Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Earlier this year I encountered an unfamiliar bird that turned out to be a Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus). On-line photos showed that the bird has really cool plumage during mating season and I remember hoping that I would see one this spring.

Well, this past Friday I spotted one in the distance in the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The light was coming from almost in front of me and the grebe was a long way off, but I did manage to capture the sunlight glistening off of the blonde “horns” of this beautiful bird. I especially like the first shot in which you can see just a bit of the grebe’s red eyes and the feathers really do look like horns.

Horned Grebe

Horned Grebe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I was thrilled yesterday morning to spot an American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It’s pretty rare for me to see this beautiful little falcon and the lighting was good enough for me to see some of its wonderful colors and patterns. From the photos that I have seen on-line, I think this is a female—males have wings that are slate blue in color.

I was also able to watch it hunting for a little while over a distant field. A kestrel hovers in mid-air as it searches for prey below. Although the kestrel dove low a couple of times, I did not see it catch anything.

Both times that I have seen a kestrel, it has been perched in the same tree and I plan to return there regularly during my treks through the wildlife refuge.

American Kestrel

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I grew up in the suburbs, so even domesticated farmyard animals seem exotic to me, like this bantam rooster and Red Angus cow with her calf that I encountered last weekend in Montpelier, Virginia while I was out of town for a wedding.

I am also including an image of an American Robin (Turdus migratorius) that I also captured on the farm—I like the way that the color of the rusted barbs matches that of the robin’s breast and how their shape mirrors that of the robin’s clawed feet.

 bantam rooster
Red Angus cow
American Robin
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Sometimes the view from the back is just as spectacular as the view from the front. I spotted this male Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) in full display this past Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. There were no females around to impress, but somehow, like a vain bodybuilder, this guy seemed compelled to flex and show off, even while doing something as mundane as foraging for food.

Initially I was disappointed that this turkey steadfastly refused to turn around and show me his face. As I surveyed the scene, though, I realized that I really loved the perfect fan shape of the displayed tail and the geometric abstractness of the the turkey from this angle. In fact, this kind of a shot might cause viewers to linger a little longer on the image as they gradually figure out what the main subject is, i.e. that it is a wild turkey.

 Wild Turkey
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Are you patient and persistent? If so, you have the right temperament to try to photograph dragonflies in flight. Every dragonfly season I spent endless hours in mostly fruitless attempts to capture in-flight images of dragonflies. One of my friends on Facebook described this as “a near impossible task” and, of course, she is right.

My first somewhat successful effort this year was a shot of a Common Green Darner (Anax junius) patrolling above one of the paths at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge last Friday. As you might suspect, getting the moving dragonfly in focus is one of the biggest challenges, because the subject is too small for the camera’s autofocus to engage. Sometimes I will focus manually as I track the dragonfly and sometimes I will use a zone focusing technique in which I preset the focusing distance and wait (and hope) for the dragonfly to fly into the zone.

A near impossible task? It certainly is, but I enjoy the challenge the way that its pursuit confounds observers—one such observer watched me closely for several minutes on Friday and couldn’t figure out what I was trying to photograph.

Common Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

Recently I have been thinking a lot about the relationship between seeing and taking pictures as I find myself growing more and more acutely aware of the details in my surroundings. The more I shoot, the more I see and the more I see, the more I shoot. I am continually amazed at the things that I see and even more amazed that I am able to capture some of those experiences with my camera.

I have fallen in love with a quotation attributed to photographer Dorothea Lange, “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” Even when I don’t have a camera in my hand, I seem to be viewing the world differently than I did in the past. My sensitivity has undoubtedly been heightened by greater knowledge of my subjects and my skills honed by lots of practice and familiarity with my gear.

This past Friday, I spotted a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) soaring in the air over the waters adjacent to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. That was not very unusual and I was able to capture some shots like the second one below. As the eagle flew out of range, I noticed that it seemed to be decreasing in altitude and circling back, so I continues tracking the bird. Somehow I suspected that the eagle was tracking a fish. Unlike an osprey that drops straight down into the water to catch a fish, an eagle seems to pluck a fish out of the water as it flies by.

I watched in awe and wonder as the eagle caught a fish. My timing was off a bit and my shots of the moment of the moment of the catch were not in focus, but I captured this image of the eagle flying away with its catch, an image that I really liked. As I think back about the experience, I feel absolutely no disappointment that I did not photograph it better. Instead, I feel a kind of joy and exhilaration that I was able to experience a really cool moment in nature.

Photography has opened my senses to those kinds of moments and motivates me to spend hours on end trekking about with my camera in hand. Capturing those experience in images is a real bonus whenever I am able to do so.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

My bird books say that Gray Catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis), like this one that I spotted on Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, make catlike mewing sounds, which accounts for the name. When I initially heard this bird, it was making a variety of different sounds, none of which sounded like a cat, and I thought it was a Northern Mockingbird. It was only when I zoomed in and saw that the bird had less distinctive markings than those of a mockingbird that I realized that it was a different species. Catbirds do, however, belong to the same family Mimidae (also known as mimic thrushes) as Northern Mockingbirds and Brown Thrashers, like the one that I featured in a recent posting.

When I was growing up, I remember hearing the expression “sitting in the catbird seat” and I learned that it meant being in an enviable or advantageous position. I never really wondered, though, what this had to do with a catbird and only today did I search for the origins of the expression. According to the website phrases.org.uk, “Catbirds seek out the highest perches in trees to sing and display. The allusion to that is most likely to be the derivation of the term. It may also be the source of an earlier term with much the same meaning – ‘sitting pretty‘.”

Gray Catbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »