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Posts Tagged ‘female Eastern Amberwing’

It love it when dragonflies cooperate and choose particularly photogenic perches, as these female Eastern Amberwing dragonflies (Perithemis tenera) did on Tuesday at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, Virginia, not far from where I live. The males of this species, whose wings are a solid amber in color, mostly seemed to be hanging out at a pond at the bottom of a hill, while the females were flitting about among the flowers in the gardens at the top—the gender separation reminded me of the awkwardness of junior high dances when I was growing up.

As many of you may recall, dragonflies and damselflies are part of the Odonata order of flying insects. My friend and fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford has coined the term “odonart” to refer to artsy-style photos that we manage to capture of our favorite aerial acrobats. I think that both of these images qualify to fit into that self-created category, given the beauty of the dragonflies and their particularly photogenic perches.

Eastern Amberwing

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Eastern Amberwings (Perithemis tenera) are one of the smallest dragonfly species where I live—less than one inch (25 mm) in length. I often see the amber-colored males buzzing around at the ponds that I visit, but it is rare for me to find a female.

According to the wonderful website Dragonflies of Northern Virginia, female Eastern Amberwing dragonflies are often found far from the water in meadows where they share perches with hornet and other wasps. When they are threatened, these dragonflies will rhythmically move their wings up and down while pulsing their abdomens in imitation of a wasp in order. Their goal is to scare off potential predators that believe they are about to be stung.

I spotted this tiny beauty yesterday while I was exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was, in fact, far from the water when I photographed her.  She posed briefly, it seemed, when I raised my camera and seemed to smile a little.

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As a nature photographer, I am used to living with compromises. Unlike some other kinds of photographers, I don’t have the luxury of waiting for perfect light or photographing only perfect subjects. I can make a few adjustments or move about a bit to improve my composition, but most of the time I deal with imperfections of one sort or another.

Every once and a while, though, I’ll take a photo that doesn’t require any substantial adjustments or even cropping–it looks just like I imagined it would. That was the case with a recent image I captured of a female Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  I like the way that I captured the subject, I like the curved of the vegetation on which it is perched, and I like the background. It’s a bonus that I didn’t need to crop.

Perfection is elusive in any pursuit—this is about as close as I can come to it in my photography.

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Do you consider yourself to be artistic? All of my life I have been in awe of people who can draw and paint and create art, but have never considered myself to be artistic. Increasingly, though, my photography has opened up a creative side that I am trying to nurture.

As some of you know, I decided that I want to try my hand at watercolor painting and did a posting not long ago on my first efforts at doing a landscape. I don’t usually shoot landscapes with my camera, so I thought that I would try a more familiar subject for my second project—I decided to try to paint a dragonfly. In retrospect, I probably should have chosen an easier subject, but I am so inexperienced in art that I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into.

For inspiration, I used a recent photo that I took of a female Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera). I have already included it in a blog posting, but am reprising it as the final photo, so you’ll know what my artistic efforts were supposed to look like.

I tried a couple of different approaches to my subject. First I tried sketching the dragonfly. I didn’t have a pencil handy, so I used a Bic ballpoint pen. My observation skills and sense of proportion are definitely lacking, but it was surprisingly fun to try. Without an eraser to correct my errors, I felt a bit like I was walking on a tightrope without a net.

Then I tried to draw with Crayola crayons? Why? I happened to be at Walmart yesterday and picked up a pack of 24 for only 50 cents at a back-to-school sale. My drawing looks a bit like a cartoon to me.

Finally I was ready to try watercolor. I decided that I would do the painting without bothering to sketch it out. Oops. I was using some inexpensive paper and it started to buckle a bit when I tried to cover the entire area with an overly wet wash of light green. I think I then attempted to put on the next layer before the first one was fully dry. I still feel like a second-grader in my watercolor skills, but it still was enjoyable trying to see what worked and what didn’t.

I did my final attempt in a sketchbook that is not intended for watercolor. I sketched out the dragonfly with a mechanical pencil and then colored the sketch with my watercolor paints. Out of all of my attempts, this is the one that I like the most. I felt a bit more confident in using the paints and in some of my strokes.

So what did I learn? Most significantly I learned that it’s worth taking a risk of feeling embarrassed; that it’s ok to try something new and achieve only a limited amount of success;, and that the amount of enjoyment that I can derive from a creative pursuit is not directly tied to any specific outcome.

dragonfly sketch

dragonfly crayon drawing

#worldwatercolormonth

#worldwatercolormonth

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

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Eastern Amberwings (Perithemis tenera) are the smallest dragonflies in our area. You can often find males buzzing around at the water’s edge, but females are harder to spot because they hang out in vegetation away from the water. I was thrilled therefore to see a beautiful female this past Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in some beautiful morning sunlight.

I decided to give a male Eastern Amberwing dragonfly equal billing in this post, because I really like the way that the shadows and the reflections make it look like he has an elongated body and extra sets of wings.

Eastern Amberwing

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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