A Southern Fortnight, Part 7 – “Arty”

The Backstory: A Southern Fortnight

For the first two weeks during May 2015, Southern Spreadwing damselflies (Lestes australis) were observed at a vernal pool and nearby drainage ditch in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park. I spotted approximately six males and several females during the fortnight. Their sudden disappearance seemed to coincide with a population explosion of Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (Erythemis simplicicollis) in mid-May. Eastern Pondhawks, especially females, are voracious predators with a penchant for preying upon damselflies.


Alas, all good things must come to an end. This is the last post in what turned out to be a seven-part series called “A Southern Fortnight.” But don’t be sad because I saved some of the better photos for last! The male Southern Spreadwing featured in this post had a preference for perching in front of colorful vegetation that enabled me to capture shots of the damselfly sharply-focused against beautiful bokeh backgrounds, while he waited patiently for a mating partner to join him.

In order to avoid “camera shake” when using my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom bridge camera, I prefer to shoot in shutter priority auto-exposure mode. The rule-of-thumb for tack-sharp photos recommends a shutter speed that is equal to or greater than the reciprocal of the lens focal length (actual focal length for full-frame sensor cameras or 35mm equivalent for crop sensor cameras), in my case, no less than 1/800s for a 600mm equivalent telephoto lens. The following photo was shot in shutter priority mode: ISO 100 | 108mm/600mm | f/5.2 | 1/1000s | 0 ev.

A Southern Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes australis) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

08 MAY 2015 | HMP | Southern Spreadwing (male)

Whenever the subject is as cooperative as this one and I have the luxury of time, I will shoot some photos in aperture priority auto-exposure mode in order to get greater depth-of-field. At a smaller aperture, the camera will often select a relatively slow shutter speed so it is essential to hold the camera rock-steady and that usually means using a tripod. In this case, I was sitting on my Coleman camp stool with my elbows resting on my knees. The following photo was shot in aperture priority mode: ISO 100 | 108mm/600mm | f/7.1 | 1/160s | 0 ev.

A Southern Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes australis) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

08 MAY 2015 | HMP | Southern Spreadwing (male)

Notice the terminal appendages are out of focus in the following photo. Usually I wouldn’t publish a photo like this one, but decided to make an exception since it’s the only photo in this set that shows both the damselfly’s light-blue face and his hamules. The male’s claspers are clearly in focus in the four other photos.

A Southern Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes australis) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

08 MAY 2015 | HMP | Southern Spreadwing (male)

Although the last two photos show the damselfly in nearly the same pose, I chose to use both images due to subtle variations in the coloration of the background.

A Southern Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes australis) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

08 MAY 2015 | HMP | Southern Spreadwing (male)

A Southern Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes australis) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

08 MAY 2015 | HMP | Southern Spreadwing (male)

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Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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5 Responses to “A Southern Fortnight, Part 7 – “Arty””

  1. Mike Powell Says:

    Wow. You saved some spectacular shots for the finale. Both the details and the backgrounds are captured wonderfully, Walter. It was sad to see these photogenic dragonflies disappear so quickly (and suspect that you are right that the Eastern Pondhawks were the probable culprits).

    • waltersanford Says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Mike! Some people would say the backgrounds are too busy, but I like the vibrant colors that remind me of fall. I look forward to seeing our little friends again next year, and hope they linger longer than this year.

      • Mike Powell Says:

        Yes, the colors remind me too of the fall–normally you don’t see as much red at that time of the year. I love the backgrounds and don’t find them distracting at all, despite the fact that they are not a solid, single color. This is not a studio, after all.

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