Archive for the ‘digital videography’ Category

Post update: Aeshna umbrosa exuvia

January 8, 2020

Male odonates have two sets of sex organs: primary genitalia located on abdominal segment nine (S9); and secondary genitalia located on abdominal segments two-to-three (S2-3).

Closer examination of some test shots of the following Shadow Darner dragonfly (Aeshna umbrosa) exuvia, photographed on 02 December 2018, showed both sets of vestigial genitalia are clearly visible on the ventral side of this specimen.

Aeshna umbrosa (mating pair)

All odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back. Male dragonfly secondary genitalia, called hamules, are located in segments two and three (S2 and S3); female genitalia in segment eight (S8). Male and female dragonflies form the mating wheel in order for their genitalia to connect during copulation.

A. umbrosa (in wheel). Photo used with permission from Patrick Boez.

Related Resource: Test shots: Aeshna umbrosa exuvia.

Copyright © 2020 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.

Cross-compatibility of Godox TT685-series flashes

November 20, 2019

The following quick-and-dirty video is a demonstration of the cross-compatibily among Godox TT685-series external flash units, including a Godox TT685F, TT685o/p, and TT685C (shown from left-to-right). All three flash units were test-fired using Godox X2TF and X2To/p radio flash triggers.

Notice the brand of flash trigger used to fire the flashes appears in the lower-left corner of the LCD on each flash. The beginning of the video shows all three flash units had been fired by a Godox X2TF (for Fujifilm) set for TTL mode. Think about that — now the TT685o/p (center) and TT685C (right) “think” and operate like the Fujifilm-compatible flash (left). Incredible!

Next I switched to a Godox X2To/p (for Olympus and Panasonic), changed the mode to Manual (M), and test-fired the flashes.


The cross-compability of Godox TT685-series flashes makes these relatively inexpensive, well-made flashes an even better value. By buying wisely it’s possible to assemble an array of flashes that provides maximum flexibility. Bravo, Godox!

Editor’s Commentary

You know, I actually had a vision of how I wanted this video to turn out before I started shooting. Let’s just say my vision wasn’t realized. I like to think I’m a fairly good photographer; videographer, not so much. Perhaps I’ll re-do the video when I’m not as pressed for time as I was for this iteration.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Odonate exuviae collecting sites

July 29, 2019

The following video shows a “boater’s-eye view” of some sites where odonate exuviae have been collected by Joseph Johnston along Aquia Creek, located in Stafford County, Virginia USA. Joe is an avid boater and sport fisherman who kindly agreed to be my “Eyes on the Aquia,” always on the lookout for odonate exuvia to share with me.

The first photo gallery features still images of several spots shown in the preceding video. Joe estimates the water is ~5-6 feet deep outside the channel markers, and much deeper in the middle of the creek.

Joe’s boat is somewhere between the long boat docks (lower-right quadrant) and Government Island (near center), as shown in an aerial view of Aquia Creek provided by Google Maps.

The last photo gallery features still images of several exuviae, shown in situ before Joe collected the specimens. The first photo shows where it all began, when Joe collected his first dragonfly exuvia for me on 20 June 2018.

Related Resources


All media Copyright © 2019 by Joseph Johnston. Used with permission from Mr. Johnston.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

“Post Focus” image: toy dinosaur

February 8, 2019

A toy dinosaur was “photographed” at BoG Photo Studio using my new Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 digital camera set for “Post Focus.”

The camera was set for ISO 100 and Aperture Priority at f/2.8. Two Sunpak LED-160 Video Lights plus a Nissin i40 external flash unit (set for video light) were used to light the scene. 30 individual frames were extracted from the resulting MP4 video, and saved as TIF files; Adobe Photoshop was used to create the following focus-stacked composite image.

A plastic toy dinosaur.

Noise (graininess) has been a problem in some previous test shots using “Post Focus,” due to low light (underexposure). I changed the ISO from AUTO to 100 for this test, opened the aperture all the way to f/2.8, and added a third LED light source.

This is the first time I tested “Post Focus” and felt like the camera had a mind of its own! Nonetheless, the final output turned out OK. Further research and experimentation is required in order to understand what happened and why.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

“Post Focus” images: Shadow Darner dragonfly

January 30, 2019

Bob Perkins collected and reared a Shadow Darner dragonfly (Aeshna umbrosa) larva/nymph. This blog post features two focus-stacked composite images of a beautifully preserved specimen of the adult that emerged from the larva.

Each composite image was created from 30 TIF files extracted from a one-second MP4 video of the subject, “photographed” using my new Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 digital camera set for “Post Focus.”

This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages and “indented” hind wings (shown above). All male dragonflies have three terminal appendages, collectively called “claspers”: the two cerci are missing (they broke off the terminal end of the abdomen during shipping); the epiproct is intact.

Shadow Darner (Aeshna umbrosa) | dorsal-lateral view


Perhaps the biggest takeaway from on-going experimentation with Panasonic “Post Focus” is that the process continues to impress — it works quickly (typically one second or so) and works well, using lightweight, inexpensive equipment for making composite images of acceptable quality.

What’s not to like? The obvious answer: The image quality isn’t as high as comparable images created using HEAVY and EXPENSIVE camera gear in the controlled environment of a photo studio. On the other hand, I know from experience I’m unlikely to lug all of that gear into the field. I call it a BIG WIN to have found a relatively lightweight, inexpensive camera kit that does essentially the same job almost as well!

The next test: Use adult dragonflies in the wild as the subject. Regrettably, that will have to wait until the first odonates begin emerging during early spring.

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the “photos” for creation of the composite images, shown above: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 digital camera set for “Post Focus“; and two Sunpak LED-160 Video Lights.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create the preceding focus-stacked composite images, as well as spot-heal and sharpen the final output.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

More testing: Panasonic “Post Focus”

January 28, 2019

A toy dragonfly was “photographed” at BoG Photo Studio using my new Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 digital camera set for “Post Focus.” Two Sunpak LED-160 Video Lights were used to light the scene. 30 individual frames were extracted from the resulting MP4 video, and saved as TIF files; Adobe Photoshop was used to create the following focus-stacked composite image.

A plastic toy dragonfly.

The test shots featured in my last blog post, and this one, were taken in order to establish the proof of concept that Panasonic “Post Focus” can be used to quickly (well, everything is relative) create high quality focus-stacked composite images. After limited testing, I can say the process works fairly well.

The next test: Use a preserved specimen of a real adult dragonfly as the subject. Please stay tuned for my next blog post.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Testing: Panasonic “Post Focus”

January 25, 2019

My new Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 features some significant upgrades over my DMC-FZ150 such as a touch-screen LCD, built-in WiFi (enabling remote control of the camera using the “Panasonic Image App“), 49 focus points, and 4K video, to name a few. Perhaps the most intriguing new feature is what Panasonic calls “Post Focus.”

“Post Focus” can be used to change the focus point after a photograph is taken, in camera. OK, that’s astounding! But wait, there’s more.

With “Post Focus” enabled, the camera is used in the same way as when you’re shooting still photos. In reality, the camera records a small movie clip in 4K video at 30 fps (4:3 aspect ratio) every time you press the shutter button.

The 4K movie recording function is used to record roughly one second of MP4 video at 30 frames/second. During this recording, the camera’s autofocusing system scans the lens around the subject, moving from the foreground to the background to cover the entire scene. … It’s like a sophisticated form of focus bracketing and produces a movie clip containing about 30 frames. Source Credit: How the Panasonic Post Focus function works.

One reviewer of photography gear opined the process is too slow to be useful in real-world situations; in contrast, my first impression is the process works surprisingly quickly.

An MP4 file can be opened in Adobe Photoshop in order to export individual frames from the 4K video clip; the files can be saved in either JPG or TIF format. In turn those files can be imported into Photoshop to create a focus-stacked composite image, such as the one shown below.

A plastic toy Pterodactyl, 6.5″ in width.

A toy Pterodactyl was “photographed” at BoG Photo Studio using Panasonic “Post Focus.” One Sunpak LED-160 Video Light was used to light the scene. 30 individual frames were extracted from the resulting MP4 video, and saved as TIF files; Adobe Photoshop was used to create the preceding focus-stacked composite image.

I think Panasonic “Post Focus” shows great potential for enabling the production of high quality focus-stacked composite images when photowalking, without carrying a lot of photography gear into the field.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Burst mode flash photography

October 12, 2018

This post provides a brief demonstration of burst mode flash photography using the gear shown in the following photo: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera plus Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube and Fujinon XF80mm macro lensGodox XProF radio flash triggerGodox TT685F external flashGodox PROPAC PB960 Lithium-Ion Flash Power Pack; and Quantum Instruments CZ2 Power Cable (for Turbo Series Power Packs).

Godox flash photography gear.

The Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera is set for “CL” (continuous low) burst mode. The Godox TT685F external flash unit is set for Manual mode at 1/128 power, as shown on the LCD of the Godox XProF radio flash trigger mounted on the camera hot shoe. The external flash unit is connected to a Godox PROPAC PB960 power pack using a Quantum Instruments cable.

The external flash unit is powered by a set of four AA batteries, as usual. The external power pack enables a much faster recycle rate for the flash than is possible using only AA batteries.

The Quantum Instruments CZ2 Power Cable fits Canon external flash units such as the Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite and Canon 580EX- and Canon 580EX II Speedlites, as well as Godox external flash units made for Canon, Fujifilm, and Olympus/Panasonic digital cameras. You may want to buy two cables, since the Godox PROPAC PB860 can power two flash units at once.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Habitat for Tiger Spiketail dragonfly

August 9, 2018

In the world of odonates, there are habitat generalists and habitat specialists. Tiger Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster erronea) is a habitat specialist.

Habitat: Small forest streams and seeps, often with skunk cabbage and interrupted fern. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 7028-7029). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

The following video shows ideal habitat for C. erronea: A clean, seep-fed small stream in the forest.

The black rock in the middle of the creek is approximately five feet (~5′) from the place in the stream channel where I was sitting on a Coleman camp stool. The video begins with me looking at a seep that feeds the stream; then I pan left, right, and back to center stage.

Tech Tips: The preceding movie looks better viewed in full-screen mode. The video was recorded in 1080p at 60 fps using a head-mounted GoPro Hero4 Black action camera. The camera was positioned so that it recorded what I saw when looking straight ahead; the scene changed by moving my head. 60 fps was used so that I could edit the video to show smooth slow-motion video of Tiger Spiketail dragonflies in flight. I think one of the bigger take-aways is a Tiger fly-by would have been recorded clearly enough to be able to identify the species. For what it’s worth, the closest focusing distance of the GoPro Hero4 Black is approximately 12 inches (~1′).

GoPro CapCam©

A GoPro QuickClip was used to mount an action camera on the bill of a baseball cap.

GoPro Hero4 Black action camera, plus QuickClip mount.

The GoPro Head Strap + QuickClip is compatible with all GoPro cameras and sells for $19.95 retail.

GoPro Hero4 Black action camera, plus QuickClip mount.

The Backstory

I visited the location shown in the video three times: Several Tiger Spiketail dragonflies were observed at the site on 19- and 26 July 2018; no Tiger Spiketails were spotted on 06 August 2018, the day the video was recorded. It’s worth noting that the adult flight period for C. erronea peaks in July in Northern Virginia (USA). Most of the window of opportunity was missed due to near record setting rainfall for the month of July, including a period of seven consecutive days of rain totaling nearly 10 inches!

Although I saw several Tiger Spiketail dragonflies, every individual was in flight and I was unable to shoot still photos and/or video — they were gone by the time I reached for my camera! The GoPro CapCam© is my solution to this problem.

An Apple iPad mini is used to remotely control the action camera using the GoPro app (formerly known as “Capture”) via Bluetooth. Among many features, the app provides real-time display of the camera field of view. The camera is positioned correctly on the bill of my cap by holding the iPad directly in my line of sight and adjusting the camera mount so the iPad is shown in the middle of the screen, against the background.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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