It’s been a pretty long while since I’m shooting insect photos. So far I’ve discovered several species through my macro lens: bees, wasps, beetles, ants, butterflies etc. I usually encounter many of these when going outdoors on a warm spring or summer day. However I occasionally meet some more “special” types and when I see them one of the possible words that comes into my thoughts is: “jackpot”! Today is a great day!
One of these interesting types is the dragonfly or sometimes its smaller (let’s say thinner) “cousin”, the damselfly. I find both of them so fascinating that I think they deserve a fully dedicated post. And this is what this article is about.
Dragonflies and damselflies are both large predator insects. This can be seen from their physical aspect. Actually although I find them beautiful I’m glad to be human and thus in the upper part of the trophic chain. I would certainly not want to be a small insect when meeting them! Dragonflies are somewhat larger (actually the damselflies are thinner, the body lengths are similar) and when resting keep their wings in a perpendicular position to body. See for example the first picture below. On the other hand damselflies fold their wings along the body while at rest. Their colors also differ from what I’ve seen so far: the dragonflies have warmer colors (yellow, brown, red) while the damselflies I photographed are usually blue mixed with some green hues. Both insects have two pretty interesting features: the biomechanics of their flight and the reproduction style. These two features might be connected together as I often noticed them mating in flight.
How easy is to take pictures of these insects? Well it depends on the moment. If they are in search for prey then they fly from place to place and until I manage to get to a reasonable distance the insect flies away. There were days when I ran tens of meters trying to catch a beautiful specimen without any success. However from time to time they rest on a flower or a tree branch (maybe they just caught a prey or have just eaten it) and then they might remain for a longer time in a static position. It’s then when the photographer might take the best advantage. In my opinion it’s overall easier to take pictures with dragon- and damselflies than with bees, bumblebees or butterflies (as mentioned before the latter ones might prove to be a nightmare to photograph). I could say the shooting difficulty is similar to that of mantises or locusts but again this might depend on the situation.
Where can these flies be found? Well they usually live near water, say lakes and rivers. In Bucharest there are several possible habitats like for example Lake Dambovita. Actually this is one my favorite photography places where one might take various nature pictures like: landscapes, birds and insect photos. It’s an ideal spot for nature photography! Here I met several dragonflies and damselflies and took pictures of them sitting either on small plants, tree branches, rocks or even a thrown plastic bottle floating on the water. If getting close enough a nice portrait can also be shot. Who said portrait photography applies only to humans? Nothing farther from reality! Last time I also caught a damselfly in action while eating a small insect (see last picture below). After finishing the meal it rested on the plant several more minutes so I had plenty of time to take tens of pictures before it took off. And even after taking off if you are patient enough and remain in that place there’s a good chance it lands again on the same plant or in a nearby spot! This is what exactly happened so I could take some more photos of it. As for other insects my advice to you is to take as many shots as possible because this highly increases the chances to get an unforgettable picture.
To sum up I consider dragonflies and damselflies as “pure gold” for macro photographers. They are fascinating for several reasons: beauty, predator behaviour, flight mechanics and reproduction style. They are pretty accessible from photographic point of view as when resting in a particular place (plant, tree branch) these predators don’t get scared easily. Dragonflies and damselflies can mainly be found near water sources (including in urban areas). As in general when shooting insects “patience is the key”. And attention to details as well.
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