Posts Tagged ‘Canon Rebel XT’

Do you feel like you are progressing in photography? Have your skills improved as you have bought newer and more expensive gear? How do you know?

Periodically a notice pops up in my Facebook timeline reminding me of a posting that I made on that date in a previous year. I post at least one photo daily and I have no idea how the Facebook algorithm decides when to present me with a memory and, if so, which one to use.

This morning, Facebook reminded me of the image below of a North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) that I posted seven years ago. Wow—seven years ago is in the distant past, only six months or so after I had started to get more serious about my photography. At that time I was shooting with a Canon Rebel XT, an entry-level 8.0 megapixel DSLR, and my “long” lens was a 55-250mm zoom lens.

It is almost a cliché for photographers to state that gear does not matter, but I think that this image demonstrates that there is a truth in that cliché. I have more experience now and better gear, but I would be hard for me to take a better shot today. Nothing is more important than being there, as all wildlife photographers know well. The informal motto of the Postal Service seems to apply to us as well— “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Click on this link if you would like to see the original posting from 2013 (and judge for yourself if my style of posting has changed). For fun, I added a second beaver photo that I posted the following day, January 29, 2013—here’s a link to the original posting.

I don’t know about you, but I rarely take the opportunity to look back at my older images. Perhaps I should do some more often.




© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The content of my blog will be radically different during the next three weeks because I will be in Paris, France, not Northern Virginia. The “wild life” that I am likely to photograph in Paris will definitely not be the same as the usual (and unusual) creatures that are featured regularly in my posts.

Those of you who have followed me for a while know that in the past I have made week-long work trips to places like Vienna, Austria and Brussels, Belgium. During those trips I generally had limited periods of time to simply wander through the streets. I am now fully retired, so my upcoming trip to Paris is strictly for pleasure, not for business. I do not have a detailed itinerary beyond my airline flights and Air Bnb reservation—I am going to just follow where my feet, eyes, and nose lead me.

Paris has a special place in my heart and in my personal history. I majored in French language and literature in college and spent my junior year of college studying in Paris. During those day, when I spoke and thought and read in French, I felt a sense of liberation from my introverted, bookwormish self to the point that some of my friends noted that my personality changed perceptibly when I switched languages. How else can I explain why I was entranced by 19th century French romantic poetry?

In some ways this is a repeat of a similar trip I made in November 2011, after I ceased working full-time as a government employee. (I worked part-time as a contractor for almost eight years after that.) Both trips were intended to be journeys of discovery and re-discovery. Not long ago I qualified for Medicare, which means I am certifiably growing old, and since then I have been quite contemplative, pondering the past, present, and future and looking for those strands in my life that been consistent.

Anyways, I thought I would feature a few photos of Notre Dame that I took in November 2011. It was during that trip that I discovered the joy of shooting with my first DSLR, a Canon Rebel XT. The first two images below show the exterior of the cathedral as it was so beautifully illuminated in the evening. I took the final photo from behind the altar. It saddens me greatly to realize that after the tragic fire earlier this year, I will not be able to take similar shots of Notre Dame during this trip.

Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame de 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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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 the 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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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.


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.


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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