Astronomy professor Pieter van Dokkum has a special passion for photography. And in particular, an enthusiasm for photographing dragonflies. This led the Yale University educator to publish his book, Dragonflies: Magnificent Creatures of Water, Air, and Land. Over nearly 200 pages, Van Dokkum brings the reader on a journey across the life cycle of these magical insects.
Part of the Odonata order, the winged creatures are found on every continent except Antarctica. With over 3,000 different species, dragonflies are members of an ancient group that dates to the time of the dinosaurs. The insects have long been a source of fascination for Van Dokkum—dating back to his childhood. “When I was eight I already wrote about the metamorphosis of dragonflies as ‘one of the most beautiful things to watch in nature,'” he tells My Modern Met. His interest never waned. In fact, it only grew.
To capture the dragonfly lifecycle for his book, Van Dokkum traveled to 50 different sites in the United States and Europe. The result is a look at these delicate creatures that has rarely been captured on film. The window to document them is short; adult dragonflies only live for a few months and time was of the essence. “Dragonflies get more beautiful the better you can see them,” he explains. “This really motivated me to get as close as possible and to document all aspects of their lifecycle.”
Patience was key in snapping pictures of the creatures, and Van Dokkum was well prepared. Already used to spending time immersed in the pond at his home in Connecticut observing dragonflies, he was able to anticipate their behaviors. And by photographing his locations at different times of day, he was able to realize a full picture of their lives—proving that his hard work and dedication paid off.
Dragonflies: Magnificent Creatures of Water, Air, and Land is now available for purchase on Amazon.