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Archive for the ‘Portraits’ Category

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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Despite his diminutive size, this male Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa) seemed to have plenty of attitude when I spotted him on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Size is relative, of course, but by almost any standard Golden-crowned Kinglets are tiny. The are about 3-4 inches (8 to 10 cm) in length and weigh only 0.1 to 0.3 ounces (4 to 8 gm). Their small size and hyperactivity make them a fun challenge to photograph.

I particularly like this bird’s combative stance and the way that it provides us with such a good view of its bright yellow “crown.” It is one of the rare occasions when I got an unobstructed shot of a kinglet—normally there are branches blocking at least part of the view.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I tend to be more of a dog person than a cat person. Cats have always been somewhat mysterious creatures to me, a bit wild and uncontrollable. Nonetheless, I am usually the go-to person to watch her three cats when my neighbor and fellow photographer Cindy Dyer goes out of town.

This past weekend I watched and fed the three male cats and, as is usually the case, I attempted to take some photos of them. Cindy often manages to capture them in wonderful candid moments, but it was hard for me to get them to cooperate. I am not used to shooting indoors with limited light, so that was an additional challenge. I learned pretty quickly that the 180mm macro lens that I happened to have on my camera is not optimal for this task—it was tough to get far enough away to capture the cats’ major facial features.

Eventually I was able to capture a portrait of each of them. Queso, the orange cat who was rescued in the bushes outside of a Mexican restaurant, is the youngest one; Pixel is the one with the pixelated hair who loves to roll over to have his tummy scratched; and Lobo, the gray lone wolf of the pack, fixed me with a fierce stare when he finally let me take his picture.

I should be back to my more typical wildlife shots tomorrow in case any of you were concerned that I had abandoned my butterflies and dragonflies. I enjoy the challenge of a different set of subjects and I must admit that it was nice to shoot in the coolness of the air-conditioned indoors rather than in the hot, humid summer weather we have been experiencing.

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Queso

Pixel

Lobo

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When this bird spread its wings and left them open last week at a small pond in Brussels, I instantly knew it was a cormorant. Cormorants have to frequently dry out their wings, because their feathers are not completely waterproof like some other water birds. It sounds like that would be a problem, but it actually is an advantage for them. Their waterlogged feathers help them to dive deeper, kind of like a weight belt that a deep-sea diver might wear.

It turns out that this is a Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), a larger and somewhat darker cousin of the Double-crested Cormorants that live in our area.

Great Cormorant

Great Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This must be egg-laying season for Eastern Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentina serpentina) for I have seen them on multiple occasions this past week far away from the water that is their normal habitat. I spotted this venerable one in a grassy field at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

I am happy that I was able to capture some of the turtle’s wonderful skin texture  and serious expression in this head-and-shoulders portrait. I do realize, of course, that turtles do not really have shoulders—I used a bit of artistic license in characterizing the portrait with those words (and in calling myself an “artist”).

Many people say that snapping turtles look prehistoric to them, but I tend to think of Yoda every time that I see one. In my mind, I imagine a snapping turtle speaking with Yoda’s wisdom and unusual grammar structure with expressions like, “Named must your fear be before banish it you can.” (Lots of wonderful Yoda quotes like this one can be found at yodaquotes.net.)

Snapping Turtle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I never know what I will see when I visit Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I encountered this large Eastern Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina serpentina) right in the middle of one of the paths at the refuge last Friday. I generally see snapping turtles in the water or sunning themselves at the water’s edge. I only recall a single instance when I have seen a snapping turtle this far out of the water and on that occasion it was digging a hole and getting ready to lay eggs. I wonder if that was why this one was on dry land.

The turtle looked like it was relaxing, but I gave it a wide berth after I snapped its photo, wanting to make sure that I was the only one snapping.

Snapping Turtle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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I was a little shocked (and really happy) to see this Yellow-throated Warbler (Setophaga dominica) at the edge of the water rather than high in a tree yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, allowing me to capture some of the bird’s beautiful markings.

A couple of weeks ago I caught a glimpse of a Yellow-throated Warbler for the first time, but that bird was high in a pine tree and too far away for me to appreciate fully its beauty. When I read about the species, I learned that it likes to spend its time near the top of the pines. So when I spotted a bird hopping along the rocks at the water’s edge yesterday, I was not expecting to see a Yellow-throated Warbler.

It was a cold, cloudy day and all of the colors seemed subdued—most of nature is still clothed in its monochromatic winter gard. My heart rate jumped when I saw a flash of bright yellow as I gazed at the little bird through my telephoto lens. It didn’t completely register on my mind that this was a Yellow-throated Warbler, but I knew for sure that it was a warbler.

When it comes to small, hyperactive birds, seeing them is one thing—getting a photo is an entirely different matter. One of the biggest challenges about using a long telephoto lens is locating the subject quickly when looking through the lens. It is a skill that improves with practice, but there were numerous times yesterday when I would locate the bird and it would move away as I was trying to acquire focus.

I followed after the bird, trying to keep it in sight as it moved down the shoreline. I was on a trail that paralleled the water, but there was often a strip of vegetation that separated me from the water and the warbler. Eventually I was able to get a few photos of the beautiful little bird before it disappeared from sight.

Whenever I see a new species, I am excited to get any shot of it, but then I seek to improve on those initial images. That was certainly the case with the Yellow-throated Warbler and I am hoping that I will be able to repeat this cycle with a few more warbler species this season.

 

Yellow-throated Warbler

Yellow-throated Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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