Home Cameras/Lenses Leica The day a one-metre dragon came to my garden

The day a one-metre dragon came to my garden


This is an intellagama lesueurii lesueurii, more usually referred to as an Australian eastern water-dragon. This specimen is probably a metre long from its nose to the tip of its tail. A fully grown dragon can be more than two metres long. A friend lives locally beside a creek and he has water-dragons there which could easily be mistaken for crocodiles, they are so large.

The water-dragons are native to eastern Australia and as their name suggests they are found around water. They are excellent swimmers and can hide underwater for up to 90minutes.

Swampy types

I see water-dragons in my garden from time to time. They probably inhabit the drainage ditch at the bottom of my driveway or some nearby swampy ground or, maybe, the stormwater drains.

They are extremely shy and don’t hang around waiting for me to go and find a camera to photograph them. Even if I did have a camera handy, a worthwhile photo would require me to get down on the ground to water-dragon level, which is something I would be reluctant to do. The common garden ants have a nasty bite and there are many hopper ants around. To quote Wikipedia, “The jack jumper ant (Myrmecia pilosula), also known as the jack jumper, jumping jack, or hopper ant is a species of venomous ant known for its ability to jump long distances. Its bite can be very painful and in a small percentage of instances fatal.” Lying on the ground to get a photo is not really an option.


So, despite living in this house for eleven years and having seen quite a few water-dragons over the years, a good water-dragon photo op has eluded me until last week when I turned the corner onto my driveway and there was one basking in the sun on the low wall right beside me. In fact, it was so close at that point that I could have touched it. My luck was in.

Fortunately I had just been on a drive out in the country and had my X1 on the front passenger seat. I quickly switched off the engine and very slowly climbed out of the car, camera in hand and switched on. The water-dragon froze and then, as I moved closer, it ran very quickly up a bank into a nearby flower bed at waist level and hid in the foliage of an hibiscus. The X1 took what seemed like forever to focus so I managed to take just one photo.

Then as I was moving very slowly to get a closer shot from another angle, the dragon ran off into the bush. But I had the one good shot. The photo is quite a substantial crop from a DNG file processed in Lightroom. It has held up well. For me, the old X1 is the camera that keeps on giving.

Update from LFI:

it’s our pleasure to inform you that the LFI Gallery’s editorial team has selected your image Eastern Waterdragon to be added to the gallery’s Nature category. This means your image now ranks among the top representatives of this genre within the LFI Gallery. Congratulations!

You can find more from John Shingleton at The Rolling Road. And on Instagram

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  1. Well caught John. I’ve seen white tailed deer in the ravines of Toronto, at a distance, but can never get a photo of them because they are as shy as your dragon. I once thought I had one in a position where they would have to come past me to get away, but to my surprise, jumped a six foot high fence, so no luck again.

  2. John, you present a fine portrait of an elusive and shy creature for the benefit of one Northerner who, five minutes ago, had no idea what a water dragon was. The ubiquitous Leica X1 saved the day again.

  3. Another piece of Australian magic! You do live in a fascinating country, John. By the way, how do you choose nowadays whether X or Q is the flavour of the day?

    • John , in my mind my X1, the X Vario and the Q each have distinct roles but I cannot clearly articulate those roles to you. I am very lucky to own all three but if I am really honest I could be a happy photographer with just the X1.
      On the day I photographed the water-dragon I had been on a backroads drive in one of my old cars with some friends and I usually take the X1 along on these drives out of habit.

  4. A wonderful article, these wonderful reptiles are similar to my daughters Bearded Dragon that she keeps in her dining room. My only ever human interaction with a lizard. However my daughter tells me that it is possible to keep these as pets, as they are very similar once they are used to being around human beings who handle them, and develop that relationship.

    Nice shot with the X1, you are lucky to have managed to get that John.

  5. A great article John. I remember what looked like some far related cousins of your Australian dragon in Sri Lankan mangrove and they did look impressive. I must admit that the Australian dragan with its leica X-E colour is much more in keeping with your mastery of the X1 handling. Thanks for sharing.
    PS Your 2 images of Terrigal coastline on your blog were truly amazing


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