Posts Tagged ‘canon 18-55mm lens’

We had crazy weather yesterday, with two big rainstorms, intermittent blue skies, and  thunder and lightning. The biggest surprise for me, though, was a hailstorm that dropped a coating of pea-sized hailstones everywhere.

There was such an accumulation of hail that in the first photo it looks almost like snow had fallen on the outdoor seating of the cafe. When I arrived at my apartment, however, I examined the small table on the balcony of “my” apartment up close and could see the individual, spherical hailstones. Wow!

I carefully tried to avoid the patches of hailstorms when walking after I nearly fell—hailstones on cobblestones are a treacherous mix.

Hail to Paris

Hail to Paris


Hail to Paris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Three years ago on Armistice Day, the top portion of the Eiffel Tower was hidden in the fog, giving this familiar landmark a feeling of mystery. I really liked the look and got shots of it from both sides of the Seine River

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On this date three years ago, I was in Paris and I was struck by the degree to which the French celebrate Armistice Day (Armistice de la Première Guerre mondiale). There were flags all along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and a huge flag was hanging inside the Arc de Triomphe. It was a cold foggy day, which somehow felt appropriate for a solemn day of remembrance.

I too was celebrating and remembering, though in a personal way. I was in the midst of a two week trip to Paris, commemorating the end of almost thirty-four years of working full-time for the government, including twenty years in the US Army. I was on a journey of discovery, though in many ways it was a journey of rediscovery. Although I already owned a Canon Rebel XT DSLR, I had rarely used it, but somehow I decided to take photos every day that I was in Paris and to post ten of them every day in my Facebook account. That experience rekindled my love for photography and I started taking photos regularly, which led to this photography-oriented blog.

When I was in college, I majored in French language and literature and spent a year studying in Paris. Several of my friends noticed that my personality and even the tonality of my voice changed when I was speaking in French. At that time I was quiet and introverted, but when I switched languages, I somehow felt freer to express my emotions and grew to love 19th century romantic poetry, for example. Over the years, my personality has shifted and I have become more like that original French personna.

I sense that a similar process is taking place with photography, as my senses become much more attuned to the natural world and I am experiencing life in a deeper, more self-aware way. I am thankful to Leanne Cole, a delightful Australian photographer, who started me thinking along these lines when she asked me the simple question of why I take photographs as part of an interview that she did in a posting introducing me.

As you celebrate and remember on this day, no matter if you call it Veterans Day, Armistice Day, or simply 11 November, take a moment and ponder this personal question, “Why do you take photographs?”

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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During the last few months I have tried to get more serious about expressing myself in photos. I started out by photographing small things like insects and flowers and eventually got a macro lens. More recently I have been taking photos of larger things, like turtles, frogs, and wading birds. Yesterday I decided to try a landscape picture, without really knowing how to do it.

I’ve read enough to know that I wanted maximum depth of field and saturated colors. So I set my camera up on my tripod with these settings, f22, 1/50 sec, ISO 100, and 21mm on my 18-55mm zoom lens. I also used exposure compensation to underexpose by one f stop, figuring that reflections off the water might cause the image to be overexposed.

My subject was Cameron Run, a stream that runs into the Potomac River. There are concrete slabs at intervals that run across the stream, presumably to help the water flow as it moves downstream. I was standing on one of them with my camera on my tripod when I took this shot, looking east toward Old Town Alexandria, VA.

I’m pretty happy with the result. What you see if pretty much what came out of the camera—I am not sure what adjustments I should do in Photoshop. Perhaps I’ll try more like this, especially if I travel outside of the suburban area where I do most of my shooting.

Cameron Run looking east toward Old Town Alexandria, VA

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you ever get in the mood for a single color? This evening I am in an orange mood. (As a disclaimer I should mention that I drive an orange car, so orange plays a larger role in my daily life than it probably does for most others.) To scratch that itch, I decided to post some photos from late May of an orange poppy and some of the insects that visited it.

May was the month when I first started getting more serious about photography and these photos were an early indication to me that I was improving. I still enjoy looking at them, remembering some of the early twists and turns of the photography journey on which I have embarked.

As I think back, I feel like I was just learning to walk. Now I can walk with much greater confidence. I look forward to being able to run.

Visiting bee

Visiting hoverfly (flower fly)

Visiting ant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This evening after work I returned to the site of yesterday’s adventures with the creature that I think is a bagworm caterpillar. Despite some heavy rain last night his sticks-and-silk abode was intact. I stood and waited, wondering if he would reappear.

After just a few minutes of waiting I watched as the bag started to shake and the caterpillar began to emerge from the bag. Unlike last night when he seemed a little coy, tonight he seemed to have shed all inhibitions (or was really hungry).

He rather quickly extended himself more than halfway out of the bag and began to chew on the lavender blossoms. That answered one of my questions from my last posting about whether lavender was a suitable host plant for a bag worm.

I managed to shoot him from a number of different angles to show some details of the caterpillar and the opening in the bag. I think that a couple of my shots captured the texture of the bag. My shooting time was really limited because after his brief snack the caterpillar returned to the comfortable confines of his sleeping bag.

I am sure that I will move on to other subjects eventually, but for the moment I remain utterly fascinated with my creature on the lavender plant. We are developing a relationship but I have not given him a pet name, at least not yet.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s pretty cool to photograph big, gaudy butterflies but today I photographed the smallest butterfly I’ve ever seen. I was shooting photos with my mentor Cindy D. and her husband when Cindy spotted this little guy. He seemed too small to make a good photo and they needed to leave.

Undeterred I lay on my stomach and got as close as my lens would permit me (I did not have time to switch to my macro lens and had to make do with the 18-55mm kit lens that happened to be on the camera). To give you an idea of his size, note that he is perched on a single clover flower.

I’m pretty happy with the result and hope eventually to figure out what kind of butterfly he is. For now, though, I am content to have gotten this shot.


Tiny butterfly on a clover flower

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of my earlier post identified my obsession with the red milkweed beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus). As I hang around the milkweed plants, it’s hard not to notice another really colorful creature, especially because this seems to be its prime mating season. After a little research I’ve started to become better acquainted with the large milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus). Wikipedia provided me with some good information to start and BugGuide added some additional details. I am still getting used to shooting with my macro lens so I apologize in advance that not all of the photos are super sharp. I think they help, though, in explaining some of the traits of these fascinating bugs.

It has been relatively easy to get shots of the mating milkweed bugs and my research identified why. Milkweed bugs while mating can remain connected for up to 10 hours, according to Wikipedia. Yikes! I guess those television commercials about seeing your doctor after four hours don’t apply to these bugs.

What happens after mating? An article from the Life Sciences Depart at the University of Illinois at Urbana noted that a female lays about 30 eggs a day and 2,000 during her lifetime. Egg-laying begins 1 to 15 days after mating and peaks at about 20 days.

A few days ago I came across this group of milkweed bugs. The photo is technically lacking (it was hard to get the needed depth of field) but it gives you an idea of what the large milkweed bug looks like in various stages of development. As a “true” bug, milkweed bugs undergo incomplete metamorphosis. They go through a series of nymph stages, known as instars. For the large milkweed bug there are five instars. Buzzle has an article that explains the bug’s life cycle.

At each stage the bug is covered by an inflexible exoskeleton that constrains its growth. Periodically he bursts out of the exoskeleton and can grow to twice his size in minutes as the new exoskeleton develops and hardens, according to the Buzzle article. Here’s a shot of a bug in one of the earlier nymph stages.

As the milkweed bugs get older the wing pads increase in size in each molt. In the next three photos the wing pads are visible but not yet really prominent.

The wings on this nymph are much more prominent, leading me to think he might almost be an adult. The Buzzle article noted that the entire process of metamorphosis, from egg to adult takes 4-8 weeks, depending on the temperature of the habitat.

Once the large milkweed bug has become and adult (as shown in the last couple of photos) mating begins 5 to 12 days after the last molt for females and two to three days for males, according to the University of Illinois article. And the circle of life continues.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you find yourself being drawn back inexorably to photographing the same subjects over and over again?

Last month my friend and mentor Cindy D. “outed” me in a wonderful posting on her blog. She confessed that “we’ve become a little obsessed with photographing Red milkweed beetles (Tetraopes tetraophthalmus).” (She also published some interesting facts about the beetles in another blog posting.) She’s right, of course, in her assessment of me, but I might quibble with her on one point. Is it possible to be only a “little” obsessed?

What are the symptoms of my obsession? After work today, in between thunder and rain storms, I rushed to Green Spring Gardens to take some photos. I shot a few flowers but I couldn’t resist the pull of the milkweed plants. I know exactly  where they are located in the gardens and I know if I look hard enough on the milkweed plants I will find the cute little beetles.

By the time I found my beloved beetles the light was starting to fade. How bad was the light? Despite shooting at ISO 800, I needed exposures around 1/5 of a second at F11. Fortunately the beetles were willing to pose and I had my tripod with me. I managed to get a few nice shots with beautiful color saturation in the late day, overcast light. Here is one photo (out of many) of the object of my obsession—a red milkweed beetle.

Is there a twelve-step program for people with this problem?

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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