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Posts Tagged ‘Canon 50D’

Earlier this week I spotted this male Zabulon Skipper butterfly (Poanes zabulon) while I was exploring Occoquan Regional Park. I am not one hundred percent sure of my identification, given that there are hundreds of different species of skipper butterflies, but I am hoping that I am correct for the simple reason that I find the name “Zabulon” to be exceptionally cool. As some of you may know from the URL for my site, my middle initial is Q, which stands for Quentin, and I am irresistibly drawn to names that begin with infrequently used letters like Q, X, and Z.

In terms of the image itself, I really like the way that the warm orange tones of the butterfly stand out amidst the cooler shades of green in the foreground and in the background.

Zabulon Skipper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Are you so used to the common beauty that surrounds you every day that you no longer see it? What does it take for you to stop and take notice and maybe even pull out a camera to photograph a subject?

Almost six years ago I read a blog posting by fellow photographer Lyle Krahn that talked of a concept called “stopping power” and that posting has stuck with me to this day. Here’s a portion of that posting that describes the concept, “I think every beautiful scene has stopping power. That’s my term for the ability of a scene to make a person stop hiking or driving in order to pull out a camera and make images. Did you ever wonder what makes you stop? Do you ever hear the music?”

I try to pay attention to even the most common subjects and when it comes to dragonflies, that means the aptly named Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia). Common Whitetails are among the first dragonflies to appear in the spring and among the last to disappear in the autumn. You can find lots of Common Whitetails almost everywhere it seems.

On Tuesday at Occoquan Bay Regional Park I stopped and photographed some Common Whitetail dragonflies as I was searching for some more exotic dragonfly species. This early in the season the Common Whitetails seem to be hanging out at a distance from the water—later in the summer I tend to find them buzzing around ponds and swamps.

The first two shots below are of male Common Whitetails. Although mature males are white, when they are young they have brown bodies similar to those of females. However, males have different patterns on their wings and the second and third images show those differences and may help you to distinguish immature males from females.

So, what has “stopping power” for you? I encourage you to think about that question, to make an effort to lower your threshold, and to look for the uncommon beauty in common subjects.

Common Whitetail

Common Whitetail

Common Whitetail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I spotted this male Lancet Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphus exilis) while exploring Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, a relatively small park not far from where I live. The dragonfly was perched on some leafy vegetation overhanging the water and I almost fell into the pond while trying to frame the shot. Fortunately I achieved my desired result by hanging over the edge of the steep bank.

If you look at the end of the “tail,” which technically is called the “abdomen,” you can see the enlarged section that gives rise to the term “clubtail.” Compared to the family of skimmers, which include most of the dragonflies that you probably see, like Blue Dashers and Common Whitetails, clubtails are relatively uncommon and it is always exciting for me to spot one.

I was particularly struck by this dragonfly’s brilliant blue eyes. For some reason I find blue eyes to be especially beautiful, irrespective of the species.

Lancet Clubtail

© 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 an 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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I try to do a blog posting almost every day, but I spent this weekend unplugged from the internet at a church retreat in the mountains of Virginia, so I missed a couple of days. When I first started blogging, I was a bit compulsive about it and worried that I would lose all of my followers if I did not post every single day. Now I have a more balanced approach and realize that it is not the end of the world if the clock strikes midnight and I have not posted something new.

Today I am featuring some Brown Spiketail dragonflies (Cordulegaster bilineata) that I spotted last week while exploring Occoquan Regional Park with my fellow dragonfly enthusiast and blogger Walter Sanford. He and I returned to a location where we had spotted this species last year and were delighted to see that members of this species had emerged on schedule. Like many other species that emerge in the early spring, Brown Spiketails have a limited flight period and are found in small numbers at a limited number of locations.

Walter and I discovered that it is helpful to search for these dragonflies together. Often one of us will flush the dragonfly and the other person can observe the direction and the spot to which the dragonfly has relocated. This is really important because, as you can see from the photos, Brown Spiketails perch at an angle or hang vertically from vegetation that is often low to the ground, which makes it difficult to spot them when they are stationary.

Be sure to check out Walter’s posting today of our encounter with the Brown Spiketails. Although he and I were shooting together, we use different camera gear and approaches and our respective images give you different perspective on the same subjects. We also craft our blog postings independently and the style and content of our individual postings tends to reflect our personalities and backgrounds—I have a liberal arts background and Walter has a background in science.

Brown Spiketail

Brown Spiketail

Brown Spiketail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I hope that the title did not lead to an expectation that you would find photos of tiny deer in this posting. It may have been a stretch to use that title, but I wanted to give a hint of the fact that I captured all of these images with my macro lens. In fact, the first two images are uncropped, which gives you an idea of how close I was to the deer.

Yesterday I set off for Occoquan Regional Park to search primarily for dragonflies and butterflies. I put my Tamron 180 mm macro lens on my camera, a lens which is my go-to lens for much of the spring and summer. Now I must confess that the reach of this macro lens is a bit longer than the average macro lens, which generally has a focal length of 100 mm or so, but it certainly would not be my first choice for wildlife photography.

I was sitting on a log taking a break when I heard some nearby noise in the underbrush. I stood up, expecting to see a scurrying squirrel, and suddenly was face-to face with a White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus). For a considerable amount of time the deer eyed me with curiosity before slowly moving away. As I watched the deer depart, I noticed another deer, one with amazingly long ears. As I prepared to photograph the second deer, the first one photobombed us, resulting in the third image.

This situation reinforced to me the importance of shooting with whatever camera or lens that I happen to have at hand. It may not be the optimal option, but it can often yield surprisingly good results.

Whiite-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The sky was mostly covered in clouds yesterday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge when an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) decided to fly right at me after it had caught a fish.

I love the look of a head-on shot of a flying bird, but capturing such a shot is not easy. First, the bird has to cooperate and most of the time, it seems, birds like to fly away from me and not toward me. Secondly, I have to be able to capture and maintain focus on the bird as it is approaching, which can be a challenge with a heavy telephoto zoom lens. Finally, I have to calibrate my shooting speed so that I don’t fill up the buffer of my camera before the bird gets close.

Things worked out pretty well for this shot. If you click on the image and zoom in on it, you will see that I managed to keep those yellow eyes in reasonably sharp focus and even the beak is in focus. You don’t get a very good view of the fish—you will have to wait until I capture of profile shot of an osprey with its catch.

osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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