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Posts Tagged ‘Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’

The time drew near for our departure and I had pretty much given up hope of getting any good shots of dragonflies during a visit with some friends last Saturday to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia. There were several streams and ponds and I would occasionally see dragonflies flying around, but the planted areas of the garden prevented me from getting close to the water and the spots where the dragonflies were perching.

As I was crossing a small bridge that connected the boardwalk to the “shore,” a dragonfly suddenly flew up from the level of the water into a tree and perched on some relatively low-hanging leaves, about eight feet (243 cm) from the ground. I was able to track the dragonfly to its location and approached it slowly and cautiously.

The dragonfly was perching vertically and the first thing I noticed was that its wings were bright and shiny, suggesting that it had only recently emerged. My initial thought was that it was a Unicorn Clubtail (Arigomphus villosipes), because of the distinctive curved tip of the abdomen. When I got home, I looked at photos of Unicorn Clubtails and doubts began to creep into my mind about the identity of this dragonfly, because the colors seemed different from the ones depicted, which were more yellow than green. I posted a photo into a Facebook group and some experts confirmed that my initial instincts had been correct.

I took shots from several different angles, wishing that I was about a foot taller so that I would not have been shooting upwards at an angle. It turned out, though, that there was an advantage to shooting upwards, for I was able to get a pretty good view in the final image of the distinctive yellow “horn” between the dragonfly’s eyes that caused it to be named “unicorn.”

Unicorn Clubtail

Unicorn Clubtail

Unicorn CLubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I don’t know if this Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) migrated from the south or was a refugee from the indoor butterfly garden, but I was sure happy to see it this past Saturday at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden outside of Richmond, Virginia. Monarch butterflies have been pretty scarce in this area the last couple of years.

Monarch butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What is the most difficult subject that you attempt to capture with your camera? Is it a certain moment when the lighting is perfect or perhaps an elusive, exotic creature in a distant location?

For me, the unicorns that I chase come in the form of dragonflies. I have an irrepressible desire to try to take photos of dragonflies while they are in mid-air. Sometimes the dragonflies will cooperate a bit and hover briefly over the water, but much of the time they are in constant motion as they zig and zag over the water in an often unpredictable pattern.

Yesterday I traveled with some fellow photographers to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia, primarily to photograph flowers. Not surprisingly for those who know me, I got distracted and focused much of my attention on searching for insects.

Toward the end of a gorgeous spring day, I finally spotted a dragonfly patrolling over a section of a small pond. I moved closer and tried to track it in my camera’s viewfinder. Over the winter, I’ve practiced tracking birds in flight and can usually keep them in the viewfinder—the challenge is to keep them in focus. With dragonflies, however, it’s a challenge to even keep them in the viewfinder and auto focus is a virtual impossibility.

Has anyone ever challenged you to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time? That’s how I feel as I try to track a moving dragonfly and focus manually at the same time. I ended up with some out-of-focus ghostly images of the dragonfly or empty frames with a view of the water.

I managed to capture a single image that I really liked of what appears to be a Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosaura).  There is some motion blur, but you can see some of the beautiful details and colors of the dragonfly. (Check out a recent posting that I did to see an image of a perching Common Baskettail dragonfly at my local marshland park in late April.)

I don’t always check the EXIF data for my images, but I was curious to see what the settings were that produced this image. I was shocked to see the information, because I realized that I had neglected to change the settings of my camera when I moved from shooting a stationary subject in the sun to chasing a moving subject that was flying in and out of the shadows over the water.

The camera was set to ISO 100, f/11, 275mm (on a 70-300mm zoom lens) and 1/40 sec. Needless to say, that is not the shutter speed that I would have used if I had been paying more attention, but somehow it worked out ok. I was shooting in aperture-priority mode, as I do most of the time, and I probably should have been shooting at ISO 800, which would have given me a faster shutter speed. The bonus, though, of the low ISO was that I got a cleaner image that I could adjust more aggressively.

As we move into summer, I’ll continue my quest to capture other dragonflies in flight. For the moment, I am content with yesterday’s image, but fully recognize that a huge amount of luck was involved in capturing it.

Common Baskettail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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You know that summer is coming to a close when the dragonflies that were in constant flight earlier in the season seem to be resting more often, like this Black Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea lacerata) that one of my fellow photographers, Walter Sanford, pointed out this past weekend at my local marsh. This dragonfly kept flying back and forth between two perches that were tantalizingly just out of the range of the 180mm lens that I had on my camera. I didn’t dare to take the time to change my lens, knowing that the dragonfly would almost certainly fly away at the most inopportune moment, so I ended up cropping a lot, especially in the first image.

The only shots that I could get of Saddlebags dragonflies earlier in the summer were in-flight shots and I have already posted some shots of a Black Saddlebags in the air. I realized, though, that I had not posted an image of its more colorful counterpart, the Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina) that I photographed during a visit to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia. I took that shot (the third one below) from a pretty long distance, but was able to achieve focus and capture some of the wonderful details of this beautiful red dragonfly.

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Carolina Saddlebags dragonfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s not hard to figure out the source of its name when you spot a colorful Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) waving in the breeze. These dragonflies also remind me of pole vaulters, attempting to thrust their bodies over a crossbar while holding on to the very end of a long pole.

I have not seen one yet at Huntley Meadows Park, the place where I take the majority of my photos, though earlier this summer one of my fellow photographers, Walter Sanford, spotted one in the park for the first time in years. I shot this image at edge of a small pond during a recent trip to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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While at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond,Virginia last weekend, I visited the butterfly house. It was hot and really humid inside of the glassed-in conservatory, but it was worth it to be surrounded by all of the colorful, exotic butterflies. Normally, I try to identify the species that I photograph, but in this case I neglected to photograph the placards inside the butterfly house.  My brain is full enough trying to remember the species indigenous to my area, so perhaps viewers can forgive me and simply enjoy the delicate beauty of these amazing creatures.

Click on any of the tile to see all of the shots in slide show format.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of the highlights of last weekend’s trip with some friends to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia was the giant lily pads outside of the glass-encased conservatory. I think they are from the Victoria genus of water lilies (possibly Victoria amazonica) which, according to Wikipedia, can grow to almost ten feet in diameter and support a weight of up to 70 pounds.

The turtle in the background was a bonus—I didn’t even realize that it was there until I looked at my images on my computer.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday on a photo expedition with some friends to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia, I encountered a stunningly beautiful purple damselfly with gorgeous violet eyes that rival those of the late Elizabeth Taylor. I don’t think that I had ever seen a purple damselfly or dragonfly before and the striking purple color is wonderfully set off by its black markings and blue band at the end of its abdomen.

Fellow blogger and local  dragonfly expert Walter Sanford has identified this for me as a Violet Dancer damselfly (Argia fumipennis violacea), a subspecies of the Variable Dancer (Argia fumipennis).

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Memories of this past winter’s unusually heavy snowfall are beginning to fade, but were revived when I saw these beautiful little Snowflakes during a recent visit to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, VA.

There are two varieties of Snowflakes—the Spring Snowflake (Leucojum vernum) and the Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum)—and I am not absolutely certain which variety I photographed.

I love the simple beauty of this delicate flower and am happy that I was able to isolate a couple of the blooms to showcase that beauty.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Within minutes of seeing the elegant honey bee that I featured in a recent posting, I encountered this Eastern carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica), which is built more like a sumo wrestler than a dancer, especially when viewed face-to-face, as in the second image below.

 

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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Folks may have mixed emotions about adult Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) and many consider them a nuisance, but I think that just about everyone agrees that goslings are really cute.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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While visiting a garden during an event advertised as “A Million Blooms” I looked hard, but didn’t find any bees among the many tulips and other spring flowers. It was a bit ironic that I discovered this honey bee on a bush while waiting for my fellow photographers outside the gift shop of the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia after seeing lots and lots of flowers.

I was hand-holding my 180mm macro lens for these shots, so I couldn’t close down the lens too far. In some of the shots, therefore, you can see that the depth of field was pretty narrow. Still, I am happy that I was able to capture some of the beautiful details of this honey bee, one of the first bees that I have observed this spring.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Isn’t “beautiful wasp” an oxymoron? Can a wasp really be considered to be beautiful? I may be insect-deprived after a long winter and my perceptions may be skewed, but I find the wasp in these two images to be exceptionally beautiful.

The rich reddish-brown of its upper body, with a pattern that looks like some exotic wood, and the bluish-purple of its wings make for a stunning combination, and the holly leaf provides a perfect backdrop.

I took this shot during a visit Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, VA this past weekend, a garden that featured thousands of tulips and other spring flowers in bloom, but almost no insects. I actually was not inside the garden, but was waiting outside the gift shop for some fellow photographers when I spotted this wasp sprawled out on the leaf, as shown in the second image. The nice thing about my 180mm macro is that I didn’t have to get right on top of the insect to capture some good detail. When I moved in a little closer, the wasp slowly climbed up the leaf, as captured in the first shot, before it flew away.

It was nice to see insects start to reappear and I suspect that I will start using my macro lens more and more as we move deeper into spring and into summer.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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A few dandelions have popped up recently, but I was surprised to see one yesterday that had already gone to seed. Despite the wind that kicked up from time to time, the dandelion remained a perfect sphere.

April continues to be a mass of contradictions, with a mixture of signs of winter, spring, and even summer.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Sometimes the beauty of Easter reveals itself in subtle ways, like this delicate orchid that I photographed yesterday in the conservatory at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, VA.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Small butterflies have a special, delicate beauty all their own, like this Gray Hairstreak butterfly (Strymon melinus) that I photographed in mid-August at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia.

BugGuide states that this is the most common hairstreak in North American, but this is only the second time that I have seen one. Based on my limited observation of American women, I would assert that the blond hairstreak is the most common one, though, as a bald guy, I realize that hair is not my area of expertise.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I usually think of bees as being yellow and black, but I encountered this cool-looking metallic green bee (of the Agapostemon family) yesterday at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia.

I remember The Green Hornet on television when I was a child, but I had never seen a green bee before. At first I was not even sure that it was a bee, but as I watched it gather pollen, I concluded that it had to be a bee.

It seems appropriate that I would be suffering from color confusion at that moment, because the bee was perched on a Purple Cone Flower (Echinacea purpurea), a flower that in my experience is rarely purple—they normally appear to be more pink than purple.

Now that I have freed my mind and broken the bonds of my conventional thinking about the color of bees, perhaps I will be able to bee all that I can bee.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Progress toward spring seems to have slowed down and frost has reappeared in the morning, though we have been spared the heavy snows that have fallen in other parts of the country.

As a reminder of the colorful growth that is to come, I decided to share a few images of one of my favorite orchids—a Lady’s Slipper orchid—from the orchid exhibition that I visited at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, VA earlier this month. I was really intrigued by the “pouch” portion of the flower and tried to highlight it in close-up photos, which I took with my camera on a tripod and settings of ISO 100, f16, and .6 seconds.

As I think about spring, I feel like a little kid on a trip, who keeps asking his parents, “Are we there yet?” Despite what the calendar may indicate, we are not there yet, and the answer to the question “When?” is likely to be the indefinite “Soon” that parents are wont to use in a response to the child.

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Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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This past weekend, I made another trip to the orchid exhibit at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, VA, in part to hone my macro-shooting skills that have atrophied during the winter months.

I have grown accustomed to photographing birds and small mammals at the far end of my telephoto range in situations in which I don’t have much time for decision-making. If I am lucky, I am able to quickly check the direction of the light and adjust my camera’s settings, but sometimes there is insufficient time for even those rudimentary checks.

When I am shooting with my macro lens, my camera is usually attached to my tripod and, if I remember to do so, I have time to think about the exposure, the settings, and the angle before the shot. More importantly, I can look at the results and take a second shot. Birds and animals rarely give me a second chance.

Here are shots of a couple of the orchids that at the exhibition. I don’t know the names of the orchids, but one of my Facebook friends told me that the red one is from the Cymbidium genus. As I was working on the images, I noticed that I photographed both of them from almost the same angle. Perhaps I liked that angle, but most likely I was desperately trying to get an uncluttered background and this view allowed me to minimize distractions.

I can tell I need to retrain my eyes a bit to look at the tiny details as I prepare for the insect and flower season. Baseball is not the only activity that requires spring training.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I’m finally finishing up with the shots from my trip last weekend to see the orchid exhibition and thought I’d post a couple of abstract images.

The first shot is a close-up of an elephant ear plant. I like the way its veins pop out, like a bodybuilder with a heavy weight. The image is somewhat symmetrical, but the two sides are not mirror images.

The second shot is a close-up of an orchid. Is it just me, or does it look like the flower contains a pink Darth Vader helmet?

ElephantEarCloseupDarthVadarPinkHelmet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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My challenge this weekend was to capture the delicate beauty of a wide variety of orchids and I decided that the best way to do so was to look at them closely, very closely and to use my macro lens.

I took these photos at an orchid exhibition at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, VA, about 90 minutes from where I live. The orchids were displayed in a glassed-in conservatory at varying heights in many different ways at varying heights—sometimes as single plants and sometimes in groups. It would have been amusing to make a video of my body’s contorted positions as I struggled to frame the photos and to look through the viewfinder of my camera, which was on a tripod most of the time.

In some of these images, like the first one, I tried to increase the depth of field to show more details and in other cases, like the last image, I intentionally limited the depth of field to capture one element. In some photos, I was most interested in the lines and colors.

If forced to choose a favorite, I’d probably select the first image, because of the interesting shapes, which are set off by the white petals. Do you have a preference?

White Orchid closeupPinkWhiteYellow OrchidAbstract Pink Orchid

SpecklePurpleOrchidGreen

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Here is a splash of color to start the work week—a close-up shot of the inside of a deep purple tulip called Negrita.  I photographed this flower while visiting an orchid exhibit at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia this past weekend.

Tulip Negrita

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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In an effort to chase away the dullness of another gray winter day, I traveled yesterday with some friends to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, VA to see a spectacular display of orchids.

There was an amazing variety of orchids of all sizes and color, displayed in several areas of a large indoor glass conservatory. I know very little about orchids, but my eyes were especially drawn to a variety called Lady’s Slippers that are in the sub-family Cypripedioideae. According to Wikipedia, orchids of this type are characterized by slipper-shaped pouches that traps insects so they are forced to climb up past the staminode, behind which they collect or deposit pollen, thus fertilizing the flower.

Here is a front view of a green-and-yellow Lady’s Slipper. Although the orchids were amazingly beautiful, it was often difficult to get good backgrounds for images of the flowers, because of visual clutter. I dealt with the issue by using my macro lens and concentrating on small elements of individual flowers.

My friend and photography mentor, Cindy Dyer, however, was better prepared for this by carrying along a piece of white cardboard to help isolate the flowers and simplify the background. (You should check out her blog for beautiful photos of orchids and other flowers and insects).

The second and third images, which provide a side view of the Lady’s Slipper, were taken with a few seconds of each other, one with the existing background and one using Cindy’s white cardboard. In many ways, I like the look of the white background—it reminds me a little of a botanical print, but it is definitely unnatural.

Which version of the side view do you prefer?

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Slipper Side ViewYellowGreenSlipperOrchid

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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