Skip to main content
How I got the shotShowcaseShowcase 2022

Showcase 2022 Winner: James Zablotny

By May 20, 2022May 30th, 2022No Comments

Artist’s statement

My photography is about detail, natural history, and color. The calico pennants in my photo depict these three items and together provide an intriguing image for the eye. Dragonflies have been around for over 300 million years and to have a mating pair perched on an equally archaic plant like Equisetum was too good to pass up.  The image also reveals that successful designs found in nature are able to produce offspring for future generations. That is what nature is about.

How I got the shot

The night before featured heavy rains and I did not expect to see much insect activity. Mud, biting insects, and a somewhat breezy day were the challenging conditions of the day. With frantic searching, I found a pair of calico pennant dragonflies in the wheel position during mating. I photographed them from above as the sides were obstructed by weed stems.  Not satisfied with the results, I waited for the pair to fly to a more open perch. The insects flew a short distance and perched on top of a horsetail stalk. I crawled into position, squared up the lens for a lateral shot and pressed the trigger while the breeze subsided.

What I used

I used a Nikon D850 with a 200mm f4 Micro lens with the following settings: 1/320 second, f/16, ISO 640. The camera was mounted on a Uni-Lock tripod with a Kirk BH1 ballhead. I prefer longer focal length lenses for macro work because having more working distance eliminates frightening the subject and provides more pleasing backgrounds than shorter focal length lenses.

Love Knot: Calico Pennants Photographed on Equisetum, Shiawassee County, Michigan, 2022 Showcase, Judges’ Choice, Macro/Micro/All Other © James Zablotny

About me

I am located in Fenton, Michigan, and work as a part-time nature photographer with a specialty in macro-photography. I have been pursuing nature photography for over 30 years. As a trained entomologist, I enjoy photographing a variety of insects, but will sneak in a few bird, flower, and or landscape shots when insects are not available. Most of my favorite places are close to home, but I like the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park and the Badlands of South Dakota.

I dabbled in photography while in high school, but began to specialize in close-up and macro-photography while in grad school. I could not afford high end equipment so I was limited to a very primitive Pentax camera system which was a perfect training tool for me. I learned about work arounds for equipment that I did not own like using a discarded piece of wire for triggering an off camera flash while out in the field. I discovered John Shaw’s book on macro-photography and have adopted many of his film based techniques to the realm of digital photography. One of the main motivating factors for me is to visit new areas and to discover animals and plants that may not survive in the future due to environmental degradation.  And from my work, I hope that others may learn from my photos about preserving habitat quality for future generations.

When I was an undergrad at Michigan State University, I ventured up to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with several birders to view the northern owl invasion. I did not own a camera at the time. While driving along the Lake Superior Shoreline, the driver screeched to a stop and there perched about 30 feet from our car was an impressive great gray owl perched on top of a very short spruce tree near some cottages. The owl’s yellow eyes stared at us as we sat there frozen in time. The white background was snow and ice and with blowing snow flakes, the high key image would have been spectacular. But I did not have a camera and the owl was never photographed or forgotten. And that is the spark that piqued my interest in nature photography.

NANPA and me

I have been a member of NANPA since 2018 and entered several images for the 2019 Showcase. I was shocked when I found out that one of my macro images came in first in the macro class.

Learn more

Instagram: @jameszablotny
Facebook: Jim Zablotny