Revisiting the Mugrage Park of Medina County Park System, we spent a pleasant Labor Day afternoon photographing dragonflies. She Who Must Be Obeyed wanted her own chance at shooting a Calico Pennant and I was only too happy to return to the pond. Today I also bagged a beautiful Yellow-Legged Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum) — predominantly red, despite the name! This little beauty, however, posed for a few shots. I also got some very nice shots of a cooperative Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa) — a good-sized, bluish beauty with gorgeous wing markings. Among the challenges was a refreshing breeze: nice for a hot afternoon but causing dragonfly perches to sway! There were plenty to choose from and a few very impressive specimens got away! That includes a beautiful, impressively-large, Common Green Darner … always on the move, always a bit too far away. But that’s the way it goes when you’re shooting dragons!
Checking out one of Medina County’s newest public spaces, Carolyn Ludwig Mugrage Park, this afternoon, we came across this beauty. The Calico Pennant (Celithemis elisa) is a small but very beautiful dragonfly. This male was very cooperative, posing for me several times. Eventually, however, he latched on to a mate and we watched their tandem flight and water-dipping dives; the pair was tapping the surface of their pond, depositing eggs! Happily for them, they escaped a large fish that was about to lunge for lunch.
A visit to the Summit Metro Parks’ Nature Realm helped lift me from my dark mood today; sometimes getting out into a serene natural area can help. Rains last night had wet the woodlands of the park area, subdued light, and absence of park visitors — along the earthen trail — made for a soothing environment. Birds sang their songs in the canopy of trees whilst, in the understory, chipmunks and squirrels scurried about. The warm damp provided perfect conditions for varieties of fungi to grow on fallen tree trunks. The peace and beauty of the place crept inside, imparting some relief from the disappointments humanity has dished out over the past few days in national and world news.
In the dark woods I tried some experiments employing my camera’s high ISO capability. My image of a Harvestman (“Daddy Longlegs”) on a shelf fungus was shot, handheld, at ISO 8,000 at 1/125 second! Viewed at 100 percent, grain is easily visible in the photo but smooth and subtle enough to make for a good photo at smaller sizes. The “Green Wood” picture took advantage of pond water that was already a seemingly unnatural green reflecting the green of shore plants around a submerged chunk of wood — a picture I’m very happy with. That was at a more conservative ISO of 250.
I do love photographing dragonflies. Because they are relatively small, live by the water, and are very quick fliers, dragonfly photography can be frustrating. This past weekend I was fortunate enough to be exploring a hotbed of dragonfly activity and, for the first time, got some images of a beautiful indigo-colored flier: a male Slaty Skimmer. In flight, the Slaty is so dark it appears black. When resting on a plant stem or flower head, the male’s deep blue body shows its true color. Clear wings make the Slaty, and some other dragonflies, hard to photograph unless against a featureless background such as the pond in this photo. I plan to get out a few more times, specifically for “dragon hunting” this season and maybe even shoot some video.
While it’s often possible to shoot closeup photos of insects such as dragonflies, it’s not always necessary or even the best approach. I spent an enjoyable time this afternoon along the edge of a pond seeking one of my favorite subjects: dragonflies! I had some very good luck and even got some very nice shots of a Slaty Skimmer — a big, indigo blue dragon I don’t believe I’ve captured before. As I walked along beside the pond I looked out across the quiet waters and saw a tiny Eastern Amberwing perched on the top of a sunken tree trunk protruding from the surface. The weathered wood was dark and in silhouette, its form reflected on the water, but the little dragonfly glowed in sunlight. I shot image after image ’til finally the Amberwing flitted away. It wasn’t one of those highly-detailed, super-macro insect photos we often wonder at; I think I actually like it better. ‘Turns out, it was my favorite picture of the day! A closeup isn’t everything!
I visited the Alderfer-Oenslager Wildlife Sanctuary of the Medina County Park System this afternoon, seeking the season’s first dragonflies. None were to be seen there. It was, however, a splendid afternoon for a little stroll around the grounds and it’s not like nothing else was worth looking at! The ponds were fairly still and alive with the ripples caused by likely thousands of water-striding insects milling about, doubtless seeking mates. The first lily pads floated, soaking up the day’s sunshine while others could be seen stretching up from beneath the surface. Wriggling amongst the reeds and algae near waters’ edge were hundreds of tadpoles, somehow sensing my presence and quickly hiding. And oh, what’s that, lying in wait for the careless passing fish or tadpole? A medium-sized snapping turtle sat in the mud, barely submerged and barely exposed. The pond may display quiet beauty above, but there’s danger below!
My dragonflies? Oh, they’re likely crawling around underwater in their nymph phase: a terrifying aquatic insect (if you’re a small critter they might find tasty) and will emerge in due course, um, to stalk the skies.
It was a pleasant afternoon for a photo-hike at the F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm of Summit Metro Parks in Akron, Ohio. We chose to take a 1.6-mile earthen trail that traverses woodlands and gullies. I shot a good many photos but not many good photos this time — I really must take a tripod when I do these things! If, however, the journey is the destination, we accomplished what we really came for — a time in nature, paying attention to the world around us. It was time well spent.