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Posts Tagged ‘Perithemis tenera’

When the weather gets hot, some dragonflies will raise their abdomens (the “tail”) in what is believed to be an attempt at thermoregulation. I can’t say for sure if it works, but the theory is that in this position, sometimes referred to as the “obelisk,” dragonflies are able to stay cooler by reducing the amount of their bodies subject to direct sunlight.

Earlier this week I spotted this male Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) in a modest obelisk position at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. I characterized the position as “modest,” because sometimes a dragonfly will elevated its abdomen until is almost vertical.Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Throughout the month of May I have struggled to identify the dragonflies and damselflies that I have photographed. So many of the species seem so similar that I have had to defer to experts for help. Over the years I have learned that the best way to get help on a Facebook forum is to misidentify a subject—some experts, who might not respond to a request for help, feel compelled to correct you and demonstrate their superior knowledge.

This past Friday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, it was nice to spot a familiar dragonfly species that was immediately identifiable—there is simply no other dragonfly in our area the looks like an Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera). Even the name is helpful in drawing attention to the key identification feature, the distinctive amber wings.

These dragonflies are among the smallest ones in our area, but they tend to perch on low vegetation overhanging the water (especially males like this one), so they are relatively easy to spot. Although they tend to be a little skittish, if you are patient and persistent you can snag some shots that show the beautiful details of the Eastern Amberwing dragonfly.

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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There were only a few water lilies in bloom at the small pond at a local garden that I visited this past weekend. Surprisingly, they were all pink in color and not the white ones that I am more used to seeing—perhaps it is late in the season for the white ones. Not surprisingly, there were quite a few dragonflies buzzing about and I decided that I wanted to get a shot of one of them perched on one of the water lilies.

So I waited and hoped and waited some more. My patience was eventually rewarded when a tiny male Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) landed on a partially open water lily bud and perched momentarily.

I really like the image that I managed to capture because of the way it conveys a sense of the mood of the moment, a calm, almost zen-like feeling of tranquility. The colors are subdued and the composition is minimalist—there is a real beauty in simplicity.

Dragonfly and water lily

© 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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Eastern Amberwing dragonflies (Perithemis tenera)  are tiny, less than an inch (20-25mm) in length, but they are distinctive and stunningly beautiful. According to information on the wonderful Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website, Eastern Amberwings are the smallest dragonflies in our area and the second smallest in the United States—only Elfin Skimmers are smaller.

I spotted this perching male this past weekend at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge in the vegetation surrounding a small pond. I was happy to be close enough that I was able to capture so many of the details of the dragonfly, including its captivating eyes and segmented body.

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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