Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly

February 13, 2016

The following photo shows a Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly (Speyeria cybele) spotted on 17 June 2015 at Huntley Meadows Park. This individual is nectaring on an unknown species of milkweed, possibly Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata).

A Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly (Speyeria cybele) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is feeding on an unknown species of milkweed, possibly Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata).

The milkweed was covered with tens of fritillaries, so it was almost impossible to get a clear shot of a single butterfly.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Problem solved?

February 11, 2016

Problem? What problem? I love my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera body, but there’s one annoying problem with the two Fujifilm lenses I own: It’s easy to accidentally adjust the aperture ring when handholding the camera properly. For example, you think you’re shooting at f/11 but the setting changed to f/8 with the net result of not enough depth of field.

Like I said, an annoying problem, especially when there is no opportunity for a do-over. (Hey Fujifilm, are you listening? I’m not the only one complaining about this problem!)

Fujifilm 18-55mm zoom lens plus LENSband (Dark Blue).

18-55mm zoom lens (58mm filter size) | LENSband (Dark Blue)

Somehow I stumbled across a product called “LENSband” recently. The lens band is essentially a large, thick rubber band that is intended to “stop zoom creep.” I’ve never found zoom creep to be a problem with my Fujifilm lenses, but hey, they’re relatively new.

On the other hand, “aperture ring creep” is a big problem so I ordered a couple of LENSbands. In limited testing at home, the bands seem to be the perfect solution for my problem, that is, the Fujifilm lens problem. More later after field testing.

Fujifilm X-T1 and 55-200mm zoom lens plus LENSband (Yellow).

X-T1 | 55-200mm zoom lens (62mm filter size) | LENSband (Yellow)

A few words of caution. LENSband comes in two sizes: “Standard”; and “Mini.” Both the LENSband Store and B&H Photo product page say the Mini size fits both my Fujifilm lenses. I think Minis are too small: I could barely fit the Mini around the smaller end of the barrel of the 18-55mm lens, but it was impossible to adjust; it was impossible to fit the Mini bands around either end of the larger 55-200mm lens. In my opinion, Standard size bands are a much better fit for both lenses.

Editor’s Notes: I ordered the new Fujifilm 100-400mm telephoto zoom lens. The 100-400mm lens has a filter size of 77mm. Standard size LENSbands fit comfortably around lenses with filter sizes of 58mm and 62mm, but I’m thinking there’s no way the Standard size band is going to fit around a lens with a filter size 15mm greater than the larger lens featured in this post! More later after the new lens is delivered.

Perhaps LENSband should consider offering its product in three sizes: small; medium; and large. In my experience, customer service from LENSband is excellent, so I expect the company to be receptive to my suggestion for improvement.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Sailboats

February 9, 2016

While photowalking Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve on 08 February 2016, I stopped to shoot several sailboats moored on the Potomac River, downstream from Belle Haven Marina.

A sailboat moored on the Potomac River, downstream from Belle Haven Marina.

“Andiamo” means “Let’s go!” in Italian. The next photo shows a couple of no-name boats. What’s up with that? I think a big part of the fun of owning a boat is choosing a clever name.

Sailboats moored on the Potomac River, downstream from Belle Haven Marina.

“Just E-nuf” appears to be in the worst condition of the four sailboats — looks like the boat is just good enough to stay afloat!

A sailboat moored on the Potomac River, downstream from Belle Haven Marina.

The Backstory: I was field testing a “tele conversion lens” for my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom camera. I bought the accessory lens and adapter along with the camera, although I’ve never used them. Using the tele conversion lens, the actual magnification is 1.7 times the display. For example, at 24x — the maximum zoom magnification — the actual magnification is ~40x! Panasonic recommends using a tripod with the tele conversion lens; I did. In addition, I used the camera’s built-in 2-second timer to further reduce camera shake. In my opinion, the image quality is more than acceptably good — looks like I should have tried using the tele converter lens sooner!

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 plus tele conversion lens (DMW-LT55) and lens adapter (DMW-LA5).

DMC-FZ150 | tele conversion lens (DMW-LT55) | lens adapter (DMW-LA5)

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Snowy scenes along the Hike-Bike Trail

February 7, 2016

The “exposure triangle” has three corners: 1) Aperture; 2) Shutter Speed; and 3) ISO (light sensitivity). When shooting in “Program” mode and Auto ISO, all three corners of the exposure triangle are wildcards set by the camera. In “Aperture Priority” mode and Auto ISO, the user selects the aperture (lens opening) and the camera selects the shutter speed and ISO. In “Shutter Priority” mode and Auto ISO, the user selects the shutter speed and the camera selects the aperture (lens opening) and ISO. Finally, in “Manual” mode the user selects all three settings in the exposure triangle.

All of the photos in this post were shot in “Aperture Priority” mode at ISO 100. That leaves one corner of the exposure triangle for the camera to set: Shutter Speed. At an aperture of f/4 and ISO 100, the camera is set for a relatively wide lens opening and maximum light sensitivity. Ice and snow are very reflective surfaces, so it’s no surprise the camera selected fast shutter speeds to limit the amount of light received by the camera sensor. One upside of this combination of settings: Camera shake was virtually a non-factor!

The following gallery of photos shows views along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park, a little more than a week after the “Blizzard of 2016.”

The view along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

4mm (25mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/4 | 1/2000s | ISO 100 | -1 ev

Notice that exposure compensation (ev) was used for most of the photos. In “Aperture Priority” mode at a fixed ISO, exposure compensation affects shutter speed: negative exposure values (ev) make the shutter speed faster, further reducing the amount of light received by the camera sensor; positive exposure values make the shutter speed slower, increasing the amount of light received.

Looking downstream along a creek that crosses the Hike-Bike Trail.

Looking downstream along a creek that crosses the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

4mm | f/4 | 1/1000s | ISO 100 | -1 ev

Approaching the observation platform at the terminus of the Hike-Bike Trail. Notice the chromatic aberration in the tree tops at the upper-right corner of the photo.

Looking toward the observation platform at the terminus of the Hike-Bike Trail, Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

4mm | f/4 | 1/1600s | ISO 100 | -1 ev

Looking toward the observation platform.

Approaching the observation platform at the terminus of the Hike-Bike Trail, Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

4mm | f/4 | 1/1300s | ISO 100 | 0 ev

The central wetland area, as viewed from the observation platform. Notice the observation tower is faintly visible at the far side of the wetlands.

The central wetland area, as viewed from the observation platform at the terminus of the Hike-Bike Trail, Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

4mm | f/4 | 1/2000s | ISO 100 | -1 ev

A vernal pool located near the terminus of the Hike-Bike Trail. The pool is mostly covered by ice and snow and somewhat difficult to see in the following photo.

A vernal pool located near the terminus of the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

4mm | f/4 | 1/2000s | ISO 100 | -1 ev

A view of the “Mystery Pool.”

A view of the "Mystery Pool," Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

4mm | f/4 | 1/1600s | ISO 100 | -1 ev

Heading toward the parking lot at the beginning of the Hike-Bike Trail.

The view along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

4mm | f/4 | 1/500s | ISO 100 | 0 ev

Related Resource: The exposure triangle and exposure compensation.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Wild Turkey tracks

February 5, 2016

Pattern recognition. The richness of my field experience is often the result of my ability to recognize patterns in nature. For example, while exploring a remote location in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park, I spotted a set of Wild Turkey tracks (Meleagris gallopavo).

I recognized the shape of the turkey footprints in snow as a result of a chance encounter a few years ago, when I was able to tag along with Mr. Kevin Walter — Natural Resource Specialist, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Belvoir — for part of a field survey of birds at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge. As we were walking along “Great Blue Heron Trail,” Kevin pointed out a fresh set of Wild Turkey tracks.

Wild Turkey tracks (Meleagris gallopavo) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

01 FEB 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Wild Turkey track

Related Resource: Wild Turkey tracks, one of over 700 spottings by Geodialist on Project Noah. [Note: “Geodialist” is my username on Project Noah.]

Editor’s Note: Sincere thanks to Alonso Abugattas, Ed Eder, and Ben Jessup — a professional naturalist and two excellent amateur naturalists, respectively — for verifying my tentative field identification.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

HMP automated weather station

February 3, 2016

The following photos show the automated weather station located in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

An annotated photograph of the weather station features labels for most of the instruments. The tipping bucket rain gauge is shown in the preceding photo, near the left side of the image; the rain gauge is one of several sensors not shown in the annotated photo provided by Virginia Tech University.

The following real-time data is available online: air temperature; wind direction and speed; and current water surface elevation.

Weather_Eng

(sample graphic image)

Air temperature is of particular interest to odonate hunters. 70°F is widely believed to be the minimum body temperature necessary for dragonfly flight. That is, for most species of dragonflies. Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum) has been observed in flight at temperatures as low as 50°F!

Current water surface elevation may be the most challenging observation to interpret. Two known values help to put the measurement into context: the elevation of the berm is 34.5 feet; the bottom of the concrete box/culvert that serves as the outlet for the wetland is 32 feet. The water level may be higher than 34.5 feet when water breaches the berm. The water level may be lower than 32 feet when evapotranspiration exceeds inflow (precipitation and runoff).

Archived data: See a graph of hourly air temperature for the past two days.

Mean_Temp

(sample graphic image)

Archived data: See a graph of daily precipitation totals for the past month.

Rainfall

(sample graphic image)

Related Resource: My photoblog features a link from the right sidebar to the HMP Weather Station, where the reader will find quick links to all of the resources featured in this post.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Green Heron (eating a fish)

February 1, 2016

The following brief time-series of photos shows a Green Heron (Butorides virescens) preying upon a small fish in the wetlands at Huntley Meadows Park. Now you see it, …

A Green Heron (Butorides virescens) spotted eating a fish at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

10 JUN 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Green Heron (eating a fish)

…now you don’t! (The bird raised its head in order to swallow the fish.)

A Green Heron (Butorides virescens) spotted eating a fish at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

10 JUN 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Green Heron (eating a fish)

The Backstory

The Green Heron appeared while I was hunting Unicorn Clubtail dragonflies (Arigomphus villosipes). [See related post: Unicorn Clubtail dragonfly (male).] Green Herons can quite skittish. The bird may not have noticed me as I was sitting quietly on my Coleman camp stool, “waiting for the game to come to me” (one of several strategies for stalking odonates).

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Giant Ichneumon wasp (female)

January 30, 2016

A Giant Ichneumon wasp (Megarhyssa atrata) was spotted during a photowalk along one of the informal trails at Huntley Meadows Park. This individual is a female, as indicated by its long ovipositor.

A Giant Ichneumon wasp (Megarhyssa atrata) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

20 MAY 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Giant Ichneumon wasp (female)

Giant Ichneumons are “parasitoids of wood-boring insects.”

Parasitoid noun, plural parasitoids – an insect that, in the larval stage, feeds off of the tissues of its host (as does a parasite), but this feeding normally results in death of the host. Thus a parasitoid is in some ways a predator as well. Source Credit: Parasitoid, BugGuide Glossary.

A Giant Ichneumon wasp (Megarhyssa atrata) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

20 MAY 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Giant Ichneumon wasp (female)

I was never able to get a clear shot of the entire wasp, including its ovipositor. Nonetheless, I was happy to “get a shot, any shot.”

A Giant Ichneumon wasp (Megarhyssa atrata) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

20 MAY 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Giant Ichneumon wasp (female)

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Flashback – reflecting upon nearly two years of flash photography

January 28, 2016

Once upon a time I was a photography purist: Every photograph I shot was taken in natural light. Then one day I had an epiphany: Fill flash brings out detail and enhances color, contrast, and sharpness. In a word, flash good!

I remember the day of my conversion from the dark side vividly. I was trying to photograph a Blue Corporal dragonfly (Ladona deplanata) during Spring 2013: Male Blue Corporals are dark blue and the subject was backlighted by the Sun; all of the photos I shot appeared to be underexposed and showed almost no detail. I decided to try using the built-in pop-up flash on my camera, and boom, the results were much better! For the rest of the year, I used the pop-up flash full-time.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150

My love of flash photography began with the built-in pop-up flash on my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom camera. Eventually I came to realize the obvious: The pop-up flash is better than nothing but it’s underpowered in many (if not most) situations.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 pop-up flash.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 pop-up flash.

Canon external flash units

Mid-way through 2014, I started experimenting with using external flash units for Canon digital cameras mounted on my Panasonic camera.

  • Canon 580EX Speedlite (Guide Number: 58) plus Sto-Fen OM-EY Omni-Bounce plastic diffuser
  • Canon 580EX Speedlite II (Guide Number: 58) plus Vello Bounce Dome plastic diffuser. (Note: The Canon 580EX II is slightly larger than the 580EX.)

Both Canon flashes are virtually identical and are compatible with every digital camera I own, including the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150, although the flashes must be used in manual mode.

External flash units for Canon digital cameras: Canon 580EX Speedlite; Canon 580EX Speedlite II.

Canon 580EX Speedlite (left) | Canon 580EX Speedlite II (right)

By experimentation, I quickly discovered three things:

  1. Both Canon flashes work with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 at any shutter speed. This is huge, especially since I prefer to shoot in shutter priority mode at faster shutter speeds.
  2. Manual flash isn’t as hard to understand as I was led to believe.
  3. The Canon 580EX works better with my Panasonic camera than the 580EX II. (For example, when the camera goes into power-saving mode, so does the 580EX flash unit; when the camera “wakes up,” so does the flash. In contrast, sometimes it is necessary to power-cycle the 580EX II in order to wake it from power-saving mode when it is mounted on my Panasonic camera.)

The following camera/flash settings are my usual starting point.

  • Camera: ISO 100; Shutter Priority mode at 1/800s.
  • Flash: Manual Mode; 1/16 power ratio; 105mm zoom.

Correct exposure is never more than a few stops away from these settings. (Note: On both 580s, every three clicks on the selection dial equals one stop of exposure.)

Fujifilm external flash units

I own several external flash units for my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.

  • The Fujifilm EF-X8 (Guide Number: ~8) comes with the X-T1 camera body. Although the EF-X8 is almost as underpowered as the pop-up flash on my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150, it can be used to fire the Nissin i40 off-camera with the i40 set for “SD mode.”
  • The Fujifilm EF-42 (Guide Number: 42) plus Sto-Fen OM-600 Omni-Bounce plastic diffuser enables TTL flash photography at shutter speeds equal to or less than the X-T1 flash sync speed of 1/180s (actually, 1/250s). The EF-42 can be used to fire the Nissin i40 off-camera with the i40 set for “SF mode.”
  • The Nissin i40 (Guide Number: 40) enables both TTL flash photography at shutter speeds equal to or less than the sync speed, and high-speed sync with the i40 set for Manual mode. (Note: The Nissin i40 comes with a snap-on plastic diffuser, not shown in the following photograph.)
External flash units for Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera: Fujifilm EF-X8; Fujifilm EF-42; Nissin i40.

Fujifilm EF-X8 (left) | Fujifilm EF-42 (center) | Nissin i40 (right)

Flash accessories

The last photo shows a few of my favorite accessories for external flash photography.

Accessories for external flash units: Ansmann battery case; Sanyo Eneloop rechargeable batteries; Vello Off-Camera TTL Flash Cord; Yongnuo YN622C II Wireless Flash Trigger Transceivers.

Accessories for external flash units.

One of my goals for 2016 is to experiment with on-camera versus off-camera flash using some of the accessories shown above.

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Testing 1, 2, 3…

January 26, 2016

The following photos were taken on 21 December 2015 at Huntley Meadows Park while field-testing a new Nissin i40 external flash unit with my Fujifilm X-T1 mirrorless digital camera and 55-200mm zoom lens (88-320mm, 35mm equivalent). The camera was set for “Forced Flash”: “Flash On, Fired” appears in the EXIF information for all shots.

The camera was set for Manual Mode: both Aperture and Shutter Speed were operator-selected; ISO was set to “Auto.” Notice the camera used ISO 800 for every shot. One obvious advantage of using a digital camera featuring a larger sensor — in this case, an APS-C sensor — is the camera can shoot relatively noise-free photos at higher ISOs.

Also notice the rich color in each photo, something for which the Fujifilm X-series of cameras is well-known.


Cattails (Typha sp.) gone to seed.

Cattails (Typha sp.) gone to seed at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, VA USA.

70.5mm (106mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/6.3 | 1/250s | ISO 800

Swamp Rose (Rosa palustris) hips.

Swamp Rose (Rosa palustris) hips spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

200mm (300mm) | f/6.9 | 1/640s | ISO 800

An insect gall on Swamp Rose (Rosa palustris). This gall was made by parasitic gall wasps (Diplolepis sp.).

A parasitic insect gall on Swamp Rose (Rosa palustris) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This is a gall wasp (Diplolepis sp.) gall.

200mm (300mm) | f/9 | 1/640s | ISO 800

Unknown blue-black berries. Alonso Abugattas, moderator of the “Capital Naturalist” Facebook group, speculates this is probably a species of greenbrier (Smilax sp.).

Unknown blue-black berries spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

200mm (300mm) | f/6 | 1/640s | ISO 800

Unknown seed pods, probably Crimsoneyed Rosemallow (Hibiscus moscheutos).

Unknown seed pods spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

200mm (300mm) | f/6.9 | 1/640s | ISO 800

Related Resource: New tools for flash photography.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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