Brittle beauty

The Washington D.C. area is virtually shut down today as we await a winter snowstorm—the federal and local government offices and schools are all closed. With a little extra time on my hands, I was able to go over some of my photos from Monday’s storm and thought I’d post a couple more images from that event, which covered all surfaces, including the pine trees, with a coating of ice.

I find there is a fragile, transitory beauty in these abstract images—an hour later, when the sun’s rays hit the ice, the effect was gone.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Picking berries

During the winter, the American Robins (Turdus migratorius) in my area switch to eating berries rather than worms and this robin seemed happy to have found a nice patch. As you can see in the second shot, however, the robin gave me some pretty strong indications that it did not want to be bothered.

American RobinAmerican Robin

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Covered in ice

I awoke yesterday to a world covered in ice, the aftermath of a storm of sleet and freezing rain. Peering out the sliding glass doors, I could see the branches of a pine tree bent over, heavy with the weight of the ice, and almost touching the boards of my backyard deck.

I took a number of shots as the morning sun started to melt the ice. Somehow I keep coming back to this almost abstract image of the pine needles. It’s definitely not my usual style of shooting, so it’s hard to explain why it appeals to me.

It’s probably a good thing to shoot things differently from time to time and try out unusual approaches. At a minimum, you’ll have fun and you may end up with crazy images that you like.

icy pine

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Sunset in March

The colors were not spectacular, but the sky still seemed to be amazingly beautiful as I prepared to depart from Huntley Meadows Park yesterday just after sunset. A long-range telephoto zoom may not be the lens of choice for capturing this kind of a scene, but it was the one that was on my camera at the time and I am pretty happy with the results.

We’ve had so many gray, dull days this winter that a day with the sun shining seemed like a real blessing and I wanted to take advantage of every moment of that sunshine.

Huntley Meadows Park

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Thirsty robin

A flock of American Robins (Turdus migratorius) was feverishly foraging in the bushes, but one solitary robin felt a need to satisfy its thirst. Perching on a fallen branch mostly submerged in the frozen pond, the robin gently leaned forward and dipped its bill in a small pool of open water. It must be tough for birds in the wild to get water to drink during the cold days of winter.

As I was processing the photo, I couldn’t help but notice that it was mostly monochromatic, except for the orange in the breast and bill, so I played around a little with converting it to black and white. It still doesn’t pop as much as I would like, but I thought it would be fun to include it for comparison with the original.

American RobinAmerican Robin

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

What’s going on here? Normally, it’s the male Hooded Merganser duck (Lophodytes cucullatus) that engages in courting behavior to attract a female, but in this case it looks like the situation was reversed. The female seems to be trying to get the attention of the male, who is playing hard to get and ignoring her antics.

Hooded Merganser

I took these shots this past Friday at my local marshland park. After a week of several snowstorms and frigid temperatures, there was not much open water for the water birds. I managed to find an area where a small number of them, mostly mallards and Canada Geese, were congregated and moved forward toward them, painfully aware that the crusty snow was crunching under my feet. I was thrilled when I saw that a pair of Hooded Mergansera mixed in with the other, bigger birds.

As a few snow flurries started falling, I was able to get some individual shots of the Hooded Mergansers, as well as the opening shot of them swimming together.

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

The first photo seems to be calling out for a clever caption and I welcome any creative ideas from readers. I used the title of a Toby Keith song as the title of the posting, imaging the female duck was trying to impress the male, who had ignored her in the past. (Check out this video from Vevo if you are not familiar with the song.)

What scenario do you imagine when you see the initial photo?

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of some moment in the cattails. At first I thought it was a Downy Woodpecker, which I have sometimes observed pecking on the cattails in search of insects, but I quickly saw that this was a smaller bird. When it finally climbed higher on a cattail stalk, it became clear that it was a Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis).

Initially I had trouble finding this tiny bird in my viewfinder with the zoom fully extended, but eventually I was successful. I am really happy with the effect that I managed to achieve, with the darker-colored bird really standing out from the lighter-colored backdrop of the cattails. Normally I like to crop to focus attention on the subject, but in this case I like the images better with a considerable amount of open space around the chickadee.

I couldn’t decide which of these two image I liked more, so decided to include both of them. Sometimes I like the horizontal pose of the first shot, but at other times the open bill in the second shot draws me in.

It’s always fun to try to get shots of owls and eagles and hawks, but my moments with this little chickadee reminded me that the little birds have their own special kind of beauty.

Carolina ChickadeeCarolina Chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


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