Archive for the ‘dragonflies’ Category

More experimentation with tethered shooting

August 12, 2020

Oh no! I have become the blogger who cried wolf. Yes, I’m guilty of over-promising and under-delivering. I promise to do better. Oops, I did it again! (Queue Britney Spears…)

Why tethered shooting?

In case you’re wondering what piqued my interest in tethered shooting, I was bored. I had figured out all there is to know about non-tethered shooting so I needed a new challenge. Not!

Tethered shooting enables me to quickly check composition, exposure, and focus, to name a few advantages of tethered versus non-tethered shooting — on a larger screen than the LCD on the back of my cameras.

Bear in mind, I don’t want to edit the photo files using my laptop computer (Apple 13″ MacBook Air) — I prefer to use my desktop computer (Apple 24″ iMac) for photo editing.

Latest testing

The following photos were taken by tethering my Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera to an Apple 13″ MacBook Air computer, via a TetherTools USB cable. FUJIFILM Tether Shooting Plug-in PRO was used to save JPG files to a folder on the desktop of my MacBook Air; in turn, the JPG images were displayed in Adobe Lightroom. Both JPG and RAF files were saved to one of two memory cards in the X-T3.

Notice the difference in way these two photos were lighted. Both shots were taken using a single off-camera flash. The position of the flash resulted in more- or less dramatic light. Each shot shows something better than the other, so I was unable to choose a clear favorite. What’s your preference?

Tips and Tricks

Oh yeah, the tips and tricks I have been promising are still in the pipeline. I made some screen grabs today to illustrate the process of tethered shooting. Turns out I overlooked a critical setting so all of the graphics are useless. Doh! Can you say “Do over”?

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

As promised…

August 9, 2020

A rare weekend blog post

The following photo was taken by tethering my Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera to an Apple 13″ MacBook Air computer, via a TetherTools USB cable. Fujifilm X Aquire (free) was used to save JPG files to a folder on the desktop of my MacBook Air; both JPG and RAF files were saved to one of two memory cards in the X-T3.

Apple “Preview” was used to view the JPG files saved to my MacBook Air. Looking at larger versions of the photos than can be seen on the X-T3 LCD enabled me to position the exuvia exactly as I wanted.

Notice the left eye is overexposed slightly (as well as the farthest tip of the left middle leg), probably caused by positioning the subject too close to the white background. Hey, it’s been a while since I did much studio macro photography — I need to play myself into game shape!

More details, including some of the tips and tricks I promised, will be provided in my regularly-scheduled blog post on Monday, 10 August 2020. Please stay tuned!

The Backstory

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.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

First foray into tethered shooting

August 5, 2020

My first foray into tethered shooting occurred on 01 August 2020. Although I felt like I had no idea what I was doing, I was able to successfully connect my Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera to an Apple 13″ MacBook Air computer, via a TetherTools USB cable. The screen on my laptop shows the display for the FUJIFILM Tether Shooting Plug-in PRO (Mac) for Adobe Lightroom.

Screen display for 13″ MacBook Air.

I will backfill this post with more details about the hardware and software used to capture the following image, taken a few days after “first light.” In the meantime, I’m SO LATE in publishing my blog post for Wednesday I just want to put something out there STAT. Please revisit this post at a later time to read the updated version.

A Swift River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia illinoiensis) exuvia was collected on 27 May 2017 along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female. Notice the prominent horn on the head, a key field mark for exuviae from Family Macromiidae (Cruisers).

Ignore the bad background and quick-and-dirty lighting — this photo isn’t so much about making a good macro photo as it is the process used to make it. More later…I promise!

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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.

Spotlight on Slaty Skimmer

July 22, 2020

Michael Powell spotted a Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula incesta) during a photowalk with me along a mid-size stream in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

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

15 JUL 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Slaty Skimmer (male)

After a long day of searching for Eastern Least Clubtails (Stylogomphus albistylus) unsuccessfully — an uncommon species of dragonfly — it was good to see any type of dragonfly, including a common species like Slaty Skimmer!

Slaty Skimmer is a habitat generalist that can be found almost anywhere there is water.

Post Update

You know, sometimes I look at a full-frame photo and think it would look better cropped slightly. This is one of those times. So I cropped the photo and think it looks much better than the full-frame version. What do you think?

15 JUL 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Slaty Skimmer (male)

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (female, No. 5)

July 20, 2020

Sometimes I think I need an editor to select my best photos. Case in point, the following photos look similar but they are subtly different.

In the first photo, the terminal appendages seem to be more in focus than in the second photo.

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

The second photo shows a better view of the face while the terminal appendages are slightly softer.

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

Decisions, decisions. I decided not to decide, opting to publish both photos. Which photo do you prefer?

The Backstory

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 two photos of female No. 5.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Odonate Calendars (updated for 2020)

July 15, 2020

Phenology (noun) is defined as “the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life.”

There is an annual cycle of odonate activity that can be subdivided into three broad categories: Early Season (spring); Mid-season (summer); and Late Season (fall).

A calendar is a good way to visualize odonate phenology. I created a new blog page called “Odonate Calendars” (see right sidebar) that features several calendars showing the adult flight period for all species of dragonflies and damselflies that can be found in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The page includes two interactive calendars for Dr. Steve Roble’s excellent datasets for the Commonwealth of Virginia: one for dragonflies; another for damselflies. Other calendars are provided under “Related Resources.”

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (female, No. 6)

July 13, 2020

A Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphurus vastus) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

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

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

The preceding photo is “full frame,” that is uncropped (3,000 x 4,000 pixels).

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Sable Clubtail dragonfly (male, No. 2)

July 10, 2020

A Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi) was spotted by Michael Powell during a photowalk at a location in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings, and terminal appendages.

Look at the blade of grass on which the Sable is perched. Notice the “leftovers” from an afternoon snack eaten by the dragonfly before the photo was taken.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

Male dragonflies have three terminal appendages, collectively called “claspers,” that are used to grab and hold female dragonflies during mating: an upper pair of cerci (“superior appendages”); and a lower unpaired epiproct (“inferior appendage”). The epiproct for Sable Clubtail is essentially a wide plate with two prongs.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

The spiky green grass shown below is probably shallow sedge (Carex lurida) according to Drew Chaney, a.k.a., “Plant Man Drew.”

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

Field Observations

All of the photos in the preceding gallery show male No. 2 perched on vegetation overhanging a small stream, enabling him to both hunt/feed and wait for an opportunity to mate with a female.

Natural History: Males perch on sunlit vegetation overhanging stream or on flat rocks in shade at head of riffle, fly up into trees when disturbed. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 6102-6103). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

In my experience, Sable Clubtails — both male and female — also perch on ground cover vegetation in sunny clearings near small streams. For example, see my recent blog post featuring male No. 1.

Sable does in fact fly up into trees when their “flight” response is triggered by overzealous photographers; they have been observed perched in trees as high as 20 feet above the ground. Be patient — usually they return to the ground soon afterward.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue Dasher dragonfly (female)

July 8, 2020

Behold the humble Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis). So common, yet so uncommonly attractive in its own way.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Blue Dasher (female)

This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages. Initially I thought she might be another species of dragonfly, due to her somewhat atypical coloration.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Blue Dasher (female)

The Backstory

During a recent photowalk with Michael Powell at a location in Fairfax County, Virginia USA, we were men on a mission to find three rare to uncommon species of dragonflies: Arrowhead Spiketail (Cordulegaster obliqua); Gray Petaltail (Tachopteryx thoreyi); and Sable Clubtail (Stenogomphurus rogersi).

Albeit common, and not one of our target species, sometimes you need to stop and smell the Blue Dashers, figuratively speaking.

As for our list of target species, let’s just say two out of three ain’t bad.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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