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Posts Tagged ‘Tamron 180mm’

Dragonfly on the rocks? It sounds like a summertime beverage, but it accurately describes what I saw last Friday while exploring a stream in Prince William County, Virginia with fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford. I think it is a Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus), but the unusual angle makes it tough to made a definitive determination of the species, because I am not able to see critical portions of the dragonfly’s anatomy.

In the past when I have spotted Dragonhunters, they have been perched on branches overhanging the water and that is where I expect to find them. This encounter is a good reminder for me to stay alert at all times—my subjects may not have read the identification guides about how they are supposed to behave.

dragonhunter

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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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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Most of the times that I have observed a Common Sanddragon dragonfly (Progomphus obscurus) it has been perched directly on the sand, which makes sense, given its name. Last week, however, I spotted this Common Sanddragon perched in some vegetation overhanging the water of a stream in Prince William County, Virginia.

I like the way that the dragonfly almost looks like he is flying, because I managed to take the photograph from almost directly overhead, causing the perch almost to disappear. I also really like the look of rocky portion of the stream that makes up most of the background of this image.

Common Sanddragon

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last week as I was exploring Prince William County, I encountered this large dragonfly  perched in a tree overhanging a fairly large stream. When I captured these images, I was not sure what kind of dragonfly it was. After consultations with some experienced dragonfly experts, I learned that this is a female Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus).

Dragonhunters are among the largest dragonflies in our area. Unlike darners, another group of large dragonflies that fly almost continuously as they seek prey, dragonhunters prefer to perch and wait patiently before they strike. As their name suggests, they specialize in hunting other dragonflies, reportedly including members of their own species.

Dragonhunter

Dragonhunter

Dragonhunter

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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This past Wednesday I encountered a really cooperative Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) as I explored nearby Prince William County and was able to capture this tight head shot. I simply love this dragonfly’s beautiful gray eyes, which are a perfect for the monochromatic palette of the rest of its body and give this dragonfly a more sophisticated look than many of its more gaudily-clad brethren. (The coloration also helps this dragonfly to almost disappear from view when it is perched on a tree like this one.)

Gray Petaltail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have often thought that Comet Darner dragonflies (Anax longipes) are appropriately named for they have always been beautiful objects speeding by that I have been forced to admire from a distance. It is hard to miss a Comet Darner when they are around because they are very large and the red color on their bodies is so bright that it seems to glow. They generally patrol near the center of the ponds where I have seen them and I have never seen one stop to perch. According to the Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website, “Comets have expansive territories that may cover several miles and a network of small, shallow, forest-edged ponds. They’ll visit your pond, leave for 30 minutes to patrol other sites, then return.”

On Wednesday, I spotted a Comet Darner while I was at a small pond and started to track it in my camera’s viewfinder. Strangely this dragonfly was flying in and out of the vegetation growing in the shallow water, as you can see in the first shot. As I was trying to figure out what was going on, the Comet Darner dipped her abdomen in the water and began to deposit her eggs. If you look closely at the second image, it looks like she may actually have the tip of her abdomen submerged as she oviposited. I didn’t have a completely unobstructed view of this beautiful dragonfly, but I actually like the effect of the vegetation in the foreground—it helps to convey the sense that we are sharing a private moment.

Comet Darner

Comet Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When it comes to photography, how do you balance its creative and technical components, how do you mix art and science? In the uncontrolled natural environment in which I take my photographs, I often have to be content with merely capturing an image, any image, of my subject before it disappears.

Sometimes, though, I can make minor adjustments on the fly that have a major impact on the final shot. Last week I was at Occoquan Regional Park, observing dragonflies as they zigged and zagged over the surface of the water. Most of them were common, readily identifiable species. Suddenly I spotted one that was different. I suspected, and later confirmed, that it was a female Unicorn Clubtail (Arigomphus villosipes) and knew that it was pretty rare to spot the female of this species.

The dragonfly began to dip the tip of her abdomen down in the water to deposit eggs and I sprung into action. She was not far from the shore and I snapped off a few shots looking down at her. Those images simply did not have any impact. Instinctively I dropped to my knees, which brought me closer to my subject. More importantly, it gave me a new perspective. I was closer to being at eye level with my subject and I was able to capture a more interesting background with the ripples in the water created by her actions.

This image, for me, is close to being an optimal mix of the technical and creative components of photography. It was challenging to shoot and simultaneously allowed me to express myself artistically. It is my response to the occasional naysayers who assert that photography is merely about capturing reality.

 

Unicorn Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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