A Tail of a Dragonfly’s Head

dragonfly face super close

This dragonfly’s sand-littered face with its happy smile belies the malformed abdomen not visible from the bug face view.

This dragonfly seemed to be having a bit of trouble when I found it. It was on the small, sandy beach at Mausert’s Pond sitting in the sun, which would not be all that notable except that it had crinkled wings and an abdomen that made an unnatural J-curve at the tail end. Getting down on all fours, I approached it with caution, but it soon became obvious the only “flight” it was taking was a glorified hop. Or simply turning its head away and presenting its bottom to the camera — a bug’s favorite maneuver, though usually not as common among dragonflies. Our poor, damaged friend also had a peculiar coloration. I had seen similar dragons before, but they had blue eyes and white snouts. My guess is that I encountered a teneral, i.e. a freshly-emerged adult, which are typically soft-bodied and exhibit different, temporary coloration from the standard adult.

Befitting our curious friend, the photograph I took turned out charming but somewhat off. I really like the composition, especially the way the in-focus elements are arranged, but every time I look at it as a whole, I come away disappointed. On a second attempt, I sharpened it more which helped, but my dissatisfaction remained. I think it mainly has to do with the colors and contrast. Using the Hue-Lightness-Saturation controls, I made some attempts to enliven the photo. I added some “rouge” to the dragon, i.e. saturated the red color zone. Again, it helped a little, but there is ever something missing. The image is flat, and the dull background colors meld too much with the edge of the eyes. I was getting very frustrated, as most of my other “improvements” seemed to degrade the image in other areas. So I am putting this in the “let it go” category. It probably deserves another go in the future, but some bugs and some photos don’t ever really get off the ground. We’ll see.

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6 thoughts on “A Tail of a Dragonfly’s Head

    1. I was thinking more about the beige colors at the outside edge of the right eye which didn’t give a very distinct edge. Would that qualify as a loss of contrast? Admittedly, I may be thinking of “contrast” in a less than photographic-specific way. Or perhaps my perception of the tonal difference is just off kilter?

      1. If/if I was unhappy with the shot as you describe it I would mask the background, and up the contrast on the eyes and lower it on the background. But why bother its fine.
        I think the focus at the front is more of an issue and even then very minor. I would leave it as is.

  1. Do you have to carry a bunch of lenses around? I’ve sort of gotten used to my “super macro” on my little pocket camera, but I’d never be able to pull off the sharpness you have on that dragonfly eye. I’d like to get sharper macros, but don’t want to buy the really expensive camera bodies and lenses, I guess I’ve gotten a bit lazy. In years’ past, I’d carry a couple of camera bags with bodies, lenses, and filters.

    1. Well, apart from some older shots that I sneak in occasionally from a Canon Powershot A620 point and shoot, I use a D5000 body. I employ the poor man’s macro method by reversing my lens (i.e. using an adapter to put it on backwards). I use the kit lens that came with my camera for most of my shots; it’s a standard 18-55mm Nikon lens. I usually also carry around a 35-70mm lens (also used reversed) for larger subjects as the reversed 18-55mm creates high magnification ratios. For instance I was not able to fit in the dragonfly’s whole body into a shot. I don’t like to change out too much myself though. Especially when I’m crawling around in the dirt/sand as with this shot. Another important consideration with my set up is that it pretty much requires a flash and bracket and diffuser, not really lightweight. Otherwise a tripod and sedentary subjects are necessary, more or less, which has its own obvious drawbacks.

      I’m not sure what kind of camera you use, but you may be able to get a lens converter adapter and attach special lenses or filters that aren’t too expensive. I used to use a Raynox MSN-202 with my A620. In my zeal to get the highest magnification possible, I probably went overboard there (it was about 4x mag and the depth of field was pretty much nil). Still, it was a nice quality lens and around $60; I had to use the onboard flash with a DIY diffuser (the lid to a quart-sized deli container), but it was a nice, light set up.

      I hope that’s helpful! Feel free to ask me any follow up questions, too.

      1. I use a Canon SX 50 HS. I like it for the 50x optical zoom. The macro option is not as good as my little pocket camera. The Sanyo Xacti features a “Super Macro” option that pulls a focus at about 1/2″. Since I take videos of bees I love getting up close. Here is one I’m especially proud of… http://solarbeez.com/2013/07/16/sex-in-the-backyard-with-a-pretty-yellow-blossom/ At the time I was just trying to keep the bee in the view finder without wobbling around too much. It was only after I started watching the video on the bigger screen that I noticed the intimate cooperation between the flower and the bee.

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