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Posts Tagged ‘Agelaius phoeniceus’

I went searching through my archives yesterday for a photo from March 2016 that I wanted to have printed. I won’t dwell on my storage practices, but suffice it to say that I am not very well organized. The image in question, one of my all-time favorite shots, shows a Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) whose breath was visible in the cold morning air. I have posted the image a few times and have had some really positive response, but somehow I had never gotten around to having it printed.

I had forgotten that I had captured multiple shots that day and as I was going through them yesterday I came across the first shot below that I have never posted. I love the way that the image shows how the blackbird puts his whole body into producing his “visible song”—I remember my choir leaders instructing us on the importance of breathing from the diaphragm for better sound projection.

The second and third shots give you a better view of the bird’s breath as it was being expelled. I was playing around with image formats and decided to do a square crop that I think works pretty well with these images. One of the photo companies has a sale today on canvas prints and I may one or more of these shots printed to see how they look. A friend has also suggested that I consider having a metal print made of one of them.

The temperature, humidity, and lighting all have be perfect to be able to see this phenomenon shown here. I have not been lucky enough to see it again since that day almost four years ago, though others have taken similar shots at the same location in recent years.

If you are curious to read my blog posting about the initial encounter, check out my 8 March 2016 blog posting entitled “Visible Song.”

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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This female Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) was backlit on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, so I had to overexpose the image, which made the cloudy sky turn almost pure white. I really like the effect, which is reminiscent of a high-key portrait taken in a studio setting. One of my Facebook friends commented that the shot looked to him “like an old time copper image.”

My initial thought was to crop the image in a landscape format, as in the second image below, because I liked the graceful curve of the main branch. Upon further reflection, I decided that maybe there was literally too much white space in the image and opted for the square format in the first shot below, which gives a bit more attention to the main subject. What do you think? Do you have a preference for one version over the other?

red-winged blackbird

red-winged blackbird

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Thanks to a reminder from WordPress, I realized this morning that I am starting my 8th year with this blog. On July 7, 2012 I made my first posting “Blue Dasher dragonfly” and, as they say, the rest is history. According to WordPress stats, I have had 205,209 views of 3,177 posts. Some of those were re-reposts of blogs written by others, but I figure that I have written over 3,100 individual posts with well over 5,000 photos.

This morning I decided to share three of my all-time favorite photos—a singing Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus); a Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) on a frozen pond; and a close-up shot of a Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum). I think that these three images taken together give you a good idea of my approach to photography.

I could not have made it this far on my journey in photography without the support and encouragements of so many of you. You have helped to make blogging part of my daily life. Thanks so much to you for enriching my life in a whole range of different ways.

I owe a special debt of gratitude to Cindy Dyer, my dear friend and photography mentor. She was the one who sat me down seven years ago and helped me with the mechanics of starting this blog. She continues to inspire me and to support me in both my personal life and in my photography. Thanks, Cindy.

What’s ahead? For the foreseeable future I plan to continue my adventures in photography. Having recently retired, I may start to venture to somewhat more distant locations, but mostly I anticipate more and more hours of walking around with my camera in hand, trying to capture all of the beauty of the natural world.

Red-winged Blackbird

Red Fox

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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“Environmental bird portraits” is a fancy way of saying that I was not able to get close enough to my subjects to isolate them and fill the frame. Although that is true, I like the way that these three images give you a sense of the environment in which the birds were found. Often I try to get so close enough to my subjects with a telephoto or macro lens that I lose sight of the “big picture.” These images, all of which were taken last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, give you some sense of the variety of birds and environments that I encounter when I am out with my camera.

The first image shows a pair of colorful Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) that took off as soon as they detected my presence (and I was a long way off from them). The male is the one that is in front, with the female just behind him.

The second image shows a Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus), the smallest hawk in the United States. This bird was the toughest one for me to identify and I had to seek assistance from some experts in a Facebook bird forum. There was some discussion about whether this was a Sharp-shinned Hawk or a Cooper’s Hawk, another small hawk, but prevalent view was the it was the former.

The final image shows a male Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) as he sang out loudly from atop a tree. Male blackbirds are definitely not shy and the volume of their enthusiastic songs and calls is amazing, i.e. really loud.

Wood Duck

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Red-winged Blackbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Six years ago today my photography mentor Cindy Dyer sat me down and told me that I was going to start a blog. She showed me the basics of WordPress editing and navigation and helped me set up my initial pages. I don’t think that either of us anticipated the degree to which I would grow to love the process of blogging, a process that has allowed me to express myself creatively in both words and images

WordPress data show that I have published 2768 posts and have had approximately 170800 views. Those posts have included 429649 words (about 155 words per posting) and well over 3000 photos.

The importance of my blog, though, cannot be expressed merely in numbers. More significantly the blog has helped me to develop relationships with a lot of different viewers, to share with you the different steps on my meandering journey into photography. Thanks to all of you for helping me along the way and sharing your comments, suggestions, and recommendations. I especially owe a debt of gratitude to Cindy Dyer for motivating me throughout this entire period, for pushing me at times when I was hesitant, and for serving as my museThanks, Cindy.

To celebrate this anniversary, I thought I would reprise a few of my favorite photos. These are not necessarily my most popular images or my “best” images, but they are ones that are particularly memorable to me. I am also including links to the original postings so you can read the accompanying text and additional commentary about the circumstances under which they were captured.

Links to original postings: Visible Song (8 March 2016); Fox on a frozen pond (31 January 2016); and Rescue of an injured Bald Eagle (4 November 2014).

Thanks again for all of your support and encouragement over these past six years. The journey continues onward.

Visible song

fox on frozen pond

eagle resuce

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

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A large number of Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) were in the trees and among the cattails yesterday afternoon at Huntley Meadows Park and their raucous calls resounded throughout the park. The males seemed to competing to see who could call out the loudest and longest, as if to say, “Can you hear me now?”

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I took this shot yesterday morning at Huntley Meadows Park, I assumed it was a female Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus), because of its color and the pattern of the feathers. At home, though, it became clear that it was an image an immature male who is just starting to gain some of the markings of an adult male—you can just make out the beginnings of the colorful shoulder patch.

Red-winged Blackbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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