This article shares some photographs from a recent dragonflies with MC-20 handheld test that I did at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington Ontario. While my favourite teleconverter is the M.Zuiko MC-14, I do occasionally use the M.Zuiko MC-20 when I need some additional reach.
I visited the lily ponds at the Royal Botanical Gardens with a very specific test in mind. That was to photograph dragonflies in flight handheld at 800 mm (efov 1600 mm) while filling my frame as much as possible. All of the images featured in this article are shown as full frame captures without any cropping… obviously resized for web use.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
When I arrived at the lily ponds it actually took a fair amount of time to find the right photographic opportunity to use for my dragonflies with MC-20 test. I had to study the behaviour of the dragonflies in order to identify some foliage that was being consistently used as a perch.
Not only did the perch need to be used on a very frequent basis, it also had to provide me with an unobstructed background. And, allow me to shoot at an equivalent-field-of-view of 1600 mm from the correct distance so I could fill my frame. This ended up being a subject distance of about 3.5 to 3.7 metres (~11.5 to 12.1 feet).
I placed my short stool close to the water’s edge of the lily pond and waited patiently for my subject dragonflies to continue with their landings and take-offs. Given my objective of filling my frame as much as possible my shutter release timing was significantly challenged.
The best I could do with many of my initial attempts was to capture the dragonflies once they had landed. It took a good deal of concentration to get my shutter release timing fast enough to get the dragonflies while in flight… as they entered and exited my frame extremely quickly.
As I tried to hone my technique it became obvious that my best results were being created when I tried to capture dragonflies coming in to land. I used a variety of shutter speeds and found that 1/4000 to 1/6400 was the most effective range. Using very fast shutter speeds like 1/10000 or 1/12800 seemed to accentuate rolling shutter distortions.
On my drive in to the Royal Botanical Gardens I decided that I would use my standard Pro Capture H settings of 15 for both my Pre-Shutter Frames and Frame Limiter. Adding more Pre-Shutter Frames would have made my dragonflies with MC-20 test quite a bit easier. But… taking an easier approach doesn’t support skills development as much as being challenged.
I did get into a pretty decent groove and was able to capture some useable images of dragonflies taking flight as well as landing. Using an aperture of f/13 along with fast shutter speeds resulted in high ISO images. C’est la vie!
Using a long focal length with a comparatively short distance to subject made for very shallow depth-of-field. As you can see in the above photograph, even a slightly angled flight path resulted in the dragonfly’s body going out of focus.
Concentrating on dragonflies using flight paths parallel to the focal plane of my camera’s sensor yielded the best results.
On a few occasions I lucked into some images with a nice 3_D effect which added an additional feeling of depth to the scene.
I appreciate that some photographers don’t like using teleconverters as they feel there is too much of a trade-off with image quality. Each of us makes our own decisions in this regard.
I’ve always loved to push myself and my camera gear just to see what will happen. I didn’t have high expectations with regards to image quality with my dragonflies with MC-20 test. Shooting at f/13 with a 2X teleconverter, fully extending my lens to an efov of 1600 mm… at high ISO values… isn’t typically a recipe for success with a small sensor camera. But it can be a heck of a lot of fun!
Given the technical limitations associated with my dragonflies with MC-20 test I was reasonably pleased with the results.
Life can be a comparative experience. Looking back to an article that I published about a year ago that discussed photographing dragonflies at 1600 mm efov, my recent dragonflies with MC-20 test yielded far more useable photographs of dragonflies in flight. Progress, even if it’s only incremental, is still progress.
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 1,196 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.
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