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Flame Skimmers are among the most brilliantly colored of all of the dragonflies that we see in the Tucson area. They are big, and the males of this species (females are much less brightly colored) stand out like flashing lights against their backgrounds. They’re also relatively easy to photograph — if they’re in a cooperative mood, that is.
I tried for weeks without success to photograph one of these beauties. I’d see one and it would be perched on the other side of a stream, or it would be perched on a twig that was fifteen feet inside of an impenetrable thicket. This went on for attempt after attempt and I was becoming extremely frustrated. Then, one hot afternoon, about ten days ago, I was at Sweetwater Wetlands, wandering around. I stopped for a second, looked to one side, and there was a Flame Skimmer sitting on a twig just about 3 feet away from me. The dragonfly sat calmly and cooperatively as I made image after image.
That’s the way it is with nature photography. It’s often feast or famine, and of the two, mostly famine. I can walk for hours, sometimes, seeing nothing and then, all of a sudden, there will be some fantastic opportunity sitting right in front of me. Or, I can find something great to photograph only to see it flee from my presence before I can set up the shot.
Well, as I often say, I wouldn’t do this if it was easy. Much of the fun comes in the difficulty of getting a shot. I’d quickly grow bored if it was all at my fingertips.
If you look very closely at each of these images, you’ll see a tiny black ant wandering on the twig on which the dragonfly is perching. Dragonflies are predators and one would think that the ant would make a nice snack for the skimmer. However, dragonflies catch their prey on the wing and I suspect that, as far as this dragonfly was concerned, that tiny ant didn’t exist.
Images made with a Canon 5DS-R, 180mm f3.5L Macro Lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite and stabilized by monopod, M setting, ISO 160. The first image, f10 @ 1/160, the second, f11 @ 1/160, the third, f13 @ 1/160.