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I’ve spent a lot of time at Lago deAverno (Lake of Averno) shooting dragonflies. There are several species of them but the most common is the Violet Darter in the photo. After a while you start to pick up on their habits and quirks, and you learn when you can get close and when you're wasting your time. The trick is to find one that's busy. If they are feeding, mating, or otherwise occupied then they are less likely to fly away. If they do fly off then just freeze -if the dragon comes back to the same spot (or close to it) then try again. If the critter lands several meters away from you then look for a new subject to shoot.

If you try to get close to a dragonfly and it takes off then simply freeze, or back up a step and freeze. If the critter comes back to the same perch then odds are it didn’t take off because of you; it found something to eat and went after it. The trick is to move slowly and don’t vary your pace. Predators often move slowly at first, but speed up for the strike. Photographers often move slow at first but get excited as they get close to the subject –and the critter will take off because you’re moving like a predator…

Another technique that I've used in the past is the "stop and go" method: Take a few steps toward the critter, pause for a few seconds, take a few more steps, pause and maybe even take a photo (just to get it use to the flash), take a few more steps, etc. Sometimes you can get them use to you that way but it takes a lot of patience. Most of the mating shots that I have were taken by using the stop and go method.

Now that you’re getting close the dragonfly is getting use to you, and it’s not viewing you as a predator. So take your time and compose your shots carefully so you won’t feel the need to crop them later during post processing. If the dragon takes off just wait and see if it comes back. If you are very close (within inches / a few centimeters) then you might have to back up a little to get the dragonfly to come back to the same perch. Just keep your movements slow and even and when it lands move back in. Patience is the key to taking photos of dragonflies above life size –get into too big of a hurry and you’ll go home empty handed…

Dragonflies are such creatures of habit that when they take off you can hold your hand over their perch and sometimes they will land on it…

I normally go shooting in the heat of the day, when dragonflies are the most active and when I have a better chance of finding one that’s feeding (or a mating pare). If there is a particular species that won’t let you get close, or that seems to be constantly in motion, then go looking for it early in the morning when it’s still trying to dry out from the previous night’s dew.

I take almost all of my photos using either a flash as fill or as the primary light source, so the light from the flash doesn’t seem to bother them. The only trouble I’ve had with flash photography is getting so close to a dragonfly that I accidentally touched it with the flash ;)

I never wear bright clothes when I go shooting insects. I think it helps to blend in a little with the area where I’m shooting, so I try to stick to neutral colors. Grey is almost always a safe bet, but any color that comes close to the reeds, trees, and other plants that they perch on will help.

Be patient, be persistent, and push your luck. For the shot included with this how to I was shooting with a Canon MPE-65mm macro lens set to 4x, so the distance between the front of the lens to the dragonfly was only 1.7” (4.3cm) minus the half inch that the MT-24EX extends past the glass. But I didn’t start out shooting at 4x, I worked my way in from life size and I took photos as I got closer, and as the critter got use to me.

Practice, lots of practice... ;)
A tutorial on how to get close enough to photograph a dragonfly.

I've been trying to update the text with this addition but it's not working. I'll post it here for now and try to add it later...
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:iconcauterizesetsfire:
CauterizeSetsFire Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2010   General Artist
Great tutorial i can't wait to to shoot XD!
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:iconflippinphil:
FlippinPhil Featured By Owner May 14, 2009  Professional Photographer
Excellent read. :thumbsup:
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:icondalantech:
dalantech Featured By Owner May 14, 2009  Hobbyist Photographer
Thanks for the feedback!
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:iconflippinphil:
FlippinPhil Featured By Owner May 14, 2009  Professional Photographer
My pleasure.
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:iconmdcphoto:
mdcphoto Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2008
Great post! I remember getting this advice from you early in the summer (slimmed down of course) and it works! Helped me get my best Dragonfly picture! I hope everyone gets something out of it!
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:icondalantech:
dalantech Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
Thanks :)
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:iconmindwarp-hs:
mindwarp-hs Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2008
There is a lake 15 minutes far from me .... after i studied you post ill try to catch them dragonflies:D
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:icondalantech:
dalantech Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
I'll be there in about an hour :)
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:iconmindwarp-hs:
mindwarp-hs Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2008
Then mine is better ;p
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:icondalantech:
dalantech Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
LOL! :)
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:iconf3arless:
f3arless Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2008
the same thing i practice too, though i have to tell you about the clothes. was it coincidence or not, but couple of times i wore yellow shirt and butterflys and dragonflys didnt fly away. dragonflys were as usual playing - little bit of flying and then landing on the same spot.
and with the butterflys they even stayed still for long time, anr/or flew just to the next flower (all in the circle of 50-70 cm) then i got bored, and left. hm, i never submitted those shots, i might do it soon.


anyway, its a good tutorial
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:icondalantech:
dalantech Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
Sometimes it doesn't matter what I wear either -if the dragon wants the perch it's on it will stay...
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:iconf3arless:
f3arless Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2008
yes, but i was surprised with the butterfly. i expected them to fly away after a very short time, but i guess that they felt confortable :)
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:icondalantech:
dalantech Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
8-)
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:iconphykia:
phykia Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2008  Hobbyist General Artist
hehe... Thanks for the info! I've learned a bit about them on my own, but the neutral colored clothing makes sense and I seriously hadn't realized that. Thanks again for the neat tutorial. :)
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:icondalantech:
dalantech Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
Hope it helps :)
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:iconphykia:
phykia Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2008  Hobbyist General Artist
Surely. Thanks for sharing. :heart:
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:iconvernicer:
verniceR Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2008
:clap: bravo and thank you so much for sharing !!
i love talking to them :giggle: to keep it company with me .
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:icondalantech:
dalantech Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
Thanks 8-)
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:iconvernicer:
verniceR Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2008
most welcome ;p .
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:iconmaropho:
maropho Featured By Owner May 29, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
Handy tutorial. I tried to shoot dragonflies at the pond in our backyard.
They really are creatures of habit, like you said. There was a certain spot on the reed, where they would come back frequently. Interesting habit. :)
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:icondalantech:
dalantech Featured By Owner May 29, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
Thanks for the feedback! 8-)
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:icondarkvilley:
DarkVilley Featured By Owner May 29, 2008
Thank you! x3
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:icondalantech:
dalantech Featured By Owner May 29, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
Your welcome :)
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:iconthyan:
thyan Featured By Owner May 15, 2008
thank you, i just wanted to start macro photography..and this is a good tutorial for me..
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:icondalantech:
dalantech Featured By Owner May 15, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
Glad you like it! :)
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:iconfalconfeather:
falconfeather Featured By Owner May 10, 2008
worked on the dragonflies in the garden :P
thanks for the tutorial
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:icondalantech:
dalantech Featured By Owner May 10, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
Glad it helped!
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:iconwebworm:
webworm Featured By Owner May 9, 2008
Thanks so much for sharing! :wave::sing:
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:icondalantech:
dalantech Featured By Owner May 9, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
Thanks for the feedback!
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:iconwebworm:
webworm Featured By Owner May 24, 2008
You're welcome! :wave::sing:
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:iconhimation:
Himation Featured By Owner May 7, 2008
Another excellent tutorial.
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:icondalantech:
dalantech Featured By Owner May 7, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
Thanks for the feedback!
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:iconmelly-jelly:
Melly-Jelly Featured By Owner May 5, 2008
Thanks for this... hoping to get into macro photography once i get my lens. Grateful for all your tips, cheers
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:icondalantech:
dalantech Featured By Owner May 5, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
Glad you like it!
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