How to photograph flying dragonflies – Part II.

  1. Intro + Easiest species to start with (Hawkers, previous part)
  2. Hawkers continue  – Part II. (this part)
  3. Other Dragonflies (Goldenrings, Emeralds and Libellulids) – Part III
  4. Damselflies (Zygopetra) – Part IV. 
  5. General hints and technicalities (camera settings, equipment etc.) – Part V. (the last one to come)

Hawkers continue …

Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis very seldom hovers (actually I do not remember seeing that), and flies usually quite high, 2-4 meters above ground. This makes it not an easy object to make a DIF but in particular settings there is a chance. One can find these aerial cruisers very often on sunny forest clearings or near forest edges, i.e. on places where is lot of space but some trees around. Such places are usualy not that windy which is fine for gliders – and Brown Hawkers belong to good ones. Of course, gliding then makes their flight paths a bit predictive. Against clear sky one can follow the gliding dragon and even use the AF provided that you have a long lens enough (≥ 300mm) to catch such a small object on AF point. However, despite that Brown Hawkers are not that agresive towards their counterparts, if there are many of them around they go frequently to clashes and pursuits so one have to be really patient.

Although I will write more about general techniques in the last chapter, with this species I have an experience to show how important is a right choice of camera. Two years ago I happened to go with family/kids to tee-pee tent to enjoy sort of indian-like style of life. Of course, I wanted to take a camera but I decided not to take my best one (that time 40d + 300/f4) just because that tee-pee is not that safe place. However, there were couple Browns gliding around tee-pees all the time, flying close, right against blue blue sky, and I could have made  just perfect shots. But I had just old slow 350D and rather short 150mm Sigma (which is a great lens but a bit slow in terms of AF) so I failed completely. No one acceptable shot and after two days of frustration I gave up.

Aeshna grandis - Brown Hawker - Šídlo velké



Common Hawker (Aeshna juncea) and Bog Hawker (Aeshna subarctica) occupy similar habitats (though juncea has a bit wider choice), you can find them around pools on peatbogs, moorlands and mires. A male usually stays at one pond, cruising around and chasing out potential rivals while seeking  for females. If the pool is larger, couple males can share it. Both species often hover for prolonged time (up to 5 sec) so they are “easy” ones if you have time enough to stay on a locality. The only bad thing is that their habitats (at least in my country) are usually protected as natural preserves with limited access, so you need a permit to go there.

Aeshna subarctica - Bog Hawker - Šídlo rašelinné


Hairy Hawker (Brachytron pratense) is a species which is virtually impossible to make a good DIF of it. I do not have any but some fuzzy or very distant shots though I can imagine that if I would visit Hairy Hawker pond every day for – say – two weeks I may end up with something better than shown bellow (just an example how bad it is). The main problem is that this species mostly zigzags through the reeds, close to the water surface (< 0,5 m) so there is no chance to focus on it. However, being curious, sometimes it goes out to look at visitors to its pond. It happend to me couple times but I have not been fast enough to shot it.

Brachytron pratense - Hairy Hawker - šídlo luční



Blue Emperor (Anax imperator) and Lesser Emperor (Anax parthenope) behave similarly (though when together on a pond, parthenope is always submissive). You find Emperors almost always cruising around a pond, 1-2 meters above water, usually a bit far out of a shore, so with shorter lens it is quite difficult to get proper reach – 300+ mm lens is a good choice. Though both species do hover, they do not stay that long (if you get it for 3 sec you are lucky). However, my best shots (and I still hope I will do better ones) have been made when there was windy. If the wind is not too strong the dragons then keep cruising and they eventually had to go against the wind. In that moment, the wind slows them down, sometime they even stay on one spot – and  gotcha! The shot bellow has been made in such windy conditions.

Anax imperator - Blue Emperor - Šídlo královské


To be continued – next go other Anisopterans


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