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Archive for the ‘Language’ 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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When I traveled overseas for work, which I tended to do at least a few times a year, we generally stayed in U.S. chain hotels, most often run by Marriott. Those hotels are predictable and easily identifiable—from a distance you know immediately that they are hotels.

The dark green door in the center of this image is the entrance to the apartment where I am spending the three weeks that I am in Paris. The entrance is so nondescript that it doesn’t even have a street number indicated and you might think at first that it is associated with one of the adjacent stores.

For the last 25 years I have lived in a townhouse community in one of the Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C. and essentially nothing is in walkable distance. Here in Paris, once I descent the 96 stairs that I profiled earlier, I am in the midst of the action. Rue Montorgueil, the street on which the apartment is located, is a bustling pedestrian area in the center of the city with lots of shops, cafés, and restaurants. It can get a little noisy, but from the sixth floor, the sound levels are tolerable.

Who are my neighbors? On one side, there is a wine store called Le Repaire de Bacchus (The Den of Bacchus) and on the other side there is a gourmet tea store called Mariage Frères (Mariage Brothers). I was initially confused by the name, because the two words don’t seem to go together. Was the store founded to celebrate the individual nuptials of the brothers or were they married to each other? As it turns out, “Mariage” was the family name of the founders. According to Wikipedia, Mariage Frères Tea Company was founded on 1 June 1854 by brothers Henri and Edouard Mariage.

As for the photo, I am pleased with the way that I was able to capture the light and, in particular, the reflections on the wet pavement. The image has a part of the urban vibe that I have been enjoying so much here in Paris. It makes me wonder what it would be like to live in a place like Paris long-term.

 

Rue Montorgueil

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When it is pouring rain all day in Paris, what can you possibly photograph? Like wildflowers in the spring, colorful umbrellas have sprung up all over the city and they make cool subjects.

I captured the first little scene along the Seine River this morning. I envisioned the possibility of the photo and hung around the location as the group of three people approached. I took multiple photos as the moved toward and under the bridge. The biggest challenge I had was a distractingly bright orange bicycle parked in the middle of the pathway beyond the exit. Fortunately the green umbrella was large enough in this shot to hide the offending bicycle.

I semi-stalked the next group of three young ladies as they walked through the Tuileries Garden toward the pyramid entrance to the Louvre. It was a little frustration because they kept stopping for selfies, but I finally got a shot when they moved together for a moment. I love the way that the three subjects had complementary shades of umbrellas and stylishly distinctive backpacks.

The final photo highlights the umbrellas themselves and not the owners. Although it was still raining, the owners had carefully placed their umbrellas to the side so that they could take photos of themselves with the Louvre pyramid in the background. I like the angle at which the umbrellas are placed, which, along with their black color, emphasizes the form of the umbrellas. The shadows on the wet cobblestones add additional visual interest to the image.

It was cold throughout the day today, about 34 degrees right now (one degree C) and the possibility of snow is forecast for this evening. Yikes! Fortunately I have warm clothes with me and most importantly my camera bag has proven to be as waterproof as advertised. I don’t exclude the possibility of an after dark adventure a bit later.

Umbrellas along the Seine

Umbrellas in Paris

Umbrellas in Paris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

 

Notre Dame at sunrise

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I couldn’t see the sun actually setting on Wednesday in Oberammergau, Germany, but there was a glow in the sky and behind the mountains that was particularly beautiful.

As I rushed around in the fading light, trying to get some shots, I decided to include the Parish Church St. Peter and Paul, one of the most prominent buildings in this small Bavarian village. A few hours later, I captured the second image with a long exposure made by leaning my camera on a parked car. I love the architectural style of the church and included a third image to give you a better sense of the entire church structure.

Parish Church Oberammergau

Parish Church Oberammergau

Parish Church Oberammergau

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I entered Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge early one morning last week, a layer of ground fog was hanging over the fields, giving the landscape an eerie feel that somehow seemed appropriate for the Halloween season.

As I made my way to the water’s edge, the skies brightened a bit and the fog seemed to lift a little. I was filled with a peaceful and serene feeling as I enjoyed the early morning moments with a Great Blue Heron in the distance.

morning fog

morning fog

morning fog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As they headed out on the Potomac River this past weekend, these fishermen looked like they had decorated their rods with little Christmas ornaments that glimmered in the early morning light as I watched them from the shore at historic Fort Washington Park in Maryland.

Potomac River

The buildings and gun emplacements at the fort are impressive, but more than anything else, I am irresistibly drawn to the little lighthouse there. Even though I was shooting with a long telephoto zoom lens, I tried several landscape-style compositions in an effort to capture a sense of the location.

Potomac River

Potomac River

 

The shoreline on the other side of the river was hazy and indistinct, almost like an impressionist painting, but it proved to be tough to capture that feeling with my camera. This final shot gives you a sense of what I was going for—I think a tripod might help in the future with this kind of a shot.

Potomac River

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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My good friend and photography mentor, Cindy Dyer, is spreading the news about the two-page photo spread of some of my recent photos that ran in a local community newspaper. What she doesn’t note is that she is a source of constant support, encouragement, and inspiration for my photography as well as for my blog. Thanks, Cindy.

Cindy Dyer's Blog

Congratulations to my dear friend Michael Powell for getting his photos published in a spread in the local Mt. Vernon Voice newspaper. He was out shooting at Huntley Meadows one cold morning and the co-editor of the publication happened to be there. He asked him if he would like his work to be featured in the newspaper. He had a two page spread available to fill and Michael had to get him photos pronto. Nice showcase for your work, grasshopper! You can see more of Michael’s work on his blog at https://michaelqpowell.wordpress.com/.

Michael Mt Vernon Voice

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Although I rarely see them, the animals in the woods at my local marsh were out and about after our recent snowstorm and their tracks made fascinating patterns in the fresh snow. What animals made the tracks and what were they doing?

I took these photos in a remote area of my local marshland park, near what I believe to be an active beaver lodge, the location at which I have previously spotted a fox, an otter, and a raccoon.

I suspect that there are resources on the internet that would help me identify these tracks, but for the moment I am content with the reminder that I am a visitor in the home of these unseen woodland creatures.

tracks3_blogtracks2_blogtracks1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Most of the time I like to focus on individual birds, but in this case I think I prefer this panoramic-style shot of Canada Geese coming in for a landing on a snow-covered field. The expansive white backdrop allows us to see better the different body and wing positions of the geese (and I recommend clicking on the photo to see the details).

The snow is now gone from Northern Virginia, a victim of warmer temperatures and heavy rains. For many readers, snow is much more an everyday reality of the winter, but it’s rare enough here that it has a special beauty (as long as I don’t have to drive to work in it, in which case I tend to forget its beauty and view more as a nuisance).

landing_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Sunset1

The weather at the beginning of this week has been unseasonably warm, with temperatures soaring past 70 degrees F (21 degrees C). Yesterday I spent the entire day indoors at work, but I was able to enjoy this beautiful respite on Monday afternoon, when I spent several hours meandering through the marsh. The day ended with a beautiful sunset that I tried to capture in stages, as the sun dipped lower and lower on the horizon. This sunset’s most striking characteristic was the reflected light in the clouds—the colors themselves were as striking as in some other sunsets. We will soon be back to freezing temperatures and gray skies, but I hope that occasionally we will still be treated to these amazing displays of light and color.

Sunset2

Sunset3

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Huntley Meadows Park is made up of 1,425 acres of forests, meadows, and fresh-waters wetlands and has become one of my favorite places to take photos of a wide variety of wildlife. What is most remarkable for me, though, is the fact that it is located in the midst of a heavily populated suburban area of Washington, D.C., only a few miles from where I live. I am clearly not the only one who enjoys being there. On any given day I am likely to be greeted by groups of giggling boys and girls or smaller, more sedate groups of adults, many with binoculars or cameras with very long telephoto lenses. The park’s website notes that it is a favorite location for bird spotting, with over 200 species having been identified there.

Monday was an especially beautiful day. The coolness of the fall mornings has definitely arrived and we were treated to brilliant blue skies, a relative rarity here. While at Huntley Meadows, I decided to try to capture a view of some of the elements of the park, including part of the half-mile long boardwalk that zigzags through the marshland.

Huntley Meadows Park in early September

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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