Meet Your Neighbours – Aeshnidae exuvia

An odonate exuvia was photographed against a pure white background using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. Well, almost pure white. More about that later.

9.9mm (55mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 100 | f/7.1 | 1/60 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.


The MYN technique seems to be simple and straightforward. It isn’t. The challenge is to get the translucent effect without blowing out the thinner parts of the specimen like eyes, legs, etc. In this case, I needed a little separation between the pure white background and the exuvia in order to reduce blow-out. I repurposed the top of a small plastic container from the local delicatessen as the separator. I placed the plastic top on the white background, and the exuvia on the top. The plastic top isn’t perfectly clear, resulting in an off-white background color.

I need to experiment further to refine the technique. A clear glass- or plastic plate should solve the problem with the less than pure white background, and I think more separation between the white plastic background plate and the clear glass/plastic “stage” should help to further reduce blow-out. Trial and error — that’s the way we learn!

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The test photo featured in this post was taken using my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 24x superzoom digital camera, Godox X2To/p wireless flash trigger for Olympus and PanasonicGodox TT685o/p Thinklite Flash for Olympus/Panasonic Cameras (manual mode) fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier, and a Godox TT685C Thinklite Flash for Canon Cameras (manual mode) fitted with a Vello plastic bounce dome diffuser.

The Godox TT685-series flash head is the same size as a Canon 580EX II Speedlite so slide-on plastic light modifiers that work with a 580EX II will work with TT685s. That said, some work better than others. The “Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce OM-EY” is a tight fit — too tight in my opinion. The “Vello Bounce Dome (Diffuser) for Canon 580EX II Flash” is a perfect fit.

The camera lens was set close to “Wide Macro.” 1-Area Focusing and Spot Metering was used for the photo.

Three external flash units were used to light the scene. The flash power ratio for each flash is critical for proper exposure. Begin by setting the backlight, then add the key light(s) on the subject.

The flash unit used to light the underside of the translucent white plastic background (Group A) was set for 1/8 power; the zoom was set for 50mm in order to spread the beam of light sufficiently to avoid a hotspot on the white plastic background. The top of the flash unit was ~20 cm from the bottom of the white plastic.

Two key lights (Group B and C) — that is, the flash units used to light the top of the subject — were set for 1/16 power and 1/128, respectively. In order to reduce blow-out (see Take-aways, below), I turned off the flash in Group C.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to sharpen the final output.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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