Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Dragonfly obelisk

with 62 comments

Call it a handstand if you like. Entomologists refer to this upright dragonfly pose as the obelisk posture. Online articles that I’ve read list two purposes: to regulate body temperature when in bright sunlight and, for males, to assert dominance. Notice how the amber patch on this dragonfly’s wing acted like stained glass and let sunlight transmit that color to part of the insect’s body.

I took this picture on August 7th when we stopped in Charlotte,
North Carolina, to visit a friend we hadn’t seen in a couple of decades.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 5, 2019 at 4:57 AM

62 Responses

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  1. Incredibly beautiful dragonfly!

    Ms. Liz

    September 5, 2019 at 5:33 AM

  2. Handstand or obelisk, it is perfectly posed for a picture.


    September 5, 2019 at 5:40 AM

  3. I love the way that this male Blue Dasher seems to be grinning at you, like a little kid saying, “Watch this.”

    Mike Powell

    September 5, 2019 at 6:37 AM

    • And I like the way you identified the dragonfly. Thanks. If it could be said that the blue dasher was showing off, it could also be said that once I saw it through the kitchen window I dashed out to my car to get my camera and show off what I could do with a macro lens to portray the dragonfly.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 5, 2019 at 6:46 AM

  4. What a poser!! I love the dragons and damsels this time of year… they’re everywhere!


    September 5, 2019 at 6:47 AM

    • And a poser who knew how to hold a pose, fortunately for me.

      I’ve gone out to take pictures three times since returning from the trip, and I can’t say I’ve noticed an unusual number of dragonflies and damselflies over here. Do you know why they’re more abundant in your area?

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 5, 2019 at 7:02 AM

      • I have no idea why we have so many this year, but we have not been able to mow the orchard acres and that is where I see most of them. Perhaps they like the tall prairie grasses and the abundant wetlands plants around the slough.


        September 5, 2019 at 5:26 PM

  5. Fascinating shot, Steve! Your dragonfly is ready to be entered in the gymnastics team.

    Peter Klopp

    September 5, 2019 at 8:14 AM

    • Yes, dragonflies can outdo us in acrobatics any day, and some of them do compete against one another.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 5, 2019 at 8:37 AM

  6. Terrific shot, Bug Yoga

    Robert Parker

    September 5, 2019 at 9:26 AM

    • I just went back to check my archive and found that every picture I took shows the dragonfly in the obelisk posture. That uniformity doesn’t bug me at all.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 5, 2019 at 10:10 AM

  7. Gorgeous shot! What a beauty.


    September 5, 2019 at 9:29 AM

  8. Two show offs on a late summer day. Both did well.

    Michael Scandling

    September 5, 2019 at 10:10 AM

  9. Dragonfly yoga. 🙂

    Jane Lurie

    September 5, 2019 at 11:27 AM

  10. My favorite dragonfly pose and it’s against a sweet background.

    Steve Gingold

    September 5, 2019 at 6:07 PM

    • We were almost ready to have lunch at our friend’s house when I spotted the dragonfly outside and went for my camera and macro lens. The nearest objects in the background were far away, as you could tell.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 5, 2019 at 6:28 PM

  11. Outstanding image!!


    September 5, 2019 at 9:56 PM

  12. Amazing, Steve. I wonder if it might be able to master a headstand, too. 😊


    September 5, 2019 at 11:04 PM

    • Now that really would be something. I just did a search for “dragonfly headstand” and, as I expected would happen, the closest that any of the hits came to that was the obelisk posture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 6, 2019 at 4:58 AM

  13. Perfect shot and good story.


    September 6, 2019 at 12:30 AM

    • Sometimes dragonflies stay put and let me get close enough for a good picture. This was one of those times.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 6, 2019 at 5:24 AM

  14. This is a beautiful dragonfly, with its turquoise eye and blue abdomen. And this shot! Gorgeous, right down to the stained glass effect you mention.


    September 6, 2019 at 8:15 AM

    • In all the dragonfly pictures I’ve taken over the past two decades, I don’t remember ever noticing the stained-glass effect. That’s what made this portrait special for me.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 6, 2019 at 9:04 AM

      • Yes, same here. I’ve taken dozens, myself, and seldom come up with something as striking as this one.


        September 8, 2019 at 8:30 AM

  15. One advantage of the obelisk posture is that the dragonflies remain still, making photos much easier. I’ve usually caught them as silhouettes; adding that stained glass effect made this photo special.

    As you know, species like the Halloween pennant tend to cling to the tops of plants with their abdomens extended horizontally. Now I’m imagining a photo with two dragonflies: one resting vertically, the other horizontally. Whether I’ll ever see that, I don’t know, but it will be fun to watch for it.

    Dragonflies can be very much a now you see them, now you don’t phenomenon. Last week, dragonflies were everywhere here, from ground level to well into the air. They were so thick that you could watch dozens while stopped for a red light. After two days, they disappeared. It probably was a hatch, although the Houston NWS radar has picked up migratory dragonflies in the past.


    September 7, 2019 at 6:52 AM

    • The obelisk posture gave me the advantage of stillness, as you said. It also meant that from my lower position I’d be able to get only a small portion of the dragonfly in focus. Naturally I went for the face and that huge compound eye. In this blog-sized version of the photograph you can’t see the eye facets that the full-size image resolves.

      What an informative article you linked to. Like presumably almost every other non-entomologist, I had no idea that some dragonflies migrate. The article speculates that migrating birds might be eating some of the migrating dragonflies, and I’ll add that those prey dragonflies might in their turn be preying on migrating butterflies.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 7, 2019 at 7:19 AM

      • I happened to see a grackle catch a dragonfly in mid-air last week. It was quite a sight, watching the bird fly off with the dragonfly hanging out of its beak. Not everyone has such benefits at their work!


        September 7, 2019 at 7:26 AM

  16. Magnificent photo that allows me to see this creature in detail.


    September 7, 2019 at 7:51 AM

    • I mentioned to a previous commenter that the full-size photograph, which is many times larger than the blog version shown here, reveals finer details, like the facets in the compound eye.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 7, 2019 at 8:15 AM

  17. Wow!


    September 7, 2019 at 8:35 AM

  18. Great Image Steve! Enjoyed seeing it!

    Reed Andariese

    September 7, 2019 at 9:08 AM

  19. Wonderful! What a handsome dragonfly 🙂


    September 9, 2019 at 7:21 PM

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