Archive for December, 2017

New discoveries in 2017 (non-odonates)

December 30, 2017

I’m an equal opportunity photographer. Although I tend to focus on photographing odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) I will photograph anything interesting that catches my eye. This retrospective features non-odonate new finds for 2017.

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)

05 APR 2017 | The Beacon of Groveton | House Finch (male)

A House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) was spotted in the parking garage at the Beacon of Groveton, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

Eastern Hog-nosed Snake (Heterodon platirhinos)

An Eastern Hog-nosed Snake (Heterodon platirhinos) was spotted at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park (HORP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Mayfly (Hexagenia sp.)

A mayfly (Hexagenia sp.) was spotted at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female subimago.

Northern Red-bellied Cooter (Pseudemys rubriventris)

A male Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) was spotted perching on the nose of a Northern Red-bellied Cooter (Pseudemys rubriventris), at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Blister beetle (Meloe sp.)

A blister beetle (Meloe sp.) was spotted at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

Wild Turkey feathers (Meleagris gallopavo)

A tail feather from a Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) was photographed in situ along Easy Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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New discoveries in 2017 (odonates)

December 28, 2017

There’s always more to discover/learn! My odonate-related new discoveries in 2017 are presented in reverse-chronological order.

Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly

A Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora filosa) was spotted at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is one of several males spotted during a period of a week-or-so in mid-September 2017.

Immature male Calico Pennant

20 JUN 2017 | OBNWR | Calico Pennant (immature male)

A Calico Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa) was spotted at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is an immature male. Notice its coloration is similar to female Calico Pennants.

Allegheny River Cruiser dragonfly

An Allegheny River Cruiser (Macromia alleghaniensis) was netted by Mike Blust at Hardware River Wildlife Management Area, Fluvanna County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

Harpoon Clubtail dragonfly

09 JUN 2017 | Highland County, VA | Harpoon Clubtail (male)

A Harpoon Clubtail dragonfly (Phanogomphus descriptus) was spotted at “Straight Fork,” Highland County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male. Sincere thanks to fellow Virginians Karen Kearney and Mike Boatwright for guiding me to this unique high-elevation habitat.

It’s worth noting that I saw two more new species during the same trip: Riffle Snaketail (Ophiogomphus carolus); and Dot-tailed Whiteface (Leucorrhinia intacta).

Those who know me well are familiar with one of many “Walterisms”: “I haven’t ‘seen’ something until I have photographed it.” My rationale is two-fold: 1) A photograph verifies a sighting. 2) The detail visible in a good photograph exceeds the acuity of the human eye. Suffice it to say I saw two other species but haven’t seen them. Makes sense to me!

Swift River Cruiser dragonfly

A Swift River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia illinoiensis) was spotted at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an emergent/teneral female.

Spine-crowned Clubtail dragonfly

A Spine-crowned Clubtail dragonfly (Hylogomphus abbreviatus) spotted along Bull Run at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male. A female was spotted on the same day at a nearby location.

Epitheca cynosura exuvia

A Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura) exuvia was collected at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

Epitheca princeps exuvia

05 MAR 2017 | Prince Baskettail (Epitheca princeps) | exuvia (face-head)

A Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps) exuvia was collected from an unknown location. This specimen was on temporary loan from Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

What is it?

December 26, 2017

Well, what is it? It’s obviously a dragonfly. The real question is what is shown in the following photograph?

If you think you know what it is, then please leave a comment. The answer will be provided in a follow-up comment.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2017

“Crystal,” the crystal dragonfly Christmas tree ornament, wishes you Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Now it’s time for Crystal to fly back to her perch on a nearby pine tree.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Macro flash for Fujinon 80mm macro lens

December 22, 2017

The following photograph shows a Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite mounted on a Fujinon XF80mm macro lensFujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube, and Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.

Two adapter rings are used for mounting the macro flash unit on the macro lens: a Sensei PRO 62-67mm step-up ring (upper-left); and Canon Macrolite Adapter 67C (lower-right).

The filter size for the Fujinon 80mm macro lens is 62mm. A 62-67mm step-up ring is used to connect the macro lens with the Canon Macrolite Adapter 67C, so named because it works with “most 67mm filter size lenses.” In this case, it works perfectly with the Fujinon 80mm macro lens.

Like every other Canon external flash that I own, the new macro flash is compatible with my Fuijifilm X-T1 digital camera. TTL is incompatible, so it’s manual mode flash only with the X-T1. That’s not a problem since I prefer manual exposure for macro photography. Although high-speed sync is supported by the Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite, it’s incompatible with the Fujifilm X-T1.

Related Resources

The filter size for the Fujinon XF55-200mm lens is 62mm. Therefore the same combination of adapter rings described above can be used to mount the Canon macro flash on the 55-200mm lens. The lens, in combination with one or more extension tubes, can be used for macro photography. The most magnification results at 200mm; the least magnification at 55mm.

The Canon Macrolite Adapter 58C can be used to mount the Canon macro flash on the Fujinon XF18-55mm “kit” lens (58mm filter size). The Macrolite Adapter 58C cannot be seen in the following photo, but it’s there. This lens, in combination with one or more extension tubes, can be used for macro photography although in my experience the 55-200mm lens is a better choice for that purpose.

Canon MT-26EX-RT adapter mounted on Fujinon XF 18-55mm lens.

The front of the Canon MT-26EX-RT adapter has a filter size of 58mm. The next photo shows a Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter mounted on the MT-26EX-RT adapter using two adapter rings: a Sensei 58-52mm step-down ring; and a Sensei 52-43mm step-down ring. The same combination of adapter rings can be used to mount the Raynox close-up filter on any lens to which the MT-26EX-RT adapter is mounted.

Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter and Canon MT-26EX-RT adapter.

Most of the time I carry the Raynox close-up filter connected to the Sensei 52-43mm step-down ring because it fits a couple of lenses that I own with a 52mm filter size, such as the fixed lens on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom camera (my go-to camera kit for photowalking).

MT-24EX versus MT-26EX-RT

The Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite is the successor to the Canon Macro Twin Lite MT-24EX. The MT-24EX supports E-TTL with Canon DSLRs; it doesn’t support high-speed sync. The MT-24EX is $160 less expensive than the newer MT-26EX-RT (MSRP $829.99 versus $989.99). Both models are compatible with the Canon Macrolite Adapter 67C and Canon Macrolite Adapter 58C.

As the owner a Canon DSLR, I could rationalize the higher cost for the newer model because I like to shoot Shutter Priority using shutter speeds faster than the default sync speed of my camera. If you need a macro flash for Fujifilm digital cameras only, then you may want to consider buying the less expensive model.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Light-modifier

December 20, 2017

Here’s a light-modifier for external flash units like the Fujifilm EF-X500, shown below. It’s simple, and works surprisingly well.

Simple light-modifier mounted on a Fujifilm EF-X500 external flash.

Mount a translucent white plastic foam bag on the flash head, secure it using a rubber band, and voila! In this case, I repurposed a foam bag that came with my Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter.

Thanks to Alan Pezzulich for sharing the idea for this clever light-modifier with me during a walk-and-talk about some of his techniques for field macro photography.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Gear talk

December 18, 2017

The following photograph shows my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera, Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube, and new Fujinon XF80mm macro lens. The latter will be the subject of another blog post after I have an opportunity to use the lens for more than a few test shots. For now let me just share my first impression: It’s the sharpest lens I own, and as an owner of several Canon “L” series lenses, that’s saying a lot!

This post is a quick review of the Neewer “L” bracket and Desmond DAC-X1 adaptor.

Neewer “L” bracket and Desmond DAC-X1 adapter.

The primary advantage of using an “L” bracket is to be able to switch from landscape view to portrait view quickly. Many cameras, if not most, feature a tripod mounting screw that is offset from the line of sight along the barrel of the lens. That problem is solved by using an “L” bracket. And many tripod mounting plates block access to one or more camera “doors” such as the battery compartment, memory card slots, and in/out ports for USB, HDMI, etc.

The Neewer Metal Quick Shoe Plate L-Plate Bracket Hand Grip for Fuji X-T1, as its name suggests, is custom made for my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera. It’s lightweight, fits perfectly, and facilitates access to all of the camera compartments. The mounting screw can be tightened using a metal coin. (I prefer using a nickel, since it’s about the right thickness and has a smooth edge that won’t scratch your gear.)

Many “L” brackets, including the Neewer bracket, feature an Arca-Swiss style tripod mount. Since most of my tripod heads use the Manfrotto RC2 system of quick release tripod plates, I needed to find a solution that would enable me to mount an Arca-Swiss tripod plate on my RC2 plates.

After a little research on the Internet (Google is your friend), I decided to buy the Desmond DAC-X1 Skeleton Clamp. The DAC-X1 is shown in the lower-right corner of the featured photo. The DAC-X1 is mounted on a Manfrotto RC2 quick release tripod plate. It’s well-designed, lightweight, and works as advertised.

Best of all, both products are relatively inexpensive. I ordered both items from Amazon for $19.95 each, with free shipping and handling. You could pay a lot more than $40 total for similar products, but I don’t know why you would. I can’t imagine the “L” brackets made by other manufacturers are engineered so much better than the Neewer bracket that I could rationalize spending hundreds of dollars more. After admittedly limited testing, I highly recommend both products.

Credits

Thanks to several members of the Facebook Fujilove Readers Group, especially Thomas Stu, for sharing their expert advice regarding “L” brackets for the Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera. It’s easy to find “L” brackets for the X-T2, the successor to the X-T1, but I couldn’t find a bracket made specifically for my X-T1. Problem solved quickly thanks to the kindness of strangers!

Editor’s Notes

Gear talk” is a new “Tag” that I began using relatively recently. I’m not sure whether gear talk should be a “Category.” Reader feedback is welcome.

Anyway, this is the kind of blog post I had in mind when I created the new tag. It is intended for posts that are focused more on photography gear than the subjects I like to photograph. Good gear makes it easier to shoot good photographs.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Visualizing data temporally: Damselflies

December 16, 2017

Google Calendar and Dr. Steve Roble’s excellent datasets for the Commonwealth of Virginia were used to synthesize “CHECKLIST OF THE DRAGONFLIES AND DAMSELFLIES OF VIRGINIA, April 2017 update” into two calendars: Dragonflies (VA Flight Dates); and Damselflies (VA Flight Dates). Dragonflies was presented in my last blog post; Damselflies is presented in this post.

The Damselflies calendar is color-coded Birch, using the Google Calendar default color palette. Individual events on the calendar are also color-coded by family. Here’s the way Damselflies looks using the Chrome Web browser on my Apple iMac desktop computer.

And here’s the way the calendar looks using the free Google Calendar app on my Apple iPad mini 2.

Every event features the following information: common name; scientific name; early-date/late-date; abundance; and habitat.

Regrettably, the color-coding is lost when the calendar is exported as an “.ics” file. That’s the bad news. The good news is the calendar can be edited after it is imported into Google Calendar and it’s easy to edit the entries to color-code them any way you like.

“RGB” was used to color-code the three families of damselflies common to the mid-Atlantic states (USA); the equivalent colors in the Google Calendar default color palette are shown in brackets.

  • R – Family Calopterygidae (Broad-winged Damselflies) [Tomato]
  • B – Family Coenagrionidae (Narrow-winged Damselflies) [Peacock]
  • G – Family Lestidae (Spreadwings) [Basil]

The colors for Narrow-winged Damselflies and Spreadwings were flip-flopped because it just makes sense the Bluets should be color-coded blue!

Tech Tips

Download the “.ics” file from the Virginia Odonata Facebook group. Launch Google Calendar on a desktop computer. Create a new calendar by clicking on the “+” symbol to the left of “Add a friend’s calendar.” (Yeah, yeah — I realize that’s counterintuitive!) Give the calendar a name such as “Test Calendar” and click on the “Create Calendar” button. (You can change the name later.) “Test Calendar” should appear in the list of calendars under “My calendars.”

Mouse-over the name “Test Calendar” and click on the vertical column of three dots, labeled “Options for Test Calendar” then select “Settings and sharing.” In the upper-left sidebar, click on “Import and export”; select the “.ics” file to import and select “Test Calendar” from the drop-down menu labeled “Add to calendar.”

If you decide to color-code individual events like I did, click on an event then click on the pencil icon labeled “Edit event.” Select a color and click the “Save” button, then click the radio button for “All events.” Beware: You can right-click on an individual event and change its color but DON’T GO THERE! That results in an event that doesn’t occur annually using the new color you chose.

Related Resource

Dragonflies & Damselflies of Loudoun County features a flight calendar for dragonflies and damselflies.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Visualizing data temporally: Dragonflies

December 14, 2017

Regular readers of my blog know I love me some odonates, that is, dragonflies and damselflies. My interest in odonates was rekindled in 2011, along with my interest in photography. Good resources were harder to find in those days. Within the past few years, several datasets of adult flight periods became available publicly. If you are interested in seeing and photographing a particular species of dragonfly, it helps to know when (and where) to look!

In the run-up to the 2017 Dragonfly Society of the Americas Annual Meeting in Staunton, Virginia, 09-11 June 2017, Dr. Steve Roble’s excellent datasets for the Commonwealth of Virginia were posted in the Virginia Odonata Facebook group. (Click on “Files” in the upper-left sidebar.) I used Google Calendar to synthesize “CHECKLIST OF THE DRAGONFLIES AND DAMSELFLIES OF VIRGINIA, April 2017 update” into two calendars: Dragonflies (VA Flight Dates); and Damselflies (VA Flight Dates). Dragonflies is presented in this post; Damselflies will be presented in my next post.

The Google Calendar default color palettes were used to color-code both calendars: Dragonflies is Graphite; and Damselflies is Birch. Individual events on each calendar are also color-coded by family. Here’s the way Dragonflies looks using the Chrome Web browser on my Apple iMac desktop computer.

And here’s the way the calendar looks using the free Google Calendar app on my Apple iPad mini 2.

Every event features the following information: common name; scientific name; early-date/late-date; abundance; and habitat.

Regrettably, the color-coding is lost when the calendar is exported as an “.ics” file. That’s the bad news. The good news is the calendar can be edited after it is imported into Google Calendar and it’s easy to edit the entries to color-code them any way you like.

The colors of the rainbow (ROYGBIV) were used to color-code the seven families of dragonflies; the equivalent colors in the Google Calendar default color palette are shown in brackets.

  • R = Family Aeshnidae (Darners) [Tomato]
  • O = Family Cordulegastridae (Spiketails) [Tangerine]
  • G = Family Corduliidae (Emeralds) [Basil]
  • Y = Family Gomphidae (Clubtails) [Banana]
  • B = Family Libellulidae (Skimmers) [Peacock]
  • I = Family Macromiidae (Cruisers) [Blueberry]
  • V = Family Petaluridae (Petaltails) [Grape]

The colors for Emeralds and Clubtails were flip-flopped because it just makes sense the Emeralds should be color-coded green!

Lessons Learned

As I worked on the calendar, patterns began to emerge that I hadn’t noticed before. For example, it’s clear that the serious odonate hunter needs to hit the ground running as soon as early March. Remember that Dr. Roble’s dataset is for the entire state. You may not see a given species on its early-date, but it could be seen on that date and certainly can’t be seen if you don’t look!

Tech Tips

Download the “.ics” file from the Virginia Odonata Facebook group. Launch Google Calendar on a desktop computer. Create a new calendar by clicking on the “+” symbol to the left of “Add a friend’s calendar.” (Yeah, yeah — I realize that’s counterintuitive!) Give the calendar a name such as “Test Calendar” and click on the “Create Calendar” button. (You can change the name later.) “Test Calendar” should appear in the list of calendars under “My calendars.”

Mouse-over the name “Test Calendar” and click on the vertical column of three dots, labeled “Options for Test Calendar” then select “Settings and sharing.” In the upper-left sidebar, click on “Import and export”; select the “.ics” file to import and select “Test Calendar” from the drop-down menu labeled “Add to calendar.” There are 243 events in the Dragonflies calendar.

If you decide to color-code individual events like I did, click on an event then click on the pencil icon labeled “Edit event.” Select a color and click the “Save” button, then click the radio button for “All events.” Beware: You can right-click on an individual event and change its color but DON’T GO THERE! That results in an event that doesn’t occur annually using the new color you chose.

Related Resource

Kevin Munroe, former manager of Huntley Meadows Park, created an excellent calendar called Dragonflies of Northern Virginia – Flight Periods. This calendar is a valuable resource for hunting dragonflies in Northern Virginia. I think the value of Kevin Munroe’s calendar is enhanced by using it in combination with my visualization of Steve Roble’s dataset.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Milkweed seed pod

December 12, 2017

A solitary milkweed seed pod was spotted during a photowalk along Easy Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. According to Drew Chaney, a.k.a., “plantmandrew,” it is either swamp milkweed or butterfly weed, more likely the latter.

Since it was a windy day, I used a shutter speed of 1/1000s in order stop the motion of the silky seeds blowing in the wind. I also used an external flash unit and -2 ev exposure compensation for the first photo.

16 NOV 2017 | Occoquan Bay NWR | milkweed seed pod

I used the same shutter speed for the last photo, but turned off the flash and reset exposure compensation for 0 ev.

16 NOV 2017 | Occoquan Bay NWR | milkweed seed pod

Although I like both photos, this may be one of those rare times when I prefer the no-flash image. Which one do you prefer?

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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