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Posts Tagged ‘Runnymeade’

Normally I try to photograph the moon when it is full, but early Tuesday morning the skies were so clear when I looked out my front door, that I couldn’t help but grab my camera and step outside to capture this image, one of the few times that I have taken an outdoor shot while wearing slippers.

I posted this image on Facebook and Steve Gingold, a fellow photographer and blogger, noted that, “the full moon is always great but a partial like this offers better detail with the sidelighting and you got some nice detail.”  Thanks, Steve.

Steve is a wonderful nature photographer who lives in New England—be sure to check out his blog at Steve Gingold Nature Photography Photography Blog, where at the moment he is featuring winter images full of snow and ice.

moon

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How closely do you look at birds? There are some birds that are our easy for me to identify, often just by their shape. With other species, I rely on their coloration.

Then there are sparrows, which force me to look very carefully for subtle differences in the markings on their bodies in order to identify them. I thought that House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) were relatively easy to identify—I can readily tell that the bird in the second image is a House Sparrow, but what about the one in the first photo?

The markings on its the head are a different color and the bill is definitely lighter in color. The light orangish pink at the bill makes it look like the bird has lips. So, what kind of sparrow is it? It too is a House Sparrow, possibly a male like the one in the second shot. At different phases of their developments, the plumage of birds changes, which adds another level of complexity to bird identification.

So when I spot a bird, I have to take into consideration, its gender, age, and phase of development as well as the season of the year, habitat, and the geographic location. It sometimes feels like a miracle when I am able to identify any bird correctly.

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I walked about in my neighborhood on Friday, I was reminded that we share our living spaces with some wonderful creatures, like this beautiful Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) that I spotted perched high in a tree. Fortunately I had my long lens on my camera and was able to capture these images. The first two images are cropped to give you a better view of the hawk, but I included the final photo to let you see the wonderful structure of the branches surrounding my subject.

People sometimes get a little freaked out by the the length of the telephoto zoom lens when it is fully extended, so I am usually reluctant to use it in a residential area—I do not anyone to accuse me of being a peeping Tom. I reserve that kind of voyeuristic behavior for wildlife.

In this case, I had stayed inside for too long because of snow and ice and felt an uncontrollable need for a photographic “fix.” Yeah, I am kind of addicted to my photography and have a codependent relationship with my camera.

Red-shouldered Hawk

 

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Do you have trouble getting your ducks in a row? Following a snow storm earlier this month, my photography mentor and neighbor Cindy Dyer and I played around in the snow with a device that makes snowballs in the shape of little ducks and arranged them atop her fence.

Cindy, her husband Michael, and I have made up our own little pod during this pandemic.  Cindy, Michael, and their three cats (Lobo, Queso, and Pixel) have helped keep me from going completely bonkers during our time of isolation. Zoom and other virtual communications means are good, but they can never completely replace physical contact with other humans or pets.

Humor helps too. When I walked through my neighborhood the day after the storm, I looked for subjects that were whimsical or simply made me smile, like the snowman with its leafy earrings and the butterfly in the snow. If you look at its nose, it is not hard to tell that the snowman is a celeried employee.

Many of you know that I have been attending a short virtual church service, called Compline in the Episcopal church, each weekday night at eight o’clock in the evening. It is a short service that, among other things, allows us to share our moments of thanksgiving and our personal prayer requests out loud or by typing them in the chat feature. After the service, we talk for a bit to see how everyone is doing and it has become traditional for me to share a daily Dad joke. If I forget, someone will usually remind me. What?

For Christmas, some dear friends sent me a daily calendar of bad Dad jokes, the kind of jokes that always elicit a combination of laughs and groans. It is a curious juxtaposition to tell jokes in the context of a church meeting, but it is a sign of how close we have become with each other—we can cry together and we can laugh together, sharing our unfiltered feelings.

How bad are the jokes? Here is a recent favorite, “I just bought a thesaurus and when I got home I discovered that all of the pages were blank. I have no words to describe how angry I am.” Sorry.

Happy Mardi Gras.

ducks in a row

snowman

butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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I spotted this Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) high in the trees in my neighborhood on a day when my travels were grounded by the snow and the ice. Normally you know when there is a blue jay is in the area because their calls are really loud, but this one was surprisingly silent.

I was fascinated to read on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website that, “The Blue Jay frequently mimics the calls of hawks, especially the Red-shouldered Hawk. These calls may provide information to other jays that a hawk is around, or may be used to deceive other species into believing a hawk is present.” I think that my neighborhood blue jays have deceived me on multiple occasions when I searched in vain for a hawk upon hearing one of its distinctive calls.

If you look closely at the feet of this bird you may notice that they are not in contact with any of the branches. There also does not appear to be any wing movement, so perhaps the blue jay was practicing its levitation skills. While that is certainly possible, I believe that the blue jay may simply have been hopping to another spot on the branch and did not want to bother with flapping its wings.

Blue Jay

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Growing up in New England, I tended to view the American Robin (Turdus migratorius) as a harbinger of spring. When the snow had melted, we would often see robins hopping about in the grass, hoping to pull a worm out of the ground.

I now live further south in the United States in Northern Virginia and see robins throughout the year. On Tuesday I spotted a small flock of robins during a walk through my snow-covered neighborhood. Some of them were bathing in a small run-off stream, as I documented in yesterday’s posting, but most of them were foraging in the trees. I believe that they were feeding on the small red berries that you can see in these two images, but I was not able to capture any of them actually consuming one, so that is really just an assumption.

As I have noted before, the American Robin is a completely different species from the European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) that has orange on its breast and face. I was thrilled to photograph a European Robin in November 2019 during a visit to Paris—check out my posting European Robin in Paris if you want to visually compare the two species. It is fascinating to note that the American Robin is shaped exactly like the European Blackbird (Turdus merula)—they share the same vocalizations and belong to the exact same family and genus.

American Robin

American Robin

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was snowing off and on for most of Monday and Tuesday and the roads were messy, so I decided to walk around and look for birds in my neighborhood. We have had a total accumulation of “only” about four to six inches (10 to 15 cm), but people in this area are not used to driving in the snow. Another big problem is the refreezing that has been occurring overnight that has created a lot of patches of black ice. It is safer to stay home.

As I was trudging through the snow, I noticed a lot of bird activity at a run-off stream that goes through the neighborhood. At first I thought the birds getting drinks of water, but when I got closer, I was shocked to see that they were actually bathing in the frigid water—many were splashing about as they did so. Most of them looked to be American Robins (Turdus migratorius), but there were also some House Sparrows (Passer domesticus).

I am hoping to venture farther from home in the coming days, but for now I am content to search for subjects that are within walking distance of my home.

 

bathing birds

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Despite my benign neglect, my Christmas cactus surprised me by pushing out a single bloom just in time for Christmas. Some words of the beloved carol “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming” come to mind when I contemplate its beauty—”It came, a flow’ret bright, amid the cold of winter, when half spent was the night.”

Merry Christmas to all of my friends and family who are celebrating this blessed holy day.

Christmas cactus

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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July was a crazy month no matter how you look at it. Who knows what the new month will hold for us all? When I checked the garden of my friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer a few days ago, I was thrilled to see that some of her gladiolas are now in bloom, symbolic of the new life and growth that is still possible in our own lives, even in these troubled times.

gladiolas

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was a little shocked when I first spotted the newest flowers blooming in the garden of my neighbor Cindy Dyer—they looked like some mutant variant of a lily, with octopus-like tendrils coming out of the center of the spotted flowers. Cindy had previously told me that she had planted some tiger lilies that she had bought at a half-price clearance sale, but it is safe to say that these are not like any tiger lilies that I had ever seen.

Yesterday I learned that these are double Tiger Lilies (Lilium Lancifolium ‘Flore Pleno’), a variety that has double the normal number of petals. Wow. It looks like only one set of petals had opened for the lily in the first image, with more to come soon. The flower in the second and third photos is at an ever earlier stage of growth, but I was intrigued by its exotic shape, colors, and patterns. Every time that I look at the middle image, I see a dragon’s head with an open mouth, but perhaps my imagination is simply in overdrive these days.

While taking the photos, I noted the two little gray things on the stem in the second and third images. I did not investigate more closely, but Cindy believes that they are insects of some sort.

 

tiger lily

tiger lily

tiger lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The garden of my neighbor and photography mentor Cindy Dyer continues to provide me with an almost inexhaustible supply of subject matter for my photography. Among the flowers currently blooming are some beautiful pink lilies. The first image shows a pair of pink lilies blooming in a container in Cindy’s backyard garden. One of the coolest things about that part of her garden is that there are all kinds of decorative elements scattered everywhere, like the copper-colored butterfly in the background of the image.

The world changes and is often abstractly beautiful when viewed through a macro lens, as you can see in the second photo below featuring an extreme close-up view of a lily. I am utterly entranced as I explore the shapes, colors, and textures in the image, unconstrained by practical considerations like figuring out what it is.

pink lily

pink lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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A little over a month ago I did a posting entitled ‘Flower wall’ that featured a hanging panel of flowers and plants on the interior portion of the fence that encloses the back yard of my friend Cindy Dyer. At that time the plants were just getting established and one of my viewers asked me to do a follow-up post when they all fill in.

As I went into Cindy’s backyard garden this morning to take an update photo of the hanging garden, I decided to try to capture the atmosphere that she has created in this small space. We live in a townhouse community and each of us has a tiny space behind our houses that is enclosed with a privacy fence. Cindy lives in an end unit (as do I) and her yard is slightly larger than the inner units, with a neighbor on only one side.

The first image shows the current state of the hanging garden. Some of the plants have grown more quickly than others, giving the wall a slightly wild look that I really like. I deliberately framed this shot wider than necessary to show you part of the rest of the garden that Cindy has decorated with statues, figurines, and all kinds of plants and flowers. It feels like a secret refuge, a world apart from one of the main streets in our neighborhood that is barely visible through the slats of the fence.

The second image shows a portion of the fence that separates her yard from that of her neighbor. Here she has created an almost meditative space featuring a wall hanging and a spectacular bird bath that rises up out of a bed of hostas. If you click on the image and examine the details, you will see that Cindy had decorated the blue grid with dozens of colorful dragonflies.

As you can readily see from these two images, Cindy is amazingly creative and is an incredible gardener and designer. You might have thought that I was a little over the top in yesterday’s blog anniversary posting in which I expressed my admiration and gratitude for all that she does to inspire me—here is visual evidence of why those words were well-deserved.

cindy's garden

cindy's garden

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The lilies blooming in the garden of my friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer are so lush and the colors so vivid that they seem almost tropical.

lily

lily

lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I love bees and spent quite a while on Monday in the garden of my friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer observing them and trying to photograph them. I had no idea that lamb’s ear plants produce flowers, but the bee in the first photo certainly was aware of that fact when I spotted it busily at work. The bee in the second shot decided to try an acrobatic move to gain access to the nectar in the lavender plant that swung wildly each time the bee landed on it. In the final shot, I captured the bee as it was crawling all over a flower of a cool-looking globe thistle plant.

I am not very good at identifying bees, but I think these bees are all Eastern  Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa virginica). Unlike bumblebees that have fuzzy abdomens, carpenter bees have shiny, relatively hairless abdomens.

 

lamb's ear

lavender

globe thistle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It is lily season now in the garden of my neighbor and photography mentor Cindy Dyer. Here are a few photos that I took yesterday morning of some of the lilies blooming in her beautiful garden. It is always reassuring to know that I do not have to travel far to find colorful subjects to photograph—as a photographer and graphic designer, Cindy chooses flowers to plant that she know are photogenic.

lily

lily

lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How do you grow a lot of plants in a small space? My amazingly creative friend, neighbor, and photography mentor Cindy Dyer decided to take advantage of vertical space and created this incredible wall of flowers and plants on the interior portion of the fence that encloses her back yard. Wow!

I do not know all of the details about how she set it up, but I think that the material, which Cindy describes as “felt-like,” has sewn-in pouches into which she inserted all of the plants and flowers. She mentioned to me that she had mixed some water-storing crystals in with the potting soil to reduce water stress and plans to water the wall regularly.

flower wall

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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We have started a new month and new flowers are blooming in the garden of my friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer. Iris season has almost ended, but more lilies are opening each day. Today’s featured star is the bold, fragrant oriental hybrid known as the Stargazer Lily (Lilium ‘Stargazer’). Wow—there is nothing subtle about this flower that overwhelms both the eyes and the nose.

The words “star gazer” bring to mind some words from one of my favorite songs, The Rainbow Connection as sung by Kermit the Frog. “What’s so amazing that keeps us stargazing and what do we think we might see? Someday we’ll find it, that rainbow connection, the lover, the dreamer, and me.” Now more than ever, we all need hope.

I want to share with you the concluding portion of a prayer distributed to us by our local Episcopal bishop yesterday, a National Day of Mourning and Lament for those who have died of COVID-19. “God of all hope, God of all goodness, we are a people hurting, lost and divided. Our world seems a strange and foreign land, our days a blur of separation and isolation. Gather us to your very heart as we pray for our nation, receive all who have died into the fulness of your heaven, guide the hands of all who serve others. Bless our efforts to love all people in concrete action and, in your powerful ways and in your perfect time, make us whole for the sake of a world so desperately in need of You. Amen.”

Stargazer Lily

Stargazer Lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The irises in the garden of my neighbor Cindy Dyer have mostly faded, but her lilies are starting to flower. I believe that this beauty is an Asiatic lily, the second lily bloom of the season in her garden with many more to follow.

I captured this image late one morning this week as the rain was beginning to taper off and the colors were wonderfully saturated. I also love the multiple raindrops on the flowers—these are a few of my favorite things.

Asiatic lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Although I have grown to know most of the irises in the garden of my friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer, I don’t know their individual names. One iris that recently started blooming is so unusual and outrageous in appearance that I suspected that it was a special hybrid. I was bemused to learn that it is called the ‘Bewilderbeast’ bearded iris.

I love the way that Claire Austin described this striking hybrid iris on the Heritage Irises website, “This flower is a psychedelic mixture of colours, including maroon, mauve, and cream. These colours sit in rivers across the white background. The standards are muted in tone, and the thin beards are dark yellow.”

I tried photographing the iris with a natural background, which I prefer, and also with a piece of foamcore board. Do you prefer one image over the other?

Bewilderbeast iris

Bewilderbeast iris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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You do not need to be in a studio to get a studio portrait look—all you need to do is to hold a piece of white cardboard or foamcore board behind the blooming flowers, such as these beautiful bearded irises in the garden of my friend Cindy Dyer. Cindy was gracious enough to hold the board for me and I returned the favor a few minutes later. Several viewers on my Facebook page commented that the style of these shots reminded them of botanical prints.

One of the challenges of shooting outdoors for shots like this was trying to get even lighting. I tweaked my settings in post-processing a bit to make the background as white as I dared, but did not go to the trouble of making the flowers and removing any slight shadows or color casts from the background.

bearded iris

bearded iris

bearded iris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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A short while ago I did a posting of iris buds that offered a preview of coming attractions. Today I wanted to give you a quick look at some of the attractions that have already arrived. I like the yellow bearded irises that have started blooming in numbers, but I have to admit that I have really fallen in love with the violet one that is shown in the first photo below. It is the only one of its color that has opened so far, but there are several dozen more that should be appearing in the next week or two. I can hardly wait.

iris

iris

iris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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This beautiful dwarf bearded iris was almost hidden by the weeds and the undergrowth when I first discovered it early in April. Cindy, my neighbor in whose garden I have been taking flower photos this spring, recalls planting it a couple of years ago, but was a little surprised when I alerted her to it—she does nor remember seeing it bloom last year. The iris never grew very tall and was repeatedly been beaten down by the rain, but it was still strikingly beautiful.

There are so many different irises that specific cultivars are hard to identify. I looked through a lot of photos on-line, though, and think that I have identified it as a variety called “Love Bites.” Stout Gardens at Dancingtree described its characteristics in these words, “Rosy red standards over rich, dark carmine red falls with lavender beards” and added “Velvety carmine red falls with big lavender beards make this one a standout.”

I am curious about the name of the iris, because in my mind it can be interpreted in at least two different ways. Perhaps it refers to romantic little nibbles between lovers.  Maybe, though, it is a bitter commentary on love, an homage to the song by the same name by Def Leppard that ends with the words, “If you’ve got love in your sights, watch out, love bites. Yes it does, it will be hell.”

dwarf iris

dwarf iris

dwarf iris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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How much longer must I wait? That question has become a familiar refrain for most of us as our days of isolation and quarantine drag on endlessly. Sometimes it seems like time is standing still, yet there are hopeful signs that things are slowly improving.

I visit the garden of my neighbor, fellow photographer Cindy Dyer, almost every day, checking to see what has changed. Over the last month I have observed the growth of the leaves and stalks of a new crop of irises. A few of them have flowered and withered, but most of them are still buds, offering only a hint of their beauty that is yet to come.

Here are a few images that I captured on Thursday of iris buds of different shapes and colors, a preview of coming attractions.

iris buds

iris bud

iris bud

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most of the irises in the garden of my neighbor and photography mentor Cindy Dyer have not yet bloomed, but this one beautiful yellow bearded iris decided to jump ahead of the others. Most of the iris buds are on stems several feet high, but this blossom is only a few inches off of the ground—perhaps that is why it was an early bloomer.

If you look closely at the two shots, you will immediately notice that I took them on separate days. The light was quite different on each those days and there were raindrops present on the petals when I took the second shot. Additionally, I chose a very different shooting angle for each image and processed them to emphasize different aspects of the photo. I have a slight preference for the overall feel of the first shot, but love the raindrops in the second shot—I think the pair of images work well together in tandem.

 

yellow iris

yellow iris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Did you look up at the moon last night? I think that technically the full moon is tonight, but the moon was bright and spectacular around 8:30 in the evening when I took two steps out of my house and captured this image from my front landing.

I have been particularly pensive this week, a Holy Week that is unlike any other that I have experienced. It is a time when we commemorate suffering and sacrifice done on our behalf out of love. There is a lot of that same suffering and sacrifice taking place  all around us right now as collectively we try to deal with this virus. The challenges seem immense, but I felt reassurance when I looked up at that almost full moon last night and thought of some verses from the Psalms (Psalm 8: 3-4 (NIV)).

“When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?”

Stay safe and healthy, all of you.

full moon

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What are your feelings about the future? For me, they are like this tulip bud, full of the promise of new life and beauty that is yet to come. The challenge for us all is to be patient and wait with joyful expectation.

As with all of my other recent tulip shots, I photographed this bud in the garden of my neighbor and friend Cindy Dyer. Thanks, Cindy.

tulip bud

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Beauty is everywhere, including in the abstract patterns of nature. Last week my eyes were drawn to the interplay of light and shadows in the leaves of some iris plants that have not yet bloomed in the garden of my neighbor Cindy Dyer. I love the series of triangles and straight lines in the resulting image and there is something soothing and peaceful about the various shades of green.

When I posted this image in Facebook, my pastor noted that these leaves reminded her of the palms that we would normally be waving in a procession to begin the celebration of Palm Sunday. In a few hours we will be celebrating in a different way, via Zoom teleconferencing software, but we have been asked to gather some branches or colorful pieces of cloth to wave in front of our cameras as we say, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.” This pandemic has changed some of the outward aspects of our worship, but we continue on.

Whether you are Christian or not, my prayer is that this Sunday finds you feeling thankfulness in the midst of this crisis for what you still have and not merely lamenting that which you have lost. I also pray that you are filled with the joyful hope that we will eventually make it through this difficult time. If there is one thing we have certainly learned, it is that we are truly all in this together.

leaves

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This week I did a pair of postings in a single day that I called “beauty and the beast” that was so well received that I thought I would do it again. Earlier this morning I did the “beauty” part with a shot of some crabapple blossoms in my front yard. For the “beast” part, I decided to feature this shot of a little orchard spider (Leucauge venusta) in the garden of my neighbor, fellow photographer and blogger Cindy Dyer. The spider was hanging in the midst of a group of irises that have not yet bloomed and I was happy to be able to be able to frame the shot so you have a sense of the spider’s environment.

As always, I offer my apologies to those who are creeped out by spiders, and recommend that you check out the crabapple posting if you have not seen it yet. As for me, I find spiders to be always fascinating and often beautiful.

orchard orbweaver spider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Beauty is everywhere. Thursday afternoon as I walked out of my suburban townhouse, I glanced at the crabapple tree in my front yard, now covered with blossoms. Realizing how beautiful it is, I captured this simple image.

You don’t always have to go to distant locations to find beauty—you can often find it in your back yard or, in my case, in your front yard.

crabapple

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The two-colored tulips in the garden of my neighbor and friend Cindy Dyer were open yesterday and they are awesome. The first macro shot makes the tulip look almost like a little pinwheel. The second shot gives you a greater sense of the colors and patterns in these beautiful tulips—the delicate feathering of the red on the yellow petals is simply breathtaking.

tulip

tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Beauty is everywhere. A few minutes ago I walked over to the garden of my friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer and captured this modest image of a little grape hyacinth (g. Muscari). I just love that vibrant violet color.
So often, taking photos is a multi-hour endeavor for me. Normally I pack my gear and head off to remote locations and walk and walk, watching and waiting for opportunities to arise. It definitely is not normal now, so I am relearning the joy of taking photos in small doses, a few minutes here and a few minutes there. Perhaps I won’t capture stunning action shots, but I am convinced that the words with which I began this posting are true—beauty is everywhere.
grape hyacinth
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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