Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Alexandria VA’

Although it may seem a little strange to make a trip to a garden to photograph flowers, I set off for Green Spring Gardens, a county-run historic garden last Friday. I suspected that snowdrops (g. Galanthus) would be in bloom and I was not disappointed. I spotted several large clusters of these small white flowers scattered throughout the garden beds.

Some years you can find snowdrops peeking out of a covering of snow, but we have not yet had any snow this winter. Instead I found the snowdrops poking out of the reddish-brown ground cover of fallen leaves and pine needles. I did not have my macro lens with me, but managed to get some decent close-up shots with my Tamron 18-400mm lens as well as an overview of one of the patches of snowdrops that I encountered.

When spring comes, I hope to see the somewhat similar-looking snowflake flower (g. Leucojum). The way that I usually tell them apart is to look at the individual petals. The snowdrop petals are pure white, but the petal of each of the snowflake flowers has a little green dot.

 

snowdrop

snowdrop

snowdrop

snowdrops

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

When the winter weather warms up a little and there is abundant sunlight, turtles will sometimes come up out of the mud at the bottom of the pond to bask in the sun. Last Friday I made a short visit to Green Spring Gardens, a historic county-run garden in Northern Virginia, and spotted this turtle at the edge of a small pond. I think it may be a Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans), although the turtle was so far away and covered in mud that I am not sure of the identification.

Turtles enter into a period of dormancy know as “brumation” when the weather gets cold. According to the ReptileKnowHow website, “When red-eared sliders brumate, they do not eat or defecate and they remain almost completely motionless for long periods. Their metabolic rate reduces to a minimum, reducing all vital functions – even breathing to the strictly necessary.” I don’t know all of the technical differences between hibernation and brumation, but I believe that the former term is reserved for warm-blooded creatures and the latter term for cold-blooded ones.

winter turtle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

Male Ring-necked Ducks (Aythya collaris) are rather odd ducks. They have an unusual pointed head and striking yellow eyes. However, they have a striped pattern on their bills that make them pretty easy to identify. Although they paddle about a lot like dabbling ducks, they will periodically dive to the bottom to eat submerged plants and aquatic invertebrates.

Despite their name, it is unusual to be able to see the chestnut collar on a Ring-necked Duck’s black neck. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the ring is “not a good field mark to use for identifying the bird, but it jumped out to the nineteenth century biologists that described the species using dead specimens.”

Like several other species that I have featured recently, this Ring-necked Duck was part of a small flock that I spotted swimming about in a small suburban pond not far from where I live. Sometimes in the winter I will make a quick visit to this pond when I to experience nature, but don’t have the time to devote to a trip to the larger wildlife refuges in my area.

Ring-necked Duck

Ring-necked Duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I love the spiky reddish “hairstyle” of a female female Hooded Merganser duck (Lophodytes cucullatus). I spotted this little beauty on Monday at a small suburban pond not far from where I live. Technically this is a “stormwater management facility,” but the pond is big enough and deep enough that a number of different duck species (and a lot of Canada Geese) are resident there during the winter months.

Hooded Merganser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Normally Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) are distant dark-colored waterbirds. However, when the lighting is right, you can sometimes get a good look at their orange-colored faces and their striking blue eyes.

As you can see from these two images that I captured yesterday at a small suburban pond, cormorants tend to ride low in the water. It sounds strange for a bird that spends its time in the water, but the feathers of a cormorant are not completely waterproof and can become waterlogged. That is why you can sometimes spot cormorants perched with their wings spread open in an effort to dry them out.

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

Early yesterday morning, my car’s windshield was covered with starbursts of frost. As I sat in the driver’s seat, I had this magical view of the Christmas lights on my neighbor’s house. I captured the moment with my iPhone—then I cleared the windshield.

Today is the day of the solstice, the day that some of us in the Northern Hemisphere count as the first day of winter. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, “It’s the astronomical moment when the Sun reaches the Tropic of Capricorn, we have our shortest day and longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere in terms of daylight.” Like much of the United States, we are in for a spell of frigid weather, though I doubt that we will see any snow before Christmas.

It felt appropriate to mark this day with this frosty image. I was preparing to head out to my favorite Wildlife Refuge yesterday morning when I took this shot and will be featuring some of the birds that I encountered once I have finished reviewing my shots.

frost

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

The colors of the fall foliage in my area of Northern Virginia are not very impressive. Generally we fade gradually from green to brown and then the leaves fall off of the trees. Fortunately, though, pops of bright color periodically remind me of the colors that I would see when I was growing up in New England.

It is still a bit early for those colors to appear, but I did notice a few traces of autumn color when I was out with my camera this week. Mostly it was individual colorful leaves, but I did notice a few trees as I gazed across the pond at Huntley Meadows Park that had jumped ahead of their compatriots and were already showing their blazing red autumn color.

Autumn is my favorite time of the year, especially the early days of autumn.

autumn color

autumn color

autumn color

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

When I went out with my camera on Wednesday, it was cool and cloudy, but fortunately the rain had stopped falling. I was not optimistic that I would see a lot of wildlife, but it felt good to get out of the house and to spend some time in nature.

Most dragonflies prefer warm weather and become inactive when it is cool, so I did not expect to see many during my walk. I was thrilled therefore when I spotted this male Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia). I watched as he was flying and saw him land low in the vegetation, just off of the ground.

The background in this shot is really busy, but somehow the dragonfly really stands out. It’s kind of a fun little photo of one of the few remaining dragonflies as we move through October.

Common Whitetail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Most of the time when I am lucky enough to spot a Green Tree Frog (Hyla cinerea), the frog appears to be sleeping. Why is that the case? Many frogs spend their time in the water and have an easy way to regulate their body temperatures. Tree Frogs probably need to avoid direct sunlight and I suspect they are more active earlier and later during the day.

Yesterday afternoon the rain finally stopped and the skies were gradually clearing, so I decided to go out with my camera. I spotted this tree frog when I was walking along one of the trails at Huntley Meadows Park, a nearby marshland park that I have avoided the last few years because it tends to be overcrowded. The frog was perched in the crotch of a small tree just off of the trail.

When I first saw the tree frog, it had its front feet tucked under its head and appeared to be dozing, as you can see in the first two photos. I experimented with slightly different angles and formats and can’t decide if I like the landscape format of the first photo or the portrait format of the second one.

Later in the day I passed the frog again and it seemed to be a little more alert. The frog had pulled one of its feet out from under its head and appeared to be daydreaming.

When I returned home from my outing, I decided to take a cue from the frog and took a short nap.

 

Green Tree Frog

Green Tree Frog

Green Tree Frog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Yesterday afternoon at Potomac Episcopal, a loose confederation of four local Episcopal churches that has worshipped together since the start of the pandemic, we had a special Blessing of the Animals service in celebration of The Feast of Francis of Assisi. We held the service indoors in the parish hall at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria, one of the four churches, because of the rain caused by the remnants of hurricane Ian.

There were about 25 dogs and two cats that participated in the service. Participants also brought photos of pets and representations of pets that could not be present (including a parrot and some aquatic turtles) as well as mementos of pets who have died during the past year.

These are a few of the many photos that I took during the event that we uploaded to a Shutterfly website for viewing by all participant. Although we did not have music, we had a chorus of dogs barking throughout the short service, as you can hear in a video clip that I recorded. I have embedded at the end of this posting the YouTube version of that eight minute video that includes prayers and readings in celebration of the animals. It can also be found by clicking this link.

One of my favorite parts of the service was entitled “Litany of Thanks for Animals in the Life Cycle of Earth,” the text of which I have included below.

“We thank you, Lord, for the gift of animals in our lives. We thank you for animals that comfort us, delight us and give us companionship. We thank you for dogs and cats, birds and hamsters, guinea pigs and fish.

We thank you, Lord for the gift of animals.

We also thank you, Lord, for animals that give us wool and feathers to keep us warm. We thank you for the animals that give us milk, cheese and eggs to help us grow and keep us healthy. We thank you for horses, donkeys and oxen that work hard on farms throughout the world.

We thank you, Lord for the gift of animals.

We thank you, Lord, for animals that eat plants and fertilize the soil, making it richer and more fertile for new growth and new life. We give thanks for the gift of insects, bees, and butterflies, who pollinate fruit and vegetable plants for us to eat and flowers to give us joy.

We thank you, Lord for the gift of animals.

We thank you, Lord, for being our Good Shepherd, for seeking us when we are lost, for showing us water to quench our thirst, and for leading us to green pastures. Help us to share our blessings with others and to help others have clean water and green pastures to feed and nourish their families, too. In Christ’s name,

Amen.

Blessing of the Animals

Blessing of the Animals

Blessing of the Animals

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

Today I am featuring the Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis), one of the most common dragonflies in my area. The Blue Dasher is special to me because my very first posting on this blog in July 2012 included a shot of a Blue Dasher. Click on this link if you are curious to see what my photography looked like ten years ago.

I took these shots at two different locations in July, prior to my road trip, and am only now catching up on some of my backlog of shots. Blue Dashers seem to be quite adaptable and can be found in a wide variety of habitats, so it is not hard to find one.

These images show Blue Dashers in a variety of poses, including the “obelisk” pose in the final image, one of the signature poses of this species.

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Dragonflies are amazing creatures. They spend most of their lives underwater as nymphs. When the time is right, they crawl out of the water and begin an incredible transformation. They burst out of their exoskeletons and in a short period of time their bodies lengthen and their wings unfurl. Suddenly they are breathing air and can fly. Six years ago I was able to document this entire process in a posting called Metamorphosis of a dragonfly, which you may want to check out.

If you wander along the edge of a pond, you may spot some of the discarded exoskeletons, often referred to as exuviae—they look sort of like desiccated bugs. Earlier this month during a visit to Green Spring Gardens, I was able to capture this image of a Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) perched alongside an exuvia. I am not certain that the exoskeleton is from the same species as the dragonfly, but I suspect that it is.

Although it is hard to see very many details of the exuvia, you can’t help but notice how much smaller it is than the adult dragonfly and how the shape of the body is different. It you look closely, you can see the shape of little wing pads that eventually turn into wings. The only body parts that appear to remain the same are the legs.

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

I have not yet made it to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens this year, so I was especially happy to see that a dozen or so lotuses were in bloom last week at Green Spring Gardens. Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Washington D.C. is a National Park Service site with several dozen ponds with a variety of water lilies and lotuses—it is the go-to place in my area to see this kind of aquatic vegetation.

However, I am pretty content with the smaller selection at Green Spring Gardens, which is only a couple of miles from my home. Every time that I see lotuses, I am faced with the dilemma of how to photograph them. Should I try to get a group shot or should I photograph a single flower? Should I try to capture an image of a whole flower or of some of its parts? When I am trying to photographic birds and insects, I usually do not have the luxury of thinking about all of these compositional considerations, so it feels a little strange to be so intentional when photographing flowers.

Here are three photos from my outing that day that represent several different ways that I approached my subject. The first image is a kind of traditional portrait of a lotus that I took when the sun had slipped behind the clouds and softened the harshness of the light. For the second shot, I moved in closer and focused on the center of a lotus, creating an image that simultaneously realistic and abstract. For the final photo, I moved even closer and tried to emphasize the texture of a lotus leaf and all of its interlocking veins.

It’s fun to play around with my camera and try some different creative approaches that I do not regularly use in photographing wildlife.

Have a wonderful weekend and consider trying a new approach to something you regularly do. It may not necessarily work, but it will undoubtedly be fun.

 

lotus

lotus center

lotus leaf

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

I was not sure of the species of these damselflies when they flew by me in tandem last week at Green Spring Gardens, but I managed to track them visually until they landed on some floating vegetation. As some of you may recall, when damselflies mate, their bodies form a shape that resembles a sidewards heart, a position sometimes referred to as the “wheel” position. When mating is completed, the damselfly couples fly off together with the male still grasping the female by the back of her head and the male stays attached as the female deposits her eggs—that may have been why they landed on this vegetation.

When I returned home and was able to examine the damselflies closely, I was delighted to see that they were Dusky Dancers (Argia translata), a species that I rarely see. If you click on the photos, you can get a closer look at the stunning eyes and beautiful markings of these damselflies. I am particularly drawn to the pattern of thin blue rings around the abdomen of the male, the damselfly on the left that is perched almost vertically.

Dusky Dancer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I love the way that this acrobatic bee was able to position its antennae for optimized access to the nectar in this bee balm flower last Friday at Green Spring Gardens. The bee was so focused on the flower that it paid me no attention, allowing me to get really close to it to capture this image.

I believe that the bee is an Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica). As for the flower, there was quite a variety of flowers in different colors that looked like this one. I think that it is a type of bee balm (g. Monarda), though I really do not know flowers very well.

bee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I love the simple beauty of Cabbage White butterflies (Pieris rapae). They are mostly white with a few touches of black, but if you get a close-up look, you discover that they have stunningly speckled green eyes. Cabbage Whites, in my experience, tend to be pretty skittish and do not stay in one place for very long. If you were to track my movements, you would probably discover that I spend a good amount of time chasing after these little beauties.

Last Friday I was able to capture these images of a Cabbage White butterfly as it flitted about some pretty purple flowers at Green Spring Gardens. The first shot is my clear favorite of the three thanks to its saturated colors, out-of-focus background, and interesting composition. The other two images, however, are interesting in their own ways, showing a more dynamic view of the butterfly at work.

I am not a gardener, so I tend to view this butterfly almost exclusively from the perspective of its beauty—the same is true with invasive species of animals and insects. I fully recognize that this butterfly is considered to be an agricultural pest and can cause damage to crops, but that, in my eyes, does not diminish its beauty.

Cabbage White

Cabbage White

Cabbage White

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

I am always fascinated by interactions between species. It is impossible to know exactly what is going on in the minds of the participants, but sometimes the behavior is one of curiosity, co-existence, or confrontation.

As I was preparing to photograph a pretty pink water lily at Green Spring Gardens last Friday, a honey bee flew into the frame. The bee dove right into the center of the flower, so I waited for it to emerge and continued to watch through the viewfinder of my camera.

I was just getting ready to finally take a shot when suddenly a small hover fly flew into the frame. I timed it right and managed to captured this image when the hover fly was right above the honey bee.

The hover fly seemed to be on a reconnaissance mission and the honey bee seemed to be telling him to buzz off. Somehow the posture of the bee reminded me of that of a policeman at the scene of a crime as he repeatedly tells onlookers, “Move along, there is nothing to see here.” Was this a confrontation? I don’t think that it rose to that level, but it was clear to me (and probably to the hover fly) that the bee did not want to share his golden treasure with anyone else.

water lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

I had no idea that Eastern Gray Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) liked mushrooms, but this squirrel certainly seemed to be nibbling on one when I spotted him on Wednesday at Green Spring Gardens. I love the way that he was holding the mushroom in his “hands” as he gently chewed on the stem—I think he may have already consumed the mushroom cap.

Squirrel and mushroom

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I love the distinctive coloration of Orange Bluet damselflies (Enallagma signatum), whose name always causes me to smile at the apparent oxymoron. How can a bluet be orange? As the name “bluet” suggests, most of the 35 members of the genus American Bluet (Enallagma), the largest damselfly genus in North America, are blue. However, certain species come in other colors including red, orange, and green and the Rainbow Bluet combines red, yellow, and green.

I spotted this handsome male Orange Bluet last Wednesday as he was perching on a lily pad in a small pond at Green Spring Gardens. He posed beautifully for me and I was able to capture quite a few details of this little damselfly. I recommend that you click on the image to get a closer look at this Orange Blue, including his wonderful orange markings.

Orange Bluet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I was absolutely thrilled on Wednesday when I streaks of bright yellow flashed in front of my eyes while walking among the flowers at Green Spring Gardens—goldfinches were present. Few other birds in my area can match the brilliant yellow color of the male American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) in breeding plumage. It is easy to spot these birds, but it is a challenge to photograph them, because they are small, fast, and skittish.

My camera was equipped with my 180mm macro, which can also serve as a short telephoto lens, so I had to use all of my stalking skills to get as close as possible. Fortunately, the goldfinches were preoccupied with feeding and I was able to capture these images. I had to be quite patient, though, because the goldfinches spent most of their time with their heads buried in the flowers and only rarely gave me a good view of their faces

Together with the goldfinches, the abundance of blooming flowers helped me to create images that have a happy feel to them, a welcome antidote to the gloom of these troubled times.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

Ten years ago today I started this blog. After reviewing some of my photos from earlier that fateful day, my dear friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer told me I needed a blog. I was a little skeptical, but we sat down at a computer and she helped me to set up this blog. I could not come up with a cute or creative name, so I simply called it “Mike Powell—My journey through photography.”

My first posting was a modest one that showcased a single photo of a Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis). In case you are curious, here is a link to that first posting that was entitled “Blue Dasher dragonfly.”

I figured that my blog would be primarily a place to display my photos. I rapidly realized, however, that I enjoyed expressing myself with my words as much as with my images. My postings are often a direct reflection of my thoughts or feelings at the very moments when I am composing the post. I do not compose them in advance, so my postings sometimes ramble around a bit, but I have found that many of my readers enjoy this conversational, stream-of-consciousness style.

According to WordPress statistics, I have done 4462 postings, with almost three hundred sixty thousand total views. I have written most of these postings myself, though occasionally I have reblogged the postings of others. My favorite subjects over the years have been insects and birds, but I have also done postings on a wide range of other topics including animals, travel, poetry, and painting.

Today it seemed appropriate to post a photo of a male Blue Dasher—the dragonfly that started it all—that I photographed yesterday at Green Spring Gardens, a local, county-run historical garden. When I was starting to get more serious about photography ten years ago, Cindy and I would often photograph flowers and insects at this garden.

I owe a special debt of gratitude to Cindy for the initial push to start this blog and for her continued encouragement and inspiration. However, I am equally indebted to so many readers who have provided thoughtful comments, support, and motivation as we have made this journey together. Thanks to all of you—I could not have done it without you.

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

We have had rain and clouds the last few days and I feel the need for a pop of color today. This blanket flower (g. Gaillardia) provided a wonderfully colorful backdrop for a little bee that I spotted during a recent trip to Green Spring Gardens. I think that it may be some kind of sweat bee, but I did not get a close enough look at it to be able identify it.

bee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

There was only one water lily in bloom last week at Green Spring Gardens—it did not have to share the spotlight with any other floating flowers. In some ways, its uniqueness made it even even more special. I love water lilies, but it may be a bit early for them to be blooming, at least at this pond.

As I was looking through my camera’s viewfinder, trying to think of an interesting way to photograph the single water lily, I spotted a tiny hover fly making a beeline for the center of the water lily. I reacted quickly and frantically clicked away. In most of my shots, the hover fly was out of focus, but my luck and timing allowed me to capture the first image below, in which the little insect is in relatively sharp focus—click on the image to get a closer look at the patterns on the hover fly’s body.

I realize that some viewers may prefer to enjoy the beauty of a flower without having to see insects, so I have added a second shot of the water lily that I took from a slightly different angle. No matter which image you prefer, I am confident that you will agree that the water lily is stunning—I love the way that the center of the flower seems to glow.

Water lily

water lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

As I was visiting a small pond at Green Spring Gardens last week, checking to see if the lotus flowers and water lilies were in bloom, I detected some movement at the edge of the water. It took me a moment to spot some tiny Eastern Forktail damselflies (Ischnura verticalis) that were buzzing around the vegetation sticking out of the water. Eastern Forktails are quite small, about 0.8-1.3 inches (20-33 mm) in length.

I got down as low as I could and captured several images of a beautiful female Eastern Forktail. In the first shot, she perched and posed for me, so I had the luxury of carefully composing my shot. Click on the photo to see the wonderful details of this damselfly, including her stunning two-toned eyes. Eastern Forktails are quite small, about 0.8-1.3 inches (20-33 mm) in length.)

In the second shot, she was perching on the edge of a lily pad with the tip of her abdomen in the water. She was in the process of depositing eggs into the bottom of the lily pad or possibly into the stem of the plant.

As it turned out, it is still too early for the lotus flowers to bloom, though the plants were producing lots of leaves. There was one white water lily that was blooming, so the scene at the pond does not yet remind me of a Monet painting.

Eastern Forktail

Eastern Forktail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

Read Full Post »

I was thrilled to spot this cool-looking Six-spotted Fishing Spider (Dolomedes triton) yesterday at Green Spring Gardens, a county-run historic garden in Alexandria, Virginia, not far from where I live. These spiders usually keep several of their legs on the surface of the water and detect the vibrations of potential prey and them scamper across the water to capture their targets.

Initially the spider had its legs anchored on the edge of a colorful lily pad a short distance from the edge of a small pond, as shown in the first photo. When I got a little too close, the spider moved a short distance away, as shown in the second photo, but eventually it returned to its original spot.

Fishing spiders like this one are quite large—a female can grow to be about 2.4 inches (60 mm) in length, including her legs, while the male is somewhat smaller. According to Wikipedia, Six-spotted Fishing Spiders hunt during the day and can wait can wait patiently for hours until stimulated by prey. Potential prey include both aquatic insects and terrestrial insects that have fallen into the water, tadpoles, frogs, and small fish. Amazingly, these spiders are capable of capturing fish up to five times their body size, using venom to immobilize and kill the prey.

Six-spotted Fishing Spider

Six-spotted Fishing Spider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Lilies are now blooming in the garden of my neighbor, Cindy Dyer, who is also my photography mentor and muse. There are all kind of lilies there, including daylilies, Asiatic lilies, and giant white ones. Cindy deliberately likes to plant flowers that she knows will be photogenic.

I always feel overwhelmed when trying to photograph groups of anything, so I naturally gravitate to close-ups of individual flowers, focusing in on details that grab my eyes. Sometimes it is shapes, while at other times it may be colors or textures. Here are a few photos from my visit on Tuesday to Cindy’s garden, my impressions of some of the beautiful lilies that I encountered.

lily

lily

lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I love the triangular shape of Spiderwort plants (genus Tradescantia). I tend to think of spiderworts as being a bluish-purple in color, but was delighted to discover them blooming in a variety of colors during a recent visit to Green Spring Gardens, a county-run historical garden near where I live. I think my favorite color combination may be the one in the middle photo, with the white flowers and the purple “fuzz” in the center.

Spiderwort

Spidewort

spiderwort

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

During a recent trip to Green Spring Gardens, a county-run historic garden near where I live, I was delighted to see that Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) was in bloom. Love-in-a-mist  is a flower that looks like it came from outer space, with wild tendrils shooting out of its middle and green spiky vegetation surrounding it. Like many forms of love, the flower simultaneously looks to be both inviting and threatening.

I find this flower to be incredibly beautiful and exotic and it is one of my favorites. Typically Love-in-a-mist is blue, but it also comes in shades of white, pink, and lavender. Many flowers lose our interest after they have bloomed, but I find the seedpods of Love-in-a-mist to at least as intriguing as the flower itself, as you can see in the final photo.

When I did a little research I learned that the striped, balloon-shaped object that I call a seedpod, is actually an inflated capsule composed of five fused true seedpods, according to an article by Wisconsin Horticulture. I also discovered that the thorny-looking spikes that make up the “mist,” which are not sharp, despite their appearance, are technically bracts, a specialized kind of leaves.

I smile whenever I use the name of this flower—we can always use more Love, whether it comes in a mist, in the sunshine, or even in a downpour.

 

Love-in-a-mist

Love-in-a-mist

Love-in-a-mist

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Many irises have come and gone this spring, but I was delighted to see that this stunning dark violet one was blooming yesterday in the garden of my neighbor and fellow photographer Cindy Dyer, a variant that she told me is a Louisiana iris ‘Black Gamecock.’ Cindy also has some gorgeous Calla Lilies blooming in a container on her front porch in a wide variety of colors.

Intermittent thunderstorms are in the forecast for most of today and I doubt that we will see the sun. My senses need the stimulation provided by bright colors, like those of these beautiful flowers in Cindy’s garden in late May.

iris

Calla Lily

Calla Lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

It is prime time for the bearded irises in the garden of my dear friend and fellow photographer Cindy Dyer. There are several dozen irises in bloom now in multiple colors, including these beauties, and it looks like even more flowers will be blooming soon.

Beauty is everywhere.

bearded irises

Bearded Iris

Bearded Iris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

It is now the season for irises. All kinds of irises are starting to pop open in the garden of my dear friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer. We are neighbors in a townhouse community in Northern Virginia, which means there is relatively little space for gardening, but Cindy manages to pack an amazing amount of flower power into her limited area. Fortunately, she and her husband, who is also a Michael, live in an end-unit, so they have a bit more space than the interior units.

Cindy likes to select flowers to grow that she knows will be photogenic and love to pore over the flower catalogues on line. Our challenge is to figure out how to capture the  beauty of these carefully selected flowers in the crowed garden. One of Cindy’s techniques is to use a small artificial background to help to isolate the flower. Often she uses a white foam core board to which she has attached a piece of black velvet-like material. She can then create studio-like images with a black or white background, depending on the flower.

This technique requires two people, because it is almost impossible to hold the background in place and frame a shot at the same time. I took these iris photos yesterday while Cindy held the background in place for me and then we reversed positions. In some of the images it looks like I was using some kind of studio lighting, but it was all natural night on a somewhat cloudy day that diffused the light nicely.

You don’t really need any special equipment to create this effect—you could use almost anything for a background. The day before, our improvised background was a collapsible black storage cube from IKEA that Cindy had just given me. The final photo, taken by Cindy with her iPhone, shows me holding that black cube and gives you a sense of the garden environment and how the technique is used.

bearded iris

bearded iris

bearded iris

iris

background

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: