Advance Review: Dragonflies by Pieter van Dokkum

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Dragonflies_CoverDragonflies Magnificent Creatures of Water, Air, and Land is a stunning collection of photographs of dragonflies and damselflies taken by Pieter van Dokkum. He took most of the pictures at a pond in a park near him in New England. Others were taken farther afield, mostly in the United States but sometimes in the Netherlands. Van Dokkum has included photographs from all stages in the dragonfly life-cycle and at all times of the day.

The images are exquisite. The nymphs fall into the so-ugly-they-are-cute category while the dragonflies themselves are jeweled wonders. Most are close-ups allowing one to study all the intricate details of a dragonfly’s body—and there are a lot of details. There are also photographs showing the emergence of a dragonfly overnight and one sequence taken at high speed that shows the process of a dragonfly’s takeoff, which is remarkable as it takes less than an eye blink for the dragonfly to get airborne.

Other than species labels and the occasional note in the captions, there is very little information about the dragonflies and damselflies; this is a celebration of their beauty, not a book on their biology. Van Dokkum does, however, include a list of books for further reading, among them several books on dragonfly biology and behavior. He also includes a short essay on how to photograph dragonflies.

Dragonflies is the sort of book you will want to show others simply to share the wonder. It is recommended to anyone who loves nature or enjoys the beauty of a good photograph.

Dragonflies Magnificent Creatures of Water, Air, and Land comes out March 31, 2015 from Yale University Press.

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