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Posts Tagged ‘early morning’

Early this morning I spotted a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) in a distant part of a pond that I was exploring. I was worried about blowing out the highlights of the heron’s face and bill, so I deliberately underexposed the image. As a result the background became a bit darker than it was in real life and gave it a dramatic quality that I really like. The reflections of the heron and some of the background elements add a lot to the “artsy” feel of the photo.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the feeling of the early morning, when the world is awash in pale colors and the birds are just starting to wake up. It’s a magical feeling for me sometimes, and the mist in the air last Monday only enhanced that effect.

How do you capture a moment like that? I don’t shoot a lot of landscape photos, but I can understand how some photographers are driven to find the right mix of compositional elements to pass on to others the emotional impact of a particular scene.

As I was walking along the boardwalk at my favorite marshland park, I was drawn to this male Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) perched on a railing leading to an observation platform. Normally I try not to include man-made elements in my wildlife shots, but in this case the railing faded out into an almost indistinct set of lines and shapes. Far in the distance, there is a suggestion of the trees and the water. With its bright shoulder patches, dark color, and sharper details, the blackbird provides an element of contrast with the rest of the scene.

Sometimes it’s fun to chase after more exotic subjects, like the owlet that I saw recently, but at other times I am content to try to capture the feeling of a moment, like this blackbird on a misty morning.

Red-winged Blackbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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In the weak early morning light, the sky and the water merged together, providing an uncluttered backdrop for this portrait of a Great Blue Heron.

I’ve taken quite a few photos of Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias), but rarely have I encountered one as cooperative as this one was early on Monday morning. He looked to be cold and may have been trying to snooze as he huddled near the edge of the boardwalk. He let me get pretty close to him and didn’t seem to object to my presence, though he did follow me with his eyes. As a result of his tolerance, I was able to capture more detail in the heron’s feathers than I usually can manage.

After a few shots, I left him in peace to catch a few more winks.

heron_morning2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Arriving at the marsh really early in the morning, I was finally able to get a relatively well-exposed shot of a Great Egret (Ardea alba) in breeding plumage, with wispy plumes on its back and a bright green color between its eye and bill (an area known as the “lore”).

Generally I have trouble photographing this beautiful bird, because its brilliant white color gets blown out pretty easily when there is a lot of light and using exposure compensation is often not sufficient. One obvious solution to the problem of too much light is to come at a time of reduced light. I switched to manual mode and, after a bit of experimentation, found a setting that seemed to work pretty well. I also had my camera on a tripod, which is a good practice any time I can manage to use it, which permitted me to use a slower shutter speed.

morning_egret2_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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In many ways this is a companion piece to my last posting that showed early-morning moonlight reflected in my local marsh. Less than an hour after I took that shot yesterday morning. the sun began to rise. As I looked to the east, I watched in wonder as the skies behind the trees were transformed into a beautiful mixture of pink, orange, and purple. Eventually the sun rose high enough to bring light into my world and I tried to capture the rays of the sun just starting to pierce the darkness.

Colorful skies as the sun rises

Colorful skies as the sun rises

Rays of sunshine penetrate the darkness

Rays of sunshine pierce the darkness

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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One early morning recently I was walking through the marsh, lamenting that spectacular spider webs of the summer and early fall had disappeared. Suddenly I noticed that some of the plants were covered in a silky, web-like material. It was almost abstract in its construction and I wondered (and still wonder) about its purpose. This photo captures pretty well—in a minimalist set of colors and tone—the mysterious moodiness of that morning moment.

Natural abstract

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I arrived early in the marsh on a cold fall morning when the dew and a touch of frost seemed to have combined to coat objects with a kind of frozen mist. I was hoping to find some large, beautiful spiders shining in the early morning light, as I had found repeatedly during the summer and early fall mornings. My initial scan found no spider webs at all, but suddenly I spotted one in the cattails. It was not large, but its rarity made it extra special. The structure is not very complex or symmetrical and the silk threads seem to be heavy-duty, rather than delicate. I wondered what kind of spider made such a web, but did not spot the maker of the web. Perhaps she’ll continue her handiwork for a little while longer—I’ll be checking each time I return to the marsh.

Last web standing in the fall

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On a cold and overcast morning, I walked through the marsh today, heading toward a little pond area where I was hoping to see migrating ducks and geese. As I arrived at that area, I realized there was a deer in the distance near the far side of the water’s edge. I didn’t have time to make many adjustments and got off only two shots. This is the better of the two, and I like the pose of the deer, as she back at me before taking off. To give you an idea of the limited light, this was shot at ISO400, f5.6, and 1/30 second. I was at the far end of my 55-250mm zoom lens (and still had to crop quite a bit).

Early morning deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was really happy when I came across this large dew-covered spider web early one morning this past weekend. I am not sure exactly how big it was, but I think it was probably about 18-24 inches across, with an amazing number of rows, especially at the bottom part that is fully intact.

I processed the same photo in two ways to get different looks. In the first photo, I desaturated most of the color to try to draw attention to the strands of the web (and you should click on the photo to get a somewhat higher resolution view of the web). In the second photo, I tried to punch up the colors a bit by increasing the vibrance and saturation settings.

Which one do you think works best?

Spider web (mostly desaturated)

Spider web (increased vibrance)

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am going through a bird phase, it seems, as I continue on my journey into photography. Perhaps it’s a seasonal thing, as flowers and insects seem to be in shorter and shorter supply, or perhaps it’s a kind of evolution in an unknown direction. Whatever the case, I find my lenses pointed more and more frequently at birds.

Here are a few shorts of an American Goldfinch that I took in the early morning, when the dew was still clinging to the strands of spider web silk on the plants. The sunlight was not yet strong and was coming from the side.

When I pulled up the RAW files to make a few adjustments, I was faced with the dilemma of the yellow coloration of the bird. In I changed some settings, the yellow became “dirtier,” but you can see more details. That’s what I did in the first photo. I can’t decide if the contrast is too much, but it seemed to me that the bird’s more severe facial expression lent itself to this treatment. On the other hand, if I changed settings differently, the yellow became a little brighter, but the image got a little softer. That’s what I did in the second and third photos. Again, I was guided a bit by the bird’s expressions.

Do you think that one of the two approaches worked better? I’ve come to realize that there is no magical recipe, no secret formula that will guarantee me great shots. That’s why it’s fun for me to try out different approaches and see what happens.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was out with my camera early this morning, when the ground fog still hung over the cattails in the marsh. The red-winged blackbirds were active and I managed to get this shot. It’s almost a silhouette, yet it retains some surface detail. I love the bird’s open mouth as he utters a loud cry. The elements all seem to work together to create an atmosphere of early morning mystery.

Early morning blackbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The large yellow-and-black spiders (Argiope aurantia) that I have observed throughout the summer seem to have disappeared. I was hoping to see the egg sacs that they produce in the fall, but I guess I’ll have to wait until next year.

However, there must be spiders still around, because early yesterday morning there were quite a few dew-covered spider webs. Last month I did a couple of postings about webs at the same location at Huntley Meadows Park (see Amazing Spider Webs and More Spider Art), but I am so fascinated by the individuality of the webs that I thought I’d post one from yesterday (and I think there might be a few more shots coming). I do not know how the spiders figure out the designs of the webs, but it seems that there is creativity involved in fitting a web into a specific spot, even if there is a “standard” pattern for different varieties of spiders.

This web was located behind the railing of a little bridge that crosses part of the marsh land and joins two sections of a boardwalk. I was shooting into the sun that was still very low in the sky. The sunlight reflecting on one side of the railing suggests that I was not facing directly east. but was angled a little. Behind the web is a field of cattails, though you can’t really see any details.

Spider webs are like snowflakes for me (and it won’t be too long before we see them again). At first they all may seem to be the same, but when you take the time to look more closely at them, you realize each is unique. People are like that too.

Early morning spider web

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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