Red percher dragonfly

I spent a few days in Northland last month photographing for a magazine article (more on that later). As is so often the norm for nature photographers, I was up before first light searching for an interesting subject, and hoping for nice light. It had been a wet start to autumn, so the ephemeral Lake Ohia was high, and after a cool clear night mist rose gently from the water surface. Careful planning and preparation had me comfortably in warm waders, so I was able to concentrate on photography.

Red percher
Red percher dragonfly (Diplacodes bipunctata) covered with drops of dew at sunrise. Taken with a Canon 1D Mark IV, EF180mm f/3.5L macro, 0.4 second exposure at f22, ISO 200.

As the world brightened, it became clear that the clouds were too few and in the wrong place for the stunning sunrise landscape I was hoping for, so I had to take a closer look at what I had to work with. I noticed spider webs and insects adorned with beads of dew hanging from sedges, torpid in the cool morning air. I worked to find a dragonfly that I could get a clear view of. I wanted to use the natural soft light of sunrise, so a tripod was mandatory to prevent camera shake at the required slow shutter speed. I had to carefully position the legs of the tripod, trying not to disturb the subject. With close-up photography, camera movements of just a few millimeters can completely change a composition, so this was a delicate process. My 180 mm macro lens gave me a little more working room compared to shorter macro lenses, and the narrower field of view allowed me to create a less cluttered background—both very useful in a fragile tangle of vegetation like this. As the first rays of sunlight lit the lake I worked quickly to make as many different images as possible—backlit, direct front lighting, even swapping the macro lens for a wide angle to include more of the surroundings. You can see some of them in my dragonfly album. The photo here is one of my favourites from that morning, although another was ultimately chosen for the magazine. I like this one for the warmth of the light and the clean background.