I try to make it to Lake Martin at least once a year. In 2021, I made it twice, but the May trip was extra special because I had time to take my kayak and spend a couple of late afternoon hours on the water–just me and my kayak.
I could do an entire blog post about this experience entitled “why I kayak.” I got close-ups of a broad-headed skink scurrying up and down a tree trunk. I watched an osprey eat a fish perched on the tiptop of a nearby snag. I was pretty up close and personal with an alligator that was a little over half the length of my 12-foot Hurricane. The ‘gator was basking and opened an eye to watch me but made no move.
But the photo that takes the cake for the month of May is “Lift Off,” my lucky capture of a dragonfly about to snatch a turtle off its log and carry it away. Or so it appears!
When I say “lucky capture,” I truly mean it. Because there’s on way on God’s earth one could “plan” this shot. Yes, I was in position and had camera ready. Yes, I have seen dragonflies perch on reptiles before. But still…. I wasn’t even “burst shooting,” which means holding down the shutter, which makes the still camera function a bit like a movie camera, exposing frames in rapid succession. No. I was clicking away one frame at a time. And I caught the perfect moment.
What I like most about this shot is that it clearly demonstrates that dragonfly wings move in a circular motion. They do not beat up and down like a bird’s; they tilt and whirl on pivot points. I do not recall my shutter speed, but it was a bright, sunny day as can be clearly deduced by the sparkling water, so from experience I’m certain it was 1/1000th of a second or less. How fast do you suppose those dragonfly wings are moving?
BTW, the dragonfly is an eastern pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) and the turtle is a river cooter (Pseudemys concinna), both very common species in Louisiana.