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Posts Tagged ‘Woburn MA’

I was thrilled last Friday to spot this Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) at Horn Pond in Woburn, Massachusetts. Growing up in a suburb of Boston, I remember visiting the Boston Public Garden and riding in the famous pedal-powered Swan Boats there. As a result, the mere sighting of a swan is enough to trigger fond memories of my childhood.

Readers of my generation (and maybe even younger folks) may recall that the Swan Boats were featured prominently in the beloved book “Make Way for Ducklings.” I was a little surprised to learn from Wikipedia that the Swan Boats have been in operation since 1877.

“Robert Paget first created the Swan Boats in the Public Garden in 1877, after seeing the opera Lohengrin with his wife Julia Paget. Inspired by the knight’s gallant rescue of the damsel by riding a swan across the lake, Paget decided to capitalize on the recent popularity of the bicycle and combine the two, designing a two-pontooned boat with two wooden benches and a brass seat on top of a paddlebox concealed by a swan. The driver would sit inside the swan and pedal passengers around the pond.”

One of the amazing things is that the Swan Boats have remained virtually unchanged since that time.

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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During a brief trip to Massachusetts last weekend, I photographed this beautiful damselfly, which I believe is an immature female Eastern Forktail damselfly (Ischnura verticalis), while exploring Horn Pond in Woburn.

When I looked at the range map for this species, it looked like it is not present in my home area of Northern Virginia. However, when I did a search of my blog postings, I was surprised to discover that I had previously photographed an orange Eastern Forktail at one of my favorite local spots. Obviously I am not someone who keeps a “life list” of all the species that I have seen and photographed. 🙂

Eastern Forktail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Early Friday morning I spotted this Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) at Horn Pond in Woburn, Massachusetts. Although the bird’s facial features were in the shadows, I was happy to be able to capture its distinctive hooked beak in this silhouetted view.

As many of you know, I try to find opportunities to capture nature images even when I am traveling. On Thursday I drove from Virginia to Massachusetts to attend a surprise 60th birthday party on Friday evening for one of my brothers. Although I was somewhat worn out from the drive, which took almost 12 hours thanks to numerous road construction projects and rush hour traffic in Boston, I was out on the trails of Horn Pond by 6:30 in the morning. In many ways immersing myself in nature helps to recharge my batteries as much as sleep does.

A few seconds after I spotted the cormorant, it sensed my presence and flew away. I was anticipating that it might do so and was able to capture this shot just as the bird was starting to take off.

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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So you  think you can dance? You might have trouble keeping up with my great nephew, who showed off some of his amazing moves at this past weekend’s wedding. It was such a joy to watch the uninhibited movements of this two year old in action.

Most adults, including me, have lost that innocent sense of spontaneity, which is a little sad.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Over the last four years I have grown comfortable photographing birds, insects, and other creatures, primarily in the friendly confines of my favorite local marshland park. I am familiar with many of the best spots and I know how to use my gear to capture images when the opportunities arise.

This past weekend I stepped way out of my comfort zone when I took pictures at my brother’s wedding. It was indoors, required the use of flash, and, worst of all, involved people. I guess that it is fair to say that I am pretty insecure about my ability to photograph people. Unlike many others, I don’t routinely snap photos of people with my cell phone. In fact, I got my first “smart” phone over a year ago and have yet to take a single photo with it.

The bride asked me to take some photos, so I decided to see what I could do. One of the best pieces of advice came from my niece’s boyfriend who was seated next to me at the reception—he looked at my camera gear and told me I could afford to be bold with gear like that.

Well, things turned out better than I expected. I got some pretty good candid shots. I came away from the experience realizing that all of my hours in the field with wildlife had prepared me better for the wedding than I had realized. I’m not ready to become a wedding photographer, but I might start thinking about photographing people more often.

Here are a few shots from the reception, including a couple of my brother that I converted to black and white.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was really easy to find Blue Dasher dragonflies (Pachydiplax longipennis) near the hotel where I stayed in Woburn, Massachusetts this past weekend. The challenge was capturing them in interesting poses, which was a bit more difficult than usual because they were unusually skittish—maybe they are not used to seeing people.

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I generally feel inhibited and self-conscious about photographing people, but somehow felt emboldened at my brother’s wedding this past weekend. One of my favorite images of the wedding reception was this shot of my great nephew, who decided to share his cake with his Dad.

I just love their individual expressions.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Have you ever tried to photograph a wedding reception? I now have a greater appreciation for those photographers who do this for a living.

Yesterday I was blessed to be able to attend the joining in marriage of my 57 year old brother and his new bride.  They met as teenagers at a summer camp more than 40 years ago and now their lives are joined together forever. The wedding was a joyous celebration of family and friends.  The food was great and there was live music too.

However, the ceremony and the reception took place in a private club that appears to be used most often for live music. It was crowed and cluttered and it is an understatement to say that the lighting was variable. The bride, who is a big fan of my wildlife photography, asked me to take some photos of the wedding. I agreed, but only after ascertaining that there would be an “official photographer.”

The relatively dim lighting in the club meant that flash would be required for virtually all shots, and I did have an external flash with me, but I was using it for the first time. Throughout the reception, I ended up doing a lot of experimentation as I twisted and pointed the head in different directions to bounce the light.

As I was getting seated at my table, I decided to take some test shots of the little white bucket that served as my seating card. I was initially confused when I saw that all of my shots had a purple tinge to them.  What was I doing wrong? One of my brothers helpfully pointed out that there was a purple light shining down on us from right behind where I was sitting.

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I quickly learned that uncluttered backgrounds were almost impossible to get and that composing shots of moving people in confined spaces is near impossible (and it’s even harder to get shots with decent expressions on their faces).  There was a live band and I managed  to get some decent shots of some of the band members, who were relatively stationary, though the constantly changing lighting made it a challenge.

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The groom has more than forty tattoos, including many of the characters of the Wizard of Oz, and the wedding cake featured numerous scenes from that wonderful movie.

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I did eventually manage to get some candid shots of people during the reception, but I haven’t yet decided if I will share them on this blog—I’ll  probably check with the bride and groom to see what they think.

What did I learn? Most of the “official” wedding shots probably need to be staged, preferably in an outdoor setting or a place where you can control lighting and background. The candid shots from the reception that  look spontaneous and fun are really, really difficult to get and there are no guarantees that you will get good ones—you really do need a second shooter to increase the odds. Finally, it takes a lot of energy and stamina to take photos at a reception—I got a good workout doing all kinds of stretches and deep knee bends trying to get shots.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Normally Blue Dasher dragonflies (Pachydiplax longipennis) perch on plants growing upwards, but this one decided to be different by perching on hanging vegetation. I love how the lighting makes it look like the image  was shot in the studio. I think I will call his position the “downward-facing dragonfly.” (I captured the image this morning in Woburn, MA at a small canal just outside of my hotel.)

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was beginning to think that another year would go by without seeing a Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) when yesterday I spotted one of them in the most unlikely of places—in the mulched plants at the back of the hotel where I am staying in Woburn, Massachusetts.

After a grueling eleven-hour ride from Northern Virginia, I arrived at the hotel yesterday afternoon ready to relax. Unfortunately, I was told that my room would not be ready for at least an hour. I grabbed my camera and decided to walk around the grounds of the hotel, which is adjacent to a small canal, to see what there might be to photograph.

As I was walking, I caught sight of an orange-and-black butterfly that kept landing momentarily on the low plants, never staying still long enough for me to get a good shot (I was shooting with a 100mm macro lens). I kept chasing and eventually got some shots. It has been such a  long time since I last saw a Monarch that any photo at all is a bonus, so it doesn’t bother me that these are far from being great shots.

My excitement at seeing a Monarch is tempered a bit by the fact that I did not get the right angle to conclusively exclude the possibility that this is a Viceroy butterfly. If that were to turn out to be the case, I’ll be out again chasing butterflies in search of the first Monarch of the season.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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