Ambling around Upton Fen in Norfolk one afternoon in May, I noticed there seemed to be almost as many damselflies caught in spiders' webs, grip grass (AKA sticky willy) and being chased by swallows as there were flying around unperturbed.
There are several species in abundance on this reserve (managed by Norfolk Wildlife Trust) which provides an important array of habitats for many species of creature endangered in the UK.
Most commonly seen in May here are the common blue damsels, swiftly followed by the large red variety.
The damsel pictured above had become somewhat subdued, perhaps caught out by some of the giant raindrops from a brief storm which had me crouching on my knees as bolts of lightening struck around me. It crawled up onto my finger and rested for a few minutes before fluttering away in the breeze.
A large red damselfly catching its breath
The advent of damsel hatches in spring rings a dinner bell for spiders, as many damsels fall prey to their webs woven across their flying paths and gaps in vegetation, like this unfortunate individual.
Spider eating a damselfly
It's far from doom and gloom though. The number of damsels which fall foul of predators or other demises is dwarfed by the sheer numbers which hatch, survive and breed.
Common Blue Damselflies mating. Note that there are colour differences between male and female
Red Damselflies mating
Upton Fen is a dragonfly habitat of national importance, with over 20 species recorded throughout the warmer months, including some rare species such as the southern hawker.
Four-spotted Chaser Dragonfly
These winged beasts can be tricky to photography (compared with damsels) and surprisingly shy considering their slightly lumbering appearance.
Because of their size it takes quite a few attempts to get an entire dragonfly in focus and close enough to pick out some of the smaller details like the individual lenses in the eyes.
Four-spotted Chaser Dragonfly wiping away rain drops after a storm
Photographing damselflies and dragonflies with a macro lens
Many photographers focus on the eyes when taking macro shots, and quite rightly so because without the eyes in focus most portrait shots of animals (or humans) are lost. However, because most macro lenses have very low f-numbers (usually 2.8) and the type of glass used inside gives them a very shallow depth of field, virtually everything else, including the rest of the body, ends up trapped in the bokeh.
Ideally the entire body should be in focus, however this is only really possible when shooting from a profile angle i.e. side on. You should select as lower f-stop as possible, but without forcing a slower shutter speed or high ISO, otherwise you'll find it difficult to eliminate motion blur and noise. If you're in the field, flash is not really an option on many occasions, so in reality you should be looking at f10-15, 400/s and <1000ISO. This should deliver sharp, well-exposed, in-focus images with creamy bokeh and low noise.