Other than on one previous occasion I have never really made an effort to photograph dragonflies. But in the absence of what I normally shoot ... Yet, I have thoroughly enjoyed spending time with these guys and plan to do so more often. I have challenged myself to try to catch these guys in flight. But for now I am learning to know them better.
You will find them where there is water. Before becoming dragonflies they actually live and hunt underwater. Dragonflies can sit still for long periods of time and are generally really forgiving of your presence. You can get quite close to them. This makes them easy to photograph. They also prefer the same perches. So if they fly away, just wait patiently as they will return shortly and sit on the same (or very close to it) perch.
Overcast conditions work best but you will still need a good amount of light, especially if you want to photograph them in flight, which I am still working on. Certain species hover which will make photographing them in flight easier. These guys did not cooperate with my request. For in flight images you will obviously need a really fast shutter speed. Regardless of posed of in flight images use the largest aperture (smallest number on the lens). We want to blur the background. Speaking of backgrounds, they make a big difference. Since these guys sit still, more around and change your angle to line them up with water lilies or better backgrounds. A polarizer is also advisable to remove sheen from the background.
I shot these at 600mm. That creates two challenges. Firstly, the depth of field (that which is in focus) is small. This is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, this makes for nicely blurred backgrounds. On the other hand, we don't want the dragonfly, or part of it, out of focus. The second challenge, at least with my Sony 200-600mm, is the minimum focusing distance. This actually left me quite frustrated. These guys allowed me much closer to them as I was photographing from but I could not focus any closer. Now with the Sony A7Riv this was not a big problem as I could crop and still have between 24 and 32 mega pixels left. However, if I could focus from a closer distance I could have had much more resolution. To solve this issue there are a few solutions.
Firstly, some lenses can focus from a closer distance than others can. Perhaps the 100-400mm is a better choice here for that reason. I don't have that lens so it is not an option for me. I do not regret my choice as when photographing wildlife you always wish for more reach. So for most applications I would take the 600mm reach over the 400mm close focusing any day of the week. The second solution is a 1.4 extender or teleconverter. This makes the dragonfly (or what you are photographing) larger in the frame while basically maintaining the same minimum focusing distance. The tradeoff is that it steals light and it is quite expensive. Do NOT buy cheap ones as that will degrade your image quality. The last solution is to get an extension tube. They are cheap/er and greatly decrease your minimum focusing distance. Their tradeoff is that you will lose the ability to focus at infinity or close to it. But for this kind of photography that is not an issue. Since this is a hollow tube, image quality is not effected.
I plan to spend much more time with these beauties. I want to try photographing them with back-lighting, in flight, and different compositions. Why don't you go try photograph some of them?
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