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Posts Tagged ‘Hidden Pond Nature Center’

I didn’t really intend to photograph birds this weekend and had my macro lens on my camera. As I was walking around Hidden Pond Nature Centerhowever, I came face to face with a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) and actually had to back up a little to take this shot.

My macro lens is a 180mm Tamron and can serve pretty well as a telephoto lens in certain circumstances, though normally when I am planning to photograph birds I will use a longer lens. Sometimes you just have to shoot a subject with the lens on your camera at that moment. I had a zoom lens in my camera bag, but suspect that the heron would have flown away before I would have been able to switch lenses.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) seemed to covet a prime perching position yesterday at Hidden Pond Nature Center in Springfield, Virginia and took action to try to dislodge the Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula incesta) that was occupying the perch.

The Blue Dasher was successful and occupied the top position for a little while, but eventually the larger Slaty Skimmer resumed the position at the top and the Blue Dasher was relegated to a lower spot on the plant.

Coming in for the attack

Coming in for the attack

The attack

The attack

Temporarily on top

Temporarily on top

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Relegated to the bottom

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Do you want to learn patience? If so, try photographing dragonflies in flight, those speedy little flyers that patrol the edge of a pond without ever seeming to need a rest.

Several readers commented that I must have lots of patience after they saw the photos of dragonflies and damselflies that I recently posted. Comparatively speaking, however, it is a whole lot easier to photograph these insects when they are perched on a stationary object than when they are in constant motion.

My fellow blogger and photographer, Walter Sanford, a true dragonfly stalker, emphasized to me recently that many of the early spring dragonflies are found only in limited locations for very short periods of time. (Check out his blog for lots of wonderful shots of dragonflies and other wildlife creatures.) I decided to return to Hidden Pond Nature Center, a county-run park in Springfield, Virginia that is only a few miles from where I live. Last year I spotted a few common dragonflies there, and it seemed to be a good place to broaden my search for spring dragonflies.

Sure enough, I caught sight of a few dragonflies, flying low over the surface of the small pond. They seemed to have fairly well defined patrol areas and tended to move about in large, lazy circles. I tried tracking several of them using my camera’s autofocus, but that proved to be impossible, so I switched to manual focusing, which was merely difficult.

I took a few breaks to get some shots of the more cooperative damselflies, but persisted in my quixotic efforts to capture the dragonflies in flight. Over the course of a couple of hours, I managed to fewer than a dozen images that are more or less in focus. I think that my subjects for this shoot might be Common Baskettail dragonflies (Epitheca cynosura), but I’m not very confident in that identification.

My adventures with dragonflies (and wildlife photography in general) continue teach important lessons about the value of patience and persistence.

 

 

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I just can’t get enough of the Blue Dasher dragonfly. Here’s a shot I like of a male Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) on an unidentified green plant that I took at Hidden Pond Nature Center here in Springfield, VA. Often I will try to go for maximum possible sharpness and realism, but I like the composition of this image and it has a kind of an “artsy” look that appeals to me.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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My normal instinct is to move in really close to my subject, whether it is physical movement with my macro lens or virtual movement with my telephoto zoom, but when I saw this dragonfly, I consciously pulled back in order to bring more of the stalk of the lily into the image.

This is a new species of dragonfly for me and I think it is probably a Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta). I love the contrast between the dark blue color of the dragonfly’s body and the orange shade of the lily.  This dragonfly’s muted colors give it a somewhat more sophisticated look that the more garishly colored Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) that I also photographed that day. (Check out my previous posting to see the contrast between the images of the two dragonflies in similar positions.)

In addition to the colors, I like the composition of the image and the water in the background blurred out pretty nicely too. In the next few weeks, I’ll be off trying to catch some shots of dragonflies on lotus flowers and waterlilies—it’s that time of the year again.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As the summer temperatures have soared, I have been seeing fewer birds and therefore I was surprised when a Green Heron (Butorides virescens) flew in and perched on a log in the middle of a small pond where I was photographing dragonflies.

I saw his arrival from a distance and at first thought it was a duck, but as I crept closer, it became clear that it was a Green Heron. Most of the times when I have observed Green Herons, they have been intently focused on catching prey. This heron, however, seemed to be content to check out the area and apparently didn’t like what he saw, because he did not stay very long.

I really like the contemplative look of the heron in both of the images here. Something must have caught its attention in the second shot that caused the heron to extend its neck and look upward—Green Herons almost always look down toward the water. I like the way that the heron has cocked its head.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I couldn’t believe my luck when this male Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) perched on one of the orange lilies at the edge of the pond.

The lily had not yet bloomed, making it a perfect place for the dragonfly to land, and I had positioned myself to take this shot, but I was a little doubtful that a dragonfly would cooperate.

The green of the background complements the blues of the dragonfly, but it is the orange that makes this image pop for me.

I am happy with the image.

lily1_blog© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Do you ever have days when you crave solitude, but others just won’t stop bothering you? That may be how this male Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) felt today, when other dragonflies harassed him from the back and from the front.

behind_blogsuspended_blog© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Borrowing a longer telephoto lens earlier this week,  I was able to get some shots of the tiny birds that I often see, but rarely am able to photograph.

On Monday, my photography mentor, Cindy Dyer, lent me a Nikon D300 with a Nikon 80-400mm lens. It was a lot of fun to experiment with a much longer telephoto than I am accustomed to using. We spent only a limited time at a local nature center, so I did not have a chance to photograph anything too exotic, but I did get some shots of a Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens), a Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus),  and a Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor).

The background in the first image really grabbed my attention when I pulled up the image on the computer—the tree branches look an awful lot like a suspension bridge.

I included the blurry final image of the chickadee flying away just for fun. I get this kind of image on a regular basis, although usually the bird is out of the frame. The Nikon I was using has a much higher frame rate (up to 7 images a second) than my Canon (a more modest three frames a second), so the chickadee is still in the frame.

I am pretty sure that I will stick with Canon and not switch to Nikon, but, as fellow blogger Lyle Krahn predicted, I am starting to hear the siren call of a longer lens.

Downy Woodpecker lorez

Chickadee 2 lorezTuftedTitmouse lorez

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Using a borrowed Nikon D300 camera with an 80-400mm lens, I was able to get a lot closer to birds than I am used to, permitting me to  to get shots like these ones of a Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura).

Yesterday was a mostly sunny, spring-like day and Cindy Dyer, my photography mentor, and I made a brief visit to a local nature center to shoot some photos. She was excited to photograph the purple crocuses (or is that croci) that were in bloom. (Be sure to check out her blog regularly as we move into spring for lots of gorgeous flower images.)

I, on the other hand, was eager to play around with the camera that she had lent me. Most often I shoot with a Canon Rebel XT and a 55-250mm zoom lens. It is a lightweight combination that has served me well, but it has some limitations. Cindy shoots with Nikon gear and is a self-professed “gadget girl,” so she had more than enough gear to share.

It took a while to get used to the settings on the Nikon, but the real challenge was learning to shoot with the large lens. My hands and arms were not used to the weight of such a lens and I definitely would need a lot more practice to take fuller advantage of its capabilities (and I probably should have put aside my male ego and followed Cindy’s recommendation to put the camera on a tripod).

Here are two images of a Mourning Dove that I photographed. Cindy tweaked the first one in Photoshop and it is striking to see how she was able to bring out the details in the dove. I produced the second image, working in Photoshop Elements. The starting images may have been of equal quality, but it is clear to me that Cindy’s greater experience in Photoshop helped her produce a superior final image in a shorter period of time.

What did I learn? Well, I think that the most important lesson to me is the value of constant practice, whether it be in using camera equipment or in using photo software. There are always new things to learn—and that helps to keep me energized about my photography.

Mourning Dove lorezmourning_blog© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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