Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly’

I am always excited to see brightly-colored Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) at this time of the year when the overall number of dragonflies is dropping. This couple that I spotted last Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge was doing its best to ensure that I see this species for years to come. The acrobatic pose in the photo, sometimes referred to as the “wheel position,” is used by dragonflies and damselflies when mating, with the male clasping the female by the back of her head.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Nature sometimes saves the best for last. Many dragonflies that have kept me company through the long, hot days of summer have started to disappear. The appearance in autumn of the spectacularly colored male Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) compensates in part for this sense of loss.

I spotted this handsome dragonfly on Wednesday as I was exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I hope to be seeing this species for another month or so and also its “cousin,” the Autumn Meadowhawk, which has a similarly colored body but has brown eyes. 

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Do you have a favorite dragonfly? Almost everyone who reads my blog knows that I love dragonflies. Like parents with children, I am probably supposed to love them all equally, but I actually do have a favorite dragonfly, the Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum). On Thursday, I was thrilled to spot my first Blue-faced Meadowhawk  of the season at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge which turned out to be a female.

Why are these my favorites? The males of this species are spectacular, with bright red bodies and stunning turquoise eye and I also find the females to be quite attractive. At a time when the dragonfly season feels like it is starting to wind down, these little dragonflies appear on the scene and keep me company for several more months—that is at least as important to me as their physical appearance.

If you want to know a bit more about why I like dragonflies so much and especially Blue-faced Meadowhawks, check out my posting entitled “My favorite dragonfly?” Almost every year I am flooded with similar feelings when I see my first Blue-faced Meadowhawk and the linked post shows a handsome male that was the first one that I spotted in 2018—it is also an easy way for you to compare today’s female with that male to see some of the differences between the two genders.

Blue-faced Meadowhawks are also special to me for a personal reason—I was awarded second place in a local photo contest several years ago for a macro shot of a Blue-faced Meadowhawk. Here is a link to the 2015 posting Second place in a local photo competition that shows that prize-winning entry and tells some of the back story of the image.

I captured the two images below from more or less the same spot—it is interesting to see how much difference a slight change in the angle of view can make. I like the overall pose and the background of the first image, which I believe was shot from a crouched position. The second image, which looks like it was shot from a higher angle, is a little sharper and you can see some of the details much better, like the spines on the legs. Overall, I think I prefer the first one. What do you think?

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

 

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Female Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) come in several different color variations. Some, like the one in the first image below have a reddish colored body, like the male of the species—they are known as andromorphs. Others are brownish in color, like the one in the second image below, and are know as heteromorphs. Irrespective of the body color, though, all of the females have striking blue eyes.

Usually it is harder to spot females than the more brightly colored males, but for some reason, these two females were the only Blue-faced Meadowhawks that I saw as I was exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge one day last week.

Where were all the males? Maybe they were watching a sporting event or were congregating at a local bar (or both).  🙂

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

Read Full Post »

As many of you know, I love to photograph dragonflies and will often try to get close-up shots of them. Initially I captured a head-on shot of a female Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) that I spotted on Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

As I was observing this dragonfly at close range, she began to groom herself. I am not sure if she was cleaning her eyes or merely scratching an itch, but it was a bit eerie when she rotated her head more than 90 degrees to do so, as you can see in the second image. It brought back memories from my youth of Linda Blair’s spinning head in the original version of The Exorcist, though fortunately the dragonfly’s head did not rotate 360 degrees.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

My dragonfly season is not over yet! Yesterday, the 1st of October, I managed to get my first good shots of the year of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum). This species emerges a bit earlier in the season, but generally does not make an appearance until September. (Fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford posits that they spend that interim time in the tree tops.)

I really love the combination of colors of the Blue-faced Meadowhawk—I find the colors to be striking without being garish. You might think that these colors would make it easy to spot these dragonflies, but they are small in size with a length of 1.4 inches (36 mm) and are found only in very specific habitats.

I have been searching unsuccessfully for these little beauties the last few weeks at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, my most frequent “habitat,” and ended up returning to Huntley Meadows Park, where I had seen them in the past. Huntley Meadows Park is a wonderful county-run marshland refuge and used to be my favorite location for nature photography. In recent years, though, the park has become a victim of its own success and there are often mobs of photographers on its boardwalk through the wetlands.

Perhaps I am a little selfish, but I do not like to share my wildlife experience with a large group of other people. For me, my treks with my camera are most often a solitary pursuit, a meandering one-on-one experience with nature.

What about you? Do you prefer to experience nature alone or with others?

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Although we are well into October, some of my beloved dragonflies are still hanging on at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Here are some dragonfly shots from the past 10 days of (1) a male Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum); (2) a female Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) with a hoverfly in her mouth; and (3) a female Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum).

I hadn’t really noticed before I aggregated this shots that all three of the dragonflies were perching on leaves. During the summer months, a significant number of the dragonflies that I photograph are perched higher on stalks of vegetation or on branches. In addition to these smaller dragonflies,

I have also recently spotted Common Green Darners, Wandering Gliders, and Black Saddlebags patrolling over the fields. Unfortunately, none of them paused long enough for me to get shots of them. All three of those species are migratory species and they may have been fueling up for a long journey ahead.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Eastern Pondhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Each fall I look forward to the reappearance of the Blue-faced Meadhowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum). No matter how many times I see them, I never fail to be amazed at the wonderful combination of bright colors on these little beauties.

Quite often Blue-faced Meadowhawks perch in the crowded undergrowth, where the background is cluttered.  I was quite happy recently to capture a few images in which the dragonfly perched a little higher, which allowed me to isolate it from the background and ensure that the viewer’s attention is focused on the primary subject.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

What is your favorite dragonfly? Most people would have trouble answering a question like that. If they do happen to notice dragonflies, they generally have not looked closely enough at them to identify species—at best they might be able to say something like, “I like the big green ones that I see flying overhead” or “I like the little blue ones that perch on the reeds.”

Most of you know that I somewhat obsessed with dragonflies (and those who know me well might question my use of the qualifier “somewhat” in the first half of the sentence). I love the beauty and aerial agility of these flying insects and I spend endless hours searching for them for months on end.

How do I choose a favorite dragonfly? It’s kind of like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. There are different things that I like about different dragonfly species.

If I were asked the question directly, I would probably say that the Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum) is my favorite dragonfly. I absolutely love the striking combination of the turquoise blue eyes and the striking red body. Blue-faced Meadowhawks are also special to me for a personal reason—I was awarded second place in a local photo contest several years ago for a macro shot of a Blue-faced Meadowhawk. (Here is a link to the 2015 posting Second place in a local photo competition that shows that prize-winning entry and tells some of the back story of the image.)

Yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I photographed my first Blue-faced Meadowhawk of the season, a handsome male with bright coloration. Even if you are not a big fan of dragonflies, I hope that you can agree this little dragonfly is strikingly beautiful—welcome to my world.

 

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

As October begins, I renew my search for red dragonflies. Autumn is quite naturally the season when Autumn Meadowhawks (Sympetrum vicinum) appear along with their more gaudily-colored brethren, the Blue-faced Meadowhawks (Sympetrum ambiguum). Both of these species have bright red bodies that should be easy to spot, but they like to perch low to the ground and sometimes even on fallen leaves, so you really have to pay attention.

I was a bit shocked on Monday to see some other small red dragonflies—at least three male Calico Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis elisa) were active at a small pond at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Calico Pennants are generally a summer species and I have featured them a couple of times earlier this year in this blog. According to the Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website, their peak flight time is June to July and their late date is 23 September (I saw the one below on 2 October).

There are still other active dragonflies, but over time their numbers will continue to drop. Autumn Meadowhawks, though, usually stay with us into December and, if I remember correctly, occasionally even into January. I’ll be continuing my October hunt for red dragonflies into November and beyond.

Calico Pennant

Calico Pennant on 2 October at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

 

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

 

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

It is often said that springtime is a time for love, but so apparently is autumn, especially if you are a Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum). This species appears most often during the latter part of the summer and in early autumn, so springtime is not really an option for them.

I spotted this couple in flagrante delicto during a recent trip to Huntley Meadows Park. It is hard to get a real sense of scale from this photo, so you will have to trust me that these brightly-colored dragonflies are really small, about an inch and a half in length (38 mm).

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

As the seasons change, some dragonflies begin to disappear, but happily some new ones appear, like this spectacular female Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum) that I spotted this past Monday at Huntley Meadows Park.

One of the really cool things about this species is that there are two different color variants of the females. Most of the females (and young males) are brown in color and are sometimes referred to as heteromorphs, while a smaller number of females, like the one in the photo, have a bright red color matching that of mature males and are sometimes referred to as andromorphs. This is roughly parallel to the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly, which has two different varieties of female, a yellow morph that matches the males and a black morph.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Many dragonflies are very skittish and will fly away as you get close. Blue-faced Meadowhawks (Sympetrum ambiguum), however, appear to be unusually inquisitive, like this one that perched on my knee Monday at Huntley Meadows Park as I was trying to photograph another dragonfly.

He seemed to want to check me out at close range and I returned the favor.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

On Friday I had a close encounter with one of my favorite dragonflies, a spectacular Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum). This species is a sign for me each year of the arrival of autumn and I eagerly await its appearance. I find the blue eyes to be mesmerizing and simply love the way that they contrast with the bold red color of its body.

I could go on and on about the beauty of this dragonfly until I too was blue in the face, but I will simply let you enjoy a glimpse of its beauty.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

 

Read Full Post »

Most of the Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park were perched alone in the bright sunlight, but some of them managed to find mates and were “getting busy.” No matter how many times I have seen this behavior, I continue to be amazed by the unusual and acrobatic method that dragonflies use when mating.

I usually start to see the brightly-colored Blue-faced Meadowhawks in early September, at a time when the overall number of dragonflies is declining and they are one of the signs for me of the end of the summer. This species seems to be generally tolerant of my presence, although some individuals are quite skittish, and I have managed to get some close-up shots of them in the past.

Don’t be surprised to see more photos of the Blue-faced Meadowhawks in upcoming weeks—they are one of my favorite species of dragonflies.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

Do you enter photo contests? I like to say that I shoot for myself, but I suspect that is not the whole truth. I know that I also derive pleasure from sharing my thoughts and my images with others. There is something really gratifying and uplifting about feedback that suggests that I have touched someone else in some small way, that I have caused them to stop for a moment to consider the beauty that surrounds us.

Several months ago I saw a notice that the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park organization was sponsoring a photo competition. Regular readers of this blog know that Huntley Meadows Park, a Fairfax County-run marshland area, has become my favorite place to photograph a wide variety of wildlife subjects and I post my photos regularly to a Facebook page for the park. The only stipulation for this contest was that the photos had to have been taken at the park.

Sure, I have taken a lot of photos in the park, but were they good enough? I had never before entered a photo competition, and I guess I sometimes feel a little insecure about my photography. The competition required me to submit matted prints and I hadn’t for the most part seen my work in printed form.

I decided that if there were ever a competition ideally suited for me, this was the one. My mentor, friend, and fellow photographer Cindy Dyer helped me to prepare my prints. I submitted four prints, the maximum number that I was permitted to enter. (I’ll probably do a post soon with the four entries, so that you can decide which one you like best.)

A reception was held last week to open the photo exhibition and announce the winners. I was in Vienna at the time, so I learned from a friend that I took second place in the competition with a macro shot of a Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) that I titled “Baby’s Got Blue Eyes.”

One of the coolest parts of the competition is that the judge shared his/her comments about the winning entries, including the following assessment of my image (check out the Facebook page of the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park for more details on the competition):

The contrast of colors is stunning, with the iridescent blues, greens, and reds of the dragonfly beautifully contrasted with the earth-tone browns and grays of the leaves behind. The use of narrow focus of this macro photo is done perfectly, bringing the eye and wing of the dragonfly into sharp focus that stands out from the pleasantly soft focus background. It gives the photo a great three dimensional effect. The composition is also compelling.”

Wow! I was worried when I heard that we probably had only a single judge for the contest, but if that was indeed the case, the judge really “got” what I was trying to achieve with the image. In some ways, I was surprised at the result. Insects have a kind of niche audience—some people just don’t like insects—and macro subjects sometimes have trouble competing head-to-head with stop-action wildlife shots.

My biggest takeaway from this competition, though, has nothing to do with the competition itself. I’ve learned that there is something really special about seeing my photos printed. The images look good on the computer screen, but it is much more exciting to be able to show someone a print, knowing that I have created that image.

As I think about this coming year, I see myself having a whole lot more of my images printed and maybe even having to courage to enter additional contests.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Baby’s Got Blue Eyes

At the exhibition. (Photo by Cindy Dyer)

At the exhibition. (Photo by Cindy Dyer)

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

“Blue eyes
Baby’s got blue eyes
Like a deep blue sea
On a blue blue day”

Somehow the words to the old Elton John song come to mind when I gaze into the stunning blue eyes of this Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum). This dragonfly was unusually cooperative and let me move in to take this close-up portrait with my macro lens.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

If you have never heard “Blue Eyes” or just want a blast from the past, here’s a link to a YouTube video of Elton John performing the song.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

What signs do you look for that point to the change of seasons? Throughout most of my life, the changing colors of the fall foliage have been the primary indicator of the end of summer and the beginning of autumn.

The last few years, however, I have become increasingly sensitive to seasonal changes in the dragonfly population as I have increasingly focused my attention and my camera lens on these fascinating and colorful aerial acrobats. Summer is prime time for many dragonfly species, but certain species show up much later in the season and stay with us throughout much of the autumn days.

One of these late-arriving species is the Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum) and I was thrilled yesterday to spot a male of this species at Huntley Meadows Park, the marshland where I take a lot of my wildlife photos. This is my first spotting of a Blue-faced Meadowhawk this season and I suspect it won’t be long before I also start seeing his “cousin,” the Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum).

I particularly like the bright red color and bold pattern of this dragonfly’s body and its beautiful turquoise face. Although I may vacillate a bit from time to time, I think this is the most beautiful dragonfly species that I have ever encountered. What do you think?

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Fellow photographer and blogger Walter Sanford and I both photographed this female Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly on 17 October and decided to do companion postings again, showing our different approaches to photographing the same subject.

walter sanford's photoblog

This is the second installment in a three-part series featuring some of my favorite photos of female dragonflies spotted while photowalkingHuntley Meadows Park during Fall 2014.

The following photos show a Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted on 17 October 2014 near a vernal pool in a relatively remote location in the forest. This individual is a heteromorph female, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (heteromorph female)

Female Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies are polymorphic: heteromorphs are duller in color than males; andromorphs are male-like in color.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (heteromorph female)

Both female morphs feature the same distinctive blue eye coloration as males.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (heteromorph female)

Mike Powell, fellow wildlife photographer and blogger, spotted this dragonfly while I was shooting photos of a male Great Spreadwing damselfly (Archilestes grandis) perching on thigh-high grasses a few yards away. I joined Mike after my subject flew away.

I don’t recall seeing Mike’s photos of this dragonfly. Perhaps it’s…

View original post 28 more words

Read Full Post »

This past Saturday, I searched and searched for a straggler dragonfly which might have survived our recent cold spell, but I found none—dragonfly hunting season is officially over for me. That same day, however, fellow photographer and blogger (and local dragonfly expert) Walter Sanford did a blog posting with photos of a female Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) that both of us photographed on 17 October and suggested that I also post some shots.

Previously this year, Walter and I did companion postings, in which we each posted photos that showed our different photographic approaches to the same subject, which in that case was a pair of mating dragonflies. (If you are interested, check out Walter’s posting Two sides to every story and my posting My view of the mating dragonflies.)

I am fascinated by the way that two photographers shooting together consciously or unconsciously make a series of creative choices that can result in very different images. Some of the differences, of course, are attributable to the choice of photographic equipment, but many of the differences are caused by the “style” in which the photographer prefers to work.

I took these shots with a 180mm macro lens at fairly close range, which meant that I had to be thinking all of the time about depth of field. The three images I selected show how the amount of the dragonfly’s body in focus changed as I circled around the dragonfly and photographed it in various positions as it flew off and returned to the same general area.

I remember going once to an exhibition showing paintings side by side of a scene that had been rendered by two impressionist artists painting together—I think it was Monet and Renoir—and since that time I have periodically considered the question of whether or not there is an objective reality when it comes to taking (or painting) pictures. What is reality?

Be sure to visit Walter’s blog and his images of this dragonfly in his posting To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before (Part 2).

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

When I captured these two images of mating dragonflies on the 10th of November, I did not realize that their frantic efforts to perpetuate their species that day would mark an end to this year’s dragonfly season for me. There is a chance that some especially hardy Autumn Meadowhawks (Sympetrum vicinum) may have survived our recent spell of bitter cold, but realistically speaking, it’s time to put my macro lenses on the shelf and focus my photographic efforts and birds (and the occasional small mammal).

The Autumn Meadowhawks in the first image were a little higher off the ground that the Blue-faced Meadowhawks (Sympetrum ambiguum) in the second shot and I managed to get into a better shooting position to capture details and separate the dragonflies a bit from the background.  In case of the Blue-faced Meadowhawks, I was so thrilled to see them so late into November that I was willing to settle for a lower angle shot with a more cluttered background.

Most of the time I feature only a single species of dragonflies in a posting and it’s a little hard to compare the featured dragonflies with others. It’s a whole lot easier to see the differences between the species when you compare the two photos here.

And so this year’s dragonfly season draws to a close, as the mating couples dance their last tango of the autumn.

Autumn Meadowhawk matingBlue-faced Meadowawk mating

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

During most of the year the bright red body of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) would really stand out, but in the late autumn, it blends in pretty well with the vegetation. However, it is almost impossible to conceal this species’ stunning blue eyes and turquoise face, which cause it to stand out from even a very cluttered background.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

My concerns about the potential demise of the Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) were greatly exaggerated and I saw a half-dozen or more yesterday on Veterans Day (Armistice Day).

Normally we stop seeing this species of dragonflies by the end of October, but we have not yet gone below freezing and perhaps that explains their unexpected longevity. Yesterday, for example, the temperatures soared to almost 70 degrees F (21 degrees C).  I have to note too that I am searching for them more diligently and in more remote locations of my marshland park, so that may help explain why I am seeing them more frequently.

As is the case with birds, male dragonflies tend to be more brightly colored and visible. Many female dragonflies are brown in colored and harder to spot. I was thus very happy yesterday to be able to get this close-up shot of a female Blue-faced Meadowhawk. Her body coloration may be a little bit drab, but those blue eyes are simply stunning.

In case you are curious, these dragonflies are small in size, with a body length of approximately 1.5 inches (38 mm), so I had to move in awfully close to get this shot. Surprisingly (and happily), this female tolerated my close presence for long enough for me to take several shots before she flew off into the distance.

female Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

We’re almost at the end of the dragonfly season now in Northern Virginia and soon I’ll be seeing only the Autumn Meadowhawks (Sympetrum vicinum), historically the last dragonflies of the year to disappear. This past Monday, though, I managed to find a few Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum), unusually hardy survivors this late in the season.

I really enjoy trying to get close-up shots of these colorful little dragonflies and my favorite shot is this close-up of one of them, perched on a fallen leaf.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

When you pull back a little, you can see how tough the season has been for this dragonfly—portions of its wings are shredded. Somehow, however, it managed to fly about as though its wings were undamaged.

Blue-faced Meadwhawk

Temperatures last night dropped down into the upper 30’s F (3-4 degrees C) and I doubt that I will see any more Blue-faced Meadowhawks. I am resigned to the possibility that these may be my last shots of the year of these stunning little dragonflies, but that won’t keep me from searching really hard for them later today.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Do you ever shoot the same subject at the same time with another photographer and compare the results afterwards? It is fascinating to see how the choice of equipment, individual shooting styles, and angle of view affect the results.

Recently I was walking at Huntley Meadows Park, the local marshland park where I take a lot of my nature photos, with fellow blogger and photographer Walter Sanford when he spotted a mating pair of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum). Eventually they landed on the ground and Walter and I took up our shooting positions. He was seated on his Coleman folding camp stool facing the sun and I was crouching (and eventually sprawling flat on the ground) on the other side of the mating dragonflies, trying desperately not to cast a shadow on the action.

The dragonflies were surprisingly tolerant of us or were so caught up in the moment that they were oblivious to the outside world. We ended up shooting quite a few images during a lengthy session and couldn’t help but note the remarkable endurance of this couple. 

I started out in a position where I could capture both members of the couple (as you can see in the second photo), but then I started inching forward in an effort to see how close I could get to them, focusing my camera and my attention on the female. When I took the first photo below, I was pretty close to the minimum focusing distance of my Tamron 180mm macro lens, which is 1.54 feet (47cm). In case anyone is curious about the settings for that image, I was at ISO 400, f/13, and 1/20 of a second and used my pop-up flash.

There is no way that I can handhold this lens at 1/20 of a second, in part because it has no built-in image stabilization). It’s virtually impossible to use a tripod that close to the ground. So what I have started doing is using my camera bag as a kind of giant beanbag and resting my camera on the bag.

Walter took some shots of me in action and kindly agreed to let me use one of the resulting photos in this posting. He also circled in red the mating dragonflies to give you a better idea of how small our subjects were. In case you are wondering what the black object is that is underneath me, it’s my tripod bag—my photography mentor Cindy Dyer has influenced me to carry a tripod at almost all times.

In a final fashion note, I would like to point out that this is not the way that I usually wear a baseball cap. I turned the cap around in order to look through the viewfinder at this low angle. You will never catch me with my hat like that in public and I shudder every time I see a teenager with his hat tilted to the side or on backwards.

 

Blue-faced MeadowhaekBlue-faced MeadowhawkP1270731_Aperture-BFX_psda

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

When I am trying to take a close-up shot of a dragonfly, I know that I have succeeded when I manage to capture some of the details of the ommatidia. What are ommatidia? Ommatidia are the up to 30,000 hexagonal facets that make up the incredible compound eyes of a dragonfly. For more information and a more scientific explanation, check out a posting entitled “Super-predators” that Sue did in June 2013 in her Backyard Biology blog.

Rather than think about science, today I would prefer to simply bask in the beauty of the blue-eyed Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) that I photographed yesterday as it perched on a fallen leaf at my favorite marshland park. The color of the dragonfly’s eyes completely captivate me.

As for the ommatidia, I’ve cropped a portion of the image and added it to the posting as a second image to make it even clearer what they look like. I chuckled a little when I examined the cropped image, because this dragonfly, like some others that I have photographed, has the sparsely distributed mustache and chin hairs that never fail to remind me of human teenagers who refuse to shave in a vain attempt to look older.

Blue-faced MeadowhawkBlue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Many dragonflies species have disappeared by now as we move deeper into autumn, but some especially beautiful ones have taken their place, like these male Blue-faced Meadowhawks (Sympetrum ambiguum) that I photographed yesterday at my local marshland park.

According to the Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website, this species peaks in September to October and is the rarest and hardest to find meadowhawk in our area. I was walking through a meadow at the park with one of my fellow photographers when she spotted the Blue-faced Meadowhawk in the second photo perched on a log. At that moment, I happened to have a 70-300mm telephoto lens on my camera and I was happy  to be able to get a shot that shows the spectacular colors of this dragonfly. Little did I know that I would have an even better opportunity a few minutes later.

As we continued into an area with thigh-high growth, my friend stopped for a moment and said she had spotted a spreadwing damselfly. I looked in the direction that she was pointing and didn’t see the damselfly, but I did spot another Blue-faced Meadowhawk perched atop one of the plants.

In a whispered voice, I asked my friend to freeze and I quickly changed lenses to my 180mm macro lens. Amazingly, the dragonfly stayed in place and I was able to get a number of shots, including the first one below. Given that these dragonflies are less than two inches in size (50mm), I am thrilled with the results. There is something almost magical about the combination of red, blue, and turquoise on this dragonfly.

 

Blue-faced Meadowhawk Blue-faced Meadowhawk.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I don’t expect to see new species of dragonflies at this time of the year, but one of my fellow photographers, Walter Sanford, has been stalking the Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum) almost daily and I joined him for a few hours one late September day and got this shot.

I learned quickly that these dragonflies are hard to spot, despite their conspicuous coloration. They seem to like to remain perched down low in the vegetation and wait for their prey, rather than fly around when they are hunting.

I love the combination of colors on the Blue-faced Meadowhawk and I was happy to get a decent shot that shows its blue face. If you want to see more shots of this beautiful dragonfly, check out Walter’s blog posting from yesterday.

I am now in search of the Autumn Meadowhawk, the last dragonfly that I observed last fall. Normally they should be here already, but none of my fellow dragonfly followers has observed any of them yeat.

blue-faced1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »