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Posts Tagged ‘Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve’

Common subjects like this Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) have a special appeal and challenge for me. Can I photograph them in an unusual way?

The foreground and background in this image almost blend together and highlight the beauty and personality of the mockingbird. The background makes it look a bit like it was taken in a studio setting. Only the chipped paint gives away the fact that the curious bird was perched on the man-made railing of a boardwalk. I also really like the way that the color and pattern of the weathered wood almost perfectly match the bird’s feathers.

Northern Mockingbird

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Generally it’s best to have the sun behind you when taking photos, but sometimes you are forced to shoot almost directly into the sun. When the conditions are right you can sometimes get wonderful silhouettes, like these images of Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) that I spotted on the Potomac River near Dyke Marsh in Alexandria, Virginia this past Monday.

The shot of the perched cormorant was a conscious composition—I assessed the light and knew that I was shooting a silhouette. In the case of the flying cormorant, however, I was reacting to the movement of a bird taking off from the water and trying so hard to hard to capture focus and keep the bird in focus that I was not paying much conscious attention to the lighting.

Double-crested Cormorant

Double=crested Cormorant

 

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I spotted this beautiful Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) in the vegetation along the shore of the Potomac River as I explored Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve in Alexandria, Virginia. Although “heavy-boned” is a euphemism sometimes used for large people, it is literally true for cormorants and is one of the reasons why they ride so low in the water. Additionally, their feathers don’t shed water like those of ducks and can get waterlogged, which makes it easier to dive deeper, but requires them to dry them out periodically.

I hoped to catch a cormorant with its wings extended for drying, but none of the cormorants I saw were accommodating in that regard yesterday. I’m no psychic, but I foresee a return trip to that area in the near future.

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It had been quite a while since I had last seen a Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia), so I was pretty excited to see one during a visit this past weekend to Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, a tidal wetlands park along the Potomac River in Virginia.

The spider must have sensed my presence too, because she began to oscillate the entire web vigorously. I had to wait for her to settle down before attempting to get some shots. I was on an elevated boardwalk and the spider was considerably below the level of my feet. As a result, I had somewhat limited options for framing my shots, though I was able to photograph the spider from a couple of different angles, and was not able to get really close to the spider.

I was happy that I managed to capture the really cool zigzag portion of the spider’s web, a distinctive characteristic of this particular species.

Argiope spider

Argiope spider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When photographing a subject, how important are the surroundings to you? Most of you know that I like close-up shots and often I zoom in or crop to the point where you don’t have a good sense of the environment.

This past weekend, I went for a walk along the Potomac River (on the Virginia side) and observed a lot of damselflies. I had my Tamron 150-600mm lens on my camera and soon realized that I had a problem—even at the minimum focusing distance (approximately 9 feet/2.7 meters), there was no way that I could fill the frame with a damselfly.

Still, I was drawn to the beauty of the damselflies, which I believe are Blue-tipped Dancers (Argia tibialis), and I took quite a few shots of them.

As I reviewed the images on my computer, I realized how much I liked the organic feel of the natural surroundings. In the first shot, there are lots of vines on the surface of the rock on which the damselfly is perched that add texture and visual interest. In the second shot, I love the twist in the vine and the single leaf hanging down.

All in all, the surroundings on these two shots were so interesting that I didn’t feel any desire to crop the images more severely, and the environment has become just as much the subject as the damselfly. It’s probably worth remembering this the next time when I am tempted to move in really close to a subject—I should at least attempt to get some environmental shots too.

UPDATE:  It looks like my initial identification was off—there are lots of blue damselflies and this one more probably is a Big Bluet (Enallagma durum). Thanks to my local odonata expert, Walter Sanford, for the assist.

Blue-tipped Dancer

Blue-tipped Dancer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s springtime and love is in the air. Two tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) seemed intent on getting to know each other better, but kept getting buzzed by a third swallow. A couple of times, one of the swallows, which I suspect was the male, took off and chased away the potential rival.

swalow_couple2_blogswallow_couple1_blogswallow_couple3_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Direct sunlight and harsh shadows in the middle of the day make it challenging to take portraits without somehow diffusing the light. During the spring and summer, I will usually carry a collapsible diffuser that I use when photographing flowers (and occasionally people), but it would have been tough to get into position to use such a diffuser on this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) that I spotted on the shore of the Potomac River last Saturday, when I was visiting Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve.

As I observed the heron, I was standing on a raised boardwalk, looking downward at the heron though some bushes. In order to get an unobstructed shot, I zoomed in, focusing primarily on the head and neck. The heron moved its head about a lot as it searched the shallow waters and looked through the debris at the shore’s edge, moving in out of the shadows.

I took a lot of photos of the heron and this is one of my favorites. I like the way that I was able to capture some of the details of the plumage and the sinuous curve of the heron’s neck. I would love to be able to capture a similar image early in the day or late in the day, but, as every wildlife photographer knows, you can never tell when you will have another opportunity to photograph a subject again.

heron1_march_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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