Photographing dragonflies

How about bait? Are there options to lure dragonflies to sit and eat?

This photo shows a dragonfly lured with a fake fly :
( original photo seems to be from this crazy fake insect website here :- )

I’ve not heard of any dragonfly photographers using bait. Seems more trouble than it’s worth. Patience and some familiarity with dragonfly habits – and a telephoto camera – is usually enough.

Would video work and then take screen captures?

Video would probably work, but I don’t have experience using it for these insects.

one small thing that might improve upon this method in some cases is to use focus peaking, if your camera offers it. that will help you more quickly judge if/when your subject is in focus, which can be especially helpful for objects that hover, even if only momentarily. so if a dragonfly flies over and hovers for a second, and you see the peaking indicators, take the shot(s)! if not, then find the next opportunity.

yes, you definitely have to pay some money for a camera with very fast autofocus. however fast your camera is in the autofocus department though, you can improve the chances that the camera will autofocus quickly if you use a large metering area and shoot against a plain background like a blank sky with the sun at your back.

if you can shoot 4k video, you can get screen captures that are effectively 8MP photos. 1080p video translates to only about 2MP photos (much lower quality, but perhaps enough for identification). just keep in mind that an out-of-focus video is going to translate to an out-of-focus photo. so i think the way i would implement this is to set your camera on a tripod and focus on or around a particular perch. then start the video and walk a few meters away to wait until something flies through on its way to the perch. (you could probably shoot with a second camera while you’re filming on the first one, if you have a second camera.) if you can control your camera from, say, your phone, that would allow you to start and stop the video capture from a distance (and even adjust focus and other settings) so that you can increase the chances that what ends up in the video is worth keeping.

the males do this, but often the females behave a little differently, coming over to where the males are only when they are in the mood. so occasionally you may want to wander away from the water where the fast-moving males are to find females moving around a little less frenetically.

one more thought: some cameras (especially on phones) may allow you to shoot with HDR or similar fancy tricks that may make some shots look better but may make shots with a lot of motion or fine detail look a lot worse. so know when to turn off those kinds of options.

In 2012, I went to a meeting of the Dragonfly Society of the Americas that happened to be in my state. After that, I realized that data was needed on odonata presence in counties in my state and resolved to try to improve the numbers. The more that you search for odes primarily, the better you will get at seeing them. They are often still and in your presence but you may not have noticed them. Keep at it! You’ll learn to follow them to where they perch. I took a lot of photos as others have emphasized and I had a good book for my area that I used to try to identify them and I gradually learned what the field marks are. Some dragonflies require more views than others to identify. My best advice is patience and practice. It is possible and fun!

In northern Arizona I have observed squadrons of dragonflies on warm days at the summit of Red Butte and the summit of Bill Williams Mountain. They are way too fast to photograph. If their home is some body of water, I am not sure where it is, possibly a cattle tank miles away.

Hill-topping is a behavior many butterfly species and some dragonfly species use to find mates. Usually, though, the hill-topping males spend a lot of time chasing away other males, so it is interesting that you have seen squadrons of dragonflies at the summit.

Sometimes a territorial dragonfly will hover in the air a few feet from you, hoping to scare the interloper away. Often the dragonfly will repeat this behavior whenever its patrol route brings it back to you. If you put your SLR on manual focus with a good depth of field, you stand a good chance of getting an identifiable photo–maybe even a good photo.

In California, if all else fails, I can usually count on the photographer’s friend, the blue dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) to stay perched and peer inquisitively back at me as I slowly bring my macro lens closer and closer.

Interesting information. if I see them again I will observe more carefully. I had the impression that the warm weather was what brought them out, but maybe there is a fixed mating season? It was probably July or so. It was somewhat windy as well.

Male Darners which can have fast and erratic flight when patrolling will often stop and hover in mid-air and I’ve gotten a few decent shots of some that way. Sometimes you have to pull back on your telephoto lens to keep them in view, then zoom in when they stop. Observing dragonfly behavior is a key part of getting photos of them. They often have well-defined flight patterns if they’re on patrol; males will often fly a predictable beat up and down a segment of stream which they judge (and hopefully a female will find) to be desirable as a spot for egg-laying. After a while, you can kind of predict if an individual is going to give you a photo op or not, or if you need to just move on and find another one.

It’s a common species of dragonfly found in southern parts on india… But unfortunately this one ended up in a spider’s web…

I also have a wildlife blog…

So far my experience on Odonata is that they tend to go back to the same perch or they have multiple perches they will cycle through when disturbed. And of course when damselflies move be sure to lock your eyes on target since they are so thin and can very easily become “invisible”. My inatting has so far all been done using my iphone camera, so the downside is of course I can take good pics only when the insect is at the water’s edge.