Sunday, August 23, 2015
A morning spent slaying dragons
This is a southern species that has been actively expanding its range northward. Nonetheless, prior to Jim's find, the nearest populations to Ohio were about 200 miles south and west, in southern Indiana and adjacent Illinois.
As soon as I heard about these setwings, I wanted to see them (of course!). It never worked out last year, but finally, yesterday was the day. I met Jim at 9 am, and we spent a few hours chasing setwings and finding many other dragonfly species in the process.
All but three of the images in this post was shot with Canon's fabulous 180mm f/3.5 macro lens. This is basically a telephoto macro, and it allows the shooter to stay back far enough that spooky subjects often are not flushed. It was connected to the Canon 5D Mark III, and rigged with Canon's Twin-Lite setup. Settings for this shot were f/11, ISO 200, and 1/200 shutter speed. I frequently tweak flash intensity on the commander module mounted to the camera's hot shoe, but usually have it turned down one or even two stops, so that it is basically providing fill flash.
The quality of the background of an image is known as the "bokeh", which is a Japanese word which basically means "blur". Note how the out of focus area of this image - the backdrop - is a rich blurred green color. It is mostly uniform, and does not distract from the targeted subject. That's what a quality lens can do - create pleasing bokehs. The photographer (should) soon learn to assess backdrops, though. If there is some whitish branch or other dissonant distraction that conflicts with the overall color of the backdrop, it will somewhat mar the photo's overall quality. You can see that in the images that bookend this one. With a keen eye for backdrop, the photographer can sometimes adjust his/her angle to eliminate distractions, or physically move them from the field of view. However, when working with living creatures on their terms, this is not always possible and one must make the most of the situation that is presented.
I've said it before, and will again: If I could have only one lens, it'd likely be this one. The 100-400mm zoom is sharp as a tack, incredibly versatile, and easily handheld.
It was back to the 180mm macro for this one - settings at f/11, ISO 200, shutter speed 1/200. In general, when shooting macro (which is almost always with flash), I keep the camera on full manual at f/11 and 1/200 shutter speed, with ISO somewhere between 100-400. At those settings it is usually ready to go, and quick and usually minor tweaks can be made as need be.
Most of the settings were the same is the previous shot, but I stopped the lens down to f/18 to get more depth of field, as I was shooting this image from very close quarters - as close as the lens's minimal focusing distance, which is a bit under two feet. I also had to bump up the flash intensity.
This shot was made from a fair distance with the 100-400mm lens, at a focal length of 263mm. Settings were f/5, ISO 100, 1/640, and exposure compensation dialed down 1/3rd of a stop.
It will be interesting to see if Swift Setwings turn up in other places around Ohio in the near future. Highly mobile strong flyers such as dragonflies seem to be hyper-responders to warming mean temperatures.
Congratulations to Jim Lemon for this excellent find, and I appreciate his guiding services for the day!
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