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Posts Tagged ‘Tamron 180mm’

When presented with a downward-facing flower, this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) was forced to choose an unusual angle of attack. Seeming defying gravity, this acrobatic butterfly hung upside down as it probed upwards earlier this week at Prince William Forest Park in Triangle, Virginia.

If this were an Olympic competition, I would give him a 10 for both his technical skills and overall artistic impression.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I sometimes complain about the names given to species and how little they correspond to what I actually see in the field. That certainly was not the case yesterday when I spotted a Twin-spotted Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster maculata) along a creek in Northern Virginia. If you look closely at the image, ideally by double-clicking it, you will see the double row of spots on the dragonfly’s abdomen (the “tail”) and the long pointed ovipositor extending well beyond the end of the abdomen, the “spiketail.”

As I post photos of dragonflies, I realize that it is hard for readers to get a feel of the relative size of these beautiful creatures. The Uhler’s Sundragons that I have featured recently are about 1.7 inches in length (44 mm). A Twin-spotted Spiketail, by contrast, is much larger, about 2.8 inches in length (69 mm).

Both of these species are uncommon to rare in our area, primarily because of their specific habitat requirements—they require clean forest streams, which are not common in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and they have an early and short flight season of only a few weeks.

Twin-spotted Spiketail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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You know you are pretty close to a dragonfly when you can see individual grains of pollen on its head and body. I photographed this Uhler’s Sundragon dragonfly (Helocordulia uhleri) on 12 April alongside a creek in Northern Virginia. Ideally it would be best to stabilize macro shots taken at this close a range by placing the camera on a tripod, but in a field situation with a live subject, that is rarely possible.

If you click on the individual images, you will see some wonderful details, like the ommatidia, the individual optical units that make up the amazing compound eyes of these dragonflies.

Uhler's Sundragon

uhler's sundragon

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As we move deeper into spring, more and more butterflies are starting to appear, like this beautiful Zebra Swallowtail (Protographium marcellus) that I spotted yesterday at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge. Zebra Swallowtails are most often associated with pawpaw trees, which is helpful to know, though I must confess I don’t know how to identify a pawpaw tree. What I do know is that these butterflies are constantly on the move and fly in such an erratic way that I have trouble getting a decent photograph of one.

Yesterday I managed to get a shot of a Zebra Swallowtail when it paused momentarily at a small tree, perhaps a possible pawpaw. What I like about the shot is that it shows well the colors of the butterfly as well as its long “tails.” I could not decide how much to crop the image, which was taken from a pretty good distance away, so I am including tow versions of the image. Personally I am drawn most to the second one, but recognize that many folks may prefer the first versions, which draws you more quickly to the butterfly’s beautiful details.

Zebra Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Do you associate certain colors with certain seasons? For me, yellow is definitely a springtime color. After months of winter weather dominated by shades of gray and a palette of faded colors, spring explodes with bright colors, with yellow daffodils popping up all over the place. Usually I have to wait a bit longer for yellow to pop up in the birds and insects that I enjoy photographing.

As I was exploring with my camera this week, I ran across bright yellow subjects in two very different locations. One, a Pine Warbler (Setophaga pinus) was quite appropriately perched high in a pine tree. The second was an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) that appeared to be probing the sand on the bank of a forest creek. I suspect that the butterfly needed the minerals and salts, although I confess to initially thinking that butterflies needed only nectar from flowers for sustenance (and there were definitely no flower in the area of that creek).

Pine Warbler

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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On Wednesday I finally photographed my first dragonflies of the season, some Uhler’s Sundragons (Helocordulia uhleri) that I spotted while exploring a creek in Northern Virginia. This was my first time seeing this species and I was particularly excited, because it is considered to be rare in my area. According to the Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website, this species is a “scarce and seldom seen member of the emerald family” and is a “habitat specialist with a brief and early flight period.”

Initially I took some medium distance shots with my 180mm macro lens and them moved in closer to get the first shot. In order for me to get such a close-up shot, the dragonfly has to be cooperative and this female Uhler’s Sundragon was quite accommodating.

As you probably notice in the first photo, only a limited amount of details are in focus when shooting a subject this close.  One of the biggest challenges is to ensure that the most important features are the sharpest. Following the usual rule for photographing live subjects, I attempted to focus on the eyes.

For me, dragonfly season is now open and I anticipate that I will be featuring different species of these beautiful aerial acrobats quite regularly in the upcoming months.

Uhler's Sundragon

Uhler's Sundragon

Uhler's Sundragon

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I’m still looking for my first dragonfly of the season, but was thrilled yesterday afternoon when I spotted my first damselfly, a Fragile Forktail (Ischnura posita), at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. In anticipation of seeing one of these small insects, I mounted my Tamron 180mm macro lens on my camera, a lens that has gone largely unused during the long winter months in favor of my telephoto zoom lens.

Yesterday was a nice reminded of how much I enjoy using a macro lens. (To give you a sense of scale, a Fragile Forktail damselfly is about 0.8-1.1 inches in length (21-29mm).)

 

Fragile Forktail

Fragile Forktail

Fragile Forktail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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