Twelve-spotted Skimmer In Flight

I visited the Royal Botanical Gardens yesterday and was able to capture some images of a twelve-spotted skimmer in flight. These were some of my first images of dragonflies captured during the 2022 season.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 314 mm, efov 628 mm, 1/5000, f/11, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3456 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.8 metres

Twelve-spotted skimmers are very common throughout the continental United States and in lower latitudes in Canada. They are very quick flyers, making them challenging to photograph in flight.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/11, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3473 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.7 metres

Those of us who use Olympus/OM cameras can use Pro Capture H, which makes capturing images of twelve-spotted skimmers much easier to do.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/11, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3224 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.9 metres

Rather than trying to capture images of a twelve-spotted skimmer as it loops around it flight, it is far more productive to examine vegetation around the edges of a pond to discover where these dragonflies land.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/11, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3510 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.7 metres

These insects are definitely creatures of habit and will land and take flight from the exact same spot on a frequent basis. If you can identify one of these specific locations you’ll be able to capture a good selection of images.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 314 mm, efov 628 mm, 1/5000, f/11, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3026 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.8 metres

If you plan on capturing images of dragonflies in flight I’d strongly recommend bringing a low stool with you. This will allow you to get down low to the action which provides a more pleasing shooting angle. Using bug spray can be important in areas where there is an infestation of ticks and other biting insects.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 314 mm, efov 628 mm, 1/5000, f/11, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3224 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.8 metres

When you locate a perched twelve-spotted skimmer or other dragonfly you will often have two opportunities to photograph that particular insect in flight. The first is when it takes flight and the second is when it returns to its perch. In my experience, more useable photographs are usually created when it returns to its perch.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/11, -0.3 EV, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3268 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.9 metres

The take-off happens so quickly it can be difficult to get more than 3-5 images with the dragonfly in the composition even when shooting at 60 frames-per-second. After the dragonfly takes flight, immediately focus on the exact spot from where it launched. Then begin capturing Pro Capture H images in temporary memory as you wait for it to return. When it re-enters your frame, fully depress your shutter release to capture its incoming flight.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 314 mm, efov 628 mm, 1/5000, f/11, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3018 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.8 metres

It is important to take note of the flight path that a particular twelve-spotted skimmer or other dragonfly uses for its launch and return flights. Allow flight room in your composition for these two opportunities. Since dragonflies often approach their perch at a slower speed it is often possible to capture a long run of images of their return flight.

Let’s have a look at 10 consecutive images capturing during a single return flight. All of these photographs would have been captured in a total of 1/6th of a second.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/11, -0.3 EV, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3018 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.9 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/11, -0.3 EV, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3343 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.9 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/11, -0.3 EV, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3331 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.9 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/11, -0.3 EV, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3145 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.9 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/11, -0.3 EV, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3216 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.9 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/11, -0.3 EV, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3477 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.9 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/11, -0.3 EV, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3396 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.9 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/11, -0.3 EV, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3379 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.9 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/11, -0.3 EV, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3164 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.9 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/11, -0.3 EV, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3243 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.9 metres

As is the case with any photographic subject, you’ll want to make sure you have good lighting (typically with the sun at your back) and a shooting angle that affords you a background far enough away for good subject separation.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/11, -0.3 EV, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3264 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.9 metres

You’ll need to experiment with your camera settings to see what creates the best photographs for your approach. If you check the EXIF data on the photographs in this article you’ll see that I stopped my lens down to f/11. I did this to give me additional depth-of-field as twelve-spotted skimmers are a bit larger sized dragonflies. I used a shutter speed of 1/5000 to somewhat freeze wing positions and pushed my ISO value to ISO-6400 as I was comfortable that I could deal with the resulting noise in post.  Since Pro Capture H utilizes electronic shutter there is some risk of rolling shutter effect.

Technical Note:

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard approach in post. Crops are noted. Images were resized for web use. This is the 1,175 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

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6 thoughts on “Twelve-spotted Skimmer In Flight”

  1. Tom, beautiful work. Thanks for the sharing your experience. You really exploit the versatility of the M. Zuiko 100-400 lens.

    1. Thanks Edward… I’m glad that you enjoyed the images. I agree that the M.Zuiko 100-400 lens provides a good amount of versatility. The critical factor in creating these images was the use of Pro Capture H.

      Tom

  2. Great shots. My wife and I are headed to RBG ourselves this week. Oly Pro Capture mode is fantastic and as I just discovered your website recently, I want to say, I really enjoy your work.

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