Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Two colorful damsels

While slogging through a wetland last Sunday, dragon(fly) hunting, I lucked into this scene. A male skimming bluet, Enallagma geminatum (left) sharing a perch with a male orange bluet, Enallagma signatum. Damselflies tend to be more low-key than their larger brethren, the dragonflies. I doubt you'd ever find, say, a widow skimmer and an eastern pondhawk resting in such close proximity. These two expressed a bit of tension occasionally, but for the most part coexisted quite nicely.

Each animal is scarcely more than an inch in length; truly elfin in stature. Nonetheless, damselflies are every bit the ferocious carnivores that the larger dragonflies are. Rather than utilizing the conspicuous aerial fighter-jet tactics of dragonflies on the hunt, damsels' hunting styles are more discreet. They tend to remain low in vegetation, slowly helicoptering through the plants and darting quickly and rather jerkily to pluck small insects from the foliage.

This photo was taken while kneeling in about two feet of water. To really get good opportunities at damsel/dragon photography, it is immensely helpful if the photographer is willing to wade in with his subjects. I shot the image with my Canon T3i with its 100 mm macro lens, and lighting was helped by a Canon 430 EX II Speedlite mounted on the camera's hotshoe. The aperture was set to F13, ISO at 400, which permitted a shutter speed of 1/200. Nonetheless, I made a stoopid mistake - I forgot to flick the image stabilization switch to ON, which would have noticeably improved this image and the other photos that I made, especially as I was handholding the camera.

Today's cameras are amazingly good, and incredibly complex. But, if you're an amateur like me, it's all too easy to make a dumb blunder and under-exploit the technology. No matter, though - I'd have enjoyed my time with these colorful damsels even if I took no pictures.


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