Archive for the ‘dragonflies’ Category

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.

Swift River Cruiser exuvia (face-head)

November 20, 2020

The following image is a focus-stacked composite of three photos, focused on the left eye, right eye, and both eyes respectively.

27 May 2017 | Riverbend Park | Swift River Cruiser (exuvia, face-head)

Tech Tips

The dragonfly exuvia was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique.

Several photos were taken using my Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, a Kenko 12mm extension tube, and Laowa 25mm Ultra Macro Lens, set for f/4.0 (the sweet spot for this lens) at ~3.0x magnification.

Godox TT685C external flash was used to backlight the background (a piece of translucent white plastic) and a Godox TT685F external flash was used as a key light on the right side of the subject. The flash was triggered wirelessly by a Godox X2TC.

Check the EXIF/IPTC info for the photograph for complete details regarding photo gear and camera settings.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create a focus-stacked composite image that was edited using Apple Aperture.

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.

“It ain’t over till it’s over.”

November 2, 2020

“It ain’t over till it’s over” is a phrase commonly associated with baseball player/coach/manager Yogi Berra. In this case, “it” refers to odonate season and it’s not over in Northern Virginia till Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) disappear. Clearly, it ain’t over although “the end is near.”

This individual is a female, as indicated by her red/tan coloration and terminal appendages.

It ain’t over till the fat lady sings” is a similar saying that is often attributed to Yogi Berra mistakenly. “The fat lady” refers to the fact that many female dragonflies, such as Autumn Meadowhawk, have a wider body than males of the same species.

Look closely at the full-size version of the preceding photo. Notice what appears to be an egg mass located on the underside of her body, near the tip of the abdomen.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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.

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.

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.

When flat isn’t.

October 5, 2020

An Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis) was spotted along Delta Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female, as indicated by her green coloration and white terminal appendages.

15 SEP 2020 | OBNWR | Eastern Pondhawk (female)

The preceding photo was shot at an aperture of f/6.3 — notice the depth of field is a little too shallow at that f/stop to show the entire length of the dragonfly’s body in focus because she is perched on a small rock with her head/thorax a little higher above the ground than the tip of her abdomen.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

I’m the king of the world!

September 30, 2020

male Blue Dasher was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell along Deephole Point Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (OBNWR), Prince William County, Virginia USA.

15 SEP 2020 | OBNWR | Blue Dasher (male)

This male was perched about a foot above my head, observing all that passed before him along the road — reminds me of a scene from Titanic, the movie. “I’m the king of the world!

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

The old gray mare

September 23, 2020

A Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell along Deephole Point Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (OBNWR), Prince William County, Virginia USA.

This individual is an old female, as indicated by her coloration and terminal appendages.

Oh the old gray mare
She ain’t what she used to be

Like a fine wine, she’s aged to perfection!

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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