I had so much fun photographing the dragonflies recently that I went back for some more, partly to try to get some of the tantalising angles I had not got before and partly to try a different approach.
I had a loose wish-list in mind along the lines of:
- two dragonflies
- in flight
- photographed through a wide-angle lens
This is how it turned out.
Kit for the day (Android phone picture)
On the previous occasion I had been using the Nikon D3s with the long end of the 70-200mm zoom and x2 teleconverter - giving, if switched to DX format as the camera can, the equivalent reach of a 600mm lens. Taking this to its natural conclusion with the available equipment, this time I took along my Olympus E-3 with 50-200mm zoom and x2 teleconverter - which, with the doubling effect of the Four Thirds sensor, gives an equivalent of 800mm. With a remarkable minimum range of just over a metre (about 4ft) that gives some pulling power.
Also relevant in this sort of consideration - in case anyone is counting - is the way focal lengths shorten at close range, but that's one for another day.
So, armed with that caboodle and plenty of warm sunshine, I made some pictures similar to the previous ones: close-ups of Four-spotted Chasers (heh, get me with the nomenclature). Here's one by way of example.
Libellula quadrimaculata, Four-spotted Chaser, on reed stem
Just out of interest, I've also made a 250-pixel square 100% crop to give a flavour of the sort of detail that the Zuiko lens and E-3 are capable of picking up, seemingly unaffected by having a teleconverter in the train. This was from a range of about two metres (6ft 6in).
So far so good, but what about the wide-angle view?
What I felt was lacking from this kind of image, fascinating though it is, was a sense of context - a scene that would also have enough width and depth to incorporate the pond environment. Hence the "wide-angle lens" on my wish list. So I was also using the D3s and 24-70mm zoom to give me some flexibility in framing.
As for getting a pair coupling in flight, my wish was granted. I was delighted with a short sequence taken at about 29mm of zoom that caught exactly what I'd hoped for - giving a wide shot but with enough detail to be meaningful.
Here's the one I like most in terms of the surroundings:
Dragonflies mating in flight over pond
And (below) a 100% crop again. Incidentally the fact that this shows a smaller portion of the frame - which is itself cropped to a square - shows the difference between Four Thirds and FX formats.
Frustratingly I then lost focus, and I'm still working out the best option to use - varying between manual, single-servo and continuous-servo autofocus and single spot (which I use most of the time) or dynamic area. It's interesting to me that I'm in sports photography territory here because that's not something I normally do.
Still, mustn't be greedy, and overall it felt like a good afternoon's work.
And yet, and yet ... really what I wanted was to get a stupidly close but wide picture of the insects. You might think this is a forlorn prospect by the way because surely the creatures would be scared away. But I have found that if you basically sit still and blend into the scenery, then once they have realised that the big black thing isn't actually going to eat them they become, if anything, quite curious. There was one point when I thought a dragonfly was going to land on or inside the lens hood.
Well, I ran out of time trying and have yet to work out the best way to do it. More patience and more luck, probably. And wading boots.
One that got away