Summer was at its peak. I was out that afternoon looking out for something suitable to photograph. I found this lonely Female Wandering Glider Dragonfly sitting on a burnt out stem of grass. Due to frequent burning the place I was shooting was looking like a war zone. As the sun was beating down harshly on the dragonfly I used a shoot-through diffuser to soften the light falling on the Dragonfly. Trying to hold the diffuser in one hand and Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM + Canon EF 1.4x III Extender combo over a Benro C45T Carbon Fiber Monopod, on the other hand was a herculean task. If you need to use the harsh afternoon sunlight to shoot use either a white umbrella or a shoot through diffuser. I know it is impossible to use them on a bird perched high up in the branch. Even on dragonflies it is tricky as they get intimidated with all these props and fly off. Slow and steady placement of the diffuser makes the trick work. They should not perceive you as a predator pouncing on them.
Unfortunately I could not avoid the nearby dark branches in the backdrop. I needed a small aperture to get all the wing details in focus. This also lead to the background coming into focus. If I had used wider aperture and resultant very shallow depth of field as I showed in my last blog then wing details of the Wandering glider would not have been visible that well. It is a dilemma every photographer needs to go through to get optimum results. Visualizing your photo before it is taken is the key here.
Wandering Glider Dragonfly (Pantala flavescens) is a medium sized dragonfly with rusty thorax and yellow abdomen. Male has bright golden yellow. Eyes are reddish brown above, bluish grey on sides and below. Thorax is greenish or rusty and is coated thickly with fine yellowish hair. On sides, it is pale green or bluish green. Legs are black. Wings are transparent and base of hind wing amber yellow. Wing spot is bright reddish brown. Abdomen is bright reddish brown and is tinted with brick red dorsally. The segments 8-10 have black spots above.
Female is very similar to the male. Eyes are greenish brown above and wings are evenly smoky. The abdomen lacks the dorsal red coloring found in the males. The wings of the male are darker than on the females.
It is the most common dragonfly seen in huge swarms just before and after monsoon. Thousands of them swarm over harvesting fields and playground during early morning and evening. They are ubiquitous and migrate in large numbers with the monsoon winds. The swarms usually use clearings such as railway tracks, highways and rivers to migrate. These swarms frequently bump into passing vehicles and die on road.
It breeds in marshes and small puddles. The larvae of the Wandering Glider, like all dragonflies, are predatory. It forages very actively and eats fairly indiscriminately all sorts of aquatic invertebrates such as aquatic insect larvae and small shrimps. Even tadpoles and small fish are used for food. The imago eats mostly small insects such as mosquitoes swarming flying ants and termites.
Especially in the autumn, Wandering Gliders fly in large swarms, using thermals to their advantage. One report even speaks of a “cloud” covering 34 square kilometers. They prefer moist winds. When landing, they seek a vertical positon. Like all large dragonflies, the wings are held out from the body at rest. The Wandering Glider, lives in areas of the world where the annual mean temperature is above 20 degrees Celsius. In Europe there are only occasional sightings of the species, with serious evidence to date mainly from the Aegean Sea and the adjacent mainland.
The dragonfly migrates to rest of India along the south-west monsoon which is brings the rain to that region. In the south east India, however, it arrives with the north-east monsoon. Observations suggest that they migrate from India to Africa across the Arabian Sea. It is the highest-flying dragonfly, recorded at 6,200 m in the Himalayas. It was also first dragonfly species that settled on Bikini Atoll after the nuclear tests there. Furthermore, it is the only Odonata on Easter Island. These individuals seem to be a small gene pool, derived from the continental populations, which is slowly creating a new type by genetic drift. Wings of these Wandering Gliders are darker.