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Posts Tagged ‘Prince Baskettail dragonfly’

Life can be tough and can wear you down if you are a prince, at least if you are a Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps). Last Saturday I spent a pretty good amount of time observing Prince Baskettails patrolling a pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge.

As I am wont to do, I tried to photograph them in flight and managed to get a few shots in focus. As I reviewed the images, I couldn’t help but notice that the wings of all of the dragonflies were worn down and/or damaged. I am used to seeing such damage with dragonflies that fly through thickets and heavy vegetation, but I was a little surprised to see it with dragonflies that seem to spend most of the time flying over open water.

As we move deeper into summer, I am certain to encounter more and more dragonflies with damaged wings. I am always amazed to see that such dragonflies are still capable of amazing aerial acrobatics despite their physical limitations—somehow they manage.

Prince Baskettail

Prince Baskettail

Prince Baskettail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do dragonflies have noses? That sounds like a crazy question, but it is the first one that came to mind when I looked at the image that I had captured of a dragonfly in flight this past week at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. I could not immediately identify it, so I consulted with experts in a Facebook group and learned that it is a Cyrano Darner (Nasiaeschna pentacantha). This species has a protruding forehead—it’s not a nose— that is reminiscent of the long nose of literary character Cyrano de Bergerac.

The species in the second shot is a Prince Baskettail (Epitheca cynosura), a species that I have featured multiple times in this blog. During much of the summer, I can usually spot one or two Prince Baskettail dragonflies patrolling over the pond at the same wetland refuge and I love trying to capture shots of them in flight. What makes this image distinctive, though, is not so much the dragonfly, but the background. There were ripples in the pond and the way that I shot and processed the image turned them into a wonderfully abstract background.

When I post photos like these, I often get questions about how I am able to capture images of flying dragonflies. Luck and persistence are the keys to getting shots like these. I use my 180mm macro lens and focus manually as the dragonflies zoom by, because the dragonflies don’t fill enough of the frame for my auto-focus to engage quickly and accurately. I have found that is almost impossible for me to use a zoom lens in this task—I get overwhelmed when I try to zoom, track, and focus simultaneously.

Cyrano Darner

Prince Baskettail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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This Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps) almost looks like it was flying at an airplane’s cruising altitude and was looking down at a landscape with rivers, mountains, and lakes. I spotted this dragonfly last weekend at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and spent quite a while trying to get a shot of it in flight.

The dragonfly, however, never ventured close enough to shore for me to get a detailed shot of it. I was a little disappointed until I opened up the image on my computer and discovered that I had managed to capture a wonderful, fanciful background. Sometimes I try to document the reality that I see and other times it seems like it is just my imagination running away with me.

Prince Baskettail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Different species of dragonflies fly in different ways. Some soar high in the air and some cruise just above the surface of the water. A dragonfly’s wings allow it to perform all kinds of aerial acrobatics that are entrancing to observe. Given their size and speed, it’s a significant challenge to try to capture them in flight, though frequent readers of this blog know that I will sometimes spend extended periods of time trying to meet that challenge.

During a recent trip to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I noticed a dragonfly flying above my head. Its flight reminded me of eagles and hawks that I have seen gliding effortlessly on thermal updrafts. I couldn’t make out the flight pattern that it was following, but it repeatedly flew over me. Each time that it returned, I would point my camera almost straight up and eventually I was able to capture this shot of an easy-to-identify Black Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea lacerata)—the pattern of black blotches on the wings are very distinctive.

Black Saddlebags

Later that same day I spotted a dragonfly making repeated patrols above the water. The dragonfly never seemed to rest or to perch, so I tried and tried to capture some shots of it as it zoomed on by me. Most of my shots were out of focus, but I like the one below. The choppy water in the background reminds me of the clouds that I will sometimes see when I look out of the window of an aircraft that has reached its cruising altitude. In my mind’s eye, I can imagine this dragonfly flying high in the sky, peacefully soaring above the clouds and the turbulence below it.

Prince Baskettail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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It’s a fun challenge to try to capture an image of a dragonfly in flight and I spent a lot of quality time this morning with a Prince Baskettail (Epitheca princeps) at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. Generally he flew patrols in the center of the pond, out of range of my lens (a 180mm macro), but occasionally he would fly tantalizingly close and give me a split second to react.

Most of the time I was unable to track him and focus quickly enough, but eventually I did manage get a few relatively sharp photos. This one is my favorite.

Prince Baskettail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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If you want a really lesson in patience, trying photographing dragonflies in flight. Yesterday I spent several hours trying to capture images of Prince Baskettail dragonflies (Epitheca princeps) as they conducted long, low patrols over a small pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetlands Refuge in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

The Prince Baskettails didn’t always follow the same flight paths and their changes in flight direction often were unpredictable, but they kept coming back, giving me lots of chances to attempt to get shots. With some species you can wait for the flying dragonflies to take a break and perch for a moment or two, but Prince Baskettails have amazing stamina—I have never seen one stationary.

There are a number of different approaches to capturing in-flight images. Some folks like to pre-focus on a zone and wait until the dragonfly comes into that area. I like to acquire my target with my naked eye as it approaches and then track it through the camera’s viewfinder for as long as I can. The biggest problem is acquiring focus.  My preferred lens for shooting dragonflies is my trusty Tamron 180mm macro lens. Its focal length lets me use it as both a telephoto and a macro lens, but it is somewhat slow in focusing, so I ended up with lots of blurry shots.

However, I was able to capture some shots that were in focus, including this image that shows the amazing eyes and beautiful markings of this spectacular dragonfly. It’s probably my imagination, but the dragonfly in the photo almost seemed to be glancing in my direction as it flew by and giving me a little smile.

Prince Baskettail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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