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Posts Tagged ‘Fairfax County Virginia’

What do you see first when you look at this image? Do you see the beautiful colors, textures, and shapes of the rock that makes up both the foreground and the background? Are you drawn to the lines and somber coloration of the Powdered Dancer damselfly (Argia moesta) and its shadow? Do you focus on the damselfly’s brightly shining gray eye?

I spotted this little damselfly this past week while exploring a creek in Fairfax County with fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford. There is a simplicity to this image that I find really appealing. I especially like the limited color palette and the sense of harmony in the way that the colors work together.

What do you think?

Powdered Dancer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Really, an image of a horsefly? That sentence fragment was part of an internal dialogue that I had with myself when considering whether to post this image. I know that most people find flies to be fairly disgusting.  However, I was really taken with the details that I managed to capture when this enormous horsefly—it looked to be about 2 inches (50 mm) in length—perched in front of me earlier this week as I was resting alongside a rocky creek.

The fly’s eyes seem to have multiple colors and its body has several wonderful patterns. It is not all beauty, though, and I find those sharp points protruding from the face to be menacing, an impression enhanced by the enlarged shadow that cast by the fly.

I have to admit that I was fascinated by this giant horsefly and that fascination prompted me to post the photo despite my initial inhibitions. What do you think?

horsefly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I was thrilled to spot this spectacular female American Rubyspot damselfly (Hetaerina americana) while exploring a creek in Fairfax County, Virginia with my good friend and fellow  dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford.  This species is found along streams and rivers and this in only the second time that I have ever seen American Rubyspots. The green and brown colors on the thorax (the “chest”) of this damselfly are incredible and I highly recommend you click on the images to get an even better look at the amazing details.

Signs are starting to appear that we are approaching the end of summer. Already I have noted that the number of dragonflies is dropping, though there still seem to be plenty of butterflies. It was therefore particularly gratifying to see this unfamiliar damselfly yesterday. The dragonfly season, though is far from over—there are some autumn dragonfly species that I have not yet seen.  Birds are starting to migrate through this area, so some may appear in this blog soon, but there should still be dragonfly photos for the next few months at least.

American Rubyspot

American Rubyspot

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Monday I was thrilled to get a shot of one of my favorite damselflies at Occoquan Regional Park, the beautifully colored Violet Dancer (Argia fumipennis violacea), a subspecies of the Variable Dancer damselfly (Argia fumipennis). I love the color combination of this tiny beauty, a spectacular shade of violet on its body and the wonderful blue accents. Sharp-eyed viewers may have noted that a photo of this same type of damselfly has been my banner image for quite some time.

Violet Dancer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This shot from Monday is for Cindy Dyer, my photography mentor, who used to refer to me as her “grasshopper” and taught me some important lessons when I was just starting to get serious about my photography six years ago.

Folks of a certain age may recall that “grasshopper” was the nickname used by Master Po for his young student Kwai Chang Caine in the western martial arts television series Kung Fu in the 1970’s. The name is a reference to a wonderful scene in the pilot episode for the series in which the blind teacher helps to teach his new student that “seeing” requires more than the simple use of your eyes.

Here, from Wikipedia, is a snippet of dialogue with some of the wisdom of Master Po:

Master Po: Close your eyes. What do you hear?
Young Caine: I hear the water, I hear the birds.
Po: Do you hear your own heartbeat?
Caine: No.
Po: Do you hear the grasshopper which is at your feet?
Caine: Old man, how is it that you hear these things?
Po: Young man, how is it that you do not?

In case you have never heard of the Kung Fu television series or want to relive a moment from your past, here is a link to a short YouTube video of the above-referenced scene.

As a nature photographer, I think a lot about “seeing” as I seek a closer connection with the natural world and so many of its inhabitants. My observations have caused me to conclude that the pace of the natural world is different from that of my everyday life and that I consequently have to slow down in order to be in synch with it.

grasshopper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you like to go off in pursuit of rare and exotic species to photograph? Most of the time I am content to travel again and again to familiar places, searching for both old and new species to photograph.

Yet I guess that I have a bit of an adventurous streak too, for my interest sparked when fellow blogger and dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford informed me that he had spotted one of the rarest dragonfly species in our area, the Sable Clubtail (Stenogomphurus rogersi). What makes this dragonfly so rare is that it is found only in a very specific type of habitat and it only for a very short period of time each year.

I was still a bit jet-lagged this past Saturday morning, having returned the previous afternoon from my week-long trip to Brussels, but decided to see if I could find this elusive dragonfly. Walter and I had searched for dragonflies in this area before, so I more or less understood where he had seen the Sable Clubtail dragonflies when he described the location to me.

In retrospect, though, I probably should have done a little more homework, because I suddenly realized as I began my search that I didn’t know very well the distinguishing characteristics of a Sable Clubtail. I knew that the tip of its “tail” (actually its abdomen) was somewhat enlarged, because it was part of the “clubtail” family and I remembered from a photo that extreme end of the “tail” was curved. Beyond that, I was somewhat clueless and I was a little disappointed later in the day when I thought that I had not seen a Sable Clubtail dragonfly, but only some Unicorn Clubtail dragonflies.

I am happy to say that I was wrong in my identification of the species that I had photographed—in my ignorance, I had missed some diagnostic clues that should have told me immediately that I was shooting a Sable Clubtail. Of course, if you never have seen a species before, it’s easy to categorize it as something that you have seen.

Here are a few images from my encounter with a Sable Clubtail. The different angles any varying perches help to highlight the beautiful markings of this dragonfly and its very striking eyes.

I am not quite ready to quit my job and travel the world in search for rare dragonflies, but it was exciting to play the role of an adventurer for a day—a tiny bit of Indiana Jones—and gratifying that I was able to find the treasure that I was seeking, the Sable Clubtail dragonfly.

Sable Clubtail

Sable Clubtail

Sable Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s dragonfly season and this past Friday fellow dragonfly enthusiast and photographer Walter Sanford guided me to a new spot to search for the elusive beauties. Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge is a nature preserve located on Fort Belvoir, a nearby military base in Fairfax County, Virginia.

We are in a lull period of sorts for dragonflies—some of the early dragonflies are gone and others have not yet appeared. As we were making one final swing through likely locations, having come up almost empty-handed in our search, Walter spotted a dragonfly. The wings were so clear and shiny that it was obviously a teneral dragonfly, one that had only recently emerged.

Identification (and photography) was a bit of a challenge, because the young dragonfly was perched inside of a tangled mass of vegetation, making it almost impossible to get an unobstructed view. Eventually we were able to find a visual tunnel and I was able to get the first shot below. It gives a pretty good view of the dragonfly, which after the fact I could clearly see is a Spangled Skimmer (Libellula cyanea), but I really wasn’t satisfied with it.

Eventually I managed to get a second shot. It doesn’t show the dragonfly’s entire body and many element are out of focus, but it has an artistic sense that I find really appealing. I’m not sure if it’s because of the more vibrant colors or the unusual angle—I just know I like that image a whole lot more than the first one.

Spangled Skimmer

Spangled Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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