Nature's Place

Stalking the Dragon


 
To successfully stalk and capture anything it is necessary to know something about its behaviour, its habits or predispositions. To know anything about a Dragonfly’s ways I observe – the best I can without the distraction of unnecessary thought.

A relaxation of the eyes, a pulling back inside, is also necessary since they usually move too fast and unpredictably to actually track against the often cluttered and matching coloured backgrounds they move in. At least where I find them, in the coastal wetland forest of Billinudgel NR.

There are a few locations I know now where the Dragonfly favours hunting and basking in the sun. At different times of the day they can be found at one place or another. It’s not entirely predictable when they have so many suitable places to be. The time of day also seems to determine how active or relaxed they are, not unlike people.

At one of these places I was quietly and slowly approaching a perched Dragon when off into the darkness of the bush he went. It helps that they have a habit of favouring a perch but when there are many suitable perches the habit disappears. They do that. Land, sit a few seconds or minutes – as long as it takes for me to get in position, then off to another spot, near or far. It tests me for any wanting, trying or disappointment.

As soon as the Dragon took off though a robust looking butterfly landed in almost the exact same spot – in the forest. You couldn’t ask for it. I got a few good shots of it before it too took flight, but before it did another bigger butterfly landed just a few inches in front of it.

It stopped just long enough for me to focus and shoot twice. And both shots came out ok. As I said, you couldn’t ask for it.

*

Back to Dragons though. None of these creatures stand still for long when the sun is high, that’s feeding time and they seem to spend it high in the air – as high as twenty feet that I’ve seen – about as high as the treetops – feeding height? It’s also mating time. And basking time. But when isn’t? Night time?

Seemingly they only stop to rest and sense what’s around them, or be, being a dragonfly.

Somehow I just can’t see them thinking; ‘Jeez, that bird nearly got me that time, gotta be more careful crossing that creek in future.’ – or – ‘Damn, missed it, what am I going to eat now, if I’m hungry I’ll be weak and distracted and might fly into a web or tree, or something – could be fatal – I don’t want to die!’ Or thinking anything at all!

I’d say experience is directly imprinted on their psyche, no conscious evaluation, no reflection – spontaneous absorption and integration according to an unknowable – to the thinker – intelligence. Certainly no complicating emotional or mental consideration – no suffering. In my observation.

*

Sometimes the small creatures just don’t mind me, an increasingly large and strange object in their view, getting closer – as close as five to twenty inches a lot of the time due to the lenses I use.

The impact of my appearance is minimised by me lowering myself closer to the ground the closer I get to the creature, so I don’t necessarily appear to get much bigger and loom over them and so perhaps threaten them. Bowing to them you could say, bowing to their sensibilities.

I have often observed the Dragon preening itself with the two most forward legs or arms that it has tucked up most of the time against the back of its huge eyes. Have you ever seen how clean a Dragon keeps the back of its head? Pristine clean behind the ears! Almost. And the robotically rapid turn of the head as potential prey passes by just too fast for it to do anything about. Magnificent creatures.

In flight they often glide after a quick flutter of the wings, especially if there is a breeze to support them – conserving energy. And they are quick to chase one another, the bigger ones have their own territory which they guard very effectively. The smaller ones have to tussle over it, but briefly – no harm done – none I can see.

*

Photographing small creatures can be a real effort at times. Once they have been tracked to their favoured places, which isn’t always possible, the real work begins. They just don’t pose that often in the wild, where I mostly shoot. So it is necessary to get in position for the angle of shot and stealthily – with minimum noise and discernible movement or presence – approach them, sometimes directly, sometimes roundabouts.

It’s not unlike a game of hide and seek, except insects are much smaller than anything I ever had to find when I played that. Often the only clue to their position is a slight movement in the corner of my eye, rarely a sound. Or it’s a game of patience – absence of impatience really – being easy inside and just seeing what is there. It’s a surrender of anything inside that disturbs or intrudes on the actual purpose – being where I am. Photo’s are secondary, always, that’s the perception.

*

Once I get to know my equipment, and keep it ready and clean – inside and out, then it’s just a matter of being. Being within the fact of things. Like how the camera functions, fast or slow, low light or not, set for the situation or not.

And how the body functions – the body is equipment too – steady hand or not, lie with the ants or strain the back, go into the mud and mozzies after the shot, or not – Not often!

Eventually, the integration of knowing and being becomes an intuition. A fluidity of action or observation – action in itself.

*

In the end it really is just a matter of being where I am and seeing what is there – here. The only question is can I do it? Get the shot without disturbance – to body or mind – the creatures and mine.

I tend to focus on the sensation inside as the situation allows, and return to it rather than think useless thoughts. And focus on the sense, the fact of things ‘outside’. When I’m ‘in’ action I’m being that. Then no disturbance arises, or at least doesn’t get ‘in’.

*

‘‘ ’I’ am not here, this is only another appearance in your sense that will soon pass without incident.” – describes the message being transmitted, if there is one.

Most of the time, now I know more or less where to look, the Dragons present themselves or they don’t – and that’s it – more or less.

And where there is least disturbance, of mind, there is the most pleasing result. With mind-ing out of the way creativity is free to work and stalking is a pleasure.

As long as the body is up to it.

*

And if ever I come to dream to ‘know’ it all, wake me Life – surely, from my vain slumber.
 
Copyright Reserved / Mark Berkery
 

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