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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.

 

beaver

beaver

© 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.

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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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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

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© 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.

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© 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).

railing_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Last week, I stalked this little insect in my neighbors’ garden, trying hard to get a decent image of it with my 100mm macro lens. When it paused at the end of a leaf, I was able to get this shot, capturing some of the details of its body, which looks like a miniature dinosaur to me. Click on the photo to see some more details of the skin/shell of this little creature.

Normally I try to identify an insect before I post its photo, but in this case I am having trouble figuring out what it is. Perhaps one of my readers can help in identifying it.

Life_on_edge_blog

© 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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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.

marsh_dawn_blog

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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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.

pipevine1_blogpipevine2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Although I enjoy chasing after large, colorful insects, I also will try to get shots of the smaller ones too, like this tiny butterfly that I think is a Least Skipper (Ancyloxypha numitor). Somehow this little butterfly struck me as having an attitude—maybe it’s because it looks like he is wearing a pair of Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses, like an insect Tom Cruise.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Have you ever watched an animal sleep? I used to watch my dog sleep. He slept soundly, but sometimes a sound or a smell or a dream would wake him up. He would look around a little to reassure himself that all was well and then would put down his head and go back to sleep.

Yesterday, I did a posting on a trio of North American beavers (Castor canadensis) that had been temporarily flooded out of their lodge and were sleeping on dry land a short distance from their home. The general response to the photo in that posting was that the beaver seemed peaceful and content (and cute!) when sleeping.

Today, I am posting a few photos of the occasions when one of the beavers woke up and looked around, much like my dog used to do.  This is actually not the same beaver that was featured yesterday, although part of this beaver was visible in the photo yesterday. This beaver was the one on which the other beaver was leaning as it snuggled.

The first photo shows a pretty alert beaver, leaning on a stump around which the beavers were sleeping. I like the details that you can see of the fur and of the front paw. I was on a boardwalk at my local marshland park when I took these photos and was looking slightly down at the beavers. I was so close that I did not even have to use the full length of my zoom lens and, for example, shot the first photo with my lens at a focal length of 135mm.

beaver1_blog

The second shot is somewhat similar to the first, but it shows part of the beaver’s tail. It was interesting to see how the beaver’s tail was tucked under the beaver when it was sleeping. I somehow had always assumed the tail was rigid—it seems to be reasonably flexible.

beaver2_blog

The final image today is not quite as sharp as the first two, but I like it because of the way that it shows both a front and back paw, as well as the tail. The beaver also has a tousled look and somehow unfocused eyes, looking a lot like most of us do when we first wake up.

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I am still going over my photos and may post a few more, so stay tuned. I feel really lucky that I was able to see these beavers in this kind of situation in the wild and managed to capture it well enough in photos to be able to share part of the experience with all of you.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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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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Can you name the most recognized Skipper in North America?  According to Wikipedia, it’s the Silver-spotted Skipper butterfly (Epargyreus clarus), shown here clinging to a Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) in a shot I took recently at my local marshland park.

I love the spiky look of the Buttonbush and it seems to attract a lot of butterflies. The skipper’s colors may be a little drab, but I am happy that it is easy to identify, given that there are over 3500 different species of skippers, according to a different article in Wikipedia.

spotted_skipper_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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This Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly (Speyeria cybele) was so cooperative that I was able to get amazingly close to it with my 100mm macro lens and photograph it from some unusual angles.

This is the third (and final) posting from this session with the Fritilary (I love saying the butterfly’s name) and I realize that I have moved in a kind of progression. My first posting showed the butterfly from a “normal” perspective. Then I shifted to a somewhat unusual perspective in the second posting by shooting from below the butterfly.

In these final shots, I tried to get eye-to-eye with the fritillary. In the first image, I was almost directly over the butterfly and managed to capture some wonderful details. Who knew the butterfly would be so hairy? In the second shot, I tried to put myself on the same level as the Fritillary as it got nectar from a beautiful white cone flower. If you want to see the photos in greater resolution, click on the images.

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It’s unusual for me to see a red dragonfly, so yesterday I chased around several of them and have concluded that they are probably Needham’s Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula needhami), a species that I have never before encountered.

In addition to the red-orange bodies, these dragonflies have reddish-brown veins in their wings, which make them very striking. There is another species, Golden-winged skimmers (Libellula auripennis), that is supposed to look like the Needham’s Skimmers, so I may be off in my identification—I will leave the final call to experts.

I’m keeping my eyes open and hope that I’ll be able to find a few more species that are new to me before the summer ends, though it’s tough right now to go outdoors with temperatures in the daytime around 95 degrees F (35 degrees C) and very humid.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Soaring summer temperatures have caused the water level in some areas of my marshland park to drop and Northern Water snakes (Nerodia sipedon) can now be seen trolling these shallow waters for prey. Yesterday, in one small area I saw three of these snakes and managed to get shots of two them.

Sometimes the snakes will sit on brush and logs just above the level of the water, as in the first photo, while in other cases they submerge their bodies in the water, with their heads sticking out of the water, as in the second photo.

I like the way that the first image shows the details of the snake’s scales and like how the second photo highlights the marking on the snake’s body (and realize that some folks may find both images to be creepy).

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I am always amazed that butterflies can fly with wings that are severely damaged. This morning I encountered this beautiful female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) that had suffered some major damage to the area where the wings attach to the body. Despite the tears to the wings, the butterfly seemed unhindered in its flight and was busily at work, flying from bush to bush.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I haven’t seen a huge number of butterflies this summer, so I was happy to see a colorful butterfly this past weekend, which I believe is a Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus).

UPDATE: My tentative identification as a Monarch was not correct. Thanks to Jeremy Sell at The Life of Your Time for his help in identifying this as a Viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus archippus).

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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It was fun chasing this Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly (Speyeria cybele) around my neighbors’ garden as it moved from flower to flower. I tried to capture it from different perspectives and got some artsy looking shots that I really like.

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How do you get a sharp photo of a hummingbird’s wings? Apparently, if a hummingbird is hungry enough, it will extract the nectar from a flower before it has bloomed, and the leverage required may force it to perch on the flower, doing away with the necessity to fly its wings rapidly.

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Walking on the boardwalk at my local marshland park, the last thing on my mind was a hummingbird—I was searching for butterflies and dragonflies.  As I turned a corner, I saw a flash of color and figured it was a butterfly. I took a closer look and realized it was a hummingbird, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris).

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The hummingbird was circling around a plant with red, trumped-shaped flowers that was partially hanging over the boardwalk. Most of the flowers had not yet bloomed, so the bird seems to have decided to use its bill to drill into the side of the unopened flowers to extract the nectar. That decision was largely responsible for me being able to get some shots, because it caused the hummingbird to hang around longer.

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I realized that I had a limited window of opportunity and made a quick adjustment to my camera to increase the shutter speed of my camera, although that meant I had to narrow my depth of field. I also ended up shooting downward, with the gray composite boards of the boardwalk as the background. It was definitely a challenge to keep the camera focused on the hummingbird.

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The photos are not perfect, but I am pretty happy that I was able to get photos at all, given that this is only the second time that I have seen a hummingbird in the wild. Next time, perhaps I’ll manage to get a more traditional shot of a hummingbird hovering in the air.

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