Archive for October, 2020

Autumn colors

October 30, 2020

An Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) was perched near the boardwalk that goes through the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

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

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Damselfly (species unknown)

October 28, 2020

A damselfly was spotted near a small pool of water in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park.

14 OCT 2020 | Huntley Meadows Park | damselfly (species unknown)

This individual is definitely a member of Family Coenagrionidae (Narrow-winged Damselflies), possibly a female Familiar Bluet (Enallagma civile).

Sidebar: Scientific Classification of Damselflies

The following concise explanation of the scientific classification of damselflies is provided to help the reader understand where the genus Enallagma (American Bluets) fits into the bigger picture of the Order OdonataSuborder Zygoptera (Damselflies).

There are four families of damselflies in the United States of America (USA), although only three families occur in the mid-Atlantic USA: Broad-winged damselflies; Narrow-winged damselflies (a.k.a., Pond Damselflies); and Spreadwing damselflies.

  1. Family Calopterygidae – Broad-winged Damselflies
  2. Family Coenagrionidae – Narrow-winged Damselflies
  3. Family Lestidae – Spreadwings

Note: Family Platystictidae (Shadowdamsels) is the fourth family of damselflies in the USA. Desert Shadowdamsel (Palaemnema domina) is the only member of this family. P. domina is rare, known to occur only in Arizona in the southwestern United States.

1. Family Calopterygidae is comprised of two genera.

2. Family Coenagrionidae is comprised of 14 genera. Three genera are common in Northern Virginia: Argia (Dancers); Enallagma (American Bluets); and Ischnura (Forktails).

3. Family Lestidae is comprised of two genera.

  • Archilestes (e.g., Great Spreadwing)
  • Lestes (e.g., Slender Spreadwing, Southern Spreadwing, Swamp Spreadwing)

There are relatively few genera of Broad-winged Damselflies and Spreadwing Damselflies. In contrast, there are many more genera and species of Narrow-winged Damselflies — more species, including many that look similar, makes this family the most challenging to learn!

Related Resource: “The Odonata of North America” is a complete list of both scientific names and common names for damselflies and dragonflies, maintained by the Dragonfly Society of the Americas.

An interactive version of the same species list is available from the Odonata Central Web site. The master list can be filtered in many ways. Location is perhaps the most useful filter.

For example, my good friend Mike Boatwright lives in Amherst County, Virginia USA. Click on the blue button labeled “Filter Results.” Then click the down arrow in the Location field, enter “Amherst” and select the complete location name that appears in a list of available options; click the “Apply Filtering” button. You should see a list of 97 species of odonates reported to occur in Amherst County, including 10 species in the genus Enallagma. Notice that Familiar Bluet is on the list, as well as several species of Enallagma that aren’t found where I live in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


October 26, 2020

14 OCT 2020 | HMP | Handsome Meadow Katydid (female)

The preceding photograph shows a female Handsome Meadow Katydid (Orchelimum pulchellum) perched on the boardwalk that goes through the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Blue eyes are a good field mark for identifying Handsome Meadow Katydids. Notice the long, curved, reddish, scimitar-shaped structure extending from the posterior end of the abdomen. It’s an ovipositor that female katydids …

… use to insert eggs into hiding places … which can be in crevices on plants or even inside plant tissues [endophytic oviposition]. Source Credit: Matt Pelikan, BugGuide group on Facebook.

I like the way the reddish-pink American tearthumb (Persicaria sagittata) flowers in the background complement the color palette of the katydid.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Service call for HMP weather station

October 23, 2020

The following photo gallery shows David M. Lawlor, Natural Resource Manager at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA, working to repair the automated weather observation station located in the central wetland area.

According to Dave, the components of the weather station were working properly although data couldn’t be accessed remotely.

The first photo shows Dave getting out a volt meter in order to check battery voltage and power to the weather station data logger.

14 OCT 2020 | Huntley Meadows Park | David M. Lawlor

The next photo shows Dave preparing to connect a laptop computer to the data logger.

14 OCT 2020 | Huntley Meadows Park | David M. Lawlor

Dave testing battery voltage and power to data logger…

14 OCT 2020 | Huntley Meadows Park | David M. Lawlor

14 OCT 2020 | Huntley Meadows Park | David M. Lawlor

14 OCT 2020 | Huntley Meadows Park | David M. Lawlor

The last photo shows Dave using a laptop computer, connected to the data logger, in an attempt to diagnose the connection issue.

14 OCT 2020 | Huntley Meadows Park | David M. Lawlor

The Backstory

During a photowalk with Michael Powell along the boardwalk that goes through the hemi-marsh at Huntley Meadows Park, we ran into Dave Lawlor when he was about to go overboard into the wetlands.

Related Resource

New HMP Weather Station (posted on 10 December 2016) – Real-time weather data was available from the old weather station, installed and maintained by Virginia Tech University, until it went offline after 23 September 2016. We look forward to a time when the new weather station goes online for public access.

In the meantime, real-time weather data is available at a new exhibit located just inside the front doors of the HMP Visitor Center.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

October 21, 2020

An Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) was perched along the boardwalk that goes through the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

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

The boardwalk deck and railings are a composite material made from recycled plastic milk bottles. In my opinion, those surfaces provide a “cleaner background” that enables the viewer to focus on the subject easier than if it were posed against a more natural setting. So if the goal is to teach people how to identify common odonates, then the boardwalk is an ideal “studio” for photographing dragonflies.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


October 19, 2020

Another photographer spotted a Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea) along the boardwalk that goes through the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA and she was kind enough to share her discovery with Michael Powell and me.

14 OCT 2020 | Huntley Meadows Park | Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea)

Later the same day, Mike and I showed the Green Treefrog to a mother and her two children, Aria and Dante. They seemed excited to see one of many hidden treasures at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP). I asked Aria to give the frog a name; she chose “Sleepy.” I think that’s a perfect name, given the frog’s half-closed pupil(s).

I hope the family will revisit HMP at the appropriate time next year when the mating calls of Green Treefrogs are as loud as the annual symphony of Spring Peepers — it’s an astounding aural experience!

Related Resource: Calls April – August, an audio file (45 s) from Virginia Herpetological Society.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Slender Spreadwing damselfly (female)

October 16, 2020

Michael Powell spotted a Slender Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes rectangularis) perched on greenbriar vine in a wetland area alongside the gravel trail we were following out of Huntley Meadows Park, located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a female, as indicated by her coloration and terminal appendages. Notice the tip of her abdomen is enlarged because of her reproductive anatomy, including an ovipositor.

Female Slender Spreadwing can be confused with female Southern Spreadwing damselflies. Several key field marks are used to differentiate the two species.

Blue shoulder stripes, slender abdomen, the ratio of abdominal segments seven and nine (S7 and S9), and whitish wing tips all point to Slender Spreadwing. S7 is more than twice the length of S9 in Slender, covered in Ed Lam’s book. Source Credit: Dr. Michael Moore, a professor (retired) in the Department of Biological Sciences at University of Delaware and odonate expert extraordinaire. Dr. Moore’s new Web site is a treasure trove of helpful resources.

Related Resource: Damselflies of the Northeast, by Ed Lam (author and illustrator).

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

When is close too close?

October 14, 2020

Swift River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia illinoiensisexuvia was collected on 27 May 2017 along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female. The prominent horn on the head — a key field mark for exuviae from Family Macromiidae (Cruisers) — is noticeable in the following photo, although maybe not recognizable.

This photo is one of several test shots using “The Macroscope,” my nickname for the Laowa 25mm Ultra Macro Lens. The Laowa lens was mounted on my Canon 5D Mark II digital camera with a 12mm Kenko extension tube between the lens and camera body.

My new Laowa LED Ring Light was mounted on the front of the lens, powered by an Anker PowerCore+ 26800 PD 45W battery. The Laowa LED Ring Light was used to light the subject. A Sunpak LED-160 Video Light was used as a focusing aid. A Godox TT685C external flash was used to backlight a translucent white plastic background, using the “Meet Your Neighbours” technique. The flash was triggered wirelessly by a Godox X2TC.

The image is full-frame (5616 by 3744 pixels), that is, uncropped. The lens was set for f/4 (the “sweet spot” for the lens) at 4x magification. The camera was set for single point focus and spot metering, centered on the right eye of the exuvia.

Look closely at a full-size version of the image. At this magnification, the depth of field is very shallow: remnant ommatidia are clearly in focus; most of the image is out of focus.

In order to provide some context for what is shown in the first photo, the last photo shows the entire specimen. The photo gear used to take the shot is specified in a previous blog post.

When is close too close?

Close is too close when most of the subject is unrecognizable. At 4x magnification, it’s essential to use focus stacking to create a composite image.

The bigger take-away from this test shot is the Laowa LED Ring Light seems to work fairly well, albeit a sample size of one.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Anker PowerCore+ 26800 PD 45W

October 12, 2020

In my experience, digital camera batteries are the weak link during extended macro photo shoots — it seems like they never last long enough and always go dead at the worst possible time! So I started searching for portable power solutions that would solve the problem.

I stumbled across an FAQ page on the Fujifilm Global Web site that provides information regarding two mobile batteries recommended by Fujifilm. Warning: Be patient — the FAQ page takes a LONG TIME to load!

Both batteries are made by Anker; the more powerful model is no longer available. As far as I can tell, the PowerCore+ 26800 PD 30W version of the battery featured on the FAQ page was replaced by a new model (Anker PowerCore+ 26800 PD 45W). Editor’s Note: One or more upcoming blog posts will be related to using the Anker battery as a power source for select Canon- and Fujifilm digital cameras.

The same battery can be used to power the Laowa LED Ring Light that is featured in my last blog post. When I was doing my homework before deciding to buy the ring light, the first thing I noticed is it doesn’t feature an On/Off switch. I thought, “No problem, the Anker battery has one.” See that big button on top of the battery, shown below? Naturally I assumed it’s an On/Off switch. Wrong! The fact is, I have NO IDEA what that button does other than indicate whether the battery is fully-charged. This battery is essentially a fire hose of power that’s always on when a device is plugged into one of its USB ports. Needless to say, that’s less than ideal for use with the LED ring light.

Product image courtesy AnkerDirect.

Similar to GoPro’s dizzying array of nearly identical action cameras, Anker sells so many types of batteries (including variants of the same model) that it can cause decision paralysis! For what it’s worth, I bought the PowerCore+ 26800 PD 45W that includes an AC charger.

Product image courtesy AnkerDirect.

If you have purchased a product from Apple, then you know the unboxing experience is one of life’s simple pleasures — the attention to detail is astounding! And so it is/was with the packaging for the Anker battery I bought. Regrettably the joy ends abruptly when you attempt to read the documentation provided with the product — it’s practically unintelligible! Seriously, I have learned more about the battery by watching independently-produced YouTube videos than by reading the User Manual.

Product image courtesy AnkerDirect.

On/Off Switch

After an exhaustive Google search, I discovered a (relatively) short USB extension cable that features an on/off switch. The product is sold in a two-pack of cables.

Product image courtesy RIITOP Store (on Amazon).

In my opinion, it’s important to choose a USB extension cable that can be used for both data and power in order to maximize the usefulness of the cable.

Product image courtesy RIITOP Store (on Amazon).

A USB power cable is provided with the Laowa LED Ring Light. I connect the Laowa cable to the LED ring light, then connect the other end to one of the RIITOP cables with an On/Off switch. Finally, plug the RIITOP cable into the Anker battery.

What are the take-aways?

In my strong opinion, the Laowa LED Ring Light would be greatly improved by adding two inexpensive features: an On/Off switch; and a dimmer switch. C’mon Laowa — my suggestions are a no-brainer!

And if Venus Optics (Laowa) were feeling ambitious, they should engineer a solution that would enable the LED ring light to be powered directly from the hot shoe of a digital camera. Hot shoe pin-outs vary by brand of camera, but the middle pin is always used for power so one connector should work with all types of cameras. Do it!

And while I’m talking about no-brainers, c’mon Anker — is there a compelling reason your mobile batteries don’t feature an On/Off switch?

Related Resources

This blog post is one in a series of posts related to continuous AC power and long-lasting battery power for select Canon, Fujifilm, and Panasonic digital cameras.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Laowa LED Ring Light for 25mm Ultra Macro Lens

October 9, 2020

I prefer artificial light from electronic flash units rather than continuous light sources such as LEDs. That being said, when the working distance between lens and subject is small, a lens-mounted LED ring light makes sense to use.

Minimum focusing distance versus working distance

The “minimum focusing distance” is the distance from the subject to the focal plane. The “working distance” is the distance from the front of the lens to the subject. For macro photography, usually the latter is more important than the former.

According to Venus Optics (Laowa), the minimum focusing distance for the “Laowa 25mm f/2.8 2.5-5x Ultra Macro lens” is 23.4 cm at 2.5x magnification and 17.3 cm at 5x. According to several Web sites, the working distance is 45 mm (4.5 cm) at 2.5x and 40 mm (4.0 cm) at 5x, or a range of working distances from ~1.8 to ~1.6 inches.

Adding one or more extension tubes reduces the working distance and increases magnification. For example, adding a Kenko 12mm extension tube reduced the working distance from 45 mm to ~30 mm at 2.5x.

And it’s worth noting that adding the Laowa “Canon EF lens to Fujifilm X mount camera adapter” to the lens further reduces the working distance — the adapter is ~26 mm wide, essentially equivalent to adding a 26mm extension tube. Combined with the 1.5x crop factor of Fujifilm X-Series cameras such as the X-T1 and X-T3, it’s no wonder the magnification of the lens is increased dramatically when used with select Fujifilm cameras!

Ultra Macro Lens

The first two photos, courtesy B&H Photo, show the version of the Laowa lens for Canon EF. For what it’s worth, f/4 is the “sweet spot” for this lens.

Product image courtesy B&H Photo.

Look closely at the front of the lens. Notice a “flange” (one of two) that is visible around the outer rim of the lens. Those flanges are used to mount the Laowa LED ring light on the lens.

Product image courtesy B&H Photo.

LED Ring Light

The next two photos, courtesy Allen’s Camera, show the Laowa LED ring light.

Product image courtesy Allen’s Camera.

The LED ring light ships with a USB power cable. A power source for the ring light is NOT INCLUDED. My next blog post will feature a discussion of the pros/cons of the power source solution I decided to use.

Product image courtesy Allen’s Camera.

LED mounted on lens

The last photo shows the Laowa LED Ring Light mounted on the Laowa Ultra Macro Lens that is mounted on my Canon 5D Mark II digital camera. The USB power cable is connected to the LED ring light but not connected to a power source. (Don’t mind the clutter in the background!)

Notice the face of the LED ring light extends ~5 mm beyond the front of the lens, thereby reducing the working distance by ~5 mm (~0.5 cm). Plan accordingly.

Laowa LED and 25mm Ultra Macro lens mounted on Canon 5D Mark II.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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