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  • Writer's pictureFaruk Kara

Chasing Dragonflies

A few years ago I put a small pond in the garden. The idea was to attract frogs to help with managing the slug population. We attracted no frogs, but we did start attracting dragonflies having created a breeding resource for them. Each year, come June/July, half a dozen dragonflies can be seen buzzing around the garden. The challenge was to try to photograph these fast moving insects. I am not a nature photographer and I do not have any specialised lenses for the job. After 6-7 sessions between July and Sept, it was possible to work out a technique that fitted my equipment.

The first attempt was to photograph a broad bodied chaser (first photo below). Using a Canon 55-200mm f4.5-5.6 USM lens, which is quite a cheap lens but has a nice sweet spot in the centre. Note a macro lens is a dedicated lens that is optically optimised to handle extremely close focusing distances. It can take sharp, highly detailed images of microscopic subjects. It typically has a magnification ratio of 1:1 and a minimum focusing distance of around 12 inches. The challenge then became taking a number of shots getting as close as possible while still being able to focus and not scare the dragonfly off. When shooting handheld, the rule of thumb is setting the shutter speed to be at least twice that of the focal length, i.e. 1/400th sec at 200mm to minimise the effect of movement. However, to get the sharpest results significantly higher shutter speeds are needed. An ISO of 400, as it was very bright, allowed 1/3200 at f5.6. While the photo has great detail, the body and wings are all in one plane so everything is in focus. For sharpness and detail, the results are very satisfying, however, the photos need to be more dynamic to be interesting.

Broad bodied chaser dragonfly perched on a stick. Very colourful and with sharp focius showing the structure of the wings.
Broad Bodied Chaser

Side on view of common darter dragonfly perched on stick, wings open. Etheral.
Common Darter Dragonfly
Common darter dragonfly perched on a stick face on, wings spread and in focus.
Common Darter Dragonfly
Common darter dragonfly seen from above, wings spread in focus in great detail.
Common Darter Dragonfly
Common darter dragonfly seen from above and from the front. Wings are spread in focus showing the detail..
Common Darter Dragonfly

Common chaser dragonfly with wings outstretched just landed on its perch, in focus. Dragonfly has a piece of the wing missing.
Common Chaser Dragonfly

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