Mating Dragonflies

Over a week ago we went to Davidsons Mill Pond Park to see if we could find some dragonflies to photograph before the end of Dragonfly season here. I was surprised to see so many Slaty Skimmers along with a variety of others still here. As I was setting up on the back area of the first small pond these two flew in and landed right in front of me. I was surprised since it was so late in the season. Also they were in the “wheel” position for mating. After my first few shots I moved in a little closer to photograph a 2 image pano for a more square image. The featured image is a single shot. The image below are 2 images, stacked for the final closeup image. I was using a 300mm lens with a 1.4X teleconverter. I was on the edge of the pond so could not get any closer.

2 image Pano, 300mm, f/11, blended in Photoshop.

Praying Mantises In The Garden

I was looking in our gardens for Praying Mantises to photograph. I found 2 fairly large ones on two different plants. The featured image is 7 images, focus stacked in Photoshop. I was using a 300mm lens with a 2x teleconverter. When doing focus stacking with live subjects you have to photograph your series of images quickly, because you can touch-up slight movement of your subject, but if there is a lot of movement it makes the blending of images much harder.

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Smaller Praying Mantis, 2 Image Focus Stack, 300mm, 2x teleconverter

Immature Male Common Whitetail Dragonfly

When I was walking outside my home I saw this dragonfly in our gardens. So I got a camera to take some images. At first I thought it was a female Common Whitetail Dragonfly, but the dark spots on the wings were wrong. So I realized it was an immature male Common Whitetail Dragonfly. Image taken with a Canon 300mm lens with a 1.4x with a Canon 7D.

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First image taken before moving a little closer

Immature Common Whitetail Male Dragonfly

On our photo walk at Davidsons Mill Pond Park, I noticed this Immature Common Whitetail male dragonfly warming on a rock. It had a cluttered background behind the dragonfly, so I shot 3 images wide open, f5.6, at different focus points. 1st on the left wing, 2nd on the body, then the right wing. When I was working on the files, I loaded the 3 images in one layered Photoshop file.  I selected all three layers and selected Auto-align, then auto-blend for the final merged image. When you do auto-blend Photoshop automatically blends what it thinks are the best areas to use for the final blended image. Sometimes you might need to do a tiny touch up here or there, but usually it does a pretty good job. Since I was using a tripod for these images they lined up nicely and I did not need much in the way of touch-ups on this image. I was using a 300mm f/4 with a 1.4x teleconverter. To keep the background smoother I was shooting wide open, but with a 1.4x teleconverter that would be @ f/5.6. Usually when I use a teleconverter, if there is enough light, I stop down a little more then I usually do to help with sharpness. On a 1.4x I stop down at least 1 f/stop, on a 2x teleconverter I stop down at least 2 stops (Again, if there is enough light). But on this series I wanted a smoother background so I did not stop down and left it @ f/5.6.

 

Rain Drops On Evergreen Branch

After the a rain storm I noticed raindrops on evergreen branches above our sidewalk. I shot a few versions, then decided to shoot a panorama showing the new growth and the raindrops underneath. A 5 image panorama, shot with a Canon 7D with 300mm f/4 lens. It seems like Photoshop does better aligning the images in closeup panos with a longer lens, plus I get softer & cleaner backgrounds this way.

 

Praying Mantis With Prey

I was looking for dragonflies in our gardens when I found this praying mantis with it’s bug meal. I was setup for dragonflies with a Canon 300mm f/4 lens with a 1.4x teleconverter. So I shot a series of images, handheld, to do a stacked multi-row panorama. I ended up with 7 images for my pano. 2 rows of 3 images and an extra shot for the center. The centered shot sometimes helps for a smoother blended area in the center of the composite layered Photoshop file. I loaded all files into 1 layered PSD file and let Photoshop align the files. Then I use auto-blend to blend all the layers and combine elements for the final file which goes to the top layer. I also save the Master Layered file (just in case I need to go back for a tweak here or there). I then flatten the file for the final image. At this point if I wanted, I would run the flattened file through Nik’s Detail Extractor, then use dFine to smooth out any added noise from the Detail Extactor.

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Golden-winged Skimmer Dragonflies

These Golden-winged Skimmer Images are from a previous trip to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland. It is a great Refuge to photograph in, lots of photo subjects. Especially in the warmer weather – Bald Eagles, Ospreys and of course Dragonflies! There are many types of Dragonflies here and some we do not usually see in New Jersey. So it is fun to photograph some different types of dragonflies instead of the usual dragons. There are a lot of areas for dragonflies throughout the Refuge, but my favorite spots at Blackwater are the first Observation Platform along the Wildlife Drive and the Wildlife Drive area with standing water on both sides of the Drive. The Visitors Center has gardens behind the building which also is a good spot for dragonflies. At the Observation Platform there are lots of parking spaces there and dragonflies are prevalent all along here on the sides of the Drive. The platform has a long ramp to the main platform so there are lots of Dragonflies around the base and by the vegetation as you walk up.

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Golden-winged Skimmer, female 

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Golden-winged Skimmer, male

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Golden-winged Skimmer, female

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Golden-winged Skimmer, male

Lady Bug On Thistle

During a walk at Davidsons Mill Pond Park we noticed this Lady Bug on a Thistle. I thought it looked interesting against the textures on the Thistle. Also it sort of had the same roundish shape as the Thistle. I was traveling light with a 300mm f/4 lens on a Canon 1D mkIV.

Blue Dasher Dragonfly Focus Stacks

Here are two different Blue Dasher focus stacks. The featured image is made with 3 images. First image is focused on the head, then fore wings & then front of the hind wings. I was using a 300mm f/4 lens on a Canon 7D with a 1.4x teleconverter. I loaded each image into a layered Photoshop file and let a Photoshop align & blend the sharpest areas. The second image I wanted to mainly focus on the face but the plant was in the same focus plane as the face. I thought that might reinforce the roundness of the dragonfly head because of the roundness of the plant. I was shooting @ f/ 5.6 for a shallow depth of field.  I then focused on the fore wing because I wanted a sharp edge on the fore wing and let the rest go softer into the darker background.

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Blue Dasher Thorax & Wing Detail

I thought it was interesting to see the details of where the wings attach to the thorax on this Blue Dasher dragonfly’s body. I was using a 300mm f/4 lens with a 2x teleconverter and an extension tube to get a closer view. I usually carry extension tubes or closeup filters with me in case I come upon an interesting closeup photo opportunity. But I usually use extension tubes more than closeup filters because you are adding another glass element that might degrade the image. You can also experiment with the placement of the extension tube. Placing the extension tube before or after the teleconverter gives you different “focus zones.” Also the width of the extension tube gives you different focus zones. So it is best to see what combination works best for you and the lenses you are using. But it is fun to try different ways to get the image you want. Plus you never know when it will come in handy. Images below are a series of images using extension tubes & teleconverters with 300mm & 400mm lenses.

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Blue Dasher Dragonfly- 400mm f/4 DO Lens, extension tube, 1.4x teleconverter

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