August 2019 Activity: Dragonflies at Santee Lakes with Steve Cirone

Announcing the Sierra Club Photo Section August 2019 Activity: Photographing Dragonflies at Santee Lakes with our president Steve Cirone.

As usual, this is not a Sierra Club outing. You may join up, leave, participate at your will on the scheduled evening. Please continue reading for the details.


  • Date & Time: Saturday, August 17th, 2019; 9 – 11 AM
  • Address: 9310 Fanita Parkway, Santee, CA 92071
  • Meeting Point: North-east side of Lake 5.
  • Admission: $6 if you park inside the recreation area, free if you walk in.

Steve’s Tips & Tricks

To get really close to dragonflies without scaring them off for macro photos (see below) requires a lot of patience:

Dragonfly Eyes (C) Steve Cirone
This demo image was made with a Canon 180mm macro lens and a ring flash. To get the eye pattern clearly, it is usually necessary to go with a true macro rig.

Otherwise, dragonfly photography is best done with a regular telephoto lens. Dragonflies are active mid day. This makes them top lit by the sun and creates a poor lighting situation when photographing the dragonflies from the side. Adding flash erases this issue and fills in light on the dragonfly side. Here’s is a side by-side comparison without/with flash:

Set your camera’s exposure for the ambient first – then switch on your flash, and if necessary, use flash compensation to adjust the amount of light that the flash adds.

Camera settings used on this image were: flash in automatic E-TTL mode (Canon, for Nikon it’s just called TTL), Manual Exposure Mode: 1/200th second (you can go faster in high speed sync mode if you are getting motion blur), 200 ISO (good quality grain but do not be afraid to speed up the ISO), f/11 (in fully manual exposure mode, go to f/16 if you want a darker background, or f/8 if you want the background brighter).

Hope to see you all there! If you have question about the technique, Steve will be happy to answer them and help you get great pictures!

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