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Posts Tagged ‘Common Baskettail dragonfly’

We are deep into autumn now, but some butterflies are still hanging in there, like this beautiful Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) that I spotted during a recent trip to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was actually a little shocked to see quite a few of these butterflies flying along the paths of the wildlife refuge and in some of the open areas. The challenge for me was getting one to pose in a way that would convey a sense of autumn. I was therefore thrilled when this one perched on a fallen leaf and and kept its wings wide open long enough for me to capture this shot.

Common Buckeye

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Now that the dragonfly season has started in my area, I am devoting more and more of my available photography time to searching for these beautiful little creatures. Some dragonflies can be found almost anywhere, but many of them require a very specific kind of habitat and may be present for only limited periods of time.

Yesterday afternoon I visited Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, which features a small pond surrounded by a pathway. Last year I found several different dragonfly species there, so I knew that I might have a chance of seeing some dragonflies. I looked in the brush and in the vegetation and came up empty-handed until I looked at the water and spotted several dragonflies flying low above the water.

I recognized the dragonflies as Common Baskettail dragonflies (Epitheca cynosura) and knew that I faced a challenge—this species seems to fly continuously and rarely have I seen one perch. I realized that if I wanted to get some shots of the dragonflies I would have to capture the images while they were flying.

I had my Tamron 180mm macro lens on my camera and started to track the flying dragonflies. I have tried a number of focusing techniques in the past and have had the most success when I focus the lens manually (although I hesitate to use the word “success,” given the high rate of failure in getting an in-focus shot). This was my favorite shot of a Common Baskettail flying above the water. There is a bit of motion blur in the wings and I had to crop the image quite a bit, but I managed to keep most of the dragonfly in focus.

Common Baskettail

I walked multiple circuits around the pond, still searching for more dragonflies. I tend to like to keep moving, rather than sticking in one spot. As I reached one end of the pond, I suddenly realized that a dragonfly was hovering in mid-air right in front of me. The dragonfly was moving slowly above a grassy patch adjacent to the pond, but did not seem interested in heading for the water.

I could hardly believe my good fortune and tried to compose myself and focus on the dragonfly. I managed to get some detailed shots that show, for example, how the Common Baskettail folds up its legs when flying. I took the first shot below while on my knees, so that I was almost level with the dragonfly. For the second shot, I was shooting down on the dragonfly and it looks almost like it was taken by a drone, hovering above the hovering dragonfly.

Common Baskettail

Common Baskettail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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On Monday, I finally captured my first dragonfly shots of the season at Huntley Meadows Park, a recently emerged Common Basketttail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura). For a couple of weeks I’ve been periodically seeing migrating Common Green Darners, but this is the first “native-born” dragonfly I have spotted.

The dragonfly is in a juvenile stage known as “teneral,” which initially confused me when I was trying to identify it. I looked through a lot of photos on the internet and they didn’t quite match up with some of the markings of “my” dragonfly.

Fortunately an expert came to the rescue when I posted the photos on the Northeast Odonata Facebook page and asked for help. Ed Lam, who literally wrote the book on odonata in the Northeast, replied that, “It’s a Common. It’s teneral so the stigmas and the hind wing patch will darken as it matures.” You can check out Ed’s book, Damselflies of the Northeast: A Guide to the Species of Eastern Canada and the Northeastern United States, on Amazon.

From my perspective, the dragonfly season has now officially opened. It is still really challenging, however, to find them this early, given that most species won’t emerge until much later in the spring and in early summer.

Common Baskettail dragonfly

Common Baskettail dragonfly

Common Baskettail dragonfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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What is the most difficult subject that you attempt to capture with your camera? Is it a certain moment when the lighting is perfect or perhaps an elusive, exotic creature in a distant location?

For me, the unicorns that I chase come in the form of dragonflies. I have an irrepressible desire to try to take photos of dragonflies while they are in mid-air. Sometimes the dragonflies will cooperate a bit and hover briefly over the water, but much of the time they are in constant motion as they zig and zag over the water in an often unpredictable pattern.

Yesterday I traveled with some fellow photographers to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia, primarily to photograph flowers. Not surprisingly for those who know me, I got distracted and focused much of my attention on searching for insects.

Toward the end of a gorgeous spring day, I finally spotted a dragonfly patrolling over a section of a small pond. I moved closer and tried to track it in my camera’s viewfinder. Over the winter, I’ve practiced tracking birds in flight and can usually keep them in the viewfinder—the challenge is to keep them in focus. With dragonflies, however, it’s a challenge to even keep them in the viewfinder and auto focus is a virtual impossibility.

Has anyone ever challenged you to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time? That’s how I feel as I try to track a moving dragonfly and focus manually at the same time. I ended up with some out-of-focus ghostly images of the dragonfly or empty frames with a view of the water.

I managed to capture a single image that I really liked of what appears to be a Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosaura).  There is some motion blur, but you can see some of the beautiful details and colors of the dragonfly. (Check out a recent posting that I did to see an image of a perching Common Baskettail dragonfly at my local marshland park in late April.)

I don’t always check the EXIF data for my images, but I was curious to see what the settings were that produced this image. I was shocked to see the information, because I realized that I had neglected to change the settings of my camera when I moved from shooting a stationary subject in the sun to chasing a moving subject that was flying in and out of the shadows over the water.

The camera was set to ISO 100, f/11, 275mm (on a 70-300mm zoom lens) and 1/40 sec. Needless to say, that is not the shutter speed that I would have used if I had been paying more attention, but somehow it worked out ok. I was shooting in aperture-priority mode, as I do most of the time, and I probably should have been shooting at ISO 800, which would have given me a faster shutter speed. The bonus, though, of the low ISO was that I got a cleaner image that I could adjust more aggressively.

As we move into summer, I’ll continue my quest to capture other dragonflies in flight. For the moment, I am content with yesterday’s image, but fully recognize that a huge amount of luck was involved in capturing it.

Common Baskettail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Despite its name, the Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura), one of the first dragonflies of the spring, has been observed only infrequently at my local marshland park. Therefore I was pretty excited when sharp-eyed fellow blogger and photographer Walter Sanford spotted a Common Baskettail last week when we were out together searching for dragonflies.

Walter consulted with some experts and  was able to confirm his initial identification of this dragonfly as a female. How do you tell the gender of a dragonfly? Check out Walter’s recent posting What was your first clue? to learn how he did it.

If you are more interested in photography than in dragonfly anatomy, check out Walter’s initial posting on the Common Baskettail dragonfly. We both photographed the dragonfly at the same time, but our angles of view and equipment were different, so the resulting images are similar, but not identical.

Personally i enjoy seeing how the creative choices that a photographer makes can influence their images. Walter and I have done several complementary postings in the past and will probably continue to do so in the future.

Common Baskettail dragonfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A few weeks ago, I did a posting with some close-up images of a Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura), but one of my fellow photographers keeps reminding me that I have not posted any shots of the entire dragonfly, which it turns out is not all that common in our local marshland park.

This small collection of images highlights some of the notable features of the Common Baskettail dragonfly, including its beautiful blue eyes and unusual tail. I took these photographs a month ago (on 19 May), but I have fallen a bit behind on viewing and processing my shots.

baskettail1_blogbaskettail2_blogbaskettail3_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Have you ever looked really closely at a dragonfly? I expected to be able to see its beautiful colors, but I was a little surprise to see how many little hairs were present on the face and body of this Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura) that I encountered in mid-May at my local marsh.

I was standing in one of my favorite spots, at the edge of a beaver pond, when this dragonfly flew in and perched a few feet away from me. I don’t know if it was resting or napping or simply didn’t mind my presence, but it allowed me to get amazingly close to it. I was able to take quite a few shots of it and even was able to set up my tripod (although there was so much underbrush that it was tough to get a really stable base).

As you can see from the first shot, depth of field was an issue for me when I moved in this close and I didn’t manage to keep all of the legs in focus. I took the second shot from a bit further back and more of the dragonfly is in focus.

Want a new view on life? Try looking at the world through a macro lens and you’ll see some amazing things.

drag1a_close_blogdrag2_close_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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