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Archive for the ‘Winter’ Category

For the first time in a while, a male Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) ventured close enough for me to get some shots yesterday when I was exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I have posted some photos of buffleheads fairly recently, but they have all been of females (or possibly immature males).

The shape and colors of these little water birds, especially the males, always strike me as cartoonish—like they were drawn by Disney artists.

Bufflehead

Bufflehead

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have returned from my week-long trip to Vienna, Austria, but thought that I would share images of some of the night lights of the city on my final night. On a cold winter evening when snow was lightly falling, Vienna gleamed like one of the brilliant crystals from Swarovski.

As you can see from the first photo of one of the streets in the central pedestrian zone of Vienna, the city lights are amazing. The second shot is of of the clock tower in one of the inner courts of the Hofburg Palace. The final image shows the elegant storefront of the Swarovski store.

Thanks to my readers who have stayed with me this past week as I deviated from my normal wildlife and nature photography. It is enjoyable to mix things up a bit and a fun challenge to photograph entirely different subjects. I am heading out in a short while and with a little luck will have some new wildlife images to share tomorrow.

night lights in Vienna

night lights in Vienna

night lights in Vienna

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Last night, my final night in Vienna this trip, I had a chance to walk by Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral), an incredible building in the center of the city.

The beauty of Vienna is magnified at this time of the year by wonderful decorations and lights everywhere.

Stephansdom

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was thrilled yesterday to see that there are still Fine-lined Emerald dragonflies (Somatochlora filosa) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was afraid that all of the recent rain had washed them away.

This particular dragonfly species is pretty uncommon, but the wildlife refuge that has become my go-to place for photography is one of the few local spots where they can be found. I think its peak period in our area is September-October, judging from my experience last year, so I was anxious to see them some more before they disappeared for the year.

It is easy to see a Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly when it is patrolling, because it often flies at knee to shoulder height. It is a whole different problem, though, to get a shot of one, because they spend most of their time in the air rather than perching. I spent quite a bit of time yesterday chasing after these dragonflies, hoping in vain to be able to catch the moment when one decided to take a break.

Finally I decided to change my approach and see if I could capture a shot of one as it flew by me. I know that it can be done, because last year I captured an in-flight image using my 150-600mm zoom lens. The lens that I had on my camera, however, was my 180mm macro lens, which meant that I had to get pretty close to the dragonfly rather than zooming in. That particular lens is slow to focus, so I decided to focus manually, which can be tricky with a moving subject. One of the downsides of the lens is it has no built-in image stabilization, so I decided to keep the camera affixed to my monopod for the sake of stability.

It took some time, but eventually I was able to capture a few shots of flying Fine-lined Emeralds that were relatively in focus, aided by the fact that these dragonflies hover a little from time to time.

I particularly like the first image because it shows both the emerald eyes and the fine lines near the tip of the abdomen that are responsible for the name of the species. It was also cool that the angle of view was unusual, given that I was looking down at the dragonfly as I took the shot. I also like the touch of brownish-orange from the out-of-focus leaves that gives the image an autumn feel.

The second shot gives a more “normal” view of a Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly as it flew by.  I was happy to be able to separate it somewhat from the leafy backdrop by carefully focusing on the dragonfly. This is one of those situations when the auto-focusing system of the camera would have been challenged—the subject was pretty small in the viewfinder and the auto-focus probably would have tried to lock on the background.

fine-lined emerald

fine-lined emerald

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When this immature Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) fixed its eyes on me on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and flew straight toward me, I couldn’t help but feel a little concerned. As it turned out, the young eagle was simply soaring and veered away—and my heartbeat eventually returned to a normal rate.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some birds are stealthy and fly silently through the skies. Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) would not fit into that category. They like to announce their presence for all to hear, like this pair that I spotted on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as they were coming in for a landing.

Unlike at the airport, there was no need for a loudspeaker to announce this landing.

Canada Geese

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you take photos only when the weather conditions are optimal? If I followed that rule, I’d be staying at home most of the time. This winter in particular, it seems like I am at work on all of the days with good weather. So often I will choose to go out with my camera when I am free and not when the weather is good.

One particular morning last week it was really foggy and visibility was extremely limited. The subjects that I could see were hazy and indistinct, utterly lacking in contrast. It’s hard to know how what camera setting to use in situations like those.

I was at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, my favorite spot this winter for wildlife photography, and as usual I managed to spot some Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). It is always a challenge to photograph the eagles, because they tend to perch a good distance away from the trails that I follow and they are often quite skittish.

In this case, the difficulties were magnified, because of the heavy fog/mist. I ended up processing the images that I captured in a number of different ways, attempting at times to enhance the contrast or eliminate some of the fog, with varying degrees of success.

Here are a few of my favorite shots of the eagles in the mist.

Bald Eagles

Bald Eagles

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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