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Posts Tagged ‘dragonfly’

July is World Watercolor Month, a month-long challenge in which watercolor painters of all ages and skill levels are encouraged to paint daily and post their work on-line. I have joined this challenge and am trying to paint something every day using the daily prompts at worldwatercolormonth.com. So far, I have managed to paint something every single day, generally following the daily prompt. Thanks to all of you for your support and encouragement as I have taken this little artistic detour on my photography journey.

If you want to see the first two installments of my painting efforts this month, check out my previous postings ‘More fun with watercolor‘ and ‘World Watercolor Month 2020—part 2.’ This third installment highlights my painting efforts of the past six days in reverse chronological order.

The prompt for 16 July was “machine.” I recalled an old mill with a waterwheel that I photographed in July 2012 that hinted at all kinds of machinery inside the mill building and did today’s little painting using one of my photos as inspiration. Here is a link to the original posting called ‘Stepping outside of the box.’ What I had forgotten, though, is that I had converted the images to black and white for the posting and I have no idea of the original colors of the structure, so I just made them up. My sketching skill are pretty weak still, so I printed a copy of the blog photo, rubbed a pencil on the back of it, and transferred a simplified version of it to the watercolor paper.

The prompt for 15 July was “forgotten.” Nothing came to mind, so instead I attempted to paint some Black-eyed Susans like the ones that I had seen while hunting for dragonflies earlier that day.

The prompt for 14 July was “green,” which made me think of flowers. So I painted a little patch of wildflowers, mostly by spattering paint—it turns out that it is a lot of fun to throw paint at paper in a somewhat controlled way.

The prompt for 13 July was “twisted.” Herons have such long necks that they often seem to be twisted, so I painted this little sumi-e style scene with three herons, some cattails, and a disproportionately large dragonfly.

The prompt for 12 July was “favorite place.” It is hard to represent Paris in a single image, so I chose to depict it with this view of the Eiffel Tower looking upwards from one of its “feet,” using one of my photos from last November as the the inspiration for this little painting —about 5″ x 7″ (127mm x 177mm). If you would like to see my original posting, check out ‘Eiffel Tower perspectives.’ I used the same transfer method for the sketch that I described above for 16 July.

The prompt for 11 July was “round,” so I did a little painting of a bicycle, loosely based on an artsy photo I took in Paris last November. If you would like to see my original posting, check out ‘Bicycle in Paris.”

I am experimenting with a number of different styles and subjects as I play with watercolor painting, but a few things are already clear. First, my greatest creative inspiration continues to come from my memories of Paris—three of the sixteen paintings I have completed so far were based on my experiences in the ‘La Ville Lumière’ (‘the city of light’).

Style-wise I continue to be drawn to the minimalist East Asian brush painting style known more commonly as sumi-e and have used this approach in three paintings already. Technically this is the freestyle version of sumi-e (xieyi) that tries to capture the essence of a subject in a minimum number of strokes rather than striving for a realistic representation of it. There is another more detailed sumi-e style called gongbi that I would not even attempt to imitate.

If you want to learn more about World Watercolor Month, click on this link or go directly to doodlewash.com. In addition to raising awareness and interest about watercolor painting, World Watercolor Month raises support for The Dreaming Zebra Foundation, a charity providing support so that children and young adults are given an equal opportunity to explore and develop their creativity in the arts.

watermill

black-eyed susan

spattered flowers

sumi-e heron

eiffel tower

bicycle in Paris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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July is World Watercolor Month. I was inspired by that celebration two years ago and, after gathering a bunch of supplies, I finally put brush to paper and made my first little watercolor paintings. They were not very good, but the experience was a lot of fun and I documented it in a posting called Jumping into Watercolor. I produced a few more small paintings during the summer of 2018, but somehow my interest waned.

I spent three weeks last November in Paris and brought along some art materials. Paris reignited my desire to play with watercolor and I was inspired enough to produce some more little paintings that you can see in the posting Playing with watercolor in Paris. My skill level had improved marginally and I eventually painted a few more times before I left Paris.

Alas, I did not continue with watercolors, although I kept buying supplies and watching lots of YouTube videos. A few days ago, I downloaded the list of daily prompts for World Watercolor Month and decided I would try to paint something on as many days as I could this July. I chose to paint in a relatively small watercolor journal that is 5.5 x 8 inches (14 X 20 cm) so I would not feel intimidated by a big sheet of blank paper.

So here are my paintings for the first four days of July in reverse order. The prompt for 4 July was “Quiet” and as I though about it, my mind transported me back to an early morning last November when I watched the sun rise slowly over the Seine River.

The prompt for 3 July was “Playful” and I chose to reprise a painting style and subject that I had used once before. I used a style based on Chinese ink painting (sumi-e) that emphasizes using a minimum number of strokes to capture the essence of the subject, in this cases some frogs and dragonflies.

The prompt for 2 July was “Texture” and I decided to try to paint a wart-covered toad that I had photographed earlier this year. The prompt for 1 July was “Rejoice” and I painted a chubby little bird that was singing.

It is both rewarding and humbling to post these paintings. I feel like a little kid who is excited about producing something with his own hands and this posting serves as a virtual refrigerator door on which I can display my art. Of course I realize that my current skill level is pretty low, but was one video that I watched recently emphasized, “there is no shame in being a beginner.”

I am confident that if I can carve out some time each day to paint this month, I am sure to improve. Most importantly, I am having fun. I was chatting recently with a friend who is an accomplished watercolor artist. She confessed it is a little tougher for her to have fun, because she is a perfectionist. As our skill levels increase in any area, I think there is a danger that we may lose our initial sense of joy and wonder. I consciously try to remain on guard against that danger when it comes to my photography.

If you want to learn more about World Watercolor Month, click on this link or go directly to doodlewash.com. In addition to raising awareness and interest about watercolor painting, World Watercolor Month raises support for The Dreaming Zebra Foundation, a charity providing support so that children and young adults are given an equal opportunity to explore and develop their creativity in the arts.

 

Quiet

Playful

Texture

Rejoice

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It will be a few more months until dragonflies reappear in our area, so for now I have to content myself with this one in my front yard that I photographed yesterday as the snow was gently falling. This metal dragonfly is part of a raised sprinkler that stands about three feet tall (about a meter).

I really like the way that the dragonfly has weathered and acquired various colors. I suppose I could talk of rust and tarnish, but I prefer to think of it as “patina.”

dragonfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last night I was playing again with watercolors and found inspiration in some videos about Chinese sumi-e brush painting, particularly one by Daleflix on YouTube that showed him painting a dragonfly and a frog. I really like the way that sumi-e painting, which is often done in ink on rice paper, emphasizes the importance of each brush stroke.

My painting skills still need a lot of work, but I especially like how the dragonfly turned out. There is a kind of minimalism in the dragonfly that appeals to me. It was really all-or-nothing when I painted it. Each of the wings, for example, was a single brush stroke, with a little bit of outlining done later. Similarly, the segmented body was done in a single pass.

I kind of got a little lost after I had painted the frog and the dragonfly and tried to add some contextual elements. The water ended up way too dark and some of the branches got too thick. In case you are curious, the painting is 4 x 6 inches in size (10 x 15 cm), so the brush strokes were pretty small.

Still, I like the overall feel of this little painting, which represents a new step for me as I explore watercolors. I think that I may explore this style of painting some more.

dragonfly and frog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have been to Vienna, Austria often enough in the past 25 years that I have seen most of the big tourist sights. Now, when I have a bit of free time in the city, as I did yesterday, I like to go exploring in the Donau-Auen National Park and seek out wildlife.

I was thrilled when I spotted dragonfly in flight and was able to photograph it after it landed high in a tree. It is not a species with which I am familiar, but fellow bloggere and dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford suggested that it is of the Emerald family and I tend to agree with him.

dragonfly in Vienna

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love dragonflies, but it will probably be a month or two before they reappear in my area. I bide my time and photograph birds during the winter, but one of my fellow dragonfly enthusiasts, Walter Sanford, has been spending his time studying exuviae, the exoskeletons that are discarded when nymphs almost magically undergo a metamorphosis and emerge as dragonflies. Check out Walter’s most recent posting in which he determined the species of an exuvia I collected last year and be sure to explore the rest of the fantastic photos and info in his blog.

walter sanford's photoblog

Michael Powell collected several odonate exuviae during a photowalk along the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia USA, including two damselflies and two dragonflies. The exact date is uncertain, although Mike thinks the exuviae were collected sometime between 19-23 July 2017.

Both dragonfly exuviae are from the Family Gomphidae (Clubtails), as indicated by a flat labium that doesn’t cover the face as well as club-like antennae. Notice that abdominal segment nine (S9) is elongated, strongly suggesting this individual is a member of the genus Stylurus.

The dichotomous key for Stylurus larvae that appears on pp. 310-312 in Dragonflies of North America, Third Edition by Needham et al. was used to identify the species of the exuvia. The ninth couplet [9, 9′] is as follows.

9(7’). Length of abdominal segment 9 at least equal to its basal width; lateral spines of abdominal segment 9 at least…

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When I spotted a red dragonfly in flight while exploring the botanical garden in Brussels, I immediately gave chase. Unfortunately the dragonfly chose to perch on a weathered wooden fence a good distance away. Unable to get any closer to the dragonfly, I did my best to incorporate the fence into the composition.

I kept looking later in the day for the elusive red dragonfly, which looks a little like the Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly that I see in my home area, but I never saw it again.

dragonfly in Brussels

dragonfly in Brussels

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Today was a beautiful sunny day in Brussels, Belgium and I had some free time to explore the city. I have been in Brussels for short business trips a number of times in recent years and have already visited many of the attractions in the center of the city.  Today I decided to look for some of the kinds of wildlife that I love to photograph, so I made my way to a park that leads to the Botanical Garden of Brussels.

I was encouraged a little when I saw some ducks and turtles in the small pond there and my level of excitement really soared when I spotted some dragonflies flying about. The only problem was that the dragonflies refused to land. When I have my normal DSLR and my favorite lenses, I’ll try to capture in-flight shots, but when I am traveling for work, I tend to leave all that gear at home and use a point-and-shoot camera. My current travel camera is a Canon SX50. It has an amazing zoom lens, but really is not responsive enough to photograph moving dragonflies.

A bit later, I made my way to the opposite side of the tiny pond and discovered the staging area for the dragonflies. Every now and then a dragonfly would perch very briefly on the vegetation. It took quite a few tries, but eventually I got a few shots. I don’t know anything about European dragonfly species, so I can’t really identify the ones that I photographed today. They look pretty similar to ones that I have seen at home and certainly they belong to the same families, but I’d sure welcome assistance in identifying the species.

Today was a day full of unexpected treats. I don’t expect to see bright days full of sunshine during trips to Europe and I didn’t really expect to find dragonflies in Brussel’s urban center.

UPDATE: I have done a bit more research on the internet and it looks to me like the dragonflies in the first two photos below may be Migrant Hawkers (Aeshna mixta).

dragonfly in Brussels

dragonfly in Brussels

butterfly in Brussels

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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Yesterday afternoon at Huntley Meadows Park I captured this image of a female dragonfly as she hovered over the water, periodically dipping the tip of her abdomen into the water to lay eggs (and generate ripples).

hovering dragonfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Despite its name, the Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura), one of the first dragonflies of the spring, has been observed only infrequently at my local marshland park. Therefore I was pretty excited when sharp-eyed fellow blogger and photographer Walter Sanford spotted a Common Baskettail last week when we were out together searching for dragonflies.

Walter consulted with some experts and  was able to confirm his initial identification of this dragonfly as a female. How do you tell the gender of a dragonfly? Check out Walter’s recent posting What was your first clue? to learn how he did it.

If you are more interested in photography than in dragonfly anatomy, check out Walter’s initial posting on the Common Baskettail dragonfly. We both photographed the dragonfly at the same time, but our angles of view and equipment were different, so the resulting images are similar, but not identical.

Personally i enjoy seeing how the creative choices that a photographer makes can influence their images. Walter and I have done several complementary postings in the past and will probably continue to do so in the future.

Common Baskettail dragonfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of the earliest dragonflies to appear in our area is the Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia) and it is also one of the last to be seen in the fall. During the summer months, these dragonflies can be seen flying all around the ponds at my local marshland. I spotted this one last Friday in a wooded area and initially had trouble seeing it as it flew made a series of short, hopping flights among the fallen leaves on the floor of the woods. As is usually the case, I tried to get as close as I could for the first shot below, but decided to also include a shot that gives you a better idea of the surroundings in which I found this little dragonfly.

Later in the seasons, the Common Whitetail will in fact be common, but this early in the spring, I am pleased with my uncommon find.

Common Whitetail dragonflyCommon Whitetail dragonfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have been seeing dragonflies at my local marshland park for a couple of weeks now and yesterday I finally got my first dragonfly shots of the spring. It’s still a little early for the emergence of the local dragonflies, so I was not at all surprised that the dragonflies that I captured were Common Green Darners (Anax junius), a migratory species.

Green Darners spend most of their time flying, rather than perching, so it is pretty tough to take photos of them. In this case, I captured the pair in tandem, as the female was ovipositing in the vegetation of a shallow vernal pool.

As luck would have it, after a day of walking around with my telephoto zoom lens on my camera, I had switched to a macro lens not long before I encountered these dragonflies. My macro lens is 180mm in focal length, but that really didn’t get me close enough to the dragonflies. I tried unsuccessfully to be stealthy in moving closer, but the Green Darners flew away as I drew nearer.

Common Green DarnerCommon Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What do dragonflies eat for lunch? I stumbled upon this dragonfly earlier in September as it was beginning to enjoy a freshly caught insect. Judging from the long legs and wings of the prey, it looks like the dragonfly is munching on a crane fly.

The dragonfly was so focused on eating that it let me get pretty close without flying away and I was able to take a number of shots from different angles and with different settings. I defer to others on identification of the dragonfly species. I initially thought it was a Great Blue Skimmer, but the eye color seems wrong.

lunch3_bloglunch2_bloglunch1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was suffering in the heat and humidity on Friday, but this dragonfly, which I think is a female Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans), seemed to enjoy basking in the sunlight and let me get really close for this shot.

dragon_superclose_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A few weeks ago, I did a posting with some close-up images of a Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura), but one of my fellow photographers keeps reminding me that I have not posted any shots of the entire dragonfly, which it turns out is not all that common in our local marshland park.

This small collection of images highlights some of the notable features of the Common Baskettail dragonfly, including its beautiful blue eyes and unusual tail. I took these photographs a month ago (on 19 May), but I have fallen a bit behind on viewing and processing my shots.

baskettail1_blogbaskettail2_blogbaskettail3_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Have you ever looked really closely at a dragonfly? I expected to be able to see its beautiful colors, but I was a little surprise to see how many little hairs were present on the face and body of this Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura) that I encountered in mid-May at my local marsh.

I was standing in one of my favorite spots, at the edge of a beaver pond, when this dragonfly flew in and perched a few feet away from me. I don’t know if it was resting or napping or simply didn’t mind my presence, but it allowed me to get amazingly close to it. I was able to take quite a few shots of it and even was able to set up my tripod (although there was so much underbrush that it was tough to get a really stable base).

As you can see from the first shot, depth of field was an issue for me when I moved in this close and I didn’t manage to keep all of the legs in focus. I took the second shot from a bit further back and more of the dragonfly is in focus.

Want a new view on life? Try looking at the world through a macro lens and you’ll see some amazing things.

drag1a_close_blogdrag2_close_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I wrote of a male Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis) transitioning to adulthood, but I realized this morning that not all viewers know what an adult male pondhawk looks like.

This first shot shows an adult male Eastern Pondhawk perched above a big mass of algae, duckweed, and other “stuff” at a small pond at a local garden. Originally I was frustrated when the dragonfly flew into this mess and did not perch above the cleaner water of the pond. I wasn’t sure if I could get a clear shot with all of the clutter, but was pleasantly surprised with the result. I actually like the bubbles in the foreground and the texture and visual interest that it adds to the shot.

pondhawk1_blog

I took the second shot in a totally different environment, at the edge of a field. It shows the bright green coloration of the Eastern Pondhawk female (and young males). My local dragonfly expert, Walter Sanford, keeps reminding me that one of the keys to differentiating the genders is the terminal appendages and I think this one is a female.

pondhawk2_blogWhen you take the blue from the top photo and the green from the bottom one, you get the color combination of yesterday’s posting. As for me, I find the colors to be exceptionally beautifully individually as well as in combination.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have always been intrigued by the fact that many male dragonflies start out looking like females and over time acquire their male coloration. It’s a bit of an oversimplification, but male Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (Erythemis simplicicollis) are blue and females are green. Males of this species initially are green and gradually turn blue. Last weekend I managed to get some shots of a dragonfly who is in midst of this transitional period.

I really like his current two-toned look, but before long he’ll be almost completely blue, (though he will retain the green face.

drag_bg1_blogdrag_bg2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As a follow-up to last week’s preview, here is the complete story of my recent encounter with a Bold Jumping Spider (Phidippus audax) and a female Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis). The photos are a bit graphic, particularly for those of us who like dragonflies, but they illustrate the reality of nature that even super predators like dragonflies can easily become prey.

dragon1A_spider_blogAs I was walking at my local marshland park, I spotted a bright green dragonfly perched on the boardwalk and suspected immediately that it was a female Eastern Pondhawk. I moved in slowly to get a shot and was a bit surprised when the dragonfly did not take off when I got close. This is the initial view I had of the dragonfly.

dragon3_spider_blogI looked closely at the dragonfly and noticed that it was lying on its side and appeared to be dead. Wondering what might have caused its demise, I picked up the dragonfly’s body to do some amateur forensic analysis. (I obviously watched to many televisions shows about crime scene investigations.) As I lifted the body toward my eyes, I was shocked to find that a fuzzy black spider was still attached to it. Apparently the spider had been hiding in the gap between the boards as it feasted on the dragonfly.

Somewhat in shock, I dropped the dragonfly back onto the boardwalk and the fall caused the spider to be separated from its prey. Undeterred, it quickly set off to recapture the dragonfly.

dragon4_spider_blogThe spider grabbed the dragonfly in a headlock and began to drag it back toward the gap between the synthetic boards of the boardwalk. It seemed totally oblivious to my presence.dragon6_spider_blog

When it reached the gap, the spider paused for a few seconds, as though considering possibility of dragging the body through the gap.

dragon7_spider_blog

The spider decided to give it a try and did its best to pull the body in, starting with the head.

dragon9_spider_blog

Despite the spider’s best efforts, however, the dragonfly’s body was simply too big.

dragon12_spider_blog

As I left the scene, the spider had again settled down out of sight below the surface of the boardwalk, happily enjoying its meal and presumably hoping that it would not be disturbed again.

dragon10_spider_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This might be the most beautiful dragonfly that I have ever photographed, a Swamp Darner (Epiaeschna heros) that I encountered yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia. Swamp Darners have gorgeous colors, including incredibly striking blue eyes—be sure to click on the image to get a higher resolution view of the dragonfly.

swamp2_darner_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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My breathing stopped for a moment on Monday when I first caught sight of the colors and patterns of this beautiful dragonfly, a species that I had never seen before.  The dragonfly was flying around near a drainage area just off one of the main trails at my local marshland park. Fortunately for me, the dragonfly landed and I was able to move in pretty close to investigate.

This dragonfly reminded me a little of a Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina), a gorgeous species with orange veins and brown patches on its wings, but I was pretty certain that this was a different kind of dragonfly. (For comparison, check out my posting on the Halloween Pennant from August 2012 with one of the best photos that I have taken of any dragonfly.)

I am no expert on dragonfly identification, but the wing pattern here is distinctive and I have concluded that this is probably a Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata). Not long ago, a friend introduced me to a wonderful resource for dragonflies in my area, a website on Dragonflies of Northern Virginia that is run by Kevin Munroe, the manager of Huntley Meadows Park, the marsh where I take many of my nature photographs, including this one. Here is a link to the portion of that website that covers the Painted Skimmer, including identification features and other fascinating bits of information.

As I maneuvered around composing this shot, I realized how tricky it is to get the proper depth of field for a dragonfly, especially if I want to have the face visible. In this case, the two wings closest to the camera are in focus and the wings farther away are out of focus, along with the background.

dragon_veined_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How does a jumping spider, a spider that does not build a web, manage to capture a dragonfly? I don’t know how this Bold Jumping Spider (Phidippus audax) snagged an Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis), but I came upon the two of them after the capture had been completed and managed to snap a series of photographs of the action.

I am still working on the images and plan to do a longer posting, but wanted to give you a sneak preview.

dragon8_spider_blogdragon11_spider_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As we move deeper into spring, dragonfly nymphs are emerging from the water and starting their transformed lives as acrobatic flyers. This past weekend I spotted some young male Common Whitetail dragonflies (Plathemis lydia) in different stages of development.

Not surprisingly, adult male Common Whitetail dragonflies have white tails—it seems like most species are named after the characteristics of the male. Check out one of my postings from last year to see what a mature adult male looks like. When they first emerge, however, the males have the same body colors and patterns as the females. Fortunately, it’s easy to tell them apart, because the wing patterns are different in the male and female whitetails. (For more information about these dragonflies, take a look at the pages at bugguide.net.)

The dragonfly in the first shot is well on his way to becoming an adult and was bold enough to be flying over the water. The one in the second shot is younger, and seemed to content to remain in the vegetation at a distance from the open water.

A "tween" male--the abdomen is beginning to turn blue, but the adolescent body pattern still shows

A “tween” male–the abdomen is beginning to turn blue, but the adolescent body pattern still shows

An immature male, with the body pattern of a female and the wing pattern of an adult male

An immature male, with the body pattern of a female and the wing pattern of an adult male

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday, I seemed to be particularly fascinated by insect eyes and did a posting on a fly, whose compound eyes were pretty amazing. However, dragonflies have the largest compound eyes of any insect and I was thrilled to be able to capture this face-to-face shot of a Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia), peering right at me over the edge of a leaf.

A dragonfly’s eyes can have as many as 30,000 facets, known as ommatidia, that contain light-sensitive proteins, according to an article in ScienceBlogs. Although, humans also have these kind of proteins, called opsins, we have only three (red, green, and blue), whereas a dragonfly has four or five, giving it the capability to see colors beyond human visual capabilities. A dragonfly’s eyes also wrap around its head, giving it an incredible field of view. For more information and a more scientific explanation, check out a posting entitled “Super-predators” that Sue did last June in her Backyard Biology blog.

I took this shot in a wooded grassy area adjacent to a pond. It seems that the Common Whitetail dragonflies are hanging out there early in the season and not too many of them are patrolling over the water, as I commonly saw them do last summer. The fact that the dragonfly was not perched on a branch coming out of the water proved to and advantage as I was able to approach pretty closely to it in order to take this shot.

dragonfly_eyes_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Some of the common species of dragonflies are around throughout much of the summer. Other dragonflies, sometimes referred to as “spring ephemeral” dragonflies,  are around for only brief periods of time in the early spring, like this male Blue Corporal dragonfly (Ladona deplanata) that I spotted last week on the boardwalk at my local marsh.

I had never seen this species before, but fortunately my fellow blogger and local dragonfly expert, Walter Sanford, was able to assist me with the identification. Check out his blog to see some awesome shots of dragonflies and other nature subjects.

I would love to be able to photograph this species the next time in a more natural environment, but I am pretty excited any time I have the chance to get a recognizable photo of a new species.

dragonfly2_may_blogdragonfly_may_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Spring is here and I am once again chasing dragonflies, on a quest to capture images of these beautiful insects. Common Green Darners (Anax junius) rarely seem to perch, so I was forced to try to photograph them in flight.

This early in the spring, there aren’t yet a lot of dragonflies, so my patience was tested as I waited for one to fly by. I tried a lot of different approaches and the one that worked best on this day was to focus manually, which is a bit of a challenge at 300mm when the subject is moving pretty fast.

I hope I’ll get some better shots later this season—this is my best one so far.

dragonfly_flight_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The weather has gotten warmer, but I was still a bit surprised when I saw my first dragonfly of the year yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park, my local marsh. I think that it is a female Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius), one of the species that migrates north after spending the winter in warmer places. This is the only dragonfly that I saw yesterday and I was able to squeeze off a couple of shots before it disappeared. I’m hoping that it won’t be long before I see more dragonflies and butterflies, some of my favorite photographic subjects.

dragonfly_april_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I never expected to encounter a dragonfly when I went walking in the snow in my neighborhood yesterday.

My eyes were scanning the trees for birds,  when right it front of me I detected the unmistakable shape of a dragonfly, a giant green dragonfly perched on a tree. I approached it quietly and was able to get this shot, my first shot of a dragonfly in a long time.

With snow still covering the ground and the temperatures below freezing, it’s hard to imagine that the real dragonflies will be appearing in a few short months.

dragonfly_winter_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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When an Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) landed on my thigh last Friday, my first thought was to get a photograph of him. Fortunately, my 100mm macro lens was already on my camera—in anticipation of a shot like this—and I was able to capture a close-up, eye-to-eye portrait of the dragonfly by contorting my body and attempting to stabilize my shooting position.

My blue jeans were broken in and their texture, color, and pattern made a pretty cool backdrop for this colorful dragonfly. It may be my imagination, but he seemed to be looking up at me with a mixture of curiosity and amusement.

For whatever reason, many of these dragonflies, which I was able to observe as recently as yesterday, do not seem fearful of people. The classic Drifters song from the 1960’s may talk of spending time with your sweetheart under the boardwalk, but these Autumn Meadowhawks seem to spend most of their time warming up on (and not under) the boardwalk, with periodic mating forays into the bushes.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It may be mid-November, but one hardy dragonfly species is still around here in Northern Virginia—the Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum).

The dragonflies were unusually friendly today, perching on my sweatshirt and jeans numerous times, though they spent most of the time trying to warm themselves in the sun on the boardwalk. Here is a close-up shot of a male Autumn Meadowawk that I coaxed onto my fingertip yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park. All I had to do was slowly move my finger forward and several times a dragonfly accommodated by crawling onto the finger.

Needless to say, it was an interesting challenge trying to hold one finger out as far as I could and then focus and shoot my DSLR with the other hand. Fortunately I had switched to my macro lens—my arms would not have been long enough to get within the minimum focusing distance of the telephoto zoom lens that I had been using earlier in the day. Click on the photos to get a higher-resolution look at the details of the dragonfly’s compound eyes.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Turnabout is fair play. In one of my earlier posts entitled “Dragonflies mating on a calf” I featured Walter Sanford, a fellow photographer and blogger. Today, in a posting called “The natives are friendly.” he featured my arm and finger as I tried to charm a couple of different dragonflies to perch on my index finger.

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Most dragonflies are skittish. Some dragonflies are “friendly,” such as Blue Corporal dragonflies (Ladona deplanata). Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) are friendly; sometimes very friendly!

Mike Powell and I visited Huntley Meadows Park recently. We stopped to “charm” dragonflies a couple of times during our photowalk. The following gallery shows two different male Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies perching on Mike: Photos 1-2 show Mike coaxing a dragonfly onto his finger; Photos 3-4 show another dragonfly perching on Mike’s arm.

Tech Tip: Either mouse-over or tap photos to see captions.

Copyright © 2013 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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