Category: Odonata Photography
It’s July so I am out trying to get insect shots… Last week’s cool snap - oh wait, we call those Polar Vortex’s now - (everything is bigger than life in the XXI Century) - well, the cool snap put a damper on things and the weather is still cool now. So I haven’t seen many dragonflies at all.
Today was humid but cool, cloudy and dark. I wandered for an hour through familiar fields in the Allegan Forest, down to a hidden pond, up through the oak savannah. Everything is lush and green and the iron weed is in bloom, big time:
(Click the image for a larger file.)
Walking down to the pond I saw only a few green darners and no other dragonflies. The air over the pond itself was still - not a dragonfly to be found - it should be swarming with them!
I trudged back to the car. Taking a shortcut through the woods I stumbled into three meadowhawks. Here is the one that was the most cooperative with regards to photos:
Here is one that allowed a good dorsal shot - maybe a red meadowhawk jsut now adopting mature coloration? Maybe, but there is no telling:
I said I saw three meadowhawks and of course, one got away. It was the best of the three.
And lastly, here is a robberfly from last Saturday. I felt that the trip to the woods was such a wasted effort that I did not ever bother to remove the memory card from the K-3 and review the photos I took (all 15 of them.) Turns out that this closeup of an ugly fly came out rather well, technically at least:
That image is an extreme crop…
The Ricoh /Pentax K-3 paired with the A* 200 macro continues to perform well.
I’ve been experimenting more with stack focusing… One of the challenges that frequently comes up in photographing insects is that they perch just a few inches (or less) above the ground. This makes getting a nice, smooth, out-of-focus background almost impossible. If you stop down enough to have enough depth of field to cover the subject, then the background starts to coming into focus and looks distracting…
So… stack focus to the rescue! While dealing with this problem last weekend and again today, I realized that by opening the lens up and working with an extremely shallow depth of field, and then stacking only the shots that cover the subject, you can have both the out of focus background and a nice sharp subject. Here are a few test shots…click on the images for a larger file.
From last weekend - a Dot Tailed Whiteface dragonfly that was perching on a stick about 3 inches over the soil. Taken with a the Pentax K-3 and A* 200mm macro at f 4.5, 8 exposures stack focused:
And here is a male and female Calico Pennant. These were perching on grass stalks earlier today, probably sensing the rain that was heading our way. Both were shot with the K3 and A*200 macro wide open at f4. Fourteen and eight stacked images, respectively. In the shot of the male (top shot, the more orange insect) the blade of grass beneath his lower left wing shows how shallow the depth of field was and how quickly it drops off - but by stacking enough shots to cover the dragonflies’ bodies and wings, they come out sharp and to some extent the background is less distracting. In the shots of the male he was scarcely an inch above most of the grass blades in the background, and stopping down to even f5.6 would have made them much more distracting.
The first meadowhawks of 2014 have appeared over the last week or so - still in immature colors but I am hoping to see some of the summer’s red dragons soon…
Just a few dragonflies from June 14, 2014 - first, a few shots of a Carolina Saddlebags:
I am reasonably sure there are Carolina Saddlebags and not the very similar Red Saddlebag Dragonfly based on the red pattern on the lower wing - BUT - there is the possibility that this is a Red and not a Carolina.
And here are a couple of documentary shots of Dot Tailed Whitefaces - mature males, showing the Dot Tail and White Face markings clearly:
Taken with Pentax K-3, A* 200mm macro, flash, etc.
Spring 2014 is advancing ever so slowly… Here it is, late May, and there are still many trees just starting to push out leaves. At long last, a few days of warm temperatures have finally brought out some spring dragonflies.
Dot-tailed Whitefaces (Leucorrhinia intacta) are usually the first to appear around here, and this season is no exception. Here are a few from the Allegan Forest (click on the images for larger files):
A Frosted Whiteface (Leucorrhinia frigida):
These Clubtail Dragonflies (Gomphidae) are usually abundant in May - I have never gotten a positive identification on them. Today I only say this one - hopefully more are on the way:
Lastly - an unidentified Bluet Damselfly:
All images were made with a Pentax K-3, SMC A* 200mm macro lens and AF360FGZ flash. Come to think of it… this was my first excursion into insect photography since purchasing the K-3 last November. I think it passes muster!
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…
Been slow for dragonflies this summer - too cool, too wet. But the fields are verdant green even now in August… Here are two Halloween Pennants. There is a field in Allegan that in recent years has been a sure bet for these and the somewhat similar Calico Pennant. The name - Halloween Pennant - comes from the males who can take on a bright orange and black coloration, the colors of Halloween, of course. This first image suggests that the most. To be honest, I see very few that are actually orange and black.
Click on the images for a larger picture.
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:
Here in Michigan red dragonflies appear in the middle or latter parts of the summer. The last dragonfly, which in the modern climate can linger till early December, is the Autumn Meadowhawk. In July and August I watch for these crimson harbingers of the fall, knowing that their arrival means that summer has peaked and that the day swill surely begin to shrink while night will blossom and grow…
Each year is different. Last weekend - the first in September - I finally spotted the first red meadowhawks. It seems that the dragonflies of spring and early summer have lingered longer than usual, and the red dragons are late or absent.
Here are a couple of Blue Dashers, a species that hits the scene in late May and early June, still lingering here in early summer (click on the images for a larger file):
And here are some red dragonflies - the males are red, the females brown. It is very difficult to indentify red dragonflies from photos or simple observation, but I think these are all Autumn Meadowhawks:
This is the first red dragonfly that I encountered. The first shot is OK, but shifting the camera a little results in a better, more high key background. More shots of others follow.
West Michigan sweltered under the great drought of 2012 throughout the early summer, but in late July we began to get sporadic small rain events, in the last week we were blessed with a 24 hour soaker. The brown lawns are now green again, though the stunted and withered crops are unlikely to recover.
Today I drove out to the Allegan forest to see if the red dragonflies have appeared. Some summers they are early, others they are late. This year, they are running late. In August 2011 the red dragons were well established and darted through the sky like crimson joys. Today I found the undifferentiated yellow amber dragons that someday will turn red, but no bright red subjects yet.
It’s been a while since I posted some dragonfly shots, so here are a few photos from late July and early August. Click on any image for a larger file.
First off - some Blue Dashers - the first two from July, the last one from today:
And here is a somewhat rare visitor - a Red Saddlebags. They seldom perch but this one landed high up on a mullein stalk and let me take its photo:
A Green Darner, perched low in vegetation:
And lastly - the red meadowhawks, still young and yellow or amber, surely to be brilliant red sometime soon:
For a detailed look at this guy’s face, click here.
Let’s hope for some brilliant red ones in the weeks ahead!