Archive for July, 2017

Summertime is skimmer time

July 31, 2017

Refer to the Dragonflies of Northern Virginia Calendar of Flight Periods by Kevin Munroe, former manager at Huntley Meadows Park. Notice the flight period for most Skimmers (Family Libellulidae) is centered on June, July, and August. Since meteorological summer is defined as June, July, and August, summertime is skimmer time.

A female Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula incesta) was spotted during a photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA, as indicated by her mostly black femora, brown face, and terminal appendages.

Female Slaty Skimmers have a pair of flanges beneath their eighth abdominal segment (S8) that are used to scoop water when laying eggs (oviposition), hence the family name “Skimmer.”

Female Slaty Skimmer dragonflies and female Great Blue Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula vibrans) look similar. The following blog post provides guidance regarding key field markers that can be used to differentiate the two species: Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (young female).

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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BlackRapid Duo makeover

July 29, 2017

Years ago, I used to photowalk the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park frequently. I knew almost all of the “regular” visitors by sight if not by name. I noticed a man who wore a camera strap designed for two cameras. One day I introduced myself to Ilya Treger and we talked about his two-camera rig. Soon afterward, I ordered a “BlackRapid RS DR-1 Double Strap” from B&H Photo.

After limited field-testing in early 2015, I never used the strap again until recently. BlackRapid camera straps connect to a tripod socket, either on the body of your camera or “foot” of a lens. I knew that when I bought the Double Strap but didn’t realize how annoying it can be to switch a camera from the strap to either a monopod or tripod and vice-versa.

That was then and this is now. I discovered BlackRapid makes an accessory called “FastenR Tripod (FR-T1)” that enables one to connect a Manfrotto 200PL-14 Plate directly to the camera strap. Now that’s what I call a game-changer!

Parts and pieces

The first annotated photograph shows my Sunpak 6700M aluminum monopod plus a Vanguard SBH-100 Ball Head. Three plates are displayed on a microfiber cloth (clockwise from the upper-left): Vanguard QS-39 Quick Release PlateManfrotto 323 RC2 System Quick Release Adapter with 200PL-14 Plate; and Manfrotto 200PL-14 Plate with BlackRapid FastenR Tripod (FR-T1) installed.

Sunpak monopod plus Vanguard ball head and Manfrotto adapter.

The last annotated photo shows ball heads and plates manufactured by Manfrotto and Vanguard. I prefer to use the Vanguard ball head with my monopod since it is smaller and lighter than the Manfrotto ball head.

Ball heads and plates manufactured by Manfrotto and Vanguard.

Some assembly required

The preceding photograph shows a Manfrotto 323 RC2 System Quick Release Adapter that is mounted on a Vanguard QS-39 Quick Release Plate; that assembly is used with a Vanguard SBH-100 Ball Head. A Manfrotto 200PL-14 Plate, with a BlackRapid FastenR (FR-T1) installed, can be connected to the Vanguard ball head equipped with a Manfrotto adapter. The same modified Manfrotto plate works with my Manfrotto 054 Magnesium Ball Head without using the adapter.

Related Resources

Editor’s Note

Product photography isn’t as easy as one might think, as you can tell by my less-than-professional looking photos featured in this post! Although I have equipment on-hand for lighting studio shots properly, in this case I thought quick-and-dirty would be good enough to convey my point.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

American Rubyspot damselfly (female)

July 27, 2017

An American Rubyspot damselfly (Hetaerina americana) was spotted during a photowalk along Bull Run in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. As far as I know, this is the first official record for American Rubyspot at this location.

This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages and ovipositor.

21 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | American Rubyspot (female)

Notice one of the damselfly’s wings is either malformed or injured. She was able to fly, although it seemed to be a struggle.

The Backstory

The damselfly landed on my thigh a few minutes before the preceding photograph was taken. It was like she was pleading with me to help her, although I admit I tend to project my thoughts onto the odonates I photograph. I would have tried to unfold her wing, but I never had an opportunity. Two teenage girls and a bear-sized dog startled me! (I never heard/saw them approaching. The girls told me their dog is a Long Hair German Shepherd.) When I flinched the damselfly flew to the perch shown above, just beyond my reach.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Halloween Pennant (young male)

July 25, 2017

Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) was spotted during a photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (OBNWR), Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a young male, as indicated by his yellowish-orange coloration, hamules, and terminal appendages.

Both photos in this gallery show the dragonfly perching at the top of Eastern gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides). Eastern gamagrass grows to a height of five- to six feet.

Look at the full-size version of the preceding photo. With its jaw open, the head of this pennant reminds me of the skull on a Jolly Roger flag. Argh, matey!

The last photo is my favorite in the set. The clarity, color palette and composition are perfect, he said not too modestly.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Sanddragon (male)

July 23, 2017

A Common Sanddragon dragonfly (Progomphus obscurus) was spotted along Dogue Creek at Wickford Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages and “indented” hind wings.

Some people imagine the yellow markings along the abdomen look like small burning candles.

All of the photographs in this set are uncropped. Knee-high rubber boots enabled me to photowalk some segments the stream, allowing me to get close to the subject.

This guy was a cooperative model; he allowed me to photograph him from many viewpoints.

The water level was relatively high after recent heavy rainfall. As a result, there were fewer sandy “beaches” than usual along the stream. I speculate the dragonfly may have been more cooperative because he wasn’t going to abandon one of only a few available preferred places to perch.

It’s possible the right front leg (facing forward) is either malformed or injured. Although the male flew several short patrols, landing in different places, the leg was never fully extended.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Eastern Ringtail dragonfly (female)

July 21, 2017

An Eastern Ringtail dragonfly (Erpetogomphus designatus) was spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages and rounded hind wings.

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

I saw tens of male Eastern Ringtail, but only one female.

The preceding photograph is my favorite in the set. I like the way the neutral colors in the pavement complement the coloration of the female.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

“Big Boy”

July 19, 2017

Several Eastern Ringtail dragonflies (Erpetogomphus designatus) were spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. These individuals are male, as indicated by their terminal appendages and “indented” hind wings.

All of the photos in this set were taken using my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera, Fujinon 100-400mm telephoto zoom lens, and Fujifilm EF-X500 shoe mount flash.

I nicknamed the Fujinon 100-400mm lens “Big Boy” because it’s so big and heavy. I use a Sunpak 6700M monopod and Vanguard SBH 100 ball head to support the lens.

Zoom in on the full-size version of the preceding photo. Notice the terminal appendages are spread apart, revealing a clear look at both the cerci and hook-shaped epiproct.

Related Resource: You complete me – a blog post published on 19 February 2016 in which I shared my first impressions of the Fujinon 100-400mm telephoto zoom lens.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Eastern Ringtail dragonflies (more males)

July 17, 2017

Many Eastern Ringtail dragonflies (Erpetogomphus designatus) were spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. All of the individuals in this gallery are male, as indicated by their terminal appendages and “indented” hind wings.

Please look at the full-size version of each photo in order to appreciate the coloration of these handsome male dragonflies.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Eastern Ringtail dragonflies (males)

July 15, 2017

Tens of Eastern Ringtail dragonflies (Erpetogomphus designatus) were spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. Both individuals featured in this post are male, as indicated by their terminal appendages and “indented” hind wings.

Regular readers of my photoblog know I’m fond of head-tilts in which the dragonfly seems to display some of its personality, especially when the individual is looking at me. Like the male featured in the following photo — one of my all-time favorites!

In my opinion, the unique coloration of Erpetogomphus designatus rivals Genus Ophiogomphus (Snaketails). There, I said it!

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Mocha Emerald dragonfly claspers

July 13, 2017

Mocha Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora linearis) was spotted along a small creek at a remote location in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park. This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages and hamules.

All male dragonflies have three terminal appendages, collectively called “claspers,” that are used to grab and hold female dragonflies during mating: an upper pair of cerci (“superior appendages”) and a lower unpaired epiproct (“inferior appendage”).

09 JUL 2017 | Huntley Meadows Park | Mocha Emerald (male)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

09 JUL 2017 | Huntley Meadows Park | Mocha Emerald (male)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Male dragonfly secondary genitalia, called hamules, are located below abdominal segments two and three (S2 and S3), as shown in the following annotated image. Hamules come in a variety of sizes and shapes, but their function is identical for all species of odonates.

hamules: paired structures that project from genital pocket under second segment and hold female abdomen in place during copulation Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 11618-116198). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

09 JUL 2017 | Huntley Meadows Park | Mocha Emerald (male)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Related Resource: Mocha Emerald terminal appendages (female).

Technique Hint: Did you notice that the “focus” of each photo (not to be confused with the focus point) is shown against a lighter background? That’s no accident — I composed each shot that way. As a result, the terminal appendages (cerci and epiproct) are much easier to see in the first two photos than the last shot, in which the composition highlights the hamules.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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