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Glad

When the temperature is 96 degrees outside (about 36 degrees C), it’s hard to have the energy to go far with my camera. Fortunately, my neighbor, fellow photographer Cindy Dyer, has an awesome garden. I was glad to be able to capture this shot of some gladiolas that were blooming there this past weekend.

Thanks, Cindy.

gladiolas

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Sunflowers

The bright colors and distinctive shape of sunflowers never fail to bring a smile to my face. Here’s a shot of one from my trip last Friday to McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Poolesville, Maryland.

sunflower

Normally a shot like this is easy to get when the towering sunflowers reach tall into the sky. In reality, however, the sunflowers at this site were not that tall and I had to crouch low to the ground to capture this image. In addition, many of the sunflowers were a bit wilted and past their peak. One of my Facebook readers commented that it looked like the flowers had their heads bowed in prayer in the following shot, which gives you and idea of the conditions in one area of the field of sunflowers.

sunflower

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Smiling dragonfly

How do you get your subject to smile when you want to take a picture? This Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) didn’t need any prompting at all when I went in for an extreme close-up shot yesterday at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Maryland.

Start each day with a smile.

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

As I was walking through a field of sunflowers at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Poolesville, Maryland, I spotted an unusual dragonfly that I couldn’t immediately identify. It turned out to be a Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly (Dromogomphus spinosus)—a cool name for a cool-looking dragonfly.

When I first caught sight of the dragonfly, the dragonfly’s long, skinny abdomen and the enlarged area near the end suggested to me that it was a member of the clubtail family of dragonflies. (You can get a really good sense of the shape of the “clubtail” when you look at the shadows in a couple of the images). The only clubtails that I have seen with any kind of regularity have been Common Sanddragons and Unicorn Clubtails, and this was clearly not one of them. When I am out in the field, I don’t worry too much about identification—I practice what I call the “Law of the West,” i.e. “shoot first and ask questions later.”

Later in the day my shooting partner was able to identify the dragonfly after I pointed her to the website “Dragonflies of Northern Virginia.” This website is my favorite resources for information and photos of dragonflies in my area. I checked my past blog postings because I had a vague recollection that I had seen this species before and found a posting indicating that I saw one almost exactly a year ago on a trip to a different part of Maryland.

Black-shouldered Spinyleg

Black-shouldered Spinyleg

Black-shouldered Spinyleg

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Yesterday I traveled with my photography mentor Cindy Dyer to McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in nearby Poolesville, Maryland to check out the large fields of sunflowers that are planted there each year. We just missed the peak blooming period and many of the sunflowers were drooping and seemed a little wilted. Cindy, who has visited this area multiple times, noted that the sunflowers were not as tall or as dense as in previous years.

Several American Goldfinches (Spinus tristis) that I observed in the fields, however, were definitely not disappointed—they were gorging themselves on sunflower seeds. The goldfinches were pretty skittish, but occasionally were distracted enough when feeding that I was able to get some shots, despite the fact that I was shooting with my 180mm macro lens.

American Goldfinch

 

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

During a quick trip to Jackson Miles Abbott Wetlands Refuge at Fort Belvoir, Virginia last weekend, I was thrilled to see that the spectacularly patterned Banded Pennant dragonflies are still around. This is the only location that I visit regularly where I have spotted this dragonfly species and I am never quite sure when an encounter will be the last one of the season.

As I was looking over the two shots that I chose to use with this posting, I realized that they represent two different approaches that I use when photographing dragonflies. Ideally I will try to position myself so that the camera’s sensor is parallel with the dragonfly’s wings and most of the dragonfly will be in focus. That was the case with the second shot and it really highlights the beautiful pattern of the wings. However, the image seems a bit too static for my taste. I prefer the first shot, in part because the pose is more dynamic and the direct eye contact with the dragonfly draws me in.

Banded Pennant

Banded Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Blue Dasher dragonflies (Pachydiplax longipennis) have become for me one of the signs of summer in the area in which I live. When the weather turns hot and humid, they can often be seen flying lazily over the marshes and ponds, perching frequently on vegetation growing out of the water.

On a recent trip to Green Spring Gardens, I captured some images perched male Blue Dasher dragonflies. In the first shot, the dragonfly was perched on the edge of a lotus leaf. I really like the curves and softness of the leaves, which contrast with the details of the dragonfly. I think too that the shadow cast on the lower leaf adds some additional visual interest to the  image.

The second image features a Blue Dasher in the obelisk pose. It is generally believed that some dragonflies assume this pose to dissipate heat by reducing the amount of their bodies that is exposed to direct sunlight. I was shooting partially into the sun, which forced me to overexpose the image a bit and accounts for the lighter background. However, the surface of the water was covered with a lot of duckweed and was not uniform in color. As a result, the background ended ended up with some ugly gray patches that I seemed to be impossible for me to remove.

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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