A faint golden hue in the eastern sky signals the approaching arrival of dawn. Gradually, sunshine sprinkles the meadow, causing tiny bits of nature bejeweled with dew to sparkle and gleam.

Early morning, one of nature’s most splendid moments, is readily available to photographers. Taking advantage of dewy opportunities is a sure way to obtain many unique and beautiful pictures.

Dew is the condensation of water vapor that often forms on objects during the night. Certain conditions tend to create greater quantities of dew than others. More dew is formed on cool, clear nights than on warm, cloudy nights. Further, wind causes dew to evaporate–so plan to shoot dew on mornings when the previous night was calm. If such an evening follows a warm, humid day like those of late summer and early autumn, exceptional quantities of dew can be guaranteed by morning.

Since cool air is heavier than warm air, cool air tends to flow down hillsides and settle in low-lying pockets during the evening hours. Damp meadows, marshes, and small ponds are commonly found in these low places. The combination of a nearby supply of moisture from the wet ground or pond, cool air settling into the area, and abundant subject material creates a wonderland for the avid dew photographer.

Photographing dew is a race between the time when there is finally enough light to shoot by and the time when the wind starts blowing too hard, or the dew evaporates. If you get one hour of ideal dew shooting conditions in the morning, consider yourself lucky.

Finding subjects on a calm, dewy morning is easy. Just walk slowly through any low field and look closely. Practically everything is photogenic because even common things become extraordinary when coated with a layer of dew. Some subjects that are well worth looking for include wildflowers, spiderwebs, butterflies, and dragonflies.

Wildflowers are probably the easiest to find because they grow everywhere. Moist fields, roadsides, and the edges of streams and ponds are good places to begin your search. Once you have found a suitable place to photograph wildflowers, keep checking the same area throughout the growing period, because a succession of different wildflowers will bloom as the seasons change. A good method to maximize the limited time you have each morning is to find the flowers and compositions you like the day before. This way, you won’t lose precious time each morning searching for subjects.

Spiders repair or build new webs at night, so don’t bother looking for them until morning. Usually, spiderwebs are extremely plentiful so there is no problem in finding them. In fact, staying out of the ubiquitous webs is more often the problem. The best places to find webs that are well-suited to photography are grassy fields with small bushes in them. Spiders often attach their web between a bush and the nearby grass. The result is a well-elevated web that’s easy to isolate from the background.

Dragonflies are medium to large flying insects. Evenings find most dragonflies roosting in the low grass and bushes of meadows that border ponds. It is very important to have ponds in the area because dragonflies spend most of their lives as nymphs under the water. When it is time for them to become adults, they emerge from the pond by climbing aquatic plants, shed their exoskeleton, dry their wings and fly away. But, they usually stay in the immediate vicinity of the pond. During late summer and early fall, it is not unusual to find as many as one dragonfly per square yard in the proper habitat.

Butterflies are somewhat more difficult to find than any of the others, but well worth the effort. Try looking for them in grassy fields. Many butterflies roost quite close to the ground on plant stems. Since butterflies are cold-blooded, they can only fly when their body temperature reaches a certain level. Therefore, you can often find them roosting an hour or two before dark as the air temperature drops. Once you find a roosting butterfly in the evening, you can wait until dark and cut away concealing vegetation without unduly disturbing the creature. This practice will permit you to have an unobstructed shot when morning arrives and does not harm the creature in any way.

A quality 35mm SLR camera is the ideal format for shooting dew. The light weight and versatility of a 35mm are unrivaled in a damp field of dew. Further, the through-the-lens metering system of modern cameras really simplifies exposure determination. In most cases, I just frame and focus the subject, take a through-the-lens meter reading and shoot.

The workhorse lens for a photographer of dew is a good-quality 100mm macro. The recently introduced 200mm macro lenses also work extremely well for dew. Shorter lenses like 50mm macros do not work very well because you would have to be twice as close to the subject. In practice, this usually means that you will knock all the dew off your subject by bumping some nearby vegetation when you try to move your lens into position.

Film selection depends on how you like to take pictures. If you use a tripod, excellent results can be produced with slow films such as Kodachrome 25 and Fujichrome 50. If you prefer to shoot hand-held, higher speed films must be used to make up for the low intensity of morning light. Fujichrome 400 works very well as does Ektachrome 200.

The dew photographer’s archenemy is wind. If a very gentle breeze is blowing, wait for a lull before shooting. There isn’t much you can do once the wind starts to blow hard. You might as well stop shooting, because the wind not only makes sharp photographs virtually impossible to obtain, but it also evaporates all the dew. Fortunately, many mornings are virtually free of the wind.

Photographing dew is a great way to enjoy the peace, quiet, and beauty of early morning. You are sure to discover many appealing sights you didn’t know existed before. Once you start shooting dew, you may very well become addicted, and without a doubt will produce many memorable photographs.

“Spiderweb Laden with Dew”
Alger County, Michigan

“Acadian Hairstreak” Satryium acadica
Alger County, Michigan

“Monarch Laden with Dew” Danaus plexippus
Alger County, Michigan

“Dragonfly Laden with Dew”
Alger County, Michigan

“White Admiral Butterfly” Basilarchia arthemis
Alger County, Michigan

“Damselfly Laden with Dew”
Alger County, Michigan

“Dew-laden Dragonfly Resting on Wood Lily”
Alger County, Michigan

“Close-up of Green Darner Dragonfly” Anax junius
Alger County, Michigan

by John Gerlach

All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.