There is a small pond nearby that hosts great numbers of dragonflies. It is large enough to pull in the bigger dragonflies, but it is small enough that I can track a dragon all the way across the pond and back by eye.
This is where I practice “wing-shooting” dragonflies.
My favorites are the big darners (Anax), of which there are two:
Green Darner (Anax junius)— by far the more common, the powerful Green is a magnificent flying jewel of a creature;
Comet Darner (Anax longipes)—an uncommon species in the State, Comet Darners are absolutely unmistakable.
I also like to try for the Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata)—so far without much success. They almost never stop. I almost got a pair in wheel–so close.
The next shot was actually taken on a very windy day on a ridge top during migration. Lucky shot, but what a magnificent bug.
A few tips on getting flight shots:
- Turn off the flash, shoot in broad daylight—the wings are supposed to be a blur.
- Try to go early or late in the daily flight period; the dragonflies are noticeably slower when it is cooler, and they tend to hover more.
- Set yourself perpendicular to the direction of the wind. Your best bet for getting a flight shot is catching one at a hover—they don’t hover often, but when they do, they tend to hover into the wind.
Sometimes I just catch a break. Last year, I thought I saw something that looked like a red colored Black Saddlebags—which pretty much describes a Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina)—but I only got a fleeting look at it. This year, one flew in, hovered around for about twenty seconds, and then departed to I know not where, but not before I grabbed one lucky shot.
It just sorta happened; I wish I were that good!
- I have never been able to prove that Comet Darners successfully reproduce here—however, they have been flying over that pond every summer for the last five years, and I have watched a female lay eggs in a nearby pool, so I think they probably are. [↩]
- That said, the Comet Darner above was actually hovering downwind—as a former helicopter pilot, I was appalled. [↩]