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Photographing Dragonflies

Updated on September 13, 2013
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My friend the dragonfly, wait this is not a children story or novel or anything like that. This is a simple photographic project amongst the hundreds of projects that anyone with a camera, some skills and the willingness to learn can undertake.

I have been fascinated with dragonflies for as long as I can remember and have photographed them many times during the years, but they still intrigue me and I continue to photograph them whenever I can. The better I got with my photography, the better their photographs became, even experimenting with macro albeit on dead specimens.

Mind you, I rarely will kill anything, but dragonflies like many insects don't have a long life span and dead specimens are rather easy to find if you know where to look.

However, if you must use dead specimens and intent on collecting your own live specimens, a jar or coffee can with a lid and an alcohol or ammonia laden cotton puff will work fine. Make sure that you place a screen between the cotton puff and the insect, otherwise the chemicals may damage it.

Here is more in depth detailed information about dragonflies, their habits and other useful facts which can prove valuable when conducting your scouting for subjects.

"A dragonfly is a winged insect belonging to the order Odonata, the suborder Epiprocta or, in the strict sense, the infraorder Anisoptera (from Greek ανισος anisos, "uneven" + πτερος pteros, "wings", due the hindwing being broader than the forewing). It is characterized by large multifaceted eyes, two pairs of strong transparent wings, and an elongated body. Dragonflies are similar to damselflies, but the adults can be differentiated by the fact that the wings of most dragonflies are held away from, and perpendicular to, the body when at rest. Dragonflies possess six legs (like any other insect), but most of them cannot walk well. Dragonflies are some of the fastest insects in the world.

Dragonflies are valuable predators that eat mosquitoes, and other small insects like flies, bees, ants, wasps, and very rarely butterflies. They are usually found around marshes, lakes, ponds, streams, and wetlands because their larvae, known as "nymphs", are aquatic." Wikipedia

OK, now that you know how useful dragonflies can be in ridding us of those very annoying mosquitoes, you can start the project with hopefully a bit more respect for this very useful and photogenic member of the insect world.

Your main intention will be to record images that show the dragonfly in its entirety yet done in a close up mode. Like many insects and most wildlife, they are not going to sit there and pose just for you. You need to do some research into their habits, environment, and other behaviors if you are to better your odds of capturing good images.

Most dragonflies will rarely venture too far from a body of fresh water since it is here where they must lay their eggs for their aquatic larvae to grow and metamorphose into a flying insect and where most of their prey is found. Like most insects the best times to catch them while they are rather less inclined to take flight is in the early morning hours while the air ambient temperature is rather on the cool side.

They will usually choose a solitary stick above most other vegetation and perch as they soak in the Sun rays and warm up. Use this time to go in close and record images of the details in their wings, their elongated body and not to miss are their eyes that produce very fascinating iridescence highlights and these images when done in a close up are quite interesting besides being very "eye appealing".

Locate a body of water, preferably a lake or pond, then locate some tall grasses where they are likely to perch on, usually near the shore or you can place several sticks that come out of the water about one to three feet and pre focus on them.

Sooner or later they are bound to seek a vantage point from where to scan their territory and tall grasses or sticks offer them the perfect place. You will have to be very patient as it may hours before they pick the "right" perch. A long lens that sets you some distance away will definitely help in putting them at ease.

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© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Nell Rose: Thank you, with a long lens once they perch you can take their images

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

      Hi, I think they are lovely little creatures, I used to be scared of them when walking by the river, but now I love their colours, I did try photographing them, but they are too fast for me! lol! cheers nell

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      pmccray: Thank you very much. Glad you liked it

    • pmccray profile image

      pmccray 6 years ago from Utah

      The Dragonfly creeps me out, but in still photos they're amazing creatures. Beautifully done, thank you for sharing. Voted up, awesome and interesting.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Cara.R: Thank you. Even thought you got caught in the moment, at least you experienced nature and the peace that it often brings. The experience was worth it for that reason alone.

    • Cara.R profile image

      Cara.R 6 years ago from New York

      I can relate to your article. As a photographer taking photos of a dragonfly is like going fishing. I get ready and set up shop next to the pond and wait. Mid morning in England was the best time and when the sun was out. In England waiting for the sun is like going fishing too. Waiting for the right weather at just the right time of day obviously is not as easy as just walking out side and snapping away with the camera. However all the patience and prep work is worth it to capture such a beautiful creature. I have one photo where it looks like he's smiling. From the wispy Bluet to some more chunky dragonflies, it was a great experience waiting and watching, even if I got caught up in the moment and took no photos.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Cardisa: They are going to die anyway...actually is better to record them while they are live, but some people don't have the patience. And yes, butterflies are loosely considered insects.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Lynn: A good telephoto lens will let you photograph them for far, and trust me they are very intriguing creatures, besides sitting patiently by a lake or other body of water is relaxing by itself.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 6 years ago from Jamaica

      Luis, how could you! Telling people how to kill dragonflies! lol

      This is one project I will be staying away from, I'd rather photograph cows than insects. Is butterfly an insect? If so then butterflies are the exception with maybe the ant to follow.

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      Lynn S. Murphy 6 years ago

      I have to get faster for dragonflies and thanks for the great tips. I shall stalk the tall sticks of vegetation.