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Posts Tagged ‘Vienna VA’

Wishing you all a sense of inner peace as you begin a new week, something that we all need during these troubled times. That was definitely the feeling that enveloped me as I contemplated this beautiful water lily last Thursday at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens during a short photography expedition there with my friend Cindy Dyer.

water lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spotted this mating pair of Halloween Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis eponina) last Thursday during a brief visit to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia with my dear friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer. The wing patterns and coloration of Halloween Pennants have always attracted me, making them one of my favorites. As most of you know, however, I tend to have lots of favorites when it comes to dragonflies.

I was in stealth mode as I slowly moved closer to this couple and attempted to frame the image in a way that was interesting and creative, while trying not to feel too much like a voyeur. Yes, I will boldly assert that this is art, and not insect porn.

Halloween Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Perhaps it was a territorial dispute, but whatever the reason, a male Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) came screaming in determined to dislodge a perched male Banded Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis fasciata) on Thursday at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens and achieved his goal. A few moments earlier I had spotted the two dragonflies perched in a moment of peaceful co-existence (with appropriate social distancing), but that moment of tranquility did not last very long.

Can’t we all just get along and live in harmony with one another?

Halloween Pennant and Banded Pennant

Halloween Pennant and Banded Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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There were only a few lotuses in bloom on Thursday at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, but they were more than sufficient to sate my senses. How much beauty is “enough?”

Increasingly I am finding that I enjoy beauty in small doses. So many voices in our society try to convince us that we need “more,” when perhaps “less” is even better, especially when we slow down and take the time to explore and appreciate that beauty.

I love the layers of  petals of the lotus flower; the details of the center of the lotus, revealed when the petals open up and begin to shrivel; and the promise of future beauty in the lotus bud on which the Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula incesta) had chosen to perch.

Sometimes when searching for beauty, it is more beneficial to search deeply, focusing on a few things, than to search widely, always looking for something newer and better.

lotus

lotus

slaty skimmer on lotus bud

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Cabbage White butterflies (Pieris rapae) are so small and plain that many people mistakenly believe they are moths. I find real elegance in their simplicity, especially when I am able to see their striking speckled green eyes. I spotted this little beauty during a brief visit yesterday to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia with my friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer.

Cabbage Whites are always hyperactive, in constant motion as they flit about from flower to flower, stopping only momentarily for a short sip. Consequently they are hard to track and you have to be quick on the trigger to have a chance of getting a shot. In the first photo I was lucky enough to capture a “bonus bug,” a hoverfly that was in action below the much larger butterfly. Cindy coined the term “bonus bug” to refer to insects that are in the frame that you never even noticed when you were taking the shot.

Be sure to double-click on each image to get a more detailed view of this beautiful butterfly, including its mesmerizing eyes.

Cabbage White

Cabbage White

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I was looking into the bright sun when I spotted this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) feeding on a nearby flower. Normally that is not an ideal situation for photography and often renders the subject as a silhouette. However, I adjusted my camera settings and was able to capture the translucency of the butterfly’s wings and the shape and color of the vegetation showing through from behind the wings.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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From  a distance I noticed a flash of yellow moving from a tree to a patch of flowers. The flight was too fast for a butterfly, and when I moved a bit closer I spotted, as I had suspected, an American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis). Judging from its coloration, I think it may be a juvenile, though I must admit that after a summer of chasing insects, my bird identification skills are a little rusty. The goldfinch was somewhat skittish and uncooperative, but I was able to capture these two images that I decided to share them with you all.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I have not seen as many Green Herons (Butorides virescens) this year as in previous years, so I was happy to spot one this past Tuesday during a quick trip to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in nearby Vienna, Virginia.

Green Herons are smaller and squatter than the more commonly seen Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias). Normally I see Green Herons at water’s edge, because their shorter legs do not allow them to wade into deeper water, and they are often partially hidden from view by vegetation. This Green Heron, though, had placed itself at the edge of a drainage system in the middle of a small pond, which is why I was able to get an unobstructed shot of this handsome bird.

Green Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I thought it was too late in the season for lotuses, so I was thrilled to see them at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens earlier this week in bloom, as seed pods. and most surprisingly as buds.

I am fascinated by lotuses in all of their stages. I love the three-dimensional quality of the flowers and the way that you can look into the center of them. Lotus seed pods are a little creepy—from certain angles they look like a cluster of eyeballs that follow you around. By contrast, I always feel a sense of calm when I am enjoying the simple beauty of the lotus buds.

lotus

lotus seed pods

lotus buds

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I was excited to spot this Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) during a short visit yesterday to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens with some friends. The hummingbird was feeding on some distant orange jewelweed flowers (Impatiens capensis) and I was using a macro lens at that moment, so I was especially thrilled when I managed to capture this image.

I do not see hummingbirds very often, so it really is a treat for me to see one in action. It is absolutely mesmerizing to watch these little birds frenetically flying among the flowers, stopping from time to time to sip the nectar from one of them. Tracking the moving hummingbird was definitely a challenge with my 180mm macro lens. Strangely enough, though, I probably had an easier time in doing so with this lens than if I had been using my much longer telephoto zoom lens—it can be tough trying to track, focus, and zoom simultaneously when handholding a long lens.

This image is a significant crop of the original image, but the detail holds up fairly well, all things considered. Does equipment matter? It matters to some extent, but you can often get decent results by simply taking the shots with whatever camera and lens that you have at hand.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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This Green Heron (Butorides virescens) was practicing its yoga on Saturday while perched on the railing of a small bridge at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens. In the first image you see the rarely observed giraffe pose—don’t try this at home or you many end up in traction. The second shot shows the green heron with its neck in a more relaxed position.

I am amazed by the amount of neck extension the green heron was able to achieve—I am willing to stick my neck out for others at times, but not to that extent.

Green Heron

Green Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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During a visit yesterday to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia, I was reminded of my favorite artist—Claude Monet. During the last thirty years of his life, water lilies (Nymphéas in French) were the main focus of his artistic production. One of the museums that I most love visiting is the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris, because it houses eight massive water lily murals by Monet in two specially-built oval rooms. It is incredibly peaceful to just sit in one of those rooms, surrounded by those amazing paintings.

I was delighted and a little surprised yesterday to see that some water lilies were already in bloom. There was a lot of vegetation surrounding the pond in which the beautiful flowers were floating, so there were some limits to my ability to compose my shots. Still, I am pretty happy with the images that I was able to capture.

Perhaps you will find yourself as captivated by the water lilies as I was.

Water lily

Water lily

water lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I can’t identify this flower and I am not certain what kind of skipper butterfly this is, but the two of them sure did combine well in this image that I captured this past weekend at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens. (I’m leaning towards this being a Peck’s Skipper (Polites peckius), but there are so many different kinds of skippers that it’s hard to be sure.)

In many ways this is the kind of image that I aspire to capture. The subject is active, engaged in probing the flower with its extended proboscis, rather than in a static pose. Of equal importance, the image has an artistic feel, a kind of beauty in its composition and colors. There are so many uncontrollable elements in nature that there is no way to guarantee results like this, but it is sure is nice when it happens.

UPDATE: Helpful folks on Facebook and readers of this blog have helped to identify the butterfly as a Zabulon Skipper (Poanes zabulon) and the flower as an Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana). Thanks, Drew and Molly.

skipper and flower

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Normally I aim for extreme realism when taking photos. Sometimes, however, I like to try an “artsy” approach, like in this image of a flower (a zinnia, I believe) from this past weekend at Meadlowlark Botanical Gardens.

In this case, I deliberately tried to distort perceptions and make it look like the grass and the sky had switched places. In reality, the blue is not from the sky, but is a gravel path.

I like to try to vary the angle at which I am shooting and the results can often be fun and different. I never know when I will find myself sprawled on the ground or standing in the mud, so I tend to wear clothes that are rugged and often ragged.

zinnia

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was wonderful to travel to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in nearby Vienna, Virginia with some friends this past weekend. Although I really enjoy going back repeatedly to familiar spots, sometimes it’s nice to move outside of the “box” and see something different, or at least in a different environment.

One of my favorite subjects of our little photo trip was this delightful Green Heron (Butorides virescens) that I spotted at one of the small ponds at the park. Green Herons are a lot lower to the ground than Great Blue Herons and are often difficult to find. I was lucky to see this one from a distance as I was circling the pond and managed to carefully creep close enough to have a low shooting angle and an unobstructed view.

green heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am always excited to see Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus). Over the years there have been numerous reports of this species becoming endangered, primarily because of the loss of habitat. Some years, I have spotted only a few Monarch during an entire summer. This year I have been fortunate enough to see them at several of the locations that I frequent.

I spotted this spectacular Monarch butterfly yesterday while visiting Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in nearby Vienna, Virginia with some fellow photographers. Each of us has a different style of shooting and preferred subjects and we usually shoot separately. It is always a lot of fun when we reassemble after shooting and share our photos and experiences with each other over dinner at a restaurant.

Monarch butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was walking to work through the streets of Vienna Friday morning, I passed by the Spanish Riding School in the Hofburg Palace and was thrilled to get a glimpse of some of the world-famous Lippizaner stallions. They were mostly hidden in their stalls, but occasionally one of these beautiful horse would pop its head out or a door would open briefly. I was also able to snap some quick photos as one of the horses was being prepared and was then walked across an open area.

Perhaps someday I will see a performance of the Lippizaners, but for now I am happy to have caught a glimpse of them on my last working day in Vienna for this trip.

Lippizaner

Lippizaner

Lippizaner

Lippizaner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Like many guys, I have trouble remembering anniversaries, so it came as a surprise a few days ago when WordPress reminded me that it was the fifth anniversary of the launching of my blog. Five years old probably qualifies as middle age or maybe even old age for a blog.

I remember well how my photography mentor Cindy Dyer sat me down and virtually insisted that I start a blog to showcase and share the results of my growing interest in photography. I’ve captured thousands and thousand of images since that time and made close to 2400 postings on this blog. My confidence, awareness, and skills as a photographer have grown significantly. More importantly, though, this blog has helped me to gain a new voice as I have learned to use my words and photographs to express a creative part of myself that has been dormant most of my life.

I am very appreciative of the support, encouragement, and suggestions that so many readers have provided these last five years. Thanks to all of you—you have helped to sustain me during times when my energy and enthusiasm have waned.

My very first posting was an image of a perching dragonfly and was simply titled Blue Dasher dragonfly. If you look at that posting, you can see that my fascination with dragonflies is not a new phenomenon. It is altogether appropriate, therefore, that I “celebrate” with another dragonfly image.

Halloween Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis eponina) generally perch facing away from me. Although it gives me a good view of their spectacular wings, I like it better when I get a frontal view and can look straight into the dragonfly’s eyes. This weekend I found a cooperative subject while exploring Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia, and was able to capture this image.

Halloween Pennant

Like this dragonfly, I am ready to spread my wings and fly, resting briefly before taking off again.  It’s a bit of a cliche, but from the blog’s inauguration the sub-title has always been, “My journey through photography.” Where will I go next? I honestly don’t know, but I definitely welcome fellow travelers to accompany me on my continuing journey of exploration.

Perhaps I will set my sights really high and point my camera, to use the famous words of Buzz Lightyear, “to infinity and beyond.” Come fly with me.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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Brightly-colored flowers and butterflies—-what a wonderful combination for a summer’s day. I spotted these beauties this past weekend at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia.

The first shot features a little skipper butterfly on a spectacular, orange-red coneflower. The other two shots highlight the beauty of an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) in a patch of the more frequently observed purple coneflowers.

skipper on a coneflower

Eastern Tiger SwallowtailEastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As the breeze kicked up yesterday at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia, this male Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) hung on tightly to his perch. From the angle at which I was shooting, though, it looked like he was participating in a pole vault competition.

Halloween Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Every spring I seem to have the same problem—I see small brown skipper butterflies and can’t seem to identify them. Wikipedia notes that there are over 3500 species recognized worldwide, so I don’t feel too bad about my poor identification skills. I spotted this particular one during a recent trip to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia as it was feeding on what looks to be some variety of salvia flower—there are a lot of types of salvia flowers too.

As I looked through internet photos of possible matches for my skipper, I considered that it might be a Peck’s Skipper or possibly a Fiery Skipper, but none of them is a perfect match. I’m hoping that it turns out to be a Zabulon Skipper (Poanes zabulon). Why? More than anything else, I think “Zabulon” is a cool name.

skipper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The simple shape and spare palette of spiderwort plants (g. Tradescantia) really appeal to me and I found myself taking innumerable photos of them during a visit with fellow photographer Cindy Dyer to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia this past weekend. Be sure to check out Cindy’s blog for some awesome colorful images of many of the other flowers that we observed.

My friends all know that I have a warped sense of humor, so it would come as no surprise to them when I confess that I can’t help but think of an abnormal growth on an arachnid every time that I use the word “spiderwort.” As the weather continues to warm up, I’m pretty confident that I will soon be featuring images of spiders, warts and all.

spiderwort

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Most of us have probably tried to frame a shot by using an archway, foliage, or other natural or man-made object to draw the attention of our viewers to our main subject. Yesterday I decided to try something a little more elaborate  during a visit to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia.

The Korean Bell Pavilion at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna,VA is an amazing structure. It was made by hand using traditional methods and houses an enormous bell. How could I highlight its beauty? I started off by taking some conventional shots of the structure and they were ok, but probably the same as hundreds of other visitors have taken.

Korean Bell Pavilion

As I was exploring some of the other buildings in the Korean Bell Garden, I noticed some beautiful carved wooden openings that faced the bell pavilion. By half-kneeling and half-standing, I realized that I could frame a view of the pavilion through the opening.

Korean Bell Pavilion

I liked the shots that I was getting, but the “frame” seemed to be a bit too dark, so I decided to see what would happen if I used my pop-up flash. As I expected, the flash helped to reveal some of the beautiful grain and color of the wood without affecting the rest of the image.

Korean Bell Pavilion

As I stood up, I saw another wooden opening and tried a similar approach, resulting is a panoramic-style shot.

Korean Bell Pavilion

Of course, it is always possible to add a frame to a shot after it has been taken, but for me it’s a lot more fun to try to frame the image while I am taking it. At a minimum, it’s worth the extra effort to try to find new angles and perspectives for a shot.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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Do you find yourself shooting the same subjects with the same lens all of the time? Sometimes it’s fun to try to try to photograph a subject with the “wrong” lens.

Conventional wisdom tells me to use a telephoto lens to photo birds, a macro lens to photograph insects, and a wide-angle lens to photograph landscapes. Following that wisdom, I had my macro lens on my camera this past weekend when I traveled with some friends to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia, where I anticipated that I would be shooting flowers and insects.

As I was walking around a small pond, hoping in vain to spot some dragonflies, I suddenly came upon a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias). From a distance, vegetation at the water’s edge had blocked the heron from view. With the heron right in front of me, I had two choices—I could try to change to the 70-300mm lens that I had in my camera bag to gain some additional reach or I could make do with my macro lens. I chose the latter option.

My macro lens is a 180mm Tamron lens. It is slow and noisy when focusing at close distances, but when I pay attention to my technique, I have taken some pretty good macro shots with it. How would it do with a bird? I have gotten used to photographing birds with a 150-600mm Tamron lens that has a built-in image stabilization system and, obviously, lets me zoom in and out. My macro lens lacks both of these capabilities, so I really did not know how well it would fare, particularly when I tried to capture some in-flight shots of the heron—I was pretty sure the heron would be spooked by my presence and I proved to be right.

Well, I ended up following the heron around for quite a while and captured images of it at several locations, including in the air. It worked out remarkably well. In some ways, it was even more enjoyable shooting with a prime lens than with a zoom lens, because I could concentrate better on tracking and framing the subject—my decision process was simplified when I had to zoom with my feet.

I particularly like the first photo below. The lighting at that moment was very unusual and the colors are so vivid that a friend asked me if I had used some kind of art filter. With the exception of a few minor tweaks in post-processing, however, the image looks like it did when I first looked at it on the back of my camera.

So what did I learn? I have a greater appreciation of the capabilities of my macro lens and realize that I can use it for more than just macro shots. I think that I also appreciate better the experience of shooting with a prime lens—I think my zoom lenses sometimes make me a bit lazy and sloppy.

I look forward to trying to shoot some more little experiments like this of thinking outside of the box and shooting more subjects with the “wrong” lens.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday when a Great Blue Heron at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia turned and intently stared at me, its look conveyed a definite sense of stern disapproval.
I went to the gardens with some friends with the intent of photographing flowers, but my attention was hijacked by this very photogenic Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias). Despite the fact that I was shooting with my macro lens, I managed to get some wonderful shots of the heron, including some in-flight shots, that I will post later. I loved the look in the heron’s eyes and its pose so much that I decided to post this image immediately.
Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Summer days are drifting away and the biological clocks are almost certainly ticking loudly for some dragonflies. This past weekend at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna Virginia, I spotted these two Halloween Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis eponina) engaged in a little summer loving.

It’s hard not to feel a little bit like a voyeur as I move in closer to photograph the acrobatic intertwining of the tiny dragonfly bodies. Summer loving happens so fast and soon my colorful little friends will be gone for the season,

Halloween Pennant

Halloween Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of the highlights for me of a short visit yesterday to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia was spotting this spectacular dragonfly, which I think is a female Banded Pennant (Celithemis fasciata).

Earlier this summer, I spotted a male Banded Pennant, whose body was blue, but the coloration of this one suggests to me that it is a female. The dragonfly was perched on the highest branches of a small tree, which allowed me to isolate it against the beautiful blue sky. You may notice that the branches are different in the two photos—the dragonfly flew away a few times, but returned to the same tree a short time later.

CORRECTION: My initial identification was incorrect. My local dragonfly expert, Walter Sanford, with whom I neglected to consult in advance, provided a correct identification. This is a female Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina), not a Banded Pennant.

 

Banded Pennant

Banded Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When a Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon) sensed my presence at the edge of a pond this weekend at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, it began to swim right at me. As the snake grew larger and larger in my viewfinder, I assumed it would veer off. I was wrong. The snake actually came out of the water and I captured this first shot of the triumphant snake who forced me to back away.

Northern Watersnake

Initially the snake was swimming lazily in the shallow water of the pond, seemingly basking in the warm of the midday sun.

Northern Watersnake

Suddenly the snake turned its head and looked straight at me. It did not look amused.

Northern Watersnake

The snake started to flick its forked tongue and began to swim rapidly through the vegetation that separated us.

Northern Watersnake

A part of my brain certainly understood that the snake was not as close as it looked in my telephoto zoom lens, but a more instinctive, primordial part of the brain kicked in when the snake started to fill the viewfinder. I know that this kind of snake is not poisonous and that I had nothing to fear, those rational thoughts were crowded out by the emotional responses that screamed at me that I needed to back away.

I honestly did not expect the snake to come out of the water and it happened so fast that I am not sure how it did it. The snake seemed to propel itself out of the water in a jump. Once it was on terra firma, the snake assumed the confrontational pose that you see in the first photo.

This round goes to the snake.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The intricate shape and delicate colors of this beautiful little flower simply captivated me yesterday at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia. (I think it is a kind of columbine flower.)

columbine

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sometimes, simple compositions of familiar subjects result in the best images, like this recent shot of an Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica) on a purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).

It came out just as I imagined when I was looking through the viewfinder of my camera and required a minimum amount of tweaking and no cropping.

At times, it’s not complicated.

bee_cone_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last week I turned 60, but I am happy to confess that I still chase butterflies with much of the exuberance (if not quite the energy) of a child. There is something really special about the delicate beauty of butterflies that draws me in and the idea of their metamorphosis inspires me.

During a recent trip to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia, I was thrilled to spot this female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus). She was feeding on an identified plant that must have been tasty, because she kept moving from spot to spot on the plant, offering me multiple opportunities to get some shots.

I especially like the fact that I was able to get the sky into some of the images, reinforcing for me the idea of butterflies flying freely and lightly through the open air. Now that’s the way to live a life.

swallowtail1_blogswallowtail2_blogswallowtail3_blogswallowtail4_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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