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Archive for the ‘Portraits’ Category

I have already shared some more serious portraits that my talented photographer friend Cindy Dyer took of me during a photo shoot last month. She is amazing. After we had finished the more formal shots, we decided to try some action shots to show off my special Pride edition high-top Converse All-Star sneakers (plus a turquoise low-top pair that I own). As you can see, I was having a lot of fun being a little silly. Be sure to click through to Cindy’s original posting to see all three fun photos.

Cindy Dyer's Blog

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

When Michael P. and I were doing our fun portrait session last month in our shared studio, we decided to “loosen up” and get some silly shots. We were trying to decide how to show up the shoes (especially the soles) and not just by him sitting down. So the ever-energetic Michael came up with jumping and I must say I tired him out after about 20 shots! I told him to pretend he was a Rockette dancer and he should be very proud that he can kick his leg up THAT high at 66 years old (and in a suit, no less)! We knew the background wouldn’t hold his tall frame (especially when jumping that high), so we decided to share these anyway—consider them behind-the-scenes studio shots! Also, I’m not known for action shots, so there will be a technical learning curve if…

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We are coming to the end of the season for the Sable Clubtail (Stenogomphurus rogersi), so it was really exciting to spot Sable Clubtails last Wednesday as I was exploring a small stream in Fairfax County. As some of you may recall, the Sable Clubtail is an uncommon dragonfly species in my area.  A month ago I was really concerned that the increase of silt and vegetation in the stream where they have previously been seen seem might have caused them to disappear.

I am somewhat more optimistic now that I have seen them several times over the past month. During my most recent trip, I think I may have spotted at least two individual Sable Clubtails. If you compare the front wing tips of the dragonflies in the second and third images, they appear to be different. I photographed the dragonfly in the first photograph later that same day in the same general area, so it could have been one of the others that I photographer earlier or a third individual.

It is always fun to try to figure out the best way to photograph a dragonfly when I encounter it. To a certain extent my options are dictated by the way the dragonfly perches and the habitat in which it is found. In the case of the Sable Clubtail, I usually find them perched low on leafy vegetation overhanging the stream. If I am lucky, I’ll find myself in a position to attempt a close-up shot like the first image—I was crouched low as I straddled the stream to capture that image.

Although the Sable Clubtail will soon be gone, other dragonflies will be appearing on the scene before long. I expect to be busy chasing after these newcomers as we move deeper into the summer.

Sable Clubtail

Sable Clubtail

Sable Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On 17 June I was really happy to photograph some Yellow-sided Skimmers (Libellula flavida) while exploring a pond in Prince William County with fellow blogger and dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford. This is a fairly uncommon species where I live and I have knowingly seen it only a couple of times previously. Yellow-sided Skimmers at certain stages of development look a lot like Needham’s Skimmers, a species that I encounter much more frequently, and I sometimes have trouble telling them apart.

As several readers have noted in commenting on the portraits of me that I have recently posted, the eyes and the smile are critical in capturing the personality of a subject. I think that is equally true for this stunning female Yellow-sided Skimmer. Her beautiful eyes and toothy grin convey a sense of warmth and friendliness—it was like she was happy to be posing for me.

If you would like to see Walter’s take on our encounter with the Yellow-sided Skimmers, check out his blog posting entitled Yellow-sided Skimmer (female, male). Walter included photos of both genders of this species along with additional information about its preferred habitat and its geographic range.

Yellow-sided Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I guess that I could be accused of shameless self-promotion by reposting more photos of myself, but I am so happy with the way that they turned out. Cindy Dyer is such a talented photographer who so perfectly captured my personality in these photos.

Our initial goal for our little photoshoot was to shoot some colorful images to help me celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride Month, an annual month-long celebration in June. As stated in a recent presidential proclamation, “Pride is both a jubilant communal celebration of visibility and a personal celebration of self-worth and dignity.”

The goal of this month quite simply is to highlight the efforts of so many people to live freely and authentically. It is my firm conviction that diversity is one of the elements that makes our human communities stronger and more vibrant.

Cindy Dyer's Blog

In the studio with Michael #ConversePride
Michael P says: I am celebrating Pride Month 2021 with sole. T-shirt from the Converse 2021 Pride Collection, hightop Converse All-star Sneakers 2020 Pride Edition, and white Levi’s 501 jeans.
Michael is an accomplished nature/wildlife photographer as well as a gifted storyteller. Check out his blog here: https://michaelqpowell.com/

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If you read the title of this posting before you saw the photo, you might have assumed that I was the one behind the camera in the studio. In this case, however, I was the one in front of the camera.

Cindy and I share a studio space with a video production company. When we moved to a new and much larger space last year, one of our goals was to expand her portrait shooting business. The pandemic restrictions, though, have severely limited the number of opportunities for her to shoot portraits.

Cindy is a really talented photographer and over the past year we have talked about doing a colorful photoshoot to help me celebrate Pride month. This past Sunday we finally did that shoot and Cindy also took advantage of the opportunity to do some more formal shots of me, like this one, and even some crazy action shots. (Stay tuned—you might see some of them in the future.)

I do not consider myself to be particularly photogenic and am not really comfortable in front of the camera. Cindy gently guided me through a series of poses that occasionally felt awkward, but ended up looking really good.

I love the way that this shot turned out. As I commented in Facebook when Cindy posted a similar shot, I definitely need to write a book now, because I already have a photo for the book jacket.

Thanks, Cindy. Be sure to check out Cindy’s blog and her portfolio to see some amazing images.

Cindy Dyer's Blog

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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Some say that the secret to capturing an effective image is to eliminate all of the non-essential elements. This image is about as minimalistic as I can get. The raindrops on the vegetation provide a sense of what has been and the shadows a hint that the sun was shining again when I spotted this stunning female Ebony Jewelwing damselfly (Calopteryx maculata) at Occoquan Regional Park on Friday.

The image itself is simple, but I am amazed at the details that I was able to capture of this tiny creature and encourage you to click on the image. If you do, you may be as shocked as I was, for example, at the length of the “hairs” on the damselfly’s legs—clearly leg shaving is not practiced among the ladies of this species.

Ebony Jewelwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Last week I photographed my first Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis) of the season, a stunning female that I spotted while exploring in Prince William County. I really like all of the different shades of green in this image and the linear stalks of grass that provide a perfect perching place for the pondhawk.

Before long Eastern Pondhawks will become a frequent sight in my area, but it is always special for me to greet the first member of a species each year.

Eastern Pondhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was thrilled to spot this beautiful male Painted Skimmer (Libellula semifasciata) on Monday, at Occoquan Regional Park, the first dragonfly of this species for me this season. I just love the way that the distinctive markings on the wings really make this dragonfly “pop” with a golden glow.

Painted Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sometimes the colors in a photo draw me in as much as the actual subject, as is the case with this image of a Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) that I spotted last Saturday at Occoquan Regional Park.

The soft shades of brown and gray harmoniously create a mood that I really like. Even the wispy, dried grasses in the foreground, which might have bothered me under most circumstances, add a nice texture and organic feel to this in situ portrait.

Northern Mockingbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was early in the morning when I spotted this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Utterly fascinated, I watched the eagle methodically preening, moving from one area of its body to another, adjusting the feathers and removing some small wispy ones. When you are a national symbol, I guess you have to try to look majestic at all times.

This particular eagle was pretty relaxed and I managed to walk almost underneath the overhanging branch without disturbing it. If you look carefully at the final photo, you can tell that I was shooting almost straight up in order to get the shot. Remarkably the eagle remained in place when I continued on my way down the trail. I would like to be able to claim that I was really stealthy in my movements, but I think it was more likely that the eagle was simply willing to tolerate my presence, of which he was undoubtedly aware.

Bald Eagle

 

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

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Frost covered the ground early on Tuesday morning when I arrived at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The first creature that I spotted was an Eastern Cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus) foraging in the wintery grass that has not yet turned green. The sunlight was soft and low, making the bunny glow.

It was a wonderfully gentle way to begin a new day.

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) often sport a Mohawk-style crest, but this female that I spotted last Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge seemed to have applied some extra gel to make her “hair” stand tall. Her outlandish look and defiant attitude make me think of a punk rocker. I looked closely at her body, expecting to see tattoos and body piercings, but as far as I could tell, there were none.

Rock on, my little punk rock cardinal, rock on.

Northern Cardinal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I couldn’t help but feel that this male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) was irritated with me when he glared sideways at me as he momentarily ceased his pecking at water’s edge on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. On the other hand, he might have simply been trying to pose in a way that minimized his double chin, about which he was very self-conscious. Have I committed a cardinal sin in my initial assessment?

What do you think? Have a wonderful weekend.

Northern Cardinal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A small flock of Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) disappeared into the underbrush on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, but I kept on eye on them and managed to get this first shot as one of them made its way through the dried stalks of vegetation.

Later that same day, I had another sighting of turkeys and captured a familiar view of a turkey hurrying across the road. I like the way that the second shot shows the turkey’s “beard,” the tuft that looks a bit like a miniature horsetail dangling from its breast.

Wild Turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A lot of birds puff up their feathers to stay warm in the cold weather, but I don’t know that I have ever seen a more extreme case than this spherical White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) that I spotted yesterday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

It was right around the freezing mark and I must confess that I was bundled up in multiple layers and also looked a bit more rotund than normal. It is well known that the camera adds ten pounds and makes you look heavier. When it comes to staying warm, all vanity goes out the window for me.

White-throated Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spotted this handsome Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and surprisingly he was willing to pose for me—normally bluebirds fly off as soon as I move close to them with my camera.

We started off with a formal pose against a solid backdrop and then moved on to a more casual pose. We were both really happy with the final images—he plans to use them on his social media, especially Twitter.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Not long ago I posted some shots of Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) foraging for berries. In many of those shots, however, the beautiful birds were partially obscured by vegetation. On Monday this past week I managed to get a clearer view of a Cedar Waxwing at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and captured this portrait image.

I really like the fact that this image shows the distinctive shape of this bird and its wonderful coloration. From top of its crested head to its yellow-tipped tail, the Cedar Waxwing is one of the most photogenic birds that I am privileged to photograph.

Cedar Waxwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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My idea of a perfect bird shot during this autumn season would be to capture a pretty bird perfectly posed against a background of colorful foliage. Alas, things don’t often work out that well in the real world, so I have to make the best of what I am able to find.

In this case, it was a Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) that I spotted during a recent visit to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The feathers of this catbird are muted in color, as are the colors of the dying leaves that surround it. Nonetheless, I like this rather pleasing portrait of a bird that has a vocal repertoire equal to that of a mockingbird.

Gray Catbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Although I really like the bright red color of the male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), there is something even more special about the subtle beauty of a female cardinal, like this one that I spotted last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The muted colors of this bird seem particularly appropriate for autumn in this area. The changing foliage here rarely has the brilliant yellows and reds found in other parts of the country, but transitions to paler shades before the leaves all fall to the ground.

Northern Cardinal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have now successfully completed the World Watercolor Month challenge of doing some kind of watercolor painting each day of July. I have had a tremendous amount of fun and improved my skills and confidence. Thank you all for your support and encouragement for my painting efforts throughout this month.

If you want to see the first four installments of my painting efforts this month, check out my previous postings ‘More fun with watercolor‘, ‘World Watercolor Month 2020—part 2 ,’ ‘World Watercolor Month 2020—part 3,’ and Word Watercolor Month—part 4. This final installment highlights my painting efforts over the past nine days in reverse chronological order.

Day 31 and the prompt was “do-over,” so I had another go at painting a scene that I painted last November while in Paris of a lady with a red umbrella crossing a pedestrian bridge over the Seine that I had photographed. Here is a link to the postingPlaying with watercolor in Paris‘ that shows the November version of the painting, and a link to the post ‘A few more umbrellas in Paris‘ that shows the photo on which the paintings were based.

Day 30 and the prompt was “pose.” I decided to be my own model and painted a version of the photo that has been my profile image for a while. Thanks to my friend, Cindy Dyer, for taking such a good photo of me.

Day 29 and the prompt was “yesterday.” Immediately thinking of the Beatle song by that name, I was flooded with memories of growing up in the 1960’s, so I did a colorful little painting reminiscent of a tie-dyed t-shirt as a kind of homage to that period in my life.

Day 28 and the prompt was “complementary.” Purple and yellow are complementary colors, so I decided to paint a field of imaginary wildflowers in those colors. I made no attempt at realism or nuance in the painting—I just wanted to play with the paint.

Day 27 and the prompt was “shine,” so I painted a little landscape with the moon shining down on a grove of shadowy trees.

Day 26 and the prompt was “favorite song.”  I remembered that one of my parents’ favorite hymns was “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” so I painted a little sparrow. The final line of the wonderful hymn is, “His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.”

Day 25 and the prompt was “sharp.”  I decided to paint a version of a photo I had previously taken of a dragonfly that had chosen a precarious perch on a thorny vine.

Day 24 and the prompt was “abundance,” so I did a tiny painting (3×3 in/76 x 76 mm) of a field full of bright red poppies following a YouTube tutorial by Ellen Crimi-Trent (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUDC7Aojxm4&t=83s). It’s fun to paint something so small, where details are only suggested.

Day 23 and the prompt was “alone,” so I painted a solitary bird perched amidst some blossoms. It kind of looks like a cross between a chickadee and an American Robin. I later learned that the bird looks to be a Varied Tit, a bird found in the Far East. I had loosely followed a YouTube tutorial that did not identify the bird  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtlLzgfnQxw&t=1222s).

I plan to continue with my watercolor painting, having seen that frequent practice really helps, but it will probably be a while before I post any paintings here on the blog. Thanks again for your support and indulgence as I have veered off my normal creative path.

We should be back to my regularly scheduled nature photography, though you have probably noticed that the photography continued without any discernible pause in July.

Paris Umbrella

self portrait

tie dye

wildflowers

shine

sparrow

dragonfly

poppy field

Variable Tit

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I ventured out into the heat for a couple of hours yesterday and was rewarded for my efforts by this beautiful female Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) that I spotted at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

What makes a portrait perfect? For me, an optimal portrait captures an interesting subject in a dynamic pose with good lighting and a complementary background. I think that this images ticks all of those boxes. Why, then, do I call it “almost” perfect in the title? I guess that there is a part of me that is never completely satisfied, that is steadfastly convinced that I can do better. That is why I was out walking the trails yesterday when temperatures soared above 95 degrees (35 degrees C). Don’t worry, I stayed in the shade, carried lots of water, and took it slowly. The good news was that social distancing was a breeze—I saw only one other crazy person walking about in the midday heat.

Halloween Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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Do you feel like you are progressing in photography? Have your skills improved as you have bought newer and more expensive gear? How do you know?

Periodically a notice pops up in my Facebook timeline reminding me of a posting that I made on that date in a previous year. I post at least one photo daily and I have no idea how the Facebook algorithm decides when to present me with a memory and, if so, which one to use.

This morning, Facebook reminded me of the image below of a North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) that I posted seven years ago. Wow—seven years ago is in the distant past, only six months or so after I had started to get more serious about my photography. At that time I was shooting with a Canon Rebel XT, an entry-level 8.0 megapixel DSLR, and my “long” lens was a 55-250mm zoom lens.

It is almost a cliché for photographers to state that gear does not matter, but I think that this image demonstrates that there is a truth in that cliché. I have more experience now and better gear, but I would be hard for me to take a better shot today. Nothing is more important than being there, as all wildlife photographers know well. The informal motto of the Postal Service seems to apply to us as well— “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Click on this link if you would like to see the original posting from 2013 (and judge for yourself if my style of posting has changed). For fun, I added a second beaver photo that I posted the following day, January 29, 2013—here’s a link to the original posting.

I don’t know about you, but I rarely take the opportunity to look back at my older images. Perhaps I should do some more often.

 

beaver

beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I generally do not like to take “traditional” selfies. When I do photograph myself, I prefer shots like these ones that I captured early in the morning last Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. When the sun is low, the shadows are so elongated, as in the first photo, that they remind me of Alberto Giacometti’s famous statue “L’homme qui marche” (The Walking Man).

selfie

selfie

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Pied-billed Grebes (Podilymbus podiceps) are small and often stay in deep waters, but I managed to capture these shots of one yesterday at a suburban pond not far from where I live. If you click on the photos, you can see the grebe’s beautiful eye coloration and the pattern on its bill.

As I was walking along the pond, I initially spotted the little grebe while it was napping. It had drifted a little closer to shore than normally, so I was pretty excited to have a chance to get some shots of this elusive bird. However, the grebe’s head was in the shadows, so I watched and waited, marveling at the patterns in the water.

I captured the second shot below shortly after the grebe started stirring and looked to one side. As it started to swim away, the lighting was almost perfect and I captured the first shot below, a wonderful little side portrait of this Pied-billed Grebe.

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you use your name as part of the title of your blog? Do you use your face as the avatar that shows up when you like a post? How much of yourself do you reveal in your postings?

Recently I have been pondering these types of questions. Ever since I turned 65 this past summer, I have been more reflective and introspective than usual. Retirement has posed some new opportunities and challenges as I seek to redefine myself in a way that does not necessarily include paid work.

As most of you know, my name is part of the title of this blog, “Mike Powell: My journey through photography,” and the URL is simply michaelqpowell.com. The template of the blog and even the “About me” section have not changed much since I set up the blog more than seven years ago. I think it is time to make some changes there and will probably do so over the next few months.

As a first step, I have updated the photo in my avatar. Over the past year or so I have assisted my mentor Cindy Dyer with some portrait sessions and, in addition to helping to set up lights and hold reflectors, I have served as the “model” to test out the lighting set-ups. Earlier this month, Cindy sent me the first photo below from one of those sessions.

Ever since I had cataract removal surgery a couple of years ago, I wear glasses only for reading and sometimes for computer work, so I am happy that my updated photo shows me without glasses. A side benefit is that I now have a much clearer sense of the actual color of my eyes. As you can see in the second photo, my previous avatar image that was also shot by Cindy, my eyes tended to look darker behind the glasses.

To a significant degree, I don’t care what others think about the way I look and act. I don’t think a lot about my appearance and you will rarely find me taking selfies—I feel a little strange posting photos of myself. What I care more about is having a sense of integrity, a sense of consistency in my actions, a feeling of comfort with who I am, and a willingness to do what I think is right. This blog provides a relatively unfiltered view of what I see and often what I feel—I am generally proud with having my name and my face associated with it.

So what about you? Do you ever think about your image? Has your view of yourself changed over time? Do others see you the way you see yourself? Do you care what others think?

Mike Powell

Mike Powell

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I’m normally very self-conscious about taking photos of people in public, but today I decided to throw caution to the wind and tried to capture images of a few of the guys who caught my attention.

The first image shows a young guy who was at the overlook area in front of Sacre Coeur and was trying to interest people in tours of the city in a bright orange vintage Citroën 2CV, the one that looks vaguely like the original Volkswagen Beetle.

I first heard the guy the second image playing the bongos (with a tambourine to his side) on a bench across the Seine from me, on a bank of Île de la Cité, the island on which Notre Dame de Paris is located. Although I was a long way away, he seemed to sense my presence and looked up at me for a moment before returning to his music.

During my final visit to Place de Tertre in Montmartre late this afternoon, I again watched Jean-Marc Lambert, my favorite watercolor artist at work. You may recognize him in the final photo from an earlier posting I did about him. Unlike the two previous times, I did not engage with him, but silently and wistfully watched from a distance.

Tour guide in Paris

Bongos player in Paris

Watercolor painter in Paris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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How fast is a minute? As I mentioned in an earlier posting, I went on a sketching tour in Montmartre yesterday and I thought we would be sketching static objects like buildings, which we did. Then we moved into figure sketching. Yikes. That seemed to move things to a whole new and unanticipated level. The instructor, Romain, gave us a quick lesson on human proportions and then he assumed several static poses. We had a minute to sketch each one, pausing momentarily in between poses for him to provide feedback on our work.

As a final exercise, Romain adopted five slowly moving poses and we had one minute to sketch him in pen from head to toe in some part of each motion. Wow! Without a pause he would move to another dynamic pose. Each of those minutes went by really quickly and I felt like I was out of breath after five minutes of constant focus.

We all had a little laugh when the most skilled of the three of us taking the class ran out of time with one of her figures, which consequently  had no head. It was a little ironic, because just minutes before we had seen a statue of Saint Denis holding his head in his hands. Saint Denis, a Bishop of Paris, was martyred for his faith in 250 AD by decapitation. A popular story claims that the decapitated bishop picked up his head and walked several miles while preaching a sermon on repentance.

For fun, here are a couple of pages from that final sketching exercise. I can understand better now why artists need so much practice and training.

Sketching in Montmartre

Sketching in Montmartre

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Place du Tertre, a small square in the center of Montmartre, is a special place where artists of all varieties set up their easels every day and work in the open air, surrounded by the milling public. Many of them are portrait artists, who gently try to convince you to sit for a portrait.

I watched several of those artists at work and they are amazing talented, creating true-to-life drawings over an extended period of time. This is in sharp contrast with the large number of quick sketch “artists” who aggressively pursue you in the streets, trying to convince you to stand for a “portrait,” which is often a mere caricature that barely resembles the subject.

A number of other artists worked on small canvases with oil paint using palette knives. I had the impression that some of them were working in almost assembly line fashion, cranking out the same limited number of scenes of Paris suitable for souvenirs.

After circling the square, I returned to the only artist who was working in watercolor. He would sketch out his detailed paintings in India ink using a pointed fragment of bamboo as a drawing instrument. After the ink had dried, he would carefully apply multiple washes of color. Some of you know that I have dabbled with watercolor and I was absolutely enthralled as I watched this artist at work, mixing and applying the colors from a watercolor set not all that different than ones that I have.

Watercolor painting is time-consuming and unforgiving—you really cannot hide your mistakes. Supplies are relatively expensive, compared to oil and acrylic painting. Why would an artist choose this style of painting? It does not seem like an economically rational decision.

I did not want to interfere with the artist’s efforts, so I watched from a respectful distance and discreetly took a few photos. When he reached a certain stage when he needed to let a layer dry, he stopped for a smoke break. As he lit up an unfiltered, hand-rolled cigarette, I started to talk with him.

At first I asked him about the materials that he uses. He paints on high quality Arches 100% cotton paper, using a mix of artist quality paints from Winsor and Newton, Sennelier, and others. For brushes, he uses several rather large natural hair brushes. He pointed to one of them and noted that it had cost over 80 Euros (about $100), but he had used it for close to ten years.

He said that he had been painting from a young age and preferred painting in public like this and had done so for almost 40 years. Based on some comments he made about other painters, he seemed to reject the almost elitist idea of painting in seclusion in a studio, with works hanging in high-priced galleries.

He obviously loved what he was doing, but somewhat wistfully talked of eventually retiring to a place in the country. As he puffed on the final fragments of his cigarette, he announced that it was time to get back to work. I thanked him for talking with me—we spoke exclusively in French—and sharing his experience and perceptions. He graciously agreed to let me take a quick portrait shot and that photo, the last one below, is one of my favorite remembrances of this trip to Paris.

The first photo below gives you an overall sense of the environment at the Place du Tertre. Note the assemblage of easels and the passing tourists and compare that with the focus of the painter, who appears to be in his own little world.

The second image provides a slightly closer view of the work in progress. Note the large size of the brush that he is using and the initial delicate washes of color that he has applied.

The final shot, as noted above, is a quick portrait of the artist. It’s a candid pose from where he was standing. I really like the way that it turned out, capturing in part the unique personality of this awesome artist that I was happy to encounter, a man content with doing what he loves outdoors in all kinds of weather (except, he noted, in the rain, which obviously is bad for watercolor paintings).

Painter at Place du Tertre

Painter at Place du Tertre

Painter at Place du Tertre

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This past Wednesday I encountered a really cooperative Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) as I explored nearby Prince William County and was able to capture this tight head shot. I simply love this dragonfly’s beautiful gray eyes, which are a perfect for the monochromatic palette of the rest of its body and give this dragonfly a more sophisticated look than many of its more gaudily-clad brethren. (The coloration also helps this dragonfly to almost disappear from view when it is perched on a tree like this one.)

Gray Petaltail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Images of a bright red cardinal in the brilliant white snow—some might view such shots as a bit cliché, but I view them instead as iconic. I ventured out into my neighborhood earlier this week after the snow had stopped falling and was thrilled to find a small group of Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis). They spent most of their time buried in the branches, but eventually I was able to capture some unobstructed images of some male cardinals.

Although I like the details of the second shot, the first shot really draws me in by presenting a better depiction of the snowy environment. In some parts of the country this is a typical winter scene, but here in Northern Virginia, this is the biggest snow storm we have had since 2016, so it was pretty unusual to have this kind of photo opportunity.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Recently I served as the assistant for a fellow photographer Cindy Dyer as she shot some portraits in her studio. I had never before participated in that kind of a venture and I was a little shocked by the amount of coaching that the subject needed to ensure a proper head position, body position, and expression. Apparently most of us do not know how to act “naturally” in a way that will yield a goof portrait.

Fortunately many birds do not require these instructions. On Monday of this week, this Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) took a break from its foraging and seemed to be posing for me.  The bird decided that a profile shot would be good to show of its distinctive eye mask and that any hint of a double chin could be eliminated by slightly elongating its neck. Although the Cedar Waxwing tried to maintain a serious expression, I think I detect the beginning of a tiny smile.

Cedar Waxwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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