

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It is easy for me to be delighted and entranced by simple things in nature, like this dandelion seed head that I spotted last week in my neighborhood. I remember the joy of blowing on these balls of fluff when I was a child and watching the little seeds sail through the air.

Yesterday the Governor of Virginia, the state in which I live, issued an executive order directing us all to stay at home except for a limited number of excepted essential tasks, including things like getting groceries and seeking medical care. One of the exceptions is “Engaging in outdoor activity, including exercise, provided individuals comply with social distancing requirements.” I am not yet sure if my forays into the wild with my camera would still be permitted as “engaging in outdoor.” If not, the content of my blog postings might change a little, but I plan to continue to post.

Whatever the case, I think this is a good time for us to be mindful of and thankful for the simple delights that can be found all around us.

dandelion

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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“Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day, I’ve got a beautiful feeling everything’s going my way.” I started my Thursday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge with this handsome Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) who seemed to be serenading me.

If you have ever heard the squawk of a Great Blue Heron, you know why it is best that there is no soundtrack. Instead, I recommend that you click on this link to a YouTube video of the song that I cited in my opening sentence from the classic 1955 movie “Oklahoma”—it is guaranteed to brighten your day.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Are you an extrovert? If so, the current situation is almost certainly tough for you. This morning I came across a delightful posting by fellow photographer, Scott St. Amand. Here is an excerpt, but I encourage you to click through to his original posting. “I have a lot of extroverted friends. It’s not my fault. I am like a magnet for social people. I have tried valiantly to wear my scorn and antipathy on my sleeve, but they all brush it off as bluster and introverted bravado and then want to talk about how funny it is that I pretend that I am a hermit. An hour later, when they are done talking at me, I have already crawled into my mental hole, and they tell me what a good listener I am…a vicious cycle, indeed.”

ST. AMAND PHOTOGRAPHY

Backgrounds-37

I saw a funny Facebook post the other day about how self-quarantining and social distancing was, for introverts, the culmination of their life’s work.  I saw one today that said, “Check on your extrovert friends; we are not OK.”

For a self-described hermit, who has been practicing social distancing since at least the age of twelve, I have a lot of extroverted friends.  It’s not my fault.  I am like a magnet for social people.  I have tried valiantly to wear my scorn and antipathy on my sleeve, but they all brush it of as bluster and introverted bravado and then want to talk about how funny it is that I pretend that I am a hermit.  An hour later, when they are done talking at me, I have already crawled into my mental hole, and they tell me what a good listener I am…a vicious cycle, indeed.

I even…

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When I am out in the wild with my camera, I am usually looking for creatures to photograph.  There are moments, however, when the beauty of the surroundings simply draws me in and for a while I can block out the stresses of the world. At this time, when our “normal” world seems to be crumbling before our eyes, I think we all need to find ways to step away from media reporting, take a deep breath, and find fresh perspectives—this is how I do it.

Here are a few photos that I took on Tuesday at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge. In the first image, I was struck by the successive layers of vegetation, some dried, some evergreen, and some showing reddish traces of new growth. The texture of the cattail captured my attention in the second image—as it moved in the gentle breeze, the it cattail would release a few fluffy seed heads that floated through the air. The final photo shows a small observation platform at the end of a trail. I was struck by the amount of vegetation that has grown up and almost engulfed the small structure and blocked the view to the water.

 

Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge

Cattail

Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have lived in the Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C. for over 25 years. Like most people who live in the region, I rarely travel into the city except when I have guests. We tend to look a bit negatively at tourists, who impede our paths and generally get in the way as we rush about trying to get important things—primarily work—accomplished. It is a bit of a stereotype, but it does seem to be that most people in this area are very focused and driven.

As I continued to struggle to readapt to “normal” life after my glorious three weeks in Paris, I started to wonder how things would look differently if I approached Washington D.C. with the same sense of awe and enthusiasm that I felt for Paris. What if I stopped taking for granted all of the treasures our nation’s capital has to offer and looked at them with fresh eyes?

Saturday, I grabbed the camera gear and the raincoat that I used in Paris and rode into the city on the Metro system. I had a relaxing time visiting several of the Smithsonian museums, which all have no admission fee, so you don’t have to exhaust yourself trying to get your money’s worth. I may cover my museum experience in another posting.

What struck me the most during the day, however, was the view that greeted me when I walked out of the National Gallery of Art at closing time. It was starting to get dark and lights had come on, gently illuminating some of the buildings. As I looked to the left, I could see the U.S. Capitol Building, home of Congress, and to the right in the distance was the Washington Monument, with a part of the Lincoln Memorial visible behind it. Wow!

Now I realize that most people don’t have Washington D.C. in their backyard, but I encourage you to look afresh at the area in which you live. Imagine that you have traveled thousands of miles to see its unique beauties. For me, that change in attitude helped me to look beyond the familiar and better appreciate the beauty that was always there. I had always used that approach in my wildlife photography and only now realize how it can be broadened into so many other areas of my life.

U.S. Capitol

Washington Monument

U.S. Capitol

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What does the world look like when viewed through the eyes of a young child? I imagine that it is just as magical as the colorful soap bubbles that six year old Isaac had me chasing this past weekend at a church retreat at Shrine Mont in Orkney Springs, VA. For a few carefree moments, I felt like a child again and was able to experience an sense of joy and freedom.

Sometimes I think we make our lives too complicated and buy into the notion that happiness comes through the acquisition of more “stuff.” This experience reminded me of the value of simple, childlike pleasures.

magical bubble

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the feeling of the early morning, when the sun is just beginning to rise. Some mornings begin with fog hanging over the fields, giving the scene an eerie feeling. On other mornings, the sun adds color to the sky and produces beautiful reflected light in the clouds. I never know what the sunrise will bring when I set out in the dark, but I love to start the way watching darkness give way to light.

I captured these images on separate mornings during this past week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.


early morning

sunrise

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am in awe of the way that children experience the world. This morning I read a wonderful posting about some of the lessons that we can learn from a two year old, written by Nick and Kate, a couple in a “typical English village:” with their “4 wild but wonderful children.”

Check out their awesome blogs tingsha.co.uk and carterandwild.com and be sure to click through  the link in this re-blog to see the text of the entire original post. I am confident that it will brighten your day as much as it did for me.

tingsha

Our walk home from town this morning took about three times as long as usual. As we were walking I was watching my daughter and realised I had a lot to learn from her.

Lesson 1-Patience

At the age of 2, everything is just a little bit harder to do.

Watching her put a handful of daisies into her pocket so she could collect more took forever. She didn’t once get frustrated or give up.

One by one, very slowly and carefully the daisies were stashed away for safe keeping.

In an age where we can buy something and have it delivered the same day, google questions from our phone at super fast speeds, get meals out in an instant without even exiting the car and watch an entire season of a tv series on demand, we are so used to instant results and instant gratification that we live our…

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I was prompted this morning to read again the challenges to all Americans found in Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, challenges that seem so appropriate and relevant as we pause in the United States on this Memorial Day to remember the sacrifices of so many brave men and women.
 “But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Bald Eagle
(I captured this image of a hyper-vigilant injured Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in November 2014 shortly before it was rescued. You can learn more about the rescue and see additional images in a posting from that period entitled “Rescue of an injured Bald Eagle.”)
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last weekend when I was staying outside of Roanoke for a wedding, I had the chance to walk a few miles of the Appalachian Trail. It was pretty awesome—now I have only about 2178 more miles to go to complete it.

Like most people, I had heard about the Appalachian Trail, but didn’t know much about it. Somehow I imagined that it was about as wide as a jeep and relatively smooth. My brief hike on the trail dispelled those notions. The trail is narrow, muddy, and steep, at least in those parts where I was walking.

I encountered the trail in Troutville, Virginia, a small town that is designated as an Appalachian Trail Community, where hikers can resupply along the way. Troutville marks a point on the trail where thru-hikers, those trying to complete the entire trail in a single year, will have completed about a third of the trail, assuming they started in Georgia.

It’s pretty exciting to think about hiking a 2200 mile trail, but it requires a lot of planning, training, and commitment. Generally thru-hikers spent five to seven months hiking on the trail, and quite a few people drop out along the way for many different reasons.

Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail

As I climbed a hill and came to a meadow, I noticed this small tent. Apparently a hiker decided this was a good spot to spend the night. You can see part of the trail, which is marked with white “blazes,” like the one on the wooden post.

Appalachian Trail
This was the scenic view from the top of one of several hills that I climbed during my short stint on the trail.
Appalachian Trail
 © Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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In addition to following bloggers whose photography I admire, I enjoy reading the words of bloggers who prompt me to think more deeply. Here’s one such posting from Roger Pocock’s blog Windows into History that recently had such an effect on me.

Windows into History

Selborne, as pictured in A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 3, 1908. Selborne, as pictured in A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 3, 1908.

Snippets 98. Richard Le Gallienne (1866-1947) was a poet and writer of books and essays on a wide variety of topics. In his 1900 work, Travels in England, he explains why he feels that travelling close to home, and at a measured pace, is such an important thing to do (he was born in Liverpool, resident in England at the time, although he would later move to the USA, and the “Le” in his name was an affectation). This might prove inspiring for those who also, like myself, derive just as much pleasure from exploring Great Britain as travelling abroad.

It is then in this spirit of ready wonder that I mount my wheel, and invite I know not what of new and dangerous in the ten miles between Hindhead and Selborne. Were I…

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Is it distracting to have a man-made object in an otherwise natural landscape? The ocean really inspired me during my recent short trip to Maine. I am amazed at the number of beautiful images that I was able to capture. I particularly like the colors and simple composition of a shot I took of a small river that rises and falls with the tide.

As I was working on the image, I noticed that there was a solitary warning sign in the upper left-hand corner that alerts folks to the dangers of the tides. I actually like the juxtaposition of this hard vertical line with the gentle curves of the image and the hazy coastline in the background. I began to wonder, however, if others would see the sign as a discordant element in the image, so I created a second version of the image without the sign.

Which image do you prefer, the one with the sign or the one without it?

Old Orchard Beach

O;d Orchard Beach

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of my favorite places in Ocean Park, Maine is a small covered bridge that leads into a grove of beautiful trees. The bride crosses a stream and is barely wide enough for two people to walk through side-by-side. It was dedicated in 1944 as a war memorial.

Ocean Park is a special place for my family. My parents went on their honeymoon there and eventually retired to the small community. Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I was recently in Maine. Unfortunately it was not for pleasure, but was in connection with what proved to be a fatal heart attack for one of my younger brothers.

The final image of these three is my favorite, because it serves as a kind of visual metaphor for me of the passing of my brother Patrick.

covered bridge

covered bridge

covered bridge

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The sky was mostly clouded over as I made my way toward the beach in the early morning, but the dawn’s early light helped me to see the wooden pathway through the dune grass at Old Orchard Beach in Maine. Although I couldn’t see the sun itself, a reddish glow was reflected on the clouds and sometimes onto the water.

It was a fun challenge to try to capture the beautiful light in different ways, from the very realistic to the almost abstract.

dawn's early light

dawn's early light

dawn;s early light

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I don’t often shoot landscapes (or seascapes), but the beauty of the ocean and the waves crashing on the shore inspired me to give it a shot. Normally I take photos with a macro lens or a telephoto zoom, but I was fortunate to have brought along a 24-105mm lens. Here are a few favorite images that I captured yesterday at Old Orchard Beach, Maine.

Old Orchard Beach

Old Orchard Beach

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do your remember what it was like to be young and in love? You and your beloved couldn’t beat to be separated—you were always together, always close, always touching, like these two Shasta Daisies growing in the garden of my neighbor and fellow photographer Cindy Dyer.

As I was looking for information about the Shasta Daisy, I came across this fascinating information on the history on the flower at lutherburbank.org:

“2001 marked the 100th anniversary of Luther Burbank’s introduction of the Shasta daisy, one of America’s most beloved garden flowers. Burbank spent 17 years developing this quadruple hybrid which he named after Mt. Shasta. Others have continued Burbank’s work and many new varieties of the Shasta daisy have been introduced since Burbank completed his work more than 100 years ago.”

Shasta Daisy

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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For a few magical moments Monday morning the sun was shining through the trees at Huntley Meadows Park with a gorgeous golden light. At first I was a little disappointed that there were no birds or animals for me to photograph, but gradually I was drawn deeper and deeper into the simple abstract beauty of the trees themselves.

The varied colors, shapes, and textures of this intimate landscape enveloped me and filled me with a kind of reverent awe and inner sense of peace. I would have liked to freeze that moment and experience it in slow motion, but all too quickly the golden light faded and reality returned.

golden1_29Feb_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A lot of scratching and movement was taking place down deep in the cattails and I stopped and waited, hoping to see what birds were responsible for the commotion. Finally, one of them popped to the surface and it looked to be a White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) and I smiled.

Sparrows have a very special place in my heart, because they remind me of my deceased parents. When I was growing up, one of their favorite hymns at church was “His Eye is On the Sparrow.” The hymn has a simple, Scripture-based message that we should not be discouraged, because the same God who watches over the sparrows in the field cares even more for us.

Now, whenever I see sparrows, I smile as I am filled with memories of my parents, and the words of the chorus of the hymn play again in my mind, “I sing because I’m happy. I sing because I’m free. For His eye is on the sparrow. And I know He watches me.”

If you have never heard this song, there are many versions of it on YouTube, including, versions by such noted artists as Whitney Houston. Sandi Patty’s rendition is close to the version that I remember in the small Baptist churches of my childhood.

White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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While I was at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in Washington D.C. on Monday, it was easy to understand Monet’s endless fascination with water lilies. My opening image of a small wooden bridge brings to mind several of Monet’s paintings of the Japanese Bridge in his water garden at Giverny.

bridge at Kenilworth

Water lilies seem to draw me in and surround me with an overwhelming sense of beauty and tranquility. How can I possibly capture that feeling in a photo? Here are a few images to show you some of the different approaches that I used in attempting to show the irresistible attraction of water lilies.

water lily at Kenilworth

water lilies at Kenilworth

pink water lilies at Kenilworth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Like most guys, I have trouble remembering anniversaries, so it is a good thing that WordPress sent me a reminder that three years ago today I started my blog. I still recall my feelings of doubt and uncertainty when my mentor and muse Cindy Dyer sat me down in front of a computer and told me that I was starting a blog. We had just finished reviewing and editing some shots that I had taken earlier in the day at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens. Cindy helped me through the mechanics of setting up the blog and shortly thereafter I made my first posting, Blue Dasher dragonfly.

Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I grew to look forward to writing the postings and taking photos to feature. As of right now, I’ve made 1638 postings and had 78743 views—that’s a lot of words and a lot of photos.

I was struck from the outset by the sense of community and mutual support that exists in the blogging world and there is a small group of fellow photographers with whom I feel a particular affinity, including Sue, Gary, Leanne, Ed, Lyle, Emily, Allen, and Chris. The amount of encouragement that I receive from them and countless others is overwhelming. Closer to home, Cindy continues to be a constant source of inspiration and instruction and Walter and I help to push each other as we explore remote areas of our favorite marshland park.

When I started this blog, I didn’t really think of myself as a photographer. I was taking a lot of photos and knew that I was improving, but there was a kind of psychological barrier that kept me from thinking in those terms. Now, I can confidently say that I am a photographer.

My journey into photography has been full of highlights, but two moments from 2014 really stand out. In November, I witnessed the rescue of a bald eagle at my local marsh and my photos and links to my blog posting were featured on the websites of several Washington D.C. media outlets, resulting in a total of 3344 views of my posting Rescue of an injured Bald Eagle. A short time before that incident, I was really honored when I was featured in an Introductions post by noted Australian photographer Leanne Cole.

If you have read this far, you may be wondering about my reference to “cannibals” in the title of this posting. What do cannibals have to do with my blog? Well, if I set aside the abnormally high number of views of my eagle rescue post, for the longest time my most popular post was one with the innocuous title of Fuzzy white caterpillar. There is not a whole lot special about the prose or the photos, but it has had 489 views to date.

Earlier this week the caterpillar was passed in the stats by my post Red-footed Cannibalfly, with 492 views to date—the cannibals have taken over the lead. As a guy, I feel happier that a more macho sounding insect is now leading the field of “normal” posts. As far as I can tell, the post’s popularity is a function of the search engines. The post was not particularly popular when it first appeared and has only 36 likes. Now, though, it even shows up on the first page of Google results if you type in “Red-footed Cannibalfly.”

So what’s ahead? I hope to be able to keep improving my writing and my photography. I have certain aspirational shots in my mind of different subjects or different locations.

Yesterday, when I was taking photos of water lilies with Cindy Dyer, I mentioned that I had always imagined taking a shot a frog on a lily pad, but had never even seen a frog perching on one. A short time later, Cindy excitedly pointed out a partially submerged frog on a lily pad and I managed to snap a couple of shots before he dove into the water. (Check out Cindy’s blog posting to see her beautiful shot of this frog.) Dreams do come true.

Thanks again to all my readers and supporters, whose encouragement has helped motivate and sustain me this past three years. I look forward to sharing my journey with my fellow travelers.

 

Frog on a lily pad

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Like most photographers, I feel more comfortable when I am behind the camera, but last Thursday I found myself on stage in front of five hundred other photographers with the lens pointed in my direction.

I was at the Washington D.C. Convention Center with my dear friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer for a daylong seminar on lighting using flash, taught by Joe McNally, an internationally-known photographer and a great motivational instructor.

During one class segment, Joe pulled me out of the crowd to serve as the model for a mini-shoot. I was more than a little shocked when he pointed in my direction and asked me to come forward. I was a little self-conscious about the fact that I was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and jeans, but at least I didn’t have to worry about how my hair looked.

While I was up on the stage, Cindy decided that she needed to capture the moment and initially took some shots with her iPhone. She was unsatisfied with the results, but didn’t have her camera with her.  Suddenly she remembered that my camera was in my camera bag underneath my chair. Although she is a dedicated Nikon shooter, she grabbed my Canon and got these shots of both the setup and the resulting images from one of the large video projections screens.

In an interesting side note, this is actually the second time that I have been photographed by Joe McNally. In March 2012, when Photoshop World was held in Washington D.C., I was observing one of Joe’s lighting demonstrations at a vendor’s booth. He had just demonstrated beauty lighting with a very photogenic couple and said he needed a subject to demonstrate character lighting—and pointed to me.

IMG_5822 DONE lorezIMG_5831 DONE lorez IMG_5835 DONE lorez IMG_5836 DONE lorez

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This re-posting is a bit of shameless self-promotion, but it is hard to describe how honored and thrilled I feel to be featured by Leanne Cole in a blog posting today. Leanne, who lives and works in Australia, is a wonderful photographer who spends a lot of time as a kind of photographic evangelist, sharing her passion for the art and practice of photography. She is constantly encouraging and teaching others, yet somehow seems to find time to explore new areas of her own photography, ranging from photographing the stars at night to investigating the close-up world of macro photography. Be sure to check out her incredible blog.

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Some subjects are so awe-inspiring that I get excited just seeing them, even if they are too far away for a good photo—like this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) that I saw Monday at my local marsh. The eagle seemed to sense my presence and took off before I could get closer, but I managed to capture an image of its final preparations for takeoff from the branch.

eagle_takeoff1_blogWhen I am walking through the woods at this time of the year, I have to keep my eyes in constant motion. Leaves are still sparse enough on the trees that I am still able to spot some birds in the trees.  However, insects are starting to appear too, so I have to scan the leaves and branches on the ground for these little creatures.

On early Monday morning, as I looked through a break in the trees, I caught sight of a large bird in the distance, sitting on the end of a branch. I immediately stopped, having learned from experience that even a single step forward would be likely to spook the bird. The light was not great, but the shape suggested to me that it was probably a bald eagle.

The eagle looked around for a few seconds and then took off. At that moment, I was absolutely certain that it was a bald eagle. I was not so certain that I had captured any useable images, but I was content just to have experienced the sight of that majestic bird in flight.

eagle_takeoff2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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