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Posts Tagged ‘Canon 24-105mm’

Sometimes I make up stories when I look at one of my photographs. I imagine an entire scenario and create relationships between elements in the image. Perhaps I will even attribute human emotions and intentions to inanimate objects.

That was the case with a photo that I took of two trees last Friday at Shenandoah National Park, the first image below. I described the trees in a Facebook posting with these words, “Bereft of leaves, aged, and perhaps in the process of dying, the trees seemed to be reaching out, branches touching and limbs intertwined, together forming a beautiful arch in the autumn sunlight.”

I chose to emphasize the touching branches, but what happens when you change your perspective? If you zoom in, you might get a shot like the second image below, where the trees appear to be side-by-side, but separated. Do you imagine a different scenario in your mind?

In the third image, we are looking at the same two trees from yet another angle and a third tree is now in the frame? Is the smaller tree an offspring, making this a family portrait?

As you can see, I am in a bit of a weird, whimsical mood this morning. Perhaps your mind works in a more serious and pragmatic way. Still, I wanted to demonstrate that there are multiple ways to capture a subject and I find that changing the angle of view is one of the simplest and most effective ways of doing so.

All too many of the people at the National Park would stop their cars at overlooks and take a single shot and quickly move on. You can probably guess that I tended to linger longer, seeking new perspectives and imagining new ways of seeing the scenery.

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It is still a little early for full fall foliage at Shenandoah National Park here in Virginia, but there were plenty of hints of color on Friday as I drove along parts of Skyline Drive. There were periodic moments of sunshine, but most of the time the distant mountains were shrouded in mist that caused them to gradually disappear into hazy layers of gray and blue.

Shenandoah National Park is about 75 miles (120 km) from Washington D.C. and extends along the Blue Ridge Mountains in the western part of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Skyline Drive, a relatively narrow, winding road, runs the length of the park—approximately 105 miles (170 km)—and generally follows the ridge line of the mountains. There are quite a few pull-offs that provide some amazing views.

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I never fail to be impressed by the power and the beauty of the Potomac River at Great Falls Park, which I visited this past Friday, my first visit there in quite some time. The Potomac River separates Virginia from Maryland and I took these photos from the overlook points on the Virginia side of the river where the park is located, about 15 miles upriver from our nation’s capital. According to information on the park’s website, “At Great Falls, the Potomac River builds up speed and force as it falls over a series of steep, jagged rocks and flows through the narrow Mather Gorge.”

The waters looked pretty dangerous to me and there were all kinds of signs warning people to stay out of the water and off of the rocks. Apparently, though, kayaking is permitted in certain areas. The final shot shows two tiny kayaks that I spotted as I looked downriver—you may need to click on the image to see the kayakers who are dwarfed by the immensity of the rock formations through which they were passing.

Great Falls Park

Great Falls Park

Great Falls Park

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As I was hiking about in Prince William Forest Park this week, I was thrilled to come upon this distinctive wooden bridge over the South Fork Quantico Creek in Triangle, Virginia. I have seen some historical photos of a similar looking bridge at this park, but I think that the one in those photos was of a more heavy duty construction. This wooden bridge is fairly lightweight and is definitely for pedestrian use only. In fact, the wood appears to be relatively new.

On one side of the bridge is a trail that I had been following that took me along the shore of a manmade lake. The waterfall that you see in the distance is at the extreme end of that lake. On the other side of the the bridge is a camp that is not open to public access. I crossed the bridge to take these photos and then crossed back over to continue along the trail. As you can probably tell, I took the final photo from underneath the bridge—I really liked the pattern of the floor boards of the bridge as I looked up at them.

Prince William Forest Park is the largest protected natural areas in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area with over 16,000 acres (65 square kilometers) of territory. There are more than 37 miles (60 miles) of hiking trails along streams, through the forest, and along small ridges. I enjoy hiking along these trails and in the past month have done a couple of day hikes that were each more than 10 miles (16 km) in length.

South Fork Quantico Creek Bridge

South Fork Quantico Creek Bridge

South Fork Quantico Creek Bridge

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Whenever I can, I like to give a sense of the environment in which I find a dragonfly by including natural elements in the image. For example, I really like the fern in this photo of a female Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) that I spotted last Thursday while wandering about in Prince William County.

Many of you know that I enjoy taking photos at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, a grassland and wetland habitat at the confluence of the Potomac and Occoquan Rivers where I am able to find an amazing assortment of birds, animals, and insects. This past month, however, I have been spending a lot of time in a different habitat.

I have traded the coastal plains for a hilly, forested area in Prince William County and replaced the broad river expanses with small mountain creeks and streams. Why? Many of the early spring dragonflies are found only in very specific habitats and the area that I have been exploring meets the requirements of several of those species.

It is difficult to describe these “new” areas, so I have included a couple of photos to give you a few indications of what I see and feel there. The second photo shows a relatively flat area adjacent to a stream. The forest floor is covered completely in ferns and dragonflies can sometimes be found perching in that vegetation, as you can see in the first photo.

The final photo shows one of the streams that I love to explore. Sometimes there will be dragonflies flying over the water or perching on the banks. I don’t want to give you the false impression, though, that there are lots of dragonflies here. My sightings are infrequent, but it is easy for me to spend hours on end in places like this—any photos that I manage to take are a bonus.

Last Saturday, for example, I explored for little over six hours and covered 10.8 miles (17 km) on a day when I knew the weather was too cool and cloudy to find many dragonflies. Yeah, I am a bit of a fanatic sometimes.

Painted Skimmer

forest ferns

creek

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I am always attracted to the beautiful forms of a fiddlehead as it gradually unfurls from a tightly coiled spiral into a full-fledged fern frond. I have no idea if the process takes days or weeks, but but it was amazing to see the various stages of development of the fiddleheads that I have spotted during recent forays into a forest in Prince William County, Virginia.

The first two photos make it pretty obvious that the fiddlehead resembles the curled ornamentation (technically called a “scroll”) on the end of a stringed instrument, such as a violin that are traditionally carved in the shape of a volute (a rolled-up spiral). As I was poking about on the internet, I also learned that the fiddlehead stage of a fern is sometimes known as a crozier, the term used for the hooked staff carried by a bishop as a symbol of pastoral office.

 

fiddlehead

fiddlehead

fiddlehead

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last week I came across this carefully-balanced stack of rocks in a stream at Prince William Forest Park. These rock stacks are often called cairns, a word that comes from the Gaelic for “heap of stones” and can be quite beautiful. However, they can cause serious damage to the delicate river ecosystems and are illegal in most national parks—one of the fundamental policies of the National Park Service is to preserve natural resources in an unaltered state.

The Friends of the Smokies website offered these alternative recommendations for visitors who felt a desire to build a cairn in a posting entitled Don’t Move Rocks.

“If you feel so moved by the natural serenity around you, try a silent prayer.

If you feel the extreme urge to balance things, try balancing a drink can on your head (because apparently there’s a world record for everything).

And if you just want to see a stacks of things, hit up IHOP (International House of Pancakes) on the way home.”

cairn

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It is early Sunday morning, almost two hours before sunrise, still dark and silent outdoors. What shall I post? Some bloggers prepare their postings well in advance, but I tend to select photos and decide on an approach only when I am ready to begin composing the actual posting. I do keep a mental catalogue of candidate images that I have shot recently, but my final selection is frequently influenced by my mood and feelings.

This morning I am thinking of color and composition, a consequence perhaps of my recent efforts with watercolor. As many of you know, watercolor painting often forces you to mix your own colors, a critical factor if you want to create a mood or match something in real life. So, for example, to paint the flesh of a watermelon recently, I had to combine two different shades of red and to paint some gray stormy clouds, I had to mix a blue and a reddish brown.

I was thinking of colors when I spotted these beautiful daylilies on Thursday in the garden of my friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer. I was struck by the deep red of the flowers and the yellow-tipped stamens that reminded me of flickering matches. I also really liked the triangular arrangement of the three flowers that presented itself. It is so much harder to compose an image with multiple subjects than one with a single subject, which is why you will rarely see me photograph groups of anything.

I hope that you enjoyed this little burst of color as you start (or continue) your Sunday activities. Have a blessed day and be sure to keep an eye out for the wonderful colors in your life.

daylilies

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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A little over a month ago I did a posting entitled ‘Flower wall’ that featured a hanging panel of flowers and plants on the interior portion of the fence that encloses the back yard of my friend Cindy Dyer. At that time the plants were just getting established and one of my viewers asked me to do a follow-up post when they all fill in.

As I went into Cindy’s backyard garden this morning to take an update photo of the hanging garden, I decided to try to capture the atmosphere that she has created in this small space. We live in a townhouse community and each of us has a tiny space behind our houses that is enclosed with a privacy fence. Cindy lives in an end unit (as do I) and her yard is slightly larger than the inner units, with a neighbor on only one side.

The first image shows the current state of the hanging garden. Some of the plants have grown more quickly than others, giving the wall a slightly wild look that I really like. I deliberately framed this shot wider than necessary to show you part of the rest of the garden that Cindy has decorated with statues, figurines, and all kinds of plants and flowers. It feels like a secret refuge, a world apart from one of the main streets in our neighborhood that is barely visible through the slats of the fence.

The second image shows a portion of the fence that separates her yard from that of her neighbor. Here she has created an almost meditative space featuring a wall hanging and a spectacular bird bath that rises up out of a bed of hostas. If you click on the image and examine the details, you will see that Cindy had decorated the blue grid with dozens of colorful dragonflies.

As you can readily see from these two images, Cindy is amazingly creative and is an incredible gardener and designer. You might have thought that I was a little over the top in yesterday’s blog anniversary posting in which I expressed my admiration and gratitude for all that she does to inspire me—here is visual evidence of why those words were well-deserved.

cindy's garden

cindy's garden

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A few days ago I made a trip to the National Zoo in Washington D.C. and one of my highlights was visiting the massive Amazonia exhibit. While walking through the indoor rain forest, I could hear activity high in the trees and caught sight of some brightly colored small bird. I think there are also several varieties of monkeys that I did not spot and all kinds of amphibians and fish.

I was shocked and thrilled when a Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) flew over and perched a few feet away from me when I was observing an exotic duck. I had previously marveled at the photos of Roseate Spoonbills posted by photographers in Florida and other southern US states, but had never seen one before. The spoonbill seemed to be a bit curious about my presence and willingly posed for me.

It was nice that the Roseate Spoonbill was so cooperative, because I had only a single lens with me, a Canon 24-105mm zoom lens. Initially I was worried that most subjects would be too far away for me to capture with the modest telephoto reach of the lens, but it proved to be perfect when taking portraits of the spoonbill who was less than three feet (one meter) away from me.

My wonderful experience with this beautiful bird increases my desire to see a spoonbill in the wild. I really enjoy visiting zoos, particularly ones like the National Zoo that, I believe, make special efforts to care for the animals. The zoo gives me a chance to observe animal behavior, including animals that I am not likely to see in the wild, but it can never be a replacement for the overall experience of observing animals, birds, and other wondrous creatures in their natural environment.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What does the world look like when viewed through the eyes of a young child? I imagine that it is just as magical as the colorful soap bubbles that six year old Isaac had me chasing this past weekend at a church retreat at Shrine Mont in Orkney Springs, VA. For a few carefree moments, I felt like a child again and was able to experience a sense of joy and freedom.

Sometimes I think we make our lives too complicated and buy into the notion that happiness comes through the acquisition of more “stuff.” This experience reminded me of the value of simple, childlike pleasures.

magical bubble

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How long a lens do you need to photograph birds? Conventional wisdom dictates that you need a lens with a focal length of at least 300mm and ideally much longer than that. I generally use my Tamron 150-600mm lens when I anticipate shooting birds, especially small ones. If I want to get even closer, the zoom lens of my Canon SX50 has a field of view equivalent to 1200mm.

On Friday, I traveled into Washington D.C. to visit some friends using the Metro subway. I planned to walk a lot and I didn’t want to weigh myself down with all kinds of gear, so I put a 24-105mm lens on my DSLR. For those of you who are not technically oriented, this lens goes from mildly wide angle to mildly telephoto.

The camera and lens combination is less than ideal for photographing birds. I couldn’t help myself, however, when I spotted some birds in an urban park and decided to attempt to get some shots. My first attempt was with a Carolina Wren and it was a disaster—it was small and fast and so skittish that I could not get a decent shot.

Then I spied a Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) perched on a bush in the distance. I took some initial shots and then slowly began to move forward. Eventually I was able to get to within about three feet (one meter) of the mockingbird and captured this image.

This incident served as a reminder not to limit myself to following conventional wisdom. It is definitely possible to take a good bird photo without a long telephoto lens. Why not take landscape photos with a long telephoto lens instead of a wide angle lens?

No matter what lens I have on my camera (or what camera I am using), I try to keep my eyes open for possible subjects. I will then try to capture those subjects as well as I can within whatever equipment I happen to have with me. It turns out that gear is often not the most critical element in making good images—simply being there is half the battle.

Northern Mockingbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I look out my window today, piles of snow from the snowstorm earlier this week remind me that winter is not yet over. I discovered, however, that some plants are already in bloom (or almost in bloom) yesterday during a visit to Dumbarton Oaks, a historic museum, research center, and garden in Washington DC.

I am definitely not an expert when it comes to flowers, but if I had to guess, I’d say that the flower in the first image is a crocus, those in the second image are snowdrops, and those in the final image are forsythias. Even in I am incorrect in my identification, it was a real joy to see some colors and signs of life after so many long gray days this winter.

I can’t wait for spring to arrive.

crocus

snowdrops

forsythia

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Last weekend I again visited the bird banding station at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and was thrilled to see the friendly folks there process a pair of Golden-crowned Kinglets (Regulus satrapa), which are among the smallest birds in our area. Bands come in all different sizes and kinglets require the absolutely smallest-sized bands.

Here are some shots of the encounter including the initial processing of the bird; the actual banding of the bird (note its tiny legs); examination of the feathers of the bird; and the moment before the release of one of the little birds by a young visitor.

I love the fact that I was able to get so much closer to the bird and see so many wonderful details about its feathers and coloration than I would ever be able to do in the wild. As the old saying goes, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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What was the first thing that you saw when you opened your eyes on Christmas Day? For me, it was the beautiful brown eyes of Freckles, the little Cocker Spaniel that is staying with me over the Christmas weekend while her owners are visiting family. Freckles lived in my house for over a year in the past, so she is totally comfortable with me and with my rabbit.

Freckles is amazingly photogenic—here are some shots of her from the last few days that highlight her soulful eyes.

Freckles

Freckles

Freckles

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

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When you are confronted with a field of sunflowers, what’s the best way to photograph them? That was my challenge this past weekend at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Poolesville, Maryland. Before I arrived, I though I would get a wide-angle view, filled with the bright yellows of the tall sunflowers. The reality was a little underwhelming, because the sunflowers had not grown very tall this year and many of them were past their prime.

So instead of going wide, I decided to move in closer and try to capture some of the details of the sunflowers. Here are a few images of single sunflowers in different stages of development. Some of the images are a little abstract and hopefully challenge readers to think beyond the normal shapes and colors that they associate with sunflowers.

 

sunflower

sunflower

sunflower

sunflower

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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In the first sunflower field that we visited yesterday morning at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area, many of the sunflowers were drooping because of the weight of their seeds. They may not have been very photogenic, but the birds and butterflies seemed to love them, like this Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea) and this Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) that I spotted among the sunflowers.

Several photographer friends and I made the trip to the sunflower fields in Poolesville, Maryland, hoping to see endless rows of tall sunflowers. According to its website, McKee-Beshers has 30 acres of sunflowers planted in nine different fields. I think that the sunflowers may have been a little past their prime and appeared to be a little stunted in size, compared to some past years.

It was tricky to figure out what kind of gear to bring on a trek like this. I ended up using my super zoom Canon SX50 to photograph the Indigo Bunting, which was a first sighting for me of this beautiful bird, and my Canon 24-105mm lens on my normal Canon 50D DSLR for the butterfly. I had both of the cameras with me at all times, which gave me a pretty good amount of flexibility. I’ve seen some photographers walk around with two DSLR bodies, but that seems like a lot of weight to carry around, especially when you are moving through vegetation as I was doing as I waded through the rows of sunflowers.

I did take shot shots of the sunflowers  and I’ll post some of them eventually. Folks who know me, though, are probably not surprised that my first instinct was to post images of birds and butterflies, rather than ones of the flowers alone.

Indigo Bunting

Monarch butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Last weekend when I was staying outside of Roanoke for a wedding, I had the chance to walk a few miles of the Appalachian Trail. It was pretty awesome—now I have only about 2178 more miles to go to complete it.

Like most people, I had heard about the Appalachian Trail, but didn’t know much about it. Somehow I imagined that it was about as wide as a jeep and relatively smooth. My brief hike on the trail dispelled those notions. The trail is narrow, muddy, and steep, at least in those parts where I was walking.

I encountered the trail in Troutville, Virginia, a small town that is designated as an Appalachian Trail Community, where hikers can resupply along the way. Troutville marks a point on the trail where thru-hikers, those trying to complete the entire trail in a single year, will have completed about a third of the trail, assuming they started in Georgia.

It’s pretty exciting to think about hiking a 2200 mile trail, but it requires a lot of planning, training, and commitment. Generally thru-hikers spent five to seven months hiking on the trail, and quite a few people drop out along the way for many different reasons.

Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail

As I climbed a hill and came to a meadow, I noticed this small tent. Apparently a hiker decided this was a good spot to spend the night. You can see part of the trail, which is marked with white “blazes,” like the one on the wooden post.

Appalachian Trail
This was the scenic view from the top of one of several hills that I climbed during my short stint on the trail.
Appalachian Trail
 © Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It is already June, but today I thought I would post an image of a striking May flower that I photographed late last month. Some of you know that I don’t have my own garden, though I am trying to grow some flowers in my yard this year. I generally have to rely on the garden of one of my neighbors, my photography mentor Cindy Dyer, for beautiful flowers to shoot.

I stopped by her house on the day when her first red day lily opened up. More of them are blooming now, but there is always something special about the first one. I love the rich red color of this particular variety of lily.  When I was growing up in Massachusetts. my Mom had some orange tiger lilies that appeared each year that she especially loved. This lily, of course, is a different color, but somehow it brought back memories of my departed Mom.

 

lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

 

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Most of us have probably tried to frame a shot by using an archway, foliage, or other natural or man-made object to draw the attention of our viewers to our main subject. Yesterday I decided to try something a little more elaborate  during a visit to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia.

The Korean Bell Pavilion at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna,VA is an amazing structure. It was made by hand using traditional methods and houses an enormous bell. How could I highlight its beauty? I started off by taking some conventional shots of the structure and they were ok, but probably the same as hundreds of other visitors have taken.

Korean Bell Pavilion

As I was exploring some of the other buildings in the Korean Bell Garden, I noticed some beautiful carved wooden openings that faced the bell pavilion. By half-kneeling and half-standing, I realized that I could frame a view of the pavilion through the opening.

Korean Bell Pavilion

I liked the shots that I was getting, but the “frame” seemed to be a bit too dark, so I decided to see what would happen if I used my pop-up flash. As I expected, the flash helped to reveal some of the beautiful grain and color of the wood without affecting the rest of the image.

Korean Bell Pavilion

As I stood up, I saw another wooden opening and tried a similar approach, resulting is a panoramic-style shot.

Korean Bell Pavilion

Of course, it is always possible to add a frame to a shot after it has been taken, but for me it’s a lot more fun to try to frame the image while I am taking it. At a minimum, it’s worth the extra effort to try to find new angles and perspectives for a shot.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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Best wishes for a blessed and happy Easter to all who are celebrating this day. Earlier this morning I went to an outdoor sunrise service at my church at 6:30 a.m. and I am not getting ready for our normal morning service in a couple of hours. Easter is a bit later this year than in some years in the past and it was already light and pleasantly warm when we began our service—in past years we were often bundled up and needed flashlights to read the programs.

I chose two images to celebrate Easter. The first is a macro shot of a flower from a recent trip to Green Spring Gardens and it speaks to me of the growth and renewal of this season. The second is a shot of my PR (Prime Rib), my very own Easter bunny, who greets me each morning.

Happy Easter to all of you.

Easter

Prime Rib

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Whenever I walk the two year old German Shepherd who belongs to my son and daughter-in-law,  one of the highlights for Katie is stopping by my house so that she can visit with Prime Rib (PR), my adopted rabbit.

The two of them seem to enjoy staring at each other and sniffing. Katie has never displayed any hostility towards PR and PR is not intimidated by her presence and often just ignores her.

It was an interesting challenge trying to get this shot using available light. Katie kept moving and PR often stayed in a position in which his eyes were not visible. Beautiful morning light was coming in from the right through the sliding glass doors, but it was not exactly where I would have liked it. I ended up using my Canon 24-105mm lens, a lens that I don’t use that often. I particularly like the way that I was able capture Katie’s intense focus and utter fascination with the little rabbit.

PR and Katie

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I couldn’t help but do a double take when I saw this sign at Fort Benning, Georgia. I was filled with visions of dogs on automatic conveyor belts being sprayed with soap and slapped with moving towels. Was hot wax an option for dogs?

I did a little checking and learned that the dog wash is a separate facility adjacent to the car wash. It is the first of its kind on a US military installation and includes a coin-operated, do-it-yourself, climate-controlled booth that offers washing, drying and flea and tick bathing options. The booth is then automatically sterilized after each use.

dog wash

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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From a distance, it looks almost like they are drilling for oil in the center of Fort Benning, Georgia. Those towers, however, are not oil derricks, but are used for training soldiers who will become airborne-qualified. There are a series of towers of varying heights and as soldiers master their equipment and techniques, they are literally taken to greater heights.

In 1980 I was at Fort Benning for US Army Officer Candidate School (OCS), and I remember running on a track around those towers. During my Army career, I did not go through airborne training and I am happy to say that I have a perfect record—I have landed safely aboard every aircraft on which I have taken off.

I am currently at Fort Benning to celebrate my son’s graduation from OCS. Yesterday I had a chance to walk around the field on which the towers are located and to capture a variety of shots. Here are some of my favorites.

jump towers

jump tower

tower3_blog

jump tower

jump tower

jump tower

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How do you find comfort when you are feeling agitated and anxious? I can always turn to religion or to nature or to my photography, but early this morning I realized how comforting it was to have Freckles, a small Cocker Spaniel, leaning into my leg as I sat on the couch reading the Washington Post. Her slow, steady breathing and the warmth of her body helped to counteract my rising emotions as I read the accounts and editorials about President Trump’s first full day in office.

Freckles is staying with me while her owners are out of town and she is really comfortable in my townhouse, which is not too surprising, given that she lived here for over a year before she moved to an apartment in Washington DC.  For her, a trip to the Virginia suburbs is like a vacation in the country, and she particularly likes to play around in the fallen pine needles of my small back yard.

Generally she is in constant motion, sniffing every square inch of the yard, but yesterday I got her to sit still for a moment so that I could take some shots of her. Here are a few of my favorites from our impromptu portrait session.

Freckles

Freckles

Freckles

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Periodically I will arrive at Huntley Meadows Park early in the morning, hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the local beavers, but I haven’t seen one in quite some time. It’s very obvious, though, that North American beavers (Castor canadensis) are present and active, because their lodge, built in part on the boardwalk, keeps getting bigger every time that I see it.

Gradually the beavers are taking over more and more of a bench on the boardwalk. I noticed this morning, when I took this photo, that there is barely room now to sit down on the end of the bench. In the past, park employees have had to remove some mud when the lodge extended too far across the boardwalk and it looks like that has been the case this  year too.

I’m fully expecting to see one of these days that the bench has been totally engulfed by the beavers and incorporated into their architectural plans. At that moment I will know for certain that the beavers have taken over.

beaver lodge

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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During my trip to Maine at the end of October, I visited the pier at Old Orchard Beach. The pier is crawling with tourists during the summer, but was pretty much deserted this late in the year.

According to information on the pier’s websitethe original pier first opened to the public on July 2, 1898, offering entertainment of all types, including concerts, dancing, lectures, and a casino located at the very end of the pier. Since that time it has been destroyed by fires and storms and rebuilt multiple times.

I remember visiting the pier as a child when my family vacationed in the area. At that time the pier had a carnival-style atmosphere with games to play and lots of junk food, like french fries and saltwater taffy.

Over the past decade or two. an increasing number of condominiums have been built. Many of the arcades and amusement park rides have disappeared.

Fortunately I still managed to find a stand open nearby so that I could indulge in some fried dough, one of the local specialties that consists of a huge ball of dough, flattened and deep-fried and then doused in melted butter and powdered  sugar and cinnamon.

pier at Old Orchard Beach

pier at Old Orchard Beach

pier at Old Orchard Beach

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was really cool (and only slightly disconcerting) to look up and see a hairy orangutan crossing almost directly overhead on a pair of ropes while I was visiting the National Zoo on Monday.

A series of ropes and towers connects the Great Ape House with another building called the Think Tank. The orangutans can move freely back and forth between the buildings at certain times of the day. Their overhead transit system crosses one of the major roads in the zoo and there are no nets or any other obstructions between visitors and the orangutans.

As you can see from one of the images, there is some kind of system on the towers that keeps the orangutans from climbing down one of the intermediate towers. I was amazed at how effortlessly the orangutan moved and never really worried that it might lose its grip and fall into my arms.

orangutan at National Zoo

orangutan at National Zoo

Orangutan at National Zoo

Orangutan at National Zoo

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The National Zoo in Washington D.C. is a wonderful place to explore and has the added bonus of having no admission fee. On Monday I wandered around the zoo for several hours, visiting some of my favorite animals and taking a lot of photos.

Here are some of my initial favorite images: a lioness, a cheetah, a beaver, and an elephant.

lioness at National Zoo

cheetah at National Zoo

beaver at National Zoo

elephant at National Zoo

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Is it distracting to have a man-made object in an otherwise natural landscape? The ocean really inspired me during my recent short trip to Maine. I am amazed at the number of beautiful images that I was able to capture. I particularly like the colors and simple composition of a shot I took of a small river that rises and falls with the tide.

As I was working on the image, I noticed that there was a solitary warning sign in the upper left-hand corner that alerts folks to the dangers of the tides. I actually like the juxtaposition of this hard vertical line with the gentle curves of the image and the hazy coastline in the background. I began to wonder, however, if others would see the sign as a discordant element in the image, so I created a second version of the image without the sign.

Which image do you prefer, the one with the sign or the one without it?

Old Orchard Beach

O;d Orchard Beach

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of my favorite places in Ocean Park, Maine is a small covered bridge that leads into a grove of beautiful trees. The bride crosses a stream and is barely wide enough for two people to walk through side-by-side. It was dedicated in 1944 as a war memorial.

Ocean Park is a special place for my family. My parents went on their honeymoon there and eventually retired to the small community. Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I was recently in Maine. Unfortunately it was not for pleasure, but was in connection with what proved to be a fatal heart attack for one of my younger brothers.

The final image of these three is my favorite, because it serves as a kind of visual metaphor for me of the passing of my brother Patrick.

covered bridge

covered bridge

covered bridge

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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