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.
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.
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.
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.
- Another new species of spreadwing damselfly…
- A Southern Fortnight, Part 1 – Year-long mystery solved!
- A Southern Fortnight, Part 2 – Damselfly terminal appendages (male)
- A Southern Fortnight, Part 3 – Southern Spreadwing damselfly (male)
- A Southern Fortnight, Part 4 – Southern Spreadwing damselfly (female)
- A Southern Fortnight, Part 5 – Southern Spreadwing damselflies (mating pairs, in tandem)
- A Southern Fortnight, Part 6 – Damselfly reproductive anatomy
- A Southern Fortnight, Part 7 – “Arty”
Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.
Tags: claspers, Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly, Erythemis simplicicollis, Family Lestidae (Spreadwings), hamules, Huntley Meadows Park, Lestes australis, male, predator, prey, Southern Spreadwing damselfly, terminal appendages, wildlife photography