Incredible Dragonfly Photos Offer a Rare Look At Their Delicate Beauty

Dragonfly Perched on a Plant

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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.

Astronomy professor Pieter van Dokkum has a special love for insects and, in particular, dragonflies.

Close Up View of Black Meadowhawk Dragonfly Wing

Dragonflies by Pieter van Dokkum

Flame Skimmer Dragonfly by Pieter van Dokkum

Close Up View of Calico Pennant Dragonfly Wing

Two Dragonflies Form a Heart

Green Striped Darner Dragonfly

His 2015 book is a rare look at the full life cycle of these delicate winged creatures.

Close Up of Dragonfly Head

Dragonfly Book by Pieter van Dokkum

Dragonflies by Pieter van Dokkum

Dragonfly with Wings Spread

Calico Pennant Dragonfly

Dragonfly Perched on Grass

Pieter van Dokkum: Website

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Pieter van Dokkum.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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