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Archive for the ‘Dragonflies’ Category

This tattered male Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) seemed to be auditioning for a role as a replacement for the goose on this sign on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Or perhaps he was merely seeking a place of refuge—all dragonflies are welcome here.

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Dragonfly wings are amazing, but most of the time they are so transparent that it is hard to see all of the tiny little “cells” that make up the wings. Last Friday, though, I captured this shot of an immature male Calico Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge that really highlights the beautiful mosaic-like pattern of its hind wings. Wow!

Calico Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Does you mood affect how you react to images? When I am reviewing images that I have captured, most of the time I use an analytical approach. I seek to identify the species of my subject and then look at the technical aspects of the photo, such as the sharpness of the focus. Finally I will see if I can improve the composition by cropping the image.

For some images, though, I respond initially with my heart and not my head. I don’t worry about “what” it is and simply enjoy the beauty of the shapes and colors that make up the image. That was the case with this shot of a male Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) that I captured during a recent visit to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

I love the contrast between the orangish-red of the dragonfly’s body and the green background. The shape and texture of the vegetation, which I believe is Eastern Gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides), also really grabbed my eye (in part because I missed focus a little and the sharpest part of the image is the grass in front of the dragonfly). The composition is simple and straightforward and is pretty much the way I shot it.

We all like what we like. Most often we don’t even ask ourselves why we like something. I personally find it beneficial to try to articulate why I like something. Words fail me quite often when attempting to describe with words what is primarily an emotional reaction, but I think that the effort itself makes the process worthwhile.

Needham's Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Are you always in search of new subjects or are you content to photograph the same subjects over and over again? Several years ago I came across an author who described two different types of people—those who prefer to live “widely” and those who prefer to live “deeply.” Those in the first group are always seeking new experiences and traveling to new places and, as photographers, are constantly looking for new things to photograph. By contrast, those in the second group are looking for a deeper experience and are likely to repeatedly return to the same locations over and over and photograph the same limited set of subjects.

As you might suspect, I see myself primarily as a member of the second group. Many of you have undoubtedly noted that I tend to hang out a lot in the same wildlife refuges throughout the year and often photograph familiar subjects. Why? For me, each encounter is unique—the lighting is different, the poses are different, and the age and genders of my subjects vary. I enjoy documenting the seasonal changes in fora and fauna at these locations. Each time I strive to capture different and, if possible, better images.

So, I am posting another photo of a Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina), even though I posted several images of this species last week. My angle of view for this image from this past weekend was better; the lighting was coming from a better direction; and the slight breeze prompted the dragonfly to move its wings in a way that created a better pose. Consequently, I like this image more than the ones I posted earlier.

My simple approach to blog postings is to present something that is interesting to viewers. The photos may be visually appealing or show details or behavior that you may not have noticed before. You may learn something from my words or may have a better understanding of how the images came into being. Each day we have new opportunities to fill our lives with beauty and meaning. Photography and blogging have become part of my daily journey and I feel blessed to be able to share my experiences with so many of you.

Halloween Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What is the best way to photograph a dragonfly that perches low to the ground? How can you create an image in which the dragonfly is not lost amidst the clutter of the vegetation? That was the challenge that fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford and I faced last Monday when we journeyed to Riverbend Park in Great Falls, Virginia  in search of Eastern Ringtail dragonflies (Erpetogomphus designatus).

Walter has a lot of experience with dragonflies and knew where to find Eastern Ringtails in the park. He knew, for example, that they like to perch on a section of concrete aggregate and indeed we spotted one not long after we arrived. Walter likes to maximize the chance of getting the entire dragonfly in focus by shooting downwards, ideally from as close to overhead as possible. For him, the concrete background is uncluttered and allows him to capture all of details of the dragonfly.

Although I prefer to photograph dragonflies on natural vice manmade surfaces, I took some photos, including the third one below, while the dragonfly was on the concrete—you have to shoot when the opportunity arises and I was not confident that I could wait for the dragonfly to choose a better perch. Rather than shooting from above when the dragonfly is on the ground, I usually choose to get down with the dragonfly.

Eventually I was able to get some shots of Eastern Ringtails perched in the grass. The middle image shows the dragonfly tilting its head to look towards me as I photographed it. I like the pose, but I was not fully satisfied. Those of you who have followed my blog for a while know that I like to get as close to a dragonfly as it will let me. The initial photo of this posting was one of my final shots of my session with the Eastern Ringtails and it is probably my favorite.

I began this post with a question and feel like I owe you a response. In reality, there is no “best” way to photograph a dragonfly on the ground, but my preferred option is to get low to the ground and close to the subject so that I am able to focus on part of the dragonfly, hopefully the eyes, and blur out the background because of the shallow depth of field when shooting that close. If you would like to see Walter’s wonderful photos of Eastern Ringtails from the same trip, I encourage you to check out his blog postings Eastern Ringtail reunion, continued and  Reconnecting with Eastern Ringtail. Those postings provide his visual response to the question that I posed.

Eastern Ringtail

 

 

Eastern Ringtail

Eastern Ringtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Although we still have quite a lot of summer remaining, some of my favorite dragonfly species have already disappeared for the season. I have been fortunate this year to see Gray Petaltail dragonflies (Tachopteryx thoreyi) on multiple occasions in several different locations. A little over a week ago I spotted this one at Occoquan Regional Park on the date that the Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website lists as the tail end of the season for this species. It is quite possible that I will have to wait until next year to see another one.

Gray Petaltails are remarkable dragonflies. They will sometime perch on you, which can be a bit disconcerting because they are so large and you can hear them when they fly by your head. Additionally, many scientists view this species as an ancient one. According to the website cited above, Gray Petaltails are “our oldest and most primitive dragonfly; species almost identical to petaltails flew alongside dinosaurs during the Jurassic period. Imagine petaltails and a herd of Brontosaurus sharing the same giant, fern-filled forests.”

It is hard to know exactly how long dragonflies have been around, but according to Wikipedia, fossils of very large dragonfly ancestors with wingspans of 30 inches (750 mm) have been found that are 325 million old. Given the ferocity of most dragonflies as predators, I am happy that modern day dragonflies are quite a bit smaller in size.

 

Gray Petaltail

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Last Thursday I spotted this beautiful Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) perched on a very photogenic plant at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I love the curlicue curves of the plant that remind me of ornamental wrought iron.

The perch in the second and third images is not as interesting, but I thought that I would share those images because of the way that I was able to capture the sky and the clouds in the background. As you can probably tell, the vegetation was really high and I was shooting at an upwards angle.

 

Halloween Pennant

Halloween Pennant

Halloween Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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