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Posts Tagged ‘damselfly’

When dragonflies and damselflies complete the metamorphosis from water-dwelling nymphs to air-breathing aerial acrobats, initially their wings are clear and shiny, their bodies are pale and colorless, and they are very vulnerable. At this stage of development, it is often difficult to identify the species to which they belong. Over time, their wings harden, their bodies take on the markings and coloration of their species, and identification becomes easier.

During a dragonfly-hunting trip earlier this month with fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford, I spotted several damselflies that had recently emerged, a stage often referred to as “teneral.” The first one was perched on a rock in the creek that we were exploring and the second was perched in some vegetation alongside the creek.

If you click on the images to get a more close-up view of the damselflies, you will note some indication of stripes on the thorax and thin rings around some of the segments of the abdomen. During the day, we saw adults of at least three different damselfly species, so we can infer that these tenerals belong to that small group of species, but there is not enough information to make a call. I’m happy that I was able to capture some cool images of the damselflies.

If you would like to read Walter’s discussion of the first damselfly and to view his photos, check out his blog posting that he titled “Acceptable uncertainty.”

teneral damselfly

teneral damselfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I will often shoot the same subjects over and over again. Each photo opportunity offers the possibility of a difference setting, a different pose, and different lighting conditions. I guess that is why I like the excitement and unpredictability of nature photography versus the more controlled environment of studio photography.

Last week I captured this image of a female Big Bluet damselfly (Enallagma durum) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The single leaf on which the damselfly is perched makes for a simple composition that helps the subject to stand out, which is really important when the subject is so small. The sunlight helped to create a cool elongated shadow on the leaf that add additional visual interest to the shot. The minimal color palette works well too, I think.

Sometimes it is nice to have a little extra drama in our lives, even if it is only a dramatic damselfly.

 

Big Bluet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some of the photos in recent postings have shown that damselflies are incredibly flexible. Normally they demonstrate this flexibility when mating with a partner.

Earlier this week I spotted this damselfly, which I believe is a male Fragile Forktail (Ischnura posita), doing a solo gymnastics exhibition. The acrobatic damselfly repeatedly would swing its body backwards (second photo) and them end up with the tip of his abdomen between his legs (first photo). What was he doing?

According to my local dragonfly/damselfly expert Walter Sanford, damselflies are quite fastidious and will often spend time grooming themselves. That is what appears to be happening in these photos.

Who knew? It is not what I would have guessed—sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. 🙂

Fragile Forktail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I can’t help but wonder what was going through the minds of these two insects as they perched on the same stalk of vegetation this past weekend at the botanical garden in Brussels, Belgium. Their postures suggest to me a heightened sense of alertness and a kind of wariness. The much smaller damselfly at the top seems to be cautiously looking down over its shoulder at the Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta), who appears to be focusing his attention upward. Was it a sign of curiosity or one of hunger? There was never any sign of direct aggression, but I note that the damselfly was the first one to take off and the dragonfly did not pursue it.

For those of you who are not as hooked on dragonflies as I am, this image shows pretty clearly some of the differences in the body shape and eye positions of a damselfly versus a dragonfly. It is important, though, to keep in mind the amazing diversity within the community of dragonflies and damselflies in terms of color, size, and behavior—these are some of the reasons why I am drawn to them as subjects for my photography.

friend or foe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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This image is a little gruesome, but here is a close-up look at an Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis) as it consumed a damselfly that it had captured this past Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Northern Virginia. The second image shows a different Eastern Pondhawk with a different damselfly—the pondhawks seemed to have a particularly voracious appetite that day.

Eastern Pondhawk

Eastern Pondhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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There are often a few moments in the early morning when the world seems completely at peace. The waters are calm and reflections are almost perfectly mirror-like. Sometimes there is enough light to take photographs, but even when there is not, I enjoy getting up early simply to savor those moments.

This past Monday morning, when I arrived at a small pond at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I noticed the beautiful reflections and my attention was drawn to a stick protruding out of the water. As I zoomed in on the stick, I noticed a damselfly perched on it. Damselflies belong to the same order of Odonata as dragonflies, but usually are smaller in size, often 1 to 1.5 inches in length (25–38 mm).

I decided to take some shots of the stick and the perching damselfly and as I was doing so, the damselfly flew away. I managed to capture the image below as the dragonfly was returning to its perch.

An expert on a Facebook forum identified the damselfly for me as an Orange Bluet (Enallagma signatum). Most members of the bluet family of damselflies are colored with various combinations of blue (as the name suggests) and black, but some family members are also orange or red. I shake my head and smile every time that I use the curious word combination “orange bluet.”

This image is somewhat atypical for me in the sense that it is not a close-up portrait. Most of the time I try to use my telephoto zoom or macro lens to capture as many details of my subject as I can. In cases like this, though, I am content to capture an image that evokes the mood of the moment. There is a kind of minimalist simplicity in this photo that really appeals to me.

Orange Bluet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When a Black and Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia) traps a prey in its web, it often moves so quickly to wrap it up completely that it is difficult to identify the prey. That was not the case with the damselfly that I spotted yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as it was being encased in a silken shroud.

The damselfly looks to be a bluet damselfly and if pressed, I’d guess that it might be a Familiar Bluet (Enallagma civile) or possibly a Big Bluet (Enallagma durum). The spider seems to be experiencing the same kind of problem that I encounter when I am trying to wrap an awkwardly-shaped present at Christmas time—it is hard to be neat and tidy, the process uses up lots of wrapping material, and the package always end up irregularly shaped and easy to identify.

spider and damselfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

 

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Over the last few years it has become traditional for me to be in Brussels over Labor Day weekend in early September for meetings. After I arrived today, I had some free time and captured these images of damselflies in the Botanical Gardens. Some of them are quite similar to those that I see at home, while others appear to be a bit different. As is often the case when I am traveling for work, I left my big camera at home and took these shots with my Canon SX50 HS superzoom camera.

damselfly in Brussels

damselfly in Brussels

mating damselflies in Brussels

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Whenever I walk along the edge of a pond, I always like to look for damselflies, which love to perch on the vegetation growing out of the water. Footing can be a bit problematic and more than once I have slid down a slippery bank into the water. Normally, though, I just lean out as far as I dare to get some shots.

Last weekend as I was exploring Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, I spotted this beautiful little damselfly that was looking in my direction. I knew that depth of field would be a problem from that position, but did my best to focus on the damselfly’s beautiful eyes. When I returned home and began to review my shots, I was a little shocked to see what looked to be the discarded exoskeleton (exuvia) of another damselfly (or possibly a dragonfly) on the underside of the leaf on which “my” damselfly had perched. How did I not notice that when I was shooting?

I really like the way that the head of the exoskeleton is facing that of the damselfly and the shadow in between the two of them. Is it the shadow of the one looking down or the one looking up? Common sense says that it is the former, but the slight degree of ambiguity adds interest to the photo for me.


damselfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s still a bit early for dragonflies in Northern Virginia, but when temperatures soared to almost 80 degrees (27 degrees C) yesterday in Columbus, Georgia, I decided to see if I could find some here. I had a wonderful time exploring some of the area of the Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center that is not far from Fort Benning, where I was staying.

I came up empty-handed for dragonflies, but did spot some beautiful little damselflies. Later in the spring, these will be fairly common, but after a long period with no odonates, they seem rare and exotic.

The first one looks like a Fragile Forktail damselfly (Ischnura posita), but I am not sure about the others. Several of them flew so weakly that I wondered if they had only recently emerged.

Fragile Forktail

damselfly

damselfly

damselfly

damselfly

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This female damselfly blended in almost perfectly with her surroundings yesterday as she deposited eggs in the shallow water at the edge of Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetlands Refuge at Fort Belvoir. I love the way that the shadows changed as she dipped the tip of her abdomen into the water.

I have real difficulties in identifying female damselflies, but in this case I am not too concerned.  I was so caught up with the colors, shapes, and lighting in this image that identification seemed of secondary importance.

damselfly ovipositing

 

damselfly ovipositing

damselfly ovipositing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This past weekend I managed to get my first damselfly shot of the season of what appears to be a pretty little female Fragile Forktail (Ischurna posita). Like the Springtime Darner dragonfly that I featured in yesterday’s posting, this photo was taken at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia. Fragile Forktail damselflies are only about one inch (25 mm) in length and it was my eagle-eyed fellow odonata enthusiast, Walter Sanford, who first spotted this tiny damselfly.

Fragile Forktail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Two things really struck me when I first encountered this damselfly—its captivating blue eyes and its extraordinarily long abdomen.

Most damselfly fold in their wings when they are at rest, but damselflies of the Lestidae family keep them open and are commonly known as spreadwings. Only two members of this family are on the species list for my marshland park—the Swamp and the Slender Spreadwing—and this looks to me like might be a male Slender Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes rectangularis).

I would welcome a correction or confirmation of my identification, because I feel almost clueless when it comes to identifying damselflies.

damsel_blue1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Looking at my recent postings, you might come to the conclusion that I neglect damselflies, the smaller, less colorful members of the Odonata family, in favor of dragonflies. Actually, I really like damselflies, but they are so small that it is difficult to see them most of the time and quite a challenge to get a clear shot of one.

As I was searching for dragonflies, I came upon this beautiful black and blue damselfly perched on a small branch near the edge of a muddy creek and was able to get an unobstructed shot. You might think that identification would be easy, but there is a whole group of damselflies, the bluets, whose members have various combinations of black and blue.

So far, I haven’t been able to identify this damselfly, but I find its combination of black and turquoise to be elegant and really attractive.

damsel_bnb_blog

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To crop, or not to crop—that is the question. At a certain point in time when we are processing our images, we are all come face to face with this question. To some photographers, composing perfectly in the camera is the ultimate virtue, and they take pride in the fact that they do not crop (and object when their images are cropped).

Moose Peterson is one prominent photographer who does not crop and he explained his views in a fascinating blog posting in 2012 entitled, “The Crop Revisited.” I am still pondering one of his conclusions, “When you don’t give yourself the option to “fix it in post,” photographers push themselves. This always make a better click and the story telling, the subject, that passion of that click becomes clearer and clearer.”

Most of us could not live with such a high standard and for various reasons we choose to crop. I am so used to cropping my images that even when I compose an image just the way that I want it, I am tempted to move in closer with my crop. That was my dilemma with this image of a damselfly on the edge of a lily pad, as it was framed when it came out of the camera.

damsel_pad_blogI really like the long sinuous curve on the left and the large expanse of green on the right. I worry, however, that the damselfly is taking up too little space of the image and is not prominent enough. So I cropped a bit and produced a second version.

damsel_pad_crop_blog

That’s not a very extreme crop, but somehow the image feels different to me. Does it make any difference to you? Do you prefer one of the two over the other?

UPDATE: Fellow blogger and local dragonfly expert, Walter Sanford, has identified this for me as an Eastern Forktail damselfly (Ischnura verticalis). Thanks, Walter.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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This is the last image in my mini-series on insect eyes from this past Friday—a close-up of a beautiful little damselfly at Huntley Meadows Park, the local marshland where I take many of my nature photographs. 

Photographing damselflies is particularly challenging for me, because they are so long and skinny (not to mention the fact that they are really small in size). About the only way to get their bodies completely in focus is to be absolutely perpendicular to them. When I took this image, I couldn’t get into the optimal position, thanks to a sharp, thorny bush, so the lower half of the body was out of focus. That is one of the reasons why I chose to crop this image as I did, though the main reason was to focus viewers’ attention on the eyes.

This image shows the wide separation of the damselfly’s eyes, which is one of the ways to tell them apart from dragonflies, the other members of the Odonata family. Dragonflies have eyes that are very close together or even touching each other.

If you missed the earlier postings on insect eyes, check out the images of a fly’s eyes and a dragonfly’s eyes. In all three cases, click on the images, if you want to get a higher resolution view of the insects’ beautiful eyes.

damsel_eyes_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Most folks are familiar with dragonflies, but damselflies, the smaller members of the Odonata family, are equally impressive. I spotted this little beauty yesterday in the pond debris at Huntley Meadows Park, the local marshland area where I take many of my nature photographs.

I don’t know damselfly behavior very well, but noted that the very end of the damselfly’s tail is in different positions in this series of photos. In the first image, the tip is curved upward and then gradually returns to a more straight position in the final shot. Sometimes movements like this indicate that the damselfly could be laying eggs, but I haven’t been able to determine yet the gender or species of the damselfly. There seem to be a lot of different species of damselflies that are blue. (If I had to guess, I’d say that it looks like a female Eastern Forktail (Ischnura verticalis), because of the color, the forked end of the tail, and the two-tone eyes).

Although this looks like a macro shot (and the subject was really small), this is another case in which I was able to use my telephoto zoom lens to get macro-like results. Click on any of the photos to get a higher-resolution view of the damselfly and you may be surprised to see how many of the details the telephoto lens was able to capture.

damselfly1_may_blogdamselfly2_may_blogdamselfly3_may_blog

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Damselflies are beautiful, delicate insects that are often hard to see and photograph. I captured this image of my first damselfly of the year at Huntley Meadows Park this past Friday. I am not very good at identifying these tiny insects, but think this might be a Fragile Forktail (Ischnura posita).

I was standing my the edge of my favorite beaver pond when I saw the damselfly in flight. I followed it with my eyes and was delighted when it landed on a nearby stalk of grass. I didn’t have a lot of maneuver, because much of the area at the pond’s edge is covered with thorny bushes, and I had to pull back a bit to get within the minimum focusing distance of my 70-300mm telephoto lens , i.e. 4.9 feet (1.5 meters). At that range, the dragonfly filled a reasonable amount of the frame.

Lighting was a bit of a challenge and I tried a couple of different settings as the damselfly lifted its tail from time to time. Eventually, it climbed to the end of the stalk and I changed position too and tried a couple of shots (including the final shot) using my pop-up flash.

Most of the time the first shot below is my favorite, but sometimes I like the others as well or more. In any case, I am happy that I was able to get some good shots of my first damselfly of the spring.

damselfly2a_blogdamselfly1a_blogdamselfly3_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I featured this Slender Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes rectangularis) in an earlier posting in a series of action shots, but thought this more formal portrait deserved a posting of its own.

As I stalked this beautiful little dragonfly, it moved to a number of different perches and it is interesting to see how the background shifted in terms of color palette and clutteredness (I think I may have just created a new word). In the gymnastics shots of this damselfly, the background was bright and colorful and a little busy, whereas the background here is darker and a bit more moody, with just a hint of colors. Be sure to click on the image to see a higher resolution view of this little damselfly that was probably less than 2 inches ( 50 mm) long.

Those of you who like to observe damselflies know that this species is an exception to the general rule that damselflies, unlike dragonflies, hold their wing close into and parallel to their bodies when at rest. My fellow photographer and blogger, Walter Sanford, an expert on dragonflies, was the one who first spotted this damselfly and you should check out his blog for lots of wonderful wildlife photos, including a recent image of a perched Wandering Glider dragonfly, a species that never seems to land.damsel_spread_blog

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As I was observing this Slender Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes rectangularis) earlier this week, it suddenly launched into a series of acrobatic maneuvers worthy of an Olympic gymnast on the high bar. I captured several action shots of the routine, possibly related to laying eggs, although I managed my clearest shot when the damselfly returned to its starting position and waited for the scores from the judges.

Pointing the toes for maximum extension

Pointing the toes for maximum extension

damsel_spread2_blog

Swinging back to generate greater velocity for the next trick

Finishing up the routine

Finishing up the routine

Waiting for the scores from the judges

Waiting for the scores from the judges

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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This photo leaves me a little confused, because the larval shell to which this damselfly is clinging seems too big for its body and looks more like it belonged to a dragonfly.

There are plenty of places on the internet where you can read about the life cycle of dragonflies and damselflies, but the short version is that they spend most of their lives in the water as nymphs. There they go through a series of larval stages in which they shed their skin that has grown too tight. Just before they molt for the final time, they climb out of the water and, once the skin dries, the damselflies emerge. They then have to rest for a little while as their wings unfurl and their legs get stronger. Only then can they fly away.

This pretty little damselfly seems to be in the resting phase on a little rock ledge at the edge of a pond at a local garden. I wanted to try to get a bit closer, but the embankment where the ledge was located was steep and muddy and I would have had to be standing in the water to get a better angle.

I like the photo a lot and find it to be weirdly fascinating. The landscape is simple and rugged, with some texture in the foreground. The moulted shell still seems lifelike and seems to be looking at us with a slightly tilted head. The damselfly itself has the only color in the image and attracts the viewers’ eyes. There is a kind of tension in the damselfly’s pose, as it hangs on with all of its strength, waiting until the moment when it can fly away.

Imagine what it would be like waiting, waiting for the moment when you take to the air for the first time, leaving behind forever your old life in the water.

emerging_blog

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The water lilies at one of my local gardens seem to be blooming a little late this year, but two of them finally were in bloom yesterday. Here’s a shot one of them and if you look closely you’ll notice a damselfly perched on the water lily. The image is not in his style, but water lilies always remind me of Monet, one of my favorite painters.

water_lily_blog

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Walking through the woods today at my local marshland park, I managed to photograph my first damselfly of the spring, what appears to be some type of spreadwing damselfly, possibly a Slender Spreadwing (Lestes rectangularis).

My camera was already on my tripod, with my 135-400mm zoom lens attached, when the damselfly flew by and perched on a thorny vine right in front of me. I decided to try to get a shot and the first thing that I had to do was to back up, because the minimum focusing distance of the lens at full extension is 7.2 feet (2.2 meters). Secondly I had to switch to manual focus—the damselfly is so slender that my camera refused to autofocus on it. Finally, I had to adjust the aperture manually, when I realized that there was a lot of direct light falling on the vine and on the damselfly.

The two shots that I am posting may look like they were taken using flash, with an almost black background, but the damselfly was in a little pocket of light and the rest of the area was pretty heavily shaded.

damselfly_blog

damselfly2_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The length and small size of damselflies make then a challenge for me to photograph clearly. Moreover, it is my experience that they rarely choose to land in places where I can isolate them against an uncluttered background. Yesterday I was fortunate when this Bluet damselfly perched near the end of an interesting budded branch overhanging the water and I managed to get a shot that I like.

Bluets are a whole group of damselflies of the genus Enallagma that often are very difficult to identify down to the species level, so I don’t feel back that I can’t decide whether or not this is an Atlantic bluet or an American bluet or some other kind. Apparently the only way to tell them apart is to capture them and examine them with a magnifying glass. In my case, I am not sure a magnifying glass would help.

I am thinking of buying a guide to dragonflies and damselflies that I can study during the winter so that I’ll be better prepared next year to identify more correctly some of the subjects that I shoot (and I love to photograph dragonflies and damselflies, challenges notwithstanding.

Bluet damselfly in mid-September

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Why does this damselfly have its wings in an open position? That was the question that popped into my mind when I first spotted this pretty little damselfly. As far as I knew, damselflies folded their wings together when they were at rest. A little research on the internet showed that there is a family of damselflies called Lestidae (more commonly known as Spreadwings) that hold their wings at an angle from their body when they are at rest.

I decided to show the same photo in two different ways. The first image is a cropped close-up and it lets you seem the facial expression and some additional details of the body, including the drops of water on the chest and legs. As you can see, one of the disadvantages of wings that are spread is that depth of field is a problem. The second view is the image more or less as I composed it in the view finder. It shows how really long and skinny the tails are for this type of damselfly. I think that this may be a Southern Spreadwing (Lestes australis), but I am not certain of the identification because there are other varieties that look similar.

Close-up shot of spreadwing damselfly

Full-body shot of spreadwing damselfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sometimes when I open my images on my computer I am pleasantly surprised. I was going through my images from yesterday afternoon and came upon this one.

Click on the image for greater resolution and details

I had been focusing on shooting dragonflies that had stopped to pose on various objects. In this case I am certain that I was looking at the Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) perched on the rolled-up leaf of a lotus plant and never noticed the damselfly in the photo. The damselfly appears to be scaling the leaf, ready to do battle with the dragonfly. The dragonfly seems to be looking down with a little concern, wondering who is trying to challenge his position. When I compare the relative sizes of the two insects, I can’t help but think of the Biblical story of the boy David taking on the giant Goliath. In this case it would essentially be a family feud, since both dragonflies and damselflies are part of the Odonata family.

It’s a lesson to me to check my images carefully when I process them—there may be all kinds of hidden treasures waiting to be discovered.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I came across this tiny damselfly yesterday when I was visiting a local garden in the late afternoon. Initially I spotted her when she was flying and I was thrilled when she chose to land in a spot where I could photograph her. I apologize to the experts for not identifying the type but I find it impossible to identify damselflies (and even dragonflies are not easy).

Damselflies are particularly challenging for me to photograph because they are so long and skinny. If I photograph them from the side, the eye is often out of focus and if I try to shoot head-on, depth of field is an issue.

I ended up with a photo that I shot from above and to the side. Somehow I managed to reduce the composition to the damselfly, the branch to which she is clinging, and a couple of leaves.

I find special beauty in that kind of simplicity in nature and in my photography.

Unidentified damselfly

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Perhaps I am going through a blue period for my favorite members of the Odonata family this weekend (one damselfly and two dragonflies) all turned out to be different shades of blue. I photographed the dragonflies in a marshy area where I expected to find them. I didn’t at all expect to see the damselfly in a garden setting but was able to get a shot when my friend Cindy Dyer pointed her out to me. (I’m calling the damselfly a “her” because it seems strange for me to refer to anything with “damsel” in its name as a “him.”)

It’s easy for me to identify the dragonfly in the middle as a Blue Dasher but I have not yet been able to identify the other two insects by name.

For now they will have to remain strangers, nameless but beautiful.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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