Sunflower views

When you are confronted with a field of sunflowers, what’s the best way to photograph them? That was my challenge this past weekend at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Poolesville, Maryland. Before I arrived, I though I would get a wide-angle view, filled with the bright yellows of the tall sunflowers. The reality was a little underwhelming, because the sunflowers had not grown very tall this year and many of them were past their prime.

So instead of going wide, I decided to move in closer and try to capture some of the details of the sunflowers. Here are a few images of single sunflowers in different stages of development. Some of the images are a little abstract and hopefully challenge readers to think beyond the normal shapes and colors that they associate with sunflowers.






© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

I didn’t see the Green Heron (Butorides virescens) actually catch his breakfast last Friday morning at Huntley Meadows Park, but when he climbed up onto a protruding branch he gave me a quick look at the fish before swallowing it.

Green Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Not a tug of war

Although it looks a bit like a tug of war, I think that these two Red-footed Cannibalflies (Promachus rufipes) actually were mating when I spotted them on Friday at Huntley Meadows Park. (Don’t ask me any anatomical questions–I am not sure how it works for them.)

This photo was taken from a pretty good distance away with my 150-600mm lens and is a little soft, but I thought I’d post it today as an accompaniment to my earlier macro shot of what I think is a female Red-footed Cannibalfly.

mating Red-footed Cannibalflies

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

A Red-footed Cannibalfly (Promachus rufipes) is one of the coolest and creepiest insects that you can encounter in the wild. A type of robber fly, Red-footed Cannibalflies usually feed on other insects, but they reportedly are capable of taking down a hummingbird. I spotted this “beauty” during a visit this past weekend to McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Poolesville, Maryland after a fellow photographer pointed it out to me.

Red-footed Cannibalflies are special to me for an unusual reason—a posting that I did about one in August 2013 has proven to be my most widely viewed normal blog posting over time. (I did have a couple of postings about the rescue of an injured bald eagle that received a huge boost in readership when linked in local media reports, but that spike was  a one-time occurrence and I tend to exclude those posts in my calculations.) The enduring popularity of that posting is a bit of a mystery to me. Yes, the subject is fascinating, but the accompanying photos are not really my best work.

Why then do I keep getting viewers for this posting? The posting, for example, had 512 views in 2015 and 612 views in 2016. During this year, there have already been 211 views, including 39 in August. I don’t know what kind of algorithms Google and the other search engines use in deciding how to rank order listings when searches are conducted, but somehow I have frequently made it onto the first page of the listings when a search is done for “red-footed cannibalfly.”

I receive offers all of the time for something called Search Engine Optimization (SEO) that promises me that, after I have paid a fee, my posting will rise higher on the Google results.  I am not sure that it would be possible for me to get any higher on the list than I already am—I think that my posting has on occasion been as high as fourth on the Google results.

I am a little amused that my name may have become associated with Red-footed Cannibalflies in the minds of some viewers after a Google search. On the whole, readership statistics remain a mystery to me. I can sometimes guess which of my postings will have a good number of viewers when originally posted, but I am clueless in figuring out which ones will have additional views after a couple of days have passed.

For better or for worse, my postings seem to have a life of their own. I never know when or how a viewer somewhere in the world may stumble across my words and images. Wow! How cool is that?

Red-footed Cannibalfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

This majestic osprey (Pandion haliaetus) was keeping a close watch on a fellow photographer and me as we pointed our long lenses in its direction as it perched high in a tree early one morning this weekend at Huntley Meadows Park.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

In the first sunflower field that we visited yesterday morning at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area, many of the sunflowers were drooping because of the weight of their seeds. They may not have been very photogenic, but the birds and butterflies seemed to love them, like this Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea) and this Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) that I spotted among the sunflowers.

Several photographer friends and I made the trip to the sunflower fields in Poolesville, Maryland, hoping to see endless rows of tall sunflowers. According to its website, McKee-Beshers has 30 acres of sunflowers planted in nine different fields. I think that the sunflowers may have been a little past their prime and appeared to be a little stunted in size, compared to some past years.

It was tricky to figure out what kind of gear to bring on a trek like this. I ended up using my super zoom Canon SX50 to photograph the Indigo Bunting, which was a first sighting for me of this beautiful bird, and my Canon 24-105mm lens on my normal Canon 50D DSLR for the butterfly. I had both of the cameras with me at all times, which gave me a pretty good amount of flexibility. I’ve seen some photographers walk around with two DSLR bodies, but that seems like a lot of weight to carry around, especially when you are moving through vegetation as I was doing as I waded through the rows of sunflowers.

I did take shot shots of the sunflowers  and I’ll post some of them eventually. Folks who know me, though, are probably not surprised that my first instinct was to post images of birds and butterflies, rather than ones of the flowers alone.

Indigo Bunting

Monarch butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Early morning egret

Early yesterday morning at Huntley Meadows Park, the Great Egrets (Ardea alba) were relaxing in the trees, awaiting the start of another beautiful day. When birds are as brilliantly white as egrets, it’s a challenge to get an exposure that retains the details in the feathers. I set the metering on my camera to spot metering and it seems to have worked pretty well. I even like the way that it darkened the background and made the egret stand out even more.

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved