what is the best way to photograph dragonflys in flight?


HHodges

Link Posted 18/09/2010 - 21:19
hi, ive been trying to photograph dragonflies in flight with my k20d with various lenses to no avail. i would be very gratefull for any info on camera settings etc. some one mentioned ai servo on canon but im not sure what the equivelent is on the pentax. any advice recieved would be much appreciated. many thanks H

matwhittington

Link Posted 18/09/2010 - 21:59
Gosh I think it will be difficult. I have come close(ish) to getting a shot like that but not managed to do so yet so probably I am not the best to advise, but for what it's worth...

First step would be to find and watch some dragonflies to see how they behave. As far as I can tell, some often settle and then hover around close to where they are (good candidates to photograph), others zip past and/or fly high so these will be impossible I suspect. Then to get one a good frame-filling view will probably require a macro lens and a longer one will mean you don't have to get so (intrusively) close to the dragonfly. I suspect a 180mm macro would be ideal; Sigma have one but they're discontinued in Pentax fit, so tricky to find. 100mm macros are readily available but you'll need to get closer and risk spooking the dragonfly. You'll probably need a fast shutter speed, at least quicker than 1/125th second (the wings will still be blurred at this speed - to freeze the wings will probably need something like 1/1000th sec). If there is good light that will enable a smaller aperture and mean that more (all) of the dragonfly will be within the DOF of the lens, otherwise you may find you need to use a wide aperture and/or high ISO to get the shutter speed fast enough. Finally, focussing will be a challenge. If the dragonfly hovers and more or less stays hovering at the same point then that would be ideal. Autofocus might work if you can keep the AF point on the dragonfly long enough. Alternatively you could set manual focus and hope the dragonfly flies into focus as you take a burst of shots using continuous shooting; either way if you shoot bursts you may get a lucky shot.

Best advice is to find some dragonflies and practice practice practice... I am sure others on here will have had more success than me and will post better advice...

Regards
Mat W

My Flickr: link

HHodges

Link Posted 18/09/2010 - 22:04
hi ya mat
thank you for your advice i will endever to capture after work in the morning. many thanks
h

Oggy

Link Posted 19/09/2010 - 00:19
You raise an interesting point there Mat. When taking photos of aircraft, it is generally frowned upon to freeze the props. I wonder if the ethics committee would approve frozen wings.

Back to the original question - welcome to the forum H. I'd spend a while watching their behaviour. It should then become easier to work out how to take the picture you want.

Don

Link Posted 19/09/2010 - 01:21
Getting them in flight is tough.
I'm going to assume you want cost effective methods so we'll skip lasers...

try this... get into a location that has water, mosquitos and lots of tall grasses, bullrushes and flowers....

set up two or three flashes above and behind you with a radio slave. (or just wired with pc connectors or off camera kit) all on manual.... pick a location where the dragon flies are likely to land, stake it out and wait.

they generally will catch thier prey mid air then perch to eat it.
like all animals they may use the same perch repeatedly.

they need to lay eggs in water and will set down on lillys or twigs floating on water....

if you set your aperture for wide dof and your flash exposure for the right distance then focus manually... then wait for the buggers to fly into "Your stake out zone" where your exposure and focus should both be good, your odds are much improved....

most insects move a little slower in the am when it is still chilly, but you'll see more in the pm when the skeeters are really out..

PS mosquito repellent eats into plastic... you don't want that stuff on your hands, nose or cheek where it might rub off on your camera...
Fired many shots. Didn't kill anything.
Last Edited by Don on 19/09/2010 - 01:26

Don

Link Posted 19/09/2010 - 01:56
Getting them in flight is tough.
I'm going to assume you want cost effective methods so we'll skip lasers...

try this... get into a location that has water, mosquitos and lots of tall grasses, bullrushes and flowers....

set up two or three flashes above and behind you with a radio slave. (or just wired with pc connectors or off camera kit) all on manual (you want to use guide numbers and distances to get the right power to properly expose the insects when they fly into your "Prefocussed zone).... pick a location where the dragon flies are likely to land, stake it out and wait.

they generally will catch thier prey mid air then perch to eat it.
like all animals they may use the same perch repeatedly.

they need to lay eggs in water and will set down on lillys or twigs floating on water....

if you set your aperture for wide dof (say f8 to f16 hence the need for several flashes) and your flash exposure for the right distance then focus manually... then wait for the buggers to fly into "Your stake out zone" where your exposure and focus should both be good, your odds are much improved....

most insects move a little slower in the am when it is still chilly, but you'll see more in the pm when the skeeters are really out.. with your exposure and focus and flash all set up to create a zone, your camera needs do nothing but fire when you release the shutter. Then it is up to you to track the subject, wait for it to fly into your zone and release the shutter.

PS mosquito repellent eats into plastic... you don't want that stuff on your hands, nose or cheek where it might rub off on your camera...
Fired many shots. Didn't kill anything.
Last Edited by Don on 19/09/2010 - 01:57

Mannesty

Link Posted 19/09/2010 - 11:48
To catch a dragonfly in flight you have to do a lot of watching and observing first.

1: Find a favourite location (from the dragonfly's perspective) which will almost certainly be near water.
2: Watch and observe. Watch and observe some more. You are looking for a favourite landing place and common flight path characteristics. Also pay attention to the background.
3: Once you have picked a spot that you are reasonably sure the dragonfly might pass, set you camera to manual focus and focus on the spot you've picked, Av or Tv mode depending whether you want to control DOF or freeze motion.
4: Take some shots to check OOF background, exposure, etc.
5: Wait. Wait some more. Hopefully you'll get your shot. . . eventually.

An alternative approach would be to set your camera to continuous AF, or AF-C (servo), and try tracking the critter. But I guess you tried that and probably found that Pentax AF is not up to the job. Screw drive AF is generally faster than SDM too.

Good luck, it'll take a while.
Peter E Smith

My flickr Photostream
Last Edited by Mannesty on 19/09/2010 - 11:50

Offertonhatter

Link Posted 19/09/2010 - 20:10
They are tough to shoot as they fly quickly and erratically.

All I can say is (and I will do this myself) practice and take lots of shots, watch them in flight. Apart from that, I can't help more.
Some Cameras

aminstar

Link Posted 19/09/2010 - 22:01
HHodges wrote:
hi, ive been trying to photograph dragonflies in flight with my k20d with various lenses to no avail. i would be very gratefull for any info on camera settings etc. some one mentioned ai servo on canon but im not sure what the equivelent is on the pentax. any advice recieved would be much appreciated. many thanks H

Your best bet is using catch in focus. Veteran members here will explain you better than I can about how to do it.
As far as I can see the catch in focus facility that pentax offers is almost as good as Al Servo mode in canon for the specific purpose of catching dragonfly in flight. I know because I use one .
And even though I use Al Servo mode I still focus manually at first to bring it closer, and you can do the same and your biggest advantage would be the catch in focus which would reap superb results.
Dragonflies in flight are relatively difficult but not impossible. Butterflies are worse in relation to dragonflies. If you persist you should be able to grab quite a few shots once you grasp the concept and apply it.
Best settings obviously would depend on lenses. I use a prime and usually keep it between f/8 to f/11 if light allows. I leave ISO on auto and shutter speed you can easily get away with 800 but bump it higher if the light allows and of course the faster you go the better.

Hope this helps
Amin Photo Gallery
Last Edited by aminstar on 19/09/2010 - 22:03

HHodges

Link Posted 19/09/2010 - 22:49
many thanks to all who have given advice, is the catch in focus mode AF-C? Im not sure if thats the setting you mean Amin. i will keep trying to get the shot i want and when i eventually get one i will post it on site.
thanks once again and any more tips then please let me know.

best wishes

H

Blythman

Link Posted 19/09/2010 - 23:10
I think catch in focus refers to using a manual focus lens with the camera set to AF-S. In this setting if you depress the shutter it will only take a picture when the green light confirms focus
Alan


PPG
Flickr

bforbes

Link Posted 19/09/2010 - 23:25
You are correct with your second statement but you have to enable it in the Custom Settings menu, not by AF-S. In AF-S the camera will lock onto focus when you half depress the shutter. In AF-C it will keep re-focusing as you move the camera around with the shutter half depressed. Sorry to get the catch in focus to operate you have to fully depress the shutter button, the shutter will operate when target comes into focus i.e. green light in viewfinder.

apology added
Barrie
Too Old To Die Young

http://www.pentaxphotogallery.com/artists/barrieforbes
https://www.flickr.com/photos/189482630@N03/
Last Edited by bforbes on 19/09/2010 - 23:33

Daniel Bridge

Link Posted 19/09/2010 - 23:28
I shot the photos on here using AF-S, and just watching the dragonflies for a while to see where they regularly hovered. It was then a case of pre-focusing on the rough spot where they were likely to be, and then allowing autofocus to lock on when they hovered there.

You're unlikely to get shots when they're actually in motion, but they tend to hover in one spot for a second or two, and that's when you can get them. I had limited time when I took those shots, otherwise I would have played more with shutter speeds and apertures, but they're not as tricky to shoot as you might think.

90% of wildlife photography is knowing what the animal's going to do, not what settings to have the camera on.

Dan
K-3, a macro lens and a DA*300mm...

Mannesty

Link Posted 19/09/2010 - 23:54
Catch in focus works only for manual focus lenses, and DA or FA lenses having a AF/MF switch set to MF. What the K20D manual doesn't tell you is that by using an auto extension tube (that hasn't got pass-through AF), the lens behaves like an MF lens. I tried it on my D-FA 100mm Macro lens, and it works.

The Catch in focus option needs to be enabled in the custom settings menu and the camera's AF switch needs to be set to AF-S.

To use it, pre-focus the camera to a point where you expect your target to be at some point. Using a cable switch, press and lock the shutter.

When your subject moves into focus at the point you have chosen, the shutter will fire.
Peter E Smith

My flickr Photostream

DragonDrop

Link Posted 21/09/2010 - 14:20
Daniel Bridge wrote:
I shot the photos on here using AF-S, and just watching the dragonflies for a while to see where they regularly hovered.

Dan

Lovely photos by the way!
Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder.

Pentax k100d, kit lens & Tamron 70-300
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