Dragonflies – Guest Article by Steve Russell

_MG_5280It’s easy to miss them – as I did for years riding my bike fast around the local lake – and easy to dismiss them as they whiz by at breakneck speed. But up close, dragonflies have an amazing array of colors, and set against nature’s greens and yellows and oranges and blues they make stunning macro subjects to shoot – and you don’t even need a macro lens to shoot them.

Some dragonflies fly around most of the time and roost (perch) on tall grasses or bushes only occasionally. Others roost a lot and fly less. It is when they roost that we have the best chance at decent photographs. Catching them in flight can be done, but it ain’t easy.

IMG_5284My favorite lens for shooting dragonflies is a Canon 70-200mm, f/4, IS lens with a 1.4 extender. It is infinitely lighter than the f/2.8 version and since I always shoot at f/11 or f/16, the wider aperture of the faster and more expensive lens isn’t needed. The extender gets me a little closer from a distance (4-6 feet usually) and that helps because dragonflies can often be easily spooked if you get too close. The loss of a stop of aperture with the extender (from f/4 to f/5.6) doesn’t matter with the greater depth of field settings. The image stabilization (IS) is essential because there is usually so little time for using a tripod that all of my shooting is handheld or with the help of a used carbon fiber walking stick I got at REI to brace my camera against.

Ninety percent of getting good quality images of dragonflies is showing up. Just shoot and shoot and shoot and you will begin to learn the dragonflies habits and rhythms and where and when to find them. And it will pay off in spades with the most unique and color-filled images you can imagine.

Steve Russell