Joined Dragonflies In Flight

This article shares some images of joined dragonflies in flight. These photographs were captured handheld at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington Ontario.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 413 mm, efov 826 mm, f/8.8, 1/2500, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4890 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.3 metres

You will notice that I included a run of 15 consecutive photographs from a Pro Capture H run. These photographs are included to help demonstrate how subtle differences in body position, as well as the relative position of foreground elements, can affect a composition.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 293 mm, efov 586 mm, f/8.5, 1/2500, ISO-5000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4514 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.8 metres

When photographing insects in motion I always use Pro Capture H to help ensure that I capture some usable images.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 321 mm, efov 642 mm, f/8.6, 1/2500, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4589 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.8 metres

If you’re like me, you’ve likely seen some dragonflies joined together in flight and assumed that they were mating. This is not entirely accurate.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 293 mm, efov 586 mm, f/8.5, 1/2500, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3723 pixels on the height, subject distance 3.8 metres

To mate, the male dragonfly uses claspers at the end of his abdomen to grab the female by the back of her neck.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 293 mm, efov 586 mm, f/8.5, 1/2500, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3597 pixels on the height, subject distance 3.8 metres

The male’s claspers are designed to fit species specific grooves in the female.¬† At this point the joined dragonflies can fly around together for hours.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 293 mm, efov 586 mm, f/8.5, 1/2500, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3687 pixels on the height, subject distance 3.8 metres

If the female dragonfly is sexually receptive she will lift her abdomen up, curling it against the underside of the main part of the male’s body.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 293 mm, efov 586 mm, f/8.5, 1/2500, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3633 pixels on the height, subject distance 3.8 metres

In this manner the joined dragonflies form a heart-shaped wheel. This allows the male to pass his sperm into the female.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 293 mm, efov 586 mm, f/8.5, 1/2500, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3699 pixels on the height, subject distance 3.8 metres

The heart-shaped coupling of the joined dragonflies can last for a minute, or up to several hours.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 293 mm, efov 586 mm, f/8.5, 1/2500, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3411 pixels on the height, subject distance 3.8 metres

If the joined dragonflies remain in the heart-shaped configuration for extended periods of time, it is often due to the male trying to use spoon-like structures on his penis to scoop out any sperm deposited by other males.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 293 mm, efov 586 mm, f/8.5, 1/2500, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3716 pixels on the height, subject distance 3.8 metres

After copulation the male may release its mate, with both dragonflies flying away. Some males are very territorial and may follow their mate around to protect her from other males while she lays her eggs in water.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 293 mm, efov 586 mm, f/8.5, 1/2500, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3681 pixels on the height, subject distance 3.8 metres

In some species, the joined dragonflies may remain together for the entire egg laying process. You may notice that in many of the photographs in this article, the female dragonfly’s tail is immersed in water. She could very well be laying her eggs.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 293 mm, efov 586 mm, f/8.5, 1/2500, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3699 pixels on the height, subject distance 3.8 metres

After eggs have been laid, dragonflies may repeat the process and reproduce a few more times before they die a month or so later.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 293 mm, efov 586 mm, f/8.5, 1/2500, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3777 pixels on the height, subject distance 3.8 metres

When photographing dragonflies it can be helpful to sit on a short, portable stool. This helps to get a lower photo shooting angle, and a more appealing  view, of the dragonflies.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 293 mm, efov 586 mm, f/8.5, 1/2500, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3771 pixels on the height, subject distance 3.8 metres

I used my standard Pro Capture H settings for the photographs in this article. Pre-Shutter and Frame Limiter were both set to 15, with my frame rate set at 60.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 293 mm, efov 586 mm, f/8.5, 1/2500, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3555 pixels on the height, subject distance 3.8 metres

The 15 photographs in the entire Pro Capture H image run featured in this article were captured in a total of 1/4 of a second.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 293 mm, efov 586 mm, f/8.5, 1/2500, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3687 pixels on the height, subject distance 3.8 metres

The M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 iS zoom is a fantastic lens to use for insect photography.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 293 mm, efov 586 mm, f/8.5, 1/2500, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3447 pixels on the height, subject distance 3.8 metres

With a minimum focusing distance of only 1.3 metres (~4 feet) throughout its focal length range, the M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS is a wonderfully versatile lens.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 293 mm, efov 586 mm, f/8.5, 1/2500, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3495 pixels on the height, subject distance 3.8 metres

When used with the MC-14 or MC-20 teleconverters the M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 provides great reach, with a short minimum focusing distance, all in a relatively small and comparatively lightweight package. This is ideal for photographers, like me, who prefer to shoot handheld.

Technical Note

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. This is the 1,043rd article published on this website since its original inception.

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2 thoughts on “Joined Dragonflies In Flight”

  1. What an exciting series! I think the female is actually laying her eggs on the reed stem below the waterline. This is such a good example of how one can share the “hidden magic” of nature through photography without needing to go to places like the Pantanal or the Maasai Mara!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the series Stephen. Regardless of where we may live, ‘hidden magic’ is all around us if we take the time to look for it. I find that capturing these moments is a life affirming experience.

      Tom

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