Distant Dragonfly Closeups

A closeup uncropped image of a Female Blue Dasher Dragonfly. It was in a small pond but off in the distance in the middle of the pond. It was about 8 feet from the edge of the pond. To get this close to Dragonflies that I can not get close to I have come up with a method to get detail images of them. I was using a 400mm f/4 DO lens with multiple stacked extension tubes between multiple teleconverters. With this setup I had to use an on-camera flash with a “Better Beamer” Flash Extender to light the dragonfly because of all the light loss with multiple extension tubes & teleconverters . This dragonfly was about 8 ft out in the water. You can see the flash hotspot on the eye. Changing the order of the extension tubes and different sizes of the teleconverters gives you different zones of manual focus. Also you have to try different exposures because Auto Exposure does not work with all the extension tubes & teleconverters. After trying this for a while you can get nice closeups of distant Dragonflies. Also you usually get nice “clean” & smooth backgrounds. It takes some practice but you can get some interesting images of distant Dragonflies.

Great Blue Skimmer, 2img Pano, 400mm DO lens, 1DmkIV, f11, Extension Tubes & Stacked Teleconverters
Great Blue Skimmer, 400mm DO lens, 1DmkIV, f11, Extension Tubes & Stacked Teleconverters
An iPhone image of the of 400mm DO lens with extension tube, teleconverter, another extension tube & another teleconverter

Female Blue Dasher CloseUp Portraits

Two close-up images of female Blue Dasher Dragonflies. I use a variety of techniques to get very close to Dragonflies. The featured image was captured with a Sigma 150mm macro with a 1.4X teleconverter on a Canon 7D. Luckily they sometimes get used to me and allow me to get very close.

BlueDasher_FM_400mmDO_ext Tubes_filFlash_43G3758 crp v2

Female Blue Dasher Closeup Image – 400mm Canon DO lens, Multiple Extension Tubes & 1.4x Teleconverters, Fill Flash because of light loss with multiple extension tubes & Teleconverters.

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.


Female Blue Dasher Dragonfly Photography With Teleconverters & Extension Tubes

This Female Blue Dasher Dragonfly flew into a bush close to the edge of a pond where I was set up for photographing Dragonflies. I was concentrating on a different dragonfly before I noticed this one. It allowed me to get fairly close with a 300mm lens with extension tubes and then I added a 1.4x Teleconverter to get even closer. I like photographing Dragonflies for the challenge, but did not like using a macro lens. Either I had to get too close and it flew off or it was in a spot I could not get close to. So I came up with a few solutions that work for me. One, I do not bother the Dragonflies or Damselflies by being too close and having them fly off and 2, I can photograph them closeup even if I cannot get close to them. By putting the 1.4x teleconverter in front of the extension tubes, it actually magnifies the image larger on the camera sensor. To get even more magnification I sometimes use two extension tubes placing them in a certain order – lens, shorter extension tube – 1.4x teleconverter –  larger extension tube then camera body. I have even used 2 1.4X Teleconverters with success. Sometimes you have to think outside the box. You lose auto exposure and auto focus so you have to look at your histogram to adjust your exposure. Also fill flash with a Better Beamer flash extender helps. I also raise the ISO to raise the shutter speed because with the Extension Tubes & Teleconverter you are losing light and your shutter speed drops. This enables you to get close to dragonflies that are out a little from the shoreline at a pond or lake. It also gives you a longer working distance so the subject does not fly off. Trying different configurations and practice is fun and rewarding when seeing your final images. I have even done 5 or 6 shots with this for a panorama of a Dragonfly about 1.5″ long, Moving and focusing along the Dragonfly and assembling the image in Photoshop.




Male Blue Dasher (Body is about 1.5″) , 5 shot panorama with focus stacking as I moved down the length of the Dragonfly, with a 300mm lens assembled in Photoshop yielding about a 50 inch long print.

Example – this is with a 400mm lens with the setup of extension tubes, 1.4x teleconverter, larger extension tube, camera body with flash, giving a working distance from about 4 to 8 feet. thinner or larger extension tubes  gives you more or less magnification.


Canon closeup IMG_1245

These setup examples are with a 400mm DO f/4 lens. This also works well with the 300mm lens. 800mm lenses work also, but not as well as 300mm and 400mm. Using different size extension tubes behind the teleconverter gives you different working distances plus different magnification of the image on the sensor. With practice and patience you learn what combinations work for different working distances.






Korean Dogwood Berry

Some images in the yard, just looking to see what I could find to keep myself amused. I liked the Korean Dogwood berry close-up. That was at about 1.5X. Then I noticed this one had a visitor next to it. I guess it was about  a quarter of an inch in size. Sometimes it is interesting to see what you can find close to home. 2 images stacked in Photoshop.

Korean Dogwood Bud & Spider v4_1360708



Feather Closeup 1X to 5X+ in Studio

When the weather gets colder and the days get shorter and grayer it is fun to shoot some extreme closeups of natural subjects in the studio. When I am photographing outside I collect subjects to photograph in the studio at a later date. My favorite is feathers, but leaves, seeds or almost anything natural can be interesting. Your studio can be your kitchen, living room, etc. or an actual photo studio. It is fun to try stretching your photographic vision in a controlled environment to see what you come up with. It can be extreme closeups of everyday items in your home or natural items you find and bring inside. It is interesting to see even a slight change in angle or shift in lighting can make a big difference in your final image. Simplistically, shooting parallel to your image gives you more depth of field across the subject, shooting at an angle gives you more of a view to highlight a certain area in sharp focus and a softer look in other areas highlighting a certain area you want to show. Also you can use many homemade items to add to your image. Try a small reflector or mirror to bounce back a little highlight to an area or even a white fill card. Lighting from above and behind adds more to surface textures. It is fun to try different techniques or just experiment to see what you get. Another technique to try is focus stacking, especially for closeup macro shots for more depth of field in your image. Images below are from 1X to 6 or 7X with a variety of macro lenses. 50mm macro, Canon MPE 65mm , 100mm macro and 150mm macro.

Feather stack eleven v1

Feather – 11 stacked images for more depth of field

feather stack eight v2

Feather Image – 8 stacked images for depth of field

_43G5943 stack v4

Feather – 4 stacked images for depth of field

feather_43G6019Feather v1_43G5993feather stack v2_hp 43G6010Feather 5x_43G6016Feather 4x_43G5998_43G5986 set3_43G584 stack v2

Blue Dasher Wing Detail

Closeup detail of a Blue Dasher Dragonfly Wing. This dragonfly is only about an inch and a half long. Hard to get closeup wing detail with a normal macro lens, especially without disturbing your subject or if there is a distance of water between you and your subject. From commercial work I have a wide assortment of macro lenses to chose from, but for dragonflies my favorite setup is a hybrid setup of telephoto lens, extension tube, 1.4X teleconverter and another extension tube. I also use fill flash with a Better Beamer flash extender. If you use this combination it is manual focus and exposure is determined from your histogram as you are pushing the auto exposure and auto focus. By using 2 extension tubes on each end of the teleconverter you are actually enlarging the image on the sensor. With trial and error you soon become used to using this combination and exposures become consistent. But you can get closeups of subjects that are usually out of reach. Also handy to do a 3 or 5 shot panorama or a  stacked multi-shot image of a small subject.

blue dasher v7 pano cf 2015_MG_8845

5 shot panorama

Mkiv setupIMG_1015

Extreme setup with 2 1.4X teleconverters with extension tubes, showing placement of tubes & teleconverters. Usually I use only one extension tube. So to start use only the first one between the extension tubes and get used exposure and focusing.

Yellow Rose

More Roses from the Gardens of Wyckoff.

_43G1185 GW Yellow rose v2

_43G1211 GW rose v1


Teneral Dragonfly

When a new dragonfly emerges from it’s exoskeleton (called exuvia once it is completely out), it is pale in color and the wings are almost transparent. It takes about another week away from the pond before it matures into its coloring. In this stage they are called Teneral (soft) and after a few days they harden up and take on the coloring of an adult dragonfly. We saw this one in an evergreen tree near the pond early in the morning. It was in a shadowy area against the darker green of the evergreen. After a few photos we left it alone.  I am wondering what kind of dragonfly it is. We couldn’t tell from the coloring and shape we saw in the Teneral phase. I have seen Blue dashers, Green Darners, Common Whitetails and Twelve-spotted Skimmers laying eggs in the pond.

_MG_7050 Teneral Dragonfly v5

Teneral Dragonfly. Canon EOS 7D, Sigma 150mm f/2.8 IS Macro, f/8, 1/60 sec., -0.33 exposure compensation, ISO 800, Built in Flash

_MG_7050 Teneral Dragonfly v4

Teneral Dragonfly. Canon EOS 7D, Sigma 150mm f/2.8 IS Macro, f/8, 1/60 sec., -0.33 exposure compensation, ISO 800, Built in Flash


_MG_7056 Teneral Dragonfly v2

Teneral Dragonfly. Canon EOS 7D, Sigma 150mm f/2.8 IS Macro, f/8, 1/60 sec., -0.33 exposure compensation, ISO 800, Built-in Flash.

_MG_7056 Teneral Dragonfly v1

Teneral Dragonfly. Canon EOS 7D, Sigma 150mm f/2.8 IS Macro, f/8, 1/60 sec., -0.33 exposure compensation, ISO 800, Built-in Flash.


_MG_6990 Teneral Dragonfly v2

Teneral Dragonfly. Canon EOS 7D, Sigma 150mm f/2.8 IS Macro, f/2.8, 1/160 sec., -0.33 exposure compensation, ISO 800, Available light, handheld.

_MG_6976 Teneral Dragonfly v4

Teneral Dragonfly. Canon EOS 7D, Sigma 150mm f/2.8 IS Macro, f/2.8, 1/200 sec., -0.33 exposure compensation, ISO 800, Available light, handheld.



Soldier Fly

I found this Soldier Fly on this interesting plant background when we were at The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge by Cambridge Maryland. I like the green in the bug and the green in the flora that complement each other. This was at the new Large Observation Platform on the Wildlife Drive. At the entrance to the platform there are lots of plants along the drive, with a large variety of bugs and dragonflies moving about. Also look for webs with water drops (if it had rained) or condensation on them early in the morning. We usually go there for birds. They are known for Bald Eagles Ospreys, Tundra Swans, Snow Geese, White Pelicans, etc. When it quiets down around noon it is a great place for macro or closeup photos, landscapes, or just wandering around to see what you can find. During the warmer months it is also a good place for a wide variety of Dragonflies. You do not need a macro lens to have fun shooting bugs or closeups. When I am out wandering around I always have a set of extension tubes in my photo vest. They come in handy when you find an interesting subject. Try using extension tubes to get closer to your subject and have fun seeing what you can find.

_43G4583 v2 soldier fly

Soldier Fly. Canon 1D MkIV, 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS DO zoom @ 300mm, 25mm Canon Extension Tube, f/9, 1/640 sec, ISO 400

_43G4604 v2 hp soldier fly

Soldier Fly. Canon 1D MkIV, 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS DO zoom @ 300mm, 25mm Canon Extension Tube, f/9, 1/640 sec, ISO 400


%d bloggers like this: