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Posts Tagged ‘Runnymeade’

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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From a distance, I noticed yesterday that some yellow tulips were getting ready to bloom in the garden of my neighbor and photography mentor Cindy Dyer. Cindy deliberately chooses colorful, photogenic flowers for her garden, so I love visiting it frequently. As I got close, I noted the spectacular two-color patterns of these tulips. When I sent a photo to Cindy, she informed me that they are known as “broken tulips.”

Perhaps she told me some time in the past what “broken tulips” are, but I rushed to Google to find out why they are considered to be “broken.” This term refers to the dramatic color-breaking of these flowers, an effect highly sought after during the 17th-century Dutch “tulip mania,” according to Wikipedia. Historically, these changes are caused by a virus infects the tulip bulb and causes the cultivar to “break” its lock on a single color, resulting in intricate bars, stripes, streaks, featherings or flame-like effects of different colors on the petals.

Unfortunately, the virus weakens the bulbs and as a result some famous color-broken varieties no long exist. Today’s “broken tulips” are no longer caused by a viral infection, but are stable variants produced through breeding. Cindy noted to me that her tulips have been going strong for at least five years.

I was feeling creative yesterday when I took these photos and tried a lot of different angles and settings to get some unusual looks. I decided mainly to feature the areas with the different colors and deliberately shot with a shallow depth of field that causes the edges that are away from the center to be soft and out of focus. I think it worked out pretty well.

I decided to post these images today as a counterbalance to the photograph of a wolf spider that I posted earlier, a kind of “beauty and the beast” set of postings. I am guessing that almost everyone will like at least one of the two postings.

broken tulip

broken tulip

broken tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It is easy for me to be delighted and entranced by simple things in nature, like this dandelion seed head that I spotted last week in my neighborhood. I remember the joy of blowing on these balls of fluff when I was a child and watching the little seeds sail through the air.

Yesterday the Governor of Virginia, the state in which I live, issued an executive order directing us all to stay at home except for a limited number of excepted essential tasks, including things like getting groceries and seeking medical care. One of the exceptions is “Engaging in outdoor activity, including exercise, provided individuals comply with social distancing requirements.” I am not yet sure if my forays into the wild with my camera would still be permitted as “engaging in outdoor.” If not, the content of my blog postings might change a little, but I plan to continue to post.

Whatever the case, I think this is a good time for us to be mindful of and thankful for the simple delights that can be found all around us.

dandelion

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The Lady Jane tulips (Tulipa clusianaLady Jane”) in the garden of my neighbor and photography mentor Cindy Dyer are now fully in bloom. In a recent post called Two tulips, I featured a side view of a mostly closed flower, highlighting the tulip’s unusual shape and reddish-pink color. This time, I shot almost straight down from above and was struck by the geometric shapes in the petals, the stamen, and even the stigma (the little three-lobed part in the very center of the flower). For the middle shot, I shot from a slight angle to give a somewhat more natural perspective.

I hope that all of you are staying safe and healthy. I am remaining close to home most of the time and it has been a blessing for me to be able to find such beautiful subjects to photograph almost literally across the street—Cindy and I live at opposite sides of a suburban semi-circle.

 

Lady Jane tulip

Lady Jane tulip

Lady Jane tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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Need a blast of bright color? Here you go, a shot I took of the inside of a gorgeous red tulip blooming this morning in the garden of my neighbor and photography mentor Cindy Dyer.  This view straight down into the tulip reminds me of the kaleidoscopes that fascinated me endlessly when I was a youth. I managed to frame this shot almost exactly as I had envisioned, so I decided not to crop it at all, which is pretty unusual for me.

tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Although the temperatures were cool on Tuesday afternoon, this little bee was busy in the garden of my neighbor and friend Cindy Dyer. The plant on which the bee was feeding technically bight be considered to be a weed, and not a flower, but the bee surely did not mind.

Most of the pollen that I am used to seeing is bright yellow, but in this case it appeared to red in color. As you can see in the second photo, the bee was using a headfirst approach—for extended periods of time it would bury its head among the small petals of this plant.

I went searching around on internet trying to identify the plant and I think it might be Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule). I would welcome a confirmation or correction of this identification by someone more familiar with flowers than I am.

bee

bee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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You don’t have to go far to find beauty—it is all around us. I spotted this beautiful Lady Jane tulip yesterday afternoon in the garden of my neighbor and fellow photographer Cindy Dyer. Cindy loves to photograph flowers and has planted a wide assortment of photogenic flowers in her front and side gardens. I was delighted to see that about a dozen of these little tulips were starting to bloom.

Many of Cindy’s “normal” tulips are starting to form buds, but only one is blooming right now, the beautiful red one that is shown in the final photo. I have always been impressed by the photos that tourists take of broad swaths of colorful tulips in the Netherlands, but for me, I tend to find beauty in the individual flowers.

Lady Jane Tulip

tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last month I received a curious question from Cindy Dyer, my good friend and photography mentor—she asked me if I had any good winter images. In addition to being an amazing photographer, Cindy works as a graphic designer. The editor with whom she works on Hearing Life Magazine, the official magazine of the Hearing Loss Association of America, wanted a winter-related full-page original image for the January/February 2020 issue.

She knew that she did not have many snow images, but figured that I would. I gave her some options, and she chose this shot of a male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) that I photographed in my neighborhood after a snowstorm last January. The editor loved this image as cardinals hold special significance to her—her late sister loved them—and added the quotation from Vincent Van Gogh, one of my favorite artists.

I was curious about the context of the quotation and learned from vangoghletters.org that it was from a letter that Vincent Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo from London in January 1874. Here is the paragraph of that letter than contains the quotation, “Things are going well for me here, I have a wonderful home and it’s a great pleasure for me to observe London and the English way of life and the English themselves, and I also have nature and art and poetry, and if that isn’t enough, what is?” As I read the letter in its entirety, I was equally struck by Van Gogh’s commentary about nature and art, “Always continue walking a lot and loving nature, for that’s the real way to learn to understand art better and better. Painters understand nature and love it, and teach us to see.”

I am always thrilled to see one of my images in print and I was excited yesterday when I finally received a printed copy of the magazine. One of my goals this year is to have more of my photos printed—I have a few of my favorites hanging on the wall already, but still have room for more of them. If you are interested in seeing the original posting in which this image appeared, click on this link to Cardinal in the snow.

 

Northern Cardinal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Daffodils have popped up all over my neighborhood the past few days, but none of them says Spring to me as much as this single crocus that I spotted in a neighbor’s yard last week. Backgrounds are always a big problem with flowers this early—it’s hard to avoid having mulch or fallen leaves in a shot. For this shot I used my 180mm macro lens and a really shallow depth of field. I like the softness that the settings gave the edges of the flower, while the center on which I was focusing was pretty sharp.

crocus

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It will be a few more months until dragonflies reappear in our area, so for now I have to content myself with this one in my front yard that I photographed yesterday as the snow was gently falling. This metal dragonfly is part of a raised sprinkler that stands about three feet tall (about a meter).

I really like the way that the dragonfly has weathered and acquired various colors. I suppose I could talk of rust and tarnish, but I prefer to think of it as “patina.”

dragonfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Today I decided to feature two of the smallest birds that I spotted in the trees in my neighborhood after our recent snowfall. The first one is a Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor), a little bird that is in the same family as the chickadee. The second one, I believe, is a House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus), a bird that I don’t recall having seen before. I was really drawn to its red coloration and learned from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website that the red of a male House Finch comes from pigments contained in its food during molt (birds can’t make bright red or yellow colors directly).

tufted titmouse

housefinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Female Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) do not stand out as much as their bright red male counterparts, but their beauty is at a minimum comparable, albeit in a more dignified and understated way. The male cardinal is like a loud, raucous call, while the female is more like a soft, seductive whisper.

female Northern Cardinal

female Northern Cardinal

female Northern Cardinal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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