Posts Tagged ‘winter’

Early yesterday morning, my car’s windshield was covered with starbursts of frost. As I sat in the driver’s seat, I had this magical view of the Christmas lights on my neighbor’s house. I captured the moment with my iPhone—then I cleared the windshield.

Today is the day of the solstice, the day that some of us in the Northern Hemisphere count as the first day of winter. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, “It’s the astronomical moment when the Sun reaches the Tropic of Capricorn, we have our shortest day and longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere in terms of daylight.” Like much of the United States, we are in for a spell of frigid weather, though I doubt that we will see any snow before Christmas.

It felt appropriate to mark this day with this frosty image. I was preparing to head out to my favorite Wildlife Refuge yesterday morning when I took this shot and will be featuring some of the birds that I encountered once I have finished reviewing my shots.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It has been several months since I last saw a dragonfly and I will have to wait for a couple more months before they reappear in my area. As many of you know, dragonflies are one of my favorite subjects to photograph—there is something almost magical about these beautiful aerial acrobats.

As I was shoveling snow after a recent storm, I glanced over at the front yard of my townhouse and was struck by the beautiful patina of the dragonflies that are part of a lawn sprinkler.

The metal dragonflies reminded me of the beauty that is to come, of the new life that will burst forth when spring arrives. Those thoughts filled me with hope and happiness and help to sustain me through the often bleak days of the winter.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Freezing rain has blanketed Brussels today, making footing treacherous, especially on the cobblestones in the center of the city. Needless to say, the outdoor cafes are not doing much business on a day like today.

I am in Brussels this week for work, so the photos that I post on this blog will be a bit different from my typical wildlife shots.

Brussels panorama

cafe in Brussels


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As the first one to scale this mountain of snow outside my house, I planted the flag yesterday. I wonder if I get naming rights for the mountain.

Parking is a bit cutthroat in my neighborhood right now as folks put traffic cones and other objects in the spots they have cleared in an effort to “reserve” the open parking space in which they are parked.

I sure hope nobody removes my flag and parks in the mountaintop spot with a great view.


Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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In the pre-dawn hours of Monday morning, I finally finished digging out my car. It was quite enjoyable shoveling in the moonlight. When the sun finally rose, here’s what my car looked like, followed by a shot of one of the main streets in the neighborhood.



It’s now 4:00 p.m. and I have finally given up shoveling for the day. I’ve been at it off and on for almost 10 hours and my body is starting to protest a bit.

One of the nicest things about snowfalls like this one is that it gives me a chance to meet the people who live around me. Most of us are so busy with our individual lives that we don’t even know our neighbors. Today was especially gratifying as I witnessed so many of them working together to help dig out from the storm.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.



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At 6:00 this morning in the neighborhood, it was clear and cold and the moon was shining brightly. Thank God we made it through the blizzard without losing power and for the fact that the snow is powdery and relatively light, even if there is lots of it to clear away.

norning after

All told, I think we had somewhere between 24 and 30 inches of snow (61 to 76 cm), with drifts much higher. It snowed almost continuously for almost 30 hours, sometimes accompanied by howling winds that blew the snow sidewards.

In some areas of North America, that amount of snow might be a normal occurrence, but here in Northern Virginia, it is almost a record-breaking amount for the area. I live in a townhouse area, and there is simply nowhere to put all of this snow. Already I have a pile of snow almost as tall as I am.

The sun is shining now and it will soon be time to return to digging out. Normally I would be getting ready for church now, but there’s no way I can make it through the neighborhood streets that are covered still with well over a foot of snow.

My car’s license plate, however, is a constant reminder for me and a continuous prayer—I drive a KIA Soul.

Bless My Soul

Here’s what the entire car looked like yesterday during a period when the snow was falling slowly. We got another foot or so after I took this photo. It will be dug out in a short while, but I don’t think I will be driving anywhere for at least a couple more days.

Kia Soul

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


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I woke up this morning feeling a bit like the beavers in the lodge I photographed yesterday morning at Huntley Meadows Park. They were snug and warm in their little house, surrounded by a world of snow and ice, with plenty of food at hand.

As for me, there is well over a foot of drifted snow on the ground and more is still falling. Eventually I will need to get as busy as the proverbial beaver and remove some of the snow, but for now at least, it’s nice to enjoy it from the comfortable insides of my warm and cozy house.

beaver lodge

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


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Some mornings when I am out with my camera at Huntley Meadows Park, I am simply entranced by the colors, shapes, and patterns of the reflections of the trees in the water. For extended periods of time I will become lost in the ever changing abstract world of reflected beauty.

Any wildlife that happens to come into the frame is a bonus.




© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


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According to the internet weather for my area, it is 8 degrees F outside right now and windy (minus 13 degrees C). Baby, it’s cold outside. We are forecast to get up to about 20 degrees F today (minus 7 C).

This is unusually cold weather for the Washington D.C. area, where winters are relatively mild. Earlier in the week we had a couple of inches of snow right at the morning rush hour and the roads were gridlocked for hours as commuters unfamiliar with the snow struggled to stay on the pavement.

The roads are treated now and mostly passable, but the cold makes even short outdoor trips barely tolerable. Earlier this month I took some shots of ice that had accumulated in the shady area of a stream at my local marshland park and one of those ice shots seem appropriate for today. I really like the way that the shapes and shades of the ice came out in this image, along with some of the bubbles in the water.

I have lots to do at work today—I sure hope my car starts in another hour or so.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.



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I never expected to encounter a dragonfly when I went walking in the snow in my neighborhood yesterday.

My eyes were scanning the trees for birds,  when right it front of me I detected the unmistakable shape of a dragonfly, a giant green dragonfly perched on a tree. I approached it quietly and was able to get this shot, my first shot of a dragonfly in a long time.

With snow still covering the ground and the temperatures below freezing, it’s hard to imagine that the real dragonflies will be appearing in a few short months.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Snow sometimes causes me stress. I worry about the safety of the road conditions and how long it will take for me to get to work. I feel anxious as I shovel out my car and the sidewalk in front of my townhouse.

This statue in the garden of one of my neighbors is a visual reminder that I can adopt a different mindset. I can remain calm on the inside and indifferent to the cares of the world. The snow will melt and spring will come when it is time.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Another photo of a chickadee? Chickadees are so common that they fade into the background to the point where we no longer notice them. Nobody would travel a great distance to see a Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinens) like this one and there were no throngs of curious spectators to ask me what I was photographing.

What was the attraction for me? One of my fellow bloggers, Mr. K.A. Brace, a thoughtful and insightful poet who writes in a blog called The Mirror Obscura, posted a poem today entitled “The Brilliance” that really resonated with me. In the poem, he spoke of the “brilliance of the ordinary.” I encourage you to check out this poem and other wonderful poems—one of the cool features of most of the blog postings is that they feature an audio clip of the poet reading the featured poem.

“The brilliance of the ordinary”—I love that combination of words. Children (and pets) approach life with boundless curiosity and endless fascination with the most mundane, ordinary aspects of our everyday world. I want to regain more of that childlike sense of wonder.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I’m not sure if and when we will see more snow in Northern Virginia this winter, so I am posting a couple of shots as an homage to the departed snow.

As you can tell, I was looking up a lot when I walked through my neighborhood and captured somewhat similar images of the snow that had accumulated on a pine tree and an oak tree.



© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Most of the time I like to focus on individual birds, but in this case I think I prefer this panoramic-style shot of Canada Geese coming in for a landing on a snow-covered field. The expansive white backdrop allows us to see better the different body and wing positions of the geese (and I recommend clicking on the photo to see the details).

The snow is now gone from Northern Virginia, a victim of warmer temperatures and heavy rains. For many readers, snow is much more an everyday reality of the winter, but it’s rare enough here that it has a special beauty (as long as I don’t have to drive to work in it, in which case I tend to forget its beauty and view more as a nuisance).


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The tall plants in the marsh have withered and faded, but they are still standing, defiantly displaying their interesting shapes and textures against a snow-covered backdrop. Two pods are standing together and one is apart, three others are bent over in the center. The bits of orange add a touch of color and the silken strands to the left add a different texture. In a few months, brighter colors will return, but for now this serves as a reminder that there is still life in the winter.


Click on the photo to see more details.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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My neighbor, noted blogger and photographer Cindy Dyer, has a really cool garden on the side of her townhouse. Earlier this year I took a lot of photos of flowers and insects there, including one of my most popular postings on a mysterious creature on the lavender plant.

I hadn’t checked out the garden in a month or so and was surprised to see that some of the flowers were still blooming yesterday. I was especially drawn to a flower that looks a little bit like a sunflower—I am not sure exactly what it is. I tried to shoot different blooms from different angles to capture a sense of the depth of the flower. I don’t usually use flash with flowers, but I made some attempts with my built-in flash cranked down low,which I think accounts for the black background in some images.

Here are some of my favorite images of these flowers. They look like they might have been shot with a macro lens, but I was actually using a telephoto lens.

flower6_blogflower3_blog flower5_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As I have mentioned in some other posts, the local gardens are looking awfully bleak and colorless. I did manage to find some new growth and posted some photos of blooming snowdrop flowers yesterday morning.  I had to search even harder, though, to find some small splashes of color in the midst of all of the brown, shriveled vegetation.

I found two plants that still had some color, though I have no idea what kind they are. One is pink and has some kind of berries and the other is red and has small spikey flowers on it.

The plants are modest and the colors muted, but they will help to tide me over as I await the return of the glorious colors of spring.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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When I visited a county-run garden last week, the last thing that I expected to find was new growth. As I described in an earlier posting about a mockingbird, the landscape was bleak and desolate, largely bereft of color. From a distance I spotted a small patch of green. Moving closer to investigate, I discovered several small groupings of small white flowers that were starting to bloom.

A sign near one of the groupings indicated that the flower is a Giant Snowdrop (Galanthus elwesii), native to Turkey and from Greece to Ukraine. I don’t know flowers very well, but the information that I find on-line suggests that these little beauties are blooming several months earlier than usual.

My skills at taking flower photos have gotten a little rusty from disuse these last few months.  Following some early advice of my photography mentor, Cindy Dyer, an expert in photographing flowers, I got down down in the dirt to try to shoot these little flowers from a low angle. Cindy usually strives to have a beautiful green background for flowers, but that was largely impossible at this time of the year, with dominant shades of gray and brown. It was also a real challenge to get any kind of depth and definition with the pure white flowers.

Typically we have to wait until spring for signs of new growth and renewal—this winter I got an early reminder and an advance preview.



© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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