Dragonfly Emergence

Posted: April 27th, 2010 under photography, Wildlife.
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Back on April 20, I happened to see a dragonfly, just out of its nymphal exoskeleton, clinging to the stone border of the lily pond.   An hour earlier and I could have photographed the whole sequence, but I have a partial sequence.

Notice that it’s pale all over…the eyes are just beginning to turn red-brown…the wings are still folded, and the abdomen is still curved up a little.  Faint stripes show on the side of the thorax.

After taking a couple of images from this angle,  I went in the house to get the big lens, so I could shoot across the pond, directly at its dorsum.

By the time I got back out with the big lens on, and set up, the dragonfly’s abdomen was both changing shape (straighter and longer) and showing pale markings.  The wings did not extend as far (relatively speaking) beyond the end of the abdomen.  The eyes were darker.

Here are closer views of the head & thorax, and then the abdomen & wings.

The first flare of wing expansion is just visible in the upper part of this image.

About a half hour to an hour later, the markings are more prominent:

I came back in an hour and found that the dragonfly had opened both pairs of wings fully and markings were now clearly defined–the darks darker.

In this image, you can see how close to the water the insect’s abdomen tip is by the reflection.   Right after this, I saw the insect’s head move.   I moved to the corner nearest, and tried to get a lateral view of the markings.

I wanted another lateral view, but slightly disturbed the water surface, and the dragonfly flew about 25 feet to a clump of tall grass.  I followed, and spotted it in among the grass-blades.

Just as I was trying for another shot, our cat spotted me and walked toward me…and the dragonfly flew up into a live oak tree, well over my head and out of sight.

While watching this dragonfly, I saw a Great Spreadwing female fly up to the water irises and immediately begin ovipositing.  My images of her weren’t good enough to share, but this was the a double-first day–first dragonfly seen at or near emergence, and first odonate seen ovipositing this spring.


  • Comment by Tom Hise — April 27, 2010 @ 10:54 am


    Wonderful pictures! Can you give some details of lenses used and camera settings? I wish I had your skill at this type of phptography

    Your pictures make me want to visit you and the 80 acres again. Maybe next year.

  • Comment by Gloria Oliver — April 27, 2010 @ 11:08 am


    Oh way cool! Nice pics too. Felt like I was watching the LIFE series again. 🙂

  • Comment by cdozo — April 27, 2010 @ 11:53 am


    That’s amazing! Very nice series.

  • Comment by elizabeth — April 27, 2010 @ 2:18 pm


    Tom, these were all taken with the Nikon D80; the “angled” ones and the one in the grass with the Tamron 28-300 zoom, but I can’t remember how far I had it cranked out. Pretty much, I think, for the ones on the rock, and less so for the one in the grass. (Darn cat!) I took shots with both manual and autofocus on the angled shots.

    The straight dorsal shots were taken with the 300mm Nikkor and the Tamron 1.4 teleconverter…I put a chair directly across the pond, screwed the monopod onto the lens combo, and braced clenched it between my legs because there was a wind at an angle that was adding to my own shaky hands.

    I used the auto setting for exposure the whole time…when I looked at the little image it gives me of the shot just taken, that looked OK so I went with it. I do that a lot. I do always use the “fine” setting for pixel depth. Because I have to take so many grab shots, and nearly always have to crop, I want all the pixels I can cram in.

    All the shots were massaged in Paint Shop Pro–cropped, resized, sharpened at bit after resizing. I didn’t mess with the histogram adjustment on any of these.

  • Comment by Martin LaBar — April 29, 2010 @ 3:38 am


    Wow! What a privilege, to see both events.

  • Comment by elizabeth — April 29, 2010 @ 10:21 am


    Yes, it was. I’ve seen dragonflies all the way out, wings extended, resting (with no color at all yet–sort of honey-colored all over) but never the changes in color and wing position.

    Hope to see more in coming years. If I could spend the hours outside every day, that would help, but…books need to be written so money can flow to the writer so the writer can pay the taxes on the land and other necessities. Worth it, to have this experience even once.

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