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Posts Tagged ‘Canon 100mm macro lens’

I was beginning to think that another year would go by without seeing a Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) when yesterday I spotted one of them in the most unlikely of places—in the mulched plants at the back of the hotel where I am staying in Woburn, Massachusetts.

After a grueling eleven-hour ride from Northern Virginia, I arrived at the hotel yesterday afternoon ready to relax. Unfortunately, I was told that my room would not be ready for at least an hour. I grabbed my camera and decided to walk around the grounds of the hotel, which is adjacent to a small canal, to see what there might be to photograph.

As I was walking, I caught sight of an orange-and-black butterfly that kept landing momentarily on the low plants, never staying still long enough for me to get a good shot (I was shooting with a 100mm macro lens). I kept chasing and eventually got some shots. It has been such a  long time since I last saw a Monarch that any photo at all is a bonus, so it doesn’t bother me that these are far from being great shots.

My excitement at seeing a Monarch is tempered a bit by the fact that I did not get the right angle to conclusively exclude the possibility that this is a Viceroy butterfly. If that were to turn out to be the case, I’ll be out again chasing butterflies in search of the first Monarch of the season.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Photography seems so complicated when I worry too much about lighting, camera settings, and a myriad of other technical concerns. It’s nice sometimes to put those cares in the back of my mind and just shoot as I did yesterday—me, my camera, a bee, and a flower.

It can be that simple and that enjoyable.

bee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When you think of a gorgeous tulip, do you have to see it flowering to recall its beauty, or does a mere hint of its future shape and color suffice?

This image is different from my “normal” style of images, which tend to emphasize a kind of detailed realism. It is an almost abstract look at this flower, emphasizing shapes and colors and lines, with a minimum of details. There is an “artsy” side of me that I consider to be underdeveloped. Every now and then that tendency comes to the surface and I’ll step out of my comfortable box and try something a bit different.

tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Cindy Dyer, my mentor, is a source of constant encouragement and inspiration for me and also has a wonderful garden of photogenic flowers to photograph. I took this shot of a Snowflake flower (Leucojum aestivum) on a recent misty morning. The image is an homage to Cindy, because it is similar in style to one of her images that I really admire.

In many ways this photo is a companion to the image I posted a few days ago of raindrops on a snowdrop flower.

Snowflake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s showtime in the Washington D.C. area—the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. There is no denying their beauty, but somehow I am drawn even more to the simple beauty of modest flowers like this snowdrop (genus Galanthus) that I observed this past Friday. There was a light drizzle most of the day, which coated the unopened petals with beautiful crystal-like globes.

Simple beauty—I find it to be irresistible.

snowdrop

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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During the spring our eyes are naturally drawn to signs of new life, but somehow yesterday it was the signs of the past that caught my attention. I was fascinated by the structure of the skeletonized remains of an unknown flower, whose beauty has long ago faded into a lace-like form that reminded me of a butterfly.

Beauty and fragility—an appropriate metaphor for our lives.

skeletonized flower

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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After a long winter wait, I am finally seeing a few spring flowers blooming in the gardens in my neighborhood. So far all I see are crocuses, but it looks like the daffodils will not be far behind. The weather is still erratic—I awoke to sub-freezing temperatures yesterday morning—but it is beginning to look like spring is here at last.

I took these crocus shots in the middle of the day on a windy, sunny afternoon. In the first image, I was trying to capture some of the beauty of the sunlight coming through the petals. In the second shot, I had the lens almost wide open and the really shallow depth of field helps to give a dreamy painterly quality to the image that I really like. The two images are very different, but I think they work especially well as a set.

crocus

crocus

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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All orchids are beautiful, but I am particularly fascinated by Lady’s Slipper orchids, which are characterized by a slipper-shaped pouch. The pouch traps insects that help to fertilize the flower as they climb up and out of the pouch. According to Wikipedia, the Lady’s Slipper orchids are in the orchid subfamily Cypripedioideae, though some apparently consider them to be their own family separate from the other orchids.

I took this shot last week in Washington D.C. at the US Botanic Garden. There were several rooms full of orchids of all kinds, including multiple species of Lady’s Slipper orchids—it was almost like being in heaven.

Lady's Slipper orchid

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The weather has not been very cooperative and outdoors there are not yet many flowers blooming. Yesterday I went to the US Botanic Garden in Washington D.C. to get my “fix” of flowers in a more temperate setting. Among the many beautiful flowers that I observed was this Madeira Cranesbill geranium (Geranium maderense).

Madeira Cranesbill geranium

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I’m so desperate for the weather to warm up more and for insects to emerge that I got really excited when one of my fellow photographers spotted a small ant on one of the tendrils of a passion flower vine yesterday at the US Botanic Garden in Washington DC.

The ant seemed determined to follow the long and winding road.

winding1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of the butterflies that I observed this past weekend at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Columbus, Ohio was this spectacular Blue Morpho (Morpho peleides), a species whose normal habitat is the tropical forests of Latin America.

In the past when I have visited butterfly exhibitions, I have found it amazingly difficult to catch this butterfly with its wings open, but this one was surprisingly cooperative and posed for a moment to let me get this shot.

Blue Morpho butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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While I was in Blacklick, Ohio (just outside of Columbus) this past weekend, I had a chance to observe and photograph the beehive of the folks with whom I was staying. They offered to let me wear a beekeeper suit, but I declined and instead got up close and personal with some of the bees. In these images, a bee was licking up some syrup that had dripped down the side of the hive structure.

bee

bee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of the many highlights of my trip this past weekend to Ohio was a visit to the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Columbus, where I was able to observe butterflies and orchids in a wonderful indoor setting.

I am still going through a backlog of photos, but this gorgeous pink orchid is one of my initial favorites. It was great to have macro lens back in my hands after a winter in which it mostly stayed on the shelf.

Orchid

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The calendar says that it is not quite spring, but after the cold weather we have had recently, it sure feels like spring when the temperature reaches 60 degrees F (15.5 degrees C) on consecutive days. As I walked about in my marshland park this past Monday I noticed some small flying insects, giving me hope that dragonflies and damselflies will be on the scene soon.

As I was climbing down the stairs of the observation deck, I noticed something hanging in the air. When I bent toward it, it seemed to move farther away from me and eventually came to rest on the surface of the boardwalk. I was a little shocked to see that it was a tiny spider.

There was no way that I was going to be able to get a shot of the spider with the 150-600mm zoom lens that was on my camera, but fortunately I had my 100mm macro lens in my bag. With one eye on the spider, I rapidly changed lens. As I tried to figure out a way to get a shot, the spider started moving, which, of course, increases the challenge of getting a macro shot.

I managed to get a few shots of this early-appearing spider, which I have not yet been able to identify, before it crawled into a crack in the boards and disappeared from view. I’m pretty confident that I will get some better images of spiders as the weather continues to warm up, but this one is special, because it is the first one of the season for me, so I am more than happy with my record shots of it.

spring spiderspring spider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I can’t identify this tiny flowering plant, but it is blooming now in the garden of one of my neighbors. Despite the large mounds of snow throughout my townhouse neighborhood, I can’t help but hope and believe that spring is not far away.

flower1a_blog

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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In between rain showers yesterday, I spotted this Banded Woolly Bear caterpillar (Pyrrharctia isabella) at Huntley Meadows Park, my local marshland. Unlike this photographer, most of the wildlife seemed to be taking shelter from the rain, so I was particularly excited when I caught sight of this caterpillar as I was trudging through the wet, calf-high vegetation.

Folklore says that the width of the brown band is an indicator of the severity of the upcoming winter. I can never remember whether a narrow band means a severe winter or the opposite, but Google came to the rescue again and indicated sources that say a narrow band means a colder winter. If that’s right, we may be in for a mild winter, given the size of the broad brown area on this caterpillar. Of course, there is no real scientific basis for this folklore, but it’s probably about as reliable as the weather forecasters in this area, who are notoriously bad in predicting the weather. They claim that we live in a complicated meteorological area.

When I was photographing this caterpillar, I noticed that it had a number of water drops on its “fur” and I was happy to see that I was able to capture them. There is something magical about those little globes of water and light.

Banded Woolly Bear caterpillar

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Generally I like to photograph wildlife subjects in a natural environment. When this female Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) landed on a metal sprinkler cover, though, I couldn’t help but like the contrast between the natural subject and the industrial background.

Common Whitetail dragonfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) laugh? I was intently watching this heron recently at my local marsh when he suddenly opened his mouth. It wasn’t really a yawn, and he certainly didn’t seem bored. It was more like something had struck him as funny—it might have been me.

For some reason, the words of a really old Bee Gee song came into my head, the one that begins with the words, “I started a joke.” I went searching on You Tube for the song and came across an old video of the very young Bee Gees singing the song on the Tom Jones show in 1969. If you are of my generation, you may enjoy a trip back to the 1960’s or it may be a new discovery for some younger readers—just click on this link.

As with many songs, I don’t quite understand the somewhat enigmatic lyrics—maybe you can discover their true meaning (lyrics from azlyrics.com):

“I started a joke, which started the whole world crying,
but I didn’t see that the joke was on me, oh no.

I started to cry, which started the whole world laughing,
oh, if I’d only seen that the joke was on me.

I looked at the skies, running my hands over my eyes,
and I fell out of bed, hurting my head from things that I’d said.

Til I finally died, which started the whole world living,
oh, if I’d only seen that the joke was on me.”

Great Blue Heron laughing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Can you name the most recognized Skipper butterfly in North America?  According to Wikipedia, it’s the Silver-spotted Skipper butterfly (Epargyreus clarus), like this one that I photographed recently at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland.

I have been seeing a lot of skippers this month and many of them look so much alike that it is difficult for me to identify them  The Silver-spotted Skipper’s colors may be a little drab, but I am happy that it is easy to identify it, which makes me happy, given that there are over 3500 different species of skippers worldwide, according to a separate article in Wikipedia.

silver_blogsilver3_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sometimes, simple compositions of familiar subjects result in the best images, like this recent shot of an Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica) on a purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).

It came out just as I imagined when I was looking through the viewfinder of my camera and required a minimum amount of tweaking and no cropping.

At times, it’s not complicated.

bee_cone_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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There is something both creepy and compelling about the fearsomely-named Red-footed Cannibalfly (Promachus rufipes). I first spotted one last summer and noted in a posting that these insects, sometimes referred to as Bee Panthers, are reported to be capable of taking down a hummingbird.

I caught sight of this specimen earlier this week as I was making my way along a creek in the back area of my local marsh, searching for the equally fierce Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus). The Dragonhunter is a very large dragonfly that, as its name suggests, specializes in hunting other dragonflies (along with bees, wasps, and butterflies).

The Red-footed Cannibalfly is part of a larger group of giant robber flies of the genus Promachus, a name that in Greek means “who leads in battle,” according to Wikipedia. I am fairly confident of my identification, but would welcome any corrections from more experienced insect hunters.

Be sure to look carefully at the claws on the front legs in the image. I am sure that it’s almost impossible to escape when this predator sinks those claws into you and injects you with a toxin that paralyzes you and liquifies your insides.

As one blogger so eloquently put it, “Be thankful these insects aren’t the size of Sandhill Cranes.”

Red-footed Cannibalfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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After a considerable amount of conservation construction at my local marsh, one wooded area is now flooded. It is cool and shaded and offered me respite from the hot sun on a recent summer afternoon.  Apparently a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) had the same idea and I inadvertently flushed him from his calm repose.

In many ways, this is more of a landscape shot than a wildlife one, which is unusual for me. Normally I try to zoom in really close to the action, but at that moment I was simply enjoying the beautiful light that was coming into this scene. Besides, I had my 100mm macro lens on my camera, so zooming was not an option.

I really like the way the trees turned out in the image—it’s hard to explain why. In the foreground, you can see what I believe is some of the local beavers’ efforts. Last fall, the beavers felled a number of trees in this area and I wonder if they are the ones that stripped the bark off of part of one of the trees.

Click on the image if you want to see a higher resolution view of this shot.

takeoff_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Last week I turned 60, but I am happy to confess that I still chase butterflies with much of the exuberance (if not quite the energy) of a child. There is something really special about the delicate beauty of butterflies that draws me in and the idea of their metamorphosis inspires me.

During a recent trip to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia, I was thrilled to spot this female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus). She was feeding on an identified plant that must have been tasty, because she kept moving from spot to spot on the plant, offering me multiple opportunities to get some shots.

I especially like the fact that I was able to get the sky into some of the images, reinforcing for me the idea of butterflies flying freely and lightly through the open air. Now that’s the way to live a life.

swallowtail1_blogswallowtail2_blogswallowtail3_blogswallowtail4_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Watching insects is sometimes like watching a Cirque du Soleil production, very colorful and incredibly acrobatic, like these mating damselflies that I photographed recently at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, VA.

damsel1_mating_blog damsel2_mating_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I watched and waited as the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) watched and waited. When the crucial moment came, we both reacted and were rewarded—the heron got a fish and I got a photo. For a brief moment, each of us was satisfied.

Great Blue Heron Huntley Meadows Park

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The lighting was breathtakingly beautiful and the reflections were amazing when I caught sight of this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) late last month at my local marsh. The heron was close enough that the 100mm macro lens that i had on my camera was the perfect lens for a portrait of this beautiful bird.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I used to think that all black-and-yellow insects circling around flowers were bees, but quickly learned that many of them are flower flies (also known as hoverflies). There are a lot of different varieties of flower flies, but I think that they all belong to the Syrphidae family.

Yesterday when I was visiting Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland, I managed to capture this image of a flower fly just as it had inserted its head into a small purple flower. It’s a pretty simple composition, but I really like the way that it turned out, with a good amount of detail on the fly’s body.

hover fly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Within minutes of my arrival at a garden in Maryland, I was able to photograph my first Monarch butterfly of the summer, but was also “treated” to the sight of the fattest, hairiest fly that I have ever seen, a true case of a beauty and a beast.

Brookside Gardens is a beautiful spot for photographing flowers and insects in Wheaton, Maryland in the suburban Washington, D.C. area. In one section of the garden, there is a section specifically planted to attract butterflies and it was in that area that I saw the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) along with more numerous Eastern Swallowtail butterflies.

I didn’t see a single Monarch butterfly last summer and feared that I might not see one this summer either, because of habitat issues in Mexico and the severe winter we experienced. I was therefore thrilled when I first caught sight of a Monarch and chased after them throughout the day at the garden.

monarch1_blog

My moment of joy was interrupted when I was buzzed by a very large fly. When it landed, I was startled to see that it was really plump and really hairy. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it would be tough to consider this beast to a a beauty. I poked around the internet in an attempt to identify this fly and it appears to belong to the genus Juriniopsis, though I can’t identify a specific species.

fly1_fat_blog

I continue to be fascinated by insects and at this time of the year you can usually find me chasing after them with my trusty macro lens, giving equal time to the beauties and to the beasts.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Chasing a nymph through the woods–it may sound like I was living out some fantasy as a character in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but I was only running after a butterfly, a Common Wood Nymph (Cercyonis pegala).

As is usually the case, I had never seen this “Common” butterfly before, but the large, yellow-ringed eyespots on the forewings make it pretty distinctive and I had no trouble finding it in an on-line identification guide.

I chased after the butterfly for quite some time before it finally came to a stop and perched on a tree. I am not sure why, but the butterfly chose to perch upside down. When I processed my images, I couldn’t decided if I should flip the image 180 degrees or not. Ultimately I decided that the flipped image, which is the first one, looked more “normal.”

Which one do you think works better, the flipped image, i.e. the first one, or the one with the original perspective, i.e. the second one?

nymph1A_blognymph1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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How often do you find yourself taking a shot of a subject with the wrong lens? If you are an opportunistic wildlife shooter like I am, it happens pretty regularly.

At this time of the year, most of the time I have a macro lens on my camera and I focus a lot on insects. Earlier this week, I was attempting to photograph a dragonfly with a 100mm macro lens when I heard the squawking on an approaching bird. Thinking perhaps that it was a hawk, I raised my camera and clicked off a series of shots as the bird flew by on the other side of a small pond.

Imagine my surprise when I looked at my images and realized that the bird was actually a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). There is something really special about Bald Eagles and I am thrilled every single time I see one.

Even with a crop sensor camera, a 100mm lens is not the right lens for shooting birds in flight at a distance, especially against a background of trees. I am posting a couple of shots simply to show that it is sometimes possible to get recognizable images of cool subjects even when the conditions and equipment are not optimal.

The images are also a reminder to myself to keep shooting and not wait for the perfect conditions to come together. If I wear out the camera, I can always get another one.

eagle1_blogeagle2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Am I the only one who remembers a poster from the 1970’s featuring the slogan “Fly United” and depicting two ducks mating in mid-air?

That’s what immediately came to mind earlier this week when a pair of Great Blue Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula vibrans) flew by me at my local marsh. Anyone who has ever watched dragonflies mate knows that it is an acrobatic endeavor, requiring tremendous flexibility by both parties. Imagine trying to fly while still in the “wheel” position. Amazingly all of the wings seemed to able to move freely, though I didn’t notice if they were both using their wings for propulsion.

I was able to snap off these shots as the pair flew toward me over the water of a pond, which reflected wonderfully the blue sky and the clouds up above us.

wheel1_blogwheel2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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