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Archive for May, 2014

To crop, or not to crop—that is the question. At a certain point in time when we are processing our images, we are all come face to face with this question. To some photographers, composing perfectly in the camera is the ultimate virtue, and they take pride in the fact that they do not crop (and object when their images are cropped).

Moose Peterson is one prominent photographer who does not crop and he explained his views in a fascinating blog posting in 2012 entitled, “The Crop Revisited.” I am still pondering one of his conclusions, “When you don’t give yourself the option to “fix it in post,” photographers push themselves. This always make a better click and the story telling, the subject, that passion of that click becomes clearer and clearer.”

Most of us could not live with such a high standard and for various reasons we choose to crop. I am so used to cropping my images that even when I compose an image just the way that I want it, I am tempted to move in closer with my crop. That was my dilemma with this image of a damselfly on the edge of a lily pad, as it was framed when it came out of the camera.

damsel_pad_blogI really like the long sinuous curve on the left and the large expanse of green on the right. I worry, however, that the damselfly is taking up too little space of the image and is not prominent enough. So I cropped a bit and produced a second version.

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That’s not a very extreme crop, but somehow the image feels different to me. Does it make any difference to you? Do you prefer one of the two over the other?

UPDATE: Fellow blogger and local dragonfly expert, Walter Sanford, has identified this for me as an Eastern Forktail damselfly (Ischnura verticalis). Thanks, Walter.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Is it a bee? Is it a fly? It’s a Greater Bee Fly (Bombylius major). What?

This bee fly has to be one of the strangest insects that I have ever seen—it looks like Doctor Frankenstein pieced together an insect from the parts of other insects. Its fuzzy body looks like that of a bee and it has a similar proboscis, though the bee fly’s proboscis seems to be outrageously long. Its long, spindly legs, however, are not bee-like and remind me of certain types of flies. The patterned wings and the way that it hovers are reminiscent of a hummingbird moth, though the bee fly is considerably smaller.

The bee fly is considered to be a bee mimic. Like a bee, it helps pollinate plants when gathering nectar.

I encountered this strange insect when I was examining the little flowers of some allium plants in the garden of my neighbor and fellow photographer and blogger Cindy Dyer. She always has interesting flowers to photograph and I have found an amazing assortment of insects in the garden too.

Greater Bee Fly on allium plant

Greater Bee Fly on allium plant

 

Head-on look at a bee fly

Head-on look at a bee fly

Bee Fly on allium with trellis in background

Bee Fly on allium with trellis in background

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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This past weekend I finally saw one of my favorite dragonflies, the male Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis), at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, Virginia. The Blue Dasher is bright and colorful and likes to perch on protruding vegetation, thereby providing lots of photographic opportunities.

Now that I have seen my first Blue Dashers, I know for sure that summer is almost here.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you ever find yourself looking at flies? No, I don’t mean looking at them with a fly swatter in your hand and murder in your heart and I don’t mean admiring the beautiful colors of butterflies and dragonflies.

What I have in mind is marveling at the variety of more ordinary flies, discovering the details of their amazing eyes and hairy little bodies. Sometimes you have to move in really close and bend down to their level (and a macro lens helps).

When you do, a whole new world opens up.

Here are a few shots of different flies that I’ve encountered recently.

fly_leaf_blogfly_striped_blogChristmas_fly_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As a follow-up to last week’s preview, here is the complete story of my recent encounter with a Bold Jumping Spider (Phidippus audax) and a female Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis). The photos are a bit graphic, particularly for those of us who like dragonflies, but they illustrate the reality of nature that even super predators like dragonflies can easily become prey.

dragon1A_spider_blogAs I was walking at my local marshland park, I spotted a bright green dragonfly perched on the boardwalk and suspected immediately that it was a female Eastern Pondhawk. I moved in slowly to get a shot and was a bit surprised when the dragonfly did not take off when I got close. This is the initial view I had of the dragonfly.

dragon3_spider_blogI looked closely at the dragonfly and noticed that it was lying on its side and appeared to be dead. Wondering what might have caused its demise, I picked up the dragonfly’s body to do some amateur forensic analysis. (I obviously watched to many televisions shows about crime scene investigations.) As I lifted the body toward my eyes, I was shocked to find that a fuzzy black spider was still attached to it. Apparently the spider had been hiding in the gap between the boards as it feasted on the dragonfly.

Somewhat in shock, I dropped the dragonfly back onto the boardwalk and the fall caused the spider to be separated from its prey. Undeterred, it quickly set off to recapture the dragonfly.

dragon4_spider_blogThe spider grabbed the dragonfly in a headlock and began to drag it back toward the gap between the synthetic boards of the boardwalk. It seemed totally oblivious to my presence.dragon6_spider_blog

When it reached the gap, the spider paused for a few seconds, as though considering possibility of dragging the body through the gap.

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The spider decided to give it a try and did its best to pull the body in, starting with the head.

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Despite the spider’s best efforts, however, the dragonfly’s body was simply too big.

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As I left the scene, the spider had again settled down out of sight below the surface of the boardwalk, happily enjoying its meal and presumably hoping that it would not be disturbed again.

dragon10_spider_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Green Herons (Butorides virescens) are once again hanging out at my local marshland park. Unlike Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias), which fish while wading in the water, these smaller herons usually wait at water’s edge or on vegetation, which normally makes them tough to spot. This Green Heron, though, decided to perch on a log in plain view, which allowed to take this rather formal looking portrait shot.

 

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I decided to take a break from insects and went walking along the biking trail at Cameron Run, a tributary of the Potomac River in Alexandria, Virginia, where I encountered this Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax). As its name suggests, this species is usually most active at night or at dusk, so I was surprised to see one in the middle of the day.

As I was headed down to the water’s edge, I flushed the bird, which took off for some nearby rocks and perched on one of them. I got a couple of shots of the initial action, which gives you an idea of my initial view of the night heron.

In this the first and last shots, I think the heron was scratching an itch, which is a little tough when you are perched one-legged on a pointed rock. Eventually the itch was satisfied and the night heron flew off into the cooler confines of a leafy tree, probably to take a siesta until it was time to fish for dinner.

heron4_night_blogheron1_night_blogheron2_night_blogheron3_night_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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