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Posts Tagged ‘Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge’

When this Spotted Orbweaver spider (Neoscona crucifera) spotted me last week at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, it scurried along the silken threads of its web to the relative safety of the plant to which one end of the web was attached.

There is something that really appeals to me about this image. Maybe it’s the way that the colors of the spider match those of the plant or how the shapes of the stems are similar to those of the spider’s legs. Perhaps it is the contrast between the sharpness of a few elements in the image and the dreamy, almost ghost-like background.

Most of the time I strive for super-realistic images and try to draw a viewer’s attention to the details. When I am in an artsy, creative mood, though, I am content to capture an impression of the subject, leaving the details to the imagination of others.

spotted orbweaver spider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Although we are well into autumn, there are still dragonflies around, including some stunning Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonflies (Stylurus plagiatus) that I spotted earlier this week at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. As you can see from the photos Russet-tipped Clubtails like to perch on somewhat exposed leaves, which makes them a bit easier to spot than some species of dragonflies, though they are not common in my experience

I was able to capture images of Russet-tipped Clubtails (there were at least two individuals that I saw, both males) on several leafy perches in a tree overhanging a pond. My angle of view and the direction of the light gave each of these images a very different feel, primarily because of the way that the background was captured.

Depended on my mood, any one of these three images can be my favorite. Is there one that particularly appeals to you?

Russet-tipped Clubtail

Russet-tipped Clubtail

Russet-tipped Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Beavers are nocturnal creatures and consequently the best times to see them generally are at dawn and at dusk. Dragonflies, on the other hand, mostly like bright sunlight and they are often most visible during the hottest part of the day.

When I was walking around the small pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge yesterday morning around 10:00, therefore, I was expecting to see dragonflies. Imagine my shock when some motion in the water caught my eye and I spotted a North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) lazily swimming by parallel to the shore on which I was standing.

The light on the water was amazing and gave it a golden glow, as you can see in the first image. The beaver made a gentle u-turn and I was able to capture the ripples and the wake it created in the second image. The beaver was then swimming  toward the light and that is why you can see some of the details of the eye in that second image.

I then decided to switch from my DSLR with my 180mm macro lens that I used for the first two shots to my Canon SX50 superzoom camera. The third image is framed just as it came out of the camera with no cropping and it lets you see some of the texture of the beaver’s fur and the little hairs that stick out of its face. I also love the way the patterns of the water look in this image.

This little incident was a reminder to be eternally vigilant. Wild creatures don’t always follow the rules and may turn up in unexpected places at unanticipated times.

beaver

beaver

beaver

© 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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On Friday I was delighted to capture this image of one of my favorite damselflies, the beautifully colored Variable Dancer (Argia fumipennis), while exploring Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. The red and yellow colors of the vegetation are vaguely autumn-like, a reminder that the clock is ticking for the end of the dragonfly/damselfly season this year. If only I could slow down the passage of time.

Variable Dancer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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I was thrilled yesterday to see that at least one Swift Setwing dragonfly (Dythemis velox) is still present at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. Base on past records, the Swift Setwings should be with us at least until the end of September, but this has been a crazy year weatherwise, so I never know whether the different dragonflies will appear and disappear on schedule.

If you look really closely at the wings of this dragonfly, you’ll discover some really cool shapes and patterns—-not all of the individual “cells” in the wings are of the same shape and size. Together they form an intricate mosaic that reminds me of a stained glass window. (I encourage you to click on the image to see it in higher resolution.)

Swift Setwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I’m a real beginner in watercolors and probably should stick to exercises and simple subjects, but that is not what I want to paint. I’ll look at some of my wildlife photos and think, “I’d like to try to paint that,” knowing full well that I don’t really have the skills to do so. I figure, though, that I’ll learn as I go along, seeing what works and doesn’t work. So yesterday evening I decided to have a go at painting an immature Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) that I photographed recently.

I figured the best chance I had at making something recognizable was to simplify things, especially smaller, less important elements, like the leaves in the branches surrounding the hawk. I decided that I was not going to worry about making them realistic. I also realized that it would be tough for me to capture the fine details of the feathers, so I went for a more stylized approach. I decided to simplify my color palette too and used only three colors—lemon yellow, ultramarine blue, and burnt sienna.

So what happened? You can see and judge the results yourself. Some parts of the painting came out pretty well and other parts could use a lot of improvement.

I learned a lot in the process of doing this painting, most notably that I really enjoy mixing colors. It was rare that I used one of the three colors straight out of the pan, with one exception being the yellow eye. I paid a lot of attention to trying to vary my colors, especially in areas like the feathers.

I realize now that painting details is really tough—I’m hoping that practice will help me improve my control of the brushes. The biggest thing, perhaps, that I need to work on is controlling the amount of water that is on the brush and on the paper. I was blindsided a couple of times when the result I was expecting did not happen, most often when I had too much water in my brush. (I also need a whole lot of practice with sketching.)

I didn’t really try to copy my photo, but thought you might enjoy seeing the photograph that served as a general reference for me as I painted.

Thanks to the many readers who have encouraged me to keep painting. It is a little humbling to see how crude my initial efforts are, but it really is a lot of fun creating something from scratch—there is definitely something therapeutic about playing with paints.

watercolor hawk

Cooper's Hawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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