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Field Notes
Green Darner Mating
Photograph by József Szentpéteri
József L. Szentpétri

What was your best experience in the field covering this story?

Dragonflies are extremely difficult creatures to photograph. They can fly up to 40 miles an hour (64 kilometers an hour), and their body size is very small for such speed. Moreover, they don't just fly, fight, and hunt in the air, they also eat and mate. So I tried to cover as much mid-air activity as possible.

One of my favorite sites is a little pond at Szigetvár, Hungary, home of a stable population of migrant hawkers (Aeschna mixta), a very attractive and fast species. It wasn't surprising that—most of the time—the territorial males disappeared from my viewfinder by the time I could focus on them. But sometimes they hovered in the same spot for several seconds. When I took a picture of one male, I shot a complete roll of it and still watched it through the viewfinder until the film rewound.

What was your worst experience in the field covering this story?

During this assignment I had numerous small accidents that affected my equipment or me, but nothing can be compared with parasites. The quantity of leeches in Romania's Danube River Delta was truly devastating. I visited a lot of habitats there, and huge leeches immediately attacked whenever I got into the water.

I had a very bad time with chiggers in Panama. They're practically invisible because of their small size, so it's very difficult to avoid them. And their bite hurts for days.

Little flies gave me a hard time in Taiwan. In a few seconds, they engorged their bodies with my blood and disappeared. I was left with very painful bites that were irritated for days.

What was your quirkiest experience in the field covering this story?

I was shooting scarlet darters (Crocothemis derythraea) from a boat in the Danube River Delta of Romania. This particular species is known for its fast mating, which is completed in the air. They hovered and were connected for just two or three seconds, so it was extremely difficult to capture them in the viewfinder, focus, and shoot. When I got them in focus, they separated before I could shoot. Whenever I used the telephoto lens, they got very close to me. And when I switched to a wide-angle lens, they moved several feet away.