Having posted some photo highlights in my previous posts, I thought I would try to do choose my top 3 photos that I have taken this year. Having taken many shots this year, it's has been quite hard to pick some as you can imagine but after much deliberating, I have finally managed to choose three photos which I personally find rewarding either through the shot itself, or maybe the experience I had in achieving the photo. I hope you enjoy the following photos.
No 3 - Migrant Hawker Emerging
Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) - male emerging
It had been one of my challenges this year to photograph a Migrant Hawker emerging and having visited Nethergong a number of times, I finally managed to achieve this during an evening session. However, it was during and early morning visit just before I was about to lead a wildlife walk around the site that I chanced upon a Migrant Hawker emerging. The sun had just cleared the trees and was now shining on the pond and not being one to miss an opportunity, I was able to part some reeds and get a clear view of the Hawker emerging. I settled in for what time I had before I had to leave and started to take a number of shots. Most of my photos of Hawkers emerging are often taken during the hours of darkness so it was indeed a real treat to be able to watch one emerging in the sunshine. Being at a campsite and laying down on my belly, it wasn't long until I started to attract the attention of campers who slowly made there way over to see if I was alright. After explaining to them what I was doing, they were just as interested as I was in this sight unravelling in the reeds and soon, others came over to take a look. With some photos now obtained, I had to leave and meet some clients at the entrance and take them on a wildlife tour of the site. I couldn't help but mention to the adults and children that I had just been photographing a Migrant Hawker emerging and they were thankfully interested in seeing this. A few minutes later and I was showing them there first dragonfly emerging and thankfully, they didn't mind me taking a few more photos. After a nice tour of the site, we returned to the pond where the children soon found the Migrant Hawker now pumping up its wings. I took a few more shots as you can imagine before everyone went there own way. No only am I pleased with the shot but also the experience that everyone had that morning in seeing the Migrant Hawker emerging.
No 2 - Norfolk Hawker
Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isosceles) - male
One of my most anticipated dragonflies to see every year is the nationally rare Norfolk Hawker and I am very lucky here in east Kent that we have a good sized colony in the Stour Valley. I have spent a good few years and many visits and hours watching, studying and photographing this lovely dragonfly and each year, I am often treated to some lovely opportunities to spend time in their company. On a warm June day this year, I was at Grove Ferry trying for a few photos in the ditches and had some success with them when I noticed a Norfolk Hawker was occasionally landing on some nearer reeds. I slowly moved into a better position and with the sun now behind me and a nice contrast to the reeds and background, I sat and waited. It wasn't too long until the Hawker flew in and landed on one of the more distant reeds and after a few seconds, was off again patrolling. I knew this was a good chance in achieving some good photos and so decided to sit it out and wait. After a few more visits from the Hawker, he finally landed on the nearer reed and gave me the perfect opportunity to capture the subtle detail and colouring of this superb dragonfly. To get him out in the open away from the clutter of background reeds was a bonus and to date, these are right up there with my favourite perched shots of this species. No doubt next year, I will be trying again but to get a shot like this really put a smile on my face.
No 1 - Southern Migrant Hawker in Flight
Southern Migrant Hawker (Aeshna affinis) - male in flight
Like last years number one shot of this species in flight, this year is no different it seems with the male Southern Migrant Hawker in flight making it as my favourite shot of the year. I was treated this year to good numbers of this species again at Oare Marshes in north Kent and certainly made the most of the visits I made there. In some really hot conditions, I was able to photograph them perched, mating and even saw a few pairs ovipositing but it was the challenge of capturing them in flight that kept on drawing back to this location. As anyone will know having seen photos of this species, they have to be one of the most striking species we have here in the UK and with growing numbers year on year, the future is looking good for them. To see those sky blue eyes looking at you through the binoculars is a sight to behold but capturing that on camera is not always that easy. To capture any dragonfly in flight requires some luck and skill but if you get to know the species or an individual, the rewards are there to be had. I spent many hours walking up and down ditches observing them and looking for the right individual that would give me the opportunity, but as well as this, there were many other factors needed to get 'that' shot. The sun needed to be out to give me the light and therefore the speed required to freeze the dragonfly in flight, the sun also needed to be behind me. I needed to have a clear view of the subject so when they paused to hover, I could quickly manual focus on it. I also needed to get quite close so that I stood a better chance of a fuller framed shot as well as a pleasing background colour to show the subject off well. As you can see, it's not just a case of clicking, there are some methods to the madness of capturing a dragonfly in flight. Having picked out a good conditioned male that was ticking all of the above boxes, I was then able to spend quite a while capturing many in flight photos. I can assure you that there were many photos of empty frames, bits of the dragonfly out of the frame, unfocussed, not perpendicular to the lens etc. However... in between all of these ropey shots, there were a few gems which when I saw them on the back of the camera, looked pretty good. This shot when I saw it felt a bit special. I like the angle of the body, all four wings can be seen, the background compliments the subject well and it's in focus (I think). A pleasing session and just reward I think for all the hours put in and all the shots that never quite work out. I hope like me that you also approve of this shot and that if there is one person I can aspire to go out there to photograph dragonflies, either perched or in flight, or just to appreciate them, then my job is done.
This will be my last post I suspect this year and I would like to again thank all those that have visited throughout the year to either look in at the photos or make a comment. They are all very much appreciated. I wish you all a wildlife enriched 2020. Happy New Year!