Dragonflies at the RBG

I recently had the opportunity to photograph some dragonflies at the RBG (Royal Botanical Gardens) that were frequenting one of the ponds. The breeze was a bit calmer than it has been in the past so I decided to try my hand at some Handheld Hi Res images, as well as capturing some dragonflies in flight.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M!~X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2500, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3051 pixels on the width, subject distance 5.4 metres

This particular pond at the RBG is designed as a more natural setting and at certain times of year can attract a good number of dragonflies.

OM-D E-M!~X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, -0.7 EV, 1/2500, ISO-3200, Pro Capture H, cropped to 2876 pixels on the width, subject distance 5.3 metres

The pond has a lot of natural vegetation around much of its perimeter which makes finding a decent shooting angle a tricky proposition. On the positive side, having a more natural setting helps put the subject dragonflies in good environmental context.

OM-D E-M!~X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/4000, ISO-5000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4818 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.2 metres

On one occasion while waiting for a dragonfly to take flight, another one flew into the scene and I was able to capture both insects in focus.

OM-D E-M!~X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 529 mm, efov 1058 mm, f/9, 1/3200, ISO-5000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4282 pixels on the width, subject distance 3 metres

I kept moving around the pond looking for dragonflies that were exhibiting habitual flying behaviours. I adjusted my technique a few times when I observed individual dragonflies launching from their perch, then immediately returning to it.  This allowed me to get some good image runs of dragonflies coming in to land.

OM-D E-M!~X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 529 mm, efov 1058 mm, f/9, 1/3200, ISO-5000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4096 pixels on the width, subject distance 3 metres

To facilitate this type of photograph I used a single AF point and began recording images in temporary memory using Pro Capture H as the dragonfly was in a perched position.

After it took flight I continued to record images in temporary memory even though there was no dragonfly in the frame. Then, when the dragonfly returned and landed I would fully depress my shutter release to capture the insect’s return flight and landing. This continual spooling technique helped ensure that the dragonfly would be in focus when it landed.

Dragonflies come in to land at a much slower speed than when taking flight, so a Pro Capture H run typically yields a higher number of useable frames from landing behaviour.

The next five images are from the same Pro Capture H run of a dragonfly coming in to land.

OM-D E-M!~X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/3200, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3813 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.3 metres
OM-D E-M!~X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/3200, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3825 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.3 metres
OM-D E-M!~X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/3200, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4522 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.3 metres
OM-D E-M!~X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/3200, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4034 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.3 metres
OM-D E-M!~X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/3200, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3846 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.3 metres

Since the E-M1X’s electronic shutter is employed when using Pro Capture, subjects in flight can sometimes show some rolling shutter effect. This can render some photographs unusable.

My schedule was tight on the day that I visited, and I was only able to spend a little over an hour photographing dragonflies at the RBG. Given my abbreviated visit I was pleased with the resulting images.

The next five images constitute of the best series of a dragonfly taking flight that I was able to capture that morning.

OM-D E-M!~X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 359 mm, efov 718 mm, f/8.7, 1/2500, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4027 pixels on the width, subject distance 2.8 metres
OM-D E-M!~X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 359 mm, efov 718 mm, f/8.7, 1/2500, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3745 pixels on the width, subject distance 2.8 metres
OM-D E-M!~X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 359 mm, efov 718 mm, f/8.7, 1/2500, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3865 pixels on the width, subject distance 2.8 metres
OM-D E-M!~X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 359 mm, efov 718 mm, f/8.7, 1/2500, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4076 pixels on the width, subject distance 2.8 metres
OM-D E-M!~X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 359 mm, efov 718 mm, f/8.7, 1/2500, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3635 pixels on the width, subject distance 2.8 metres

When the opportunities arose I did switch things up and attempted to capture HHHR (Handheld Hi Res) images of perched dragonflies. I was able to capture a few decent HHHR photographs.

OM-D E-M!~X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 529 mm, efov 1058 mm, f/9, 1/400, ISO-200, Handheld Hi Res, cropped to 5879 pixels on the width, subject distance 3 metres

If it would have been a dead still environment my HHHR attempts would have been better. In spite of that, it was still an enjoyable experience.

OM-D E-M!~X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 529 mm, efov 1058 mm, f/9, 1/250, ISO-200, Handheld Hi Res, cropped to 5908 pixels on the width, subject distance 3 metres

As you review the EXIF data on some of my HHHR images you’ll notice that I occasionally used somewhat slower shutter speeds (eg. 1/250) given the overall focal length used, and the multiple image combining nature of the HHHR function. I typically use a range of shutter speeds from an experimentation standpoint.

OM-D E-M!~X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 545 mm, efov 1090 mm, f/9, 1/500, ISO-800, Handheld Hi Res, cropped to 6428 pixels on the width, subject distance 2.5 metres

As is the case with many bird, mammal, reptile and insect subjects it is important to spend some time studying their movements and habitual behaviours. This helps identify potential photographic opportunities.

OM-D E-M!~X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/640, ISO-640, Handheld Hi Res, cropped to 6215 pixels on the width, subject distance 2.7 metres

Our final dragonflies at the RBG photograph featured in this article also includes a 100% crop. As regular readers know I’m not a pixel peeper by nature but I do appreciate that some folks have an interest in seeing 100% crops.

OM-D E-M!~X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 545 mm, efov 1090 mm, f/9, 1/500, ISO-160, Handheld Hi Res, cropped to 5442 pixels on the width, subject distance 2.9 metres
OM-D E-M!~X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 545 mm, efov 1090 mm, f/9, 1/500, ISO-160, Handheld Hi Res, cropped to 5442 pixels on the width, subject distance 2.9 metres, 100% crop

Dragonflies can be extremely difficult to capture in free flight. Studying the movements of individual dragonflies can help a photographer determine their game plan to capture some images of them in flight.

Technical Note:

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All Pro Capture H photographs were captured using my standard settings for this mode: 60 frames-per-second, single AF point, Pre-Shutter Frames and Frame Limited both set to 15. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard approach in post.  Images were resized for web use. This is the 1,188 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

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