Photo: Ron Oriti
Droughts can often change the course of history; even someone’s personal history.
A retired Astronomer and Planetarium Director at Santa Rosa Community College, Ron Oriti currently resides in Bishop, Calif. with his wife Barbara.
In 2004, Ron got his mitts on his first digital camera, and was sucked into a brand new passion — outdoor photography.
His favorite subjects from 2004 through 2006 were butterflies. Then, in 2007, the Eastern Sierra experienced a drought.
“And there were no butterflies,” Oriti explained.
Frustrated without his favorite muse, Oriti wasn’t sure what to do until his wife suggested he try to photograph dragonflies.
“I didn’t think I could do it because I thought they moved too much,” Oriti said. But, as is often the case in many a marital relationship, his wife was right.
Oriti has captured somewhere around 50 species of dragonfly with his SLR (single lens reflex) camera, including a Striped Saddlebag dragonfly, which is a species that isn’t suppose to reside in the Eastern Sierra. Barbara spotted it with her eagle eyes and “really shook up the whole dragonfly world,” Oriti said.
On Tuesday, May 29, Oriti spoke at the Green Church on Benton Crossing Road as the fourth lecturer in the annual SNARL (Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory) spring lecture series.
Admittedly not a trained biologist, Oriti explained what he knew of the dragonfly’s biology and honestly acknowledged what he didn’t.
Some of the interesting points he did divine included the fact that dragonflies chew their food and love to dine on mosquitoes. So if you have a pest problem at your home, see if you can get some dragonflies over for a visit, but beware, they will also eat almost any other insect, including each other.
A little dragonfly sex education: the male genitalia are located in its thorax. The male grabs the female just behind the head with the end of its abdomen. The female then curves her body up to the male’s thorax and genitalia, forming a wheel, and the two mate. Females then lay their eggs in the water.
There are three types of dragonflies: clubtails, darners and skinners. The eyes on darners and skinners touch.
There are approximately 5,700 species of dragonflies, worldwide, Oriti continued, 500 in the United States, and 75-80 in California. Forty-one or 42 of those in California are found in the Eastern Sierra. (Oriti says 41 or 42 in the Eastern Sierra because he and Barbara are convinced that two of the recorded species are actually the same). Of those 41 or 42 Eastern Sierra species, Oriti has photos of 34.
“If you love dragonflies, the Eastern Sierra is a good place to be,” he said.
In addition to a little biology lesson on dragonflies, Oriti also provided helpful tips on how to photograph the creatures and shared his own stunning imagery.
“You have to learn by experience what works best,” he said. “But film is cheap in a digital camera, so just keep shooting.”
One tip: if you do scare off the dragonfly you’d like to photograph, just back up and wait. According to Oriti, they like to come back to the same spot.
As has been the case in the past, Mother Nature is having an impact on Oriti’s subjects. So far he’s seeing fewer dragonflies this year, which he said he could only assume was due to the weather. Luckily, this time around he has a back up and has also been photographing lizards.
The next SNARL lecture is scheduled for June 5 at 7 p.m. at the Green Church. The topic will be “Bats in Peril” presented by Dr. Patricia Berry-Brown, Dept. of Physiological Sciences, UCLA, retired.
New this year is the ability to view lectures on the web. Simply visit vimeo.com and subscribe to the “SNARL” channel.