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Shoveler at dawn

The light was dim in the early morning hours this past Wednesday at Huntley Meadows Park, but I could detect some movement in the vegetation adjacent to the boardwalk that runs through the marshland. I watched and waited and eventually a male Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata) swam slowly into view and I managed to capture some images of it. I love the reflections of both the duck and the vegetation in this shot.

After the fact, I discovered that I probably should have changed the setting of my camera to raise the shutter speed. Many of my shots were blurry, but somehow this one came out reasonably sharp, despite the fact that it was taken with a shutter speed of only 1/15 of a second with my lens zoomed out all of the way to 600mm. I am pretty sure that it helped that I was using a monopod.

This incident reminded me of the special challenges and rewards that come with shooting at dawn or dusk. There is often a lot of activity, but there is a constant struggle to capture that activity in the limited light that is available. When things come together, though, it is almost magical and is definitely worth the effort.

Northern Shoveler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Early morning trees

The early morning sunlight was spectacular yesterday as it streamed through the trees at Huntley Meadows Park. I tried to capture this phenomenon as a kind of mini-landscape by using my telephoto lens and framing it just as you see in this image. It is a little unusual for me not to crop an image at all, but by composing it this way, I was able to include those elements that I found the most interesting, the light and shadows of the trees, and left out the things that I found less interesting such as the sky. I did include a little strip of grass in the foreground so that the image is not completely abstract.

early morning trees

When I first arrived at the park, the sun had barely risen and there was a lot of ground fog, which made the woods look really mysterious and a little spooky. One of my viewers on Facebook said the image looked like it could be the setting for the witches in Macbeth. The second image was a lot tougher to capture, because of the lack of light and my desire to capture a sense of the fog that was clinging to the ground. There is a slight blur to the image, which would normally be a shortcoming in a photo, but I think it works ok with an image like this one.

early morning trees

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

There were clumps of snowdrops scattered throughout Green Spring Gardens on Monday. I just love this simple little flower that is with us through much of the winter.

It won’t be long before the snowdrops are replaced by the more complex, more colorful flowers of the spring. At times I am impatient for the arrival of spring, but at other times I am simply content to enjoy the beauty of the modest snowdrop.

snowdrop

snowdrop

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Yesterday I took a break from bird photography and visited Green Spring Gardens, a county-run historic garden, with a macro lens on my camera rather than my long telephoto zoom lens. It is still a bit early for most flowers, so I was happy to spot these little purple flowers that had pushed their way to the surface. I think they may be crocuses, though I really don’t know flowers very well.

I got really low to get an interesting background and almost got stepped on by a runner—maybe it’s best not to wear a camouflage jacket when lying on the ground.

purple buds

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

This eagle’s nest is nestled back in the trees at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, somewhat obstructed though still visible from the trail. When I first sighted the nest this past Saturday morning, it looked like it was empty.  I kept my eyes glued to the nest as I slowly walked past it and suddenly I spotted a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) sitting on the nest, partially hidden in the shadow of the trees. This is the second nest at the refuge that I have spotted so far this winter that appears to be in use, though I suspect that there may be more. When leaves return to the trees, I fear that the nest will be completely hidden from view, which will give the eagles a little more privacy from paparazzi like me.

bald eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Blue water, blue heron

Composition does not get much more simple than this—a single subject with its reflection against an uncluttered, almost monochromatic background.

The skies were heavily overcast this past Friday and rain fell intermittently on me as I walked along the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Most of the birds seem to have taken shelter from the inclement weather. One hardy heron, however, had waded out into the shallow waters of the bay and I was thrilled to be able to capture this image of it. I see Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) pretty often, but will always stop to observe them. Sometimes I am patient enough to see one catch a fish, but most of the time the heron’s patience exceeds mine.

Recently I have been watching a lot of videos on pencil sketching and watercolors and it struck me that the shadowy reflection of the bird in this photo could have been rendered using one of those techniques.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Swimming in the clouds

The light was so beautiful early this morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge that it looked like this male Bufflehead duck (Bucephala albeola) was swimming in the clouds rather than in the water, giving this image an almost surreal feel that I really enjoy.

bufflehead

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.