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Archive for the ‘Patriotism’ Category

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in Paris. Earlier this week I awoke to the sounds of a large truck with its engine running loudly right outside of my window. Trucks come through early in the morning to collect trash, but this was different, because it was mid-morning—playing with art had kept me up past 2:00 in the morning and I had allowed myself to sleep a bit later than usual.

What were they doing? “My” apartment is located on a mostly pedestrian street called Rue Montorgueil in the center of Paris. Our neighborhood, like several others that I seen this week, was putting up street decorations for the holidays and it was those efforts that had roused me from my sleep. The first photo shows my view of one of entrances to my neighborhood yesterday evening as I walked back from another meandering journey through Paris.

Earlier in the evening I finally investigated the large Ferris wheel that was installed in a corner of the Tuileries Garden shortly after my arrival. I had initially assumed that it was part of some kind of fair, but as I approached—and took the second photo below—I discovered that it is part of a large Christmas market. The market has a number of different rides, stands for a wide array of products, and an incredible selection of food and drinks. I was tempted by sausages, and then by raclette, and almost gave in to a hot mixture of potatoes, cheese, and bacon called Tartiflette.

In the end, I settled on one of my old favorites, a Croque Monsieur. Essentially this is a fancy grilled ham and cheese sandwich, but it is so much more than that. The heavy layer of cheese on top was simultaneously crunchy and gooey when it came out of the oven elevated this sandwich high above its American counterpart and that is saying a lot, considering now much I love grilled cheese sandwiches.

Paris looks pretty with the Christmas lights, but a part of me resents the change in the vibe of the city. The meandering cobblestoned streets that I find so charming seem slightly besmirched by a sense of commercialization that threatens to draw us away from the true meaning of the holiday.

 

Rue Montorgueil

ferris wheel in Paris

© 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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What’s the price of freedom? Today in the United States it is Veterans Day, a day we set aside to honor all of the selfless men and women who have served and continue to serve in our armed forces, often enduring considerable sacrifice and separation for our common benefit.

In many other places in the world, today is celebrated as Armistice Day and 2018 is special because it marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, the war that many hoped would be the war to end all wars. The world is still a dangerous place and military forces, I believe, are a necessary element in ensuring national security.

I served for twenty years in the United States Army, so this posting is as much personal as it is patriotic. I have lived through periods of time when veterans have been reviled and other times when they have been honored.

I hope that you can join me today in thanking and saluting all veterans for their service and it is my sincere prayer that your sense of gratitude will continue long after the parades are over and the celebration are completed.

(I spotted this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and since it is one of the symbols of the United States, it seemed appropriate to feature the Bald Eagle in this posting.)

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was startled on Friday when exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge to hear a loud roaring noise overhead. I looked up and saw a large group of vintage aircraft flying in formation. Even though I zoomed out as far as I could with my 150-600mm lens, I could not fit all of the aircraft within the frame until they were flying away.

According to a press release from the Culpeper Air Fest, in an operation known as the Potomac Flight, a group of World War II aircraft on Friday, 12 October did a flyover down the Potomac River from Culpeper Regional Airport over the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery to honor Disabled American Veterans as a tribute to the services and sacrifices veterans have made for our freedom. Those of us who live in the Washington DC area know that the airspace over the capital region is tightly controlled and I can only imagine all of the bureaucratic impediments that had to be overcome to make this overflight possible.

I am not very good at identifying vintage aircraft, but the press release cited above indicated the overflight would include T-6 Texans and a C-47 aircraft.

Potomac Flight 2018

Potomac Flight 2018

Potomac Flight 2018

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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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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The early morning sunlight was spectacular yesterday as it streamed through the trees at Huntley Meadows Park. I tried to capture this phenomenon as a kind of mini-landscape by using my telephoto lens and framing it just as you see in this image. It is a little unusual for me not to crop an image at all, but by composing it this way, I was able to include those elements that I found the most interesting, the light and shadows of the trees, and left out the things that I found less interesting such as the sky. I did include a little strip of grass in the foreground so that the image is not completely abstract.

early morning trees

When I first arrived at the park, the sun had barely risen and there was a lot of ground fog, which made the woods look really mysterious and a little spooky. One of my viewers on Facebook said the image looked like it could be the setting for the witches in Macbeth. The second image was a lot tougher to capture, because of the lack of light and my desire to capture a sense of the fog that was clinging to the ground. There is a slight blur to the image, which would normally be a shortcoming in a photo, but I think it works ok with an image like this one.

early morning trees

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Is it possible to post too many photos of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)? I don’t think so. Here’s a shot of one I saw yesterday flying in the distance at Huntley Meadows Park. It was a nice bonus that we had sunshine and blue skies after a series of dreary, overcast days, even though it was still pretty cold outside.

I see Bald Eagles, including juvenile ones, often enough at the park that I frequently wonder if there is a nest hidden somewhere the park. I have wandered through some pretty remote areas of the park, but so far have been unsuccessful in locating a nesting site.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This past weekend at Huntley Meadows Park, I accidentally spooked a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched on a distant tree. As the eagle flew away, I was able to capture a few images that highlight some of its beautiful details.

These images were shot from a long way off and I had to do a lot of cropping. I am really happy, though, with the performance of my lens, even when zoomed out all the way, especially when the light is nice.

I continue to hold fast to the view that any day that I spot one of these majestic creatures is a wonderful day. I hope that today is wonderful for you, however you choose to define “wonderful.”

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As the first one to scale this mountain of snow outside my house, I planted the flag yesterday. I wonder if I get naming rights for the mountain.

Parking is a bit cutthroat in my neighborhood right now as folks put traffic cones and other objects in the spots they have cleared in an effort to “reserve” the open parking space in which they are parked.

I sure hope nobody removes my flag and parks in the mountaintop spot with a great view.

flag1_27jan_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As an American, I feel a special affinity for the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), our national bird and one of our most visible national symbols. Eight months ago, I was privileged to witness the rescue of an injured bald eagle at my local marshland park and captured some of the best photos that I have ever taken.

This photo, which appeared originally on 4 November last year, seems particularly appropriate today, reminding that our liberty requires constant vigilance and that brave men and women across the globe are on duty today safeguarding that freedom.

If you would like to see additional photos or learn more of the eagle rescue, check out my earlier posting. That posting has been my most popular one ever, thanks in part to the fact that several media outlets used my photos in their on-line coverage and provided links to my blog. Unfortunately, this story ended tragically and the eagle’s injuries turned out to be so severe that this majestic bird was euthanized.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday, the last full day of spring, I spotted a Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina), one of my favorite dragonflies, at Huntley Meadows Park, a place where I had previously never seen one. It was an auspicious end to spring, even if it seems a bit strange to speak of spring and Halloween in the same posting.

As you can see, these dragonflies like to perch on the very top of the vegetation in the fields. That’s an advantage in isolating the subject, but the slightest breeze causes them to wave back and forth like a pennant.

I snapped away when I spotted the Halloween Pennants and have not yet gone through all of my images, but I am so excited that I can’t help but share a couple with you now. There may be a few more to come later.

Halloween Pennant

Halloween Pennant

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Unicorn Clubtail dragonflies (Arigomphus villosipes) have quickly become my favorite dragonflies this season. Their gorgeous turquoise eyes never fail to draw me in and their unusual clubtail and distinctive terminal appendages help to maintain my interest.

Unicorn Clubtails are a challenge to find and they are usually pretty skittish when you try to approach them. I have been fortunate enough to find a stream in my local marshland park where at least a couple of them can sometimes be found and patient enough to slowly search for them along the banks of the stream.

Here are a few of my favorite shots from this past Monday. I especially like the first one, in which the dragonfly seems to be cocking his head to the side and smiling at me. The second shot was taken from one side of the stream looking directly across at a Unicorn Clubtail that has assumed a defiant stance and looks to be ready to defend his territory. The final shot shows the dragonfly on a little sandy area at the edge of the stream, an area that he was sharing that day with a Common Sanddragon, a species that I will be featuring this blog sometime in the near future.

Unicorn Clubtail

Unicorn Clubtail

Unicorn Clubtail

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Conscious of his imminent departure for an overseas assignment, a Navy Dad cradles his infant son, ready to do whatever it takes to protect him. Fortunately Dad is not going to a war zone and in a few months his wife and young son will be joining him in that faraway country.

This past weekend I was privileged to attend a baby shower for the newest addition to my family. There was an official photographer for the event and he is the one who staged the first two photos. I shot around him and from different angles and generally tried to stay out of the way. The final shot was unstaged, though, and was one I grabbed while they were simply sitting on the sofa.

I am not used to taking photos of people and certainly not of babies, but I really like the way these turned out. Somehow I am fascinated by the baby’s hands and the different positions in the images—the clutching of the flag in first shot the semi-salute in the second, and the gentle grasp of his Dad’s hand in the final image.

Security? What can make you more secure than to be held in your Dad’s arms?

securitysecuritysecurity

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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