It’s been a long time since I took you out shooting with me. I had a day off last Friday and went out looking for some dragonflies. Now that fall coming on, the variety of dragons is falling off. The area that I visited had several thousand Meadowhawks. As I have stated in earlier posts, we have three indiscernible species of red Meadowhawks, hence I just call them "Meadowhawks".
When I shoot dragons, I use a 70-300mm lens, typically at 300mm. I have a 5 foot minimum distance that I can focus on. This is not the perfect setup but you have to use the gear that you have. I can focus closer with my 18-200mm lens however I would have to be right in the dragonfly's face to get the compositions that I get with the 70-300. Plus, I like to have the background totally out of focus, and the former does a better job.
There are some compromises in using a zoom lens for close-up shots. With a zoom, you sacrifice resolution, the ability to discern tiny features at a distance. In lens design resolution is sacrificed for variability of focal length. A fixed focal lens would do a much better job however I’ve developed a style that works with this lens. These videos, for better or worse, show you how I think in the field and hopefully will give you some ideas that you can use.
Note: All of the photos in this post are full frame and have not been cropped, except for the last one.
This is a basic dragonfly shot. The background is a little distracting, perhaps cropping would help this shot. It does make a good photo to talk about as I’m setting up the shot and talking about it.
Same for this shot, it is a little too busy. I’ve included it as an illustration showing how I was setting up the shot.
The importance of this shot in the video is in how the background was selected. In the video, you see the overall background and hear how I got the background that you see here.
This is my cooperative lady dragonfly. In the video, you will see how looking around the subject you can create interesting shots that will make the subject pop. Here I use goldenrod sprays in the background to give some color interest.
Changing the viewpoint of the camera allow you to change the background.
Using the techniques in the video you can get results like these next four photos.
My closing shot was not discussed in the video. Here we have a dragonfly in the foreground in full sunlight. The background was made by lining up the deep shadows in the forest. I used spot metering to get the dragon properly exposed. To learn about metering, visit my post about photographing Common Eiders.
Need more tips? Be sure to look at my other helpful hints.