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  • Charlotte Chapple

Summer Day Damsel

I am extremely lucky to live in a house which has a large garden with a pond and plenty of flowers of varying kinds. As a result my garden has become a studio in which I spend my days photographing the many animals and plants that surround me and is a perfect location to film and photography, as it provides lots of inspiration within my own socially distanced bubble. Whilst I am drawn to all forms of nature, from the flowers and plants to the birds and bees, this week I was particularly drawn to the pond in my garden. With its own mini eco-system many animals thrive around the waters edge and within its depths. These include amphibians and invertebrates (or as many like to call them, minibeasts), ranging from the common pond skater and great diving beetle to frogs and newts and to the damselflies and dragonflies. During the early afternoon I spotted a pair of damselflies (The Large Red - Pyrrhosoma nymphula) hovering about the Water Lily in the pond, so they became the focus of my attention. One of the key things that struck me about the damselflies right away was how vibrant their red bodies were. The vivid thorax (upper body) was also a beautiful deep green colour that in the glories sunshine appeared to almost have a metallic sheen. In wonder of the colours I decided that one of my key goals was to really bring out the tones of the damselflies body and have bold, high contrast images that were vibrant and radiant. For a lot of the images I drew upon my interest in using a short depth of field to really highlight the subject. I find a shallow depth of field aesthetically appealing as subjects shot with shallow depth of field almost leap from their background, taking on a near-3D effect and creating layers within the image. Shallow depth of field can also help eliminate distracting details in the background, drawing viewers eyes to the main subject. One challenge of a shallow depth of field is that you could make images uninteresting by leading the viewer too much. If there’s only one thing to look at, your photograph may lack narrative development. And one thing I wanted to retain in my photos was the environmental context, so finding the right balance between having the effect there, but not overdoing it was key. When photographing the damselflies I thought about whether I wanted to achieve a soft focus or bokeh appearance. With soft focus, there is an intentional blurriness added to the subject while the actual edges are retained in sharp focus, but in bokeh it is only an element of the image that is intentionally blurred. Additionally, bokeh tends to emphasise certain points of light in the image as well. After some experimentation with both, I decided to mainly focus on capturing a bokeh effect. As it was a gorgeously sunny day I didn’t need a high ISO and only altered between ISO 100 and 200 depending whether the subject was directly in sunlight or shadows. The low ISO helps reduce the graininess of the image and means that I can work with a wider aperture to allow a shorter shutter time. For the exposure I varied between f/5.6 and 6.3 and used a shutter speed of 1/125. The wide open aperture creates an even shorter depth of field, and the background that I have already forced into a blur by adjusting the focus point, becomes even more obscure and dotted with brilliant points of light, which is referred to as bokeh.

One of my personal favourite photos was this image of the damselfly resting on a copper wire sculpture. Whilst the wings of the damselfly aren't in focus, I find the way I captured the metallic colours on the thorax very appealing and it draws the viewers eye right into the fine details of the image. I also find the colours of the images very visually appealing. The red and metallic golden green of the thorax are complementary tones to the copper and creates a harmonious but eye catching balance of colour and aesthetic colour palette.

Camera settings = ISO 100, 55mm, f/5.6, shutter speed 1/500.

Another visually appealing image is this one of the damselfly curling its abdomen downwards and spreading its wings out wide. What I find so aesthetically pleasing about this image is how i captured all the refined details of the wings that appear so fragile yet strong. Whilst the composition the image isn't the best, i find the use of focal point and depth of field to create layers within the image very interesting. The delicacy of this image for me is its key quality and the idea of movement generated by the body position and language adds an intriguing narrative.

Camera settings = ISO 100, 250mm, f/6.3, 1/500.

I am particularly pleased with the bokeh effect i achieved in the background of this image. The bokeh emphasises certain points of light that is very pleasing to the eye and creates a nice balance of tones and colours. The out of focus background also helped eliminate sharp, distracting details, creating a tranquil atmosphere and ensuring the viewers attention is solely on the main subject whilst also retaining the environmental context. The shallow depth of field makes the damselfly leap from its background and stand out, taking on a near-3D effect.

Camera settings = ISO 160, 250mm, f/6.3, 1/400.

Here are some of the other images I have taken of the beautiful damselflies around my pond. All the images shown have been taken on my Canon 750D and are unedited.

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