Consistency and attention to detail

October 14, 2018

Fujifilm doesn’t make/sell any radio-controlled flash triggers and external flash units, so I was excited when I learned that Godox had released Fujifilm-compatible flash photography gear that fills the void. Better, the retail price-point for the Godox gear is quite attractive — about one-fifth the price of comparable Canon external flash equipment.

Buyer beware: You get what you pay for. In the case of the Godox flash gear for Fujifilm, it seems like you’re paying for a work-in-progress rather than a finished, market-ready product.

Fujifilm X-T1

The first two images show two screen captures from the flash-related “Shooting Menu” for the Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.

Flash-related Shooting Menu for Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.

Notice camera is set for TTL and high-speed sync is enabled (FP).

Flash-related Shooting Menu for Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.

Godox TT685F

The following graphic is an outtake from the Instruction Manual for the Godox TT685F external flash unit. The annotated image shows the LCD panel on the front of the flash.

Godox TT685F Thinklite TTL Camera Flash | Instruction Manual

When the Godox TT685F is mounted on the hot shoe of a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera, the LCD panel looks similar to the annotated image in the instruction manual. Notice the icon that indicates the flash will fire using high-speed sync.

Godox TT685F external flash LCD panel display.

The next graphic is an outtake from the Instruction Manual for the Godox TT685F external flash unit. The annotated image shows the LCD panel on the front of the flash when the flash is set for either Master or Slave mode.

Godox TT685F Thinklite TTL Camera Flash | Instruction Manual

Finally, here’s the LCD panel display for the TT685F in Slave mode. Conspicuously missing is any indication the flash is set for high-speed sync.

Godox TT685F external flash LCD panel display (Slave mode).

Godox XProF

The following image shows the LCD panel for the Godox XProF radio flash trigger. Notice the display is somewhat similar to the TT685F display when set for Master mode.

Godox XProF radio flash trigger LCD panel display.

The next image shows the LCD panel for the XProF radio flash trigger, showing only a single channel and group. Neither view provides any indication the flash will fire using high-speed sync.

Godox XProF radio flash trigger LCD panel display.

Inconsistency seems to be a problem with Godox

It appears there is some inconsistency across the product line of TT685 flashes made for different camera manufacturers (Canon, Nikon, Olympus/Panasonic, and Sony). For example, some models of the TT685, such as the TT685C for Canon cameras, feature both optical and radio master/slave modes; the TT685F for Fujifilm cameras is radio only.

There is also inconsistency and inattention to detail across the LCD panel displays for the XPro controllers for different camera manufacturers. For example, notice that “SYNC” is one of the four function buttons on the XProC (press the button and the flash goes into HSS mode); the “SYNC” button is missing from the XProF, as shown above.

Godox TT685C Thinklite TTL Camera Flash | Instruction Manual

Most, if not all of these issues should be easy to fix by updating the firmware; hopefully updates are in the pipeline already.

And speaking of firmware updates, the firmware for Godox flash photography products can be updated using Windows-compatible PCs only. Really, you’re kidding me, right? Seriously Godox, many if not most “creatives” — including photographers — prefer Apple computers. It’s time to make firmware updates available for either Apple Mac OS or Microsoft Windows!

Post Update: It works, except when it doesn’t.

Further experimentation showed that the XProF LCD display can show the icon that indicates the flash will fire using high-speed sync, as shown below. Here’s how I was able to make it work, albeit temporarily.

  1. Power-on the XProF.
  2. Power-on the X-T1.
  3. Press the “Menu/OK” button and navigate to the “Shooting Menu,” specifically the “Flash Function Setting.” (Both menus are shown at the beginning of this post.) Cycle through the three options in the sub-menu under “Sync” (1st Curtain, 2nd Curtain, FP); select FP. Press the “OK” button.

As far as I can tell, the Sync mode must be set every time you power-on the flash gear and camera, including after the X-T1 goes into power-saving sleep mode. If you don’t, then HSS works but the HSS icon isn’t displayed on the XProF LCD panel.

It’s noteworthy that the HSS icon is never displayed on the TT685F LCD panel when the flash is in Slave mode — more evidence of inattention to detail.

Godox XProF radio flash trigger LCD panel display.

Godox XProF radio flash trigger LCD panel display.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Burst mode flash photography

October 12, 2018

This post provides a brief demonstration of burst mode flash photography using the gear shown in the following photo: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera plus Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube and Fujinon XF80mm macro lensGodox XProF radio flash triggerGodox TT685F external flashGodox PROPAC PB960 Lithium-Ion Flash Power Pack; and Quantum Instruments CZ2 Power Cable (for Turbo Series Power Packs).

Godox flash photography gear.

The Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera is set for “CL” (continuous low) burst mode. The Godox TT685F external flash unit is set for Manual mode at 1/128 power, as shown on the LCD of the Godox XProF radio flash trigger mounted on the camera hot shoe. The external flash unit is connected to a Godox PROPAC PB960 power pack using a Quantum Instruments cable.

The external flash unit is powered by a set of four AA batteries, as usual. The external power pack enables a much faster recycle rate for the flash than is possible using only AA batteries.

The Quantum Instruments CZ2 Power Cable fits Canon external flash units such as the Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite and Canon 580EX- and Canon 580EX II Speedlites, as well as Godox external flash units made for Canon, Fujifilm, and Olympus/Panasonic digital cameras. You may want to buy two cables, since the Godox PROPAC PB860 can power two flash units at once.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Godox flash photography gear

October 9, 2018

The photos in this gallery show the following photography gear: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera plus Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens; Godox XProF radio flash trigger; Godox TT685F external flash, Godox PROPAC PB960 Lithium-Ion Flash Power Pack; and Quantum Instruments CZ2 Power Cable (for Turbo Series Power Packs).

Godox flash photography gear.

The Godox TT685F flash head is the same size as a Canon 580EX II Speedlite so any slide-on plastic light modifier that works with a 580EX II will work with the TT685.

The Godox radio flash trigger and external flash unit are compatible with both TTL and HSS (high-speed sync flash).

Godox flash photography gear.

The Godox TT685F external flash can function as either a radio master or radio slave. According to the B&H Photo Web page for the TT685F, current as of 10 October 2018, the flash can also function as either an optical master or optical slave.

Much to my surprise, the TT685F cannot function as either an optical master or optical slave. I had hoped to be able to use the TT685F as an optical master to remotely trigger other Fujifilm-compatible external flash units such as my Nissin i40 or Fujifilm EF-X500. This is a BIG disappointment, especially since the TT685C for Canon Cameras features both optical and radio master/slave modes. Although both the TT685F and TT685C sell at the same retail price point of ~$110, you’re paying for less-capable hardware in the TT685F and that’s just not right! Hey Godox, are you listening?

The Godox PROPAC PB960 Lithium-Ion Flash Power Pack can be used with the TT685F to enable burst mode flash photography. A follow-up blog post will feature a short video clip showing that burst mode flash works quite well.

Editor’s Notes

I contacted B&H Photo on 10 October 2018 via an online chat with a customer service representative named “Dan W.” Dan admitted the B&H Photo Web page for the Godox TT685F is (or was) incorrect. The following quote is an excerpt from the transcript of my chat with Dan W.

“Optical master/slave transmission is available for working with other standard flashes.”

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1348949-REG/godox_tt685f_ttl_camera_speedlite.html

I asked “How do we make this right? I don’t want to return the TT685F but I’d be happy to settle for a discount on another Godox flash.” After talking with a manager, B&H offered to give me a $5.00 discount on another flash unit. B&H misrepresented the product I bought in good faith and their best offer to make it right is $5? Please, get serious.

I have always raved about B&H Photo and its extraordinary customer service. Whenever there has been a problem with an order, it was always resolved quickly in my favor. B&H’s latest offer of a $5.00 discount is an insult and NO WAY TO BUILD CUSTOMER LOYALTY!

Addendum

As it turns out, the Godox Web page for the TT685F, current as of 12 October 2018, says the flash can also function as either an optical master or optical slave.

It’s noteworthy that the graphic of the flash LCD shows the icon for radio master/slave mode. Hey Godox, does anyone fact-check your Web pages before they are published? This is false advertising!

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Macromia alleghaniensis exuvia

October 6, 2018

Michael Boatwright, founder and administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, collected an odonate exuvia on 07 June 2018 along either Little Otter Creek or Otter Creek near the place where both creeks are distributaries of Otter Lake in Amherst County, Virginia USA.

A two-step process was used to identify the genus and species of the exuvia.

  1. Determine the family.
  2. Determine the genus and species.

Step 1. Family

First, determine the family of the specimen. For reference, watch the excellent Vimeo video, Identifying dragonfly larva to family (8:06). Here’s the decision tree used to identify the exuvia as a member of the Family Macromiidae (Cruisers).

  • The specimen has a mask-like labium (prementum) that covers the face, as shown in Photo No. 1, characteristic of four families of odonates: Cordulegastridae (Spiketails); Corduliidae (Emeralds); Libellulidae (Skimmers); and Macromiidae (Cruisers).
  • The teeth on the margins of the labium have a regular pattern. (The pattern reminds me of a “spork.”)
  • Its eyes are small, wide set, and stick up.
  • Image No. 2 shows there is a horn on the face-head, characteristic of Macromiidae.

Photo No. 1 shows a face-head view of the exuvia, magnified approximately three times life size (~3x).

No. 1 | Macromia alleghaniensis | exuvia (face-head)

Image No. 2 shows the top of the head of the exuvia, magnified approximately three times life size (~3x). Notice the prominent horn on the face.

No. 2 | Macromia alleghaniensis | exuvia (head-horn)

Step 2. Genus and species

Two dichotomous keys found on p. 27 of Identification Keys to Northeastern Anisoptera Larvae, compiled by Ken Soltesz, were used to determine the genus and species of the exuvia. Markers that match this specimen are highlighted in boldface green text. Three boldface green asterisks (***) are used to highlight the thread for identification of this specimen.

Key to the Genera of the Family Macromiidae

***1b. Lateral spines of abdominal segment 9 do not reach to rearward level of tips of inferior appendages [paraprocts]; Sides of head somewhat convergent behind eyes to pair of low turbercules on hind angles; Lateral setae of labium = 6; Small dorsal hook on segment 10. [Macromia]

A small dorsal hook on abdominal segment 10 is characteristic of Genus Macromia.

No. 3 | Macromia alleghaniensis | exuvia (dorsal-lateral)

Look closely at the full-size version of Image No. 4. Notice the little “nub” on abdominal segment 10 (S10), below the underside of the dorsal hook on abdominal segment nine (S9). The same structure is labeled with a white question mark in Image No. 3.

No. 4 | Macromia alleghaniensis | exuvia (dorsal-lateral)

The lateral spines of abdominal segment 9 (S9) do not reach rearward to the tips of the inferior appendages (paraprocts).

No. 5 | Macromia alleghaniensis | exuvia (dorsal)

Key to the Species of Macromia

1a. Lateral spines of abdominal segments 8 and 9 directed straight to rearward. [illinoiensis]

***1b. Lateral spines of abdominal segments 8 and 9 incurved, especially 8. [alleghaniensis]

The lateral spines of abdominal segments 8 and 9 (S8-9) are incurved, especially segment 8 (S8), indicating this species is alleghaniensis.

No. 6 | Macromia alleghaniensis | exuvia (ventral)

This individual is probably a male, as indicated by what appear to be vestigial hamules located on the ventral side of abdominal segments two and three (S2-3).

Summary

A prominent horn on the face is a key field marker for the Family Macromiidae (Cruisers), a small dorsal hook on abdominal segment 10 is one characteristic of the Genus Macromia, and the lateral spines of abdominal segments 8 and 9 (S8-9) are incurved, indicating the species is alleghaniensis. Therefore this specimen is an Allegheny River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia alleghaniensis).

Bonus Gallery

No. 7 | Macromia alleghaniensis | exuvia (face-head)

No. 8 | Macromia alleghaniensis | exuvia (dorsal-lateral)

No. 9 | Macromia alleghaniensis | exuvia (dorsal)

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot Photo/Image No. 3-9: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Kenko 20mm macro automatic extension tubeCanon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens (set for manual focus); Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite set for “Master” mode, and Canon 580 EX- and Canon 580EX II Speedlites set for “Slave” mode. Photo/Image No. 1 and 2Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens (manual focus only, set for ~3x magnification) plus the multiple-flash setup.

Image No. 2-8 are focus-stacked composite images created and annotated using Adobe Photoshop CC 2017: Image No. 2 (eight photos); Image No. 3 (six photos); Image No. 4 (four photos); Image No. 5 (five photos); Image No. 6 (five photos); Image No. 7 (seven photos); Image No. 8 (seven photos).

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Macromiidae larvae/exuviae are horny

October 4, 2018

A prominent horn on the face is a key field marker for all larvae/exuviae in the Family Macromiidae (Cruisers).

The first image shows the top of the head of an exuvia from an Allegheny River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia alleghaniensis), collected by Mike Boatwright on 07 June 2018 at Otter Lake in Amherst County, Virginia USA.

07 June 2018 | Amherst County, VA | exuvia (head-horn)

The next photo shows the top of the head of an Allegheny River Cruiser larva reared by fellow Virginian Bob Perkins, providing an excellent view of both the horn and antennae (2).

Image used with permission from Bob Perkins.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the composite image of the exuvia: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens (set for 3x); Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite set for “Master” mode, and Canon 580 EX- and Canon 580EX II Speedlites set for “Slave” mode.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create the focus-stacked composite image from eight photos.

Bob Perkins’ photo of the larva, taken on 03 October 2018, was shot using a Canon EOS Rebel T3i camera body and Canon EF-S 60mm macro lens.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Latest focus stacking workflow

October 2, 2018

I shot a small set of photos for a focus stack showing the ventral view of an unknown species of odonate exuvia. There are five “slices,” focused from head-to-tail along the body only (no shots focused on legs/feet).

The following gallery shows the five focus points along the body of the specimen, highlighted by a red square.

Although this photo set has fewer “slices” than I have been using to create focus stacks recently (~15-20 photos, on average), the resulting composite image (shown below) is perfectly in focus along the entire body and is serviceable for the purpose of identifying the genus and species of this specimen.

07 June 2018 | Amherst County, VA | exuvia (ventral)

The preceding composite image shows an exuvia from an unknown species of dragonfly (possibly River Cruiser sp.), collected by Mike Boatwright on 07 June 2018 at Otter Lake in Amherst County, Virginia USA. This individual probably is a male, as indicated by vestigial hamules located on the underside of abdominal segments two and three (S2-3).

Shooting the Photo Set

  • Set the camera for Manual Mode.
  • Set the lens for manual focus and turn off image stabilization (when the camera/lens is mounted on a tripod).
  • Compose the image so the frame is a little bigger than the scene you really want. This will give you some wiggle room during post-processing.
  • Set external flash(es) for Manual Mode. (~1/16 power is a good starting point.)
  • Select single focus point; move focus point around image.
  • Live View plus 5x and 10x magnification.
  • Drive mode: 10s timer.
  • DON’T MOVE THE CAMERA. Shoot as many images as necessary.

Advance Preparation – Edit Photos Using Aperture [or Lightroom]

Although Apple discontinued development of/support for Aperture years ago, the desktop application still works and in many ways I prefer Aperture over Adobe Lightroom.

  • Edit one image: make all adjustments except spot and patch, vignette, and BFX.
  • Right-click on edited photo; select “Lift Adjustments.”
  • <Replace> <Stamp Selected Images>
  • Add metadata: Lift and Stamp selected images.
  • Select images (to be focus stacked); export as TIFFs (16-bit), 300 dpi; save in folder entitled either “TIFF” or “TIFF versions.” File / Export… / Version… [Export Preset: TIFF – Original Size (16-bit)]

Focus Stacking Using Adobe Photoshop

Launch Photoshop.

  • File / Scripts / Load Files into Stack… [Alternate option: Add Open Files <OK>] Do not check the box for “Create Smart Object after Loading Layers.” By default, Ps creates a new document called “Untitled1.”
  • Select all layers.
  • Edit / Auto-Align Layers; Auto <OK>
  • Edit / Auto-Blend Layers; Stack Images, Seamless Tones and Colors <OK>
  • Duplicate all masked layers to a new document. Layer / Duplicate Layers… / Document: New / Name: Backup-copy
  • Select Untitled1: Layer / Merge Layers. (Ps merges all layers into one TIFF, named after first file in sequence.)
  • Straighten and Crop as necessary.
  • Duplicate the layer; append name with “Spot Healing.” [Alternate option: drag layer to copy icon]
  • Remove dust spots from the image: Spot Healing Brush: 27-54 pixels, Content-Aware.
  • Duplicate the layer; append name with “HPF.” [Alternate option: drag Spot Healing layer to copy icon]
  • Select the top layer: Filter / Other / High Pass…; adjust until you can just see outline of image <OK>; change Normal to Overlay. [Don’t oversharpen! ~2.6 used for the composite image featured in this blog post.]
  • Untitled1: Save As… TIFF.
  • Backup-copy (of masked layers): Save As… either PSD or Large Document Format (for documents larger than 2 GB).
  • Import composite TIFF file [Untitled1.tif] into Aperture [or Lightroom]: add additional keywords, as appropriate [e.g., annotated, composite image, focus stack, Photoshop]; Export using BorderBFX.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the composite image (shown above): Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Kenko 20mm macro automatic extension tubeCanon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens (set for manual focus); Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite set for “Master” mode, and Canon 580 EX- and Canon 580EX II Speedlites set for “Slave” mode. A Sunpak LED-160 Video Light (with a white translucent plastic filter) was used to add soft light to the underside of the white “stage” used for posing the specimen.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create the focus-stacked composite image from five photos.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Northern Black Racer (mating pair)

September 30, 2018

A mating pair of black snakes, probably Northern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor constrictor), was spotted during a photowalk along Little Hunting Creek at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Information about this species, provided by the Virginia Herpetological Society, leads the author to infer mating Northern Black Racers are observed uncommonly.

Head hunting

The snakes were mating on a bed of Virginia Springbeauty (Claytonia virginica).

21 APR 2018 | Huntley Meadows Park | black snakes (mating pair)

My eyesight isn’t as good as it used to be when I was younger. As a result, it was challenging for me to find the head of both snakes. Look closely — both heads are shown in each of these photos.

21 APR 2018 | Huntley Meadows Park | black snakes (mating pair)

Head shots

After a few wide-angle shots, I turned my attention to close-ups of the head. I’m not sure I captured a head shot for both snakes.

Northern Black Racers have a huge, all-black eye with an “eyebrow” ridge that makes racers look angry and somewhat dangerous all the time. Source Credit: Kevin Munroe, former Park Manager, Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County Park Authority.

The “eyebrow” ridge is especially noticeable in the following photo.

21 APR 2018 | Huntley Meadows Park | black snakes (mating pair)

21 APR 2018 | Huntley Meadows Park | black snakes (mating pair)

From this viewpoint, it appears one of the snakes may be getting ready to shed.

21 APR 2018 | Huntley Meadows Park | black snakes (mating pair)

The parting shot

Direct eye contact can be unnerving when one is perhaps a little too close to a snake. Time to go!

21 APR 2018 | Huntley Meadows Park | black snakes (mating pair)

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Handsome Meadow Katydid (female)

September 28, 2018

20 SEP 2018 | HMP | Handsome Meadow Katydid (female)

The preceding photograph shows a female Handsome Meadow Katydid (Orchelimum pulchellum) perched on the boardwalk in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Blue eyes are a good field marker for identifying Handsome Meadow Katydids. Notice the long, curved, reddish, scimitar-shaped structure extending from the posterior end of the abdomen. It’s an ovipositor that female katydids …

… use to insert eggs into hiding places … which can be in crevices on plants or even inside plant tissues [endophytic oviposition]. Source Credit: Matt Pelikan, BugGuide group on Facebook.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (male)

September 26, 2018

An Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) was observed perched on a snag in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his coloration and terminal appendages.

The Backstory

Eastern Amberwing dragonflies are easy to find — they’re both common and abundant at almost any lentic ecosystem such as ponds and lakes. After spending a lot of time and energy during 2018 hunting some of the more exotic species of odonates such as spiketails, petaltails, and some of the rare-to-uncommon species of clubtails, I must confess the more common species of dragonflies and damselflies don’t hold my interest the way they did when I was a beginner. Sometimes I need to stop and remind myself to appreciate life’s simpler pleasures, like Eastern Amberwings.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Pandora Sphinx moth

September 24, 2018

A Pandora Sphinx moth (Eumorpha pandorus) was spotted in the parking garage at The Beacon of Groveton, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

20 SEP 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Pandora Sphinx moth

The BugGuide Info page for Pandora Sphinx remarks that it is “An extra-spectacular sphinx moth.” I agree. One look at the full-size version of the preceding photo and I think you will too.

The Backstory

I noticed the moth when I entered the parking garage for the building where I live. The moth was perched on a cinder block wall, near a large security light. I was completely exhausted after a long day of photowalking at Huntley Meadows Park — my camera and external flash unit were in a backpack for camera gear and I was reluctant to unpack and set up to shoot photos of the moth. I took a second, longer look at the moth and knew it would be worth the effort. As it turns out, I was right — this is the best photo I shot all day, and one of my Top 10 Photos for 2018.

Editor’s Notes

Eumorpha pandorus is a new species for my life list of butterflies and moths. Sincere thanks to Sue and John Gregoire, Kestrel Haven Migration Observatory, for help in identifying this spectacular beauty.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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