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Archive for the ‘Summer’ Category

Nestled gently in the leaves of a tall tree, these two Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) were mating, doing their part to perpetuate a species often considered at risk. I captured this image in late August at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and re-discovered it yesterday when I was going through my photos from the week before my recent trip to Brussels.

I love the way that the upper butterfly is discreetly hidden by the leaves, but is revealed in its shadow. I find the colors in this image to be especially beautiful. with a wonderful contrast between the warmth of the orange and the coolness of the blue. Most of all, though, I love the way that the background turned out, with its soft circles of out-of-focus highlights.

This is the kind of image that I strive to capture, one that gently draws in viewers and speaks to them softly, reminding them of the undiscovered beauty that surrounds them all of the time.

mating monarchs

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The incessant rain and cooler weather since my return from Brussels make it feel like it’s already autumn. Like this Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, however, I am not quite ready to cease sipping the sweet nectar of summer.

I captured this image on 31 August, the day before my departure for my recent overseas trip. The combination of rainy weather can jet lag have so far kept me from venturing out with my camera, but I hope to do so this coming week.

monarch butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As a nature photographer, I am used to living with compromises. Unlike some other kinds of photographers, I don’t have the luxury of waiting for perfect light or photographing only perfect subjects. I can make a few adjustments or move about a bit to improve my composition, but most of the time I deal with imperfections of one sort or another.

Every once and a while, though, I’ll take a photo that doesn’t require any substantial adjustments or even cropping–it looks just like I imagined it would. That was the case with a recent image I captured of a female Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  I like the way that I captured the subject, I like the curved of the vegetation on which it is perched, and I like the background. It’s a bonus that I didn’t need to crop.

Perfection is elusive in any pursuit—this is about as close as I can come to it in my photography.

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I tend to be an opportunistic photographer, content to wander about and shoot whatever I happen to find. For the last couple of weeks, though, I have been searching diligently for a particular species of dragonfly, the Fine-lined Emerald (Somatochlora filosa), and yesterday, the final day of August, I finally found one at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

What makes this dragonfly so special? In his excellent website Dragonflies of Northern Virginia, Kevin Munroe described some of the allure of this particular species— “One of Northern Virginia’s most rare dragonflies, possibly our rarest, this species is seldom seen and little known throughout its range, from New Jersey to Florida, and west to Kentucky and Texas. Most field guides describe its breeding habitat as “unknown”.”

Last year I was lucky enough to see a Fine-lined Emerald several times, but I wanted more. As befits its name, my first glimpse yesterday of the dragonfly was of its brilliant green eyes as it flew by me. Unlike some species that fly high the air, Fine-lined Emeralds often patrol at waist to eye level. I was able to follow and track the dragonfly until it perched. This species hangs vertically from vegetation when perching, so it can be tough to spot one unless you have seen it land.

I was fortunate to be able to photograph this beautiful dragonfly on several different perches until it finally disappeared from sight. Here are a couple of my favorite shots from our altogether too brief encounter yesterday.

Fine-lined Emerald

Fine-lined Emerald

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Two different colored dragonflies, a Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami) and a Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans), were peacefully sharing a prime perch on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Why is it so hard for us to peacefully coexist with one another?

peaceful co-existence

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Have you ever gotten into a staring contest with a dragonfly? Dragonfly eyes can have an almost hypnotic effect on you when you look directly into them..

I went eye-to-eye with this Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis) on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. She was the one to break eye contact first as she cocked her head, smiled at me, and decided the contest was over.

Eastern Pondhawk

Eastern Pondhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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It is great to see that at least a few colorful Calico Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis elisa) are still around. I photographed this handsome male last Friday as he perched at water’s edge at the small pond at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Summer is slowly slipping away. Some species of dragonflies are already gone for the year and others will soon follow suit. A few species have yet to appear, so all of the news is not bad. Still, as kids return to school and the daylight hours become noticeably shorter, it’s hard not to have the feeling that the lazy days of summer are coming to a close.

Autumn is my favorite season for a number of different reasons, but I am not quite ready to give up on summer. So I’ll keep sweating and searching, seeking to capture the summer beauty that still surrounds us. Like this dragonfly, I’m still holding on.

calico pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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