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Posts Tagged ‘Meadowlark Botanical Gardens’

Like many guys, I have trouble remembering anniversaries, so it came as a surprise a few days ago when WordPress reminded me that it was the fifth anniversary of the launching of my blog. Five years old probably qualifies as middle age or maybe even old age for a blog.

I remember well how my photography mentor Cindy Dyer sat me down and virtually insisted that I start a blog to showcase and share the results of my growing interest in photography. I’ve captured thousands and thousand of images since that time and made close to 2400 postings on this blog. My confidence, awareness, and skills as a photographer have grown significantly. More importantly, though, this blog has helped me to gain a new voice as I have learned to use my words and photographs to express a creative part of myself that has been dormant most of my life.

I am very appreciative of the support, encouragement, and suggestions that so many readers have provided these last five years. Thanks to all of you—you have helped to sustain me during times when my energy and enthusiasm have waned.

My very first posting was an image of a perching dragonfly and was simply titled Blue Dasher dragonfly. If you look at that posting, you can see that my fascination with dragonflies is not a new phenomenon. It is altogether appropriate, therefore, that I “celebrate” with another dragonfly image.

Halloween Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis eponina) generally perch facing away from me. Although it gives me a good view of their spectacular wings, I like it better when I get a frontal view and can look straight into the dragonfly’s eyes. This weekend I found a cooperative subject while exploring Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia, and was able to capture this image.

Halloween Pennant

Like this dragonfly, I am ready to spread my wings and fly, resting briefly before taking off again.  It’s a bit of a cliche, but from the blog’s inauguration the sub-title has always been, “My journey through photography.” Where will I go next? I honestly don’t know, but I definitely welcome fellow travelers to accompany me on my continuing journey of exploration.

Perhaps I will set my sights really high and point my camera, to use the famous words of Buzz Lightyear, “to infinity and beyond.” Come fly with me.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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Brightly-colored flowers and butterflies—-what a wonderful combination for a summer’s day. I spotted these beauties this past weekend at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia.

The first shot features a little skipper butterfly on a spectacular, orange-red coneflower. The other two shots highlight the beauty of an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) in a patch of the more frequently observed purple coneflowers.

skipper on a coneflower

Eastern Tiger SwallowtailEastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As the breeze kicked up yesterday at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia, this male Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) hung on tightly to his perch. From the angle at which I was shooting, though, it looked like he was participating in a pole vault competition.

Halloween Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Every spring I seem to have the same problem—I see small brown skipper butterflies and can’t seem to identify them. Wikipedia notes that there are over 3500 species recognized worldwide, so I don’t feel too bad about my poor identification skills. I spotted this particular one during a recent trip to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia as it was feeding on what looks to be some variety of salvia flower—there are a lot of types of salvia flowers too.

As I looked through internet photos of possible matches for my skipper, I considered that it might be a Peck’s Skipper or possibly a Fiery Skipper, but none of them is a perfect match. I’m hoping that it turns out to be a Zabulon Skipper (Poanes zabulon). Why? More than anything else, I think “Zabulon” is a cool name.

skipper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The simple shape and spare palette of spiderwort plants (g. Tradescantia) really appeal to me and I found myself taking innumerable photos of them during a visit with fellow photographer Cindy Dyer to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia this past weekend. Be sure to check out Cindy’s blog for some awesome colorful images of many of the other flowers that we observed.

My friends all know that I have a warped sense of humor, so it would come as no surprise to them when I confess that I can’t help but think of an abnormal growth on an arachnid every time that I use the word “spiderwort.” As the weather continues to warm up, I’m pretty confident that I will soon be featuring images of spiders, warts and all.

spiderwort

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Most of us have probably tried to frame a shot by using an archway, foliage, or other natural or man-made object to draw the attention of our viewers to our main subject. Yesterday I decided to try something a little more elaborate  during a visit to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia.

The Korean Bell Pavilion at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna,VA is an amazing structure. It was made by hand using traditional methods and houses an enormous bell. How could I highlight its beauty? I started off by taking some conventional shots of the structure and they were ok, but probably the same as hundreds of other visitors have taken.

Korean Bell Pavilion

As I was exploring some of the other buildings in the Korean Bell Garden, I noticed some beautiful carved wooden openings that faced the bell pavilion. By half-kneeling and half-standing, I realized that I could frame a view of the pavilion through the opening.

Korean Bell Pavilion

I liked the shots that I was getting, but the “frame” seemed to be a bit too dark, so I decided to see what would happen if I used my pop-up flash. As I expected, the flash helped to reveal some of the beautiful grain and color of the wood without affecting the rest of the image.

Korean Bell Pavilion

As I stood up, I saw another wooden opening and tried a similar approach, resulting is a panoramic-style shot.

Korean Bell Pavilion

Of course, it is always possible to add a frame to a shot after it has been taken, but for me it’s a lot more fun to try to frame the image while I am taking it. At a minimum, it’s worth the extra effort to try to find new angles and perspectives for a shot.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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Do you find yourself shooting the same subjects with the same lens all of the time? Sometimes it’s fun to try to try to photograph a subject with the “wrong” lens.

Conventional wisdom tells me to use a telephoto lens to photo birds, a macro lens to photograph insects, and a wide-angle lens to photograph landscapes. Following that wisdom, I had my macro lens on my camera this past weekend when I traveled with some friends to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia, where I anticipated that I would be shooting flowers and insects.

As I was walking around a small pond, hoping in vain to spot some dragonflies, I suddenly came upon a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias). From a distance, vegetation at the water’s edge had blocked the heron from view. With the heron right in front of me, I had two choices—I could try to change to the 70-300mm lens that I had in my camera bag to gain some additional reach or I could make do with my macro lens. I chose the latter option.

My macro lens is a 180mm Tamron lens. It is slow and noisy when focusing at close distances, but when I pay attention to my technique, I have taken some pretty good macro shots with it. How would it do with a bird? I have gotten used to photographing birds with a 150-600mm Tamron lens that has a built-in image stabilization system and, obviously, lets me zoom in and out. My macro lens lacks both of these capabilities, so I really did not know how well it would fare, particularly when I tried to capture some in-flight shots of the heron—I was pretty sure the heron would be spooked by my presence and I proved to be right.

Well, I ended up following the heron around for quite a while and captured images of it at several locations, including in the air. It worked out remarkably well. In some ways, it was even more enjoyable shooting with a prime lens than with a zoom lens, because I could concentrate better on tracking and framing the subject—my decision process was simplified when I had to zoom with my feet.

I particularly like the first photo below. The lighting at that moment was very unusual and the colors are so vivid that a friend asked me if I had used some kind of art filter. With the exception of a few minor tweaks in post-processing, however, the image looks like it did when I first looked at it on the back of my camera.

So what did I learn? I have a greater appreciation of the capabilities of my macro lens and realize that I can use it for more than just macro shots. I think that I also appreciate better the experience of shooting with a prime lens—I think my zoom lenses sometimes make me a bit lazy and sloppy.

I look forward to trying to shoot some more little experiments like this of thinking outside of the box and shooting more subjects with the “wrong” lens.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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