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Posts Tagged ‘Richmond VA’

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.

Black Saddlebags dragonflyBlack Saddlebags dragonfly

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.

pennant1_blog

© 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.

giant_lily1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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