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Archive for June, 2015

I’ve spent most of my life living in the suburbs, so domestic livestock is kind of a novelty for me. My eyes are particularly drawn to animals as striking as this horse with a “rock star” hair style that reminds me of the beautiful horses of Iceland that I have seen featured in numerous photo shoots.

This past weekend I traveled to a winery in rural Delaplane, Virginia for an engagement party. After a wonderful celebration, I stopped at an adjacent farm that had a petting zoo. I was immediately attracted to three horses in the field that had long flowing manes blowing in the breeze. The horses walked right towards me and initially I thought they anticipated that I might have food. When they got closer, I realized that I was standing right behind a pile of hay that had been placed in the field and they more or less ignored me and munched on the hay.

I had a 24-105mm lens on my camera and ended up taking most of my shots at close range using the wide end of the lens. This was the first time that I have ever taken photos of an animal with anything other than a telephoto lens and I was happy with the results. I remember seeing some close-up photos a year or two ago that a blogger had taken of a buffalo using a wide-angle lens and thinking it would be interesting to try something like that. Unlike the buffalo shooter, though, I did not have to shoot from inside of a vehicle.

I don’t know anything about horse breeds, but these small, stocky horses with the incredible flowing hair reminded me of images that I have seen of the horses of Iceland. My dear friend and photographic mentor Cindy Dyer made a trip to Iceland last year and came back with some amazing photos, including this posting with a similar horse, although it is quite literally a horse of a different color.

Cindy has talked with me and a few fellow photographers about possibly traveling to Iceland next year. I would love to have the chance to experience firsthand the wondrous natural beauty of Iceland and to see more beautiful horses with “rock star” hair.

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star1_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Instinctively I try to get as close to a subject as possible, often ignoring the “big picture.” One recently early morning, however, there was a substantial amount of water between me and the Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) that I spotted on a fallen tree and there was no way I was getting closer.

I concentrated on focusing, thinking I would probably have to crop a lot, and on composition. Almost despite myself, I ended up with an image that I really like, an image in which the kingfisher is only one element of an early morning landscape.

There is definitely a benefit sometimes in not getting closer to the subject.

Belted Kingfisher

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It rained all day yesterday and today I felt the need for a burst of color, so I worked up a shot that I took in early May of a male Southern Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes australis). Somehow this beautiful little damselfly fell to the back of the queue during a period of time when I was taking so many photos that I barely had time to review and sort them all.

Three things really strike me about this damselfly. It is much biggest than most of the damselflies; it perches with its wings spread wide, unlike most damselflies; and, most importantly for me, it has very striking turquoise eyes that draw me right in.

Special thanks to my friend, Walter Sanford, who located the damselfly and worked with others to establish that this was a Southern Spreadwing and not the visually similar Sweetflag Spreadwing. Walter said that he was so familiar with this particular damselfly that he nicknamed him “Arty,” because of his propensity for perching in front of photogenic backgrounds.

Southern Spreadwing damselfly

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I probably watched too many horror movies as a child, because I couldn’t help but think of Count Dracula when I first saw the posture of this male Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) at my local marshland park. The blackbird seemed to have assumed the traditional bat-like Dracula pose and appeared to be getting ready to swoop in and suck my blood. Involuntarily, my neck began to twitch a little.

Fortunately, the blackbird flew off in another direction and, at least for now, I have not been turned into a vampire.

Red-winged Blackbird

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Globe Thistles (Echinops ritro) are among the coolest plants in my neighbors’ garden. They have a wonderful texture and stand tall, topped with fantastic balls of tiny flowers tinged with blue, purple, and pink.

It’s Friday and I figured for fun that I’d take a short break from insects and feature a few photos of fantastic flowers.

Globe Thistle

Globe Thistle

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This spring I have been spending more and more time in remote areas of my marshland park and have had the opportunity to see dragonflies in earlier stages of development than in previous years. I was thrilled recently to spot a newly emerged male Common Sanddragon (Progomphus obscurus) and managed to get some shots of it with my macro lens.

Fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford did a posting yesterday with some wonderful shots of adult male Common Sanddragon dragonflies and you can refer to that posting if you want to see what a mature male looks like.

When you look at this very young dragonfly, in a stage called “teneral,” a few things stand out. The colors of its eyes and its body are very pale and the wings are really clear. As the dragonfly is exposed to the air and to the sunlight, its colors become more pronounced and its wings more solid.

Many of you know that dragonflies spend most of their lives underwater as nymphs going through a series of transformations. Only in the later stage of their lives do they shed their exoskeletons one last time and become the aerial acrobats that we are used to seeing.

I’ve always wanted to see this transformation taking place, but have not yet had the chance to do so. When I was sharing this images with a friend, though, he pointed out something which I had missed—the dragonfly is perched on its cast-off skin. In the final photo, you can see that the dragonfly is now more than twice as long as when he first emerged, with a significantly lengthened abdomen. In the two close-up shots, it looks like the dragonfly’s front legs are astride the head of the exoskeleton and I think you can actually see the two eyes.

I am in awe when I think of the incredible metamorphosis that has just taken place and find this dragonfly, like all newborns, to be amazingly beautiful and precious.

Common Sanddragon

Common Sanddragon

Common Sanddragon

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Here are some wonderful shots of one of my favorite dragonflies, the Common Sanddragon, by my fellow photographer, blogger, and dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford.

walter sanford's photoblog

On the one-year anniversary for Mike Powell’s discovery of a new species of dragonfly at Huntley Meadows Park, I revisited the same location where Mike found the first Common Sanddragon dragonfly (Progomphus obscurus) at the park.

On an overcast, rainy day I was pleasantly surprised to see several male Common Sanddragons and a single female. A few photos of the males are featured in this post; a photo of the female will be published in a follow-up post.

A Common Sanddragon dragonfly (Progomphus obscurus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male. 17 JUN 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Sanddragon (male)

A Common Sanddragon dragonfly (Progomphus obscurus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male. 17 JUN 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Sanddragon (male)

A Common Sanddragon dragonfly (Progomphus obscurus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male. 17 JUN 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Sanddragon (male)

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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