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Posts Tagged ‘Needham’s Skimmer’

Her colors were faded and her wings were tattered, but the simple beauty and elegance of this mature female Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) were still very much in evidence when I encountered her on Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. In fact, the coppery-gold veins near the leading edges of her wings seemed to glow from the inside with a radiant light.

So often our society tells us that we should equate beauty with a youthful appearance, but I would argue that beauty can be found at all ages. Beauty for me is not so much about matching up to some standard of perfection—it can be found in the midst of all of our wrinkles, scars, and blemishes. Our uniqueness as individuals in and of itself makes us beautiful if you look closely and deeply enough.

Needham's Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was happy to finally photograph a mature male Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) on Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Earlier this season all of the ones I shot were immature and did not have the reddish-orange/brown tones that remind me that autumn is on the way.

Here in the northern hemisphere, autumn will begin in just a few days for those using the meteorological calendar, though many of us won’t start the season until the autumnal equinox on 22 September, according to the astronomical calendar. On the other side of the globe, spring is about to begin and new life is bursting forth in places like New Zealand and Australia, where some of my most devoted readers live. For them, the September equinox is the vernal equinox, and not the autumnal equinox and I look forward to seeing their photos of daffodils, crocuses, and other spring flowers.

Needham's Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Have you even examined dragonfly wings really closely? I tend to think of dragonfly wings as being made up lots of individual “cells” that are uniform in size and shape, like the squares on piece of graph paper. The reality, however, is that the wings are incredibly complex and are full of intricate designs and shapes that presumably help the dragonfly to maneuver its way so masterfully through the air.

Last week I captured this image of an immature male Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami) while I was exploring in Occoquan Regional Park. I managed to position my camera so that I was almost perfectly parallel to the plane of the wings that are consequently in sharp focus. I highly encourage you to click on the image to see the breathtaking wing details that form such complex mosaic-like patterns. Wow!

It is no wonder that it is so hard for me to draw or paint dragonfly wings that look realistic.

Needham's Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How do you stand out from the crowd? A touch of gold always adds a bit of bling, especially if you are a dragonfly. I spotted this young male Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) yesterday while exploring a small pond in Fairfax County.

At the moment this juvenile male Needham’s Skimmer has the same colors as a female, but eventually his abdomen will turn an orange-red in color, but retain the black stripe down the middle. It is still a bit early in the season, though, for me to see an adult, as Needham’s Skimmers are a summer species that is just now starting to emerge—this is my first sighting of one this year.

 

Needham's Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Some dragonflies seems to seek the highest possible perch and I love photographing them with the sky and the clouds as the simple backdrop.  I spotted this female Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

I was thrilled that I was able to maneuver myself into a shooting position almost directly below the dragonfly and shoot upwards at a sharp angle. I was also happy to capture the beautiful golden markings near the leading edges of the wings, one of the most distinctive characteristics of this species that is quite common where I live.

 

Needham's Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Does you mood affect how you react to images? When I am reviewing images that I have captured, most of the time I use an analytical approach. I seek to identify the species of my subject and then look at the technical aspects of the photo, such as the sharpness of the focus. Finally I will see if I can improve the composition by cropping the image.

For some images, though, I respond initially with my heart and not my head. I don’t worry about “what” it is and simply enjoy the beauty of the shapes and colors that make up the image. That was the case with this shot of a male Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) that I captured during a recent visit to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

I love the contrast between the orangish-red of the dragonfly’s body and the green background. The shape and texture of the vegetation, which I believe is Eastern Gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides), also really grabbed my eye (in part because I missed focus a little and the sharpest part of the image is the grass in front of the dragonfly). The composition is simple and straightforward and is pretty much the way I shot it.

We all like what we like. Most often we don’t even ask ourselves why we like something. I personally find it beneficial to try to articulate why I like something. Words fail me quite often when attempting to describe with words what is primarily an emotional reaction, but I think that the effort itself makes the process worthwhile.

Needham's Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last week I spotted this female Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The direct sunlight was a little harsh, but the high perch of the dragonfly allowed me to capture a beautiful, uncluttered background.

I love the golden edges of the wings of this species and the wonderful two-toned eyes of the females like this one. It was an additional bonus that she seemed to be smiling for her moment in the spotlight.

Needham's Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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We are now in prime dragonfly season and many familiar species are reappearing, like this beautiful Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) that I spotted on Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

I love the beautiful orange-gold color on the leading edges of the wings of this species, a color that really sparkles in the sunlight. I was fortunate to capture this dragonfly in a way that blurred the background. Depth of field is always an issue in situations like this and you can probably see that the tips of the wings are not in sharp focus, but I am ok with that and think it helps draw the viewer’s eyes to the dragonfly’s main body and, in particular, to its wonderful eyes.

Needham's Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I don’t expect to see dragonflies flying in the rain, so I was a little shocked to see this one in the air this past weekend at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I captured this shot when it landed and hung vertically in the vegetation in an apparent attempt to drip dry.

I not certain of the identification of this dragonfly, but think it might be a Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami), judging from the markings. Normally Needham’s Skimmers perch horizontally rather than vertically, but the unusual perching behavior might have merely been a consequence of the rainy conditions.

If you click on the image, you can see it in slightly higher resolution, including the tiny drops of water at the lower end of the abdomen (the “tail”).

Needham's Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Two different colored dragonflies, a Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami) and a Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans), were peacefully sharing a prime perch on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Why is it so hard for us to peacefully coexist with one another?

peaceful co-existence

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I love the stunning red-orange coloration of a male Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami), especially when the sunlight dances across its gold-tinged wings, as it did on Monday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Generally I prefer an uncluttered background for my subjects, but in this case I think the soft patterns of the grasses in the background enhance the image more than would have been the case with a uniform single color.

Needham's Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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What a difference a background makes. Recently I have been seeing a lot of beautiful female Needham’s Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula needhami) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It is often a challenge to try to separate them from the background vegetation so that you can focus in on the dragonfly’s wonderful details, like its gorgeous speckled green eyes.

Here are two images that I was able to capture with uncluttered backdrops, one with sky and one with vegetation. I tend to like the first shot a little bit more because of the beautiful blue sky, though I like the lighting and the wonderful Eastern gamagrass in the second shot.

It is fascinating to see what a different feel the background gives to images of similar subjects. Do you prefer one image over the other?

Needham's Skimmer

Needham's Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Dragonflies have to eat too, but I was a little shocked when I stumbled upon this Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) munching on a ladybug or two yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Woodbridge, Virginia. Although I know that dragonflies are fearsome predators, I guess that I am not used to thinking of ladybugs as prey—they are usually depicted as cute, which is why they are seen so often on children’s clothing and furnishings.

dragonfly and ladybug

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Two weeks ago, during the waning days of summer, I captured this image of a beautiful Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) at Huntley Meadows Park, the local marshland where I do a lot of my shooting. The vivid red of its body made it really stand out—camouflage did not seem to be a viable option.

Although this dragonfly species is pretty common, I only saw a couple of them this season and this was the only one that I managed to photograph. The dragonfly was perched on a dried stalk in a field and it was tough to try to get any kind of clear background, particularly because I did not want to move too much and risk scaring away the dragonfly.

In these two images, you can see two slightly different approaches that I used. In the first one, I was not worried that there were some horizontal stalks in the background. In fact, I actually like the repetition of the horizontal line and don’t find them distracting, given how blurred they are. In the second image, I tried to get as uncluttered a background as I could, which isolates the dragonfly a little better. I tend to like the first image a little more, but I welcome any thoughts about which image you prefer.

Needham's SkimmerNeedham's Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Every time that I look at a dragonfly head-on, I can’t help but think of the biplanes of World War I, like the Sopwith Camel that Snoopy famously imagined piloting in his battles with the Red Baron.

Considering the colors of this Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami), I guess that he would have to represent the Red Baron, not Snoopy. Aerial dogfights are not without danger, and it looks like this dragonfly has survived several encounters with the enemy, with all of his wings showing some damage.

red_dragonfly_headon_blog© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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It’s unusual for me to see a red dragonfly, so yesterday I chased around several of them and have concluded that they are probably Needham’s Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula needhami), a species that I have never before encountered.

In addition to the red-orange bodies, these dragonflies have reddish-brown veins in their wings, which make them very striking. There is another species, Golden-winged skimmers (Libellula auripennis), that is supposed to look like the Needham’s Skimmers, so I may be off in my identification—I will leave the final call to experts.

I’m keeping my eyes open and hope that I’ll be able to find a few more species that are new to me before the summer ends, though it’s tough right now to go outdoors with temperatures in the daytime around 95 degrees F (35 degrees C) and very humid.

red_dragonfly2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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