Steve Sampliner  

Dragonfly by Steve Sampliner

October 2020 - Dragonfly

October 2020 - Steve Sampliner


About the Image(s)

Gear: Pentax K-1, 150-450mm, manual, ISO 400, 410mm, f / 5.6, 1/1250 sec. Hand-held. Manual focus.
Location: River Valley / Canyon area roughly 120km west of Salalah, Oman, right up on the edge of the Dhofar Mountains. This photograph was taken while hiking the main river canyon.
I had gone out to try to photograph an elusive mammal that I had seen the week before. After two and a half hours of no luck, I decided to hike back. On my way back, I stopped for a quick rest and found myself in the middle of a dragonfly fly zone. If you have tried to photograph dragonflies, then you might know that they will sometimes fly in a pattern. This one was flying in a triangular pattern with the point of the triangle behind me. My best chance of getting a photograph was when it was moving to the two points in front of me.
In Lightroom, I did some minor adjustments to exposure, contrast, clarity and saturation. I cropped in so as to move the dragonfly up and to the right to fill the top third of the frame. I thought adding space to the left and below the dragonfly would give a “searching” feel to the image.

6 comments posted

Thorro Jones   Thorro Jones
Steve I think you did the right thing in moving the dragonfly to the upper left of the photo. It gives it a greater look of being in flight. I tried cropping the photo to center the dragonfly, but it looks better where you placed it. Secondly, I am amazed that you were able to manually focus on where the dragon fly was going to be and then taking this shot at the right time. The details in the dragonfly wings are amazing. The only thing that would have made this photo better would be to have the dragonfly turnaround so you could capture their eyes. 😊   Posted: 10/02/2020 13:08:53

Matt Beyer   Matt Beyer
Hi Steve,
I love that you were able to capture a dragonfly in flight at 400+ mm! I've chased those little guys around before and they're shifty fliers for sure.
I like the crop definitely; I think you're right that it gives the subject "space" to breathe. Your edit is super-crisp and I really like the detail in the image as well as the color in the creature. I agree with Thorro that a side-view or head-on view would be great to see; just to marvel at all the details that you can capture in their head.
The only thing that I might have tried to do differently would have been to try to include some context around the subject, maybe an out-of-focus background or perhaps some clouds with structure or differences in highlight and shadow. I like seeing the creature in some kind of way that gives me a sense of the environment and it gives the composition additional complexity.
How long did it take to "land" this guy? Do you think it would be possible to track it in flight and get some motion blur in the background? I think it would impart a cool feeling of speed and motion to the image if you could keep it sharp while panning so that the background takes on a linear blur...
  Posted: 10/05/2020 14:39:45

Steve Sampliner   Steve Sampliner
Thorro and Matt, sorry for not getting involved and replying earlier. As for the position of the dragonfly in the photo, glad to hear you guys agree. In my mind it made sense to just move it up and to the right, but when you are playing around with it, you are not always sure about what you like.
Face or no face? Well, in this case, I would say I didn't have much choice. I kind of walked into his triangle. The base was in front of me, the peak behind. Anticipating its movement across the base from point to point is far easier, and more consistent, than getting it at the peak. Second, I didn't want to disturb the subject. Third, I already have photos of dragonfly faces. Fourth, it was 8-9 feet in front of me, and at 410mm, just getting it in frame is a win. Outside of all of that, some choices need to be outside of conventions. The ideal "headshot" for flying objects is facing the viewer at roughly 45 degrees for the perfect head-neck-should(wing) approach. This standard convention means that what we see for the most part has created and perpetuated the notion that the most "interesting" parts are in this region. I choose this dragonfly photo from a group of three potentials because it is the "perfect" headshot, except reversed.
Background. What you see is what you get with me. I'll never add background, nor erase things. The background of this photo is millions of years old polished grey exposed bedrock at the bottom of a dried river valley with a highly generous sprinkling of car sized boulders. The dragonfly and I were kind of tucked in this space.
Time? Good question. I would say I spent about 10 minutes trying to capture this guy. I think that is the limit of patience and endurance hahaha. Took somewhere between 120-130 shots. Saved 12 I believe. Track in flight? Not going to happen in that situation. He and I, 8 feet apart. I've got way too much lens for this. Manual focus. The dragonfly is a needle in a blurry grey rocky mess.I've got a second or less to find, focus and shoot.   Posted: 10/10/2020 07:51:15

Stanley Selkow   Stanley Selkow
Steve, having spent many more hours than I care to admit trying to get a flying dragonfly (I have managed to get a couple of slow flying damselflies), I'm impressed. I'm also jealous because here on Cape Cod our dragon season is drawing to a close. In the future I'll post some of my efforts.
I agree on the crop, and with you on the purity of the final picture.   Posted: 10/11/2020 16:03:47
Steve Sampliner   Steve Sampliner
Hi Stanley, I remember you mentioning in a post last month about trying to capture damselflies. I admire your ambition. That is a whole new level of needle in a hackstack. Near the end of dragon season out here as well. I find myself quite fortunate to have stumbled into this guys flight pattern. Attached is the runner-up for this month.   Posted: 10/12/2020 01:37:51
Comment Image

Sophia Schade   Sophia Schade
Hi Steve, I have photographed many dragon flies seating on something but never flying.. I now have it on my bucket list. Nice job especially that it was Manuel focus I agree with all the other comments, but most impotent , next time try to get the eyes. I would also suggest trying to saturate the wings a bit.. This is my first time giving feedback.. hope it helped.   Posted: 10/13/2020 14:31:50


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