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Posts Tagged ‘clouds’

The skies over the water were full of clouds one afternoon last week as I visited Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was utterly fascinated by the horizontal layers of cloud that seemed to be stacked up, reminding me of a stone wall of stacked stones.

Many of you know that I rarely take landscape photos, but sometimes I feel compelled to do so. To be fair, though, I should probably characterize this image as a “cloudscape,” rather than as a “landscape,” since the land plays only a minor role in it.

clouds

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The skies over Huntley Meadows Park were amazing around 3:00 (15:00 hrs) yesterday afternoon when a cold front was blowing in. When certain clouds were illuminated by the sun they were transformed into pastel shades of the rainbow. At times there were varying shades of orange, green, aqua, and purple.

I suspected that moisture in the clouds was responsible for the colors, but I had never seen anything like it and did not know what it was called. After searching about on the internet, I learned that this diffraction phenomenon, known as cloud iridescence, is caused by small water droplets or ice crystals individually scattering light. According to Wikipedia, ” If parts of clouds have small droplets or crystals of similar size, their cumulative effect is seen as colors. The cloud must be optically thin, so that most rays encounter only a single droplet. Iridescence is therefore mostly seen at cloud edges or in semi-transparent clouds, and newly forming clouds produce the brightest and most colorful iridescence.”

cloud iridescence

cloud iridescence

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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During this past week in Brussels, I experienced extremes of weather, ranging from dark, threatening thunder clouds to gorgeous light late one day that bathed the palace in shimmering gold.

clouds_bloggolden_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I don’t ever go out shooting with the express intent of taking landscape shots, but sometimes when I am looking for wildlife to photograph, the natural beauty of the setting virtually compels me to try to capture it.

That was the case last week, when I was at the location where I had photographed the otter and the fox and happened to glance up into the sky. I was surprised to see how well the colors of the moon, which was pretty prominent for mid-morning, matched the colors of the clouds. It was almost like the moon was a perfectly round cloud.

I didn’t have a lot of room to maneuver in the thick underbrush to help me frame the shot better, so I tried to capture the scene in both portrait and landscape format. I think I like the first image a little better, but decided to include both views.

daylight_moon1_blog

daylight_moon2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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This is as close as I can get to showing you what the full moon looked like to me last night, with an orange tinged glow surrounding it. The image includes some tree branches on the right side of the photo in a mostly futile effort effort to frame the moonlit sky.

Last night I posted a photo that showed the moon and the clouds, but I wasn’t satisfied that it represented really well what my eyes had seen. So I went over the images again that I shot and came across this one. It required a bit of tweaking in Photoshop Elements to tone down the really bright light of the moon, but I had managed to capture some of the details of both the moon and the clouds.

I shot quite a few photos as I searched for a combination of f-stop and shutter speed that would capture the moment. This one was shot at f20 with a shutter speed of .8 seconds and was overexposed. Some of the other shots with faster shutter speeds rendered the moon well, but the sky was black and no amount of tweaking could bring out the clouds. Longer exposures, on the other hand, resulted in beautiful clouds, but the moon was a perfect circle that was pure white and, again, I couldn’t tweak the settings to get details.

As I was shooting, the light kept changing as the moon moved in and out of the clouds, which complicated my efforts. Learning from my previous efforts to shoot in the dark, though, I had a small flashlight with me to assist me as I repeatedly changed the settings on my camera.

I’m a little more content with this photo than the other one that I posted of the full moon but that doesn’t mean that I won’t be outside again this evening experimenting further with capturing this tricky subject.

moon2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I came upon a rock last weekend and my eyes were drawn to its shape and texture and the way that it seemed to be floating in the sky. Normally I don’t shoot abstract shots, but I somehow felt compelled to take this photo. I like the way it turned out—it’s simple and graphic.

rock_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Huntley Meadows Park is made up of 1,425 acres of forests, meadows, and fresh-waters wetlands and has become one of my favorite places to take photos of a wide variety of wildlife. What is most remarkable for me, though, is the fact that it is located in the midst of a heavily populated suburban area of Washington, D.C., only a few miles from where I live. I am clearly not the only one who enjoys being there. On any given day I am likely to be greeted by groups of giggling boys and girls or smaller, more sedate groups of adults, many with binoculars or cameras with very long telephoto lenses. The park’s website notes that it is a favorite location for bird spotting, with over 200 species having been identified there.

Monday was an especially beautiful day. The coolness of the fall mornings has definitely arrived and we were treated to brilliant blue skies, a relative rarity here. While at Huntley Meadows, I decided to try to capture a view of some of the elements of the park, including part of the half-mile long boardwalk that zigzags through the marshland.

Huntley Meadows Park in early September

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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During the last few months I have tried to get more serious about expressing myself in photos. I started out by photographing small things like insects and flowers and eventually got a macro lens. More recently I have been taking photos of larger things, like turtles, frogs, and wading birds. Yesterday I decided to try a landscape picture, without really knowing how to do it.

I’ve read enough to know that I wanted maximum depth of field and saturated colors. So I set my camera up on my tripod with these settings, f22, 1/50 sec, ISO 100, and 21mm on my 18-55mm zoom lens. I also used exposure compensation to underexpose by one f stop, figuring that reflections off the water might cause the image to be overexposed.

My subject was Cameron Run, a stream that runs into the Potomac River. There are concrete slabs at intervals that run across the stream, presumably to help the water flow as it moves downstream. I was standing on one of them with my camera on my tripod when I took this shot, looking east toward Old Town Alexandria, VA.

I’m pretty happy with the result. What you see if pretty much what came out of the camera—I am not sure what adjustments I should do in Photoshop. Perhaps I’ll try more like this, especially if I travel outside of the suburban area where I do most of my shooting.

Cameron Run looking east toward Old Town Alexandria, VA

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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