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Posts Tagged ‘Washington D.C.’

I spent some of my favorite moments during my recent trip to Paris exploring again the Rodin Museum and its wonderful outdoor sculpture garden. There is something really special about seeing sculptures outdoors, where the time of day, the season, and the weather can make them come alive in new ways that are not possible in the controlled confines of an indoor museum.

When I travelled to Washington D.C. on Saturday, one of my goals was to see some of the Rodin sculptures that I recalled were in the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden. The garden is sunken slightly below ground level and as I descended I immediately spotted the large sculpture known as The Burghers of Calais (Les Bourgeois de Calais). This multi-person sculpture is very well-known and I had seen another casting of it recently in Paris. (According to French law, there can be only 12 original castings of a Rodin sculpture, and both the one that I saw in Paris and this one are original castings.)

I couldn’t remember the story behind the sculpture, so I turned to Wikipedia. From a factual perspective, the sculpture commemorates an event during the Hundred Years’ War, when Calais, a French port on the English Channel, was under siege by the English for about eleven months. As you study the faces and the postures of the men in the sculpture, you realize that it is much more than a monument to a historical event.

According to Wikipedia, “Edward, the king of England, offered to spare the people of the city if six of its leaders would surrender themselves to him, presumably to be executed. Edward demanded that they walk out wearing nooses around their necks, and carrying the keys to the city and the castle. One of the wealthiest of the town leaders, Eustache de Saint Pierre, volunteered first and five other burghers joined with him. Saint Pierre led this envoy of volunteers to the city gates. It was this moment, and the poignant mix of defeat, heroic self-sacrifice, and willingness to face imminent death that Rodin captured in his sculpture.”

The sculpture in the second image is known simply as The Walking Man (L’homme qui marche). I am amazed at Rodin’s skill in capturing a sense of movement in such an incomplete figure. For me, it’s like a three-dimensional sketch that has come to life.

The final Rodin sculpture that I wanted to highlight is known as the Crouching Woman (also known as Lust). I find the pose of the woman to be intriguing and the Rodin Museum, which has a terracotta version of the sculpture, asserts that it “looks like a compact block with limbs gathered together and pressed tightly against the torso. This block-like sculpture reflects Rodin’s aesthetic analysis of Michelangelo’s sculpture: it is a work that, to quote the great Italian artist, could roll down a hill without breaking.”

These Rodin sculptures remind me of Paris, but in a greater sense, they highlight my heightened appreciation for the work of artists. Sometimes artists capture beauty and other times they create beauty (and often they do both at the same time). What is beauty? That will have to be the subject of a separate blog someday.

 

Burghers of Calais

The Walking Man

Crouching Woman

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have lived in the Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C. for over 25 years. Like most people who live in the region, I rarely travel into the city except when I have guests. We tend to look a bit negatively at tourists, who impede our paths and generally get in the way as we rush about trying to get important things—primarily work—accomplished. It is a bit of a stereotype, but it does seem to be that most people in this area are very focused and driven.

As I continued to struggle to readapt to “normal” life after my glorious three weeks in Paris, I started to wonder how things would look differently if I approached Washington D.C. with the same sense of awe and enthusiasm that I felt for Paris. What if I stopped taking for granted all of the treasures our nation’s capital has to offer and looked at them with fresh eyes?

Saturday, I grabbed the camera gear and the raincoat that I used in Paris and rode into the city on the Metro system. I had a relaxing time visiting several of the Smithsonian museums, which all have no admission fee, so you don’t have to exhaust yourself trying to get your money’s worth. I may cover my museum experience in another posting.

What struck me the most during the day, however, was the view that greeted me when I walked out of the National Gallery of Art at closing time. It was starting to get dark and lights had come on, gently illuminating some of the buildings. As I looked to the left, I could see the U.S. Capitol Building, home of Congress, and to the right in the distance was the Washington Monument, with a part of the Lincoln Memorial visible behind it. Wow!

Now I realize that most people don’t have Washington D.C. in their backyard, but I encourage you to look afresh at the area in which you live. Imagine that you have traveled thousands of miles to see its unique beauties. For me, that change in attitude helped me to look beyond the familiar and better appreciate the beauty that was always there. I had always used that approach in my wildlife photography and only now realize how it can be broadened into so many other areas of my life.

U.S. Capitol

Washington Monument

U.S. Capitol

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A few days ago I made a trip to the National Zoo in Washington D.C. and one of my highlights was visiting the massive Amazonia exhibit. While walking through the indoor rain forest, I could hear activity high in the trees and caught sight of some brightly colored small bird. I think there are also several varieties of monkeys that I did not spot and all kinds of amphibians and fish.

I was shocked and thrilled when a Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) flew over and perched a few feet away from me when I was observing an exotic duck. I had previously marveled at the photos of Roseate Spoonbills posted by photographers in Florida and other southern US states, but had never seen one before. The spoonbill seemed to be a bit curious about my presence and willingly posed for me.

It was nice that the Roseate Spoonbill was so cooperative, because I had only a single lens with me, a Canon 24-105mm zoom lens. Initially I was worried that most subjects would be too far away for me to capture with the modest telephoto reach of the lens, but it proved to be perfect when taking portraits of the spoonbill who was less than three feet (one meter) away from me.

My wonderful experience with this beautiful bird increases my desire to see a spoonbill in the wild. I really enjoy visiting zoos, particularly ones like the National Zoo that, I believe, make special efforts to care for the animals. The zoo gives me a chance to observe animal behavior, including animals that I am not likely to see in the wild, but it can never be a replacement for the overall experience of observing animals, birds, and other wondrous creatures in their natural environment.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How long a lens do you need to photograph birds? Conventional wisdom dictates that you need a lens with a focal length of at least 300mm and ideally much longer than that. I generally use my Tamron 150-600mm lens when I anticipate shooting birds, especially small ones. If I want to get even closer, the zoom lens of my Canon SX50 has a field of view equivalent to 1200mm.

On Friday, I traveled into Washington D.C. to visit some friends using the Metro subway. I planned to walk a lot and I didn’t want to weigh myself down with all kinds of gear, so I put a 24-105mm lens on my DSLR. For those of you who are not technically oriented, this lens goes from mildly wide angle to mildly telephoto.

The camera and lens combination is less than ideal for photographing birds. I couldn’t help myself, however, when I spotted some birds in an urban park and decided to attempt to get some shots. My first attempt was with a Carolina Wren and it was a disaster—it was small and fast and so skittish that I could not get a decent shot.

Then I spied a Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) perched on a bush in the distance. I took some initial shots and then slowly began to move forward. Eventually I was able to get to within about three feet (one meter) of the mockingbird and captured this image.

This incident served as a reminder not to limit myself to following conventional wisdom. It is definitely possible to take a good bird photo without a long telephoto lens. Why not take landscape photos with a long telephoto lens instead of a wide angle lens?

No matter what lens I have on my camera (or what camera I am using), I try to keep my eyes open for possible subjects. I will then try to capture those subjects as well as I can within whatever equipment I happen to have with me. It turns out that gear is often not the most critical element in making good images—simply being there is half the battle.

Northern Mockingbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I look out my window today, piles of snow from the snowstorm earlier this week remind me that winter is not yet over. I discovered, however, that some plants are already in bloom (or almost in bloom) yesterday during a visit to Dumbarton Oaks, a historic museum, research center, and garden in Washington DC.

I am definitely not an expert when it comes to flowers, but if I had to guess, I’d say that the flower in the first image is a crocus, those in the second image are snowdrops, and those in the final image are forsythias. Even in I am incorrect in my identification, it was a real joy to see some colors and signs of life after so many long gray days this winter.

I can’t wait for spring to arrive.

crocus

snowdrops

forsythia

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As I was walking across the Key Bridge from Georgetown on Wednesday night, I glanced down at the Potomac River and saw that the Kennedy Center was aglow with rainbow colors. I believe that the colors were part of the celebration of the Kennedy Center Honors, an annual honor given to those in the performing arts for their lifetime of contributions to American culture. Honorees receive a medallion that hangs from a rainbow colored ribbon.

Most of the landmarks shown here will be familiar only to locals, but some of you may recognize the Washington Monument in the middle left in the photo. In case you are curious, I took this shot with a Canon A620 camera, an old 7.1 megapixel point-and-shoot camera that I carry with me sometimes because it fits easily into my pocket. I leaned against the railing of the bridge to take this shot in what turned out to be a one second exposure.

Although I know what the subject matter of the image is, I enjoy it equally as a kind of abstract, man-made landscape, a beautiful combination of lines and shapes and colors, with some of them reflected in the dark waters of the river.

Kennedy Center Honors

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I just love the vibrant colors of the tropical water lilies at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, like this one that I photographed on Sunday during a brief trip there. These gardens, located in a part of Washington D.C.,  are run by the National Park Service and have acres of ponds with all kinds of lotuses and water lilies. The tropical water lilies are in small cement ponds behind the visitor center and are one of my favorite spots to visit.

tropical water lily

tropical water lily

tropical water lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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With most of my dragonfly shots, I try to get as close as I can to the dragonfly, either my moving or by zooming, in order to highlight my subject. If I am not able to do so, I will often crop the image during post-processing.

Sometimes, though, I will intentionally keep my distance and will carefully compose the image to include more environmental elements. That was the case yesterday during a quick trip to Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens with my photography mentor Cindy Dyer. Cindy needed to drop off some prints at the gift shop and I had a few minutes to grab a few shots.

Dragonfly perches generally are not very interesting, often just dried-out branches sticking out of the water. I was excited, therefore, when I spotted a male Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula incesta) perching on a purple Pickerelweed plant (Pontederia cordata).  I positioned myself to capture an additional pickerelweed plant in the background, pretty sure that it would be out of focus and not be too distracting. The cool colors and the sinuous curves of the plants in the background combine to create an “artsy” image that I really like.

 

Slaty Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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“Don’t mess with me while I am eating.” That seemed to be the message that an American Bison (Bison bison) was sending to me during a recent trip I made to the National Zoo. The bison had lifted its enormous head, twisted it violently in my direction, and looked right at me. It then returned to calmly munching on some hay.

Who knew that bisons had such flexible necks?

American Bison

American Bison

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Otters are so much fun to watch. They seem to be very inquisitive and playful. One of their favorite pastimes appears to be chasing each other around.

I am familiar with the North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis) and have been lucky enough to see one in the wild at my local marshland park. These images, however, are of Asian Small-clawed Otters (Aonyx cinerea) that I observed at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. last Monday.

There is a large group of these otters in an enclosure on the Asia Trail and I spent quite a while watching their antics. They seem to be in almost constant motion in and out of the water, so it was a fun challenge trying to get some shots of them.

Asian Small-clawed Otter

Asian Small-clawed Otter

Asian Small-clawed Otter

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most of the times that I have visited the National Zoo the Giant Pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) have been indoors, but this past Monday I was thrilled to see that they were outdoors and active. There are two levels for viewing the pandas and I was on the upper level, giving me an unobstructed view and some relief from the large crowds.

Here are a couple of my favorite shots. The first one is of the youngest panda at the zoo, Bei Bei, who is a bit over a year old, and the second image shows him with an adult panda that I assume is his mother.

panda at the National Zoo

pandas at the National Zoo

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was really cool (and only slightly disconcerting) to look up and see a hairy orangutan crossing almost directly overhead on a pair of ropes while I was visiting the National Zoo on Monday.

A series of ropes and towers connects the Great Ape House with another building called the Think Tank. The orangutans can move freely back and forth between the buildings at certain times of the day. Their overhead transit system crosses one of the major roads in the zoo and there are no nets or any other obstructions between visitors and the orangutans.

As you can see from one of the images, there is some kind of system on the towers that keeps the orangutans from climbing down one of the intermediate towers. I was amazed at how effortlessly the orangutan moved and never really worried that it might lose its grip and fall into my arms.

orangutan at National Zoo

orangutan at National Zoo

Orangutan at National Zoo

Orangutan at National Zoo

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The National Zoo in Washington D.C. is a wonderful place to explore and has the added bonus of having no admission fee. On Monday I wandered around the zoo for several hours, visiting some of my favorite animals and taking a lot of photos.

Here are some of my initial favorite images: a lioness, a cheetah, a beaver, and an elephant.

lioness at National Zoo

cheetah at National Zoo

beaver at National Zoo

elephant at National Zoo

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last Friday about 5:30 pm I was in the Georgetown area of Washington D.C. right at the time when a small group of protesters caused M Street to be closed by sitting in middle of the lane heading toward Key Bridge, one of only a few bridges linking the capital city with Virginia. Here are a few shots of the protesters and the police.

Readers who follow my blog know that I am not used to this kind of photography and I wasn’t really sure how to approach the subject. Roads and intersections were blocked off with yellow tape, preventing me from getting good angles for the shots. It was a small group of protesters and they looked to be of college age, prompting me to wonder if they were from nearby Georgetown University. All varieties of policemen were present to control the crowd and direct traffic onto side streets—there were bicycle cops and motorcycle cops in addition to the expected police squad cars.

I was happy that I happened to have my Canon SX50 superzoom with me, because the zoomed allowed me to frame some shots differently without having to move around a lot. In the end I chose three shots to post that captured different aspects of protest, mostly focusing on the human element.

Protest in Georgetown

Protest in Georgetown

Protest in Georgetown

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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There is something really special about water lilies (g. Nymphaea)—it’s easy for me to understand why impressionist painter Claude Monet was obsessed with them. During my recent visit to Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in Washington D.C. many of the water lilies were closed up, probably because of the extreme heat of the midday sun, but I did manage to get some shots.

The traditional white water lilies tend to have a calming effect on me. For those folks looking for a bit more passion, there were also some fiery red water lilies.

Water lily

water lily

water lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Normally I try to move in really close to my subjects using a telephoto or macro lens. Yesterday, however, I decided to try to “see” the world differently by using a wider lens (24-105mm) during a quick trip with my photography mentor Cindy Dyer to Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in the Anacostia area of Washington D.C. to check out the water lilies and lotus flowers.

The trip was a spur-of-the-moment decision while we were eating lunch, so we knew that we would miss out on the soft early morning light that we both prefer. However, the weather was beautiful, with the temperatures and humidity less oppressive than in recent weeks, so we decided to brave the Washington D.C. area traffic to check out the park.

Cindy is no stranger to the park. Last year four of her images of water lilies from the park appeared on US postage stamps, which were so popular that half a billion were printed. Check out this link to see information about these stamps. Earlier this year, one of Cindy’s images of Sacred Lotuses at the park was on one of the 16 postage stamps issued to commemorate the centennial of the National Park Service. Check out this link for more information about that stamp.

Here are some of my images of Sacred Lotuses (Nelumbo nucifera) from yesterday as I tried to step back a bit and see the flowers as part of a larger landscape. Initially I struggled a bit as I kept focusing on details, but my mind and my eye grew accustomed to the idea that the lens was not going to let me get in close. Gradually I started to see things differently and to frame my photos accordingly.

Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens

Acres and acres of lotuses

Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens

Lotuses fading into the distance

Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens

Lotus and seed pod

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I should probably be able to remember my own anniversary, but I am a guy. Therefore I was caught a bit by surprise yesterday evening when WordPress notified me that it was the fourth anniversary of the start of my blog. Where has the time gone?

Blogging has become part of my daily life since I first started. I never suspected that I would get such joy and satisfaction from exploring my creativity in words and in photos and from sharing that journey with the wonderful folks that I have encountered through the blog. Thanks to all of you for your support, encouragement, and helpful tips. I sometimes like to say that I write this blog primarily for me, but I know that is not entirely true—I write it for all of you too. My photography mentor, Cindy Dyer, deserves special thanks. She helped me to start the blog and has been a continuous source of inspiration for me.

WordPress statistics indicate that I have made 2030 postings (which includes a dozen or more repostings of  posts written by friends) and have had 110749 views from well over 100 countries. Statistics are only a relative measure of success and I know that my best postings and my best photos are not necessarily the ones that have had the most views.

Over the past four years my skill and my confidence with my camera have grown. I now consider myself a photographer, albeit not a professional. My interests have expanded and my winters are now spent chasing birds, something I never imagined that I would find interesting. My fascination with dragonflies has remained constant and I have learned a lot about them. I think it is altogether appropriate to reprise today the short text and photo from my first posting

Text of my first posting in WordPress on July 7, 2012:

I photographed this Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens this morning.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Blue Dasher

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As I stood at the waterfront in Georgetown last Friday, I heard a rumble approaching. Was it an aircraft? Was it a helicopter? Suddenly a loud, slow aircraft appeared low in the sky above the Potomac River. It was probably the strangest looking aircraft that I had ever seen.

I had read about the MV-22 Osprey, but had never seen one. The Osprey combines the functionality of a helicopter with that of an aircraft and has tilt rotors that allow it to perform vertical takeoffs and landings.

This Marine Corps aircraft was at the tail end of a small flight of helicopters that was heading toward the White House. Perhaps it was providing additional security, given that it was September 11 when I took the photos, or may have merely been transporting part of the President’s entourage.

The first two photos show the Osprey in flight. I was pleased to be able to get these shots despite the fact that I had only a 24-105mm lens on my camera at the time. The third shot is of one of the other helicopters in the group. The “white top” helicopters are usually associated with the Marine Corps detachment that supports the President. The final shot shows a couple of the presidential helicopters as they fly toward the White House.

I thought about cloning out the small jet in the first photo, but decided that I like the way that it almost looks like the Osprey is stalking the jet.

MV-22 Osprey

MV-22 Osprey

presidential helicopter

presidential helicopters

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When taking photos, do you ever just point and shoot? Now I realize that there is an entire class of consumer cameras with mostly automatic settings that are referred to as “point and shoot cameras,” but that’s not what I am talking about here. What I am asking is whether you ever just point your camera in the general direction of a subject and engage the shutter without actually framing the shot with the viewfinder or even the LCD on the back of the camera.

Why would you do that? I have a fascination with street photography. Conceptually I like the idea of taking photos of strangers, often at close range, in interesting urban settings. However, I have not been able to overcome my inhibitions and fears about capturing these kinds of images.

As I was returning by Metro back to my Northern Virginia suburb from a trip to the District of Columbia, I noticed  a guy with a bicycle standing in front of me. He had a racing-style bike and was carrying what appeared to be a fully inflated spare tube in his hand. It was an intriguing scene and I decided to try to capture it. With my camera balanced on my camera bag on my lap, I pointed the camera in his direction and took a number of shoots, zooming in and out with my 24-105mm lens. A few times, I peeked at my results and adjusted the angle and direction of my camera. I slightly adjusted the angle of a couple of the shots you see below, but kept the one that was really skewed just like it came out of the camera—I just like the different look that it has.

I felt safe and secure in taking these shots, because the sounds of the moving train more than covered any noise coming from my shutter. I even felt emboldened to take some shots of a young lady sitting across the aisle from me. She had assumed what I consider to be the classic Metro pose. She had headphones on and was sitting upright, absorbed in her own world. There seems to be an unwritten Metro code that strangers do not interact with each other, and usually go to pains not to look each other in the eye.

I think I will try my experiment again to try to get used to the idea of taking photos of strangers, albeit surreptitiously. I am not ready to become the next Cartier-Bresson, but it’s a start.

rider3_blog

rider1_blog

rider4_blog

rider2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What kind of subjects lend themselves to black and white film? Can you decide beforehand and try to see the world in black and white, as I started out trying to do, or do you decide afterwards, as most people do when converting digital images to black and white?

This is the continuing story of my experimentation with a totally mechanical Nikon F SLR loaded with Ilford HP 5 Plus black and white film. I wandered through the streets of Washington D.C. looking for subjects and came upon this bust of noted Soviet human rights activist Andrei Sakharov outside of the Russia House restaurant on Connecticut Avenue.

I worked hard on this one to try to compose it and shoot it in an interesting way and I like the way that it turned out. It turned out that focusing manually is tougher than I thought, even with the visual assists in the viewfinder of a film camera, like the micro prism. I was definitely out of practice and I worried that all of my images would be soft and out of focus. This image reassured me that if I am careful, I can get relatively sharp images and capture details like the texture that you can see on the hands and the head of the statue.

Andrei Sakharov

Eventually I made my way to the National Zoo and last week I posted some digital shots of some of the animals that I encountered there. The zoo posed a big problem for me in getting a proper exposure, because there was a mixture of harsh midday sunshine and shadows. As I looked over my negatives, I realized that I need to meter more often—I took a series of shots of lions that were sometimes in the sunshine and sometimes in the shade and overexposed many of the shots.

However, one of my favorite images of the roll of film was this one of a female lion that was properly exposed and captured a good amount of detail. At this point in the day, I had switched to a Tokina 80-200mm lens to give myself a bit of additional reach.

lion

So could I take the kind of wildlife/nature shots that I normally feature with a film camera? It would be tough to do so, but this shot of a Monarch butterfly suggests that it would not be impossible. The pattern of the Monarch is so well-known, that most of us can imagine its orange and black coloration without actually seeing the colors. This is the only one of my black and white images on which I did a significant crop, and you can see how the background has become a bit grainy.

Monarch butterfly

For folks who are interested in the process, I developed the film with Ilfosol 3 developer, a general purpose developer. I exposed the film as though it were ISO 200, instead of the box speed of ISO 400, and learned that pulling the film like this is likely to lead to lower contrast (while shooting it at higher speeds will tend to give more contrast). I scanned the negatives with a Canoscan 8400f scanner as TIFF files and did a few adjustments in Photoshop Elements 11.

So what did I learn? I learned to slow down and be more deliberate as I contemplate my shots; I learned to look past some of the colors of the world and search for shapes and lines and contrast; and I leaned the value in producing my images in a manual, hand-on way, leading to a greater sense of ownership of those images.

I learned a lot, though clearly I have a lot more to learn as I continue to explore this new/old area of photography.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you ever feel a desire to step outside of your comfort zone in your photography, to capture some images in a completely different way, to return to the basics of our craft? For the last month, I have felt an irresistible urge to shoot some black and white film, something that I haven’t done in over thirty years.

When I told some folks at work that I was planning to shoot some film during a week of vacation, one of them responded by asking if I was making a movie. I patiently explained that I would be putting some black and white film into a non-digital camera. He stared back at me with a look of incredulity and asked if I couldn’t simply convert some of my digital images into black and white.

I still have some analog cameras, but most of them have some electronic assists—I wanted a truly mechanical camera. I found a Nikon F SLR with a 50mm f/1.4 lens on my local Craigslist. The Nikon F introduced in 1959, was Nikon’s first SLR, although this particular camera was produced in 1971, judging from its serial number. The camera is so basic that it requires no battery. When was the last time you took photos with a camera without a battery? The camera has no meter and I ended up using my DSLR as the meter.

Nikon F

What about film? I went to one of the last remaining camera stores in our area and bought a couple of rolls of Ilford HP5+ film, a black and white film with a “box speed” of ISO 400. I ended up shooting it at ISO 200, because it was very sunny and bright the day that I went shooting. (Using the “sunny 16” guidelines, I would have been shooting all day at 1/500 sec and f/16.)

What should I shoot? I decided that an urban environment would be more suitable for my film project than my normal wildlife environment, so I got on the metro and headed into Washington D.C. with my Nikon SLR and my Canon DSLR in tow.

I got off on the elevated outdoor metro platform at Reagan National Airport and my first shot was of the airport’s control tower. I wanted to try to find subjects with shapes and lines that would show up in black and white. (I am including some digital shots of the same subjects at the end of the post. I didn’t try to exactly match the shots, but they give you an idea of the differences in how the cameras rendered the subjects.)

Reagan National Airport

The next shot was of the Metro’s ceiling at the underground station in Rosslyn, Virginia. (You may have already seen a similar shot that I took with my digital camera and posted last week.)

metro

I exited the Metro in Rosslyn and walked across the Key Bridge into Georgetown. From the bridge, I took this shot of part of the waterfront in Georgetown. I like the old time feel of this shot.

Georgetown waterfront

One of the first things that you see when you cross the bridge is Dixie Liquors, an old-fashioned liquor store with a really cool sign that I have always liked.

Dixie Liquors

That was the start of my adventure with film. As I had hoped, I was looking at the world with different eyes and was forced to slow down, knowing I had to input manually the shutter speed and aperture and very conscious of the fact that I had no auto focus to help me. I was also shooting with a fixed focal length lens, so I did not have the luxury of zooming in and out. Most of all, though, I was filled with uncertainty, not knowing for sure if any of my shots would come out, worrying that my old camera might have a light leak or that I would mess up the development of the film.

I’ll continue my saga in another posting or two in the upcoming weeks. As promised, here are some digital shots that I took as I used my Canon DSLR as a meter for my manual Nikon.

control tower Reagan National Airport

metro ceiling

Georgetown waterfront

Dixie Liquors

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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In its simplest form, photography is about light and darkness, about lines and shapes. That was what I was seeking to capture when I took some shots in a Metro station in Rosslyn, Virginia earlier this week.

I took this week off from work and have spent a considerable amount of time thinking about photography, watching lots of videos, and shooting different subjects in different ways. I have even shot and developed some black and white film—I’ll do a separate posting on that soon.

This first shot highlights the distinctive ceilings that are present in many of the stations in the D.C. Metrorail system. I love the geometric patterns and the interplay of light and shadows in this image. I took this 1/3 second exposure by leaning my camera on a railing.

metro ceiling

The Rosslyn station is at a point in the Metro system where the trains pass under the Potomac River. Consequently, the escalators are extremely long. As I rode the escalator up, I was fascinated by the different lights and captured this image when I was approximately at the mid-point between the level of the tracks and the above-ground station.

It was midday on a weekday, which is why you don’t see more people in this shot. Things get really crowded during rush hour and woe to those who do not follow the Metro etiquette of staying to the right on the escalator steps unless passing.

metro escalator

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Walking in Washington D.C. along the National Mall, I couldn’t help but notice that humans were not the only ones taking advantage of the water fountains along the periphery. Several different kinds of birds were bathing and drinking in the water of backed-up fountains.

In the first shot, a bird, which may be a Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula), seemed to be testing the water in the fountain—a few seconds later, it was happily splashing about.

urban bird

I love the defiant stance of the larger bird in the second shot, looking like he is the leader of an urban gang, prepared to defend his turf against outsiders like me.

urban bird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On a trip to the National Zoo earlier this week, I was walking around in heat of the summer sun, unlike most of the animals, who were relaxing in the shade or finding other ways to cool off.

This female lion was dozing in the shade and would periodically raise her head and look in our direction with sleepy eyes.

lion

This tiger decided to swim a bit in the water of the moat at the front edge of its enclosure. I couldn’t tell how deep the water was—at times it looked like the tiger was merely walking in the water and not actually swimming.

tiger

This cheetah seemed a little agitated and was not relaxing. It was walking back and forth along the fence line that separated its enclosure from the adjacent cheetah enclosure.

cheetah

I’ll probably never go on a safari and see these beautiful creatures in the wild, but my trip to the National Zoo in Washington D.C. afforded me a glimpse of their power and their majesty. I am happy that the National Zoo is active in efforts to ensure the preservation of endangered species, in particular the cheetah. Check out this article for more information about those efforts.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I haven’t seen very many Monarch Butterflies (Danaus plexippus) the last few years, so I was thrilled when I spotted this one yesterday at the outdoor butterfly garden at the National Zoo.

I chased after it as it flew from plant to plant, hoping that it would come to rest withing range of my camera. Once the Monarch had landed I circled around until I was on the same plane as the butterfly and got this shot. Fortunately I was close enough that I was able to fill the frame with the beautiful Monarch and a small amount of the flower on which it was feeding—this is an uncropped image.

It was midday and the lighting was a little harsh, but it did help illuminate the wing from an angle and showcase the butterfly’s spectacular colors.

I did take some photos of some of the animals at the National Zoo, which I will present in another posting, but thought I’d start with the Monarch Butterfly, an unexpected bonus of my brief visit to the zoo.

Monarch butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Safe inside the confines of an enormous lily pad, this little frog calmly watched the crowds of people last weekend in Washington D.C. at the Lotus and Water Lily Festival at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens.

frog on a lily pad

You can’t help but noticed that this is not your average lily pad. I believe that it is a tropical variety that comes from the Amazon River basin of the genus Victoria, possibly Amazonica victoria. According to Wikipedia, the leaves of this species can grow as large as 10 feet in diameter (3 meters), although this one was probably less than three feet (one meter) in size. Clearly it had no problem supporting the weight of the little frog.

Readers who follow my photography know that I love to try to get in close to my subjects, irrespective of whether I am shooting with a telephoto lens or a macro lens, and this was no exception. There was a waist-high wire fence around the cement pond in which the water lilies were growing, so I had some limitations in framing my shots, but did manage to get this shot of the frog looking over the edge of lily pad.

frog on a lily pad

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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Lotuses are gorgeous flowers when they are in bloom, but the lotus that really drew my attention was this bud that is just starting to open, full of hope and promise, clothed in a sense of mystery and expectation.

lotus bud

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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While I was at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in Washington D.C. on Monday, it was easy to understand Monet’s endless fascination with water lilies. My opening image of a small wooden bridge brings to mind several of Monet’s paintings of the Japanese Bridge in his water garden at Giverny.

bridge at Kenilworth

Water lilies seem to draw me in and surround me with an overwhelming sense of beauty and tranquility. How can I possibly capture that feeling in a photo? Here are a few images to show you some of the different approaches that I used in attempting to show the irresistible attraction of water lilies.

water lily at Kenilworth

water lilies at Kenilworth

pink water lilies at Kenilworth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Dragonflies are colorful and flowers are colorful too, but it’s rare that I get to see the two of them together. I was thus thrilled when fellow photographer Cindy Dyer spotted a colorful Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) perching on a beautiful purple water lily during our recent trip to Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in the District of Columbia.

I took some initial shots with the 180mm macro lens that I had on my camera at that moment, but wasn’t really able to fill the frame with my subject and the background was a little distracting. (The second photo below was one of those first shots and it does a pretty good job of highlighting the water lily, but the dragonfly is merely an added bonus.) I couldn’t physically move any closer, because the water lilies were in a cement pond, surrounded by a three foot high wire fence.

I decided to change to a longer lens, though I sincerely doubted that the dragonfly would stay in place. Almost all of the times that I have done a rapid lens change in the field, the subject has departed before I was ready to shot. In this case, however, I got lucky and the Blue Dasher held his perch long enough for me to get a few shots with my 70-300mm lens.

I simply love the color combination of the different shades of blue of the dragonfly and the purple and yellow of the water lily.

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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Yesterday morning I made a quick trip to Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in Washington D.C. with fellow photographer Cindy Dyer to check out the water lilies and lotuses. Many of the pathways in the park are flooded or muddy, thanks to a significant amount of recent rain. Wet feet, however, were a small price to pay to see so many beautiful flowers, including the two spectacular pink water lilies that I am featuring today.

Stay tuned for more water lily and lotus images later this week.

pink water lily

pink water lily

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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All orchids are beautiful, but I am particularly fascinated by Lady’s Slipper orchids, which are characterized by a slipper-shaped pouch. The pouch traps insects that help to fertilize the flower as they climb up and out of the pouch. According to Wikipedia, the Lady’s Slipper orchids are in the orchid subfamily Cypripedioideae, though some apparently consider them to be their own family separate from the other orchids.

I took this shot last week in Washington D.C. at the US Botanic Garden. There were several rooms full of orchids of all kinds, including multiple species of Lady’s Slipper orchids—it was almost like being in heaven.

Lady's Slipper orchid

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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