Archive for the ‘Macro Photography’ Category

I was really struck  by the contrast in color and texture between this cluster of large milkweed bugs (Oncopeltus fasciatus) and the milkweed on which they were perched at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge during a visit earlier this week.

The color combination seems appropriate for a Christmas card, though the subject matter would be considered untraditional, to say the least, and might not be met with enthusiasm by all recipients.

milkweed bugs

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When this Spotted Orbweaver spider (Neoscona crucifera) spotted me last week at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, it scurried along the silken threads of its web to the relative safety of the plant to which one end of the web was attached.

There is something that really appeals to me about this image. Maybe it’s the way that the colors of the spider match those of the plant or how the shapes of the stems are similar to those of the spider’s legs. Perhaps it is the contrast between the sharpness of a few elements in the image and the dreamy, almost ghost-like background.

Most of the time I strive for super-realistic images and try to draw a viewer’s attention to the details. When I am in an artsy, creative mood, though, I am content to capture an impression of the subject, leaving the details to the imagination of others.

spotted orbweaver spider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.



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Orange is one of the colors that I tend to associate with autumn. Some leaves are already turning orange and pumpkin decorations and displays have started to appear on my neighbors’ doorsteps.

As I was exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge yesterday morning, my eyes detected some motion in the nearby grass. I leaned forward and was delighted to see this tiny damselfly decked out in the colors of Halloween—orange and black. I had no idea what species it was, but fortunately I have a really good guide for damselflies and was able to identify it as an immature female Eastern Forktail damselfly (Ischnura verticalis).

Although there are already lots of symbols for autumn, I think this tiny damselfly could be added to the list.

Eastern Forktail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sometimes I don’t have to venture far to capture images. I took this shot recently of a flower growing out of one of the hosta plants in my front yard as the rain was falling.

Simple colors and shapes and the sparkle of raindrops—photography doesn’t always have to be complicated. The challenge is to slow down, to really see the world around us, and to recognize its inherent beauty.

hosta in the rain

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Milkweed plants provide a wonderful habitat for all kinds of creatures, including this Large Milkweed Bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus) that I spotted earlier this week at Green Spring Gardens. These  bugs go through a fascinating series of physical transformations as they move though different nymph phases. A little over six years ago, I studied these bugs  pretty closely and documented their stages of development in a posting that I called Life phases of the large milkweed beetle. Be sure to check it out for more information and fascinating photos of these colorful little bugs.

I really like the combination of colors in this simple shot, colors that remind me a little of Christmas. However, I doubt that anyone would choose to feature this image on their annual Christmas card. 🙂

Large Milkweed Bug

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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When you shoot with a zoom lens, you can change the look of an image without moving from where you are standing. That can be an advantage, but it can also be a disadvantage, because it can discourage you from exploring different angles or different perspectives.

I really enjoy shooting with a lens of a fixed focal length, especially my macro lens, because it forces me to think more about composition. If I decide that I want the subject to be larger in the frame, I have to move physically closer to the subject. If the terrain doesn’t let me get any closer, then I have to consciously consider how else I could frame the shot.

This past weekend I saw a lot of black and yellow garden spiders (Argiope aurantia) when I was exploring Jackson Miles Wetland Refuge, a small park not too far from where I live. Some of the spiders were in bushes and others were overhanging the water of a small pond. It was a fun challenge to figure out how to photograph the spiders in different and interesting ways.

In the first shot, I decided to shoot the spider from the side rather than from the front as I normally do. I was delighted to see the way the the shape of the vegetation in the background almost matched the shape of the spider’s legs.

I also photographed the spider in the second image from the side, but the leafy backdrop and the inclusion of more of the spider’s web gives the image a completely different feel as compared to the first one.

When I saw the spider in the third image overhanging the water, I loved the shape of its body and its extended legs. If I had had a zoom lens, I am pretty sure I would have zoomed in on the spider. When processing the image, I was also tempted to crop in closely. I remember when I was shooting, though, that I deliberately included the vegetation on the left hand side, because I liked the way that it looked. So the image that you see is pretty much the one that I chose when I shot it, having zoomed in as closely as my feet would allow (without getting really wet). Despite my normal desire to fill my frame with my subject, I think it was good that I was not able to do so in this case.

argiope spider

argiope spider

argiope spider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved


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I tend to look at my own images in a kind of vacuum, but one of the bloggers that I love to follow, Liz of Exploring Colour, likes to look for themes across different blogs and puts images from them into a single posting. I was honored today when she matched up one of my images with one by Pete Hillman. Pete and I often use a similar approach to shooting subjects even though we are separated by the Atlantic Ocean. Check out Liz’s posting to see the juxtaposition of two beautiful images. The color palettes in the two images are a bit different, with mine having a cooler tone than Pete’s, but the pinkish red in each shot tends to unify the two images, which work amazingly well together.

Exploring Colour

I dance with these guys, but not literally of course…I “follow” their blogs, I love their photography and from time-to-time I profile their work on my blog. So in this rather fanciful piece of writing I dance with them, its a joy!

This morning I found they’d both posted exceptionally fine photos and I felt moved to profile both in a special post. Pete blogs from Staffordshire in the UK and Mike blogs from Virginia in the US. Both blogs are fantastic!

September dancer by Mike Powell

Damselfly. Variable Dancer (Argia fumipennis). Click on photo to enlarge


By Mike Powell. See Mike’s original post for more information.

Mike blogs at:  Mike Powell | My journey through photography

Chequered Hoverfly Melanostoma scalare by Pete Hillman

Female of the species, rear garden, Staffordshire. Click on photo to enlarge


By Pete Hillman. See Pete’s original post for more photos of this…

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