Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Changing lenses

Most of us know what it is like to change a lens on a DSLR, but what is it like when you change a lens in one of your eyes? About 48 hours ago, I had surgery to replace the lens in one of my eyes with a plastic intraocular lens (IOL). Cataracts in both of my eyes had advanced to a point where they were interfering with activities such as night driving and both my optometrist and my ophthalmologist recommended cataract surgery.

I am in an interesting situation right now, because one of my eyes has been “fixed” and one of them has not. As a result I can’t help but do a series of before-and-after comparisons by looking at the world one eye at a time.

It’s hard to describe the changes, but it may be a little easier with photographers. Do you remember the first time that you looked at a RAW image? RAW images often look dull and flat. That’s kind of the way that things look in my right (uncorrected) eye. The view is darker, dingier, and has a slight yellow cast. The colors appear desaturated and there is not much contrast.

When I look through my corrected eye, it feels like a RAW image that has been adjusted by a skilled photographer. The whites are pure white, the colors are vibrant, and sharpness and contrast have been tweaked. Interestingly, the colors are a little on the cool side, with a slight blue color cast. One thing I didn’t expect is that objects in my corrected eye are slightly bigger than in my uncorrected eye. I asked my ophthalmologist if the lens he implanted has a magnifying effect and he noted that it did not—the phenomenon I had described was caused by my myopia, which causes objects to look smaller.

Previously I was significantly near-sighted and have needed glasses since I was in the fifth grade. The corrected eye is far-sighted now and my distance vision is amazing—for the first time in my life I was able to drive a car yesterday without glasses. My near vision now is essentially non-existent. I am hoping that it will improve a little bit as my eyes continue the adjustment process, but I fully expect that I will need the kind of reading glasses that I am using at this very moment.

Here is a photo of an Orchard Orbweaver spider (Leucauge venusta) that I took recently. The woods were pretty dark and I was trying to shoot from a relatively short distance away, so I decided to use my pop-up flash. It produced too much glare off of the spider’s shiny body, so I ended up throwing a gray bandana over the flash as a makeshift diffuser. The spider had just captured a prey (I think) and I am pretty happy that I was able to capture as much detail as I did. (Normally I like to be more nuanced when using a flash on close-up subjects, but I think the dark background works well with a spider;)

When I look at the spider with my uncorrected eye, the green and yellow on the spider’s body are pale and dull and the section of the body between the yellow areas appears to be gray. Looking though the corrected eye, however, I see a bright white area in between the bright yellow markings and even the green seems brighter and more intense.

In another two weeks the lens in the right eye is scheduled to be replaced and I’ll probably start to take my newer, brighter world for granted. For now, though, all I have to do is close one eye at a time to see what a difference a change in lens can produce.

Orchard Orbweaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

I am not completely certain what these two muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus) were doing on Monday at Huntley Meadows Park. It may have been only grooming, but to me it looks like muskrat love.

muskrat love

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Focusing choices

Wildlife photography forces us to make a lot of choices in a short period of time, because we often encounter our subjects unexpectedly and don’t have the luxury of carefully planning all of our shots. When I stumbled upon this Hooded Merganser family (Lophodytes cucullatus) on Monday at Huntley Meadows Park, for example, I had to make a quick choice. Should I focus on the hyper-vigilant Mom or on her ducklings?

It’s hard to resist cuteness, so I initially focused on the babies. As you can see in the first shot below, the ducklings were relaxed and appeared to be preening and playing, while the Mom in the foreground kept watch. After I had taken a few shots, I switched my attention and my focus to the mother. Her more rigid posture is in sharp contrast to that of her ducklings, who have faded a little into the background in the second shot.

I think that my focusing choices cause each of the images to tell a slightly different story and causes a viewer to react differently. That’s one of the cool things I like about photography—our creative choices can help others to see the world in different ways as we gently guide their attention to what we think is important.

Hooded Merganser family

Hooded Merganser family

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

As I was getting ready to leave Huntley Meadows Park yesterday afternoon, a Wood Duck family (Aix sponsa)  suddenly swam right in front of me from under the boardwalk. Even though I zoomed out, I was unable to capture the entire family with my long telephoto lens.

Here are a couple of shots of the mother and some of her ducklings. They were moving pretty quickly as a group and I didn’t have much time to get some shots before they disappeared into the vegetation.

Wood Duck

Wood Duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

The time drew near for our departure and I had pretty much given up hope of getting any good shots of dragonflies during a visit with some friends last Saturday to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia. There were several streams and ponds and I would occasionally see dragonflies flying around, but the planted areas of the garden prevented me from getting close to the water and the spots where the dragonflies were perching.

As I was crossing a small bridge that connected the boardwalk to the “shore,” a dragonfly suddenly flew up from the level of the water into a tree and perched on some relatively low-hanging leaves, about eight feet (243 cm) from the ground. I was able to track the dragonfly to its location and approached it slowly and cautiously.

The dragonfly was perching vertically and the first thing I noticed was that its wings were bright and shiny, suggesting that it had only recently emerged. My initial thought was that it was a Unicorn Clubtail (Arigomphus villosipes), because of the distinctive curved tip of the abdomen. When I got home, I looked at photos of Unicorn Clubtails and doubts began to creep into my mind about the identity of this dragonfly, because the colors seemed different from the ones depicted, which were more yellow than green. I posted a photo into a Facebook group and some experts confirmed that my initial instincts had been correct.

I took shots from several different angles, wishing that I was about a foot taller so that I would not have been shooting upwards at an angle. It turned out, though, that there was an advantage to shooting upwards, for I was able to get a pretty good view in the final image of the distinctive yellow “horn” between the dragonfly’s eyes that caused it to be named “unicorn.”

Unicorn Clubtail

Unicorn Clubtail

Unicorn CLubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

In addition to dragonflies, damselflies are now appearing in greater numbers, like this beautiful little Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata) that I spotted on Friday at Huntley Meadows Park. Identification is pretty easy, because it is the only dark-winged species in our area. The red eyes suggest that it is newly emerged—the eyes will change to a less demonic color later—and the lack of white markings on the wings indicate it is a male. Click on the image if you want to see some of the details of the damselfly at higher resolution, like the tiny hairs on its legs.

Ebony Jewelwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

As the weather warms up, more and more dragonflies finally are starting to emerge at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia. like these Spangled Skimmers (Libellula cyanea) that I spotted yesterday at the park. Spangled Skimmers are pretty easy to identify, because they are the only dragonflies in our area that have the both black and white “stigma” on the front edges of their wings. The adult male is blue, but immature males have the same coloration as the females, so you have to look closely to determine gender.

The first image, for example, shows an immature male, while the second image shows a female. If you examine the extreme tip of the abdomen (what I used to call a “tail”), you can see some differences. You may also note that the terminal appendages match for the first and third images, both of which show males.

If you want to learn more about Spangled Skimmers, check out this page from the Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website. The website is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in dragonflies, not just for folks who live in our area.

Spangled Skimmer

Spangled Skimmer

Spangled Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved