Friday, May 23, 2014

What I Learned from Dragonflies

collage of three images of dragonflies
Dragonfly Collage
copyright 2014, Stephanie Maatta Smith
Dragonflies are some of Mother Nature's most intriguing creatures. They have gossamer wings and jewel-toned colors. The nature guidebooks and all of the guides to photographing dragonflies suggest these insects are in constant motion and a challenge for making photographs. I definitely agree, but when finally captured as images, they can be spectacular.

Roseate skimmer dragonfly image
Rosie Glow
copyright 2014, Stephanie Maatta Smith
The first lesson I learned from dragonflies is patience. They flit away so quickly if not approached with stealth. But if they land and are still, it's possible to see the sun glinting off their wings. It's also helpful to hunt for them in the cool air of the early morning or as the sun starts to set. Like butterflies, they need the warmth of the sun to remain active.

Wandering glider, dragonfly image
Just a Wanderer
copyright 2014, Stephanie Maatta Smith
The second lesson I learned is technique -- depth of field matters to create images that are clear and detailed. A shallow depth of field helps in blurring ugly or busy backgrounds, allowing the dragonfly to be the star of the image. The roseate skimmer (above) was in the center of a butterfly garden surrounded by flowering bushes and plants -- very noisy background if in focus. The wandering glider (on left) is resting on the edge of a trash can with trees and swamp behind -- less than attractive setting, though the color of the trash can is pretty.

Each of these images was shot in RAW format, and they are essentially straight out of the camera.  Minimal color corrections to add mid-range tones and minor cropping was done in post-processing.

The stars of these images include: Great Pondhawk, Halloween Pennant, Roseate Skimmer, and Wandering Glider.

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