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Posts Tagged ‘Canon SX50’

As I drove through the gates at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge this past Friday, a thick fog (or mist) was hanging low over the fields. The sun was just beginning to rise and it was still pretty dark. Although my goal for the day was to photograph birds, I decided to make an attempt at capturing the feeling of the moment and quickly realized the difficulty of that task—it’s a real challenge to capture the delicate nuances of light and shadows and the subtle shades of the rising sun when there is so little available light.

I felt a bit uncomfortable as I was shooting these images, a clear indication that I was way outside of my comfort zone, but I think it is good to try new approaches and subjects in order for me to keep on growing and learning as a photographer.

 

misty morning

autumn mist

autumn path

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As the early morning light began to filter through the trees and the mist was rising, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of tranquility last Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Was there any way that I could possibly capture that feeling in an image?

Many of you know that I rarely shoot landscape photos. I normally do not carry with me the kind of wide angle lens that is traditionally associated with landscape photography and instead carry a long telephoto zoom lens and a macro lens almost all of the time. The first two photos below were not cropped and were shot with the telephoto zoom lens set at 150mm, its widest setting. I have started carrying my Canon SX50 with me most of the time and this super zoom camera allowed me to get a much wider view and a greater depth of field.

I am not sure that any of these images adequately capture the feeling of the moment, but I wanted to share some of my different approaches in trying to capture the light, shadows, shapes, and colors of one early morning in the autumn.

early autumn morning

early autumn morning

early autumn morning

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Do you ever get so obsessed with a single species that you return over and over again to the same location, seeking another glimpse (and hopefully more photos) of that species? Generally I describe myself as an “0pportunistic” shooter—I like to walk around and photograph whatever I happen to see—and only rarely do I have specific goals for a photo shoot.

My normal approach changed this past month as I became somewhat obsessed with the Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora filosa). My good friend and local dragonfly expert Walter Sanford encouraged me to seek out this rare species, which has been seen at only a single location, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, in our area. I started spending most of my free time at this wildlife refuge, rather than at Huntley Meadows Park, my most frequent shooting location.

Mostly on my own, though occasionally shooting with Walter, I learned more and about this species, including its preferred perches and patrolling techniques. Over time, I learned to recognize Fine-lined Emeralds as they flew towards me at knee-level with their shiny green eyes glinting in the sunlight and spent endless hours chasing after them. Eventually I acquired a collection of shots of them perching and even managed to capture an image of one in flight and some shots of a couple mating.

I was painfully aware that, as the old saying indicates, all good things must come to an end. The excellent website Dragonflies of Northern Virginia showed the record late date for this species of 4 October in our area, so last Friday, 6 October, I went out to shoot with high hopes, but low expectations. I was thrilled to have multiple sightings of Fine-lined Emeralds during the day and the images below are among my favorites of the day.

We have now entered into a period of rain in our area and I fear that I may have seen my final Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly for the year. I am a bit stubborn and unusually persistent, though, so I may make a trip again on Friday, my next free day for shooting, hoping against the odds to see my Fine-lined friends one more time.

Fine-lined Emerald

Fine-lined Emerald

Fine-lined Emerald

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As October begins, I renew my search for red dragonflies. Autumn is quite naturally the season when Autumn Meadowhawks (Sympetrum vicinum) appear along with their more gaudily-colored brethren, the Blue-faced Meadowhawks (Sympetrum ambiguum). Both of these species have bright red bodies that should be easy to spot, but they like to perch low to the ground and sometimes even on fallen leaves, so you really have to pay attention.

I was a bit shocked on Monday to see some other small red dragonflies—at least three male Calico Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis elisa) were active at a small pond at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Calico Pennants are generally a summer species and I have featured them a couple of times earlier this year in this blog. According to the Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website, their peak flight time is June to July and their late date is 23 September (I saw the one below on 2 October).

There are still other active dragonflies, but over time their numbers will continue to drop. Autumn Meadowhawks, though, usually stay with us into December and, if I remember correctly, occasionally even into January. I’ll be continuing my October hunt for red dragonflies into November and beyond.

Calico Pennant

Calico Pennant on 2 October at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

 

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

 

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As we move inexorably deeper into autumn, more and more flowers and leaves are fading and falling. Many of the familiar dragonflies of the summer also are disappearing. I was heartened yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge to spot this Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora filosa), a survivor that is tattered and torn, but is still flying in October.

I mentioned in a recent blog posting that I am experimenting with carrying two cameras with me when I go out shooting. The first photo was shot with my Canon SX50, a super-zoom camera and the second was taken with my Canon 50D DSLR. The depth of field is so shallow with the DSLR, normally shooting close to the 600mm end of my zoom lens, that it seems more ideal for shots like the second image where the subject is flatter. The SX50 gives me more depth of field and I love the way that it allowed me to capture the background as circles of color.

Fine-lined Emerald

Fine-lined Emerald

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This Black Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea lacerata) chose a beautiful perch and posed briefly for a couple of autumn portraits on Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Black Saddlebags usually spend a lot of time soaring high in the air, so it is a special joy for me when one lands and I am able to get some decent shots. I have never before managed to get a good look at their eyes and absolutely love the two-toned color combination.

black saddlebags

black saddlebags

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am becoming convinced that dragonflies are rulebreakers. Yesterday I noted that dragonflies do not always follow the rules and can sometimes be found in habitats where they are not supposed to be. Apparently they also do not know how to follow a calendar and can sometimes be found earlier or later than the rules and records indicate they will be present.

This past Monday I was back at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, searching again for the rare Fine-lined Emerald dragonflies that I had seen there previously. When I saw a dragonfly with bright green eyes perch in a distant tree, I naturally assumed that it was a Fine-lined Emerald. It is getting to be late in the dragonfly season, so many other species are no longer present. The dragonfly never got any closer, so I had to be content with my long-distance shots.

When I pulled up the images on my computer, something didn’t look quite right. The shape of the body seemed a little different from the Fine-lined Emeralds that I had seen previously and the tips of the abdomen (the “terminal appendages”) also looked different. I consulted with some dragonfly experts and they identified the dragonfly to me as a Mocha Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora linearis). I have seen this species before, but in a totally different environment and much earlier in the year, so I had mentally removed it from consideration.

Now I don’t feel too bad about missing the identification, because the two species are part of the same genus Somatochlora, also known as Striped Emeralds. The website Dragonflies of Northern Virginia indicates that the flight records for the Mocha Emerald are from 16 June to 16 September—I guess that window can now be extended a little.

I am including two photos of the Mocha Emerald that may look almost identical, but were shot with two very different cameras. The settings for the cameras were almost the same with an aperture of f/7.1 and a shutter speed of around 1/400 of a second and both were handheld. The first shot was with my Canon 50D DSLR and Tamron 150-600mm lens. Taking into account the crop factor of the camera, the field of view was equivalent to 960mm. The second shot was with my Canon SX50 with a field of view that was equivalent to 1200mm.

The DSLR was a lot heavier and a lot more expensive, but produced a more out-of-focus background. The Canon SX50 was cheaper, lighter, and brought me in closer to the subject. It’s clear to me that equipment did not make a huge difference in this case and that there are advantages and disadvantages to each system. I am increasingly drawn to the idea of carrying both with me for the moment and continuing to experiment with them.

The other big lesson that I continue to learn is to expect the unexpected. As I am discovering, subjects may pop up in places and at times when you least expect them.

Mocha Emerald

Mocha Emerald

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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