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Posts Tagged ‘Tamron 180mm’

This past week I was excited to see several Eastern Ringtail dragonflies (Erpetogomphus designatus) while exploring Riverbend Park in Great Falls, Virginia. This species is relatively uncommon in our area and I had only encountered one once before at a location in Maryland. Fellow dragonfly enthusiast and photographer Walter Sanford had alerted me to the presence of these dragonflies at the park and their location, so I was fairly confident that I would be able to find some of them. (With wildlife photography there are few guarantees—you can never be sure how long a species will remain at a given location, particularly when it comes to insects like dragonflies that have a limited season.)

Well, I managed to find some Eastern Ringtails and was faced with the challenge of how to photograph them. The bad news was that this species likes to perch on the ground, but the good news was that the ground on which they chose to perch was uncluttered—it was a boat ramp made of some kind of aggregate concrete. The background of these shots is not natural, but it does allow you to see some of the beautiful details of this stunning dragonfly, especially their spectacular blue eyes.

Eastern Ringtail

Eastern Ringtail

Eastern Ringtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I don’t feature rabbits very often on this blog because I don’t see them very often. Actually that is not entirely accurate—I have a rabbit named Prime Rib who appears from time to time, but I don’t count him, because he does not live in wild and instead lives in a cage in my living room.

At Huntley Meadows Park,  where I do a lot of my wildlife photography, I rarely see rabbits. Perhaps the marshy and wooded habitat is less than ideal for the rabbits or perhaps the hawks are brutally efficient at keeping their numbers low. During some recent visits to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which has more open grassy areas, I’ve spotted numerous rabbits and decided to feature a couple of them today.

In a recent posting, I expressed my concern about possibly oversaturating my readers with dragonfly photos. In an exchange of comments, a faithful reader, Dan Antion, shared similar concerns about his photos of rabbits and squirrels and I warned him that I was going venture into his niche and post some rabbit photos. Dan is one of my favorite bloggers and I encourage everyone to check out his blog No Facilities for his humorous and insightful looks at the joys and frustrations of everyday life as well as some great photos, including images of the aforementioned squirrels and rabbits and his faithful dog Maddie.

This one is for you, Dan.

rabbit

rabbit

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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When the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) that I was chasing at Riverbend Park flew into some vegetation, I thought that I had lost it. Suddenly and almost magically the butterfly’s shadow was revealed on a large leaf as it moved about. I was thrilled to be able to capture the swallowtail shadow as well as a small portion of the butterfly itself.

It’s usually best to shoot with the sun at your back, but it worked out well in this case for me to violate that “rule.”

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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It may appear to be the Loch Ness monster, but I am pretty sure that it is “only” a Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon). I stumbled upon it yesterday while exploring Riverbend Park in Great Falls, Virginia just after it had caught a pretty good-sized catfish. It took a while to subdue the fish, but the snake eventually was able to swallow it.

I have seen snakes like this catch small fish before, but I was shocked to see the size of its catch this time. How does a snake subdue and immobilize a fish that big? Northern Water Snakes are not poisonous, though I have been told that their bite can be quite painful and that the snake injects an anti-coagulant into your system, so that you will bleed a lot. The snake swam around with the fish for quite some time, periodically rearing its head and part of its body out of the water. The snake’s mouth seemed to have a literal death grip on the fish.

I watched the action with a mixture of horror and fascination, frozen in place to avoid spooking the snake. The snake seemed to be adjusting the position of the fish, as I had seen herons do, and I wondered how it could possibly swallow the fish. Suddenly there was a lot of movement in the water, the snake’s body started to writhe, and the fish simply disappeared, except for a small piece of the tail still sticking out of the fish’s mouth.

I still don’t know exactly how the snake ingested the fish—one minute it was then and then in a blink of an eye it wasn’t. It seemed like some kind of magical legerdemain (which is probably the wrong term for a limbless creature), though I suspect that the snake has powerful muscles that enabled it to pull in the fish all at once.

There are signs in Riverbend Park warning folks not to swim in the Potomac River, probably because of the current. I think that I have found another reason to stay out of the water.

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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For wildlife photographers, I would argue, a successful image is most often the result of some combination of luck, skill, and equipment. We inhabit a world of tremendous uncertainty and have to be hypervigilant, never knowing when “the moment” will arrive when we will be forced to make a series of split-second decisions.

One of those moments arrived for me yesterday as I was exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Woodbridge, Virginia. Although I was quite aware that there were bald eagles in the area, because some of the trails in the refuge near eagle nesting sites were closed, I was primarily chasing dragonflies and butterflies, so I had my 180mm macro lens mounted on my camera. I knew that I would be doing a lot of walking, so in order to minimize weight, I was not carrying my trusty (and heavy) 150-600mm zoom lens.

I was following a trail that ran parallel to the waters of Occoquan Bay and was a little frustrated that the view was frequently obstructed by heavy vegetation. When I reached an opening in the vegetation I looked out at the water and suddenly a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) burst into view out of nowhere. The eagle was almost at eye level and seemed to be struggling a little to gain altitude. As I later was able to ascertain, it had just caught a fish.

The logical part of my brain might have told me that a 180mm lens is not long enough to capture an image of an eagle in flight, but think I was acting on an instinctive level at that moment and I was able to snap off some shots before the eagle disappeared out of sight. It took a while for the adrenaline to wear off and I didn’t know for sure if I had been able to capture the moment. It was only when I reviewed the images on my computer that I realized that I had gotten my best eagle shots ever.

As is the case with most of my bird images, I cropped the first image to bring the subject in a bit closer. However, I am also including an uncropped version of the same image. It boggles my mind to think that I filled up that much of the frame with an eagle in flight with a 180mm lens.

Luck was hugely important; skill played a role, though it was my quick reaction time that was critical; and equipment turned out to be less important that I would have anticipated.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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What in the world is that? That was my initial reaction when I spotted a mass of black, orange, and white fibers sitting atop a milkweed plant leaf. As I moved closer, I changed my mind and decided it was probably a cocoon. I was shocked when it started moving and I realized that it was a strange-looking caterpillar.

When it comes to finding insects, milkweed plants are one of my favorite locations. There are all kinds of bugs and butterflies that make their homes on these plants and I make a point to explore them whenever I find them growing. These particular milkweeds were growing in a wooded area of Wickford Park, a small park adjacent to Huntley Meadows Park, the marshland location where I shoot many of the photos featured in this blog.

After photographing the single caterpillar, I stumbled across a whole family of them devouring a leaf on a another milkweed plant. I didn’t know the species of the caterpillar, but it was easy to do a search on the internet, because I could identify the host plant. I learned that this is a Milkweed Tiger Moth caterpillar (Euchaetes egle), also known as a Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillar.

 

Milkweed Tiger Moth caterpillar

Milkweed TIger Moth caterpillar

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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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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