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Posts Tagged ‘green spring gardens’

What do you do to cope on a hot sunny day? Most of us stay indoors in an air-conditioned space, possibly with a cold beverage. Dragonflies do not have those options, so many of them assume a pose, often known as the obelisk posture, in an attempt to regulate their temperature by reducing exposure to the direct sunlight.

You may seen dragonflies in a handstand-like pose, looking like gymnasts in training—that is the obelisk posture. The dragonfly lifts its abdomen until its tip points to the sun, thereby minimizing the amount of surface area exposed to solar radiation. At noontime, the vertical position of the dragonfly’s body suggest an obelisk, which in my area immediately brings to mind the Washington Monument. According to Wikipedia, scientists have tested this phenomenon in a laboratory by heating Blue Dasher dragonflies with a lamp, which caused them to raise their abdomens and has been shown to be effective in stopping or slowly the rise in their body temperature.

While visiting Green Spring Gardens last week on a hot humid day, I observed obelisking behavior in a male Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) and a male Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera). I have always been intrigued by this pose and would love to try it out to see if it works for thermoregulation in humans too. Alas, I lack both the upper-body strength and the lower body flexibility to make a go of it, so I’ll continue to be merely a spectator of these beautiful little acrobats.

Blue Dasher

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Most folks who live in the Eastern part of the United States can probably identify an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) when they see one. Eastern Tiger Swallowtails are large and have a distinctive pattern of bright yellow and black on their wings. However, not all Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies are yellow—females come in two distinctly different variants, black and yellow.

The yellow morph looks a lot like a male, but with a conspicuous band of blue spots along the hindwings that the males do not have. The dark morph female has similar markings, but most of its body color is black, like the one below that I spotted last week at Green Spring Gardens. The perfect condition of its wings this late in the season suggests to me that this is a newly emerged butterfly.

So why do the females come in two colors? I read an interesting on-line article about this subject entitled “Why are you that color? The strange case of the dark phase tiger swallowtail.” The author speculates that the dark morph is an evolutionary attempt to mimic a similar-looking Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly that predators know is toxic, a practice known as Batesian mimicry. So, in theory the dark morph would have a better chance of survival. For unknown reasons, however, the males do not seem to be as attracted to the dark morph females, “These guys are apparently traditionalists and prefer the good ol’ yellow and black that their species is known for.” So the genes that might benefit species survival are not always passed on.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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This butterfly had its choice of flowers as I chased after it last week at Green Spring Gardens, but it chose instead to grab some nectar from a lowly clover plant. Still, I can’t complain—it was my first sighting of a Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) this season.

Monarch Butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It love it when dragonflies cooperate and choose particularly photogenic perches, as these female Eastern Amberwing dragonflies (Perithemis tenera) did on Tuesday at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, Virginia, not far from where I live. The males of this species, whose wings are a solid amber in color, mostly seemed to be hanging out at a pond at the bottom of a hill, while the females were flitting about among the flowers in the gardens at the top—the gender separation reminded me of the awkwardness of junior high dances when I was growing up.

As many of you may recall, dragonflies and damselflies are part of the Odonata order of flying insects. My friend and fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford has coined the term “odonart” to refer to artsy-style photos that we manage to capture of our favorite aerial acrobats. I think that both of these images qualify to fit into that self-created category, given the beauty of the dragonflies and their particularly photogenic perches.

Eastern Amberwing

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Many butterflies are looking a little tattered this late in the season, like this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) that I spotted on Tuesday at Green Spring Gardens, but I still find their beauty to be breathtaking. True beauty, I would argue, is often to be found in imperfection, not in some superficial notion of perfection.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

 

 

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During a short visit to Green Spring Gardens yesterday I was thrilled not only to see some Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris), but also to get some shots of at least one of them. I am not sure that a 180mm macro lens is optimal for this subject, but it worked, albeit with a need for an often significant crop of the original images.

Even though it was over 90 degrees (32 degrees C) when I set out, I felt a need to get out of the house, stretch my legs, and shoot a little. I chose this county-run historic garden because it is not far from where I live and I knew it had some shady areas. I expected to be photographing mostly insects and flowers, so my trusty 180mm macro lens was affixed to my camera.

As I was chasing some little dragonflies in one patch of flowers, I remembered that I had seen hummingbirds in this same patch a few years ago. Recently I have seen some awesome shots of hummingbirds on Facebook taken by local photographers at this garden, so I was certainly aware I might spot the speedy little birds. Once I spotted a hummingbird flitting among the flowers, I decided to stay at this spot and see if I too could capture a shot.

This sun-lit patch of flowers was long and narrow and the hummingbird would make short forays into one part of it and then would fly up into the shade of a tall tree. I never could establish if I was seeing a single hummingbird, which looked to be a female, or if there were multiple hummingbirds taking turns.

As you can see from the photos below, the hummingbird gave attention to a variety of different flowers, none of which I can identify for sure—maybe that is bee balm in the second shot. I have read that hummingbirds prefer red-colored flowers, but this hummingbird did not seem to discriminate on the basis of color. It is interesting to see how the hummingbird’s approach varied a little depending on the characteristics of the flower, such as the length of the tubular section into which the hummingbird inserted its long, thin bill.

Be sure to click on the final photo and you will see that the hummingbird is using its tiny feet to perch on an unopened flower to get greater leverage and a better angle of attack. You’ll also see a little bee in flight that had been disturbed by the hummingbird’s efforts.

When I returned home, I saw an amazing close-up hummingbird photo on Facebook taken earlier that morning on the same bluish-purple flowers that you see in my final photo. When I asked the photographer how far away he was when he took his photo, he said he was at the minimum focusing distance of his lens—15 feet (457 cm)—so I suspect he was shooting with a 600mm lens. I think that I might have been at the same distance when I took my shot.

Periodically I think about purchasing one of those monster lenses, but am somewhat deterred by the $12,999 price tag for the newest Canon 600mm lens and by its weight and size. All in all, I am quite content with the results I get from my current camera gear, including these images of hummingbirds in July.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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It seems like I have seen fewer butterflies this year than in previous years, so I was especially thrilled to spot this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) last week during a trip to Green Spring Gardens with my photography mentor Cindy Dyer. Normally by this time of the year I have seen lots of Monarchs and Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, but I have not seen a single Monarch yet and only a few swallowtails. This butterfly was the only large butterfly that I saw that day—all of the others that I spotted were the much smaller skipper butterflies.

Generally I prefer to have a natural background when photographing wild subjects, but that was not possible in this case. The blurred background is part of the welcome center of the gardens. The bands of color at the bottom of the image add some visual interest without being distracting, so I am not all that dissatisfied with the way the shot turned out.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This stunning Variable Dancer damselfly (Argia fumipennis) was living life on the edge when I spotted him amidst the leaves last week during a trip to Green Spring Gardens with my good friend Cindy Dyer. Many of you probably realize that this violet-colored beauty is one of my favorites, given that my most frequently used banner image for this blog is a photo of a Variable Dancer. Perhaps there are other insects that are this color, but none come to mind.

As for the title of this post, consider it to be a sign of the times—the content could easily have gone in multiple directions.

variable dancer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How do you capture the beauty of a water lily? Claude Monet chose to paint massive canvases with wide expanses of ponds dotted with water lilies. My normal instinct is to focus on a single flower and to capture images like the first one below.

My photography mentor Cindy Dyer likes to challenge me to slow down and to look for interesting groupings of flowers. So I lingered longer at the water lilies and tried to compose images in different and more creative ways, resulting in the the second and third images below that contain more than just a single flower.

I took these photos last week during a trip with Cindy to Green Spring Gardens, a local county-run historical garden. In previous postings I have featured the pink water lilies and the lotuses at the small pond there. My goal today was to turn the spotlight on the more “traditional” white water lily.

If you click on these images to examine them more closely, you will see that I captured a number of “bonus bugs” on the leaves of the lily pads. “Bonus bugs” is a term that Cindy coined to refer to insects that show up when you are processing your photos that you never saw when you were taking them.

water lily

water lily

water lilies

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Blue Dashers (Pachydiplax longipennis) are one of our most common dragonflies and were an early favorite when I started to get more serious about my photography eight years ago. I still enjoy capturing images of them, especially when the lighting is as interesting as it was last Tuesday during a visit to Green Spring Gardens with my friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer.

I had a lot of fun trying to track the male Blue Dasher dragonflies as they flew among the lotuses and water lilies at a small pond. Most of the time they would perch on distant plants, out of range of my macro lens, but on a few occasions they came closer. The first image shows one perched on the broken-off stalk of a lotus, partially in the shadow of other lotuses. The second image shows a Blue Dasher perched in the light, atop what I believe is one of the lily pads, though there is a slight chance that it might be a lotus leaf.

Yes, Blue Dashers are still among my favorites, even after all of these years.

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher

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There were only a few water lilies in bloom when I visited Green Spring Gardens last week, one of my favorite local gardens, but I was thrilled to see that a few of them were pink ones. I love all water lilies, but there seems to be something extra special and exotic about the pink ones.

I was using my trusty 180mm macro lens, which meant that if I wanted a closer view, as in the first image, I had to physically move closer to the flowers, which, of course were floating in the water. It was interesting to try to vary the angle of view of the same flower by, shooting from a low angle for the first image and shooting the same flower from a higher angle (and farther back) for the second shot.

I also played around with including and excluding the lily pads. The water lily in the final shot, for example, is almost in the center of the frame, which is generally frowned on when composing a shot, but I liked the arrangement of lily pads so much that I kept it there.

I am very much a child of my generation, so I can’t help but think of the video game Pac-Man when I look at the second image. Did anyone else have that same response?

water lily

water lily

water lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This bee seemed to be having a great time inside of a lotus flower when I spotted it last Tuesday during a brief visit to Green Spring Gardens with my friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer. This county-run historical garden has only a relatively limited number of lotuses and waterlilies at a small pond, but it is much more accessible and less crowded that Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, an amazing facility in Washington D.C. operated by the National Park Service that has multiple acres of cultivated ponds with a wide array of water lilies and lotuses.

lotus

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Usually when I see a Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum), it is buried in the underbrush, so I was excited to spot this one in the open during a visit on Tuesday to Green Spring Gardens with my friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer. Two things that always stand out to me whenever I see Brown Thrashers are their extremely long tails and their beautiful yellow eyes.

Brown Thrasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The alien-looking plant in the first photo is a seedpod of ‘Love in a mist’ (Nigella damascena), one of my favorite flowers, that I spotted during a short visit last Monday to Green Spring Gardens with my friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer. It was a little late in the season, but I managed to spot a few flowers still in bloom, as shown in the second image. This flower is typically blue, but love-in-a-mist also comes in shades of white, pink, and lavender.

When I did a little research on-line, I learned that the striped, balloon-shaped object that I call a seedpod, is actually an inflated capsule composed of five fused true seedpods, according to an article by Wisconsin Horticulture. I also learned that the thorny-looking spikes that make up the “mist,” which are not sharp, despite their appearance, are technically bracts, a specialized kind of leaves.

This is one of the few local places where I know I can find this exotically beautiful flower. If you want to see love-in-a-mist yourself, you should probably go to a large garden. Otherwise you could waste a lot of your time looking for love in all the wrong places.

 

love in a mist

Love in a mist

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The shape of the silhouette is familiar and if the lighting is bad, you might be able to convince yourself that a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is standing in the corner of a small pond at Green Spring Gardens. I have visited the pond dozens of times, so I know that the heron is not real, but it still makes for a fun subject to photograph.

I love the heron’s distorted reflection in the first photo and the touches of green provided by a small tree to the side and the duckweed floating on the surface of the water. I was equally thrilled when a male Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) perched on the heron’s head after I had moved in closer. I doubt that a real heron would have been quite as accommodating in permitting the dragonfly to perch and seem to recall having seen a Great Blue Heron attempt to snatch a dragonfly out of the air as it flew by.

Great Blue Heron

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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When I was photographing bees on Monday at Green Spring Gardens, I had no idea that it was the start of Pollinator Week (22-28 June 2020), “an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles,” according to the pollinator.org website. All I knew was that I love bees and enjoy trying to photograph them.

I was reminded of this week’s celebration yesterday in an e-mail from Benjamin, a knowledgeable budding naturalist who is almost certainly the youngest reader of my blog, and his grandmother Ellen (Gem). The two of them were busily making special honey treats to celebrate the week.

A honeybee came buzzing by me as I was attempting to photograph a poppy on Monday. Although the poppy was quite beautiful, I quickly abandoned it and decided that it was more fun to focus on the bee. The bee seemed to have been quite successful in gathering pollen and, as you can see in the first two photos, one of its pollen sacs seemed to be filled to its maximum capacity.

The final photo shows a honeybee at work in a Stokes’ Aster flower (Stokesia laevis) that I spotted in another part of the gardens. If you double-click on the image, you will see little white grains of pollen covering different many parts of the bee’s body.

 

honeybee

honeybee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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During a brief visit to Green Spring Gardens on Monday with fellow photographer Cindy Dyer, I was thrilled when this Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) landed close to me on an evergreen tree and I was able to capture this shot with my macro lens. I was focusing primarily on flowers and bugs, as one tends to do when visiting a garden, and simply reacted when this unexpected opportunity presented itself.

One of my goals in spending so much time in the field is to become so familiar with my camera gear that I can instinctively capture an image like this without having to think consciously about my camera. It is hard to explain, but it was one of those magical moments when I felt at one with my camera. Yeah, that sounds a little weird, but it is hard to put into words.

 

Northern Mockingbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I often feel a bit overwhelmed when I visit a public garden—there are so many flowers all around vying for my attention. I am rarely attracted to large clusters of flowers, but instead tend to gravitate toward individual flowers that I can photograph up close with my macro lens.

Here are three of the flowers that I photographed during a recent photographic foray to nearby Green Spring Gardens with my friend Cindy Dyer. The first is a spiderwort (g. Tradescantia), a flower that I love for its simple geometric shape. I am not sure if the plant in the second photo, some species of allium, counts as a flower, but I love the way that the partially open “bud” reveals the complex structure inside. The final flower is a simple viola that I spotted amidst a bed of green ground cover—like pansies, violas always make me smile.

spiderwort

allium

viola

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I spotted these beautiful Bleeding Heart flowers (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) during a brief trip to Green Spring Gardens last Tuesday with my friend Cindy Dyer. The colors of the pink ones are stunning, especially against the lime-green leaves in the background. However, I was particularly struck by the white ones, a variant that was new to me.

Bleeding Hearts

Bleeding Hearts

Bleeding Heart

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Columbines are one of my favorite spring flowers and I was excited to have the chance to capture images of some different varieties during a short visit to Green Spring Gardens, a county-run historical garden, this past Tuesday with my friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer. When I started working with Cindy almost eight years ago, flowers were often our target subjects and this garden was our favorite location to photograph them.

columbine

columbine

columbine

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of the highlights of my visit on Monday to Green Spring Gardens was photographing a blossoming Japanese Apricot tree (Prunus mume). It was a little strange to see a tree with blossoms during the winter, but apparently it is normal for this species to blossom in mid-winter and late winter. The flowers are commonly known as plum blossoms and are a frequent theme in traditional painting in China and in other East Asian countries—the blossoms were also a favorite with the honey bees.

According to Wikipedia, the plum blossom is “one of the most beloved flowers in China and has been frequently depicted in Chinese art and poetry for centuries. The plum blossom is seen as a symbol of winter and a harbinger of spring. The blossoms are so beloved because they are viewed as blooming most vibrantly amidst the winter snow, exuding an ethereal elegance, while their fragrance is noticed to still subtly pervade the air at even the coldest times of the year. Therefore, the plum blossom came to symbolize perseverance and hope, as well as beauty, purity, and the transitoriness of life.”

I do not use my macro lens very much during the winter months and usually leave it at home. However, the mild weather that we have been having made me suspect that some flowers would be in bloom, so I put the macro lens on my camera—the busy bees turned out to be a big bonus.

I especially admired the efforts of the bee in the first photo. This bee did not want to wait for the bud to open, but instead burrowed its way to the pollen-filled center of the blossom-to-be.

Japanese Apricot tree

Japanese Apricot tree

Japanese Apricot tree

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This winter has been usually mild and spring color is already starting to appear in our area. During a visit yesterday to Green Spring Gardens, a local county-run historical garden, I spotted crocuses in bloom at several locations. Finding crocuses was not too much of a surprise, since they are usually among the first flowers to appear each spring.  However, it was an unexpected bonus to be able to photograph a honey bee collecting pollen inside of one of the crocuses.

In many ways yesterday’s photography was a return to my roots. When I started getting more serious about photography seven years ago, I did a lot of shooting with my friend and mentor, Cindy Dyer. One of her many areas of specialization is macro photography of flowers and some of her flower images have even appeared on US postage stamps. From her I learned a lot about the technical aspects of photography, like composition and depth of field, but more importantly she encouraged and inspired me back then and continues to do so to this day. Thanks, Cindy.

I started off photographing flowers with a few insects, but gradually realized that I was more interested in shooting insects with a few flowers. I can appreciate the beauty of the crocuses in the second and third images below, but the first shot is more representative of my desired shooting style.

crocus

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The milkweed plants were dirty and dried up, but I knew from past experience that there might be ladybugs crawling around on them. The first two plants that I checked were full of aphids, a favorite food of ladybugs, but I did not see any ladybugs at all. As I approached a third plant, I saw a flash of red and spotted a small ladybug crawling quickly down the stem of the plant. I was not as close as I could have like to have been, but managed to capture some images before the ladybug disappeared from sight.

I like the way that this shot turned out because the reddish-orange of the ladybug really stands out against the blues and greens in the rest of the photos. In case you are curious, the little specks of yellow are aphids. In this case, the aphids were safe, for this ladybug seemed to be in too much of a hurry to stop for a snack.

ladybug

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) are beautiful in any situation, but when you surround them with red, orange, and yellow flowers, they absolutely explode with color. I was thrilled when I spotted this Monarch during a short visit to Green Spring Gardens this past Saturday morning. The butterfly was initially quite skittish and flew all around before finally settling on what I believe to be some kind of lantana flower. I had to maneuver around to try to get a good shooting position, but the butterfly stayed put for a minute and accommodated me. I was super happy when I managed to include some of the colorful flowers in the background and I just love the way that the colors work so well together.

monarch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spotted this beautiful American Lady butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis) during a quick visit this past Saturday morning to Green Spring Gardens, a county-run historic garden not far from where I live. A lot of butterflies were active that day, but my eyes were immediately drawn to this American Lady, a species that I do not see very often. I had to chase it a bit before it stopped to feed on this flower, which was so popular that the American Lady had to share it with a much smaller skipper butterfly. The flower was growing near a fenced in area of public plots where people grow vegetables and the fence caused the striped effect in the background.

Although I spend most of my time photographing subjects in the wild, it was nice to visit a more cultivated place that was still ablaze with summer colors. I am quite conscious of the fact that the summer is slowly slipping away.

American Lady

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I first started getting serious about photography almost seven years ago, I often went shooting with my photography mentor Cindy Dyer. Cindy is accomplished in many areas of photography, but she is particularly passionate about capturing the beauty of flowers with her trusty macro lens. I learned a lot about the art of photography by shooting flowers side by side with her and reviewing my images with her.

Yesterday she and I made a short visit to Green Spring Gardens, a historical, county-run garden not far from our neighborhood, and it was wonderful to see how many flowers were in bloom. I was especially attracted by the poppies that I saw growing in several areas of the gardens—the star-like centers of the poppies seemed to beckon me.

Here are a few photos of those wonderful poppies, which came in a surprising variety of colors.

purple poppy

white poppy

purple poppy

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Milkweed plants provide a wonderful habitat for all kinds of creatures, including this Large Milkweed Bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus) that I spotted earlier this week at Green Spring Gardens. These  bugs go through a fascinating series of physical transformations as they move though different nymph phases. A little over six years ago, I studied these bugs  pretty closely and documented their stages of development in a posting that I called Life phases of the large milkweed beetle. Be sure to check it out for more information and fascinating photos of these colorful little bugs.

I really like the combination of colors in this simple shot, colors that remind me a little of Christmas. However, I doubt that anyone would choose to feature this image on their annual Christmas card. 🙂

Large Milkweed Bug

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Today I decided to feature two butterflies that I have seen over the past week. I saw them at different times and at different places, so normally I would not put them together in a posting.

I was struck, however, by the contrast between the two of them. One of them, a Viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus), is brightly colored and hard to miss. The other, a Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) is so pale and nondescript that many people don’t notice it at all or dismiss it as being “only” a moth.

Beauty speaks to people in individual deeply personal ways. I find these two butterflies to be equally beautiful.

What do you think? Instinctively do you find one of these two to be more beautiful than the other?

Of course, there is no “right” answer. It seems to me that beauty is almost always subjective rather than universal. Our assessments of beauty tend to be influenced by a whole host of internal factors including our mood, personality, and background as much as by the external characteristics of the subject being considered.

Viceroy butterfly

Cabbage White butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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Normally I don’t do consecutive blog posts of the same subject, but I got such an overwhelmingly positive response yesterday to my images of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) that I decided to post a few more. All of these hummingbirds, the only species found in the eastern part of the US, will probably depart soon to winter in a warmer climate, so I figure I better take advantage of this opportunity while I have it.

The best chance to snap a photo of a hummingbird is when it hovers to gather nectar (or when it is perched), but I managed to capture the first image as the hummingbird was zooming on by. I love its body position.

From an artistic perspective, the second image is my favorite. The background is simplified and less cluttered than in other images and the bright color of the flowers really grabs the viewer’s eyes. The slightly blurred wings are in a wonderful position and help to emphasize the sense that the hummingbird is in motion.

The final shot was taken with a different camera. As I noted yesterday, I was shooting with my 180mm macro lens, but I also had my Canon SX50 superzoom camera with me. It has a long reach, but doesn’t handle fast action very well, so it mostly stayed in the camera bag. When one of the hummingbirds perched in a distant tree, however, I was able to pull it out and use it for this static portrait.

 

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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It was cloudy and there was intermittent rain, but some Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) were active at Green Spring Gardens yesterday. My macro lens might not have been the optimal choice for photographing them, but it is what I had on my camera and I was pleasantly surprised by the results.

As I have noted many times before, I really like my macro lens, a Tamron 180mm lens. Because of the crop sensor of my Canon 50D DSLR, the lens has an equivalent field of view of 288mm, which lets me use if as a telephoto lens in a pinch. The only down side of the lens is that it does not have any image stabilization so I have to pay attention to my shutter speed and/or use a monopod as I was doing yesterday.

I noted that the hummingbirds seemed to like a particular kind of flower, so I planted myself in front of a patch of them and waited. The hummingbirds returned several times and I was able to decent shots. As I was waiting, it began to rain a bit, so I opened my umbrella and kept shooting—the hummingbirds did not seem to mind the light rain. It must have been quite a sight to see me with my umbrella in one hand and my camera on the monopod in the other.

For those of you who are interested in camera settings, I was shooting at ISO 1600 in aperture-preferred mode with an aperture setting of f/5. The relatively poor lighting meant that my shutter speed generally was 1/500 or slower, which was not fast enough to freeze the motion of the wings, but did allow me to capture the body fairly well when the hummingbird hovered.

I have a few more hummingbird shots that I may use in another posting, but wanted to share these initially.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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I was thrilled to capture some shot of a Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio troilus) this past weekend at Green Spring Gardens as it fed on a lantana flower. I am so used to more muted colors when I am shooting in the “wild” that the brightness of these flowers seem almost unnatural.

If you look closely at the butterfly’s legs in the first image, you will see that one of them is blurred. Obviously the butterfly was moving about and my camera’s shutter speed was too slow to stop the motion. In many cases I would be disappointed with that lack of sharpness, but I find that it acceptable here, because it doesn’t really distract the viewer’s eyes.

There are a number of dark-colored swallowtails in our area, but the Spicebush Swallowtail is the only one with a blue swoosh on its wings in the middle of a row of orange spots.

Spicebush Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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