Archive for October, 2018

Beetlejuice

October 31, 2018

Look closely at the following photograph and ask yourself “What’s wrong with this picture?”

12 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

Did you notice the dragonfly’s head is turned upside-down? That reminds me of the movie Beetlejuice (1988). Happy Halloween!

12 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

All three photos show the same Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi), perched alongside a small stream located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his indented hind wings and terminal appendages. Notice his head is upside-up in the last two photos.

12 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

Related Resource: Cobra Clubtail head-tilts, featuring a female with her head positioned nearly upside-down. I guess the upside-down head thing is characteristic of some members of Family Gomphidae (Clubtails).

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Hotspot No. 2

October 29, 2018

The Backstory

A small population of Sable Clubtail dragonflies (Stenogomphurus rogersi) was observed along three segments of a tiny stream located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. I named the segments Hotspot No. 1, Hotspot No. 2, and “Powell’s Place.”

Hotspot No. 1 is the place where I saw my first Sable Clubtail. At least five individuals, all males, were observed by the author at this location. To date, almost all of the photos of Sable that have been published in this blog were taken at Hotspot No. 1.

Hotspot No. 2 is located upstream from Hotspot No. 1, near one of several seeps that feed the creek. This is the location where a female Sable Clubtail was spotted on 05 July 2018. As it turn out, that female was the last Sable spotted during 2018.

Powell’s Place” is located downstream from Hotspot No. 1, where the stream re-emerges from an underground concrete pipe. “Powell’s Place” is named for Mike Powell, my good friend and photowalking buddy, who spotted the first Sable observed at this segment of the stream. A related blog post will be published on Friday, 02 November 2018.

Hotspot No. 2

One or more male Sable Clubtail dragonflies were observed and photographed on 12 June 2018 at this location.

12 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

12 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

12 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

New schedule for publishing posts

October 28, 2018

Regular readers of my blog know that I publish a new post every two days. That way readers aren’t overwhelmed by the stream of information, and I’m not overwhelmed by the demands of publishing a post every day. Plus I like to follow a regular schedule.

I decided to tweak the schedule for publishing posts slightly. Beginning on Monday, 29 October 2018 blog posts will be published on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday every week.

So if you were expecting to see a new blog post today (Sunday), then please revisit my blog tomorrow (Monday) when the next scheduled post will be published at 4:00 am EST.

Peak Design Anchor Links

October 26, 2018

A set of Peak Design Anchor Links was used to connect a Godox PROPAC PB960 Lithium-Ion Flash Power Pack to the strap that shipped with the battery. The power pack fits better in one of the larger pockets on a safari vest without the strap.

I can never remember how to thread photo gear straps safely and securely, so I loosened the strap on one side of the battery to see how it was done.

Parts, before assembly.

The next photo shows one of the Anchor Links connected to the battery, and one of the Anchors connected to the end of the strap.

Anchor Link component parts connected to battery and strap.

The last photo shows the Anchor Link, well, anchored to the Anchor.

Anchor Link component parts connected.

Added flexibility using Anchor Links

The strap for the Godox battery pack can be repurposed as a replacement for the strap on my Panasonic Lumix superzoom bridge camera; the old strap is frayed at the point where it’s connected to the camera and is cause for concern.

Each set of Anchor Links ships with four (4) Anchor Links and two (2) Anchors, so I connected the other two Anchor Links (not shown in the preceding photos) to my Panasonic camera. Now it’s quick and easy to use one strap for two pieces of photo gear!

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Do-over

October 24, 2018

The Backstory

An Ashy Clubtail dragonfly (Phanogomphus lividusnymph was collected by Bob Perkins. (The date and location where the specimen was collected are unknown.) The nymph was reared in captivity until it emerged on 21 March 2017 and metamorphosed into an adult female. This specimen is the exuvia from the nymph. P. lividus is a member of the Family Gomphidae (Clubtails).

A focus-stacked composite image was created from 39 photos focused on the face and head of the exuvia. I had relatively little experience using Adobe Photoshop to make focus stacks when I created the first iterations of the Ashy Clubtail composite image. I was never satisfied completely with the final output, so I decided to do a do-over.

After…

The updated version of the composite image was created using my “Latest focus stacking workflow.”

Before…

The version that I published in late-March 2018 was created using the RAW photos (CR2) from my Canon digital camera, without any post-processing. I tried to adjust the white balance and color palette of the resulting composite image, but was unable to get the “look” I wanted. The image is probably over-sharpened too.

Which version do you prefer?

I know the version I like more. Which do you prefer, After or Before?

Tech Tips

The preceding images are composites of 39 photos taken using the following equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens (manual focus only, set for 3x magnification); and 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 focus stack the photos and post-process the final output.

According to the “Focus Stacking Step Size Calculator” embedded in the “Focus Stacking” Web page, the “safe step size” is 0.213 mm for an aperture of f/11 at 3x magnification using a full-frame DSLR. That’s right, 0.213 mm! The safe step size is the incremental distance at which the in-focus areas of two photos overlap. The ruler on the inexpensive focus rail that I use is marked in millimeters only, so I attempted to move the focus rail in tiny increments in two passes: one pass moving from front-to-back; and a second pass from back-to-front.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Field marks for identification of S. rogersi

October 22, 2018

The following annotated images illustrate field marks that can be used for identification of Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi). Although there is some redundancy among the images, repetition is a good strategy for learning.

Male

Male Sable Clubtails have eyes that are green to turquoise in color, with a black occiput located between the eyes. They have a thin, black abdomen that flares to a small club featuring thin yellow flanges on abdominal segments seven through nine (S7-9).

The abdomen is marked with small pale dorsal triangles (S3-7) and tiny pale lateral spots. The number of dorsal triangles can vary individually and/or geographically, ranging from S3-5 to S3-7.

08 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

Dennis Paulson, originator of the classification system for thoracic stripes in the Family Gomphidae (Clubtails), describes T1-4 as follows.

T1–2 broad and complete, touching at ends and often with stripe between them restricted and topped with spot; T3–4 fine, T3 incomplete. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 6089-6093). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Note: T1-4 refers to the dark areas located on the sides of the thorax, not the lighter colored lines and spots. Due to space limitations, thoracic stripes are labeled using a numeral only (e.g., “1”) rather than a letter and numeral (e.g., “T1”).

08 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

Their face is pale, marked with variable black crosslines (as shown in the inset photo, below).

08 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

Male Sable Clubtails, like all male dragonflies, have three terminal appendages, collectively called “claspers.” All male clubtail dragonflies have indented hind wings.

Female

Female Sable Clubtails have a noticeably thicker abdomen than males. The occiput is a pale color, rather than black. Dorsal triangles, located on abdominal segments three through seven (S3-7), are much larger than those found on males. The lateral spots are somewhat larger as well.

05 JUL 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (female)

Female Sable Clubtails, like all female dragonflies, have a pair of cerci (superior appendages) that have little or no function. All female clubtail dragonflies have rounded hind wings.

Related Resource: Stenogomphurus rogersi exuvia.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Please help me fix a flawed favorite photo.

October 20, 2018

The following photo is one of my favorites from a set of 101 photos of Sable Clubtail dragonflies (Stenogomphurus rogersii) that I shot on 08 June 2018. Problem is, the photo is flawed by “hot spots” on some of the vegetation shown in the picture — those brighter areas in the photo tend to distract the viewer’s eyes from the subject.

I’m not sure what caused the hot spots. The vegetation was still wet from a rain event the night before. Perhaps the brighter areas were caused by the interaction of water on the plants with both ambient sunlight and the light from an external flash unit mounted on my camera.

08 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

I am convinced it should be possible to use the photo-editing tools in Adobe Lightroom and/or Adobe Photoshop/Camera Raw to fix the hot spots. Easier said than done. Every time I have attempted to “get ‘er done,” the work session ended quickly with me feeling like my head was going to explode!

Generally speaking, I’m opposed to “Photoshopping” wildlife photos. In this case, the edits I’d like to make won’t affect the subject so I’m OK with tweaking the photo to improve upon nature.

I have watched several video tutorials on YouTube that suggest the repair process should be relatively simple and straightforward. What am I missing? PLEASE HELP ME! Step-by-step directions would be ideal. Alternatively, a pointer to a good “how to” video would be welcome.

The Backstory

I was sitting on my Coleman camp stool, looking down into a shallow stream channel where I spotted my first Sable Clubtail dragonfly earlier the same day. The dragonfly landed on vegetation near the top of the channel, perched almost vertically with the tip of his abdomen pointed toward the creek. The unusual position provided a good view view of the dragonfly’s face.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Lunch

October 18, 2018

A Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi) was spotted perched alongside a small stream located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a male, as indicated by his indented hind wings and terminal appendages. Notice the dragonfly is eating another insect. I called the meal lunch, since the photograph was taken at approximately 12:30 p.m.

12 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Deep dive into the archives

October 16, 2018

I took a deep dive into the archives of my Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi) photographs and found some buried treasure!

The photographs in this gallery were lost in the excitement of my rediscovery of Sable Clubtail in Fairfax County, Virginia USA, when I rushed to select and publish a few representative photos from the set taken on 08 June 2018.

08 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

08 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

08 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

08 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

08 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

08 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

As you can see, Sable Clubtail perches on the ground sometimes, similar to other species of clubtail dragonflies.

08 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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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