Dragonflies have been scarce lately. I must just be going to the wrong places - my last few trips to the Allegan Forest have yielded only a few encounters with straggling Blue Dashers. The red meadowhawks that usually appear in high summer have been absent so far. Yesterday I visited the McLindon Trails to see if this park would bring a change of luck. I can’t say that dragonflies were out in abundance - they weren’t - but I did manage to find a few red meadowhawks. And since it was not breezy I was able to continue experiments with stack focusing in the field.
Here are the two stack focused shots I was able to get. Two shots of a whitefaced meadowhawk (click any image for a larger file):
And a non-stacked shot of a red meadowhawk:
And finally - a blue dasher from last weekend:
That’s probably it for August of 2013 - come September the Autumn Meadowhawks will probably dominate the scene…
Here are snapshots from a Chicago vacation, taken a few weeks ago. I’ve been in a film mood these days and decided to forgo the DSLR and take a film camera (Pentax Mz-S) and lots of film (Tri-X mostly) for this trip. (Technical notes at the end of the post). It was a good plan and I thoroughly enjoyed burning through film and developing it once home.
We spent three nights in Chicago, arriving late afternoon on Wednesday and leaving on Saturday afternoon. Most of these images were taken on Thursday, since Friday and Saturday were devoted to museums. I’ve arranged them in chronological order based on the time of day at which they were taken, more or less.
Click on any image for a larger file.
Trees Near the Waterfront
On the Sea Wall
Hanging In Millennium Park
On Navy Pier
The Orchestra Plays
Carbide and Carbon Building
The NBC Building
Evening Street Corner
Technical Notes: All photos were taken on Tri-X 400 or on Arista Premium, a film that is quite similar to Tri-X. With a few exceptions, development was either HC110 Dil B for 7.5 minutes (ISO 400) or for 16 minutes(rolls pushed to ISO 1600 for night shots.) I developed the first 4 rolls in HC110 Dil H but was not happy with the additional grain.
I am still working on stack focusing dragonflies in the field. So far, this has been a frustrating experience. Stack focusing in Photoshop is a great tool, but the program gets confused by the delicate wings of the dragonflies - which, of course, never stay still. And then those dragons just can't resist bobbing their heads around as the behold the world around then and contemplate their kingdom.
Well - yesterday I spent a few hours in the Allegan Forest in some fields north of the river. There was swarming with blue dashers and I made a lot of conventional portraits and took a lot of images that I hoped to stack together. I am working through the many gigabytes of files that I took, and so far have done nothing with the conventional portraits- but here are best of the stacked shots I've gotten so far.
I am a perfectionist and if you look at these closely you will see that all have imperfections. In addition, I have not figured out how to get flash on all of the stacked shots - since they are taken inthe matter of a second or two and the flash cannot charge fast enough to keep up. That means that the subjects are not as well lit as they would be with flash - and while there are lots of Photoshop tricks to compensate for that, there is no substitute for actual light on the actual subject at the time of exposure....
But - we'll get there.
These were all taken with a Pentax K-5 and A* 200mm macro, hand held with support from a monopod.
This first one is the probably the most successful shot so far - 18 image staked with little or no distortion or haloing in the in the wings. (It seems to be pretty easy to get the head and body to stack nicely - the meshing in the wings, plus the fact that the wings shift with the breeze, introduces challenges with them.) Click on each image for a larger file.
Another shot of the same subject showing the kinds of issues that come up. Note the halo-ing on the dragonfly's right wing. By the way - the nice colors in the background are wild bee balm in in bloom.
More to come. I need to continue to work on technique here and somehow figure out how to lull the dragonflies into greater complacency... What a task!
Here are a couple of dragonflies and one damselfly from a trip to the Allegan forest yesterday. Click on any image for a larger file.
First - what I think is a Carolina Saddlebags, though the Red Saddlebags is very similar. I do not see the large “window” in the saddlebag on the wings that the Red would typically have, so my guess is the Carolina.
Here is another shot, not as good, but that shows the coloration on the face and wings a little better:
And then a common 12 Spotted Skimmer, which were out in abundance over the pond I was visiting:
Lastly, some sort of Bluet Damselfly. I used a different technique for this shot and focus stacked 16 separate images together to get better depth of field. I have not tried this in the field before, and it actually seemed to work pretty well:
Here we are in June already. Despite the cold spring, by now the dragonflies must be out. Last weekend - the last weekend of May - I visited a familiar field looking for the winged devils. I found a few, and took their pictures. This morning, first weekend in June, I noticed a common whitetail buzzing around my house. It kept landing on my car which I took to be a suggestion that I should get out to the country and look for dragonflies - so I did just that.
Here is a roundup of my first 2013 dragonfly photos - for each, click on the image for a lager file. All photos taken with a Pentax K-5, A*200mm macro lens, and DIY macro flash bracket.
Here is a female Twelve Spotted Skimmer from last weekend, first dragonfly shot of 2013. You may know that I go to great pains to get these shots, and in this case it was more painful than usual. The insect settled down in a clump of eastern prickly pear cactus, and despite all my best precautions I wound up sitting on a cactus, landing my elbow in a cactus, and pressing my hand on a cactus as I went to stand up. Prickly pear is more annoying than dangerous - the needles just stick in your outer skin till something happens to push them straight in, and then they just make for a tiny annoying prick. But for several days after taking these shots I’d settle into a chair or put on a garment and feel that annoying prick as a needle finally found its way home.
So - two shots in the prickly pear:
Here is another dragonfly form last weekend - I am not sure what it is. Body markings look like a Spiny or Beaverpond Baskettail, and it did have some green in the eyes like a Beaverpond. But, I don’t see any indication in my field guides that either species has brown tinted wings.
Then, this afternoon, I returned to the northern edge of the Allegan Forest looking for more subjects. As soon as I stepped out of the car I encountered several blue dashers. Let’s start with males showing the characteristic blue abdomen:
And some females or immature males (they are similar in appearance):
These Clubtails (family: Gomphidae) are typically abundant in these northern fields in the spring and early summer.
I’m not sure what species of Gomphidae these clubtails are, but they are fierce hunters. Here is one devouring an Eastern Pondhawk - itself a large species that also preys on other dragonflies.
As a parting shot - a female Common Whitetail, perched above dried leaves from last fall: