Archive for February, 2016

Pole Road Park

February 29, 2016

Pole Road Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Pole Road Park is located along Dogue Creek, downstream from Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge.

Pole Road Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The Backstory: On Saturday, 20 February 2016, I spent a few hours searching for easier access to Dogue Creek than is afforded by Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. Along the way, I discovered Pole Road Park. This location looks like it provides ideal habitat for some species of odonates. More later after further exploration.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Mulligan Pond

February 27, 2016

The following photorealistic 32-bit HDR image of Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, is a composite of three bracketed exposures, +/- two stops of exposure.

A 32-bit HDR composite image created from three photos of Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA, +/- two stops of exposure.

20 FEB 2016 | Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge | Mulligan Pond

Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge is located along Dogue Creek, downstream from the southeastern boundary of Huntley Meadows Park.

The wetland refuge is open to the public, although signs such as the one shown below are a sobering reminder that the property belongs to the U.S. Army. The danger is real, according to John Pilcicki, Natural Resource Specialist, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Belvoir, and visitors should stay on the marked trail.

Signage at Jackson Mile Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

20 FEB 2016 | Jackson Mile Abbott Wetland Refuge | Signage

Tech Tips: I used my Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS150 superzoom camera to shoot three bracketed exposures of the same landscape. The camera was set for manual focus at the hyperfocal distance for an aperture of f/4, based upon the instructions provided in the excellent video tutorial by Graham Houghton, “Panasonic Lumix FZ camera easier manual focus method — super point-and-shoot tip.” I used Adobe Photoshop CC (2015) and Lightroom CC (2015) to create and edit a 32-bit HDR composite image of the three exposures: Photoshop was used to create the HDR image; Lightroom was used to adjust the composite image. The final version was exported from Lightroom as a 16-bit TIFF and imported into Aperture for some finishing touches.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Deer skull

February 25, 2016

With no disrespect intended toward the deerly departed, sometimes I worry that my body will look similar to this when the search and rescue team finds me after another one of those very long photowalks with my buddy Mike Powell!

A disarticulated White-tailed deer skull (Odocoileus virginianus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The preceding photograph shows a disarticulated White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) skull spotted on 22 February 2016 at Huntley Meadows Park. Thanks to Mike Powell for guiding me to the deer’s final resting place.

Related Resource: Circle of life, by Mike Powell.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Don’t dismiss the “kit” lens!

February 23, 2016

What is a “kit” lens?

A kit lens is a “starter” lens which can be sold with an interchangeable-lens camera such as a single-lens reflex camera. It is generally an inexpensive lens priced at the lowest end of the manufacturer’s range so as to not add much to a camera kit’s price. The kit consists of the camera body, the lens, and various accessories usually necessary to get started in SLR photography. Source Credit: Kit lens, from Wikipedia.

I’ve been experimenting with the Fujinon XF18-55mm (27-82.5mm, 35mm equivalent) “kit” lens that was bundled with my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera body, using the lens either by itself or in combination with a set of “Fotasy” brand extension tubes.

The first photo of a toy dragonfly was taken using the lens only. The working distance was approximately 12 inches (~30 cm), close to the minimum focusing distance for the lens.

A toy dragonfly. EXIF: ISO 800; 55mm (83mm, 35mm equivalent); 0.67 ev; f/16; 1/250s.

ISO 800 | 55mm (83mm, 35mm equivalent) | 0.67 ev | f/16 | 1/250s

The next photo was taken using the kit lens combined with a 10mm extension tube. The working distance of the lens was reduced to approximately seven (7) inches (~18 cm)!

A toy dragonfly. EXIF: ISO 800; 53mm (79mm, 35mm equivalent); 0.67 ev; f/16; 1/250s.

ISO 800 | 53mm (79mm, 35mm equivalent) | 0.67 ev | f/16 | 1/250s

At a focal length of 55mm, a 16mm extension tube reduces the working distance to several inches. The front lens element is so close to the subject that one must be careful to avoid scratching the glass! And you’ll need to move your external flash unit off-camera to avoid lens shadow.

The last photo shows my set of two Fotasy extension tubes. Each tube can be used individually or they can be stacked together: 10mm; 16mm; 26mm.

Macro extension tubes are inserted between the lens and the camera body and increase the distance between the lens elements and the sensor enabling users to focus on subjects much closer to the camera. Source Credit: Fujifilm Macro Extension Tubes MCEX-11 and MCEX-16.

"Fotasy" brand extension tubes for Fujifilm X-T1 digital cameras.

Fotasy” brand extension tubes for Fujifilm X Mount cameras.

So what’s the take-away from my experimentation? I should have tried using the lens sooner — its impressive performance far exceeded my expectations of a “kit” lens!

Tech Tips: All photos featured in this post were taken using a Fujifilm X-T1 and Fujinon XF18-55mm lens, mounted on a Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB tripod and Manfrotto 054 Magnesium Ball Head with Q2 Quick Release. The first two photos were lighted by a Fujifilm Shoe Mount Flash EF-42 that commanded an off-camera Nissin i40 external flash in “SF” mode. The scene in the third photo was lighted by a Fujifilm EF-X8 pop-up flash that commanded an off-camera Nissin i40 external flash in “SD” mode.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Painted Skimmer dragonflies (females)

February 21, 2016

The following gallery features photos of several Painted Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula semifasciata) spotted on 20 May 2015 near a vernal pool in a remote location in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park.

All of these individuals are females, as indicated by their terminal appendages. For those species of dragonflies that do not display sexual dimorphism, such as Painted Skimmer, males and females are nearly identical in appearance except for their terminal appendages.

Like many species of dragonflies in the Skimmer Family, the Painted Skimmer usually perches on four of six legs, with the two front legs curled around its head.

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

You complete me

February 19, 2016

Nearly two years ago, I bought into the Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera system. I was looking for a smaller and lighter camera than my Canon EOS 5D Mark II that produces imagery of comparable quality. In addition to the Fujinon XF18-55mm kit lens that was bundled with the camera body, I bought the Fujinon XF55-200mm zoom lens. I also bought the Shoe Mount Flash EF-42 — the only TTL-capable external flash unit compatible with the X-T1 that was available at the time.

After several days of field-testing, I realized I’d need to add two items to my X-T1 “kit” in order to be completely satisfied: 1) a telephoto zoom lens with more “reach” than the 55-200mm lens; and 2) a TTL-capable, high-speed sync compatible external flash unit that would enable me to use flash at shutter speeds faster than the 1/180s default flash sync speed of the X-T1 (actually, up to 1/250s works).

Item No. 1 became available for pre-order in mid-January 2016 and shipped in early February. When the parcel was delivered, I looked at the unopened box and thought “You complete me.” [They had me with its 600mm reach (35mm equivalent).] Then I opened the box. I was shocked by the size and weight of the new lens — it’s much larger and heavier than expected, and unlikely to be the sort of lens I’m going to like lugging around on long walks in the field.

The following photo shows a side-by-side comparison of my newer Fujinon XF100-400mm and older Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L zoom lenses. The two lenses are nearly identical in size and weight. Ugh, so much for down-sizing my camera gear!

A side-by-side comparison of the Canon EF70-200mm f/2.8L and Fujinon XF100-400mm zoom lenses.

Fujinon XF100-400mm (top) | Canon EF70-200mm f/2.8L (bottom)

I never liked hand-holding the Canon EOS 5D Mark 2 camera and 70-200mm lens — always felt like the best images were shot using a tripod. I stopped using the Canon gear when I got tired of carrying my Manfrotto 055XPROB Pro, the heaviest tripod I own. Now that I’ve become a flash enthusiast, I plan to give the Canon a second chance — I’m hoping that the problem of camera shake that I experienced can be eliminated by using faster shutter speeds and hi-speed sync.

I took a few test shots using my new Fujinon lens just to be sure it works properly, tripod-mounted of course. I don’t expect to do much hand-held shooting with the new lens until the new Fujifilm hot-shoe mount flash EF-X500 for X-Series cameras is available, reported to be released sometime during May 2016.

A toy pterodactyl. EXIF: ISO 800; 360mm (540mm, 35mm equivalent); 0 ev; f/16; 1/180s.

ISO 800 | 360mm (540mm, 35mm equivalent) | 0 ev | f/16 | 1/180s

Tech Tips: Studio lighting for product photography is not as easy as one might think, as evidenced by my amateurish efforts. The first photo was taken using a Canon PowerShot G9; the scene was lighted by the G9’s built-in flash that commanded an off-camera Nissin i40 external flash in “SD” mode. The second photo was taken using a Fujifilm X-T1 and Fujinon XF18-55mm lens; the scene was lighted by a Fujifilm EF-42 in TTL mode that commanded an off-camera Nissin i40 flash in “SF” mode. Both cameras were mounted on a Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB tripod and Manfrotto 054 Magnesium Ball Head with Q2 Quick Release.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (males)

February 17, 2016

The following photo gallery features two of several Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted on 15 October 2015 at Huntley Meadows Park. Both individuals are males, as indicated by their coloration and terminal appendages.

Male 1

A Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

Both of these photos are full-frame, that is, the original images are uncropped. I love it when a plan comes together!

A Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

Male 2

The last photo is very slightly cropped in order to remove a distracting leading line. Although I could have cropped the photo in order to highlight the dragonfly, I chose to preserve the complementary colors of the tree branch bark and fallen leaves. I think the neutral grays and tans provide a nice background that makes the dragonfly’s coloration stand out.

A Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Great Spreadwing damselfly (male)

February 15, 2016

Several Great Spreadwing damselflies (Archilestes grandis) were spotted on 15 October 2015 near a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park. The following individual is a male, as indicated by its coloration, hamules, and terminal appendages.

A Great Spreadwing damselfly (Archilestes grandis) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

With handsome azurite-colored eyes accented by green and yellow racing stripes on their thorax, male Great Spreadwings are one of my favorite damselflies!

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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.


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