Extreme Methods To Photograph Distant Dragonflies

This is a series of some Blue Dasher & other Dragonfly images I shot over a few years using a technique for getting softer smoother backgrounds for dragonflies that you can not get close to photograph. Depth of field is limited with this technique, but I like the softer backgrounds which makes the detail in the dragonfly stand out. The subject Dragonflies are about about 5 to 9 feet away. Usually they are on a plant or branch in or over the water. Plus I get closer up images not needing a large or any cropping. I was using a Canon 400mm DO lens with a 1.4x teleconverter(s) and extension tubes to get closer focus on the small (about 1.5 inches long) Dragonflies. Basically converting the lens to only closer focusing capability. Sometimes I would setup the equipment with the lens, then extension tubes, the teleconverter and then camera. Or have the lens, teleconverter, extension tubes, then camera body. Different arrangements of extension tube(s) & teleconverters gives different “focus zones”. Depending on the width & position of the extension tubes used is how close you can focus on your subject. With all the added converter(s) & extension tubes you may loose autoexposure so I mainly set exposure by looking at a preview shot or histogram and adjust exposure from there. It takes a while to get consistent results because there are so many variables. But it works well once you get used to it. Many times I use fill flash to help light the subject because I loose so much light with certain combinations of teleconverter(s) and extension tubes.

Blue dasher yard v1 400mm_ext_43G0988

Image somewhat soft on the bottom of the image from shooting through plants that were in the way, but liked the image anyway!

Blue dasher yard 2015 v2_43G1052

Blue_Dasher_400mm v3_43G3002

Blue Dasher_v2_f16_420mm_DM 6_19_76A0627 copy


mkiv-400mm setupimg_1015

Showing an even more extreme “closeup” setup with double extension tubes & double 1.4x teleconverters (staggered). Also Fill flash to open shadows – usually with a BetterBeamer flash extender.


13 Comments on “Extreme Methods To Photograph Distant Dragonflies

  1. Thanks for including the photo of the set-up Reed, which helped me envision more clearly what you were doing. I am amazed that you can manage to tie together so many extension tube and teleconverters and they all still work. It is definitely not a walking-round configuration, but your photos clearly show that it can produce some amazing results. I’ve already seen a lot of Common Whitetail dragonflies this spring, but have not yet spotted any Blue Dashers.

    • Thanks Mike! These were from previous years to show how I get close images without actually getting close. I use this method a lot at NWRs where there are dragonflies somewhat close to the Wildlife Drive in streams, but you are not allowed past a certain point to get images of them. To much gear to carry on the trails! So far this year I have not seen any dragonflies, but should start seeing some soon. They finally opened some parks near me, but they are mobbed! Also should start seeing some in the yard soon. Thanks again!!

  2. Wow, that is some set up! No wonder your photos are so excellent, Reed.
    I love the way the sun glitters on the wings. 🙂

    • Thanks Eliza! I like coming up with different ways to get certain images or effects. Sort of what I did in my Commercial Photography career for 50 years!

    • Thanks William! I like trying different ways to get images that I want to photograph! Sometimes my weird ways work! Sometimes they don’t! But it is fun to try!

    • Thanks Greta! It is fun and sometimes a challenge to figure out better ways to photograph some of your favorite subjects.

  3. That’s an impressive array of glass, Reed. The closest I ever got to that was stacking a 2.0 and 1.4 TC but the 2.0 canon that I had at the time was not a good performer. I’ve considered getting the Canon 400 5.6 for dragonfly flight shots but haven’t pulled the trigger on that yet. Thinking about upgrading from the 5D2 to the 5D4 so the lens will have to wait. Great example of what the setup did for you.

    • Thanks Steve! I had the 400mm f/5.6 and it was a good lens. But I like the 300mm f/4 better. I use it quite often with a 1.4x, 1.7x or 2x teleconverter. I think it has better focusing & sharper than the 400mm 5.6. Plus it is sort of more versatile by using teleconverters and also has closer & faster focusing. (Yes, I actually found a 1.7x & 3x teleconverter for Canon. The 1.7x is good, the 3x is a nice paper weight!)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: