Archive for November, 2018

Test shots: Tachopteryx thoreyi exuviae

November 30, 2018

Two Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) exuviae were collected on 23 May 2018 by Walter Sanford near a forest seep at an undisclosed location in Northern Virginia USA. Gray Petaltail is a member of the Family Petaluridae (Petaltails).

Although both specimens are similar, they aren’t identical. For example, twin rows of hook-like structures are clearly visible on the dorsal side of the abdomen on the lower exuvia, and almost invisible on the upper exuvia. The upper exuvia is dirtier and appears to be more “worn” than the lower one. Notice the “schmutz” on the face of the lower exuvia, probably a piece of leaf litter.

Both individuals might be male, as indicated by vestigial hamules that appear to be visible on the ventral side of the specimens.

Test shots of the specimens were taken using a relatively small aperture of f/16 for greater depth of field. Each photo is a “one-off,” that is, not a composite image. Focus stacks will be created sometime in the near future, after the exuviae are rehydrated, cleaned, and posed for better composition.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot both of the preceding photographs: 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); and Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite set for “Master” mode, and several external flashes set for “Slave” mode including Canon 580 EX- and Canon 580EX II Speedlites and a Godox TT685C Thinklite TTL Flash fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to spot-heal and sharpen both images.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Fiery fall fellow

November 28, 2018

An Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) was spotted during a photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a male, as indicated by his fiery red coloration and terminal appendages.

Editor’s Notes

Did you notice the date when the preceding photo was taken? Yep, it was two years ago! I was poking around in my photo archives looking for another photo when I stumbled across this one. I like the warm red color of the dragonfly and the timing seemed right on a cold late-fall day.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Walking tour of CAHH parks

November 26, 2018

Hollin Hills is a development in Fairfax County, Virginia, about 10 miles outside of Washington, D.C. It has about 450 houses. It was designed by Charles Goodman and developed by Robert Davenport.” Source Credit: “Hollin Hills” website (no longer online).

The Civic Association of Hollin Hills (CAHH) owns and maintains seven small parks in the community: the Wildlife Sanctuary; Sutton Potter Park; Brickelmaier Park; Charles Goodman Park; Paul Spring Park; “Mac” McCalley Park; and Voigt Memorial Park.

All of the parks are located along streams except Sutton Potter Park and McCalley Park. The Wildlife Refuge/Sanctuary extends from Woodlawn Trail to the dogleg in the road at Boswell Avenue and Delafield Place. Two parks straddle creeks that are tributaries of Paul Spring, a stream that runs along Paul Spring Road: Brickelmaier Park runs from Popkins Lane to Paul Spring Road; Goodman Park runs from Marthas Road to Paul Spring Road. Paul Spring Park runs along Paul Spring from the intersection of Rebecca Drive and Paul Spring Road to the intersection of Rippon Road and Paul Spring Road, directly across the street from McCalley Park and Voigt Park. The upstream end of Paul Spring Park is near White Oaks Park, a mid-size park maintained by Fairfax County Park Authority.

Sutton Potter Park was featured in an article that appeared in Washingtonian Magazine, “Best of 2004: Sledding Hills.” I shot two photos from a viewpoint about halfway up the long hill: one looking downhill; another looking uphill. Trust me, neither photo provides a sense of the true steepness of the hillslope — a sled ride downhill could be either extremely exhilarating or very terrifying! The park entrance is located at the 7400 block of Range Road; another entrance is located behind the townhouses along Windbreak Drive.

The Wildlife Sanctuary is (or was) a good place to look for Mocha Emerald dragonflies (Somatochlora linearis). Peak activity was observed during July. A segment of Paul Spring, a stream located in Paul Spring Park, is (or was) good for Needham’s Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula needhami); the entire length of the stream is good for damselflies, including Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata) and Variable Dancer (Argia fumipennis)/Violet Dancer (Argia fumipennis violacea).

The Backstory

During Fall 2010, I used my Apple iPhone 3G and an app called “EveryTrail” to create an interactive map showing the location of the entrances to the CAHH parks. At some point, I noticed the hyperlink to the interactive map stopped working.

As it turns out, ownership of “EveryTrail” transferred to “TripAdvisor” in 2011; EveryTrail was acquired by “AllTrails” in 2016.

All of the interactive trail maps that I created eight years ago survived two ownership transfers, much to my surprise! Some of the interactivity of the original maps was lost in translation, but hey, all is not lost. “Walking Tour of CAHH Parks” is the current iteration of the interactive map, available from AllTrails. See also “Walking Tour of Huntley Meadows Park (Ver. 2).”

Tech Tips

The “EveryTrail” app was used to record a GPX file that traces the route I walked.

Photos were shot at selected waypoints. All photos featured in both interactive trail maps were taken using the built-in camera of my Apple iPhone 3G; the photos were geotagged automatically by the iPhone’s GPS receiver.

Test shots: Stylurus sp. exuvia

November 23, 2018

Joe Johnston is an avid boater and sport fisherman who kindly agreed to be my “Eyes on the Aquia,” always on the lookout for odonate exuvia to share with me. On 18 July 2018, Joe collected an especially interesting specimen from Aquia Creek in Stafford County, Virginia USA.

Abdominal segment nine (S9) is elongated, strongly suggesting this individual is a member of the genus Stylurus (Hanging Clubtails).

Stylurus sp. | exuvia (dorsal)

Did you notice the spider carcass that photobombed my test shots of the exuvia? Look for the spider along the upper-edge of the thorax in the dorsal view; lower-edge in the ventral view.

Stylurus sp. | exuvia (ventral)

This individual might be Laura’s Clubtail (Stylurus laurae). Laura’s Clubtail is within range of Stafford County, although it is unknown to occur there. S. laurae would be a new species for the Dragonfly Society of the Americas Odonata Central species checklist for Stafford County, Virginia USA.

According to records for the Commonwealth of Virginia maintained by Dr. Steve Roble, Staff Zoologist at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, the adult flight period for Laura’s Clubtail is 20 June to 26 September. The species is rare to uncommon. Its habitat is streams and rivers.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot both of the macro photographs featured in this post: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube; and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens plus lens hood. The camera was set for both manual exposure and manual focus. That’s right, a switch on the camera body is used to set the type of focus. It’s a Fujifilm thing. Actually, back-button focus was used to autofocus the image and adjusted manually as necessary. That’s also a Fujifilm thing. Camera settings: focal length 80mm (120mm, 35mm equivalent); f/16; 1/500s.

Godox XProF radio flash trigger, mounted on the hotshoe of my X-T1, was used to control a pair of off-camera Godox TT685 Thinklite TTL Flashes (TT685F and TT685C) set for radio slave mode. Each flash was fitted with a snap-on plastic diffuser.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to spot-heal and sharpen both images.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Test shots: Stylurus plagiatus exuvia

November 21, 2018

A Russet-tipped Clubtail (Stylurus plagiatus) exuvia was collected by Joe and Loren Johnston on 20 June 2018 from Aquia Creek in Stafford County, Virginia USA.

Notice that abdominal segment nine (S9) is elongated, strongly suggesting this individual is a member of the genus Stylurus. The large dorsal hook of abdominal segment nine (S9) that overhangs segment 10 (S10) is a key marker for southern specimens of plagiatus.

The “working distance” for the 11mm Fujifilm extension tube/Fujinon 80mm macro lens combo, that is, the distance from the front of the lens barrel to the subject, is long enough to be able to use the lens hood.

Hotspots from external flash units, technically known as specular highlights, are more noticeable sometimes when the flash heads are closer to the subject. It appears the lens hood may have reduced that problem; more experimentation is required to be sure.

Related Resource: Stylurus plagiatus exuvia, a photo-illustrated identification guide.

The Backstory

Joe Johnston is an avid boater and sport fisherman. On 20 June 2018, Joe and his brother Loren were fishing together on Aquia Creek in Stafford County, Virginia USA.

Fish require food and shelter. Sometimes fish shelter near trees that have fallen into water, or the wooden pilings of boat docks. Joe and Loren were casting artificial fishing lures toward one of several docks that extend far into Aquia Creek, when Loren’s lure snagged on one of the pilings. When Joe moved his boat alongside the piling in order to retrieve the fishing lure, Loren noticed an odonate exuvia on the side of the piling. Joe and Loren kindly collected several exuviae, including this one, and shared them with me. Thanks, gentlemen!

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot both of the macro photographs featured in this post: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube; and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens plus lens hood. The camera was set for both manual exposure and manual focus. That’s right, a switch on the camera body is used to set the type of focus. It’s a Fujifilm thing. Actually, back-button focus was used to autofocus the image and adjusted manually as necessary. That’s also a Fujifilm thing. Camera settings: focal length 80mm (120mm, 35mm equivalent); f/16; 1/500s.

Godox XProF radio flash trigger, mounted on the hotshoe of my X-T1, was used to control a pair of off-camera Godox TT685 Thinklite TTL Flashes (TT685F and TT685C) set for radio slave mode. Each flash was fitted with a snap-on plastic diffuser.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to spot-heal and sharpen both images.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Test shots: Pachydiplax longipennis exuvia

November 19, 2018

A Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) exuvia was received from Andy Davidson, a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Test shots of the specimen were taken using a relatively small aperture of f/20 for greater depth of field. Each photo is a “one-off,” that is, not a composite image. Focus stacks will be created sometime in the near future, after the exuvia is rehydrated and posed for better composition.

Extremely shallow depth-of-field is a common problem in macro photography. Depth-of-field increases as aperture decreases — in other words, they are inversely related. In this case, an aperture of f/20 was insufficient for the entire subject to be acceptably in focus so it will be necessary to create some focus stacks.

Also notice the background of the second photo looks darker and bluer than the first one. That was caused by the fact that the subject was farther from the front of the lens. There are work-arounds for this lighting problem, but hey, like the title of this blog post says these are “test shots.”

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot both of the macro photographs featured in this post: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube; and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens. The camera was set for both manual exposure and manual focus. That’s right, a switch on the camera body is used to set the type of focus. It’s a Fujifilm thing. Actually, back-button focus was used to autofocus the image and adjusted manually as necessary. That’s also a Fujifilm thing.

Godox XProF radio flash trigger, mounted on the hotshoe of my X-T1, was used to control a pair of off-camera Godox TT685 Thinklite TTL Flashes (TT685F and TT685C) set for radio slave mode. Each flash was fitted with a snap-on plastic diffuser.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to spot-heal and sharpen both images.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Test shots: Erythemis simplicicollis exuvia

November 16, 2018

An Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) exuvia was received from Andy Davidson, a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University.

This individual is a male, as indicated by the vestigial hamules visible on the ventral side of the exuvia, abdominal segments two and three (S2-S3).

Food for Thought

This exuvia is one of three “cast skins” from odonate nymphs that were collected in the field and reared in the laboratory as part of a research project entitled “Predator-Prey Interactions in a Changing World.” Since all three nymphs were collected from the James River rock pools, I assume they lived in essentially the same habitat. I wonder why the E. simplicollis exuvia is so much darker in color than either the P. flavescens or P. longipennis exuviae.

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot both of the macro photographs featured in this post: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube; and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens. The camera was set for both manual exposure and manual focus. That’s right, a switch on the camera body is used to set the type of focus. It’s a Fujifilm thing. Actually, back-button focus was used to autofocus the image and adjusted manually as necessary. That’s also a Fujifilm thing.

Godox XProF radio flash trigger, mounted on the hotshoe of my X-T1, was used to control a pair of off-camera Godox TT685 Thinklite TTL Flashes (TT685F and TT685C) set for radio slave mode. Each flash was fitted with a snap-on plastic diffuser.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to spot-heal and sharpen both images.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Test shots: Pantala flavescens exuvia

November 14, 2018

A Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens) odonate exuvia was received from Andy Davidson, a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia USA. Sincere thanks to Andy for sharing this beautiful specimen!

The exuvia is a “cast skin” from a nymph that was collected in the field and reared in the laboratory as part of a research project entitled “Predator-Prey Interactions in a Changing World.”

Test shots of the specimen were taken using a relatively small aperture of f/16 for greater depth of field. Each photo is a “one-off,” that is, not a composite image. Focus stacks will be created sometime in the near future, after the exuvia is rehydrated and posed for better composition.

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot both of the macro photographs featured in this post: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube; and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens. The camera was set for both manual exposure and manual focus. That’s right, a switch on the camera body is used to set the type of focus. It’s a Fujifilm thing. Actually, back-button focus was used to autofocus the image and adjusted manually as necessary. That’s also a Fujifilm thing. For details, see “More Tech Tips” (below).

Godox XProF radio flash trigger, mounted on the hotshoe of my X-T1, was used to control a pair of off-camera Godox TT685 Thinklite TTL Flashes (TT685F and TT685C) set for radio slave mode. Each flash was fitted with a snap-on plastic diffuser.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to spot-heal and sharpen both images.

More Tech Tips

Focus peaking can be activated when the camera is set for manual focus mode. Using back-button focus (AF-L button) in manual mode enables one to retain full control of the exposure triangle, focus quickly, and see what’s in focus before shooting a photograph. Fuji Back Button Focus (4:06), a YouTube video by Ashraf Jandali, provides a clear demonstration of how to use back-button focus on the Fujifilm X-T1.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Godox TT685C Thinklite TTL Flash

November 12, 2018

I bought a Godox TT685C Thinklite TTL Flash from Roberts Camera recently. I placed the order around midday on Friday, 02 November 2018 and the parcel was delivered on Monday, 05 November. Impressive!

The Backstory

Godox flash photography gear, published on 09 October 2019, features my initial review of a Godox TT685F Thinklite TTL Flash that I bought from B&H Photo. In short, the flash doesn’t work as advertised by both Godox and B&H Photo, and B&H has failed repeatedly to “make it right.” (More about that in a follow-up blog post.)

Given my negative experience with the TT685F flash, regular readers of my blog might be wondering “Why would you buy another Godox flash from B&H Photo?” More about the first part of that question in a minute. As I already mentioned, I DIDN’T buy the new Godox TT685C flash from B&H Photo. Read between the lines.

Testing 1, 2, 3…

I have been testing the new TT685C flash since the day after it was received. Here’s what I know so far: In a nutshell, the flash works as advertised.

The Canon-compatible version of the Godox TT685 functions in five modes: a non-wireless, stand-alone mode (TTL, Manual, and Multi); and four wireless modes (optical master/slave modes, and radio master/slave modes). The Godox TT685C can do almost everything the comparable Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT does at a price point approximately six times less than Canon’s MSRP of $579.99.

All of that being said, there is one problem with the Godox TT685C and it’s a big problem in my opinion. More about this in a follow-up blog post.

A Canon-compatible flash that works like one made for Fujifilm

For my money, what makes the Godox TT685 product line of flashes special is they are cross-compatible. In other words, flashes made for different camera manufacturers (e.g., Canon, Nikon, Olympus/Panasonic, and Sony) can work together.

The following photo shows the LCD of my new Godox TT685C flash. The flash is set for radio slave mode (Channel 1, Group A). Notice the word “FUJI” in the lower-left corner of the display that indicates the Canon-compatible flash is working like a Fujifilm-compatible flash.

In this case, the flash was controlled by a Godox XProF radio flash trigger mounted on the hotshoe of my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera. A Godox TT685F external flash, fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier, was located off-camera; the TT685F was used to light the photo, shown below. Also notice the icon that indicates the flash is functioning in HSS mode; the HSS icon is located below 24mm (manual zoom) and the audio speaker icon (indicating sound is on).

Godox TT685C external flash LCD panel display (Slave mode).

Results from hands-on testing (so far, so good)

  • Off-camera radio slave mode works, including TTL and HSS, when the Godox TT685C is controlled by a Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite set for radio master.
  • Either Godox XProF or TT685F mounted on Fujifilm X-T1 hotshoe: Camera-mounted flash is Channel M; off-camera TT-685C (set for radio slave) is Channel A. Works as expected, including TTL and HSS.
  • Godox TT685C mounted on Fujifilm X-T1 hotshoe: Flash fires, Manual mode only (TTL, HSS don’t work); when the flash is set for optical master (in Manual mode), it can trigger an off-camera Nissan i40 external flash unit (set for SF Mode) confirming that optical master does in fact work.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Reminder: New schedule

November 11, 2018

Effective 29 October 2018, blog posts will be published on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday every week.

Please revisit my blog on Monday, 12 November 2018 when the next scheduled post will be published at 4:00 am EST.


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