Two Flames

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The appearance of Skimmers — Flame, Neon, and Roseate — is a harbinger of mid-summer in southern Arizona.  These large and very beautiful dragonflies always seem to show up in large numbers when the monsoon arrives and they stick around until at least early October.

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Flame Skimmers are certainly the most common Skimmer that we see.  The males of this species are a brilliant orange in color.  Even their eyes are orange, as is evident from this photograph.

I love photographing these dragonflies.  Not only are they gorgeous, but they’re relatively easy to shoot. Skimmers tend to be less shy around humans than most other species for reasons known only to them.  Typically, one will find a favorite spot to perch, usually an exposed branch or twig, and will make forays from there, always returning to home base.  It’s possible to position oneself quite close to one of these perches and simply wait for the dragonfly to return.  Inevitably it does and it usually rests for at least a minute or two before taking off again.  Meanwhile, it poses serenely.

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I photographed these two Flame Skimmers on separate days at two locations at Sabino Canyon.  Both of these individuals are males: the females aren’t orange but are a dull tan color.  Notice that the first one is more richly colored than is the second.  I have no explanation for that, it may simply be a natural color variation among individuals.  Notice also that the first dragonfly is perched only on his rear four legs with his first set of legs in a raised position next to his head.  I’ve often seen perching dragonflies of all species do this.  It’s a very good question as to why they do it.

It’s my intent in the weeks to come to make some photographs of Neon and Roseate Skimmers to go along with these two Flames and to post them here.

Both photos were made with a Canon 5Diii, 180 f3.5L Macro Lens.  The first photo was made at ISO 200, aperture preferred setting, f8 @ 1/400.  The second photo was made at ISO 320, aperture preferred setting, f8 @ 1/250.

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