Slaty Skimmer – 3 Image Focus Stack

I was looking for dragonflies and found this Slaty Skimmer at a local park for a photo subject. I wanted a colorful, softer & smoother background so I was using a 400mm f/4 Canon DO lens, with an extension tube on a Canon 1D mkIV. I shot 3 images at different focus points @ f/11. This gives me enough sharpness on the dragonfly (wingtips & tail) but still gives me a very smooth background. This makes my dragonfly stand out more from the soft background.


Dragonfly Eyes

An assortment of Dragonfly closeups focusing on their eye & face details. Images taken with 300mm & 400mm lenses with extension tubes.

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Blue Dasher Dragonfly Wing Detail

This Blue Dasher focus stacked image is made with 2 images, blended. 1 focused on the head area & the other focused on the tail area. Both were shot, handheld with a 400mm DO lens, with an extension tube for closer focusing.  This Dasher seemed to have a damaged hindwing on the right side. Images taken @ f/8 to to keep a smoother background so the Blue Dasher stands out. I used Photoshop to align and then blend the 2 images for the final focus stacked image. If I stopped down more to get  everything in focus in 1 shot, the background would have been busier and the Dasher would not stand out as much. I tend to like smoother backgrounds in my Dragonfly images.


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

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.

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

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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.


Widow Skimmer

We went to Davidson’s Mill Pond Park to photograph Dragonflies. Here are a series of images of Widow Skimmers. Shot with a 400mm lens, extension tube and then a 1.4x teleconverter in that order. It allows for closer focusing plus enlarges the image some on the sensor, since my subjects are not by the shoreline. You try to get any advantage to get your subject closer or bigger in the frame.

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Widow Skimmers At Davidson’s Mill Pond

I am still going through my images of dragonflies I photographed at Davidson’s Mill Pond Park in NJ. It has been extremely hot here in New Jersey. That seems to make the dragonflies even more active. But seems to have the reverse effect on me! Here are two images of 2 different  Widow Skimmers. Images focus stacked and assembled in Photoshop. Shot with a 400mm f/4 lens, extension tube then a 1.4x teleconverter to achive closer focusing on the dragonfly. It is fun to hunt for Dragonflies here because I am finding some I have not found where I used to live.

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Spangled Skimmers At Davidson’s Mill Pond Park

The Dragonflies are abundant at Davidson’s Mill Pond Park giving photographers a lot of photo opportunities. The temperature here has finally gotten down to normal temperatures for this time of year. With the heat index’s around 110 degrees for most of the week it was not a great time to photograph outdoors chasing dragonflies. There are a lot of Spangled Skimmers in the two main ponds. So this post will highlight these dragonflies. This is the first time I have come across these dragonflies. It is interesting to see a few different varieties of dragonflies by moving to a new home only 65 miles from where I used to be.

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Smiling Blue Dasher Dragonfly

For some reason Blue Dasher Dragonflies seem to look like they are smiling when you see them head on, giving an impression of a Happy Dragonfly. This Blue Dasher was out in a pond at a public county park, probably 6 to 8 feet from the shoreline. The featured image is a 4 shot Image Stack, manually focused and assembled in Photoshop. I used a combination of a 400mm lens, an extension tube, then a 1.4x teleconverter to actually enlarge the image on the sensor with the extension tube added. Sometimes I add another extension tube between the teleconverter and the camera body which enlargens the image on the sensor even more. But narrows your focus range even more and you tend to need a fill flash because of loss of light reaching the sensor to get a usable exposure for a subject that is somewhat moving its head or wings or its perch is moving in a breeze. Plus the added extension tubes also takes away light reaching the sensor. Sort of like the “Old” days when you were using a 4×5 or 8×10 view camera when you had the bellows racked out and had to adjust your exposure because of light loss from the distance of the lens and the film plane. By moving teleconverter and extension tubes you can get a variety of focus windows and enlargement of your final image on the sensor.

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Blue Dasher 4 img Stack for Blue Dasher, then 4 image pano for the stick the Dasher was on. So 2 techniques used for final image.

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Older shot showing similar Setup with one 1.4x teleconverter plus fill flash needed for using two separated extension tubes.


Another extreme setup with 2 extension tubes and 2 teleconverters. This really enlargens the image on the sensor but you need a fill flash or a very high ISO setting and has a very limited focus window.


Dragonfly setup at my old pond

Dragonfly Closeups & Image Stacked Closeups

Some of the time, when photographing Dragonflies, I need to get closer, but water or something is in the way. Or I just want more working distance and do not want to use a macro lens with skidish subjects. After photographing them for over 10 or 12 years I have come up with different solutions. And I want a really soft looking backgrounds! Or I am at a National Wildlife Refuge where you can’t go off the Drive, so you need more reach for the different dragons you see there. So I have come up with different combinations to solve that problem. The more you experiment, the more combinations you come up with. I sometimes use a telephoto lens, usually 400mm f/4, an extension tube, a 1.4x teleconverter, and then a longer extension tube. Sometimes I add another 1.4x teleconverter at the camera. Than add a flash with a Better Beamer Flash extender because with the extension tubes I loose a lot of light, so I need more power to light my subject Dragonfly. This gives me a working distance, depending on which extension tubes and combinations of teleconverters I use, from 2 to 8 ft or even  more, but filling the frame with my subject small Dragonfly. The Blue Dashers are about 1.5″ long. Some ot the others are a little larger and the Damselflies are smaller. The extension tube spacing actually enlarges the Dragonfly image on the sensor. But you do loose a lot of light. It seems awkward, but once you get used to the combination you use, it gets easier to use in the field. Many times I actually shoot a stack series of focus point images along a dragonfly to get a sharp final image from head to tail, wingtip to wingtip or specific areas I want in Photoshop. I probably posted too many images, but it shows the effects and details I was going for. They are such fascinating photo subjects! Sorry for such a long Post!

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Extreme setup with 2 teleconverters, for closer focusing and extreme magnification.



My Standard setup for closeup Dragonfly photos. The wider teleconverter next to the camera body magnifies the image a little more and you can get even more image filling frames.

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This Dragonfly was eating another dragonfly about 15 ft away

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