Category: "Odonata Photography"
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:
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!
2012’s unusually hot and dry June and July have kept the dragonflies (and other critters) at bay, so I have few new shots to share. In the spring this year looked like it would be a great season, but my hopes are shriveling up like the brown grass in the fields. The pond I like to frequent in the ALlegan Foest has dropped over 4 feet from its peak last fall, and may be back on it’s way to becoming the vernal pond that it was when I first found it over 10 years ago.
I’m awaiting the arrival of summer’s red dragons - the various red meadowhawks - but in the meantime here are some lingering early summer species:
I seldom am able to photograph males in the their full glory - blue/grey body, white bands on their wings. Here is a fully matured male and a male starting to mature below:
These are still abundant - male and female shown below.
Let’s hope for a little rain and the arrival of the meadowhawks.