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Posts Tagged ‘Alexandria VA’

This winter has been usually mild and spring color is already starting to appear in our area. During a visit yesterday to Green Spring Gardens, a local county-run historical garden, I spotted crocuses in bloom at several locations. Finding crocuses was not too much of a surprise, since they are usually among the first flowers to appear each spring.  However, it was an unexpected bonus to be able to photograph a honey bee collecting pollen inside of one of the crocuses.

In many ways yesterday’s photography was a return to my roots. When I started getting more serious about photography seven years ago, I did a lot of shooting with my friend and mentor, Cindy Dyer. One of her many areas of specialization is macro photography of flowers and some of her flower images have even appeared on US postage stamps. From her I learned a lot about the technical aspects of photography, like composition and depth of field, but more importantly she encouraged and inspired me back then and continues to do so to this day. Thanks, Cindy.

I started off photographing flowers with a few insects, but gradually realized that I was more interested in shooting insects with a few flowers. I can appreciate the beauty of the crocuses in the second and third images below, but the first shot is more representative of my desired shooting style.

crocus

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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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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I was thrilled Saturday when the sunlight illuminated the beautiful colors of this male Bufflehead duck (Bucephala albeola) as he was drying his wing feathers at the pond at Ben Brenman Park in Alexandria, Virginia. In the past I had gotten glimpses of the brilliant purple and green colors on the head of a bufflehead, but this is the first time that I have been able to capture them so well.

In most of my previous shots of a male bufflehead, those colors all blend together into a nondescript dark color. I was definitely helped by the way that the way the bufflehead had lifted himself partially out of the water in order to flap his wings, giving me a clearer view of its head..

bufflehead

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you feel like you are progressing in photography? Have your skills improved as you have bought newer and more expensive gear? How do you know?

Periodically a notice pops up in my Facebook timeline reminding me of a posting that I made on that date in a previous year. I post at least one photo daily and I have no idea how the Facebook algorithm decides when to present me with a memory and, if so, which one to use.

This morning, Facebook reminded me of the image below of a North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) that I posted seven years ago. Wow—seven years ago is in the distant past, only six months or so after I had started to get more serious about my photography. At that time I was shooting with a Canon Rebel XT, an entry-level 8.0 megapixel DSLR, and my “long” lens was a 55-250mm zoom lens.

It is almost a cliché for photographers to state that gear does not matter, but I think that this image demonstrates that there is a truth in that cliché. I have more experience now and better gear, but I would be hard for me to take a better shot today. Nothing is more important than being there, as all wildlife photographers know well. The informal motto of the Postal Service seems to apply to us as well— “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Click on this link if you would like to see the original posting from 2013 (and judge for yourself if my style of posting has changed). For fun, I added a second beaver photo that I posted the following day, January 29, 2013—here’s a link to the original posting.

I don’t know about you, but I rarely take the opportunity to look back at my older images. Perhaps I should do some more often.

 

beaver

beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Last month I received a curious question from Cindy Dyer, my good friend and photography mentor—she asked me if I had any good winter images. In addition to being an amazing photographer, Cindy works as a graphic designer. The editor with whom she works on Hearing Life Magazine, the official magazine of the Hearing Loss Association of America, wanted a winter-related full-page original image for the January/February 2020 issue.

She knew that she did not have many snow images, but figured that I would. I gave her some options, and she chose this shot of a male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) that I photographed in my neighborhood after a snowstorm last January. The editor loved this image as cardinals hold special significance to her—her late sister loved them—and added the quotation from Vincent Van Gogh, one of my favorite artists.

I was curious about the context of the quotation and learned from vangoghletters.org that it was from a letter that Vincent Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo from London in January 1874. Here is the paragraph of that letter than contains the quotation, “Things are going well for me here, I have a wonderful home and it’s a great pleasure for me to observe London and the English way of life and the English themselves, and I also have nature and art and poetry, and if that isn’t enough, what is?” As I read the letter in its entirety, I was equally struck by Van Gogh’s commentary about nature and art, “Always continue walking a lot and loving nature, for that’s the real way to learn to understand art better and better. Painters understand nature and love it, and teach us to see.”

I am always thrilled to see one of my images in print and I was excited yesterday when I finally received a printed copy of the magazine. One of my goals this year is to have more of my photos printed—I have a few of my favorites hanging on the wall already, but still have room for more of them. If you are interested in seeing the original posting in which this image appeared, click on this link to Cardinal in the snow.

 

Northern Cardinal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last week I watched as a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) slowly flew across the sky and perched high in a tree in the middle of the woods. The perch seemed precarious and the heron’s position did not appear to be at all comfortable. I honestly don’t know how the heron managed to land amidst all of the small branches—it required precision flying for the heron to pull in its wide wings at precisely the right moment as it decelerated.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was looking into the sun when I took this shot of a Twelve-spotted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula pulchella) last week at Huntley Meadows Park. The body and the perch were silhouetted, but the light showed through the dragonfly’s wings and highlighted the beautiful patterns.

I really like the graphic, almost abstract quality of this image. It has a different feel than most of my other images that tend to provide more detailed views of the subject.

Twelve-spotted Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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