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Posts Tagged ‘Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge’

Last Saturday I spotted this Pearl Crescent butterfly (Phyciodes tharos) on what looks to be a Black-eyed Susan flower (Rudbeckia hirta) at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. Initially the butterfly’s wings were open, which made for an ok shot. When the butterfly partially closed its wings, however, the light coming from the back helped to illuminate one wing like a stained glass window.

It is amazing how a slight change in the position of a subject can radically change the feel of an image—that is one of the reason why I like to shoot in short bursts, hoping to capture a variety of poses in a short period of time.

Pearl Crescent

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Normally a dragonfly’s abdomen is straight. Occasionally, though, I encounter one with an abdomen that has a noticeable curve, like this male Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis) that I spotted yesterday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. (For those of you not familiar with dragonfly anatomy, the upper portion of the body is the thorax and the lower two-thirds is the abdomen.)

I suspect that the curvature was the result of a problem that occurred when the dragonfly was first emerging. It does not seem to have any effect on his ability to fly or to catch prey, but it might pose a problem when he attempts to mate.

Eastern Pondhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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During the hot, humid days of mid-summer, I often hear the sounds of birds, but rarely see them. Although I may be out in the blazing sun, most of the birds seem to use common sense and take shelter in the shade of the trees.

Last week as I was exploring Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, I heard the unmistakable call of a kingfisher and caught a glimpse of it skimming across the water of a small pond. I was a bit surprised when it chose briefly to perch in a small tree overhanging the water. I was a long way away, but had a clear line of sight and captured this image of the female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon). I can tell that it is a female because I can see a reddish-colored band across its chest that the male lacks.

Many of you know that I photograph birds more frequently during the winter months, when insects disappear and the lack of foliage makes it easier to spot the birds. Throughout the year, however, I try to be ready in case a bird decides to be cooperative and poses for me.

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of the real joys of the summer is having the chance to see colorful butterflies, like this Common Buckeye butterfly (Junonia coenia) that I observed last week at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. I am not sure what creature has been munching on the vegetation on which the butterfly is perched, but I really like the way that the holes in leaves mirror the circular shapes of the butterfly’s eye spots.

Common Buckeye

Common Buckeye

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do dragonflies have noses? That sounds like a crazy question, but it is the first one that came to mind when I looked at the image that I had captured of a dragonfly in flight this past week at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. I could not immediately identify it, so I consulted with experts in a Facebook group and learned that it is a Cyrano Darner (Nasiaeschna pentacantha). This species has a protruding forehead—it’s not a nose— that is reminiscent of the long nose of literary character Cyrano de Bergerac.

The species in the second shot is a Prince Baskettail (Epitheca cynosura), a species that I have featured multiple times in this blog. During much of the summer, I can usually spot one or two Prince Baskettail dragonflies patrolling over the pond at the same wetland refuge and I love trying to capture shots of them in flight. What makes this image distinctive, though, is not so much the dragonfly, but the background. There were ripples in the pond and the way that I shot and processed the image turned them into a wonderfully abstract background.

When I post photos like these, I often get questions about how I am able to capture images of flying dragonflies. Luck and persistence are the keys to getting shots like these. I use my 180mm macro lens and focus manually as the dragonflies zoom by, because the dragonflies don’t fill enough of the frame for my auto-focus to engage quickly and accurately. I have found that is almost impossible for me to use a zoom lens in this task—I get overwhelmed when I try to zoom, track, and focus simultaneously.

Cyrano Darner

Prince Baskettail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Is the best image of a butterfly only one in which its wings are fully open so that you can see all of the beautiful colors and patterns? Generally that is the angle that most of us seek to shoot. This past Wednesday I was observing an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge when it struck me that the butterfly was “attacking” the flower from all kinds of different angles, even hanging upside down. Why shouldn’t I take the same approach with the butterfly (minus the hanging upside down part)?

I like the way in which the three shots below capture some of the activity of the butterfly and not merely its beauty. At times it seems like beauty and function are at odds with each other, that beauty is best captured in controlled settings like in a studio, where portraits are often taken.

I fully accept that the natural world in which I like to work is chaotic and out of my control, but in the midst of it I still find incredible beauty, a beauty that may be imperfect by some standards. I encourage you to look at your world from a different angle at least from time to time and you may be amazed by the way that a change of perspective can cause you to see things in a totally different way.

 

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I spotted this male Swift Setwing dragonfly (Dythemis velox) at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. Unlike most dragonflies that hold their wings straight out to the side, this species pulls its wings forward and adopts a ready-set-go position when perching.

This species is really special to me. A few years ago I had the first documented sighting of a Swift Setwing in the county in which I live and each year I am thrilled to see them again. Late in June I saw my first one this year, but was not able to capture any decent images, so these are my first successful Swift Setwing shots this season.

Swift Setwings like to perch on the end of vegetation overhanging the water and are always almost facing the water, which makes it tough to get shots without getting wet. On of the cool things about their perching patterns is that it usually allows me to get uncluttered backgrounds in the shots that I am able to take. In both of these images, the water forms a neutral background that almost makes them look like they were shot in a studio setting.

Swift Setwing

Swift Setwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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