Posts Tagged ‘nature’

This duck tale has a happy ending, as two Hooded Merganser duck couples paddle gently down the stream, but a potential crisis had been averted only moments before.

It began like this. Five Mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos), three males and two females, were swimming upstream. Two of the males were in the lead, while the other male seemed to be carrying on a conversation with one of the females. Their course had them in the partial shade, not far from one of the banks.

At the same time, four Hooded Merganser ducks (Lophodytes cucullatus), two males and two females, were headed downstream in perfect formation on a collision course with the Mallard ducks.

What would happen when the groups met? Would there be a confrontation? Would they exchange information about the attractions of the places they had just passed through? Who has the right-of-way in situations like this?

The signals were a bit ambiguous at the first encounter, as one of the male Mallards tried to have a conversation with one of the male Hooded Mergansers, who had turned away. All eyes were turned on the two representatives. Would they be able to negotiate an agreement? If a fight broke out, it was clear that the Mallards had an advantage in both size and numbers.

Who know what was said, but it appears that an agreement was reached and a possible confrontation was avoided. The ducks peacefully passed each other and continued on their separate ways.

The first photo showed the Hooded Merganser ducks after the encounter with the Mallards, so sequentially it should go here. Did you notice that the duck formation had changed and that the males were now in the lead? Was this a protective, chivalrous gesture on their part?

Of course, I may have completely misread this situation. Perhaps the male duck ego is less fragile than the human one and the two male ducks were simply asking each other for directions when they met in the middle of the stream.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was still raining early this morning when I ventured out into my suburban Virginia neighborhood to see what havoc Hurricane Sandy had wreaked upon us. One big tree had fallen onto several cars, but beyond that we had escaped virtually unscathed.

Run-off water was coursing rapidly down the little stream that runs through the neighborhood as part of the drainage system. I decided to attempt to take some shots of the moving water, inspired by some awesome images that I have seen recently in other blogs. There was a railing overlooking the stream and I placed my camera on it and used the self-timer, which permitted me to take some relatively long exposures.

Here are a few of the images that I produced. I still have a lot to learn about taking these kinds of shots, but I like some aspects of these initial efforts.

Suburban Virginia stream after Hurricane Sandy

Post-hurricane run-off in suburban Virginia

Runnymeade stream


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This is a shot of a green heron in the third different location where I have seen a green heron within the past month or so, all within a five mile radius of where I live in suburban Northern Virginia, outside of Washington DC. I came upon this little guy while I was walking down a stream bed and he flew into a tree when he became aware of my presence. Luckily he was still very visible in the foliage and, in fact, the green leaves serve as a nice backdrop to highlight the beauty of this green heron.

Green Heron in a tree

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I was at a nearby pond photographing mostly dragonflies. After shooting them I decided to make a quick walk around the pond (it’s only a small man-made pond) to see what other subjects I could find. I managed to find a colorful butterfly, a small green heron, and some lotus flowers that I will post later, assuming the photos came out ok.

The subject that really caught my attention, though, was a frog. Really? Yes, really.

I was leaning over the green-colored pond water, gazing at a distant dragonfly when I happened to glance down to my right. There, almost camouflaged in what my friends say is duckweed, was a semi-submerged frog. I was able to get my camera’s lens down pretty low and got in close and captured an image I really like. The frog’s gold-ringed eyes shine out clearly amidst all of the individual particles of duckweed that cover much of his expressionless face.

There are a couple of blades of grass that were partially blocking my view to the frog but they blurred out and are not really much of a problem.  After I took some shots, though, I decided to try to carefully remove one of those offending blades. As I made the effort,  the frog, who had remained motionless up to then, literally leaped into action. He sprung powerfully into the air and skipped across the surface of the water, like a rock throw by a dad showing his son how to skip rocks.

I was so startled by his sudden motion that I almost fell over into the water. Later in the day I did end up getting wet when I belatedly noticed that one foot was planted in the water while I was intently focusing on composing a shot. I guess that’s the price of being a photographer.

Hiding frog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Usually my photos are realistic, almost hyper-realistic in their macro details. Sometimes, though, I get excited by a portion of an image and the patterns and lines contained therein.

Yesterday I took some close-ups of a male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly. Thanks to my telephoto lens the butterfly more than filled the frame. After a bit of tweaking I ended up with an image that is almost abstract, with lots of interesting lines and shapes. You can still tell that it is a butterfly and a flower, but it has a different feel than my other butterfly shots.

I find it fun to try something completely different from time to time.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Wait a minute, that’s not a rose! You got me there, but raindrops on flowers are still one of my favorite things. Can I help it if I love “The Sound of Music?” The word “raindrops” immediately conjures up visions of Julie Andrews singing “My Favorite Things,” including “raindrops on roses.”

This photo is a couple of months old but is intended to be a response to the rainy weather we are finally having.  It is also a response to Another Perspective Photography’s posting asserting that she is not a bug photographer.

I am proud to state that I am a bug photographer who often shoots other elements of nature and only occasionally photographs people. That may change, but for the moment it’s where my interests lead me. This photo, however, is intended to be evidence that I am not “just”a bug photographer.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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You might think that I am going to talk philosophically about a bee, but my title is meant to be taken literally. If you click on the photo, you can actually see reflections of the sky and bushes on the shiny surface of the abdomen end of this bee.

I am pretty sure that this is a carpenter bee for two main reasons. First, the abdomen area is shiny and hairless, unlike a bumblebee who is more hairy. Secondly, the bee is sucking nectar out of the side of the flower rather than going in from the front, a process sometimes referred to as “nectar robbing.” Carpenter bees are notorious for circumventing pollination in certain plants by slitting open the side of the flower.

Perhaps others can see more reflections on the bee. It’s like looking at clouds and trying to see shapes—it’s a lot of fun and everyone sees something different. Life is like that sometimes.

Click the photo to see more details

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It may sound like a new summer beverage sensation, but the title is meant to be literal.

I captured this shot of a green heron  just as the rain was beginning to fall this afternoon. I was at the same pond at a local garden where I had previously seen a juvenile green heron (and that was right after the rain). Maybe green herons like to come out to play in the rain—I’ll have to remember that in the future.

There really wasn’t enough light for a high quality image, but I think that I managed to capture the unique look and style of the green heron.

(I also got some photos of a juvenile green heron this afternoon but I’ll save them for another posting.)

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I came across this tiny damselfly yesterday when I was visiting a local garden in the late afternoon. Initially I spotted her when she was flying and I was thrilled when she chose to land in a spot where I could photograph her. I apologize to the experts for not identifying the type but I find it impossible to identify damselflies (and even dragonflies are not easy).

Damselflies are particularly challenging for me to photograph because they are so long and skinny. If I photograph them from the side, the eye is often out of focus and if I try to shoot head-on, depth of field is an issue.

I ended up with a photo that I shot from above and to the side. Somehow I managed to reduce the composition to the damselfly, the branch to which she is clinging, and a couple of leaves.

I find special beauty in that kind of simplicity in nature and in my photography.

Unidentified damselfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have always been fascinated by light and shadows.

Shadows often hide or mask details of a subject, although they also may reveal elements of a subject that might otherwise be concealed. Sometimes shadows are an accurate reflection of the subject (like a silhouette), but other times they distort reality. Shadows intrigue me too because they often pick up characteristics of the surfaces on which they are cast in addition to those of the subject.

My musings on shadows were prompted by this photo of an unidentified wasp (I think it is some kind of wasp) that I shot yesterday morning. The wasp was back lit by the morning sun, causing a hidden part of his body to be revealed in the shadow.

A few months ago I decided to photograph the morning light coming through a small flower in my neighbor’s garden. As I getting ready to shoot, an ant started walking across the back of the flower. It’s not a technically good shot but I like the effect that was produced by the ant’s shadow.

Folks who follow this blog know that I love dragonflies. In early June I took some photos of dragonflies on a sunny day, resulting in lots of shadows. The dragonfly’s shadow makes me think of the position of a person hang gliding and it even looks like the dragonfly is wearing a little helmet.

The undulating surfaces on which the shadow falls really make a difference in the shape of the shadow. I especially like how the shadows of the wings fall on a separate leaf from the shadow of the main body. The shadows of the leaves themselves make this image even more interesting for me.

In this final photo a dragonfly literally is casting a long shadow. The distortion caused by the angle of the sunlight causes his legs to appear much longer and I find that this dragonfly looks much more menacing than is typical of a dragonfly.

Can a dragonfly actually look menacing?

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) photographed today at Green Spring Gardens, Alexandria, Virginia.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) photographed today at Green Spring Gardens, Alexandria, Virginia.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This butterfly looks so drab until he opens his wings and reveals his hidden beauty. It was there all the time but we couldn’t see it.

I haven’t been able to identify this butterfly that I photographed this past weekend in a meadow in Massachusetts but like the way the shot turned out.

UPDATE: I am now pretty sure this butterfly is a Common Wood Nymph (Cercyonis pegala).  Check out the Butterflies and Moths of North America website for additional details.

How much beauty do we miss each day because we fail to see past the ordinary exteriors of things (and people) in our lives and neglect to look more deeply?

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Here are a couple of shots of a Pearl Crescent butterfly (Phyciodes tharos) that I took yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia. The Gardens With Wings website cautions that the Pearl Crescent resembles several other butterflies and the patterns of Pearl Crescent butterflies are variable, according to Wikipedia. I apologize in advance, therefore, if I have misidentified this butterfly, but I think we can all agree that he is amazingly beautiful.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday’s blog entry featured the adventures of a young green heron catching and swallowing a frog. After the snack was consumed, though, the heron moved from the boardwalk into the marshy area. There he perched on a branch and seemed to pose for me, maybe figuring that his exploits were worthy of a magazine feature.

The resulting photograph is one of my favorite shots of the whole day, because I think it captures well the rugged beauty of this young bird. The background is a little distracting but I like the reflections in the water and the angle of the ranch.

I decided to include two additional action shots from yesterday. The photos seem to show that I probably was incorrect when I stated that the heron had speared the frog when he initially caught it. It looks like the heron was merely holding the frog with his beak as he adjusted its position. Now that I think about it, the process of swallowing the frog would have been complicated if the frog had been speared.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One can only imagine what is going through the frog’s mind as he looks into the crazed eyes of the green heron who has just speared him. Is he looking for mercy? Is he resigned to his fate?

I watched the prelude to this moment unfold this afternoon at Huntley Meadows Park, a marshland park here in Virginia. The green heron was intently scanning the water from the edge of a boardwalk that runs through the march. Periodically he would extend his neck down toward the water.

Several times we heard an excited “eeep” sound followed by a splash, indicating another frog had escaped. After a few more minutes, however, the heron dived into the water and reappeared on the boardwalk with the speared frog you see in the first photo.

When you look at the comparative size of the heron’s mouth and the frog, it hardly seems possible that the green heron could swallow the entire frog. The heron took his time shifting the position of the frog and then all at once he turned his head, bent his neck back a little, and down went the frog. It happened so quickly that I was able to snap only a single photo that shows the frog’s webbed feet as the only remaining parts that have not yet been swallowed.

In this final photo the heron no longer has a slim neck. I have no idea how long it will take for the frog to reach the heron’s stomach but I am pretty sure he was not yet there when I took this photo.

And don’t try to talk with the heron during this period. Why not? Read the caption of the last photo!

I can’t talk now. I have a frog in my throat.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s pretty cool to photograph big, gaudy butterflies but today I photographed the smallest butterfly I’ve ever seen. I was shooting photos with my mentor Cindy D. and her husband when Cindy spotted this little guy. He seemed too small to make a good photo and they needed to leave.

Undeterred I lay on my stomach and got as close as my lens would permit me (I did not have time to switch to my macro lens and had to make do with the 18-55mm kit lens that happened to be on the camera). To give you an idea of his size, note that he is perched on a single clover flower.

I’m pretty happy with the result and hope eventually to figure out what kind of butterfly he is. For now, though, I am content to have gotten this shot.


Tiny butterfly on a clover flower

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of my earlier post identified my obsession with the red milkweed beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus). As I hang around the milkweed plants, it’s hard not to notice another really colorful creature, especially because this seems to be its prime mating season. After a little research I’ve started to become better acquainted with the large milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus). Wikipedia provided me with some good information to start and BugGuide added some additional details. I am still getting used to shooting with my macro lens so I apologize in advance that not all of the photos are super sharp. I think they help, though, in explaining some of the traits of these fascinating bugs.

It has been relatively easy to get shots of the mating milkweed bugs and my research identified why. Milkweed bugs while mating can remain connected for up to 10 hours, according to Wikipedia. Yikes! I guess those television commercials about seeing your doctor after four hours don’t apply to these bugs.

What happens after mating? An article from the Life Sciences Depart at the University of Illinois at Urbana noted that a female lays about 30 eggs a day and 2,000 during her lifetime. Egg-laying begins 1 to 15 days after mating and peaks at about 20 days.

A few days ago I came across this group of milkweed bugs. The photo is technically lacking (it was hard to get the needed depth of field) but it gives you an idea of what the large milkweed bug looks like in various stages of development. As a “true” bug, milkweed bugs undergo incomplete metamorphosis. They go through a series of nymph stages, known as instars. For the large milkweed bug there are five instars. Buzzle has an article that explains the bug’s life cycle.

At each stage the bug is covered by an inflexible exoskeleton that constrains its growth. Periodically he bursts out of the exoskeleton and can grow to twice his size in minutes as the new exoskeleton develops and hardens, according to the Buzzle article. Here’s a shot of a bug in one of the earlier nymph stages.

As the milkweed bugs get older the wing pads increase in size in each molt. In the next three photos the wing pads are visible but not yet really prominent.

The wings on this nymph are much more prominent, leading me to think he might almost be an adult. The Buzzle article noted that the entire process of metamorphosis, from egg to adult takes 4-8 weeks, depending on the temperature of the habitat.

Once the large milkweed bug has become and adult (as shown in the last couple of photos) mating begins 5 to 12 days after the last molt for females and two to three days for males, according to the University of Illinois article. And the circle of life continues.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The petals of the lotus flower are delicately beautiful and I love to drink in their beauty. What I enjoy the most, though, is peeking past the petals of the open lotus flower into its very center, the home of its seed pod.

The solid, cylindrical shape and the contrasting color of the seed pod—sometimes green and sometimes yellow— provide for me a nice contrast to the texture and coloration of the petals. These is something intriguing to me about the protruding pod parts that gradually dry out and sink into the pod itself. (I’ll probably do another posting that focuses exclusively on the pods themselves, as they appear after the petals have fallen.)

I took these photos a little over a week ago at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Washington DC, a wonderful setting run by the National Park Service.

That same day I ran into my friend Cindy D. and her husband Michael at Kenilworth and they too were shooting photos.  Cindy later posted a gorgeous lotus photo on her blog and she also included amazing information about the lotuses at this garden, some of which are descended from ancient plants whose seeds were recovered in 1951 from a dry Manchurian lake bed. Check out her blog for the rest of the story.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One evening this past week I was photographing lotus flowers at a local pond in a quasi-meditative state, enjoying the calm after a thunderstorm had passed.

The life cycle of the lotus, from bud to flower to seed pod

Suddenly a woman screamed out in my direction, “Snake, there’s a snake right behind you.” My first reaction was one of disbelief, because I was standing on a flat rock partially surrounded by water that was flowing rapidly between two man-made ponds. All at once I saw the submerged snake swimming strongly against the current. Then to my surprise the snake lifted his head out of the water.

My next reaction was to spring into action to take his picture. My camera was already on my tripod and I swung it around and snapped a couple of shots without having time to adjust my exposure or shutter speed. The image below is far from perfect but it gives you an idea of the cascading water and the snake poking his head above the surface.

Swimming snake lifts its head above water

After that brief photographic opportunity I returned to my peaceful pursuit of the lotus flower.

Sidewards-facing lotus (a variation of the lotus position)

It was only much later that I wondered whether I had encountered a poisonous snake. An article entitled “Snake Mistake” by Christine Ennulat in Virginia Living helps readers distinguish between the harmless brown water snake (Nerodia taxispilata) and the venomous water moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorus). I am pretty confident the snake I saw was “only” a brown water snake.

Maybe I will react more quickly the next time someone tells me there is a snake right behind me. I might even get a better photograph!

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Stereotypes of a heron’s  appearance

This past weekend I visited a pond at a local garden and encountered this interesting bird. He looked a little like a heron but had a totally different body type—he was shorter and squatter than the herons I was used to seeing. I have photographed blue herons and white herons and have a mental picture of what a heron looks like. They are tall and slender and posses a fashion model’s elegance. Could this really be a heron?

Surveying the situation

Playing and posing like a child

I was alone with the bird for quite some time for the gardens were deserted after a thunderstorm. The beautiful bird, later identified as a juvenile green heron, seemed to be unusually willing to remain as I attempted to photograph him. At times he even seemed to be posing for me. Like a child he was enjoying himself, running around and playing in the water. He definitely was not intent on adult-type tasks such as catching food.

Full body shot. Don’t I have great legs?

Is this enough of a smile for you?

It’s a green heron

I am pretty confident that this bird is a green heron (Butorides virescens). Wikipedia helped me determine that he is a juvenile because of the brown-and-white streaked feathers on his breast and the greenish-yellow webbed feet. (The adult green heron has a darker bill and a more pronounced  chestnut-colored neck and breast.) NatureWorks has some summary information if you want to quickly learn about green herons.

This grass feels really good on my bare feet.

A tool-using bird

My favorite website for information on the green heron, however, belongs to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which includes range maps and audio files. It also noted the following truly amazing fact about green herons, “The Green Heron is one of the few tool-using birds. It commonly drops bait onto the surface of the water and grabs the small fish that are attracted. It uses a variety of baits and lures, including crusts of bread, insects, earthworms, twigs, or feathers.”

Ready for my close-up

Maybe the green heron should have its own reality television show, “Fishing With a Green Heron-Choosing the Right Bait. You Don’t Even Need a Hook”

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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After some thunderstorms yesterday evening I went a local garden with a pond (Green Spring Gardens) and encountered this very large snapping turtle (at least that is what I think he is). He was just lying there on the grass.

I started creeping up on him with one eye in the viewfinder and the other on him. I was pretty cautious because previously I had read what Wikipedia says about snapping turtles, “Common snappers are noted for their belligerent disposition when out of the water, their powerful beak-like jaws, and their highly mobile head and neck.” There were a few blades of grass in front of part of his face and I would have liked to remove them to improve the shot, but there was no way I was going to risk my fingers for a mere photo.

I decided to share this medium range shot because it shows the mud and dried grass that made up his “camouflage.” It reminds me a little of the ghillie suits that snipers wear to blend in with nature. Eventually I hope to do another blog posting showing the progression of my shots as I got closer and closer to him, ending up with shots in which his face alone fills the frame.

Stay tuned for coming attractions!

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I simply love the beauty of the lotus flower.  I feel a sense of tranquility when I look at this image showing the lotus flower in dramatic lighting with a fully exposed seed pod.

I shot this image last weekend at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Washington DC, a wonderful location of the National Park Service.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Bees were the very first insects that I tried to photograph close up when I got interested in macro photography a few month ago. (You might say I followed the advice of Julie Andrews as Maria in The Sound of Music when she said, “Let’s start at the very bee-ginning, it’s a very good place to start.”) It was a challenge without a macro lens but I managed to get some pretty good results by shooting at the extreme end of the focusing capability of my digital SLR.

Since that time I have “graduated” to a macro lens and to more exotic insects, but from time to time I am drawn back to the bees. Today, for example, as I was reviewing  images from a session that included colorful butterflies and dragonflies, I realized there were also a few images of bees that I wanted to share.

Most of the time I try to feature a single photo in my postings, but tonight I couldn’t make up my mind. Like Shakespeare’s Hamlet I was caught up in an internal struggle, “Two bees or not two bees, that is the question.”  I’m including them both—I don’t want to decide which is better.

As I end this post, the words of an old Carly Simon song come to mind, “Nobody does it better…bee-bee you’re the best.”

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I have always admired my friend Cindy D’s photos of an unusual dragonfly that she has featured in her postings.  He is called a Halloween Pennant dragonfly (celithemis eponina).

Wikipedia has some interesting information about this dragonfly including the fact that, “Sexual activity normally occurs between 8 and 10:30 am.” Who knew? I imagine there are scientists somewhere keeping track of the mating habits of the different species of dragonflies using stopwatches.

Today I was happy finally to see a Halloween Pennant dragonfly at Brookside Gardens and take some photographs of him. I love this shot but his wingspan was really wide. I decided to crop out part of the wings so that you can see the details of his face and his wings. I find that dragonflies have wonderfully expressive faces and didn’t want you to miss this face. How can you not love such a face?

I’ll soon be on the lookout for new dragonflies to photograph. Do they have one named for all of the American holidays?

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Focus on the eyes! That’s one of the first tips that I was given to improve my shots and I tried to follow that advice when photographing this red milkweed beetle. (One of my earlier blogs chronicled my obsession with these little creatures.)

I like the way the antennae turned out in this photo. They remind me of a Texas longhorn steer’s horns which, according to Wikipedia, can extend to 7 feet (2.1 meters) tip to tip.

Can you imagine a red milkweed beetle with an equivalent antenna span?

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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What’s a harvestman?

a. A man who harvests. like a farmer or a migrant worker;

b. A pocket electronic device made by International Harvester (like a Walkman or Discman);

c. An insect related to a spider; or

d. Spiderman’s adversary in the new Spiderman movie

Until earlier this week I might have responded with selection  “a” if  I had been posed this question—it is the most obvious answer. I would have been wrong. The correct answer is “c.”

As I was finishing up a photo shoot in a local garden one of my friends excitedly pointed to a bush and exclaimed, “There’s your first harvestman.” I did not have a clue what she was talking about. All I could really see in the bush was a bunch of long legs connected to a body. (My friend Cindy D. has some photos of the entire body of a harvestman in one of her blog postings in case you are not familiar with this insect.)

I shot some photos anyways and when I looked at them on my computer I was shocked. There appeared to be two eyes on a stalk in the middle of the insect’s back, with the eyes looking sidewards in completely opposite directions. Could they really be eyes?

Here is one of my photos of the harvestman. It is not a technically perfect photo but it gives you a pretty clear view of the unusual eyes of this strange insect.  If you want to learn more, check out this page, which is full of fascination factoids and photos.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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“You’re not seeing the big picture.”

Has anyone ever spoken those words to you? They are often used as a tacit (or explicit) criticism of your supposed lack of perspective. The person speaking those words usually has an air of superiority, asserting that they have a better view of some figurative “big picture.”

You literally are not seeing the big picture when it comes to the banner of this blog. I was forced into a box of a specified size by the requirements of the theme I chose. It’s time now to think (and to see) outside of the box.

So, I am posting the “big picture” that you see partially in my banner. Why? One of my friends told me it is her favorite image out of the dozens I have shown her the past few months (and it is one of my favorites). You might like it too!

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Do you find yourself being drawn back inexorably to photographing the same subjects over and over again?

Last month my friend and mentor Cindy D. “outed” me in a wonderful posting on her blog. She confessed that “we’ve become a little obsessed with photographing Red milkweed beetles (Tetraopes tetraophthalmus).” (She also published some interesting facts about the beetles in another blog posting.) She’s right, of course, in her assessment of me, but I might quibble with her on one point. Is it possible to be only a “little” obsessed?

What are the symptoms of my obsession? After work today, in between thunder and rain storms, I rushed to Green Spring Gardens to take some photos. I shot a few flowers but I couldn’t resist the pull of the milkweed plants. I know exactly  where they are located in the gardens and I know if I look hard enough on the milkweed plants I will find the cute little beetles.

By the time I found my beloved beetles the light was starting to fade. How bad was the light? Despite shooting at ISO 800, I needed exposures around 1/5 of a second at F11. Fortunately the beetles were willing to pose and I had my tripod with me. I managed to get a few nice shots with beautiful color saturation in the late day, overcast light. Here is one photo (out of many) of the object of my obsession—a red milkweed beetle.

Is there a twelve-step program for people with this problem?

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Red and green—they are colors that I usually associate with Christmas. As the temperature climbed to 105 degrees yesterday in the Washington DC area I could easily be forgiven for letting my thoughts drift to a cooler season. While I was photographing lotus flowers and waterlilies in the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, though,  I encountered these colors in an unexpected place—in dragonflies. Over the last few months I have taken lots of photos of dragonflies, mostly blue ones (especially the blue dasher) and an occasional, brown, white, or amber one. One time I saw—but was unable to photograph—a green one but until yesterday I had never even seen a red dragonfly. My photos of these two dragonflies are not technically perfect but they show the vivid colors of these two types of dragonflies. I think the red one is a Ruby Meadowhawk and the green one an Eastern Pondhawk. As we enter into our 11th consecutive day with high temperatures over 95 degrees, we all could use a little Christmas, in both the air temperature as well as in our hearts.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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