Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Scrabble and Dragonfly tips

I have two words for Scrabble enthusiasts: OBELISK n and OBELISKING adj.
The online Free Dictionary gives only two meanings for OBELISK:
1. A tall, four-sided shaft of stone, usually tapered and monolithic, that rises to a pointed pyramidal top.
2. A dagger sign used in printing to indicate a cross reference or footnote.
The word 'obelisking' will come in handy in a high-browed game of scrabble if the word, 'king' is already played, and there is room left of it to expand. Of course, you could play this work in several other ways too, but I will not elaborate on them.

There is a third meaning to this word in the naturalists's lingo when we talk about dragonfly behaviour.

Accordingly, obelisking refers when dragonflies raise their body vertically up towards the sky as if they are performing a delicate headstand, during which time they are told to be in obelisk position. Obelisking is done during the hottest times of the day by some of the sun-loving dragonflies to reduce the surface area of the body exposed to direct sunlight. And they also do it as a threat display to show an apparent increase in body size when confronted with an opponent—another dragonfly.

I observed the latter form of obelisking a few weeks ago in my home garden when a Dawn Dropwing Trithemis aurora adult female landed on the same twig that a young male Elusive Adjutant 'owned.

The juvenile male Elusuive Adjutant was not in obelisk position when he was alone, but as soon as there was company, he went into obelisk posture like a Kung Fu fighter, and started walking towards the intruder, in an apparent threat display. And that feared the intruder away.

According to the excellent Guide to North American Dragonflies: Dragonflies Through Binoculars, some dragonflies are known to raise their abdomens perpendicular to the sun to 'gain' temperature while for a few it is the normal way of perching.

Here, I share some photographs of obelisking Elusive Adjutants—my  pet dragonfly species—photographed at my home garden.

Note that some these images are cropped to fit the tight space of this blogger template that I have chosen. But on the other hand the close-cropped and enlarged versions give you better detail for casual viewing. (This is especially because, I have increased the image display size by modifying the HTML code that blogger generates.)

Elusive Adjutant juvenile male obelisking

In the above, you can see two clear circular eye highlights especially on the left compound eye of this dragonfly, and the same effect in reduced extent on the right one. As you dragonfly photographers reading this post would understand, this double highlights usually happen when you try to go macro on dragonflies and either experience camera shake and/or when the subject shakes at the time of pressing the shutter—both cases rendering the image out of focus.

However, it is not the case in this image as you can see the eyes which I wanted to get in focus, are in good focus. So, how do you explain the two circular highlights?

This was photographed at around 11.00 a.m., under hot sun when this Elusive Adjutant brat young male was obelisking like crazy. And one of these highlights is due to the the sun, and the other is due to the camera's built-in flash.

Controling light is important when you do macro photography to get crisp and vivid images. But, I haven't got a special macro flash yet. Although you could get decent shots at natural light as the one shown below (of the same individual), I have realized that a proper macro flash would give me more 'keepers' than now.

Adjutant juvenile male obelisking
All these shots shared here were taken hand-holding the camera (without using a tripod). I was quite pleased that the above came off well. Here's the same shot with the head close-cropped.

Adjutant juvenile male head crop

Below is another shot of an Elusive Adjutant in obelisk posture, this time of an adult female, also photographed under natural light. Click here to see the uncropped version of it.

Elusive Adjutant adult femlale on obelisk position

By the way, as you can judge, the red colour in the compound eye colour of the juvenile Elusive Adjutant is less intense compared to that of the adult female.

Being a self-employed nature tour guide, I experience prolonged spells of under-employment. So, I get a lot free time to play around with my garden delights and try out new things, photographically speaking. One of those was to see whether I could get the two highlights discussed above to align on top of each other. I chose the very friendly juvenile featured above to try it and here's the result: I now hear you grumbling that the image is not large enough to see the eye detail. Relax! Knowing how fussy you are, I have not put this on flickr to enable you to click on it to enlarge it here itself to read the details.

Elusive Adjutant juvenile male
As you can see the two highlights are more or less superimposed. You cannot really get it to align perfectly as I will then have to stand in the path between the sun and the subject, which will block the sun's shine-effect on it. Or else, I have to turn to photoshop to clone away the overflow effect of the highlight. I prefer not to think too much of post-processing when I photograph. I prefer to get things right at the time of shooting as much as possible. In this case, I knew I was positioned right when I felt the burn in the back of my neck!

And then, I was careful to be just a wee bit away not to block the sun. By the way, this photo also sheds light into the internal anatomy of this dragonfly—showing parts of its digestive track, which I think is rather cool. That is not due to any special quality of the photograph per se but because juvenile Elusive Adjutants being sort of revealing in their tender Victoria's Secret like exteriors.


Leedra said...

You have great Dragonfly photos. I usually don't like the songs on the blogs, but the song playing has a soothing sound.

Gallicissa said...

Thanks, Leedra.
Good to hear you like the music.

Jochen said...

aligning the two highlights is impossible for the same reason that won't allow you to see a truly full moon from earth...

great post, thank you very much for the effort and the good writing!

Gallicissa said...

Hi Jochen,
Thanks for reminding about this!

It was one of those wierd things that I tried because, I wasn't too happy to see two prominent highlights reflected off one eye. And because I am a lazy photoshopper to attempt to correct it at post processing.

Thanks again, for your compliments.

Pseudothemis zonata said...

Good morning.
I feel the diversity of a splendid photograph, your talent.
It was happiness of seeing splendid things.

I added the photograph of the horsefly.

Do you know that Mnais strigata sinks underwater by oneself and lays eggs?
I uploaded the photograph which I photographed accidentally last year.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Zen Birdfeeder said...

Bravo! Excellent shots.

Gallicissa said...

Thanks PZ.
I enjoyed them.

Hi Nancy,
Thanks! Good to hear from you.

Ecobirder said...

Very cool dragonfly macro shots. I usually can not get close enough to them to use my macro lens. Great job.

Gallicissa said...

Hi ecobirder,
Thanks and good to hear from you! I am a great admirer of your superb dragonfly shots and often visit your blog with the 'Dragonflies Through Binoculars' with me.

Elusive Adjutant is really tolerant about close approaching, which is one good advantage that I have.

st said...

very nice

Gallicissa said...

Thanks ST,
Long time no see.

oldcrow61 said...

Your photos leave me breathless. Great information about the dragonflies.

Kathiesbirds said...

Amazing photos and wonderful nature and photography lessons! Gotta love those eyes!

Bea said...

as ever your photos are great - hope your tour spots fill up soon - if it wasn't for my crumbling house and need thus my for economy I be holidaying in SL tomorrow, its very cold and horrible in Bristol tonight.

Gallicissa said...

Hi OC,
Thank you. I hope the dragonflies will return to your garden soon...

Hi Kathie,
Thank you. Glad you liked them. If their eyes aren't in focus the photograph is binned more often than not.

Hi Bea,
Long time no see. Thank you for your nice words - I really appreciate them.

We are expecting the NW monsoon soon. Migrants are coming in numbers. Lots of changes are happening here too...

Vickie said...

Hi Amila,
These photos are beautiful. I love seeing the light glistening on the tiny hairs and the vivid colors. What makes the chris-crossing in their eyes? Is it the eye itself or something about the macro exposure? (I don't have a macro lens other than the camera's macro setting.)

spookydragonfly said...

Just beautiful!

Gallicissa said...

Hi Vickie,
Dragonflies have a pair of compound eyes with each eye comprising upto 30,000 closely-spaced facets or individual lens systems called ommatidia. The chris-crossing effect captured therefore are due to these individual visual elements.

A decent macro lens can capture these ommatidia when you photograph the subjects at close range (typically,1 foot or less from the subject in mine).

Hi spookydragonfly,
Thank you! Have a good weekend!

Texas Travelers said...

Love those eyes

Gallicissa said...

Thanks Troy!

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