1. Wear purple or blue clothing to photograph dragonflies.
2. To put six to nine feet between my lens and a dragonfly, I use a telephoto of 400 to 500 mm focal length, and place an extension tube between camera and lens.
Dragonflies and damselflies are colorful, active hunters. They depend on their vision to fly, hunt, and thrive. Dragonflies possess a finely tuned visual system with globe-like, genetically evolved eyes that empower them to catch their prey, and see a variety of light wavelengths, in ways that are quite beyond our vision.
We learned in school that our vision works with red, green and blue sensitive cells. We may know that our vision also depends on the chemistry of our three visual opsins, or our eyes light- sensitive proteins. For instance, the first half hour after you walk into a dark cave, your eyes adapt, using an opsin called rhodopsin, a light sensitive chemical that improves your night vision to let you see detail.
Enter the dragonfly. It has evolved a wider range of vision. One study of 12 dragonfly species genetics found that each one has 11 to 33 different visual opsins, thanks to dynamic gene multiplication (Ryo Tahashi et al, Proceedings National Academy of Sciences, USA, 2015 Mar 17; 112-11). Tahashi and colleagues found the evolution of the diverse opsin genes in dragonflies is relevant to their ecology. In the daytime, brightly-colored male dragonflies make a territory at an open space around riverside, pond, forest edge, or tree canopy. There, they patrol. With flight faster than we can see, they defend the territory against other males. They attempt to mate with females.
True dragonflies, but not damselflies, tend to have a twilight flight just before and after sunset. At that time, they dine. They pursue mosquitos, midges, flies and other insects that emerge after sundown. Thus, we can thank the over 1500 species of dragonflies for ridding us of numerous biting bugs.
Wear darker blue or purple clothes and skip the bright colored fabrics, when you try to get close to a dragonfly. Dragonflies have a dorsal visual system and a ventral visual system that are sensitive to different color wavelengths and their visual system, in general, is more sensitive to the 500 to 700 nanometer wavelengths, and somewhat less tuned to the 300-500 nanometer wavelengths, those of dark blue and purple.
Pic Your Pup l 7 Ideas for Photographing Your Dog l Jim Austin Jimages.com
1 Game Time: Catch her at Play
2 All Eyes: Get Closer
3 Go High, Go Low: Choose a Better Angle
4 Story: Tell a Tail in Just One Shot
5 Emotion: Show How Others Feel about Him
6 Water Everywhere: Get Them Wet
7 Contrast: Try Light and Dark Backgrounds
With my basenji Shanti leading the way, I'll share seven ideas you can use to take fun photos of your dogs.
ONE: Game Time
One of my dog's favorite games is catch the ol' tennis ball. For this portrait of her wearing her life jacket, I threw the ball high many times, and tried to release the shutter just before the tennis ball came into the frame.
TWO: All Eyes
Most iPhones, iPhone Pro models, mirrorless cameras and large sensor cameras have close-up or macro settings. For instance, the macro mode may look like a flower on your camera Mode Dial. Some cameras have 'macro' on the lens or Mode Dial. Try Macro shots of your dogs eyes by manually focusing your camera lens if possible. Turn the focusing ring on the lens to the closest focusing distance, then move to get closer to your dogs eyes. Or, use the macro setting on your camera phone or an inexpensive clip on lens for your iPhone 12. Getting close in works a lot better after a romp walk, or when your companion is a bit tired. Your dogs eyes are the window to their soul.
THREE: Different Angles
Shanti, my basenji, is a hunting dog. She adores chasing crabs in the sand. She not only hears them a couple feet down, but can smell them when she get close by digging furiously with both paws through soft sand. It was fun to lie on the beach and catch her expression as she was joyously digging crabs. My point: for dog action pictures, try low and high angles to catch your pup doing something they love.
FOUR: Tell The Story
A story and a moment make a picture stronger. Thinking of unusual camera positions, I often imagine my camera phone as a 3D spaceship. Instead of keeping it on the launch pad for a standard eye level landscape shot, I will 'fly' it around to get a 'feel' for how the light changes. The idea is to portrait your dog's character or a story idea. For this tender training moment between two best friends, the shadow knows.
We were walking our dog in Governor's Harbour, Eleuthera, Bahamas, just as church school let out for recess. Shanti, irresistibly, always runs to greet kids with a bright, clear, joyful enthusiasm. What is an dominant emotion your dog expresses clearly, and how can you photograph that feeling?
SIX: Wet Dog, Dry Camera
Got a dog that loves the water? Go for it. For this shot, we tossed a homemade rope toy out into the water from our boat. Our Corgie loved the game and the two leggeds and four leggeds all got cooled off on a hot day. A water resistant camera is a useful tool to have when you get wet, and remember to dry your camera thoroughly after you shoot. Camera's are precision instruments and last longer if they avoid getting too wet or overheated.
SEVEN: Contrasting Backgrounds
To help your dog stand out, choose a background that's the opposite tone of your dog. I like to use light toned backgrounds for my dark dog, and I choose darker backgrounds when I'm hired to photograph lighter dogs. Also, think about the shape of your dog against that background. BONUS IDEA: In closing, there are superb images of dogs photographed in black and white, so try a B/W setting on your camera and see what you think.
Special Thanks: The author is grateful to Teresa J. Rhyne, #1 NYT Bestselling Author of The Dog Lived (and So Will I): A Memoir and host of the Dogs and Books Facebook Page, for her inspiration to go deeper into helpful tips for dog lovers.