With all the talk that has been going on about Macro lenses and how I have a loan of one at the moment, the Tamraon 90mm Macro, I have noticed that I have been gravitating towards other blogs that have macro images. When I was trying to decide who I would ask about todays Introduction post, Mike Powell’s name came to me. Mike Powell, and his blog, by the same name, have some amazing macro images and I wanted to share them and introduce him to you.
There were some things on his blog I couldn’t show you, but you will see them when you go to over to take a look for yourself. There is an abundance of insect life over there, and I am in awe of it. I see insects in my garden, but they never stay still long enough for me to take photos of. When I am out with the camera, they never seem to be around either.
When Mike explained where he lived, that helped to explain why he can get so many insects.
I have lived in Northern Virginia in the greater Washington D.C. area for just over twenty years in a suburban townhouse community. This area is blessed with an abundance of gardens and parks that let me indulge my passion for nature and wildlife photography, generally without having to travel more than about five miles from my house. We are on the migration pathways for some migratory species and are a migration destination for some others, so there is always lots of interesting animals, birds, and insects to see and to photograph.
As he just said, about the birds, there are birds on his site, some amazing photos of them. It isn’t all insects, but there is a lot of nature there. It is something that I never thought I would be interested in, but in the last 12 months my interest has grown a lot.
I asked him why he take photos for how long he had been doing it.
Photography allows me to experience the world in a different way. It has had a transformative effect on the way I look at my surroundings, and not just when I have a camera in my hand. When I was in college, I majored in French language and literature and spent a year studying in Paris. Several of my friends noticed that my personality and even the tonality of my voice changed when I was speaking in French. At that time I was quiet and introverted, but when I switched languages, I somehow felt freer to express my emotions and grew to love 19th century romantic poetry, for example. Over the years, my personality has shifted and I have become more like that original French personna. I sense that a similar process is taking place with photography, as my senses become much more attuned to the natural world and I am experiencing life in a deeper, more self-aware way.
Most people in the Washington D.C. area are incredibly career-oriented and define themselves by what they do for a living. They rarely look at each other when they are in public, with their heads often buried in their electronic devices, and are often obvious to the natural beauty of their surroundings. Three years ago, I decided to step off that treadmill and retired from full-time work, having spent twenty years in the US Army and an additional fourteen years in the federal government. Those jobs had been marked by a sense of stability and security, but I felt a need to experience something more, to rediscover the idealistic side of myself that had been buried for many years.
To celebrate, I spent two weeks in Paris and had a kind of photographic rebirth. Although I already owned a Canon Rebel XT DSLR, I had rarely used it, but somehow I decided to take photos every day that I was in Paris and to post ten of them every day in Facebook account. That experience rekindled my love for photography and I started taking photos regularly, particularly since July 2012, when I started my photography-oriented blog.
While I tend to think of Mike’s blog as mainly nature photographs, there are other images on there, and you will find a mixture, though I do think Mike does concentrate more on the natural world, rather than the man made one.
I asked Mike what his inspiration was.
The single greatest inspiration for my photography is undoubtedly my dear friend and photography mentor, Cindy Dyer. Cindy is an amazingly talented free-lance photographer and graphic designer and is one of my neighbors. Over the past three years she has been a continuous source of instruction, encouragement, and inspiration for me. I was particularly struck by a photographic exhibition that she did in early 2012, entitled Garden Muse, A Botanical Portfolio. I was blown away by the quality and beauty of the photographs and I wanted to be able to shoot images like that.
Cindy took me out shooting with her on numerous occasions and taught me many valuable lessons. More importantly, she sat down with me after many of those sessions and went through my images with me. Most of us are more comfortable sharing our images only after we have selected them and processed them and cropped and adjusted them. Cindy was willing to take the time to look at my raw images, to see how I was composing in the viewfinder, and to make suggestions.
Over time, we have ventured off photographically into somewhat different areas. I started off shooting her preferred subjects, flowers and the occasional insect, but gradually migrated to primarily insects, with the occasional flower. She still shoots primarily botanical subjects and five of her fern images appeared on US postage stamps this year.
Cindy and I talk regularly and shoot together occasionally, but I feel her presence and her influence whenever I am taking photos–she is my photographic muse.
I am also inspired by a wide range of photographers that I have met through my blog and who I consider to be my friends, despite the fact that I have never met most of them. These friends include Lyle, Sue, Allen, Ed, Gary, Phil, and Walter.
This image seemed a little out of place, but you know I love cats, so I couldn’t leave this one out. I loved the intensity in the eyes, I know that look, I’ve seen it many times on my own cat.
I asked Mike if there was anything special about the way he worked.
I consider myself to be an opportunistic shooter. I spent a lot of time wandering through the back trails and the unmarked areas of my favorite marshland park, Huntley Meadows Park. I never know for sure what I will encounter and try to be alert at all times. I’ve been fortunate to see bald eagles, a river otter, a banded juvenile hawk, a family of beavers sleeping outdoors, a beaver breaking through the ice, and an amazing variety of colorful birds and insects, particularly dragonflies.
I shoot almost exclusively in RAW and currently process my images in Photoshop Elements 11 on a relatively old Macbook, though I am planning to migrate soon to Lightroom. I feature some of my favorite shots on my WordPress blog, which serves as my primary creative outlet. I’ve discovered that I enjoy writing my postings as much as I do taking the photos and try to inject my somewhat personality into those posts.
Recently I was on my way to a place to take photos and as we headed up this road, there were dragonflies everywhere. The friend I was with was so excited, she wants to shoot dragonflies, but when we got to our destination there wasn’t one to be seen anywhere, she was so disappointed. I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed myself. I thought perhaps there were very hard to do, but then I see Mike has lots and lots of photos of them, and they are so beautiful, so I want to know how you did it Mike?
The last question is always about gear.
I enjoy being on the trailing edge of technology and use a somewhat outdated computer and camera. I now shoot primarily with a Canon 50D DSLR (and will be moving soon to an original Canon 7D and shot for the first year of my blog with a Canon Rebel XT. During much of the year, I enjoy shooting with my macro lenses, the Canon 100mm and the Tamron 180mm, and when the weather turns colder and I focus more on birds than insects, I tend to shoot with my Canon 70-300mm zoom lens. On certain occasions, I will use my original Canon kit lenses, the 18-55mm and the 55-250mm zoom lenses, and the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens.
In addition to my camera and lenses, I tend to have a tripod with me most of the time and frequently a collapsible diffuser and reflector. I am not very experienced in using an external flash and tend not to carry one with me. This winter I hope to learn more about using external flashes and plan to add one to my camera bag soon.
Thank you Mike for giving me permission to feature you and your images here on my blog. I hope everyone will go and check out his blog Mike Powell, he was talking about doing something special for you all today on his blog, so please go and take a look. I have a gallery with lots more photos that I really liked for you to look at now.