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Archive for the ‘Urban’ Category

How long a lens do you need to photograph birds? Conventional wisdom dictates that you need a lens with a focal length of at least 300mm and ideally much longer than that. I generally use my Tamron 150-600mm lens when I anticipate shooting birds, especially small ones. If I want to get even closer, the zoom lens of my Canon SX50 has a field of view equivalent to 1200mm.

On Friday, I traveled into Washington D.C. to visit some friends using the Metro subway. I planned to walk a lot and I didn’t want to weigh myself down with all kinds of gear, so I put a 24-105mm lens on my DSLR. For those of you who are not technically oriented, this lens goes from mildly wide angle to mildly telephoto.

The camera and lens combination is less than ideal for photographing birds. I couldn’t help myself, however, when I spotted some birds in an urban park and decided to attempt to get some shots. My first attempt was with a Carolina Wren and it was a disaster—it was small and fast and so skittish that I could not get a decent shot.

Then I spied a Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) perched on a bush in the distance. I took some initial shots and then slowly began to move forward. Eventually I was able to get to within about three feet (one meter) of the mockingbird and captured this image.

This incident served as a reminder not to limit myself to following conventional wisdom. It is definitely possible to take a good bird photo without a long telephoto lens. Why not take landscape photos with a long telephoto lens instead of a wide angle lens?

No matter what lens I have on my camera (or what camera I am using), I try to keep my eyes open for possible subjects. I will then try to capture those subjects as well as I can within whatever equipment I happen to have with me. It turns out that gear is often not the most critical element in making good images—simply being there is half the battle.

Northern Mockingbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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We won’t see them for a few months in Northern Virginia, but I got a sneak preview of daffodils in bloom here in Brussels, Belgium near a small pond at the botanical gardens yesterday morning.

daffodil

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As I was walking across the Key Bridge from Georgetown on Wednesday night, I glanced down at the Potomac River and saw that the Kennedy Center was aglow with rainbow colors. I believe that the colors were part of the celebration of the Kennedy Center Honors, an annual honor given to those in the performing arts for their lifetime of contributions to American culture. Honorees receive a medallion that hangs from a rainbow colored ribbon.

Most of the landmarks shown here will be familiar only to locals, but some of you may recognize the Washington Monument in the middle left in the photo. In case you are curious, I took this shot with a Canon A620 camera, an old 7.1 megapixel point-and-shoot camera that I carry with me sometimes because it fits easily into my pocket. I leaned against the railing of the bridge to take this shot in what turned out to be a one second exposure.

Although I know what the subject matter of the image is, I enjoy it equally as a kind of abstract, man-made landscape, a beautiful combination of lines and shapes and colors, with some of them reflected in the dark waters of the river.

Kennedy Center Honors

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I am in Vienna, Austria for a brief work trip and had a chance to stop by the Christmas Market in front of the Rathaus (City Hall). Even on a Monday afternoon, the market was crowded with shoppers. The market is noisy, busy, and a bit gaudy, but despite all of the commercialization, I could still feel the spirit of Christmas.

As the big sign in front of the market states in German, “Merry Christmas.”

Vienna Christmas Market 2017

Vienna Christmas Market 2017

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Initially I did a double take when I saw the sign for a restaurant in Brussels called O’Tacos and I figured it was some kind of Irish-Mexican fusion cuisine. I almost burst out laughing, however, when I read the words, “Original French Tacos.” French tacos? Who knew?

I did some further investigation when I returned to my hotel and found out that O’Tacos is a chain that is now worldwide. OK, but what exactly is a French taco? A review on foodrepublic.com described it in these words—”Less like a taco and more like a pressed San Diego-style burrito, the French taco is stuffed with fries, a white creamy cheese sauce, a protein (choices include grilled chicken breast, nuggets, tenders, ground beef or sausage), an additional sauce (mustard, Tabasco, ketchup, mayonnaise, barbecue) and other ingredients (cheese, mushrooms, grilled veggies, an egg, bacon, ham and more) all wrapped up in a flour tortilla.”

original French tacos

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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During my recent trip to Wheeling, West Virginia, I repeatedly encountered symbols of the town’s glorious past. Trains no longer run to the historic Baltimore and Ohio train station. The beautiful building has now been converted for use by West Virginia Northern Community College.

B&O Railroad

A prominent sign indicates the availability of the buildings of Marsh Wheeling Stogies. Could this possibly be a reference to cigars? As I did a little research, I learned that Mifflin M. Marsh began producing cigars in Wheeling in 1840. His cheap cigars were favored by the drivers of the Conestoga wagons that carried pioneers West and “stogies” are a shortened version of the wagon’s name. According to the website Archiving Wheeling, in 1877 almost 24 million cigars were sold in Wheeling. In 2001, the plant was closed after Marsh Wheeling was bought by National Cigar.

Marsh Wheeling Stogies

I suppose that Verizon now owns the Bell Telephone building in Wheeling, but Verizon is definitely not know for having buildings as interesting and beautiful as this one.

Bell Telephone

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This past Thursday I made a quick trip to Wheeling, West Virginia and fell in love with the signs that had been painted long ago on the sides of some of the brick buildings in the downtown area. Here are a few of my favorite ones.

Wheeling

Wheeling

Wheeling

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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