There be dragons or maybe damselflies

‘Surely you have enough photos of bees,’ said Andy on a Saturday afternoon at beekeeping. Emily and me disagreed, ‘You can never have enough photos of bees.’ However, there are insects other than honeybees who love having their picture taken. So when Emily’s boyfriend, Drew, kindly let me borrow his camera lens and extension tube to practise extreme close ups, I went for a walk at a local nature reserve on Sunday evening to see what bugs were staying up late.

My first shot was beginner’s luck…

The clouds had tell-tale hues of orange and rose as the sun started to fall through the sky. There were few insects to be found so late in the day and I stopped to practise macro photography of wildflowers. While looking through the camera at a purple thistle, a beautiful hoverfly landed on the flower – perfectly in focus. I snapped two photos before the shy creature flew away.

Encouraged, I explored further into the overgrowth of thistles and thorns ignoring little scratches on my ankles and arms. Then, two beautiful turquoise jewels flew past and landed at eye level in front of me. I lost all sense of time standing very still and focusing on their eyes, brightly-coloured bodies and shimmering wings.

At first I thought they were dragonflies but the British Dragonfly Society (BDS) website suggests that they may be damselflies. BDS has a helpful Dragonfly and Damselfly Identification Help page, which says that dragonflies land with wings apart while damselflies land with wings resting together, like this…

Dragonfly eyes are closed together while damselfly eyes are spaced apart…

Thanks BDS! And thank you obliging damselflies!

How I took the photos
I have a Canon EOS 600D camera and the kit that Drew lent me is a Canon lens EF 50mm 1:1.4 with a Canon extension tube EF25 II. I took the camera off automatic mode and on P mode (this allows you to change ISO while shutter speed and aperture are adjusted automatically) and then on TV mode (to change ISO and shutter speed). I have started using these modes thanks to a useful tip from Natalia at Jessops who suggested going from automatic to P and TV modes, rather than jumping straight to full manual mode (M). This allows me to try changing some settings, while seeing how the camera adjusts the remaining settings. For example, I started on ISO 100 and as the daylight got less gradually raised ISO to 800, 3200 and 6400 to see what would happen.

This is my second step into the macro world and I am still learning lots, but I found that the camera needed to move in slowly until the blur of colours became focused and the subject appeared. This meant that I had to get the camera very, very close to the insects – inches from their faces – then hold it very, very still because even the slightest motion caused everything to blur. The lens, or perhaps settings, I used had a narrow range of focus limited to specific parts of the insect: the head, the thorax or the wings; more likely this is my lack of experience.

It was so much fun that before I knew it the sun had set and the damselflies and hoverflies had flown home, so I thought it was time that I did too!

Related links
Donna of Garden Walks, Garden Talks continues to blow me away with her breathtaking insect photography. In this week’s post she captures bee wars! Bee Bombing – Happy Monday Funny.

If you would like to read more about dragonflies and damselflies, visit the British Dragonfly Society (BDS) or another blog I follow: The Dragonfly Woman who has a lovely gallery.

Thank you to Drew for lending his macro lenses, and check out Emily’s beautiful pictures on her blog this week: Bees, flowers and sculpture at Chelsea Physic Garden.

EDIT: Fellow blogger Standingoutinmyfield posted about damselflies on the same day! Read her lovely post Rhapsody in Bluet.