Archive for December, 2018

Recognition in 2018

December 31, 2018

Editor’s Note: Items are presented in reverse-chronological order, based upon the date of the event.

Argia article

Michael Boatwright and I coauthored an article that appeared in the December 2018 issue of Argia, the journal of the Dragonfly Society of the Americas.

Argia 30(4), 2018 (page one of three).

Related Resource: PDF version of the entire article, pp. 14-16.


Signage

Several of my dragonfly photographs are featured on new signage at Melvin L. Newman Wetlands Center, Clayton County, Georgia. The info-graphic, entitled “Mosquito Hawks,” was created by Danielle Bunch, Senior Conservationist for Clayton County Water Authority.

Image used with permission from Danielle Bunch.

Full-size versions of my photographs (featured on the signage) appear in several previous posts on my photoblog.


Next post: Top 10 Photos of 2018.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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New Life List additions in 2018 (odonates)

December 28, 2018

The anticipation of the hunt and the thrill of discovery — the adrenalin rush from finding the target species is ever more elusive as one gains experience and expertise. Accordingly, the number of additions to my Life List is fewer year after year.

Editor’s Note: List items are presented in chronological order, based upon the date of the spotting.

Twin-spotted Spiketail

A Twin-spotted Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster maculata) was spotted at Occoquan Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

Brown Spiketail (male)

A Brown Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster bilineata) was spotted at Occoquan Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. I saw a female Brown Spiketail on 09 May 2013. This individual is one of several males that I spotted on 07 and 11 May 2018.

Gray Petaltail

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) was spotted at a forest seep. This individual is a male with a malformed abdomen that I nicknamed “Bender.”

06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

Sable Clubtail

Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi) was spotted perched near a small stream located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

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

Citrine Forktail damselfly (male)

Citrine Forktail damselfly (Ischnura hastata) was spotted during a stream-walk along South Fork Quantico Creek in Prince William Forest Park (PWFP), Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.


Next post: Recognition in 2018.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

New odonate exuviae in 2018 (by family)

December 26, 2018

2018 is the year I got serious about macro photography of odonate exuviae. I bought lots of new photography gear and spent hours learning to use it, and spent more time refining my workflow for creating focus-stacked composite images.

I am blessed to have several mentors who have patiently taught me a lot about identification of odonate exuviae, and many friends who have kindly collected and shared specimens with me. Sincere thanks to Sue and John GregoireRichard OrrMichael PowellBob PerkinsMike BoatwrightAndy Davidson, and Joe Johnston.

Dragonflies (Order Anisoptera)

Family Aeshnidae (Darners)

Boyeria vinosa exuvia (Fawn Darner)

Family Cordulegastridae (Spiketails)

Family Corduliidae (Emeralds)

Family Gomphidae (Clubtails)

Family Libellulidae (Skimmers)

Family Macromiidae (Cruisers)

Family Petaluridae (Petaltails)

Damselflies (Order Zygoptera)

Family Calopterygidae (Broad-winged Damselflies)

Related Resources: Odonate Exuviae.


Next post: New Life List additions in 2018 (odonates).

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

New discoveries in 2018 (non-odonates)

December 24, 2018

As 2018 is coming to a close quickly, it’s time to indulge in a little retrospection. This blog post features a few new non-odonates that I spotted for the first time in 2018.

Editor’s Note: Photos are presented in reverse-chronological order, based upon the date of the spotting.

Pandora Sphinx moth

This beauty was my reward after a long, mostly unproductive photowalk at Huntley Meadows ParkPosted on 24 September 2018.

20 SEP 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Pandora Sphinx moth

Wild Turkey

Although I have seen signs of Wild Turkey at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, 10 August 2018 is the first time I’ve seen actual birds at OBNWR. Posted on 19 August 2018 and 10 September 2018.

Northern Black Racer (mating pair)

Look closely — both heads are shown in the following photo. Posted on 30 September 2018.

21 APR 2018 | Huntley Meadows Park | black snakes (mating pair)


Next post: New odonate exuviae in 2018 (by family).

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

More test shots: Stylogomphus albistylus exuvia

December 21, 2018

This blog post features another focus-stacked composite image of an Eastern Least Clubtail dragonfly (Stylogomphus albistylus) exuvia from an odonate nymph that Bob Perkins collected and reared.

11 photos were used to create this focus stack. My camera is set for spot focus, meaning one-area focus for each photo. A single focus point was positioned manually somewhere on the face-head in all 11 photos.

From this viewpoint, the large, dish-shaped antennae remind me of wooden spoons (with short handles).

This is the first time I shot some photos in portrait mode using my new 3 Legged Thing QR11-LC Universal L-Bracket (Orange) mounted on my Canon 5D Mark II DSLR camera. I’m sold!

3 Legged Thing QR11-LC Universal L-Bracket (Orange).

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot all of the photographs for the focus-stacked composite image of the exuvia: 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 create the focus-stacked composite image, as well as spot-heal and sharpen the final output.

I used my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom camera and a handheld Canon 580EX Speedlite fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier to shoot the photo of my Canon 5D Mark II.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Test shots: Stylogomphus albistylus exuvia

December 19, 2018

Bob Perkins collected and reared an Eastern Least Clubtail dragonfly (Stylogomphus albistylus) nymph. This blog post features two focus-stacked composite images of the exuvia from the odonate nymph.

Nine photos were used to create the first focus stack. This small specimen features several easy-to-recognize field marks including large, dish-shaped antennae, distinctive color bands on the legs, lateral spines on abdominal segments eight and nine (S8-9), and terminal appendages tipped with a lighter color.

12 photos were used to create the last focus stack. This individual might be a male, as indicated by what appear to be vestigial hamules on the ventral side of the specimen.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot all of the photographs for the two focus-stacked composite images, shown above: 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 create the focus-stacked composite images, as well as spot-heal and sharpen the final output.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Pot o’ Emeralds

December 17, 2018

The following photo shows a plastic container of 20 Downy Emerald dragonfly (Cordulia aenea) exuviae, collected by a good friend during April 2018 in Vienna, Austria. Not a pot o’ gold at the end of a rainbow, but valuable treasure nonetheless!

Thanks to field marks shared by Benoit Guillon, I was able to quickly determine that all of the exuviae are the same species as the specimen featured in a recent blog post.

Benoit’s excellent Web pages are written in French. I used the Google Chrome Web browser to translate French to English.

The exuvia of the Tanned Cordulia is easy to recognize, provided you have good eyes or … a magnifying glass. It is indeed only to present a line, or double black line, on the thorax, clearly visible on the enlargement of the photo on the top left [see Benoit’s Web page]. She also has very large legs and we easily notice the teeth of the palps of her [face] mask in the photo above [see Benoit’s Web page]. As for his eyes, even if they are spectacular [sic?], some other odonate varieties are also strange. Source Credit: Benoit Guillon.

The key field marks — shown in the following focus-stacked composite image — include one- or two dark lines along the thorax, and a dark line between its small, pointy eyes.

Related Resource: Cordulia aenea: exuviae (1/2), by Benoit Guillon.

Tech Tips

I used my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom camera and a handheld Canon 580EX Speedlite fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier to shoot the first photo featured in this blog post.

The following equipment was used to shoot all of the photographs for the focus-stacked composite image, shown above: 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 create the focus-stacked composite image, as well as spot-heal and sharpen the final output.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

3 Legged Thing QR11-LC Universal L-Bracket

December 14, 2018

This post is a quick review of the “3 Legged Thing QR11-LC Universal L-Bracket,” Desmond DAC-X1 adaptor, and Manfrotto RC2 quick release tripod plate.

The primary advantage of using an L-bracket is to be able to switch from landscape view to portrait view quickly.

Many L-brackets, including the 3 Legged Thing 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. It’s well-designed, lightweight, and works as advertised.

Pros and cons

The following photo shows a 3 Legged Thing QR11-LC Universal L-Bracket (Orange) mounted on my Canon 5D Mark II DSLR camera. A Desmond DAC-X1 Skeleton Clamp (black) is connected to the QR11-LC, and a Manfrotto RC2 quick release tripod plate (gray) is connected to the DAC-X1. The blue thing shown in the lower-left corner of the photo is a handy tool that is bundled with the QR11-LC.

3 Legged Thing QR11-LC Universal L-Bracket (Orange).

The Canon 5D Mark II DSLR was released in September 2008. 10 years later, it seems to be impossible to buy a new L-bracket made specifically for the 5DM2. The only option is to buy a “universal L-bracket.”

In my opinion, the word “universal” suggests the bracket fits a lot of camera models but doesn’t fit any model perfectly. It required a big leap of faith for me to buy the QR11-LC, but I must say I’m pleasantly surprised by how well it fits my 5DM2!

Most importantly (to me), the L-bracket DOESN’T block the door to the camera battery compartment.

There are openings for attaching a camera strap to either end of the L-bracket; the opening on the shorter side of the L-bracket aligns perfectly with the camera strap connector on the left side of the camera body, thereby adding some stability to the camera-bracket connection.

With the L-bracket mounted on the camera body as shown in the preceding photograph, it’s nearly impossible to open the compartment doors on the left side of the camera by reaching through the larger opening on the shorter side of the L-bracket. That said, the tool that comes with the QR11-LC makes it easy to loosen the tripod socket screw. Then you can slide the bracket far enough to the left to open the side compartment doors, leave the doors open, slide the L-bracket back into place, and tighten the tripod socket screw.

What’s the take-away?

Although I readily concede it’s unlikely there are many owners of the Canon 5D Mark II DSLR who will find this product review helpful, 3 Legged Thing sells several models of universal L-brackets that are compatible with newer cameras sold by Canon, Nikon, Fujifilm, and Sony.

Related Resource: L Brackets: Two Minute Tips with David Bergman, by Adorama (2:46).

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Test shots: Unknown odonate exuvia

December 12, 2018

An odonate exuvia from an unknown species of dragonfly (Anisoptera) was collected by a good friend during April 2018 in Vienna, Austria.

Based upon the crenulations along the margins of the labium, I think the specimen is a member of either the Family Corduliidae (Emeralds) or Family Libellulidae (Skimmers). I need to clean the anal pyramid for a clearer look at the terminal appendages in order to identify the family.

One-off

The first photo is a “one-off,” that is, not a composite image. The focus point is on the face mask/head; the rest of the subject is in soft focus.

Anisoptera (unknown species) | exuvia (face/head-dorsal)

Composite images

The next two “photos” are three-layer focus-stacked composite images: For each image, the focus point is on the face mask/head in the first photo; the thorax in the second photo; and the terminal appendages in the third photo. The entire body of the exuvia is acceptably in focus, including most of the legs.

The specimen has dorsal hooks on some abdominal segments (exact number unknown without closer examination), and lateral spines on abdominal segments eight and nine (S8-9).

Anisoptera (unknown species) | exuvia (dorsal)

I think this individual might be a female, as indicated by what appears to be a rudimentary ovipositor that is visible on the ventral side of abdominal segment nine (S9).

Anisoptera (unknown species) | exuvia (ventral)

Post Update

Sincere thanks to Benoit Guillon and Christophe Brochard, members of the “Dragonflies and Damselflies – Worldwide Odonata” Facebook group, for kindly identifying this specimen as an exuvia from a Downy Emerald dragonfly (Cordulia aenea). Downy Emerald is a member of the Family Corduliidae (Emeralds).

The following photo shows a plastic container of 20 Downy Emerald dragonfly (Cordulia aenea) exuviae, collected by a good friend during April 2018 in Vienna, Austria. Thanks to field marks shared by Benoit Guillon, I was able to quickly determine that all of the exuviae are the same species as the specimen featured in this blog post.

Related Resource: Cordulia aenea: exuviae (1/2), by Benoit Guillon.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot all 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 create the two focus-stacked composite images, as well as spot-heal and sharpen the final output.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Test shots: Brachytron pratense exuvia (female)

December 10, 2018

As if it weren’t challenging enough to identify odonate exuviae from species native to the United States of America (where I live), I just started working with some specimens collected by a good friend during April 2018 in Vienna, Austria.

I decided to start with a specimen that I recognized immediately as a member of the Family Aeshnidae (Darners). Here’s the decision tree used to identify the family.

  • The specimen has a flat labium that doesn’t cover the face (not mask-like).
  • Antennae are thin and thread-like (not club-like, as in Gomphidae larvae/euviae).
  • Eyes are large relative to the size of the head.

One-off

The first photo is a “one-off,” that is, not a composite image. The focus point is on the face mask/head; the rest of the subject is in soft focus. I think this is a good way to draw the viewer’s eyes to a specific part of a photo, while adding a sense of depth.

Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) | exuvia (face/head-dorsal)

Composite images

The next “photo” is a three-layer focus-stacked composite image: The focus point is on the face mask/head in the first photo; the thorax in the second photo; and the terminal appendages in the third photo. The entire body of the exuvia is acceptably in focus, including the legs.

Notice the unusual shape of the head. Head shape can be used to identify some species in Family Aeshnidae. Source Credit: Sue Gregoire, personal communication. Kestrel Haven Migration Observatory.

In fact, several members of the “Dragonflies and Damselflies – Worldwide Odonata” Facebook group were able to identify this specimen based upon the shape of its head and eyes. Sincere thanks to Tim Termaat, Hartwig Stobbe, and Rob Strik for kindly identifying this specimen as an exuvia from a Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense), also known as a Hairy Hawker.

Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) | exuvia (dorsal-lateral)

The last “photo” is a four-layer focus-stacked composite image: The focus point is on the head in the first and second photos; the thorax in the third photo; and the terminal appendages in the fourth photo. The entire body of the exuvia is acceptably in focus, including the legs.

This individual is a female, as indicated by the rudimentary ovipositor that can be seen clearly on the ventral side of abdominal segment nine (S9).

Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) | exuvia (ventral)

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot all 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 create the two focus-stacked composite images, as well as spot-heal and sharpen the final output.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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