That morning I got in my kayak and began paddling down the DuPage River with my family specifically looking for dragonflies. They are big, colorful, usually in pairs, and frequently land on algae or other plants floating in the river... and they're just COOL looking! Seriously - little (actually, not so little) flying DRAGONS!
As it happened, I made it all the way through my planned 3 mile journey with not a single shot of a dragonfly. As we reached the launch and my wife and son were getting out of their kayaks I heard one of them 'pssssst' to get my attention, point off into the swampy area on the far side of the river, and whisper 'egret' to me. As I was still in my kayak, I immediately used my paddle to push off the shore as quietly as I could to send myself floating in the general direction while hoping to avoid paddling and scaring it off.
The egret was much more alert than I had anticipated.
I decided to just sit quietly and let the kayak go where it wished as I went along for the ride, rolled off a few shots, and eventually found myself sitting nestled amidst the life giving tangle of plant life. There was something swimming along and chopping down stalks of grass - possibly a muskrat... There were little damselflies just about everywhere... There was that egret still nearby but doing his best to hide behind grass and other plants... And just as I was about to put the paddle in the water - A DRAGONFLY PAIR!
I moved quickly but quietly, doing my best to NOT create any ripples by rocking the kayak, to lift my camera, and to frame up the shot.
I quickly rolled off three shots - but I immediately know the composition is off and I am too far away even with 300mm of reach...
Gently paddle - don't rock, don't splash...
Close enough... rest paddle on kayak, reach for camera - don't rattle the strap... half-press shutter to wake it up... check settings... frame the shot... ... ...
That feeling when you know you got the shot... Yep - I was feelin' it.
But the photographer in me is still enough of a realist to not trust that feeling enough to not keep shooting.
Kayak is gently spinning... I'm recomposing... ... no - their getting ready to lift off... settings are good... kayak is moving ever so slightly... recomposing...
Mid-air escape shot!
But I already know this one's no good. That feeling is not one that is typically wrong, so I paddle back to shore hoping my previous shot is, in fact, the shot I believe it is.
So you tell me... how'd I do?
How I got the shot...
I love taking photos of dragonflies from the kayak because it puts me in close proximity and almost on eye level with them. If I'm 'dragon hunting' I always pack my Pentax 55-300 4-5.8 because I know I will need to push well beyond 200mm to get the shots I'm looking for... and this shot was no exception! It was a beautiful day - even though it was high-noon the light filtering through the overhanging trees was just about perfect. I was shooting my Pentax K3 with the 55-300 pushed to 260mm (1/800th - f/8 - ISO-320) to get this shot, but STILL had to crop to get to what you see.
Of course, as I was in my kayak, this shot was handheld. The bright noon sun helped provide sufficient light to maintain the workable shutter speed while the foliage on the riverbank provided enough filtering of the harsh noon sun to create a nicely exposed final image. Post Processing involved the obvious cropping but also a touch of sharpening and noise reduction.
This is one of my favorite dragonfly shots. It's got a little noise to it, so I wouldn't print this shot on a poster, but it presents very well in small to medium print sizes... and displays very nicely digitally.
Other shots from that day...