The Dragonflies of Las Vegas – Guest Article by Steve Russell

8H7A1152It’s dragonflies – NOT gambling, NOT Penn and Teller or Celine Dion, NOT the mega-casinos – that put on the best show in Las Vegas. That’s right, dragonflies. A little online research before heading to a conference recently turned up the City of Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve just southeast of Sin City and it’s full of them. See for yourself at a Website devoted to bird and dragonfly viewing in the area ( maintained by enthusiast and photographer, Jim Boone, and it details the opportunities wonderfully.

8H7A9875The Preserve is a series of nine ponds each with marshy fringes, desert shrubbery, trees and level gravel paths connecting them all. When I went at the end of July it was a slow time for birds but the dragonflies were everywhere in the 100+ degree temperatures. There were some of the most colorful and uniquely patterned dragonflies I’d ever seen – orange/yellowish ones (Mexican Amberwings), pink ones (Roseate Skimmers), and some with elaborate vein designs on their wings (Black and Red Saddlebags). Not only were some of the species new to me but so was the foliage, which made for beautifully different backgrounds and perches.

8H7A0604My 100-400mm II lens with a 20mm extension tube was ideal for the distance to shoot without scaring them off. My new Sirui monopod with feet was perfect for the added stability I needed especially when there was a breeze. With the sunny skies I was generally able to shoot at f/16, ISO 400-800, and keep my shutter speed at 1/100th sec or faster. I’d jack up the speed when shooting fliers or dragonflies holding on for dear life in the wind.

Of course, I also spent time on The Strip and no self-respecting photographer can leave Las Vegas without shooting the lights at night, so I gave it a try. I’m no Tim Cooper, Doug Johnson or Tony Rizzuto when it comes to cityscapes but I had a great time trying.


The best show in town, though, was put on by these winged insects called dragonflies and THIS time, what happened in Las Vegas came home with me, on my compact flash cards, and I can’t wait to go back and see it again.

Steve Russell