Great Spreadwing Damselfly

I was going through backup hard drives and found this image of a male Great Spreadwing Damselfly that was taken years ago at our home pond. I was using a Canon 70-300mm DO lens @300mm on a Canon 7D. I did not realize when I was photographing the Damselfy it was considered rare.
Great Spreadwing_Damsel_male_70-300DO@300mm_7D_MG_5806

Damselfly 8 Image Focus Stack

When I was photographing this Damselfly, I decided to shoot with the aperture wide open. I wanted a very smooth background to highlight the Damselfly and the water drops and keep a smooth background. So I shot a series of 8 images focusing on the Damselfly and the water drop covered stem. I shot a series focused on 8 different focus points, going from left to right. I was using a Sigma 150mm Macro with a 2x teleconverter. With the 2x teleconverter on my 150mm f/2.8 lens, my maximum (Aperture) f/stop was f/5.6 wide open.  (With a 2x teleconverter you loose 2 stops). I loaded the 8 images into 1 Photoshop layered file and used Photoshop to automatically align the 8 layers in the file. Next I used Photoshop to automatically pick the the sharpest areas & soft background areas in each layer for the final image. I saved that file in case I need to make minor touch ups here or there. After that I flattened the layers for my final image.

Damselfly Closeups

For extreme macro or closeup photography, especially for Damselflies, I like using old Canon FD or Nikon manual focus lenses with an adapter on micro 43 Camera bodies. A quick explanation is it sort of doubles the focal length simply worded. Or a more accurate description, the field of view (FOV) since it is only using a smaller center section of the whole image circle on the smaller sensor in m43 bodies. Also because the image is cropped on the sensor the depth of field is also a little more for that f/stop since it is only using a center area of the image circle. I use both Panasonic & Olympus m43 Camera bodies with adapters, but prefer the in-body stabilization of the Olympus body. You can find old Canon or Nikon manual focus lenses for very low cost online or eBay. Or if you are like me, have a bunch laying around from the “Old” days! So with the crop factor of m43 format, it sort of doubles the focal length of the lens. Or halves the field of view of the lens. Another advantage is a macro lens that goes to 1X can now capture on a m43 camera to 2X. The images here were photographed with a Canon FD 200mm macro lens, so the FOV is like using a 400mm macro lens.

Damselfly_v4_200mm_FS 3_img_FD_m43_1200515 v2Damselfly_v3_200mm_m43_HP schrp_1200428 copyDamselfly_v3 Dfine_FD200mm _1200532Damselfly_v2_200mm_m43_CU_1200787Damselfly_v2_200mm_m43_1200814Damselfly_v2_200mm_m43_1600_ISO_1200727Damselfly_v1_FD_200mm_1200573Damselfly_v1_200mm_m43_1600iso_1200525Damselfly_200mm_m43_1200814

Great Spreadwing Damselfly

I am still going through backup drives for images to post here. But at the same time I am also editing out images I do not need on my backup drives. Which is freeing a lot of room on these drives for more recent work. This is an image of a Great Spreadwing Damselfly. I was using a Canon 70-300mm DO lens (Diffractive Optics) at 300mm on a Canon 7D. I was surprised that lens worked so well on this subject. It is not the “sharpest” Canon zoom lens for fine detail, but is convenient, stabilized & lightweight to carry. Also much shorter, but wider than a “normal” 70-300mm lens because of the Diffractive Optics. It really helps to shoot “raw” files with this lens & use Adobe Camera Raw to pull out more detail and smooth out the nasties.



22 Image Damselfly Focus Stack

Another Focus-Stacked Damselfly Image. This time I tried shooting stopped down to f/22. I usually do not stop down that far for stacked images, but I thought I would give it a try just to see what happens. For this image the out of focus background was further away from the subject damselfly which helped because of the f/22 f/stop giving a larger depth of field for that focal length. At f/22 with 22 images, it was probably overkill for this image, but if I needed them, I would have them. Better than needing them and not having them. Again I used a Sigma 150mm macro lens with a Canon 1.4X Teleconverter giving me a focal length of 210mm. This Damselfly and Water Drops did not have as much depth to the leaves & water drops so I did not need as many as my previous post especially with the f/22 f/stop.


Image Stacking For Detail With Soft Backgrounds

Quite often I use Image Stacking techniques for my macro images. This works best if you are using a longer macro lens for shallower depth of field & softer cleaner backgrounds. I shot with the lens wide open and take images starting from the closest area I want in focus & ending where I want the background to go softer. The image I chose for this blog is one I photographed years ago. It was photographed using a tripod with a Sigma 150mm Macro lens & 1.4x Canon Teleconverter.  I also went a little overboard on layers, but because I was using a 150mm lens with a 1.4x Teleconverter I shot more focus points than usual. I ended up with 44 images in this stack. But shooting @ f/2.8 & adding the 1.4x teleconverter it was actually f/4 (Wide Open). I started from the bottom of the image & worked my way up to the top. You can also not use all the layers if you want to select where the softness ends or begins. Here I purposely ended where I wanted it to end. You can also use a smaller aperture / larger f/stop number to use less images for the stack but I like the smoother background.

I then load all the images into one Photoshop layered file and select all layers.

A) Under Edit – chose Auto Align Layers

Screen Shot aaa

Screen Shot bb

(B) then select Edit – Auto-Blend Layers – for final blending.

Below is Final Blended file on the top layer in Photoshop with all the sharpest sections of each Layer (masked) below the final layer.


Screen Shot b

I use this technique with my macro images mainly to get the greatest detail on my main subject and the softest backgrounds behind them. You can also control how much sharpness you have on your subject and where the softness starts. With practice the results get more reliable for what you are envisioning when you are photographing them. Also you can change your mind after you captured the series and have the detail or less detail where you want it while you are adjusting your files.

image 1

First Image in Series







Damselfly Panorama

I like using a few different camera systems depending on what I am shooting. Or more likely, what I want to carry & lug around. If I am at a location working near the car, that is not usually a problem. But sometimes I just like walking around, but still want to photograph some interesting subjects that I might come across. Here I am using one of my m43 camera bodies with an adapted old style Canon FD 200mm Macro lens. On m43 cameras it is sort of equivalent (in easy terms) of using a 400mm macro an a full frame body. Instead of going to 1X magnification, because of the crop factor of the m43 system the FOV (Field Of View) is ~2X. This is a 3 image panorama. Luckily the Damsel co-operated for me.

Damselfly GH+200mmFD_1200727

Damselfly – Single Image


Damselfly 4img (overlapping) Focus Stack

Damselfly with Water Drop

This Eastern Forktail Damselfly had a large drop of water on its mouth which acts like a magnifying glass, giving an interesting view.

Teneral Damselfly.

This Teneral Damselfly recently emerged from the nymph stage. It is an unsteady flier at this stage. But in this photo you can see the coloring is starting to come in and the wings are not as “glasslike” as when they first emerge. It’s almost transparent and not able to fly far. The body and wings are limp but they will firm up in a very short amount of time enabling it to fly off. 

damselfly tenert v2_43G5477

Damselfly With Raindrops – Stacked Images

Here are examples of stacked Damselfly images to show the difference between stopping down to f/22 or f/32 for depth of field and maximum focus of the subject Damselfly resulting in a busier background , or using f/5.6 or f/8 with stacked focus points giving depth of field and focus of the Damselfly and yet yielding a smoother looking background. All examples were aligned and stacked in Photoshop. One “BIG” challenge is hoping the damsel does not move or “flyoff” before you are done. The female Eastern Forktail stands out against the green soft background more than the bluish male. Focus Stacking is great for maximum depth of field and focus on your subject if that is what you are trying to convey. There are times when a narrower depth of field is more “Artsy” or “Softer” look and gives a different feeling for what you are trying to show.

damselfly cu yard v2 f32

Male Eastern Forktail shot @ f/32 for maximum depth of field in “one” shot. Showing “busier” distracting background around the damselfly.

Damselfly stack v5 f56

14 image “stack” shot at f/5.6.


Damselfly stack v2 f8 14 layers

Wider view of above subject using a shorter layered stack.


damsel stack v6_9 img stack f8 43G5888

9 image stack shot at f/5.6.

Damselfly v2 f56_43G6047

Non-Stacked Image shot at f/5.6 showing shallow depth of field on the Damselfly, but yielding an uncluttered background. But does give the main focus on face.

Damselfly short stack v1 pond f11_43G6011

Simple 2 image “short” stack. Subject was fairly flat to the camera sensor plane.


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