When They Refuse to Give You a Specimen

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 When I first started taking photographs of dragonflies and damselflies I really wanted to get what I like to call 'specimen' shots.  You know the kind I mean.  Nice clean, sharp photo's that provided all the detail necessary to identify the little creatures.  The kind of photo that you would find in a field guide as a perfect example of  the species.  To me that is a 'specimen' photo.  Or I wanted some of those cool macro shots that give all the minute details down to the fuzz on the thorax.

Well I knew I would not get those great macro captures as I did not have the expertise nor the proper equipment.  And the 'specimen' captures?  I soon realized that every now and then I would get a nice, detailed photo when everything fell into place.  Maybe not exactly field guide quality in all cases, but decent none-the-less.

When I came to that realization I figured I should really start looking for the other shots,  photo's that  captured the dragon or damsel in some special way when possible.  You know, interesting angles, varied background,  anything that gave them individual personality.  For some damselflies, particularly the jewel-wing family, I found that the most interesting shots were often when they were perched on a leaf in the sunlight.  Some are so tall that they cast great shadows on the leaves. So,  I would concentrate on the shadows sometimes at the expense of the damselfly itself.

With dragonflies I like to try to get 'personality' shots when possible, something that sets them apart.  I liked this one because of the cartoon-like look and how it is a 'who is studying whom' type pose.

 And of course you frequently find both dragonflies and damselflies at their breeding grounds, around water.   And what does water sometimes provide for you?  Great reflections.   Quite often I would find dragons or damsels just out of reach of the camera for a detailed shot, but the combination of the insect and its reflection would offer a great opportunity for a photo.  

  These other photo's frequently offer an additional advantage.  With a 'specimen' photo what you have is normally what you keep.  You have to be very careful about any editing type adjustments that might alter the true colors or some other aspect of the dragon or damsel.   In these other photo's, though, you have more freedom to be creative and have fun with the photo through editing it.

Take this photo for example where the dragonfly was obviously too far away to get a close, detailed shot. 

Personally I think this photo is nice as it is or with a little cropping, but, since it is quite clearly not a 'specimen' photo,  I have no problem with editing it to produce a wide variety of interpretations using just simple changes in color, lighting, and crops.

 So, if they will not give that specimen shot, then take the shots they give you.  You may be surprised what you come up with and the fun you can have.


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