Impressionist autumn

How can I show the beauty of the autumn foliage? As I was pondering that question, I glanced down into the waters of a small pond at my local marshland park and found my answer.

Impressionist autumn

The combination of the light, the reflections, and the ripples enveloped me in an impressionist world, where the forms were blurred, but recognizable. I love the art of Monet, and somehow the autumn reflections brought his works to mind.

Impressionist autumn

As i moved about, the scene would change, as different elements were reflected in the water.

Impressionist autumn

I’m often at a loss when trying to photograph landscapes—I am so used to focusing on the details of a subject that I have trouble seeing the big picture. Somehow it seemed easier when I concentrated my attention on the limited expanse of the water in the pond.

Impressionist autumn

Here in Northern Virginia, we usually don’t have the really vivid colors that I remember from my childhood days in New England, but the subdued colors are beautiful nonetheless. I find in these more restrained shades a kind of melancholic reminder that the days are gradually fading into winter.

Impressionist autumn

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.



Fall fungi

Fall foliage is great at this time of the year, but I am also finding beautiful colors as I walk deeper into the woods. I can’t identify these different fungi, but that doesn’t keep me from enjoying their beauty. I especially enjoy the rainbow shapes in the shades of autumn, with such a wide range of oranges and browns.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Elusive kingfisher

A female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) lives at a small lake not far from where I live and periodically I try to photograph, but she continues to remain elusive.

Generally I try to photograph the kingfisher at one of her normal perches in a grove of trees across a narrow portion of the lake from where I am standing. It’s tough to isolate her against the backdrop of the trees, especially at this time of the year when the leaves are still on the trees, and often I only catch sight of her when she starts to fly.

Most of the shots in this posting are my attempts to capture her in flight. I am getting better at tracking the bird in the air and keeping her in focus, but it’s not easy to do as she flies in and out of the shadows and against varying backgrounds and she is somewhat hidden in these shots.

This past weekend, I decided to try to approach the grove of trees from the other side of the lake, where there is often a group of fishermen. I was fortunate that I was alone and I was able to make it relatively close to the grove of trees.  I was surprised to see that the kingfisher was on a low perch rather than high in the trees where I usually find her and I managed to squeeze off a few shots before she flew away. The first shot in this posting was from this new shooting position.

I plan to try this new approach again in the future and with a bit of luck, I may finally be able to get the kind of shot of this bird that I have been visualizing in my mind.


Belted Kingfisher

Belted KingfisherBelted KingfisherBelted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Startled cormorant

As I slowly made my way through the tall grass on the lake shore, my eyes were focused on the low-hanging branches where I had seen a Belted Kingfisher earlier in the day. Suddenly the water exploded at my feet.

I was startled and so was the Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) that scrambled into action and started moving across the surface of the water. The cormorant had apparently been resting or feeding at the water’s edge and had not heard me approach. It was interesting to see the cormorant move—it rose up a bit and seemed to walk across the water and then settled back into the water once it was a good distance away from me.

The action happened so quickly and in an unexpected location that I initially had trouble framing my shots. This is my favorite of the ones in which I managed to get the entire cormorant in the frame. I especially like the details that you can see on the wings. As I was working on the image, it was interesting to note that there are almost no colors in the shot, except for the bird’s bill. When I adjusted the hue and saturation, for example, almost nothing changed.

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Bold spider

This past Friday I spotted one of my favorite spiders, the Bold Jumping Spider (Phidippus audax), in the reeds adjacent to the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park. The spider was pretty active and jumped a couple of times, but I managed to get a shot that highlights its multiple eyes and colorful “fangs.”

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”


Bold Jumping Spider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

As their name suggests, Autumn Meadowhawks (Sympetrum vicinum) appear later in the year than most other dragonflies. This past weekend I spotted quite a number of mating pairs, including this couple that I captured in an acrobatic position worthy of the Cirque du Soleil. The dramatic lighting and colorful background added to the theatrical feel of the image, as all the elements worked together to focus our attention on the performance.

Autumn Meadowawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


Eye of a snake

It has often been said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. I’m not sure what I can say about the soul of this Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon), but I recently had a chance to take a long, close look into one of its eyes.

As I was walking in my local marshland park last week, one of my fellow photographers pointed out the snake to me in the low vegetation. Most of the time that I see this species, it is in the water, where it is almost impossible for me to get a close-up shot. The snake started to move several times as I got closer and closer to it, but then it would stop, thinking perhaps that it would be invisible if it remained motionless.

Most of the time, my view to the snake was obscured by the vegetation, so I waited and tried to anticipate where it would move next, hoping that it would move to a more open area. Finally, I was able to get a relatively clear shot of its eye in a head-and-shoulders portrait, though, of course, snakes don’t really have shoulders.

Northern Watersnake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


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