Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Washington DC’

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.

Read Full Post »

Yesterday I visited Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in Washington D.C. for the annual Lotus and Water Lily Festival and I was thrilled to be able to get some of my favorite kind of dragonfly images—dragonflies perched on the buds of colorful flowers. Generally I manage to get shots only of the Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis), but this time I was also able to get a shot of a Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta) on a lotus flower bud.

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher on purple water lily bud

Slaty Skimmer

Slaty Skimmer on lotus bud

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher on water lily bud

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

Yesterday was a beautiful day to cheer on the rowers of the DC Strokes Rowing Club as they competed at the 3.1 mile Occoquan Chase. The weather was pleasant and the leaves were starting to change colors, adding to the natural beauty of the Occoquan River, a tributary of the Potomac River just south of the District of Columbia.

The river was pretty wide and unfamiliar to me, so I hadn’t figured out a good vantage point for capturing the action. Eventually I ended up perching on a rock outcropping near the water’s edge. I was probably about six feet above the level of the river and I had to be careful not to lean too far forward, given that it was a straight drop down into the water.

One of my main goals was to capture some action shots in which each of DC Strokes rowers was recognizable. I am happy that I was able to accomplish that goal and got some shots of the four 8+ boats in action (eight rowers and a coxswain in each boat), although I was not able to capture the action of the boats with four rowers.

Occoquan Chase

DC Strokes Mens Novice 8+

Occoquan Chase

DC Strokes Womens 8+

Occoquan Chase

DC Strokes Mens 8+, Boat #349 (Pride)

DC Strokes Mens 8+, Boat #350

DC Strokes Mens 8+, Boat #350 (Oscar)

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

This past weekend I traveled to Washington D.C. to cheer on a friend and her team, the DC Strokes Rowing Club, in the 3.1 mile Head of the Anacostia Regatta. I don’t have a lot of experience photographing sports or even people, so it was a challenge for me to capture some images of the event.

The last time that I watched my friend row, she was part of a four-woman boat, but this time she was in a mixed boat, with four female and four male rowers (plus a coxswain). I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be to synchronize your efforts with such a large number of others of such varied sizes and strengths. It was fascinating, for example, to see how they carried the boat down the ramp to the water, with the rowers arranged in ascending order by height.

I learned from the last time that I watched a race at this location that the best way to get action shots of the entire boat was to place myself on a bridge that overlooks the finish line. So after I watched the rowers launch their boat, the Stonewall, and head slowly for the start line, I walked quickly to the bridge to await their arrival. As I looked upriver to see when the boats would be coming, it was tough see across several railings and four lanes of traffic.

Eventually their boat arrived and I was happy that I was able to get some action shots from above as they headed for the finish line. Congratulations to all of them!

(Click on any of the photos in the tiled mosaic to see the photos in a larger size.)

The rowers in action

The rowers in action

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Like most people who live in the the Washington, D.C. area, I don’t visit monuments much unless there are visitors. One of my fellow photographers invited me to photograph the Capitol on Friday evening to satisfy the wishes of a visiting photographer.

We were quite a sight as we set up umbrellas and tripods in the rain which fell progressively harder and harder. My favorite shot is the first one, which shows the reflection of the Capitol in one of the wet, slippery stairs leading up to it.  I tried a number of long exposures, varying from about 15 to 30 seconds to get this look.

The second one is a more traditional view, but I think that the lighting was pretty cool at that time of the evening.

capitol2_blogcapitol1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

All of the photos that I have posted this year of the Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis) have been of females, which are a beautiful emerald green, but I think that you will agree that the male in this photo is equally stunning. I love the mixture of blue and green on its body and was particularly happy to capture this one perched on a colorful flower.

This is a shot from couple of weeks ago, when I was able to borrow my friend’s Nikon D7000 and Tamron 180mm macro lens for a little while while we were shooting at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in the District of Columbia. Every time that I look over the images that I shot, I am impressed by the results that I was able to achieve with a “foreign” camera—normally I shoot with a Canon.

Pondhawk lorez

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

Having spotted some lotus flower buds at the aquatic garden last weekend, I remember thinking how cool it would be to see a dragonfly perching  on a lotus bud and then it happened—a male Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) landed on the tip of one of the buds.

When stalking dragonflies, I always hope that they will choose a photogenic perch, but most of the time the perches are nondescript, at best, and the background is often cluttered.

I would like to claim that I have special powers as a dragonfly whisper, but I was unusually fortunate and am happy that I was able to get some good photos when the circumstances presented themselves.

lotus_bud2_blog

lotus_bud_blog© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

I love the coloration of this male Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula incesta) that I photographed last weekend at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in the District of Columbia.  Somehow I was able to get both an interesting perch and a blurred background—all too often I get one or the other.

Black Dragonfly lorezB

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

When they were soaring through the sky, the vultures were beautiful, even majestic, but when they started to swoop down toward a nearby location, I couldn’t help but feel a little uneasy.

This past weekend, I was walking along the C&O Canal path, approaching Washington D.C., when a number of large black birds started swooping down in my direction. I could tell immediately that they were Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura), because of their red heads and distinctive feather pattern.  As they got closer, they veered off toward the road that parallels the path—perhaps there was a recent bit of road kill that attracted their attention.

I don’t know why, but everywhere that I go, I seem to see vultures. In this case it was an urban setting, but I see them often when I am in the wild too. I’m trying not to develop a complex about this, but I do make sure that I take a shower before I go shooting.

vulture5_blogvulture3_blogvulture4_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

On a long walk along the Potomac River a couple of weeks ago, I stopped to take some photos of National Airport. Its full name is Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, but that name is so long that most of just refer to it as National Airport. One of its nicest features is that it is just across the river from Washington DC. and is incredibly convenient to access. In addition, I find it really cool-looking and really like the control tower and the “Jeffersonian” domes that make up the terminal.

Control Tower and terminal at National Airport

Control Tower and terminal at National Airport

Jut past the north end of the runway there is a park, called Gravelly Point, where you have an incredible view of planes taking off and landing. When I was there, it seemed like it was mostly fathers and their young sons who were observing the aircraft. Here’s a shot I took from that location of a plane taking off. In the background you can see Woodrow Wilson Bridge, one of the major bridges that crosses the Potomac River.

Taking off from National AIrport

Taking off from National Airport

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

A little over a week ago I posted a photo of a brown pelican at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. that was full of vivid colors in the pelican and in the reflections of light on the water. Today, I want to show the same pelican in a different way. I changed the angle of the camera and captured a background that was more somber and simple.  In post-processing I desaturated the colors a bit to place the emphasis on the textures of the feathers, the branch on which the pelican is perched, and the rock in the right hand corner. I toyed with the idea of going completely to black and white, but decided I liked the hint of a color in the beak and part of the pelican’s head, as well as on the branches. The overall look is more somber and perhaps a bit more formal.

I haven’t made my mind up yet whether I like this presentation of the brown pelican more than the previous one, but it certainly was fun experimenting with various settings in Photoshop Elements with the intent of making the colors less bright (usually I am moving in the opposite direction).

Somber brown pelican at the National Zoo

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

A month ago the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. opened up a newly renovated, $42 million exhibit called the American Trail that highlights species of North American wildlife. The zoo’s website (which contains lots of information about the animals and great photos) notes that the majority of the American Trail species have rebounded after facing serious threats, thanks to the conservation efforts of many organizations, including the National Zoo.

This brown pelican is part of the American Trail exhibit. I don’t think that I had ever seen one live, and certainly not so close up. I love the beautiful colors of this bird and its wonderful pose, and it seemed willing to cooperate when I was taking the photographs.

Brown pelican at National Zoo

Unlike my photos of the red panda and cheetahs, I was not shooting without obstructions—here was a fence between me and the pelican. Following instructions that I read somewhere recently, I got as close to the fence as I could and opened up the aperture (to F5.6 in this case) and the fence seems to have disappeared.

Now that I have taken a few photographs at the zoo and had some success, I think that I will probably add it to my list of local places where I can find interesting subjects to photograph.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I photographed this red panda (Ailurus fulgens) this past weekend in Washington, D.C. at the National Zoo. According to Wikipedia, red pandas are native to the Himalayas and southwestern China. Like the better-known giant pandas, red pandas eat mostly bamboo, although they may also eat eggs, insects, birds, and small mammals.

I will probably post a few more shots of this red panda in the next few days, when I have gone through my zoo photos. However, I wanted to make a preliminary introduction of this delightful animal, suspecting that many of you may be unaware of the existence of a red panda. (Previously red pandas were classified in the families of racoons and bears, but now they have their own family and are the only extant species of the genus Ailurus.)

Red panda at the National Zoo

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Walking along Rock Creek in Washington, D.C. on my way to the National Zoo yesterday, I came upon some ducks in a area of the creek where the water was still. I knew that they were ducks, but when I zoomed in on them I was surprised. One of them was the most unusually colored duck that I have ever seen, with a strangely shaped head, brightly colored feathers, and red eyes.

Male wood duck in Rock Creek

I did some research and discovered that this is a male wood duck. If you had asked me yesterday about wood ducks, I would have thought you were talking about those hand-painted decoys.

I managed to get a shot of the male wood duck swimming along with a female wood duck. The photo is not quite as clear as the first one, but it shows the difference in coloration between the male and the female. The female is more delicately beautiful than the male, who is really ostentatious in appearance.

Female and male wood ducks in Rock Creek

I seem to have a knack in discovering brightly colored creatures, whether they be grasshoppers or duck. I hope my good fortune continues.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I visited the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. this afternoon and spent the lion’s share of the time with the cheetahs. National Zoo has a very active cheetah conservation program that you can lean more about on its website. At the moment there are six cheetahs (three brothers, one female, and two cubs) that live at the zoo, according to the website.

Most of my time was spent with what I believe was the three brothers (named Draco, Granger, and Zabini), who were  together in a single outdoor enclosure. If they were brothers, one of them seemed to be considerably larger than the other two. The zoo website indicates that the brothers were born in 2005.

I haven’t had a chance to go through all my photos, but thought I’d post a couple as a kind of sneak preview. I know that some folks object to photographing animals in captivity and apologize if I have offended anyone.  However, especially in the case of the cheetahs, I encourage you to check out the work that is being done to preserve this magnificent species as well as others.

Cheetah in the grass

Cheetah walking

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »