Archive for December, 2019

New Life List additions in 2019

December 30, 2019

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.

List items are presented in chronological order, based upon the date of the spotting/studio photo shoot.

Eastern Least Clubtail dragonfly exuvia

25 photos were used to create this focus-stacked composite image of an Eastern Least Clubtail dragonfly (Stylogomphus albistylus) exuvia from an odonate nymph that Bob Perkins collected and reared. S. albistylus is a member of Family Gomphidae (Clubtails).

Uhler’s Sundragon dragonfly

A Uhler’s Sundragon (Helocordulia uhleri) was spotted during a photowalk along a mid-size stream at an undisclosed location in Northern Virginia USA.

16 APR 2019 | Northern Virginia | Uhler’s Sundragon (male)

Harlequin Darner dragonfly

A Harlequin Darner (Gomphaeschna furcillata) was spotted at the North Tract of Patuxent Research Refuge, Laurel, Maryland USA. This individual is a female.

Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (female)

An Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster obliqua) was spotted in a sunny clearing along a small forest stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA. This is the first female Arrowhead Spiketail that I’ve seen.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly exuvia

A dragonfly exuvia was collected by Joe Johnston on 22 May 2019 at Aquia Creek, Stafford County, Virginia USA. This specimen is the cast skin from a Black-shouldered Spinyleg (Dromogomphus spinosus) larva. D. spinosus is a member of Family Gomphidae (Clubtails). Although I have seen many adult Black-shouldered Spinyleg, this is the first exuvia I’ve seen/photographed.

Aurora Damsel damselfly

A mating pair of Aurora Damsel (Chromagrion conditum) was spotted along along a trail in the forest at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA. This pair is “in wheel” (“in heart”).

04 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Aurora Damsel (mating pair)

Eastern Copperhead snake

An Eastern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) was observed during a photowalk with my good friend Mike Powell along a small forest stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

04 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Eastern Copperhead

Blue-ringed Dancer damselfly

Blue-ringed Dancer damselfly (Argia sedula) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell along Popes Head Creek at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park (HORP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Spot-winged Glider dragonfly exuvia

A Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) exuvia was collected and identified by Andy Davidson near Richmond, Virginia USA. Spot-winged Glider is a member of Family Libellulidae (Skimmers). I’ve seen many adult Spot-winged Glider but this is the first exuvia I’ve seen/photographed.

18 DEC 2019 | Richmond, VA | Spot-winged Glider | exuvia (dorsal)

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Flip-it Friday

December 27, 2019

An odonate exuvia was collected by Andy Davidson near Richmond, Virginia USA. Andy is a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) working on a research project entitled “Predator-Prey Interactions in a Changing World.”

This individual is a member of Family Libellulidae (Skimmers), possibly a species from the genus Celithemis (Pennants). Source Credit: Steve Krotzer, Haysop Hill Photography; and Andy Davidson, VCU.

Dorsal view update

The first photograph is the same photo featured in a recent blog post, with one big difference. I flipped the image digitally so that the exuvia looks more like it’s in its natural resting position on the background. The more I looked at the original image, the more I felt somewhat disoriented. Ah, much better!

Ventral view

Next I flipped the specimen physically to show a ventral view of the exuvia. Look closely at the full-size version of the photo. This individual is probably a male, as indicated by what appear to be vestigial hamules located along the boundary between abdominal segments two and three (S2-3). Remember, all odonates have 10 abdominal segments, numbered from front-to-back. In my opinion, it’s easier to count segments from the posterior- to the anterior end of the body.

The following annotated images of other dragonfly exuviae might help you to recognize the vestigial hamuli on this specimen.

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the macro photographs featured in this post: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube; and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens minus the 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.

Godox X2TF radio flash trigger, mounted on the hotshoe of my X-T1, was used to control two off-camera external flash units set for radio slave mode.

  1. Godox TT685C Thinklite Flash for Canon Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a “Vello Bounce Dome (Diffuser) for Canon 580EX II Flash,” was used to light the underside of the translucent white plastic background; the top of the flash unit was ~30 cm from the bottom of the white plastic.
  2. Godox TT685F Thinklite Flash for Fujifilm Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier, was used to light the subject from above.

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

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Christmas 2019

December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas!

Regular programming will resume on Friday, 27 December 2019.

MYN – Genus Celithemis exuvia (dorsal)

December 23, 2019

An odonate exuvia was photographed against a pure white background using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique.

The following photo shows a dorsal view of an exuvia from the Family Libellulidae (Skimmers), possibly a species in the Genus Celithemis (Pennants).

80mm (120mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 200 | f/16 | 1/180 s | 0 ev

The Backstory

This specimen was collected (near Richmond, Virginia USA) by Andy Davidson. Andy is a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University working on a research project entitled “Predator-Prey Interactions in a Changing World.”

Tech Tips

I’m beginning to feel more comfortable with the MYN technique, including equipment set-up for best results, camera settings, and post-processing. When I feel like my work flow is fairly firm, I will post step-by-step directions and a few behind-the-scenes photos.

The following equipment was used to shoot the macro photographs featured in this post: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube; and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens minus the 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.

Godox X2TF radio flash trigger, mounted on the hotshoe of my X-T1, was used to control two off-camera external flash units set for radio slave mode.

  1. Godox TT685C Thinklite Flash for Canon Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a “Vello Bounce Dome (Diffuser) for Canon 580EX II Flash,” was used to light the underside of the translucent white plastic background; the top of the flash unit was ~30 cm from the bottom of the white plastic.
  2. Godox TT685F Thinklite Flash for Fujifilm Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier, was used to light the subject from above.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to spot heal and sharpen the image.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – Genus Celithemis exuvia (face)

December 20, 2019

An odonate exuvia was photographed against a pure white background using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique.

This specimen is a member of Family Libellulidae (Skimmers), possibly a species in the Genus Celithemis (Pennants).

80mm (120mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 200 | f/16 | 1/180 s | 0 ev

A much closer crop of the preceding photo reveals some of the personality of this species. The aspect ratio was changed from 3:2 to 4:3 for better composition.

80mm (120mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 200 | f/16 | 1/180 s | 0 ev

The Backstory

This specimen was collected by Andy Davidson near Richmond, Virginia USA.  Andy is a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University working on a research project entitled “Predator-Prey Interactions in a Changing World.”

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the macro photographs featured in this post: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube; and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens minus the 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.

Godox X2TF radio flash trigger, mounted on the hotshoe of my X-T1, was used to control two off-camera external flash units set for radio slave mode.

  1. Godox TT685C Thinklite Flash for Canon Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a “Vello Bounce Dome (Diffuser) for Canon 580EX II Flash,” was used to light the underside of the translucent white plastic background; the top of the flash unit was ~30 cm from the bottom of the white plastic.
  2. Godox TT685F Thinklite Flash for Fujifilm Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier, was used to light the subject from above.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to sharpen the image.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – More Pantala hymenaea exuvia

December 18, 2019

An odonate exuvia was photographed against a pure white background using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique.

This specimen is a Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) exuvia. Spot-winged Glider is a member of Family Libellulidae (Skimmers).

80mm (120mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 200 | f/16 | 1/500 s | 0 ev

80mm (120mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 200 | f/16 | 1/500 s | 0 ev

The Backstory

This specimen was collected (near Richmond, Virginia USA) and identified by Andy Davidson. Andy is a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University working on a research project entitled “Predator-Prey Interactions in a Changing World.”

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the macro photographs featured in this post: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube; and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens minus the 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.

Godox XProF radio flash trigger, mounted on the hotshoe of my X-T1, was used to control two off-camera external flash units set for radio slave mode.

  1. Godox TT685C Thinklite Flash for Canon Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a “Vello Bounce Dome (Diffuser) for Canon 580EX II Flash,” was used to light the underside of the translucent white plastic background; the top of the flash unit was ~30 cm from the bottom of the white plastic.
  2. A Godox TT685o/p Thinklite Flash for Olympus/Panasonic Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier, was used to light the subject from above.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to spot-heal and sharpen the image.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – Pantala hymenaea exuvia

December 16, 2019

An odonate exuvia was photographed against a pure white background using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique.

This specimen is a Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) exuvia. Spot-winged Glider is a member of Family Libellulidae (Skimmers).

Genus Pantala

The genus Pantala includes two species in North America: Spot-winged Glider (Pantala hymenaea); and Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens).

Spot-winged Glider and Wandering Glider larvae/exuviae look similar. The lateral spines on abdominal segment nine (S9) are noticeably shorter for P. hymenaea (shown left) than P. flavescens (shown right) — a key field mark that can be used to differentiate the two species.

The Backstory

Both specimens featured in this blog post were collected (near Richmond, Virginia USA) and identified by Andy Davidson. Andy is a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University working on a research project entitled “Predator-Prey Interactions in a Changing World.”

Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Luminous beings are we…

December 13, 2019

Master Yoda’s explanation of the Force to Luke Skywalker (see Related Resources, below) features the following memorable quote.

Luminous beings are we,
not this crude matter.

One of many reasons I like the “Meet Your Neighbours” technique for photographing natural subjects against a pure white background is that it seems to reveal the luminous beings that odonate exuviae are. Feel the force by looking at the full-size version of the following image.

Related Resources

Tech Tips

I added a Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter to my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 24x superzoom bridge camera for a closer view of the anterior of the odonate exuvia.

The camera was set for 1-Area Focusing. The focus-and-recompose technique was used to focus on the eye of the subject.

Godox X2To/p wireless flash trigger for Olympus and Panasonic was used to fire two off-camera flash units.

  1. A Godox TT685C Thinklite Flash for Canon Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a “Vello Bounce Dome (Diffuser) for Canon 580EX II Flash,” was used to light the underside of the translucent white plastic background; the top of the flash unit was ~30 cm from the bottom of the white plastic.
  2. Godox TT685o/p Thinklite Flash for Olympus/Panasonic Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier, was used to light the subject from above.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Puzzle solved: Anax junius exuvia (female)

December 11, 2019

Identifying odonate exuviae is a lot like solving a jigsaw puzzle — eventually all of the puzzle pieces fit together to reveal a clear picture. As it turns out, while I’ve been experimenting with the “Meet Your Neighbours” technique for photographing natural subjects against a pure white background, I was also collecting puzzle pieces that would enable me to identify the dragonfly exuvia.

A two-step process was used to identify the genus and species of the specimen featured in my last two blog posts.

  1. Determine the family.
  2. Determine the genus and species.

Step 1. Family

First, determine the family of the specimen. For reference, watch the excellent Vimeo video, Identifying dragonfly larva to family (8:06). Here’s the decision tree I used to identify the exuvia as a member of the Family Aeshnidae (Darners).

  • The specimen has a flat labium that doesn’t cover the face (not mask-like), as shown in Photo No. 1.
  • Antennae are thin and thread-like (not club-like, as in Gomphidae larvae), as shown in Photo No. 1.
  • Eyes are large relative to the size of the head, as shown in Photo No. 1 and 4.

No. 1 | Common Green Darner (Anax junius) | exuvia (face-head)

Step 2. Genus and species

As shown in Photo No. 2 and 4, lateral spines along abdominal segments seven, eight, and nine (S7-9) indicate the genus is Anax.

No. 2 | Common Green Darner (Anax junius) | exuvia (ventral view)

At this point, you know the species could be either junius (Common Green Darner dragonfly) or longipes (Comet Darner dragonfly). The species is determined by the shape of the palpal lobes (part of the prementum) and the length of the specimen.

No. 3 | Common Green Darner (Anax junius) | exuvia (ventral view)

Notice the palpal lobes are rounded, as shown in Photo No. 3. The specimen is ~4.7 cm (~1.9 in) in length, not counting a slight bend in the body.

No. 4 | Common Green Darner (Anax junius) | exuvia (dorsal view)

The rounded shape of the palpal lobes (see Photo No. 3) plus the length of the specimen (see Photo No. 4) indicate the species is juniusAnax junius is one of the more common species of Aeshnidae found in Northern Virginia.

Finally, the rudimentary ovipositor shown in Photo No. 2 indicates this individual is a female.

Related Resource: Anax junius exuvia, another photo-illustrated identification guide by Walter Sanford.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Meet Your Neighbours – Aeshnidae exuvia (face)

December 9, 2019

An odonate exuvia was photographed against a pure white background using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. Yep, this time the background is actually pure white (255, 255, 255). Now that’s the look for which I was striving!

36.1mm (200mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 100 | f/7.1 | 1/800 s | 0 ev

This specimen is an unknown species from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners), probably Common Green Darner (Anax junius). Compare/contrast the “MYN look” with a more traditional photo set of another A. junius exuvia.

Related Resources

Tech Tips

I added a Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter to my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 24x superzoom bridge camera for a closer view of the face/head of the odonate exuvia.

A Godox X2To/p wireless flash trigger for Olympus and Panasonic was used to fire an off-camera Godox TT685C Thinklite Flash for Canon Cameras (manual mode) fitted with a Vello plastic bounce dome diffuser. This flash unit was used to light the underside of the translucent white plastic background; the top of the flash unit was ~20 cm from the bottom of the white plastic. No other flash units were used to shoot the photo.

Although I own better camera gear for shooting macro photos, I like to use my smaller, lighter DMC-FZ300 for proof-of-concept experimentation with new techniques. Look for a transition to one of my Fujifilm- or Canon macro rigs in the near future.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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