Photographing the Dragonfly in Flight

Red-eyed dragonfly inflightI call it Dragonflying. The art of photographing the dragonfly in flight. And it is teaching me patience.

I have always been intrigued by the elongated shape and erratic movements of the dragonfly. But not until I started photographing them did I realize how intricate and beautiful they truly are. With their “stained glass window” wings, brightly colored tails and gigantic eyes, they are a small wonder of nature’s design. Part of the odonata order that also includes damselflies, they are believed to have been gracing this earth for more than 300 million years.

dragonfly in flightEquipped with two sets of wings that can beat independently, unlike other double-winged insects that beat in unison, their front wings can be going up while their back ones are beating down. However, even with two sets they are considered to be slow flappers, so to speak, with an average of 30 wing-beats per second (whereas a bumblebee’s wings move at about 300 bps).

Staring dragonflyDragonfly eyes are enormous and contain as many as 30,000 individual lenses (whereas humans have one), giving them supreme vision that enables them to respond to stimuli—like an eager photographer—up to 40 feet away. Still, they are quite accommodating and generally may grant you an audience quite close.

Once referred to as The Devil’s Darning Needles, myth would have it that dragonflies would seek out bad children and sew their mouths together with their claspers while they slept. Sadly, the myth fell apart after rigorous scientific study revealed they had no pockets or handbags in which to cart around needle and thread. They actually can do no harm to us humans as they don’t bite or sting. In fact, they seem intrigued by us and generally come quite close. Frankly, I think they should be more revered as they help control our mosquito population.

Dragonflies pass through a fascinating life journey and you may not realize it, but the time they spend flying around our ponds and lakes is quite a short chapter in their lives. They actually hatch on the water surface and can remain in the larva stage for several years. The metamorphosis state brings the growth of wings, at which point they leave the water and begin their flying lifecycle, which lasts only weeks. This winged-stage is for mating and it is a common sight to see a male and female attached to each other, clinging to a blade of grass, or even mid-flight. Happy times for dragonflies before their precious few weeks of flight-time expire.

red-eyed dragon fly restingThe art…and challenge of photographing dragonflies

I am grateful to the dragonfly as it is teaching me patience. One of the biggest photography challenges for me has been capturing dragonflies in flight. I am generally impatient waiting for microwave popcorn, so standing in one spot for 50 minutes trying to focus and track spasmodically flying winged-things is not exactly in my comfort zone. But I love the challenge! I think of it as a zen meditation — with swearing.

blue eyed dragonfly in flight.I usually shoot with either a Canon 5D Mlll or a 7D and my 70-200 f4 IS L and after a few false starts and focusing trial-and-errors, I have started to find my rhythm. Coincidentally, it has corresponded with finding the dragons’ rhythm. Dragonflies really are unreliable, drunken flyers, changing direction and altitude very quickly. But, they also hover—and that is the photographer’s moment.

dragonfly flying towardsa cameraI have learned to anticipate and concentrate on that brooding moment. Once I find my way with tracking and focus, and I seem to have to re-learn this every time, I am able to concentrate on composition. Luckily, these subjects enjoy flying around bushes and moss-covered water allowing for opportunities to explore creative and contrasting backgrounds with which to create interesting bokeh, (that nice, softly blurred background you sometimes see in photographs) and perhaps a little catch of light dancing off the wings. Is that too much to ask for?

Dragonfly wings inflightThe next time you see a dragonfly while you are out for a hike in the woods, kayaking on the lake or relaxing in your garden, take a moment to watch it dance. Remember, you are privileged to be witnessing the last few days of this graceful creature’s life.

dragonfly departing

Originally written for The Mother nature Network.

If you enjoy the little things in life, check out my Small Wonders Galleries.

Enjoy the beauty of Safari Silhouettes

For more Wild! Life  please sign up for my newsletter here.  Or feel free to contact me here.

Posted in Insect Tagged , , , , |

Fox Kitts Have Left the Den!

Young foxes Kitt & Caboodle have left the den! The young fox kitts and their siblings are probably about 3 months old now and have left their winter den site. They are slowly gaining independence as they wander further and further from their mother. It has been great a great privilege to photograph the foxes in and around the rocks and trees. Most of the time I have come across them they have been sleeping, but even when they are, it is wonderful to spend time with them. They are looking very healthy and with a large squirrel population at ahnd, they are clearly well fed!

Here are a few of the more recent shots.

fox kitt

I nice stretch…maybe he things he’s a wolf?

Fox yawn

Mama fox dropped her acorn. You can see the entire sequence here.

I lost my acorn

sleeping fox

fox under the tree

fox yawning

Enjoy!

If you missed Kitt&Caboodle in the den, click here.

For more Wild! Life  please sign up for my newsletter here.  Or feel free to contact me here.

Posted in wildlife Tagged , , , , , , , |

Kit and Caboodle

Meet Kit and Caboodle–little red foxes

This week I was fortunate to find an active fox den inside the Montreal city limits. On the day I was there, patiently waiting for 2 hours, I was lucky to meet two of the six fox kits living in the den. They look to be just about a month or so old and hopefully I will get back for a better look next week. I am very grateful they decided to come out midday to explore their surroundings and have a little tossle with each other.

alpha_U7A8858.jpgden_U7A8744 - Version 2.jpgden_U7A8804.jpgeye_U7A8769.jpgkitt_U7A8868.jpgkitt_U7A8880.jpg

 

Ever thought of going on an African Safari? Looking for some Wild! Life? Join me in May 2016 for a fabulous 11 night safari in South Africa! Check out more here.

For more Wild! Life and safari updates, please sign up for my newsletter here.  Or feel free to contact me here.

Posted in animal, wildlife Tagged , , , , , |

South Africa Safari 2016!

truck_0U7A9925

Looking for some Wild! Life? Join me in May 2016 for a fabulous 11 night safari in South Africa! More details coming soon, but if you are curious, please download the teaser below for a sneak peek at what is in store. If you are interested in more details, please sign up for my newsletter here.  Or feel free to contact me here.

Take a look at the itinerary!

Download South Africa 2016 teaser!

Wondering what a safari looks like? Join me on a quick ride in my Land Rover !

 

Posted in wildlife