I’ve learned a few things over the past four years following around those amazing and beautiful insects called dragonflies. I’m happy to share these tips with all of you.
The first thing you need to know is that dragonflies are COMPLETELY HARMLESS to humans. They don’t bite OR sting in any way. They are purely beneficial to us. They eat the nasty bugs that feed on us. RESPECT dragonflies. Do not kill them out of ignorance and fear. With that said, here are my photography tips….
I don’t use tripods or monopods. Only handheld. This will take a steady hand. I tend to set my camera for a shutter speed of 1/320-400, an f16 or so, and an 800 ISO on a sunny day. You can adjust as needed. I focus on their head when shooting. I don’t use a flash unless it’s a crummy, overcast day, but I tend to not bother photographing them unless it’s sunny. There is no substitute for natural sunlight. I use the Nikon D3200 and the Nikon 105mm macro lens.
Obviously, you need to be where the dragonflies are. You can find them pretty much anywhere but a water source or open back yard or field is where you’ll find the greatest variety.
Once you get to where you need to be, you have to remember to BE PATIENT!! Dragonflies can be quite frustrating to photograph because of their constant activity, but there’s always that ONE that will cooperate. I’ve had many just land right on me. Some have climbed onto my finger just because I stuck it underneath them.
Next, you need to watch how they behave and where they like to perch. Some like the ground (amberwings and pondhawks), some like rocks (white-tailed skimmers), some will perch around your eye level on high grass (Dashers and Pennants). Sudden movements can spook them, so take it slow and steady. Don’t be in a rush.
If you approach one and it bolts, don’t give up on it. Stay still and see if it comes back. They tend to perch in the same place over and over. They may just be darting off because they saw lunch. Most of the time they will come back with their catch and eat. They tend to cooperate more if they are eating. ;)
If you see a rock or bunch of tall grass or a bush that they are favoring, move in and stand still and watch. They may get used to your presence and make it a bit easier for you. This way requires some patience though.
I’ve also gotten decent shots with my zoom lens as well. My 70-300mm zoom lens at max zoom will focus at a minimum of around 5 feet. It’s usually pretty easy to get within five feet of a dragonfly without spooking it. Zoom all the way and you can get pretty close. You won’t really get the detail of a macro lens, but I’ve gotten some dandy shots this way as well.
Oh yeah! I’ve also found that smaller dragonflies tend to be gutsier than the larger ones if you can believe that. Dashers, meadowhawks, and pennants have provided me with more photo ops than any other types of dragons. I’ve had all of these land on my finger/hand at some point.
I haven’t had any luck with dragonflies in flight as of yet, but I think they make for much better pictures when they are perched. They are super fast and incredibly difficult to capture in midair anyway. LOL
Well, I rambled on pretty good there. I hope these tips help you in your dragonfly quest. Bill
Here are a few of my faves.
I used my zoom lens for this one. It came out pretty good, but there’s no substitute for the detail of a macro lens.
The rest are taken with the Nikon 105mm macro lens. Enjoy! =)