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Posts Tagged ‘Washington D.C.’

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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