I have captured images of many beautiful dragonflies in the past, but I am not sure that any of them can quite match the spectacular colors and pattern of this female Springtime Darner dragonfly (Basiaeschna janata) that I photographed this past Friday at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia.
Springtime Darners appear to be be pretty uncommon at our park—they are few in number and are active for only a very limited period of time early in the spring. Last year, fellow photographer Walter Sanford and I spotted the first known Springtime Darner at Huntley Meadows Park, but it was only a brief encounter and we never again spotted one.
Walter and I were determined that we would do better this year. Already this spring, he and I have separately explored likely locations for hours on end without success. On Friday, we decided to work together as a team. Our experience has shown that having an extra set of eyes really helps in spotting and tracking our elusive flying subjects.
After several hours of searching, we finally caught sight of a dragonfly in flight. It flew about a bit and then it finally perched—our moment had arrived for indeed it was a Springtime Darner. Springtime Darners will generally perch vertically on vegetation low to the ground. My view of the dragonfly was obscured, but fortunately Walter could see it and began to compose some shots.
I stood still for what seemed like an eternity, fearful of spooking the dragonfly, but finally was able to move forward to a spot with a somewhat clearer view of the dragonfly. The only problem was that I couldn’t pick out the dragonfly amidst all of the vegetation. I was shooting with my 180mm macro lens, which meant that I couldn’t simply zoom in to get a better view. Walter patiently described for me the specific location and I took some initial shots without actually seeing the dragonfly.
Eventually I was able to see what I thought was the dragonfly and captured a few shots before it flew away, though I never had a really clear view of it. Although we searched and searched, we were not able to relocate the dragonfly, nor did we see another Springtime Darner.
I was not very hopeful when I downloaded my images from my memory card to my computer and was surprised when I saw that somehow I had captured some of the beautiful colors and patterns of the Springtime Darner. Normally I like to try to isolate my subjects from the background and the background in these two images was unavoidably really cluttered, but I’m really happy with them.
I am happy with the images, but not quite satisfied—I’ll be out again soon to search for more Springtime Darners, hopefully including a male, as well as other dragonflies and damselflies. My dragonfly season has only just begun.
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.