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Nature Photography at the Garden Pond by Norbert Schuster

Written By onci on Friday, January 21, 2011 | 10:19 AM

Since nearly two hours I am laying on the ground watching and photographing frogs. In early spring they come back to the pond where they have been born to find a partner to mate. The male frogs are quite aggressive and sometimes the females seem to suffer from the males’ efforts. My back and my neck start aching because I am trying to have my camera as low as possible above the ground. Therefore I am using a bean bag and a right-angle viewing attachment on a Nikon camera which is equipped with a 150 mm macro lens from Sigma.

It is a perfect day for nature photography. But today I did not travel to a remote place; I stayed at home in the garden at the pond! 

Another interesting time to stay at home is early summer when the dragonflies leave their exuviae. The metamorphosis starts after a female dragonfly has dropped the eggs in the pond or attached them on a water plant. After a while the eggs will hatch into small nymphs which look like little aliens. The nymph stage is the longest period in the life cycle of a dragonfly and can last up to five years. Then in early summer mostly in the early morning the nymph climbs out of the water up the stem of a plant. The skin breaks up behind the head and the dragonfly slowly crawls out of the old skin, slowly the wings develop to their full size and get slowly hardened. Only then the dragonfly can fly away and start hunting for insects. 

This final step of the metamorphosis can take a few hours, a period in which the dragonfly is very vulnerable. I could watch several times that a dragonfly was eaten piece by piece by a wasp. 

To photograph the dragonflies I also use the Sigma 150 mm macro lens sometimes with the 1.4 converter on a bean bag or a tripod. To obtain a sufficient field of depth I close the aperture to f/11 up to f/16 which can result even with ISO 400 or 800 in rather slow shutter speeds. For maximum sharpness I prefer the mirror-up mode and take a lot of shots hoping that the wind is not shaking the dragonfly too much.

(Cameras used for the images above: Nikon D200, D300 and D700)
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