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Posts Tagged ‘Wheaton MD’

Cabbage White butterflies (Pieris rapae) are very active and their blindingly white wings often cause images to be overexposed. When the light is right, though, you can see their enchanting speckled green eyes, like those of this butterfly that I spotted during a recent trip to Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland.

Cabbage White

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Summer is definitely here. In the Washington D.C. area where I live, summer means endless stretches of hot, humid weather. Even the insects seem to move more slowly, like this Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) that I recently photographed as it languidly buzzed around the vegetation at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland.

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The light falling on this Silver-spotted Skipper butterfly (Epargyreus clarus) yesterday was beautiful and dramatic at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland. I was focusing on the butterfly with my camera set for spot metering and I think that setting was largely responsible for creating the dark, underexposed background.

I was going to crop the image, but decided that I like the composition as it came out of the camera. My normal impulse is to zoom in or crop the shot so that my subject fills a larger part of the frame, but in this case I really like the large amount of negative space.

This shot reminds me a bit of a studio shot, the kind that would have required a number of carefully placed lights to create the same dramatic effect, not to mention a cooperative butterfly. Taking advantage of the natural lighting required a whole lot less effort. “More drama and less effort”—I like the sound of that as an approach to photography, which often seems so complicated.

Silver-spotted Skipper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Simple compositions are often the basis for my favorite images. My subject was a Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis), one of the most common dragonflies in our area. The vegetation on which it chose to perch was nothing special. Somehow, though, the shapes and colors of these elements work together to create an image that I find really pleasing.

Blue Dasher

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A Silver-spotted Skipper butterfly (Epargyreus clarus) kept returning to these purple flowers yesterday at the edge of a small pond at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland. I am not sure what kind of flower this is, but the Silver-spotted Skipper, the only skipper that I can reliably identify, really seemed to like it.

Some of my fellow photographers with whom I traveled to the gardens really enjoy photographing flowers—I seem to have reached a point at which I enjoy shooting flowers primarily as a beautiful backdrop for showcasing insects.

There are a lot of gardens in the Washington D.C. area that provide for wonderful photographic opportunities, many of which, like this one, have no admission fee. Although I really enjoy shooting at the marshland park that I feature here so often, it’s nice to venture out a little for a bit of variety.

Silver-spotted Skipper

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Generally I like to photograph wildlife subjects in a natural environment. When this female Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) landed on a metal sprinkler cover, though, I couldn’t help but like the contrast between the natural subject and the industrial background.

Common Whitetail dragonfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Can you name the most recognized Skipper butterfly in North America?  According to Wikipedia, it’s the Silver-spotted Skipper butterfly (Epargyreus clarus), like this one that I photographed recently at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland.

I have been seeing a lot of skippers this month and many of them look so much alike that it is difficult for me to identify them  The Silver-spotted Skipper’s colors may be a little drab, but I am happy that it is easy to identify it, which makes me happy, given that there are over 3500 different species of skippers worldwide, according to a separate article in Wikipedia.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I used to think that all black-and-yellow insects circling around flowers were bees, but quickly learned that many of them are flower flies (also known as hoverflies). There are a lot of different varieties of flower flies, but I think that they all belong to the Syrphidae family.

Yesterday when I was visiting Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland, I managed to capture this image of a flower fly just as it had inserted its head into a small purple flower. It’s a pretty simple composition, but I really like the way that it turned out, with a good amount of detail on the fly’s body.

hover fly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Within minutes of my arrival at a garden in Maryland, I was able to photograph my first Monarch butterfly of the summer, but was also “treated” to the sight of the fattest, hairiest fly that I have ever seen, a true case of a beauty and a beast.

Brookside Gardens is a beautiful spot for photographing flowers and insects in Wheaton, Maryland in the suburban Washington, D.C. area. In one section of the garden, there is a section specifically planted to attract butterflies and it was in that area that I saw the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) along with more numerous Eastern Swallowtail butterflies.

I didn’t see a single Monarch butterfly last summer and feared that I might not see one this summer either, because of habitat issues in Mexico and the severe winter we experienced. I was therefore thrilled when I first caught sight of a Monarch and chased after them throughout the day at the garden.

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My moment of joy was interrupted when I was buzzed by a very large fly. When it landed, I was startled to see that it was really plump and really hairy. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it would be tough to consider this beast to a a beauty. I poked around the internet in an attempt to identify this fly and it appears to belong to the genus Juriniopsis, though I can’t identify a specific species.

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I continue to be fascinated by insects and at this time of the year you can usually find me chasing after them with my trusty macro lens, giving equal time to the beauties and to the beasts.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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It had been years (and maybe even decades) since I had last seen a toad and somehow I had forgotten that they have lots of warts and bumps, unlike the smooth-skinned frogs that I am used to seeing.

I encountered this brown toad, which I think is an Eastern American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus americanus), at a garden in Maryland. According to Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources, there are only two types of true toads in the state, so my changes of being correct are pretty good. The other toad is a Fowler’s Toad.

Apparently, you can distinguish between the two types by the number of warts per dark spot on their backs. Maybe you can tell them apart—I wouldn’t even know where to start counting.

toad_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I don’t often see dragonflies perched on flowers, so I was really happy when this male Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) decided to take a break on something more attractive than the usual broken swamp reed.

If you look closely at the dragonfly’s face (or click on the photo for higher resolution), you can see some interesting details, like his cute little bucktooth and some sparse sprouting hairs on his chin, like those of a human teenager. I also like the contrast in color between the blues and greens of his body and the pink of the flowers.

Why did the dragonfly choose to land on the flower? It almost looks like he is helping with pollination, but I suspect that is not the case. The answer to the question is probably much more simple—he landed on it, because it was there.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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A bee landed on a petal of this purple water lily and, rather than heading for the center of the flower, the obvious source for pollen, decided to crawl down in between the petals.

I followed his movements and, after a short time, those movements ceased—I think he was stuck. Eventually the plant began to move again, this time more violently. Slowly the bee reemerged, crawling slowly up the petal, and I took this shot.

I find the tones of this image to be very soothing and purple is one of my favorite colors. If you too like purple, check out today’s postings called Violetta at Calee Photography, one of my favorite blogs.

crawling_out_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Is photography an art or a science? One of the reasons why I enjoy photography so much is that it engages me on both levels—it speaks to my inner artist and to my inner geek.

Growing up, I remember watching Olympic figure skating and I was struck by the fact that the skaters received two sets of scores, one for “artistic impression” and one for “technical merit.” In many ways, I use a similar internal scoring system for my photographs.

Some of my photographs rate high on one scale, but fall short on the other. Every now and then, though, one of my images stands out, with high marks all around, like this shot of a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe).

I posted an earlier photo of this remarkable insect and I thought it was really cool that I was able to get a close-up with the wings open and frozen in action, a somewhat impressive technical feat. This image, shot from a bit farther away, gives a better view of the moth in action and is a more interesting pose. The background, which I recall was evergreen bushes, is uncluttered. Even the flower cooperated by following the “odd rule” of composition, with three clusters of tiny flowers.

It’s hard to be objective when analyzing my own work, but I know that I like this image a lot.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Have you noticed that I really like purple water lilies? I was so struck by their beauty the first time that I saw one last year that a purple water lily appears at the top of my blog most of the time.

Earlier this week, as I was visiting Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland,  I came across an area in which two types of purple, tropical water lilies were growing. My photography mentor, Cindy Dyer, always recommends photographing the little signs that identify flowers and other plants and these water lilies were called “Panama Pacific” and “Blue Beauty.”

As I was photographing one of the waterlilies—I think it was a Panama Pacific—a bee dove headfirst into the center of the flower. Even before the bee arrived, I had noticed that the center of the water lily seemed to be glowing and that was what I was trying to capture by underexposing the shot. If you click on the photo, you can see a higher resolution view of the image, which shows an almost three-dimensional view of the flower’s center.

diving_blog© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Yesterday was my first chance to try out my new lens, a Tamron 180mm macro, and I managed to get some shots of a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe) at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland.

Clearwing1_blog

This was my first encounter with this moth, which I have admired in the photos of others, and I took a lot of photos of it, using a variety of settings. I think that I got my best shots when I set the ISO to 800 and underexposed a bit, which kept the shutter speed up pretty high, although the images are a little grainy. I still have a lot of photos to go through, so don’t be surprised if I come up with an even better image to post. However, I am so happy with this image that I want to share my excitement.

I had previously used the Nikon version of this lens with a friend’s camera and was impressed enough that I eventually decided to get one for my Canon. The lens does not have any built-in image stabilization, so it probably gives optimal results when used on a tripod or when there is a lot of light. However, I was impatient to use it, so I shot handheld when shooting this moth and probably need to work a bit more on my technique for steadier shooting.

I am pretty sure that I’ll be posting many more macro shots from this lens in the future—I plan on having a lot of fun with it.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I have trouble identifying a lot of my photographic subjects, but skipper butterflies are among the toughest. Wikipedia says that are more than 3500 recognized species of skippers worldwide, so I don’t feel too bad about my difficulties.

As I perused photos on the internet, I came across a few shot of butterflies that looked at lot like the one that I photographed, and on that basis I am going to tentatively identify it as a Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus).

I like the way in which the skipper was lit and he stayed perched long enough to permit to use my macro lens.

skipper_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) is one of those rare flowers that looks as good (or even better) after it has finished blooming and has turned into a seed pod. If you need to remind yourself of the striking blue blooms of this remarkable flower, check out my posting from last week that I called Whole Lotta Love.

I was a little surprised to that these ones at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland had already moved to this stage of development, but was quick to jump on the chance to photograph them yesterday. I like the way that the spiky portions of the plant are in sharp focus and how the background looks almost misty, as befits the name of the flower. As always, though, the plant looks vaguely alien to me, like it came from outer space.

Love is always beautiful and comes in many forms, whether in the mist on in a pod.

Love1_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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With thousands of gorgeous flowers blooming at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland today, this beautiful butterfly, which I think is a Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia), chose to land on a lowly dandelion growing at the edge of a walkway. Why did it make that choice?

I had been chasing this butterfly around though several sections of the garden, hoping desperately that it would land somewhere within range of my 100mm macro lens. When it did finally land, I approached it cautiously and got a few shots handheld that came out pretty well. I am also including a shot that gives you an idea of the setting—there was a landscape timber to the left and a series of stone tiles that made up the walkway, and the dandelion was growing low to the ground at the edge of the walkway. The lighting was less than optimal, but sometimes you have to work with what you have, especially when the subject is likely to fly away at any moment.

I deliberated for quite some time over the identification of the butterfly. At first, I was sure that it was a Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos), which is orange and has brown spots. As I looked at more photos, though, I changed my mind and now think that it may be a Variegated Fritillary.

As always, I welcome assistance on the identification of my subjects.

pearl2_blogpearl1_blogpearl3_blogMichael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I have recently been making a lot of attempts to photograph birds, but none of the photos comes close to matching the visual impact of this female red-winged blackbird that I photographed in early June at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD.

Normally you are not supposed to photograph a bird from the front, but in this case it seems to heighten the intensity of the bird’s stare. The sky was almost white that day and it disappeared when tweaks were made, but that seemed to fit with the industrial look provided by the rebar that was used to form a trellis.

Intense female red-winged blackbird

Here is another shot of the blackbird on the trellis, with some greenery in the background. You can see some of the details of the trellis, and it looks like the rusted metal is almost a perfect color match for some parts of the bird.

Bird on a wire

My blog is still less than three months old, so I have a number of my pre-blog favorites that you have not yet seen. I will occasionally share some of them when I don’t have any new material or don’t have time to prepare the new photos.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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