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Posts Tagged ‘landscape’

Landscape photography has always been problematic for me—it often feel like I am taking a photo without a real subject. I spend most of my time in photography trying to fill the frame with a single subject using telephoto or macro lenses, so it is hard to pull back and see the proverbial “big picture.” Sure, I realize that the actual landscape is the subject, but I have trouble “seeing” wide in my mind as I think composing a shot.

My experience in Paris changed my perspective a bit, because I took a lot of wide and even ultra-wide panoramic shots there. So last week when returned to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which is located less than 20 miles (32 km) from where I live, I consciously thought about capturing some of the different types of environments there.

The first shot shows one of the streams that flows through the refuge. I can often find herons, ducks, and occasionally deer along the edges of the stream. The stream is affected by tidal surges coming from the Potomac River and in this image the water level causes me to think that it was low tide.

My favorite trail runs parallel to the waters of Occoquan Bay. Small birds hang around in the vegetation at water’s edge, water birds congregate in the deeper waters, and Bald Eagles can often be found in the trees overlooking this tails. During warmer weather, this trail is a great location in which to hunt for dragonflies.

Wide trails crisscross the refuge, which used to be a military installation. The trails are off limits to the vehicles except for official ones. I never know what I might see when I walk on these trails. On occasion I will stumble upon groups of wild turkeys, flocks of migrating birds, and turtles crossing the road.

I hope that you have enjoyed this brief overview of the environment in which I have been taking so many of the insect, bird, and animal shots featured on this blog. It is good to remind myself yet again that what is familiar to me is unusual and maybe even exotic to someone in another part of the country or of the world. So periodically I will try to mix in shots like these to make it easier for you as you accompany me on my journey into photography.

 

Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

 

Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The spiderweb was tattered and the spider was absent, but the globular drops of dew gave the scene a magical feel as the early morning light turned them into transparent pearls. As I looked more closely, I saw there was a miniature upside down version of the landscape in many of the drops.

For the ease of the viewer, I flipped a cropped version of part of the scene 180 degrees in the first photo below to give a better sense of the “landscapes” that are shown right side up. The second image shows a wider view of the strings of glistening drops. The final image is the same as the first one, but rotated back to its original orientation, so that the normal rules of gravity apply and the dew drops are hanging down from the silken strands of the spider web.

 

tiny landscapes

tiny landscapes

tiny landscapes

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some photographers like to stay in one spot and let the action come to them, but most of the time I prefer to keep on the move, opportunistically scanning for subjects to shoot. There is one place, however, at Huntley Meadows Park that I will sometimes visit and simply sit for extended periods of time. It is a beaver pond in a secluded area of the park and I feel a sense of peace surround me whenever I am there.

This past Monday I was sitting on a log at that spot and was struck  by the beauty of the elements of the scene in front of me. I tried to capture some of those elements of the landscape with they 150-600mm zoom lens that was on my camera at that moment. I like the way that the telephoto lens provides an intimate landscape view, unlike the wide-angle view that I typically associate with landscapes.

telephoto landscape

telephoto landscape

telephoto landscape

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love to wander through remote areas of Huntley Meadows Park, often following meandering streams. Each time is different, as the level of the water, the varying light, and the changing vegetation alter my perceptions of the landscape.

The park is a freshwater wetland of over 1500 acres with meadows, ponds, streams, and woods that provide a habitat for the wide range of insects, birds, and animals that I often feature on this blog. I am always conscious of the beauty of my surroundings, but generally have either a telephoto zoom or a macro lens on my camera, so photographing the landscape is not something that I do very often.

I was drawn to the twists and turns of this section of one of my favorite streams after a significant rainfall earlier this month. It was relatively early in the morning and there were still shadows in some areas. I captured some images of the scene with the “short” end of my 150-600mm lens and this is my favorite of the group. I definitely need to work more on visualizing landscape shots, but am happy with this initial effort.

Barnyard Run

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Yesterday’s cloudy, rainy, foggy day made it a little tough to take photos, but I like the effect it had on the landscape, creating almost monochromatic scenes of different shades of gray. This is an unfamiliar style of shooting for me, so I played around a bit, trying to capture both a wide view of the marsh, and some close-views of isolated areas.

The snow here is gone now, but the ice is still hanging on.

harsh3_blogharsh1_blogharsh2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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There is a spot in a back corner of my marshland park that I love to visit in the early morning, when the light produces beautiful reflections in the still waters of a small pond.

It’s accessible only by an informal muddy trail, so I don’t have to share the moments of tranquility with the baby strollers and power walkers that interrupt my conversations with nature when I am on the boardwalk. Sometimes I will see ducks and geese here and I have even spotted a bald eagle perching in a tall tree, but the main draw for me is not the wildlife—it’s the sense of peace that envelopes me when I am here.

Sometimes I like reflections in which you can easily identify the objects being reflected, like the two trees in the first image. Other times, I get lost in the reflections themselves, which can result in a Monet-like abstract image like the second image below.

All of us are looking for an inner peace—this is one place in which I am able to experience a few moments of that peace.

reflection1_blogreflection2_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Last night I saw a beautiful almost-full moon as I was driving home from work, so I got up early this morning with hopes of seeing the moon setting before sunrise.

The moon was bright in the cold pre-dawn sky.  Although it was partially obscured by clouds, the moon illuminated my way along the darkened path to the boardwalk of my local marsh. There were geese sleeping in the fields just off the boardwalk and I attempted to photograph them (I’ll post a photo or two of them later). I tried photographing the moon itself, but the overcast sky prevented me from getting any details of the moon, which looks like a blob of light in all of my photos. I had somewhat greater success in taking photos of the moonlight reflecting off the water. I had my camera on a tripod for extra stability, but focusing in the dark was difficult and I couldn’t see the dials of the camera, so my settings were not always right.

Here is my favorite image that shows a pathway of reflected light from the moon. The subject that I photographed is pretty mundane, but I really like the overall atmosphere of the photo.

Moonlight

Moonlight in the marsh

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Huntley Meadows Park is made up of 1,425 acres of forests, meadows, and fresh-waters wetlands and has become one of my favorite places to take photos of a wide variety of wildlife. What is most remarkable for me, though, is the fact that it is located in the midst of a heavily populated suburban area of Washington, D.C., only a few miles from where I live. I am clearly not the only one who enjoys being there. On any given day I am likely to be greeted by groups of giggling boys and girls or smaller, more sedate groups of adults, many with binoculars or cameras with very long telephoto lenses. The park’s website notes that it is a favorite location for bird spotting, with over 200 species having been identified there.

Monday was an especially beautiful day. The coolness of the fall mornings has definitely arrived and we were treated to brilliant blue skies, a relative rarity here. While at Huntley Meadows, I decided to try to capture a view of some of the elements of the park, including part of the half-mile long boardwalk that zigzags through the marshland.

Huntley Meadows Park in early September

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am still away from home with my point-and-shoot camera and decided to play a little with reflections. Usually I end up trying to show both the object and its reflection, which makes for an image that is centered in the frame. This, of course, violates the usual photographic best practice of not having center of attention in the center. Feeling exceptionally bold, I decided to show just the reflection and only a minimum of the scene itself in a city park. I like the effect that I achieved, although it is probably too busy. Nonetheless, I hope to experiment some more with landscapes (or cityscapes) and other subjects that draw me out of my normal focus on small objects and their details. Sometimes it is undoubtedly good to see the literal “big picture.”

Reflections of a city park

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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During the last few months I have tried to get more serious about expressing myself in photos. I started out by photographing small things like insects and flowers and eventually got a macro lens. More recently I have been taking photos of larger things, like turtles, frogs, and wading birds. Yesterday I decided to try a landscape picture, without really knowing how to do it.

I’ve read enough to know that I wanted maximum depth of field and saturated colors. So I set my camera up on my tripod with these settings, f22, 1/50 sec, ISO 100, and 21mm on my 18-55mm zoom lens. I also used exposure compensation to underexpose by one f stop, figuring that reflections off the water might cause the image to be overexposed.

My subject was Cameron Run, a stream that runs into the Potomac River. There are concrete slabs at intervals that run across the stream, presumably to help the water flow as it moves downstream. I was standing on one of them with my camera on my tripod when I took this shot, looking east toward Old Town Alexandria, VA.

I’m pretty happy with the result. What you see if pretty much what came out of the camera—I am not sure what adjustments I should do in Photoshop. Perhaps I’ll try more like this, especially if I travel outside of the suburban area where I do most of my shooting.

Cameron Run looking east toward Old Town Alexandria, VA

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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