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Posts Tagged ‘Widow Skimmer dragonfly’

Most dragonflies have clear wings, so I am happy when I see one with dark patches on its wings. It is even more exciting to see one with both brown and white patches, like this male Widow Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula luctuosa) that I spotted on Saturday at Occoquan Regional Park in nearby Lorton, Virginia.

When it comes to identifying dragonfly species, I have learned to focus not only on the colors of the wing patterns, but also on the number of such patches and their shapes. In the case of the Widow Skimmer, for example, both the males and females have the brown patches on the portion of the wings nearest the body.

Why are they called “Widow Skimmers?” Someone apparently thought the dark patches looked like the mourning crepe that historically widows wore. Even the Latin name “luctuosa” means “sorrowful.”

I used to be confused by the use of a female-associated word like “widow” with males, but I have gotten used to it. In fact, I no longer give a second thought to the idea of male damselflies, though I don’t have a clue about how that label affects their self-image.

Widow Skimmer

Widow Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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You never know for sure when a dragonfly will let you get close. Although some species tend to be less skittish than others, each individual dragonfly seems to have its own sense of “personal space.” Some will let you get really close and may even perch on you, but others will take flight or keep their distance as soon as they detect your presence.

On a recent trip to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I was able to see eye to eye with this handsome male Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa). I love the wonderful symmetry of looking straight into the multi-faceted eyes of a dragonfly, as in the first photo below, though I will admit that it really limits the depth of field in the image and does not let you see much of its body. For the second photo, I moved a little and shot if from a slight angle.

I tend to prefer the first image. What do you think?

Widow Skimmer

Widow Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What’s a Widow Skimmer? The name may bring to mind a gigolo chasing after rich old ladies, but it is actually a strikingly beautiful dragonfly. I spotted this handsome male Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa) on Monday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge in at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

When I took this shot, I was facing toward the sun. As a result, the body of the dragonfly is almost a silhouette. What was more important to me was the detail of the wings and I am happy I was able to capture some of the detail that was revealed as the light streamed through the almost transparent wings.

widow skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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When I was first getting serious about my photography, I remember being told how important it was to isolate my subject in order to prompt the viewer to focus on what I thought was important. At this time of the year I take a lot of photos of insects and it is often a real challenge to isolate them from their backgrounds. As I was going through some images from this past weekend, I noted that I tried a couple of different approaches when photographing male Widow Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula luctuosa) at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetlands Refuge.

In one case, I tried to isolate the dragonfly by shooting at an upwards angle, thereby eliminating the clutter of the vegetation. Of course, it helped that the dragonfly cooperated by perching at the tip of the stem. I really like the way that the colors and shapes of the background almost match those of the dragonfly.

Widow Skimmer

In a second case, the dragonfly was perched in the midst of the vegetation. I moved to a position so that my camera’s sensor was on a parallel plane to the dragonfly’s open wings and opened the aperture pretty wide. Normally I try to keep the aperture stopped down in an effort to get more parts of the dragonfly in focus. This time, however, the dragonfly was relatively flat and I was able to throw the background a bit out of focus without losing the details of the dragonfly. The contrast of the background colors with those of the dragonfly helps it to stand out, while retaining a sense of the environmental setting.

Widow Skimmer

There are lots of other ways to isolate subjects. Sometimes we have the luxury of being able to think about them, but often we are forced to make rapid decisions about shooting angles and camera settings that will have a huge impact on our final images.

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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What is a Widow Skimmer? It sounds like a con artist who preys on rich older women, but it actually is a beautifully patterned dragonfly, like this juvenile male that I spotted recently at Huntley Meadows Park.
Why is it called a “widow?” According to bugguide.net, the species name of the Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa) “means sorrowful or mournful, perhaps because the wings of both male and female seem to be draped in mourning crepe.” Only the male has white patches on its wings, so it’spretty easy to identify the dragonfly in the image as a male. Adult males have blue bodies and juvenile males and females have yellow and brown bodies.
Sometimes I wish that the identification of dragonfly species were this easy all of the time, but real life is generally much more complicated.
Widow Skimmer
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the dramatic lighting, the graphic quality, and the simple composition of this shot of a male Widow Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula luctuosa) that I took earlier this month at Jackson Miles Abbot Wetlands at Fort Belvoir, a nearby military installation here in Virginia.

There is a real beauty in simplicity.

Widow Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It violates one of the basic rules of photography to have your subject in the center of an image, but for both of these shots of a male Widow Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula luctuosa), that’s precisely what I did.

In the first image, the blade of grass that bisects the image helps to emphasize the symmetric patterns on the wings of the Widow Skimmer.

Widow Skimmer

In the second image, I was so fascinated by the geometric lines of the grass and their varying degrees of sharpness that I did not want to crop them at all, so I left the Widow Skimmer more or less in the center.

Widow Skimmer

When it comes to my photography, I tend to look at “rules” as general guidelines that apply in many—but not all—situations. That approach helps me to remain centered and flexible.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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