Over the years I've taken literally thousands of photos of the Happy-face Draongfly (aka, the Paddle-tailed Darner). Here's a small sampling:
The two photos on the bottom right of the grid were taken on the deck in our backyard. All of the rest were taken at Cranberry Lake, where we see the Happy-face Dragonfly all the time in the late summer and early fall.
The photo in the center is still my favorite. In fact, it was the first one I ever took of the Happy-face Dragonfly, on October 22, 2006. I reached into the bushes with my camera and took a shot of a dragonfly perched there without even looking at the viewfinder. When I loaded the photo onto my computer at home I was amazed, and I called to Betsy. "Take a look," I said, "this dragonfly has a happy-face!" This discovery launched my interest in dragonflies, which has given me great pleasure ever since.
The following quote from Henri Poincaré summarizes my feelings about science and nature quite well.
I might add to this thought, however, that the scientist also delights in nature because it is infinitely intriguing and surprising – just take the Happy-face as an example!
I'm nearing completion of my dragonfly field guide, Common Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Pacific Coast, and one of its features will be spreads on things I've discovered in my days as a dragonflier, like the Happy-face Dragonfly, Splash-Dunk/Spin-Dry, Autumn Meadowhawks egg laying behavior, etc.
Below is the first draft of the left side of a spread on the Happy-face Dragonfly. It provides a view of a variety of Happy-face individuals, showing the variation in their facial features.
On the right side of the spread I compare the Happy-face of the Paddle-tailed Darner with the face of other species of darner. The Shadow and Variable Darners are in the same genus (Aeshna) as the Paddle-tailed Darner, and their faces are quite similar—including eyebrows that are actually pigments on the eyes. On the other hand, the California and Blue-eyed Darners are in a different genus (Rhionaeschna) and their eyes lack the eyebrows, giving them quite a different look.
It's fortunate that my first face picture of a dragonfly's face was of a Paddle-tailed Darner, since it has the most dramatic "Happy-face" look.