Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Fine-lined Emerald’

What signposts mark for you the transition from summer to autumn? Many folks might point to changes in the foliage colors or cooler weather, but for me the spotting of my first Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora filosa) marks an unofficial beginning to the new season.

Fine-lined Emeralds are a relatively uncommon dragonfly species, both locally as well as nationally. They seem to prefer a coastal plain and are active for only about a month, generally the month of September. Yesterday I visited Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, a place where I have seen Fine-lined Emeralds in the past, and I was thrilled when I eventually spotted one. However, it took me several hours before I was able to capture this shot, because most of the Fine-lined Emeralds that I saw flew by me without stopping and I would lose them when I gave chase.

You probably noticed a few things about this dragonfly when you looked at the photo. First, it is clear why the family to which this dragonfly belongs is called “Emerald”—those brilliant green eyes are mesmerizing. Secondly, you can’t help but notice that Fine-lined Emeralds do not perch horizontally like most dragonflies you are likely to encounter. Instead, they hang almost vertically from bare branches. As a result, their slender bodies are hard for the eye to detect and also tend to confuse a camera’s autofocusing system. Most of the time I end up having to manually focus, as I did in this situation. Lastly, if you click on the image, you can see this dragonfly’s beautiful markings on the thorax (the “chest”) and the abdomen (the “tail”).

So, for me autumn has begun with the arrival of the Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly. Has autumn started for you yet or are you waiting for some additional personal signs of the season?

Fine-lined Emerald

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Despite seeing several Fine-lined Emerald dragonflies (Somatochlora filosa) last Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, only this one was cooperative enough to land for a moment and allow me to get some shots.

Previously I posted some photos I took of Fine-lined Emeralds in flight. I had chased and chased these elusive dragonflies, but they never seemed to stop flying. I was beginning to think that I would not get a shot of one perched when suddenly one that I was tracking dropped down into the vegetation. I approached very cautiously and spotted it clinging vertically to a narrow stem.

My heart was racing as I switched to manual focusing—the profile of the perched dragonfly was so slim that I didn’t think my auto-focus would lock on my subject. I took a couple of shots and then inched forward a little. This is part of an eternal struggle for a wildlife photographer, deciding how close you can get to a subject without disturbing it.

I was pretty happy with this image, because I was able to capture a lot of details of this cool-looking species. I recommend clicking on the image to see a higher resolution view of the dragonfly’s spectacular emerald eyes, beautiful body markings, and wonderful wings.

Fine-lined Emerald

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I was thrilled yesterday to see that there are still Fine-lined Emerald dragonflies (Somatochlora filosa) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was afraid that all of the recent rain had washed them away.

This particular dragonfly species is pretty uncommon, but the wildlife refuge that has become my go-to place for photography is one of the few local spots where they can be found. I think its peak period in our area is September-October, judging from my experience last year, so I was anxious to see them some more before they disappeared for the year.

It is easy to see a Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly when it is patrolling, because it often flies at knee to shoulder height. It is a whole different problem, though, to get a shot of one, because they spend most of their time in the air rather than perching. I spent quite a bit of time yesterday chasing after these dragonflies, hoping in vain to be able to catch the moment when one decided to take a break.

Finally I decided to change my approach and see if I could capture a shot of one as it flew by me. I know that it can be done, because last year I captured an in-flight image using my 150-600mm zoom lens. The lens that I had on my camera, however, was my 180mm macro lens, which meant that I had to get pretty close to the dragonfly rather than zooming in. That particular lens is slow to focus, so I decided to focus manually, which can be tricky with a moving subject. One of the downsides of the lens is it has no built-in image stabilization, so I decided to keep the camera affixed to my monopod for the sake of stability.

It took some time, but eventually I was able to capture a few shots of flying Fine-lined Emeralds that were relatively in focus, aided by the fact that these dragonflies hover a little from time to time.

I particularly like the first image because it shows both the emerald eyes and the fine lines near the tip of the abdomen that are responsible for the name of the species. It was also cool that the angle of view was unusual, given that I was looking down at the dragonfly as I took the shot. I also like the touch of brownish-orange from the out-of-focus leaves that gives the image an autumn feel.

The second shot gives a more “normal” view of a Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly as it flew by.  I was happy to be able to separate it somewhat from the leafy backdrop by carefully focusing on the dragonfly. This is one of those situations when the auto-focusing system of the camera would have been challenged—the subject was pretty small in the viewfinder and the auto-focus probably would have tried to lock on the background.

fine-lined emerald

fine-lined emerald

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I tend to be an opportunistic photographer, content to wander about and shoot whatever I happen to find. For the last couple of weeks, though, I have been searching diligently for a particular species of dragonfly, the Fine-lined Emerald (Somatochlora filosa), and yesterday, the final day of August, I finally found one at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

What makes this dragonfly so special? In his excellent website Dragonflies of Northern Virginia, Kevin Munroe described some of the allure of this particular species— “One of Northern Virginia’s most rare dragonflies, possibly our rarest, this species is seldom seen and little known throughout its range, from New Jersey to Florida, and west to Kentucky and Texas. Most field guides describe its breeding habitat as “unknown”.”

Last year I was lucky enough to see a Fine-lined Emerald several times, but I wanted more. As befits its name, my first glimpse yesterday of the dragonfly was of its brilliant green eyes as it flew by me. Unlike some species that fly high the air, Fine-lined Emeralds often patrol at waist to eye level. I was able to follow and track the dragonfly until it perched. This species hangs vertically from vegetation when perching, so it can be tough to spot one unless you have seen it land.

I was fortunate to be able to photograph this beautiful dragonfly on several different perches until it finally disappeared from sight. Here are a couple of my favorite shots from our altogether too brief encounter yesterday.

Fine-lined Emerald

Fine-lined Emerald

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

Do you ever get so obsessed with a single species that you return over and over again to the same location, seeking another glimpse (and hopefully more photos) of that species? Generally I describe myself as an “0pportunistic” shooter—I like to walk around and photograph whatever I happen to see—and only rarely do I have specific goals for a photo shoot.

My normal approach changed this past month as I became somewhat obsessed with the Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora filosa). My good friend and local dragonfly expert Walter Sanford encouraged me to seek out this rare species, which has been seen at only a single location, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, in our area. I started spending most of my free time at this wildlife refuge, rather than at Huntley Meadows Park, my most frequent shooting location.

Mostly on my own, though occasionally shooting with Walter, I learned more and about this species, including its preferred perches and patrolling techniques. Over time, I learned to recognize Fine-lined Emeralds as they flew towards me at knee-level with their shiny green eyes glinting in the sunlight and spent endless hours chasing after them. Eventually I acquired a collection of shots of them perching and even managed to capture an image of one in flight and some shots of a couple mating.

I was painfully aware that, as the old saying indicates, all good things must come to an end. The excellent website Dragonflies of Northern Virginia showed the record late date for this species of 4 October in our area, so last Friday, 6 October, I went out to shoot with high hopes, but low expectations. I was thrilled to have multiple sightings of Fine-lined Emeralds during the day and the images below are among my favorites of the day.

We have now entered into a period of rain in our area and I fear that I may have seen my final Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly for the year. I am a bit stubborn and unusually persistent, though, so I may make a trip again on Friday, my next free day for shooting, hoping against the odds to see my Fine-lined friends one more time.

Fine-lined Emerald

Fine-lined Emerald

Fine-lined Emerald

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

As we move inexorably deeper into autumn, more and more flowers and leaves are fading and falling. Many of the familiar dragonflies of the summer also are disappearing. I was heartened yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge to spot this Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora filosa), a survivor that is tattered and torn, but is still flying in October.

I mentioned in a recent blog posting that I am experimenting with carrying two cameras with me when I go out shooting. The first photo was shot with my Canon SX50, a super-zoom camera and the second was taken with my Canon 50D DSLR. The depth of field is so shallow with the DSLR, normally shooting close to the 600mm end of my zoom lens, that it seems more ideal for shots like the second image where the subject is flatter. The SX50 gives me more depth of field and I love the way that it allowed me to capture the background as circles of color.

Fine-lined Emerald

Fine-lined Emerald

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

For the last couple of weeks I have been chasing male Fine-lined Emerald dragonflies (Somatochlora filosa) around Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Northern Virginia in a series of patrolling and perching encounters. One day this past weekend a couple flew by me in wheel position, i.e. they were locked together in a mating position and were still able to fly. I was able to get a few shots of them when they landed nearby. Eventually they changed positions and hung together in tandem. Unfortunately I lost sight of them for a second and I didn’t see them actually fly away

Readers of this blog have seen multiple shots of mating dragonflies, but this was a really special encounter for me. Why? This species of dragonflies is pretty rare, both locally and nationally. As Kevin Munroe described it on his wonderful Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website, “One of Northern Virginia’s most rare dragonflies, possibly our rarest, this species is seldom seen and little known throughout its range, from New Jersey to Florida, and west to Kentucky and Texas. Most field guides describe its breeding habitat as “unknown”.” It is reassuring to see this species breeding in our area, so there is a chance I will see them again next year and in the future.

In the section of his website dealing with the Fine-lined Emerald, Kevin included a photo from 2012 of a pair of these dragonflies mating with a caption that indicated it was “the only record of this species breeding in N VA.” I don’t know if others have captured images of mating Fine-lined Emeralds more recently, but it is cool to realize that I am part of a really small group of folks who have documented this behavior.

Early this week I went back to the same area, hoping to find another mating pair, but was unsuccessful. I’d like to be able to learn how and where the females lay their eggs. I was told by one dragonfly expert on a Facebook forum that egg-laying behavior for this species has been observed and documented only once. I tend to think of myself as more of an artist than a scientist. I am, however, motivated by an almost overwhelming sense of curiosity that pushes me outdoors more and more frequently with my camera, striving and hoping to capture more interesting subjects and situations that I can share with others. Who knows, maybe I will be able to find out where female Fine-lined Emeralds hang out and deposit their eggs.

Fine-lined Emerald

Fine-lined Emerald dragonflies in wheel position

 

Fine-lined Emerald

Fine-lined Emerald dragonflies in tandem position

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »