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Posts Tagged ‘Runnymeade’

I don’t have a garden, but fortunately my neighbor and fellow photographer Cindy Dyer has a wonderful one. Earlier today I photographed this green metallic sweat bee (genus Agapostemon) coming out of one of her orange daylilies.

green metallic sweat bee

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Cindy Dyer, my mentor, is a source of constant encouragement and inspiration for me and also has a wonderful garden of photogenic flowers to photograph. I took this shot of a Snowflake flower (Leucojum aestivum) on a recent misty morning. The image is an homage to Cindy, because it is similar in style to one of her images that I really admire.

In many ways this photo is a companion to the image I posted a few days ago of raindrops on a snowdrop flower.

Snowflake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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After a long winter wait, I am finally seeing a few spring flowers blooming in the gardens in my neighborhood. So far all I see are crocuses, but it looks like the daffodils will not be far behind. The weather is still erratic—I awoke to sub-freezing temperatures yesterday morning—but it is beginning to look like spring is here at last.

I took these crocus shots in the middle of the day on a windy, sunny afternoon. In the first image, I was trying to capture some of the beauty of the sunlight coming through the petals. In the second shot, I had the lens almost wide open and the really shallow depth of field helps to give a dreamy painterly quality to the image that I really like. The two images are very different, but I think they work especially well as a set.

crocus

crocus

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On a beautiful spring-like morning, even the squirrels in my suburban townhouse neighborhood today looked amazingly photogenic.

Eastern Gray Squirrel

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I can’t identify this tiny flowering plant, but it is blooming now in the garden of one of my neighbors. Despite the large mounds of snow throughout my townhouse neighborhood, I can’t help but hope and believe that spring is not far away.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The Washington D.C. area is virtually shut down today as we await a winter snowstorm—the federal and local government offices and schools are all closed. With a little extra time on my hands, I was able to go over some of my photos from Monday’s storm and thought I’d post a couple more images from that event, which covered all surfaces, including the pine trees, with a coating of ice.

I find there is a fragile, transitory beauty in these abstract images—an hour later, when the sun’s rays hit the ice, the effect was gone.

icy2_blogicy1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I awoke yesterday to a world covered in ice, the aftermath of a storm of sleet and freezing rain. Peering out the sliding glass doors, I could see the branches of a pine tree bent over, heavy with the weight of the ice, and almost touching the boards of my backyard deck.

I took a number of shots as the morning sun started to melt the ice. Somehow I keep coming back to this almost abstract image of the pine needles. It’s definitely not my usual style of shooting, so it’s hard to explain why it appeals to me.

It’s probably a good thing to shoot things differently from time to time and try out unusual approaches. At a minimum, you’ll have fun and you may end up with crazy images that you like.

icy pine

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last week I stayed pretty close to home as we experienced frigid temperatures, a couple of show storms, and difficult driving conditions, but I did walk through the neighborhood one day and observed some of the “local” birds, like this beautiful little White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis).

These birds seem to spend so much of their time upside down that I wonder if they get dizzy from blood rushing to their heads. I was happy to be able to get some shots of the nuthatch in a variety of positions, including some upright ones, and here are a few of my favorite images from my moments with the nuthatch, including a final shot of the “traditional” nuthatch pose.

White-breasted NuthatchWhite-breasted NuthatchWhite-breasted Nuthatch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How much of a bird do you need to see in order to identify it? Can you identify a bird merely by its silhouette? If I hadn’t been watching this bird before it dove off of the branch, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to identify it from the silhouette.

Tufted Titmouse

Are things easier if the bird is in the shadows, but some color is visible and the shape is more recognizable?

Tufted Titmouse

Even if your identification skills are weak, this last shot is clear enough that you could eventually determine that it is a Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor), a frequent visitor in my neighborhood. These birds are small and a little tough to see, but they have really loud voices. (Check out the website of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to listen to its song).

Tufted Titmouse

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As I walked through my neighborhood yesterday, I was struck by the large number of Mourning Doves. In most cases, I heard the distinctive whistling sound that their wings make when the doves take off and didn’t actually get a good look at the birds.

One Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura), however, was cooperative enough to sit still for a moment and I was able to get this shot. I love the peaceful look and subdued beauty of these birds, whose soft call reminded someone of a lament, which accounts for their name

Mourning Dove

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you post photos of only one particular genre or type of subject? Do you feel that you have to be specialized as a photographer? Are you afraid to post a photo that might be viewed as a cliché or hackneyed image?

This past weekend I was catsitting for a photographer friend, Cindy Dyer, who has two male cats named Pixel and Lobo. As she tells the story, she wanted to name them Pixel and JPEG, but her husband refused to let her name the cat JPEG, so she settled on Lobo.

Since I was going to be spending some quality time with the cats, I decided to take along my camera and see if I could capture a few shots of them. I quickly learned that cats are not very cooperative subjects—you can’t get them to pose when and where and how you want. I suspect that most of the best shots of cats are taken when someone catches them doing something they were doing anyways.

It was gray and overcast the day that I tried to photograph the cats, so natural light was pretty limited in the townhouse where they live. The pop-up flash was not really an option, because it produced the animal equivalent of red-eye in the one shot I attempted. I cranked up the ISO to 1600 and shot almost wide open, but even so the shutter speeds were below 1/30 of a second and many shots were blurred. In retrospect, I probably should have chosen a different lens for the task. I used my 180mm macro lens and often couldn’t get enough distance to capture even the entire head. Needless to say, I had no trouble filling the frame with my subjects.

Eventually I got some images I liked of Pixel, the striped cat, and Lobo, the gray one. I posted these images to Facebook so that Cindy and her husband could view them from Texas, where they were attending a photo workshop. In doing so, I added to the deluge of cat photos on the internet.

One of my fellow nature photographers, Walter Sanford, responded to the images with the comment, “If you persist in posting cat photos, then I’ll have to recommend the Society of Amateur Wildlife Photographers revoke your membership and ban you for life!” I’m pretty sure he was kidding, but it prompted me to think about the questions with which I opened this posting.

For me, I am on a journey into photography and I want to be free to explore and to share the results of my exploration. I don’t want to overspecialize and I don’t want to feel constrained to posting only “perfect’ images. I have no fear in posting imperfect images and have to come to appreciate the creative power of what others might view as inferior images.

So here, at last, are my shots of Lobo and Pixel—embrace the cliché and feel free to post pictures of your cats.

Lobopixel_oct_web

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday afternoon I had a little photo shoot with Freckles, a two year old Cocker Spaniel who is one of my favorite subjects. Freckles belongs to a friend who has been staying with me and I have the pleasure of spending a lot of time with this beautiful little dog.

Freckles was more cooperative than usual, though I still had to chase her around a lot to try to get some shots. The small size of the backyard of my townhouse and the 180mm focal length of my lens guaranteed that all the shots would be close-ups, which means you can easily see her beautiful coloration and expressive eyes.

Freckles1_oct_blog Freckles2_oct._blog Freckles3_oct_blog Freckles4_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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With rain and gray skies that started today, I feel the need to compensate with some bright colors, so I thought I’d post an image from this past weekend. I love the way that it looks like this bumblebee is clinging to a rolling red ball, which, of course, is merely the center of a flower in the garden of my neighbor and fellow photographer Cindy Dyer.

bee_fall_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When the urge to take some photos strikes me and I don’t want to travel very far, I can usually depend on Cindy Dyer, my neighbor and photography mentor, to have something interesting to shot in her garden. About five o’clock today, I photographed what looks to be a tiny metallic green bee on one of the colorful flowers still in bloom at the side of her townhouse.

I like my fall colors to be bright and vivid, not muted and faded.

greenbee1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do your review your photos rapidly before you choose the ones to post or do you carefully and systematically evaluate them and only then select the best ones?

I am often in a hurry.  Sometimes I will stop to work on a shot that I like before I have even reviewed the complete set of images. I generally  don’t work up postings in advance and I’ll write up the posting and push the “Publish” button with out realizing that I may have unmined gold waiting to be discovered.

Only later, when I go through the entire set of shots do I realize that I have a better shot than the one I posted and realize I should have at least posted both of them. If the differences are only minor, I won’t do an additional posting, but sometimes, like today, I feel compelled to post a second image.

As was the case in yesterday’s posting, this is a shot of what I think is an Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica)—or possibly a bumblebee— on a Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). The angle and the lighting helped me capture a significant amount of the detail and texture of both the bee and the flower and the colors came through with a beautiful vibrancy. The bee was in an unusual position, which adds to the visual interest of the image.

This is one of my favorites of my recent images. You might think that this experience will teach me a lesson about the value of a full review before choosing images to process, but I suspect that this will happen again from time to time. I know my habits too well.

bee2cone_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny day, but it was very breezy, which made it tough for me to get decent shots of bees in my neighbors’ garden. I am still going through my photos (and deleting a lot of them), but I was immediately drawn to this image of an Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica) on a Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).

Although the dark background suggests the use of flash, I wasn’t using any flash and the shutter speed of 1/400 in the EXIF data is faster than the synch speed of my flash. I was trying to get as close to the bees as I could and the height of the coneflowers made it possible to get at eye level with the bee and get this head-on shot.

bee1_cone_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Is it a bee? Is it a fly? It’s a Greater Bee Fly (Bombylius major). What?

This bee fly has to be one of the strangest insects that I have ever seen—it looks like Doctor Frankenstein pieced together an insect from the parts of other insects. Its fuzzy body looks like that of a bee and it has a similar proboscis, though the bee fly’s proboscis seems to be outrageously long. Its long, spindly legs, however, are not bee-like and remind me of certain types of flies. The patterned wings and the way that it hovers are reminiscent of a hummingbird moth, though the bee fly is considerably smaller.

The bee fly is considered to be a bee mimic. Like a bee, it helps pollinate plants when gathering nectar.

I encountered this strange insect when I was examining the little flowers of some allium plants in the garden of my neighbor and fellow photographer and blogger Cindy Dyer. She always has interesting flowers to photograph and I have found an amazing assortment of insects in the garden too.

Greater Bee Fly on allium plant

Greater Bee Fly on allium plant

 

Head-on look at a bee fly

Head-on look at a bee fly

Bee Fly on allium with trellis in background

Bee Fly on allium with trellis in background

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Do you pass by flowers that are past their prime? Their beauty is still visible in the fragments of their former glory.

tulip_memory2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Blossoming trees get a lot of attention this time of year, but as I looked upward at the trees in my neighborhood, I was struck by the beauty of the seeds of what I believe are maple trees. When I was a child in New England, I loved to watch these seed spinning through the air like little helicopters as they fell from the maple trees.

According to Wikipedia, the US Army actually developed a special air drop supply carrier during World War II that could carry up to 65 pounds of supplies and was based on the maple seed.

It was fun trying to come up with different ways to highlight the beauty of these seeds by moving closer or farther away and by varying the background.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Yesterday afternoon, I again observed a blue parakeet (which is also known as a budgerigar) in the trees in my suburban townhouse neighborhood, two weeks after I first spotted it in the “wild.”

Since that first spotting, we’ve had some heavy rain and the temperature has dipped down to the freezing level.  Somehow, though, the parakeet (Melopsittacus undulatus) has managed to find shelter and food and avoid predators.  The parakeet seems to stay in the same general location, not far from several bird feeders on the back decks of nearby houses.

The general consensus seems to be that this is an escaped pet. I worry about its long-term survival, but so far it appears to be adapting pretty well to the outdoor environment.

parakeet_21_April_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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This brightly colored American goldfinch (Spinus tristis) reminds me of the marshmallow Peeps that I grew up with and the brightly colored spring outfits that people would wear to church to celebrate Easter (including some pretty outrageous hats).  Best wishes to all for a Happy Easter, no matter how you choose to celebrate it.

Finch and Blossoms web

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

 

 

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Although I live in the Washington D.C. area, I didn’t feel like fighting the crowds to get images of the iconic cherry blossoms. However, the blossoming trees in my neighborhood were pretty spectacular too, albeit on a smaller scale.

I think the first two images are Bradford pear trees, the third is a forsythia bush, and I am not sure what kind of tree the final one is. The shapes and colors and lighting make each of these shots quite different, but I think my favorite is the first one, which reminds me of a Japanese painting.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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After seeing three of my recent postings that featured unopened tulips, some readers might come to the erroneous conclusion that I don’t like the colorful flowers of blooming tulips. How could that be possible? Everyone seems to like the cheery colors of tulips.

My neighbor, and fellow photographer and blogger Cindy Dyer, has planted quite a variety of tulips in her garden and I recently took some photos of two very different species. The first is a small, delicate tulip know as the “Lady Jane” (Tulipa clusiana var. ‘Lady Jane’). I am not sure that I have every seen a more petite tulip and I really like its subtle colors.

The second tulip is big and bold and multi-colored, almost a visual equivalent of shouting. This style of tulip is known as a “broken” tulip, because of the way that the colors are broken, resulting in intricate bars, stripes, streaks, featherings, or flame-like effects of different colors on the petals. According to Wikipedia, this effect was originally produced by a tulip-breaking virus, and bulbs with this effect went for exorbitant prices in 17th century Netherlands, during a period known as “tulip mania.” Today, tulips displaying a “broken” effect are stable variants and the result of breeding, not viral infection.

IMG_0831 web

IMG_0860 web

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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The moon was shining brightly in my neighborhood this morning at 6:00, just a few days after the full moon.

moon_april_blog

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Like tiny bunches of grapes, growing out of the ground on a stalk, grape hyacinths are one of my favorite spring flowers. I moved in really close with my macro lens in the first shot to emphasize the beautiful details and the rich dominant bluish-purple color of the plant and moved back a bit for the other two shots to highlight the varied shapes and colors of the individual “grapes.”

GrapeHyacinth Closeup webHyacinth Umbels webGrape Hyacinth 1 web

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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This final image of my mini-series on unopened tulips is my favorite—I love the simple composition, the almost monochromatic palette (with the slightest touch of pink at the tip), and the  sensual curves of the leaves.

It was almost six o’clock in the evening when I took this shot and the light was still pretty strong, but was starting to fade. I knew that I wanted to shoot some close-up shots of flowers, so I was using my 180mm macro lens. I probably should have been using my tripod for increased steadiness, especially because the lens does not have image stabilization (VR for Nikon folks), but I hadn’t brought a tripod with me.

As is often the case with my macro lens, I ended up focusing manually, trying to get as much of the tulip in focus as I could as I carefully composed the shot. The settings for this shot, for those who might be interested in such technical details, were ISO 400, f/8, and 1/50 second. The shutter speed is a bit slow, I’ll admit, but I was able to brace myself pretty well and I was trying to avoid increasing the ISO and introducing more noise.

If you haven’t seen the other images in this mini-series, Anticipation I and Anticipation II, be sure to check them out. Is there one that you like more than the others?

 

IMG_0907 web

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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With the cold, gray days of winter receding in my memory and the world exploding with color, I’ve taken a brief break from focusing primarily on wildlife photography and have turned my attention to capturing the beauty of flowers and blossoms.

I’ve never quite figured out how to photograph broad expanses of color, so I tend to focus more on the details of a single flower and try to isolate it from the background.  (One of my favorite bloggers, Camilla, of Calee Photography did an amazing job in capturing the beauty of tulip fields by photographing them from a small airplane. Check out her posting.)

In this case, my eyes were drawn to the not-yet-open tulip, where the color of the flower was beginning to be revealed. The composition is simple and graphic and a little abstract.

I can already sense the beauty that is to come—the anticipation makes it even more sweet.

IMG_0790 web

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Anticipation, waiting for the moment when a tulip will burst open. For now, all we can see is a little tongue of color, a foretaste of the beauty that is to come.

Anticipation web

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The flowering trees in my neighborhood are spectacular right now. Here’s a couple of shots of the flowers of one of them, which I think is some kind of magnolia or tulip tree.

magnolia_blogmagnolia2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I am always happy to visit the garden of one of my neighbors, Cindy Dyer, a fellow photographer and blogger, at this time of the year, because there is always something new in bloom. Yesterday’s treat was this simple little purple flower. I have no idea what it is, but I love its shape and colors.

flower_tiny_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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This red tulip may have been at its peak a few days ago when it was in full bloom, but it has retained its beauty in its current faded state.

tulip_faded_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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