Archive for December, 2020

Best Photos of 2020

December 30, 2020

The following gallery shows my “Best Photos of 2020.” 16 photos are presented in chronological order beginning in January 2020 and ending in September 2020.

29 JAN 2020 | Richmond, VA | Tramea sp. | exuvia (face-head-dorsal)

31 JAN 2020 | Richmond, VA | Tramea sp. | exuvia (dorsallateral)

24 FEB 2020 | Aquia Creek | dragonfly exuvia (lateral)

13 MAR 2020 | Northern VA | Anisoptera | exuvia (face-head-dorsal)

26 MAY 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Splendid Clubtail (female)

27 MAY 2017Riverbend Park | cicada exuvia (face-head-dorsal)

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Cobra Clubtail (female)

10 JUN 2019 | Polk County, WI | H. adelphus exuvia (dorsal)

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

25 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Dragonhunter (male)

18 AUG 2020 | 12:02:18 PM | JMAWR | Swift Setwing (male)

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

New Life List additions in 2020

December 28, 2020

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.

Both species were discovered on the same day when Mike Powell and I were exploring a new location for hunting odonates in Northern Virginia. In fact, both dragonflies were found relatively close to each, roosting in waist-high vegetation.

Umber Shadowdragon (Neurocordulia obsoleta) [observed only]

Mike discovered this one. Mike called to me and I worked my way to his location as quickly as I could, braving stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) and thorny vegetation. I got there in time to see the dragonfly from the side. Regrettably, it flew away before I could shoot some photos. See Mike’s photo of this uncommon species in a post he entitled “Umber Shadowdragon.”

Splendid Clubtail (Gomphurus lineatifrons)

It’s good to be wrong! What? Initially I misidentified this individual as a Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphurus vastus). Sincere thanks to Rick Cheicante and Mike Boatwright for setting the record straight!

26 MAY 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Splendid Clubtail (female)

26 MAY 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Splendid Clubtail (female)

Related Resource: Splendid Clubtail (Gomphurus lineatifrons).

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Christmas 2020

December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas!

Regular programming will resume on Monday, 28 December 2020.

What is it? It’s a toy Dimetrodon.

December 23, 2020

The following photo shows a toy Dimetrodon, but I stand corrected — it’s not a toy dinosaur.

Dimetrodon is often mistaken for a dinosaur or as a contemporary of dinosaurs in popular culture, but it became extinct some 40 million years before the first appearance of dinosaurs. Source Credit: Wikipedia.

Who knew? Not me!

20 DEC 2020 | BoG Photo Studio | toy Dimetrodon

I discovered the identity of the toy be refining my Google search to focus on its most prominent feature: “dinosaur with large dorsal fin.” Again, the toy isn’t a dinosaur but the search string I used was close enough to find the answer to my question (and more).

Tech Tips

The toy Dimetrodon was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. The toy is ~1 3/8 inches long.

The full frame photograph (that is, uncropped) shown above was taken using a Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera, Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube, and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens.

I prefer using single point focus in most situations. In this case, the focus point was centered over the right eye of the subject. Notice the entire subject isn’t in tack sharp focus despite using an aperture of f/16, but hey, at least the eye is in focus this time!

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

What is it?

December 21, 2020

Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages. It’s time for another exciting episode of “What is it?” Well, what is it?

No, really — what is it? It’s a toy dinosaur. Question is, what kind of dinosaur? When I was a young boy, my collection of toy dinosaurs included at least one similar dino but its name is long forgotten. I searched Google until I reached my frustration threshold.

Good luck, and thanks for your help in refreshing my memory!

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Another B&H Photo packing/shipping fail

December 16, 2020

I ordered three items from B&H Photo on 11 December 2020: one item is backordered; two items were delivered on 15 December.

The first photo shows the parcel “as is” when it was delivered by Fedex. Notice two of four box top flaps were open — it was possible to lift the top enough to see the contents of the box!

The next photo shows the other sides of the box top were still sealed shut.

The last photo shows the open box, before I unpacked the items I ordered. Notice a single piece of bubble wrap is the only packing material inside the box: there is NO PACKING MATERIAL on either the top or bottom of the smaller boxes inside the larger corrugated cardboard box; and there is NO PACKING MATERIAL on two sides of the smaller boxes. That can’t be good for shipping fragile electronic equipment safely!

What are the take-aways?

As I wrote in a related blog post last May, the problem of inadequate packing material seems to be the new normal at B&H Photo. Now it appears you can add cardboard boxes that don’t stay closed and sealed to the list of epic fails by the B&H shipping department.

This doesn’t work for me — photo gear and related electronic equipment is too expensive to cut corners on packing and shipping. I said it in May and I’ll say it again — c’mon B&H, you can and should do better!

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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New digital darkroom

December 14, 2020

I took a photography class when I was a senior at T.C. Williams High School during the 1971-72 school year. (Yep, that’s the same year featured in the movie “Remember the TItans.”) I can’t remember whether the class was a semester class or full year class, but I remember the teacher was Mr. Wendall Swain, Head Baseball coach.

We used analog cameras to shoot 35mm black-and-white film; we learned how to develop the film and make prints in a darkroom. Toward the end of the class, we learned to develop 35mm color slide film. We never worked with color film and color printing because it was, and maybe still is, too technical to be practical for a high school photography class.

Fast forward 50 years to the modern era of digital photography. My how things have changed in photography! Now a software application running on some type of computer is the new “darkroom.”

I bought a new Apple iMac computer in 2009 as a retirement gift for myself. Years later, I was given a MacBook Air. I always assumed the “Air” is running a newer version of Mac OS. Wrong-o, silicon breath! (An homage to Johnny Carson.) I discovered recently both computers are running the same system software that can’t be updated. At that point I knew it was time — arguably long past time — to update my “digital darkroom.”

So I ordered a new 2020 Apple MacBook Air M1 plus an array of accessories. The new laptop computer should arrive sometime during mid-January 2021; all of the accessories will arrive sooner.

I’m looking forward to being able use the new gear to do all of the things that I have been unable to do due to the limitations of my older computer technology. Stay tuned for updates on this developing story. (See what I did there?)

Living the dream

December 11, 2020

I know a few odonate enthusiasts who photograph birds during the “off-season” — it seems I like photographing toys. Undeniably true. Some toys, like the toy monkey featured in this post, are made of hard plastic that is highly reflective and can be challenging to light using artificial light sources.

08 DEC 2020 |  BoG Photo Studio | toy monkey

A toy monkey was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. The toy is ~1 7/8 inches long. “Living the dream” is one of my nicknames for the monkey.

The full frame photograph (that is, uncropped) shown above was taken using a Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera, Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube, and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens. The camera was mounted in portrait mode on a sturdy tripod using an “L” bracket mounted on the camera body. I love me some “L” brackets!

I prefer using single point focus in most situations. In this case, the focus point was centered over the body of the subject. Like the toy dinosaur featured in my last blog post, the entire subject wasn’t in tack sharp focus despite using an aperture of f/16. For example, look closely at the monkey’s eyes compared to its body. That’s on me because it’s so easy to move/set the focus point using my Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera. It goes without saying I should have moved the focus point to one of the eyes.

In my defense, the main purpose of this test shoot was to experiment with my set-up for white background macro photography by testing using two flashes to backlight the white background in an effort to eliminate “hotspots” on the background. I also tested eliminating “flaring” around the outline of the subject by adjusting the power ratio of the external flash units used to backlight the background, and by increasing the distance between the subject and pure white background.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Toy dinosaur

December 9, 2020

A toy dinosaur — possibly an Ankylosaurus — was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. The toy is ~1.25 inches long, or ~3.2 cm (~32 mm).

08 DEC 2020 |  BoG Photo Studio | toy dinosaur

The full frame photograph (that is, uncropped) shown above was taken using a Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera, Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube, and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens.

The macro lens/extension tube combo was set closer to maximum magnification than the photo of a toy mini-lizard featured in my last blog post.

An array of flash photography gear was used to light the white background and orange subject separately. Notice the face/head of the toy dinosaur is a little “hot.” The exposure was increased by 0.5 stop during post-processing in order to attain a pure white background.

Also notice that focus on the head and tail of the toy dinosaur is a little soft. I prefer using single point focus in most situations. In this case, the focus point was centered over the body of the subject. The little round toy dinosaur has just enough “relief” that the entire subject wasn’t in tack sharp focus despite using an aperture of f/16.

The Backstory

It’s no secret I love toys. True confessions aside, remember the primary purpose of photographing toys like this one is to take test shots that enable me to experiment with gear and techniques in the hope of improving my macro photographs of odonate exuviae.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Toy mini-lizard

December 7, 2020

A toy mini-lizard was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. The toy is ~1.5 inches long, or ~3.8 cm (~38 mm).

05 DEC 2020 |  BoG Photo Studio | toy mini-lizard

The full frame photograph (that is, uncropped) shown above was taken using a Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera, Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube, and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens.

The X-T3 features an APS-C sensor (23.5 mm x 15.6 mm). The sensor measures ~28.2 mm diagonally. Since the subject — oriented diagonally, relative to the rectangular sensor — is smaller on-screen than in real life (~38 mm), we can infer the macro lens/extension tube combo wasn’t set for maximum magnification.

An array of flash photography gear was used to light the white background and green subject separately. The exposure was increased by 0.5 stop during post-processing in order to attain a pure white background.

The Backstory

Don’t be fooled by the lack-o blog posts recently. Rest assured I’ve been busy behind the scenes experimenting with new gear and new techniques.

In particular, I’ve spent quite a bit of time working (with mixed success) to refine my set-up for white background macro photography. Like the rock band U2 song says, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

White background macro photography is about as challenging as it gets. Source Credit: Allan Walls Photography.

Allan is spot-on, as usual. Allan’s latest video (see Related Resource, below) has given me several ideas I need to test.

Related Resource: Mastering White Background Macro Photography, by Allan Walls Photography (50:37).

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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