Archive for the ‘digital videography’ Category

Leftover Cobras

July 29, 2020

At least 11 Cobra Clubtail dragonflies (Gomphurus vastus) were spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell in Fairfax County, Virginia USA, including 10 females and one male. This blog post features photos of female No. 3 and No. 9.

No. 3

You know, some photos are better left on the cutting room floor. Like the first photo. At an aperture of f/5.6, the depth-of-field is too shallow to show both the head (soft) and tail (sharp) in focus.

Also, I think buttery soft bokeh looks better in the background than the foreground — the blurry light green grass stem in the lower-left corner would cause me to reject this photo nine times out of 10. In this case, I tried to “will” the photo to be good enough to use because I love the dew-covered vegetation.

Notice this individual’s battle-scarred wings. That’s a lot of wear and tear on a dragonfly that emerged relatively recently. She’s a survivor and you have to admire that!

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

No. 9

The following photo was shot at an aperture of f/6.3 for more depth-of-field. The head looks better in this photo than the last one, but “pixel peepers” will notice it’s a little soft.

On the other hand, I like the colors and textures of the vegetation enough that this photo gets a passing grade.

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

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

American Rubyspot damselfly (male)

June 24, 2020

During a photowalk with Michael Powell in Fairfax County, Virginia USA, Mike spotted an American Rubyspot damselfly (Hetaerina americana) perched facing the Potomac River. This individual is a male, as indicated by his red coloration, hamules, and terminal appendages.

All of the photos in the following gallery look similar, although there are subtle differences.

The first photo is the “record shot” for this individual, that is, “get a shot, any shot.” Actually, this one turned out to be a good photo! The camera was set for an aperture of f/5.6 for all shots in the gallery. This viewing angle provided the clearest look at his terminal appendages given the relatively shallow depth-of-field.

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | American Rubyspot (male)

The next photo shows a better look at the damselfly’s metallic ruby red face. Handsome!

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | American Rubyspot (male)

Finally, I just like the look of the “light” in the last photo. Dark and moody.

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | American Rubyspot (male)

Related Resource: American Rubyspot – a blog post by Michael Powell

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Splendid Clubtail dragonfly (female)

June 3, 2020

A Splendid Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphurus lineatifrons) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell at an undisclosed location in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. Easy for me to say now. As it turns out, my initial identification was incorrect.

The first photo I took of the dragonfly — the record shot — is shown below. Notice the pattern of yellow lateral marks/spots on its abdomen. Also notice the yellow blotch on the side of abdominal segment eight (S8) extends onto the club flange, as shown in the full-size version of the image. (Thanks to Michael Boatwright, founder and administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, for sharing these key field marks for Splendid.)

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

In contrast, the pattern of yellow lateral marks/spots on the abdomen of a female Cobra Clubtail (Gomphurus vastus), shown below, looks quite different. And the yellow blotch on S8 DOES NOT EXTEND onto the club flange, as shown in the full-size version of the image.

09 MAY 2017 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (female)

The last photo, published in a recent blog post, is the one that caused me to misidentify the dragonfly. Notice the pattern of yellow mid-dorsal lines/marks is somewhat similar for both Cobra Clubtail (above) and Splendid Clubtail (below).

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

This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages and rounded hind wings.

The Backstory

My last blog post features an actual female Cobra Clubtail dragonfly that I spotted soon after seeing the Splendid Clubtail shown above.

The Cobra appeared to be noticeably smaller than the Splendid, and in fact it is. Cobra is 4.7-5.7 cm in total length; Splendid is 6.7-6.9 cm. In my experience it’s often difficult to judge the relative size of dragonflies in the field. That being said, a difference of ~2.0 cm in length was easy to see.

There is, of course, some natural variation in size among individuals of the same species. I walked around the rest of the day wondering why the two “Cobra” that I’d seen were so different in size. The answer seems obvious in retrospect: the larger one is Splendid; the smaller one is Cobra.

Official Records

When my friend Mike Powell submitted an official record for the Splendid Clubtail, he followed my lead and called it Cobra Clubtail. Mike included a photograph showing a dorsal view of the dragonfly that looks similar to my dorsal view.

Rick Cheicante and Mike Boatwright, two vetters for the Odonata Central records database, thought the dragonfly might be Splendid rather than Cobra. Mike Boatwright contacted me and asked to see more photos of the Splendid. One look at my photo showing a side view of the individual and Mike B. knew immediately the “Cobra” is actually Splendid.

So what’s the take-away? It’s good to be wrong, in fact, it’s Splendid! (See what I did there?) Especially when Splendid Clubtail is a new species for my life list as well as a new species for Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

And while I’m giving credit where credit is due, it should be noted that Kevin Munroe, former manager of Huntley Meadows Park, deserves credit as the first person to discover Splendid Clubtail in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. Although Kevin didn’t submit official records for his finds, he beat me to the discovery by nearly a decade!

Adult Flight Period

According to records for the Commonwealth of Virginia maintained by Dr. Steve Roble, Staff Zoologist at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, the adult flight period for Gomphurus lineatifrons is from May 01 to June 27. The species is classified as uncommon. Its habitat is “rivers.”

Bear in mind, Dr. Roble’s records are for the entire state, therefore the adult flight period for Gomphurus lineatifrons seems to be longer than it is in reality. The adult flight period for a single site is probably shorter. For example, according to records for Northern Virginia maintained by Kevin Munroe, former manager of Huntley Meadows Park, the adult flight period for Splendid Clubtail is May 28 to June 15.

Related Resource: Gomphurus lineatifrons (Splendid Clubtail)

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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.

Take-aways

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

Credits

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

Takeaways

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.


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