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Posts Tagged ‘Canon 55-250mm zoom lens’

The police seemed very busy today in Paris. One of their boats came zooming down the Seine River so fast this morning that I thought it might come out of the water. Meanwhile a police officer on roller blades—a first for me—sped by me shortly there after, having checked some documents and/or written a ticket. (I have also seen police officers on bicycles and on horses during this trip but have not managed to get photos of them). I am waiting to see an officer on the electric scooters that are all over the city now.

I guess it is all in a busy day’s work for the police force in a city like Paris.

Police boat on the Seine

Police on roller blades

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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Although I have posted a number of “artsy” shots recently, periodically I slip into the role of a tourist to capture images of well-know Parisian landmarks. Yesterday during a few brief moments of sunshine, I photographed Sacré Cœur Basilica at the top of the hill in Montmartre.

I have taken a lot of photos of Sacré Cœur during this trip, but they have all been gray and gloomy and so I have not posted them. One other thing I noticed was that the perspective was always somewhat skewed in earlier images, because I was forced to shoot so severely upwards. Yesterday I decided to walk down several levels and shoot from “ground level” rather than from one of the upper levels that provides such a nice panoramic view of the city.

During one of my visits to Sacré Cœur earlier this trip, I went inside the basilica and took a few interior shots. The first one here shows a painting just above the central altar area. The final shot shows one of the many stained glass panels that I saw. When I am inside a church, I tend to limit my movements and adopt a reverent attitude, so I generally don’t get a lot of interior shots.

Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur Paris

Sacre Coeur Paris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I got up early yesterday morning to try to capture a sunrise here in Paris. The sunrise was pretty much a bust, but on the way to my location, I captured this image of a full moon over some shadowy Parisian roofs.

It is always tricky to take a shot of a full moon—the camera wants to overexpose the moon, leaving a glowing white circle. In order to get the moon looking right. I usually have to underexpose the image by a couple of stops, which leaves the content of the rest of the subject barely visible. I hope that you can just see the curve of the domed roof to the left of the moon and a roof with some chimney pipes just below the moon.

I was hoping to have more time to take additional photos, but as I made adjustments to my camera, the moon disappeared in the clouds and quickly dropped lower on the horizon.

moon in Paris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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I should probably be able to remember my own anniversary, but I am a guy. Therefore I was caught a bit by surprise yesterday evening when WordPress notified me that it was the fourth anniversary of the start of my blog. Where has the time gone?

Blogging has become part of my daily life since I first started. I never suspected that I would get such joy and satisfaction from exploring my creativity in words and in photos and from sharing that journey with the wonderful folks that I have encountered through the blog. Thanks to all of you for your support, encouragement, and helpful tips. I sometimes like to say that I write this blog primarily for me, but I know that is not entirely true—I write it for all of you too. My photography mentor, Cindy Dyer, deserves special thanks. She helped me to start the blog and has been a continuous source of inspiration for me.

WordPress statistics indicate that I have made 2030 postings (which includes a dozen or more repostings of  posts written by friends) and have had 110749 views from well over 100 countries. Statistics are only a relative measure of success and I know that my best postings and my best photos are not necessarily the ones that have had the most views.

Over the past four years my skill and my confidence with my camera have grown. I now consider myself a photographer, albeit not a professional. My interests have expanded and my winters are now spent chasing birds, something I never imagined that I would find interesting. My fascination with dragonflies has remained constant and I have learned a lot about them. I think it is altogether appropriate to reprise today the short text and photo from my first posting

Text of my first posting in WordPress on July 7, 2012:

I photographed this Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens this morning.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Blue Dasher

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Which of your images are unusual or distinctive enough that you genuinely feel like they are “once in a lifetime” photos?

Of course, all photos are unique captures of a subject at a particular moment. As the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus is reported to have said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice.”

Somehow, though, it seems like we could capture similar images in many cases if we returned to the same locations under similar conditions and were patient and persistent enough.

As I celebrate my two year blog anniversary this week, I’ve been doing a few retrospective re-postings of favorite posts from the earliest days and am continuing in that vein today with some photos of a North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) breaking through the ice of a beaver pond from below on a winter day early in 2013.

A lot of things had to work together perfectly for me to get these images and it’s hard to imagine that confluence of factors ever happening again for me. The photos and the accompanying prose help to document that very special moment.

Besides the uniqueness of that moment, there is something particularly enjoyable about posting icy winter photos as we continue to suffer through a seemingly endless cycle of hot, humid summer weather. I hope that you feel as refreshed as I do when viewing these images.

Complete text of original posting Breaking through the ice from below on 30 January 2013:

The beaver had disappeared from the small open water area of the ice-covered beaver pond.  Wondering if he would resurface, I stood in silent readiness with my camera still in my hand.

My eyes were focused on one area of the pond, but my ears detected a sound emanating from another location near the edge of the pond. Somehow I knew instantly what was about to happen—the beaver was about to achieve a breakthrough. The light had faded a bit and I couldn’t see well enough to focus perfectly, but I aimed at the source of the sound and got this shot of the beaver poking his head through a newly-created hole in the ice. From this perspective, it looks like the beaver is pretty small.

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As I watched, the beaver placed his front paws on the ice, which appeared to be able to support his weight, and gradually pulled his body out of the water. Naturally, the small hole became a lot bigger as his large body came increasingly into view.

breakthrough4_blogbreakthrough2_blogAfter the beaver was completely out of the water, he bent down over the opening that he had just created. Perhaps he was trying to decide if he needed to enlarge it further or was trying to free a tasty-looking stick from the ice. It almost looks to me, though, that he is peering into the water, wondering if one of his fellow beavers is going to be popping up to join him.

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The beaver did not linger long at the new location. After a few seconds on the “outside,” he dove back into the icy waters of the pond.

There are few moments in life that are truly “once-in-a-lifetime” experiences, ones that would be impossible to replicate, but I have the sense that this was one of them. So many things had to work together to make these photos happen—the timing, the location, and the ice, to name a few.

It is supposed to get up to 70 degrees (21 degrees C) today and the ice will almost certainly be gone by the time I am able to return to the marsh this weekend. Perhaps I will get to observe the beavers eating or working or playing or maybe they will remain in the lodge. In either case, I can be happy, knowing that we shared a really special moment together.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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Do your mix humor with your photography? I enjoy playing with words (and especially puns) and love looking for opportunities  to inject humor into my blog postings. One of my favorite bloggers, Lyle Krahn at Krahnpix, is a real master at mixing his incredible wildlife shots with a kindred kind of humor (or perhaps he might say “humour.)

This past Monday was my blog’s second anniversary and I am taking a brief pause from posting new photos to think about the blog and my photographic journey over the last two years. During this period I am re-posting some of my favorite postings.

The re-posting today of an encounter between a Green Heron (Butorides virescens) and a frog was one of my earliest attempts to add humor, from the title all the way down to the last line of the posting, and is one of my favorites over the past two years. Here’s a link to the original posting or you can read it in its entirety below.

Full text of blog posting on 24 July 2012 that I entitled “Not Seeing Eye to Eye”:

One can only imagine what is going through the frog’s mind as he looks into the crazed eyes of the green heron who has just speared him. Is he looking for mercy? Is he resigned to his fate?

I watched the prelude to this moment unfold this afternoon at Huntley Meadows Park, a marshland park here in Virginia. The green heron was intently scanning the water from the edge of a boardwalk that runs through the march. Periodically he would extend his neck down toward the water.

Several times we heard an excited “eeep” sound followed by a splash, indicating another frog had escaped. After a few more minutes, however, the heron dived into the water and reappeared on the boardwalk with the speared frog you see in the first photo.

When you look at the comparative size of the heron’s mouth and the frog, it hardly seems possible that the green heron could swallow the entire frog. The heron took his time shifting the position of the frog and then all at once he turned his head, bent his neck back a little, and down went the frog. It happened so quickly that I was able to snap only a single photo that shows the frog’s webbed feet as the only remaining parts that have not yet been swallowed.

In this final photo the heron no longer has a slim neck. I have no idea how long it will take for the frog to reach the heron’s stomach but I am pretty sure he was not yet there when I took this photo.

And don’t try to talk with the heron during this period. Why not? Read the caption of the last photo!

I can’t talk now. I have a frog in my throat.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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How do you decide which of your photos are your favorite ones? Do you rely on technical criteria, like sharpness, or do you rely more on the overall artistic impression? Do your memories of shooting an image factor into your calculations? Do WordPress statistics play any role in your thinking?

As I noted yesterday, my blog’s second anniversary, I am taking a brief pause from posting new photos to think about the blog and my photographic journey over the last two years. During this period, I though I would re-post some of my favorite postings. I am posting them in their entirety, because I think that my prose enhances the appeal of my blog (and I find that I enjoy the creative experience of expressing myself in my words as well as in my images).

I tend to photograph a lot of insects in the summer and birds in the winter, but some of my most memorable images come from my infrequent encounters with mammals, like this tender moment that I shared with a beaver family last summer that was visible one day during the daylight hours.

In response to my initial questions, I tend to give my greatest priority to the overall artistic impression and give little weight to WordPress statistics. Some of my best photos have relatively few views, while I have a few unexceptional images that have a lot of views.

Text of the original blog posting that first appeared on 18 July 2013:

Last Friday, after some violent thunderstorms, I visited my local marshland park, where the staff alerted me that three beavers were sleeping on a patch of dry land near their lodge, which apparently had flooded. The three North American Beavers (Castor canadensis) were all snuggled together and reminded me a little of puppies. I am working up some more images, but thought that I would give a sneak preview of coming attractions.

beaver6_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Two years ago today, my photography mentor and dear friend Cindy Dyer sat me down at her computer and told me that I was going to start a blog. We had just returned from a photo shoot at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Washington D.C. and had taken lots of shots of waterlilies, lotus flowers, and dragonflies.

Cindy is a professional photographer and web designer and I had previously looked at her blog (which currently has had over 560,000 views), but I had never really thought about starting a blog myself. Inside I had all kinds of concerns about my inadequacies as a photographer and about not being ready to share my images with an audience broader than, but Cindy was undeterred and helped me choose a theme and a banner and set up my basic page.

My first posting was short, only 14 words and included a shot of a Blue Dasher dragonfly. I have reposted it below for your convenience or you can use the link in the first sentence of this paragraph.

Today’s posting is posting number 1,224. I never imagined that I would enjoy this blog as much as I have or that I would continue so faithfully to document my journey into photography. Thanks to so many of you readers who have encouraged and supported me along the way.

I may take a pause this week to reflect on that journey and possibly re-post some of my favorites from the last two years. Don’t worry, though, I be back to posting new images before long.

My first WordPress posting on 7 July 2012:

I photographed this Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens this morning.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Like most people who live in the the Washington, D.C. area, I don’t visit monuments much unless there are visitors. One of my fellow photographers invited me to photograph the Capitol on Friday evening to satisfy the wishes of a visiting photographer.

We were quite a sight as we set up umbrellas and tripods in the rain which fell progressively harder and harder. My favorite shot is the first one, which shows the reflection of the Capitol in one of the wet, slippery stairs leading up to it.  I tried a number of long exposures, varying from about 15 to 30 seconds to get this look.

The second one is a more traditional view, but I think that the lighting was pretty cool at that time of the evening.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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When it started to rain yesterday, I pulled out my umbrella and kept shooting for a while, permitting me to get this close-up shot of a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias).

The heron was stoically enduring the rainfall, as drops of water began to bead up on its shoulders. The wind started to kick up a little too, ruffling some of the feathers on the heron’s chest. I was afraid that my white and green umbrella would spook the heron, but I was able to get pretty close to the heron to get this shot at the far end of my 55-250mm zoom lens. If you click on the photo, you can see these (and other) details in a higher resolution image.

There are many flowers blooming in my local marshland park right now and I really like the little splashes of yellow in the background of this image.

heron_closeup1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I am in awe of photographers who can capture amazing shots of birds in flight and I continue my quest to improve my own skills. So many things have to come together to get such shots including the timing, location, lighting, and focusing.

Here is one of my most recent efforts, a shot of a Great Egret (Ardea alba) in flight. The focus is a little soft, but I really like the position of the egret that I managed to capture, with a beautiful sweep of the wings.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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One of the many reasons why I love dragonflies is their amazing wings, which are so delicate and yet so powerful, like those of this male Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis). In this shot, I tried to capture some of the intricate detail of the structure of the wings of the dragonfly. They remind me a bit of the leaded glass windows that I sometimes see in old homes, with each small piece of glass outlined in black.

dragonfly_wings_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The water has gone down in some parts of my local marsh and I encountered this Green Heron (Butorides virescens) in a little tree that overlooked one of the dried out areas.

I am not sure if the heron was hunting or resting, although it looked more like the former than the latter, because he seemed to be looking from side to side. Perhaps he was searching for frogs or some other terrestrial prey.

I did not have my longest telephoto lens on my camera, but I was happy that to get some several decent shot of the little heron in a number of different poses.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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It has been a while since I featured a mammal in my blog, so I thought that I would post a photo of this little muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) that I encountered this past weekend at my local marsh. I observes muskrats there fairly often, but most of the time they are swimming away or are submerging themselves by the time my camera is ready.

This muskrat was poking about at the edge of a formerly inhabited beaver lodge when I first caught sight of him. He did not immediately perceive my presence, so I was able to creep close enough to him to get this shot using my 55-250mm zoom lens.

Unlike the beavers, which sleep during daylight hours, muskrats are active when it its light—in theory it should be easy to get a good shot of a muskrat. The reality, though, is that muskrats are small, fast, and elusive, so I have not yet been able to get many good shots of them.

muskrat1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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When I am chasing after little butterflies, it’s rare that I manage to get a shot of them with their wings open—I am lucky if I can get a side view.

This little brown butterfly, which I think is an Appalachian Brown (Satyrodes appalachia), perched in a location, however, which allowed me to shoot downward, catching its wings wide open. The muddy, brown water of the marsh normally would not be optimal for an image, but seem to work well here, almost matching the colors of the butterfly.

I also was able to get a shot from the side, the second image, showing the butterfly’s beautiful brown eyes. There was intermittent rain the day that I was shooting and you can see a few raindrops on the leaves of the plant on which the butterfly is perched.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Different flowers affect me differently—some attract me with their beauty or their fragrance or their colors. Others produce an emotional response, like sunflowers, which invariably make me feel happy.

The sunflower’s large size, bright colors, and bold graphic design appeal to me. The sunflower virtually shouts its presence to the world—there is nothing soft and delicate and hidden about a sunflower.

Like this Easter Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus), I sometimes enjoy the flowers one at a time. It was really fun, though, to visit a large field of sunflowers last month with some friends and to see row after row of these cheery flowers. I wanted to capture a group shot of the sunflowers, but I struggled to find a way to do so effectively (even though we had even brought along a little stepladder to give us a perspective from above the flowers).

In the end, my favorite shot (the second one below) focuses on a single sunflower, with other flowers a blur in the background. I used a simple 50mm lens (often called the “nifty fifty”) on my camera to make sure that I could control the aperture and throw the background out of focus.

EasternTigerSwallowtail lorez

sunflowers_blog

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It’s hard enough to identify moths and butterflies when they are fully grown—it seems almost impossible to do so when they are caterpillars, like this fuzzy white caterpillar that I encountered today at my local marshland park.

The caterpillar had so much long hair that it was hard to see the actual body, which might have been quite small for all I could tell. It was crawling around in the cattails on a day that featured intermittent rain. If you look closely at the first shot, you can see little water drops near what I think is the area of the head.

The second shot may look like it was done with flash, but the darker background was caused merely by changing the settings on my camera and deliberately overexposing the image.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As I was ending a photo shoot of sunflowers last month with some fellow photographers, one of them noticed a pretty butterfly perched on a leg of one of our tripods.

The butterfly remained on the tripod leg for a long time and appeared to be licking the leg, prompting us to speculate that there might be residual salt from sweaty hands on the leg. Of course, we all gathered around the tripod and tried to snap photos of the butterfly. Eventually the butterfly flew off to some nearby vegetation, where I got this shot of a butterfly that I have not been able to identify.

As we go ready to walk back to our vehicle, the butterfly perched on the pant leg of one of the other photographers and then on my shirt before flying away again. After stowing our gear in the trunk, we figured that we had seen the last of the butterfly.

However, as we were slowly driving away, we noticed that the butterfly was inside the car, eventually moving to the windshield, right in front of the driver. We helped the butterfly out of the car with the aid of a CD cover, but had to admire its persistence—the butterfly really seemed to want to go home with us.

SpottedButterfly lorez

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The sunflower was big enough that an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) and a bumblebee could peacefully coexist, though it looks like they had each carved out their individual spheres of influence and kept a respectful distance from each other.

coexistence_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I enjoy watching Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) fishing—they seem so patient and so focused—and observed one recently in the beaver pond at my local marsh.

I was a little surprised to see the heron at that location, because the water level in the pond has dropped as the weather has gotten hotter and some areas are even exposed. As the heron plunged his bill into the shallow water, I expected him to pull out a frog or perhaps a small fish. I was too far away to tell for sure what he had caught, but I kept shooting. When I looked at the images, it looks like he may have caught a crayfish, but I am not really sure. Do herons even eat crayfish? I took the photos in the middle of the day, so the colors are washed out a bit, but some more knowledgeable reader may still be able to tell me for sure if it is a crayfish in the heron’s mouth. (You can get a higher resolution view if you click on the image.)

GBH2_blog

The second photo was taken before the heron began fishing and gives you an idea of how shallow the water is in the beaver pond. In post processing, I made a number of tweaks to the image to try to increase the contrast and saturation of the colors and may have gone over the top a little. What do you think?

GBH1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I am finally starting to see more butterflies, like this Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) that I spotted recently in the cattails at my local marsh.

It seems like we had a slow start this year with butterflies compared with last year and I had been fearful that I would not be treated to their colorful displays that I enjoy so much. Gradually my concerns are disappearing as I see different varieties appear and I am happy that I can even identify some of them.

Sharp-eyed readers might notice that something does not look quite right with this photo. I rotated the image ninety degrees, because I found myself cocking my head when the butterfly was pointing downward.

admiral_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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What do you do when the wildlife subject that you are attempting to photograph puts itself in a man-made setting, rather than a more natural environment? That was my dilemma when a Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) landed on one of the slats of a railing surrounding part of the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park, the local marshland where I take a lot of my photographs.

As I looked down the railing at the dragonfly, my eye was attracted to the repeating pattern of the slats, and I decided to try a creative approach to an image using that pattern. I chose camera settings that would give me a relatively shallow depth of field. Then I carefully composed the shot so that some other slats would appear in the background in a blurry form, but the one on which the dragonfly perched would be in sharp focus.

Although I generally prefer a more natural setting for my wildlife subjects, I think I managed to achieve a pretty cool effect that was relatively close to what I had in mind. I especially like the detail that I was able to capture of the weathered metal slat in the foreground (click on the photo to see a higher resolution view).

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Only a tiny, lightweight dragonfly, like this Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera), could assume this pose and hold it for an extended period of time. I have watched other dragonflies land near the end of a leaf like this, but gravity forced them to quickly give up their perch.

I was able to take a lot of photos of this dragonfly and this is one of my favorites, because its abdomen is raised, its wings are spread, and its head is cocked a little to the side—a near perfect pose.

amber_grass_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I spotted this little Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea) in the cattails in the marsh at my local marshland park this past weekend and was pretty excited, because I had never before seen an adult tree frog up close.

I was amazed by its long toes with sticky pads, but it was the golden eyes that won my heart. I observed it for quite some time and managed to get some shots of it in different poses as it changed its position on the green leaves of the cattail.

Normally I think of tree frogs, I think of the ones with big red eyes that have been featured in National Geographic and other publications. It would be really cool some day to be able to photograph those tree frogs—for now I am content to explore the wildlife in my local area.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As I was photographing sunflowers this past weekend, I came across this Dogbane Beetle (Chrysochus auratus), peering over the edge of a leaf. I can not confirm if it was responsible for the hole in the leaf, but I do like the way that the hole looks in the photo.

I took this shot at the minimum focusing distance of my 55-250mm telephoto zoom (3.6 feet (1.1 m), even though it looks like it was photographed with a macro lens. Often when shooting nature shots, I’ve found it best to make do with the lens that is on the camera at that moment, rather than risk losing the shot by changing to the best lens for the situation.

Dogbane Beetle lorez

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Every time that I look at a dragonfly head-on, I can’t help but think of the biplanes of World War I, like the Sopwith Camel that Snoopy famously imagined piloting in his battles with the Red Baron.

Considering the colors of this Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami), I guess that he would have to represent the Red Baron, not Snoopy. Aerial dogfights are not without danger, and it looks like this dragonfly has survived several encounters with the enemy, with all of his wings showing some damage.

red_dragonfly_headon_blog© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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In an effort to avoid the unbearable summer heat, this past Friday I went out to my local marsh just as the sun was rising and watched as the sun slowly illuminated the flowers and vegetation and burned off the mist that lingered above the fields.

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I don’t have a lot of experience shooting landscapes, but am relatively content with the composition I chose. I am also happy that I was able to capture the orange shade of the sky and some of the mist. A lot of the details are lost in the shadows, but that was the way it looked in the limited dawn light. In case you are curious, the flowers in the foreground are a kind of hibiscus that grow in the marsh—I think they are known as Swamp Rose Mallows (Hibiscus moscheutos).

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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To conclude my mini-series on the three local beavers who were temporarily flooded out of their lodge, I am posting an extreme close-up of one of them sleeping and a shot in which I zoomed out enough to show the entire body of a sleeping beaver.

This first shot is probably my favorite of the entire series. The beaver, of course, is really cute, but the slightly open mouth gives it an extra little whimsical touch of personality.

The second shots shows one of the beavers sound asleep, curled up in a ball, leaning against a stump. At the moment of the shot, the beavers were not snuggling as much as they would do a bit later (as in the first photo). I like the way in which you can see the beaver’s feet and tail in this image.

If you missed the earlier postings on my amazing close-up encounter with the three sleeping North American Beavers (Castor canadensis), check out my earlier postings—Snuggling beaver and Restive beaver. If you want to see a higher resolution view of the images (the first one has lots of fine details), click on the photos.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I was out yesterday on a trip to photograph sunflowers, but couldn’t resist capturing images of insects that my fellow photographers and I discovered, like this beetle—probably a blister beetle—on a chicory flower.

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In many ways this image was part of an experiment for me. I was using a camera that is new to me, a used Canon 50D that I recently purchased, and this was my test run with it. The Canon 50D is several years old and is far from the bleeding edge of technology, it’s a considerable step up from my Canon Rebel XT. I also was trying to shoot macro-like photos with a telephoto zoom, because my macro lens has been acting up and is now on its way to Canon for repair. Finally, I jumped a couple of versions of Photoshop Elements and discovered today that the interface has changed considerably between versions 9 and 11, so it was interesting trying to work on this image.

Once I get the hang of my new camera and new software, I’m hoping to improve that you’ll be able to see some improvement in the quality of my images.

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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How do you capture a field of sunflowers in a single image? That was my challenge yesterday, when I visited McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Montgomery County in Maryland, where there are 48 acres of sunflowers in a total of seven fields.

I am still going through my photos from yesterday, not sure if any single image captured the feeling of the endless rows of sunflowers. I am happy, though, that I was able to capture this iconic (or perhaps cliché) image of a single sunflower isolated against the sky.

BlueSkySunflower lorez

It should have been a simple shot to take, but initially the sky was overcast and white—good for most kinds of photos, except for this kind of image. I was taking photos with some friends and we joked about having to Photoshop in the sky, but eventually the clouds broke up a little and enough blue showed in the sky that I was able to get this shot.

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How many kinds of black swallowtail butterflies can there possibly be? Until yesterday, the only black swallowtail that I had ever encountered was the black variant of the female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. (Check out my posting from last year to see the two variants of the female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, a characteristic known as dimorphism.)

Yesterday, while walking along the boardwalk at my local marshland park, I came across a black butterfly feeding on a Buttonbush. Clearly it was a swallowtail and it was equally obvious that it was not an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. I remembered that there was another black swallowtail called a Spicebush, so I figured that was what it had to be. When I checked out the photos of the Spicebush Swallowtail on-line, though, none of them seemed to match my butterfly exactly.

It was only today, when I was looking through photos with my photograph mentor, Cindy Dyer, that I realized that there was yet another black swallowtail and have concluded that the unknown butterfly is almost certainly a Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly (Battus philenor). It looks a lot like the Spicesbush, but the pattern of the orange dots are different, as pointed out in this posting by Don Lambert on the Earth Science Picture of the Day blog.

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