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.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.
2. A dagger sign used in printing to indicate a cross reference or footnote.
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.)
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.