Archive for the ‘Fujifilm EF-42’ Category

Macromia illinoiensis exuvia

March 15, 2017

Post update: Macromiidae exuvia

When this blog post was published on 19 April 2016, I was a novice at identifying odonate exuviae and I was just starting to get serious about studio macro photography. At the time, I was satisfied to be able to identify the dragonfly exuvia as a member of the Family Macromiidae (Cruisers).

What’s new?

I’ve learned a lot since then, including the identity of the specimen to the genus/species level. This is a Swift River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia illinoiensis) exuvia that was collected along the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The first annotated image shows several characters that were used to identify the exuvia to the family level, including a mask-like labium featuring spork-like crenulations and a horn between its pointy eyes.

Swift River Cruiser (Macromia illinoiensis) | exuvia (face-head)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

The following dorsal view of the exuvia provides enough clues to identify the specimen to the genus/species level.

Swift River Cruiser (Macromia illinoiensis) | exuvia (dorsal)

The lateral spines of abdominal segment nine (S9) do not reach the tips of the inferior appendages (paraprocts), and if you look closely at the full-size version of the preceding photo then you should see a small mid-dorsal hook on abdominal segment 10 (S10). These characters indicate the genus is Macromia.

Notice the lateral spines of abdominal segments eight and nine (S8-9) are “directed straight to rearward,” indicating the species is illinoiensis.

Where it all began.

The last photo shows a teneral male Swift River Cruiser dragonfly clinging to the exuvia from which it emerged — the same exuvia featured in this post! Matt Ryan collected the exuvia after the adult dragonfly flew away from its perch. When Matt gave the exuvia to me several years later, he was unable to remember where it was collected. As soon as I was able to identify the exuvia to the genus/species level, I remembered seeing the following photo posted in one of Matt’s spottings on Project Noah.

Photo used with permission from Matthew J. Ryan.

With a little detective work, I was able to solve the mystery of the specific identity of the exuvia as well as when and where it was collected. Like I said, I’ve learned a lot since I published the first blog post related to this specimen!

Related Resources:

Editor’s Notes: A funny thing happened on the way to the forum. I rediscovered the “Key to the Genera of the Family Macromiidae” (p. 27, shown above) while paging through the document Identification Keys to Northeastern Anisoptera Larvae in search of the “Key to the Genera of the Family Corduliidae” (page 28). One look at the line drawing at the bottom of p. 27 and I knew the specific identity of the cruiser exuvia.

I need to refresh this blog post with more annotated images of the Macromia illinoiensis exuvia, including one that clearly shows the mid-dorsal hook on S10, but I was so eager to update the old post that I couldn’t wait to shoot and post-process the new images.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Advertisements

Tramea carolina exuvia

December 12, 2016

An exuvia from an unknown species of dragonfly was collected on 04 October 2016 at Mason Neck West Park (MNWP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. A two-step process was used to identify the genus and species of the specimen.

Family

First, determine the family of the specimen. For reference, watch the excellent Vimeo video, Identifying dragonfly larva to family (8:06).

The exuviae has a mask-like labium (not flat) with evenly-toothed crenulations, indicating this individual is a member of Family Libellulidae (Skimmers). [See Photo No. 2.]

Genus and species

A dichotomous key was used to tentatively identify the exuvia as Carolina Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea carolina), as indicated by the following morphological characteristics.

  • No dorsal hooks on any abdominal segments.
  • Lateral spines of abdominal segment nine (S9) are much longer than its mid-dorsal length. Lateral spines on segment eight (S8) are nearly as long as on segment nine (S9).[See Photo No. 3.]
  • Superior abdominal appendage (epiproct) is shorter than inferior abdominal appendages (paraprocts). [See Photo No. 3.]

Sincere thanks to Sue Gregoire, Kestrel Haven Migration Observatory, for verifying my preliminary observations and tentative identification!

No. 1

The specimen is approximately 2.4 cm (~0.9″) in length. Notice there are no dorsal hooks on any abdominal segments.

A dragonfly exuvia (Tramea carolina) collected at Mason Neck West Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 1 | Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina) | exuvia (dorso-lateral)

The white filaments that extend from the split in the thorax (as shown in Photo No. 1-2, 4-6) are breathing tubes, artifacts of the unique respiratory system of dragonfly nymphs.

No. 2

The eyes are rounded and widely separated. Notice the mask-like labium (sometimes referred to as “spoon-shaped”) with evenly-toothed crenulations along the margins between two lateral lobes.

A dragonfly exuvia (Tramea carolina) collected at Mason Neck West Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 2 | Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina) | exuvia (face-head)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

No. 3

A vertical white line marks the mid-dorsal length of abdominal segment nine (S9), as shown in the following annotated image; the vertical black line labeled “mid-dorsal length” is the same length as the white line. Notice the lateral spines of abdominal segment nine (S9) are much longer than its mid-dorsal length.

A dragonfly exuvia (Tramea carolina) collected at Mason Neck West Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 3 | Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina) | exuvia (anal pyramid)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

One of the keys to identifying skimmer dragonflies to the species level is to carefully examine the anal pyramid (S10), including the cerci (sing. cercus), epiproct, and paraprocts. Notice the epiproct is shorter than the paraprocts.

There is a lot of “seaweed” (aquatic vegetation) clinging to the exuvia, especially noticeable at the posterior end. Some collectors like to clean their specimens; I prefer to photograph them “as is.”

More photos of the exuvia are shown below.

No. 4

A dragonfly exuvia (Tramea carolina) collected at Mason Neck West Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 4 | Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina) | exuvia (dorsal)

No. 5

A dragonfly exuvia (Tramea carolina) collected at Mason Neck West Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 5 | Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina) | exuvia (face-head)

No. 6

A dragonfly exuvia (Tramea carolina) collected at Mason Neck West Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 6 | Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina) | exuvia (anal pyramid)

Tech Tips:

The following equipment was used to shoot the preceding photographs:

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to annotate selected images.

Related Resources:

dichotomous key: a key for the identification of organisms based on a series of choices between alternative characters. Source Credit: Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Assuming the convention of labeling the two branches of each dichotomy as “a” and “b”, e.g. 1a, 1b, etc., a list of branches in the decision tree that I used to identify the genus of the dragonfly exuviae is as follows: 1b; 4b; 5b; 10a; 11b; 12b Tramea. A supplemental key featuring one dichotomy was used to identify the species: 1a carolina BINGO!

In long form, the decision tree is as follows:

p. 36, Key to the Genera of the Family Libellulidae
1b – Eyes lower, more broadly rounded and more lateral in position; abdomen usually ending more bluntly. [Go to] 4
4b – These appendages [inferior abdominal appendages (paraprocts)] straight or nearly so. [Go to] 5
5b – No dorsal hooks on any abdominal segments. [Go to] 10
10a – Lateral spines of segment 9 much longer than its mid-dorsal length. [Go to] 11
11b – Lateral spines on 8 nearly as long as on 9. [Go to] 12
12b – Superior abdominal appendage (epiproct) shorter than inferiors [inferior abdominal appendages (paraprocts)]. Tramea BINGO!

p. 41, Key to the species of the genus Tramea
1a – Lateral spines of segment 8 directed straight to rearward; paraprocts longer than epiproct; two rows of spinules on upper surface of epiproct. carolina BINGO!

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Perithemis tenera exuviae

December 6, 2016

Several unknown dragonfly exuviae were collected on 07 July 2016 from the Potomac River, Fairfax County, Virginia USA; two of the specimens are featured in this post. A two-step process was used to identify the genus and species of the specimens.

Family

First, determine the family of the specimens. For reference, watch the excellent Vimeo video, Identifying dragonfly larva to family (8:06).

The exuviae have a mask-like labium (not flat) with smooth crenulations, indicating these individuals are members of Family Libellulidae (Skimmers).

Genus and species

A dichotomous key was used to tentatively identify the exuviae as Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera), as indicated by the following morphological characteristics.

  • The cerci (sing. cercus) are slightly less than half the length of the paraprocts.
  • Dorsal hooks are clearly visible on abdominal segments four through nine (S4-9), plus a “nub” that is visible on segment three (S3).
  • Lateral spines are clearly visible on abdominal segments eight and nine (S8-9).

These specimens are the first odonate exuviae that I was able to identify to the species level. Sincere thanks to Sue Gregoire, Kestrel Haven Migration Observatory, for verifying my preliminary observations and tentative identification.

No. 1

Each specimen is approximately 1.4 cm (~0.6″) in length and approximately 0.6 cm (~0.2″) in maximum width. In Photo No. 1, the specimen shown on the left is an emergent nymph that was stuck in its exuvia.

A pair of Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) exuviae collected from the Potomac River, Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 1 | Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera) | exuviae (lateral, dorsal)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

The white filaments that extend from the split in the thorax (as shown in Photo No. 1-3) are breathing tubes, artifacts of the unique respiratory system of dragonfly nymphs.

No. 2

An Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) exuvia collected from the Potomac River, Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 2 | Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera) | exuviae (dorsal)

No. 3

The eyes are relatively small and widely separated. Notice the mask-like labium (sometimes referred to as “spoon-shaped”) with smooth crenulations along the margins between two lateral lobes.

An Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) exuvia collected from the Potomac River, Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 3 | Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera) | exuviae (head-on)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

No. 4

One of the keys to identifying skimmer dragonflies to the species level is to carefully examine the anal pyramid (see S10, shown below), including the cerci (sing. cercus) and paraprocts. Notice the cerci are slightly less than half the length of the paraprocts.

An Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) exuvia collected from the Potomac River, Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 4 | Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera) | exuviae (anal pyramid)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Tech Tips:

The following equipment was used to shoot the preceding photographs:

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to annotate selected images.

Related Resources:

dichotomous key: a key for the identification of organisms based on a series of choices between alternative characters. Source Credit: Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Assuming the convention of labeling the two branches of each dichotomy as “a” and “b”, e.g. 1a, 1b, etc., a list of branches in the decision tree that I used to identify the species of the dragonfly exuviae is as follows: 1b; 4b; 5a; 6a BINGO!

In long form, the decision tree is as follows:

p. 36, Key to the Genera of the Family Libellulidae
1b – Eyes lower, more broadly rounded and more lateral in position; abdomen usually ending more bluntly. [Go to] 4
4b – These appendages [inferior abdominal appendages (paraprocts)] straight or nearly so. [Go to] 5
5a – Dorsal hooks on some abdominal segments. [Go to] 6
6a – Dorsal hook on 9. Perithemis (One species, Perithemis tenera.) BINGO!

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Dragonhunter dragonfly exuvia

June 12, 2016

A Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) exuvia was collected along the Little Patuxent River by Richard Orr, renowned expert on odonates of the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, during an Audubon Naturalist Society adult class and field trip to the Patuxent Research Refuge on 15 June 2014.

Dragonhunter [nymphs] crawl out of the river and often cling on wet wood or roots/vegetation. I have seen them on mud but they seem to like vegetation or wood to cling to during emergence. I took a photo…of a cast skin at the same area [where this specimen was collected]. Source Credit: Personal communication from Richard Orr.

The decision tree used to identify the exuvia as a member of the Gomphidae Family (Clubtails) is fairly simple and straightforward.

  • The specimen has a flat labium (not mask-like).
  • Antennae are either club-shaped or paddle-like (not thin and threadlike as in Aeshnidae).

Dragonhunter is the largest of North American clubtails; accordingly the large size and shape of a Dragonhunter exuvia is so distinctive that it is relatively easy to identify to the species level.

A Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) exuviae collected along the Little Patuxent River, Patuxent Research Refuge, Laurel, Maryland USA.

Lateral view showing left side, facing forward (annotated).

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Notice the large, paddle-like antennae. They remind me of ping pong paddles.

A Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) exuviae collected along the Little Patuxent River, Patuxent Research Refuge, Laurel, Maryland USA.

Head-on view (annotated).

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

The large size and shape of Dragonhunter exuviae are key field markers.

A Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) exuviae collected along the Little Patuxent River, Patuxent Research Refuge, Laurel, Maryland USA.

Dorsal view.

All clubtail nymphs/evuviae have a flat labium that doesn’t cover the face.

A Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) exuviae collected along the Little Patuxent River, Patuxent Research Refuge, Laurel, Maryland USA.

Ventral view (annotated).

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Tech Tips:

The following equipment was used to shoot the preceding photographs: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujinon XF18-55mm (27mm-82.5mm, 35mm equivalent) zoom lens plus “Fotasy” brand 10mm extension tube; Fujifilm Shoe Mount Flash EF-42 (on-camera, in TTL mode); Nissin i40 external flash unit (off-camera, in SD mode). A snap-on plastic diffuser was used for each external flash.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 was used to annotate selected images.

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Aeshnidae exuvia

May 15, 2016

An odonate exuvia was spotted on 14 August 2012 along the boardwalk in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park. The specimen was broken into three pieces when I found it: head and thorax; wing pads; and abdomen.

This individual is a member of the Family Aeshnidae (Darners). Here’s the decision tree I used to tentatively identify the exuvia as a member of the Darner Family.

  • The specimen has a flat labium that doesn’t cover the face (not mask-like).
  • Antennae are thin and thread-like (not club-like, as in Gomphidae).

Photo Set 1

Notice the labium is flat and isn’t mask-like, that is, doesn’t cover the face of the larva/exuvia.

An odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is probably a member of the Aeshnidae Family.

Head and thorax (lateral view).

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Also notice the antennae are thin and thread-like, as shown in the following annotated image.

An odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is probably a member of the Aeshnidae Family.

Head and thorax (dorsal side).

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

The shape of the mentum and prementum (especially the rounded palpal blades) indicates this specimen is a Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius), one of the more common species of Aeshnidae found at Huntley Meadows Park.

An odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is probably a member of the Aeshnidae Family.

Head and thorax (ventral side).

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Photo Set 2

The next photo shows the wing pads as well as part of abdominal segment one (S1). All odonates have a 10-segmented abdomen. The anterior side is toward the bottom of the photo; posterior toward the top.

An odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is probably a member of the Aeshnidae Family.

Wing pads (dorsal view).

Abdominal segments two through 10 (S2-10) are shown in the following photo.

An odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is probably a member of the Aeshnidae Family.

Abdomen (dorsal view).

Lateral spines along abdominal segments seven, eight, and nine (S7-9) verifies the genus and species as Anax junius. Notice the faint feature on segment nine (S9), highlighted by a white circle. This is a “rudimentary ovipositor,” according to SueandJohn KestrelHaven, active members of the “Northeast Odonata” Facebook group. An ovipositor is used for egg-laying by all adult damselflies and some species of adult dragonflies: females have this feature; males do not.

An odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is probably a member of the Aeshnidae Family.

Abdomen (ventral view).

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Tech Tips:

The following equipment was used to shoot the preceding photographs:

Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 was used to annotate selected images.

The following photo reveals a behind the scenes look at my low-tech solution for staging specimen parts: a plastic toothpick (tan) from a Swiss Army knife held by a small plastic clothespin (green); both parts were held by an alligator clip (silver) mounted on a short, flexible arm.

An odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is probably a member of the Aeshnidae Family.

All specimens were staged in front of the same opaque white plastic background. Hard to believe, huh? I own an 18% gray scale card; at some point, I should start using it to adjust the white balance in my macro photos!

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Macromiidae exuvia

April 19, 2016

A dragonfly exuvia was collected along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This specimen is a member of the Family Macromiidae (Cruisers).

The following macro photo enabled me to see most of the critical field marks required to make an identification to the family level for this specimen. Here’s the decision tree I used to tentatively identify the exuvia as a member of the Cruiser Family.

  • The specimen has a mask-like labium.
  • The teeth on the margins of the labium have a regular pattern. (The pattern reminds me of a “spork.”)
  • There is a horn between the eyes. Its eyes are small, wide set, and stick up.

Turns out I was correct — the exuvia is a member of the Family Macromiidae! Thanks to aquatic entomologist Celeste Searles Mazzacano, Ph.D., for verifying my tentative identification.

A dragonfly exuvia spotted at Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve. This specimen is a member of the Family Macromiidae (Cruisers).

ISO 400 | 50mm | 0 ev | f/22 | 1/500s

The next photo shows a dorsal view that should enable me to identify the specimen to the genus and species level, a work in progress. In Northern Virginia, probable species in the Cruiser Family include Stream Cruiser (Didymops transversa), Swift River Cruiser (Macromia illinoiensis illinoiensis), and Royal River Cruiser (Macromia taeniolata).

A dragonfly exuvia spotted at Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve. This specimen is a member of the Family Macromiidae (Cruisers).

ISO 800 | 35.8mm (54mm, 35mm equivalent) | 0 ev | f/20 | 180s

Tech Tips:

The following equipment was used to shoot the preceding photographs:

Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 was used for minor touch-up work on the background of both photos.

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Señor Frog

March 6, 2016

During the “off-season,” I use the downtime exploring new sites for wildlife photography and for experimenting with new photography gear and techniques. For example, I spent a few days in the “BoG Photo Studio” recently experimenting with extension tubes.

Macro extension tubes are inserted between the lens and the camera body and increase the distance between the lens elements and the sensor enabling users to focus on subjects much closer to the camera. Source Credit: Fujifilm Macro Extension Tubes MCEX-11 and MCEX-16.

The subject in this set of test shots is a toy frog. His name is “Señor Frog,” as in, “I seen your frog, Señor.” Just look at him. He’s SO CUTE, don’t you want to kiss him? I found Señor Frog in a geocache located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA; the item I traded for Señor Frog is cool but he is cooler!

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

The first photo was shot on 19 February 2016 using a Canon EOS 5D Mark II plus Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L zoom lens, the 20mm Kenko macro automatic extension tube (from a set of three), 580EX II Speedlite & Vello diffuser, and Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB tripod and Manfrotto 054 Magnesium Ball Head with Q2 Quick Release.

The original image is a RAW file (CR2), taken using manual exposure and manual focus; the flash was on and fired. The minimum focusing distance for the 70-200mm lens is 1.2 m (3.9 ft.). Adding the 20mm extension tube reduced the minimum focusing distance: at a focal length of 135mm, the working distance was ~1.5 feet; at 200mm the working distance was estimated to be 2-3 feet.

IMG_0187-CR2-Ver2_Aperture

ISO 400 | 148mm | 0 ev | f/32 | 1/160s

Fujifilm X-T1

The next photo was taken on 18 February 2016 using a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera plus Fujinon XF18-55mm (27-82.5mm, 35mm equivalent) “kit” lens, Nissin i40 external flash (TTL), and Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB tripod and Manfrotto 054 Magnesium Ball Head with Q2 Quick Release.

The original image is a RAW file (RAF), shot using manual exposure and automatic focus; the flash was on and fired. The working distance was ~30cm, the same as the minimum focusing distance for this lens. That’s fairly close to the subject considering no extension tubes were used! The 10mm “Fotasy” brand extension tube (set of two) works well with this lens, reducing the minimum focusing distance to ~7 inches (~18 cm). At that distance, it was impossible to see the entire subject.

"Señor Frog," a toy frog found in a geocache located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

ISO 800 | 55mm (83mm, 35mm equivalent) | -2 ev | f/16 | 1/250s

The last photo was shot on 15 February 2016 using a Fujifilm X-T1 plus Fujinon XF55-200mm zoom lens, both “Fotasy” brand extension tubes (set of two, stacked together), Fujifilm Shoe Mount Flash EF-42 (TTL), and Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB tripod and Manfrotto 054 Magnesium Ball Head with Q2 Quick Release.

The original image is a RAW file (RAF), taken using manual exposure and automatic focus; the flash was on and fired. The minimum focusing distance of 1.1 m (3 ft. 7 in.) is estimated to be half as far using both extension tubes (10 + 16 = 26mm).

"Señor Frog," a toy frog found in a geocache located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

ISO 800 | 134.5mm (202mm, 35mm equivalent) | 0 ev | f/11 | 1/180s

Lessons Learned

So what are the take-aways from my experimentation? The time to figure out how your gear works is not when the photo opportunity of a lifetime presents itself! My skill set now includes several photographic techniques for getting closer to the subject, thereby enabling smaller subjects such as frogs and odonates to fill the frame, that is, assuming these subjects are less skittish than usual.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Don’t dismiss the “kit” lens!

February 23, 2016

What is a “kit” lens?

A kit lens is a “starter” lens which can be sold with an interchangeable-lens camera such as a single-lens reflex camera. It is generally an inexpensive lens priced at the lowest end of the manufacturer’s range so as to not add much to a camera kit’s price. The kit consists of the camera body, the lens, and various accessories usually necessary to get started in SLR photography. Source Credit: Kit lens, from Wikipedia.

I’ve been experimenting with the Fujinon XF18-55mm (27-82.5mm, 35mm equivalent) “kit” lens that was bundled with my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera body, using the lens either by itself or in combination with a set of “Fotasy” brand extension tubes.

The first photo of a toy dragonfly was taken using the lens only. The working distance was approximately 12 inches (~30 cm), close to the minimum focusing distance for the lens.

A toy dragonfly. EXIF: ISO 800; 55mm (83mm, 35mm equivalent); 0.67 ev; f/16; 1/250s.

ISO 800 | 55mm (83mm, 35mm equivalent) | 0.67 ev | f/16 | 1/250s

The next photo was taken using the kit lens combined with a 10mm extension tube. The working distance of the lens was reduced to approximately seven (7) inches (~18 cm)!

A toy dragonfly. EXIF: ISO 800; 53mm (79mm, 35mm equivalent); 0.67 ev; f/16; 1/250s.

ISO 800 | 53mm (79mm, 35mm equivalent) | 0.67 ev | f/16 | 1/250s

At a focal length of 55mm, a 16mm extension tube reduces the working distance to several inches. The front lens element is so close to the subject that one must be careful to avoid scratching the glass! And you’ll need to move your external flash unit off-camera to avoid lens shadow.

The last photo shows my set of two Fotasy extension tubes. Each tube can be used individually or they can be stacked together: 10mm; 16mm; 26mm.

Macro extension tubes are inserted between the lens and the camera body and increase the distance between the lens elements and the sensor enabling users to focus on subjects much closer to the camera. Source Credit: Fujifilm Macro Extension Tubes MCEX-11 and MCEX-16.

"Fotasy" brand extension tubes for Fujifilm X-T1 digital cameras.

Fotasy” brand extension tubes for Fujifilm X Mount cameras.

So what’s the take-away from my experimentation? I should have tried using the lens sooner — its impressive performance far exceeded my expectations of a “kit” lens!

Tech Tips: All photos featured in this post were taken using a Fujifilm X-T1 and Fujinon XF18-55mm lens, mounted on a Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB tripod and Manfrotto 054 Magnesium Ball Head with Q2 Quick Release. The first two photos were lighted by a Fujifilm Shoe Mount Flash EF-42 that commanded an off-camera Nissin i40 external flash in “SF” mode. The scene in the third photo was lighted by a Fujifilm EF-X8 pop-up flash that commanded an off-camera Nissin i40 external flash in “SD” mode.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Flashback – reflecting upon nearly two years of flash photography

January 28, 2016

Once upon a time I was a photography purist: Every photograph I shot was taken in natural light. Then one day I had an epiphany: Fill flash brings out detail and enhances color, contrast, and sharpness. In a word, flash good!

I remember the day of my conversion from the dark side vividly. I was trying to photograph a Blue Corporal dragonfly (Ladona deplanata) during Spring 2013: Male Blue Corporals are dark blue and the subject was backlighted by the Sun; all of the photos I shot appeared to be underexposed and showed almost no detail. I decided to try using the built-in pop-up flash on my camera, and boom, the results were much better! For the rest of the year, I used the pop-up flash full-time.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150

My love of flash photography began with the built-in pop-up flash on my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom camera. Eventually I came to realize the obvious: The pop-up flash is better than nothing but it’s underpowered in many (if not most) situations.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 pop-up flash.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 pop-up flash.

Canon external flash units

Mid-way through 2014, I started experimenting with using external flash units for Canon digital cameras mounted on my Panasonic camera.

  • Canon 580EX Speedlite (Guide Number: 58) plus Sto-Fen OM-EY Omni-Bounce plastic diffuser
  • Canon 580EX Speedlite II (Guide Number: 58) plus Vello Bounce Dome plastic diffuser. (Note: The Canon 580EX II is slightly larger than the 580EX.)

Both Canon flashes are virtually identical and are compatible with every digital camera I own, including the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150, although the flashes must be used in manual mode.

External flash units for Canon digital cameras: Canon 580EX Speedlite; Canon 580EX Speedlite II.

Canon 580EX Speedlite (left) | Canon 580EX Speedlite II (right)

By experimentation, I quickly discovered three things:

  1. Both Canon flashes work with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 at any shutter speed. This is huge, especially since I prefer to shoot in shutter priority mode at faster shutter speeds.
  2. Manual flash isn’t as hard to understand as I was led to believe.
  3. The Canon 580EX works better with my Panasonic camera than the 580EX II. (For example, when the camera goes into power-saving mode, so does the 580EX flash unit; when the camera “wakes up,” so does the flash. In contrast, sometimes it is necessary to power-cycle the 580EX II in order to wake it from power-saving mode when it is mounted on my Panasonic camera.)

The following camera/flash settings are my usual starting point.

  • Camera: ISO 100; Shutter Priority mode at 1/800s.
  • Flash: Manual Mode; 1/16 power ratio; 105mm zoom.

Correct exposure is never more than a few stops away from these settings. (Note: On both 580s, every three clicks on the selection dial equals one stop of exposure.)

Fujifilm external flash units

I own several external flash units for my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.

  • The Fujifilm EF-X8 (Guide Number: ~8) comes with the X-T1 camera body. Although the EF-X8 is almost as underpowered as the pop-up flash on my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150, it can be used to fire the Nissin i40 off-camera with the i40 set for “SD mode.”
  • The Fujifilm EF-42 (Guide Number: 42) plus Sto-Fen OM-600 Omni-Bounce plastic diffuser enables TTL flash photography at shutter speeds equal to or less than the X-T1 flash sync speed of 1/180s (actually, 1/250s). The EF-42 can be used to fire the Nissin i40 off-camera with the i40 set for “SF mode.”
  • The Nissin i40 (Guide Number: 40) enables both TTL flash photography at shutter speeds equal to or less than the sync speed, and high-speed sync with the i40 set for Manual mode. (Note: The Nissin i40 comes with a snap-on plastic diffuser, not shown in the following photograph.)
External flash units for Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera: Fujifilm EF-X8; Fujifilm EF-42; Nissin i40.

Fujifilm EF-X8 (left) | Fujifilm EF-42 (center) | Nissin i40 (right)

Flash accessories

The last photo shows a few of my favorite accessories for external flash photography.

Accessories for external flash units: Ansmann battery case; Sanyo Eneloop rechargeable batteries; Vello Off-Camera TTL Flash Cord; Yongnuo YN622C II Wireless Flash Trigger Transceivers.

Accessories for external flash units.

One of my goals for 2016 is to experiment with on-camera versus off-camera flash using some of the accessories shown above.

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

New tools for flash photography

November 29, 2015

In my experience as a wildlife photographer specializing in insect photography, two of the more critical factors in my formula for success include using a fast shutter speed along with some sort of flash, preferably a powerful external flash unit.

  • Shutter Priority AE Mode: Use a fast shutter speed, equal to or greater than the reciprocal of the lens focal length (actual focal length for full-frame sensor cameras or 35mm equivalent for crop sensor cameras), in my case, usually no less than 1/800 s for a 600mm equivalent telephoto lens.
  • Use either a built-in flash or external flash unit for fill flash: “… the real secret of wildlife photography is fill flash. Fill flash is one of the key techniques for easily improving wildlife images. Electronic flash improves the color balance of the image, improves color saturation, fills in dark shadows with detail, adds a catch light to an animal’s eye, and may help increase sharpness.” Source Credit: Wildlife Fill Flash. Note: Burst Mode cannot be used with flash.

I bought some new tools for flash photography that should enable me to make better use of two of the more capable cameras I own, rather than using my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom bridge camera exclusively in the field.

Nissin i40

The first photo shows my Fujifilm X-T1 mirrorless digital camera and 55-200mm zoom lens (88-320mm, 35mm equivalent). In order to shoot tack-sharp photos using a hand-held camera and mid-range telephoto lens, I would prefer to use a combination of a shutter speed of at least 1/640s with fill flash. This configuration doesn’t work with my Fujifilm X-T1. Mirror-less digital cameras aren’t shutterless — they still require a mechanical shutter in order to properly expose larger image sensors such as the APS-C sensor featured in the X-T1. Using the X-T1, flash will synchronize with the shutter at shutter speeds of 1/180s or slower. Editor’s Note: 1/250s usually works as well or better than the X-T1’s 180x default flash sync speed, but that’s the built-in speed limit.

Fujifilm X-T1 mirrorless camera and Nissin i40 external flash unit.

Fujifilm X-T1 mirrorless digital camera | Nissin i40 external flash unit

I recently discovered a third-party external flash unit that is capable of shooting in high-speed sync mode like my Canon Speedlites: Nissin i40 for the Fujifilm mirrorless camera system. Although the Nissin i40 is fully TTL compatible at shutter speeds equal to or less than the X-T1 flash sync speed, high-speed sync only works when the i40 is set for manual mode. This is a game-changer nonetheless — I’m eagerly looking forward to field-testing my X-T1 using flash with shutter speeds faster than 1/250s. And after a year-and-a-half of experience using my Panasonic superzoom bridge camera with a Canon 580EX Speedlite set for manual mode, shooting manual flash is relatively easy.

Fujifilm X-T1 mirrorless camera and Nissin i40 external flash unit.

Fujifilm X-T1 mirrorless digital camera | Nissin i40 external flash unit

Note: The lens hood is reverse-mounted in the preceding photo in order to minimize the apparent length of the lens barrel.

Yongnuo YN622C II Wireless Flash Trigger Transceivers

The next photo shows my older Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR camera plus a hot shoe-mounted Yongnuo YN622C II Wireless Flash Trigger Transceiver that can be used to control off-camera flash units using both E-TTL and high-speed sync.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR camera plus Yongnuo YN622C II Wireless Flash Trigger Transceiver.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR | Yongnuo YN622C II Wireless Flash Trigger

New words formed by fusing together parts of existing words are known as “blends.” The word “transceiver” is a blend of the words “transmitter” and “receiver.”  Using a pair of Yongnuo YN622C II Wireless Flash Trigger Transceivers, the unit mounted on-camera automatically acts like a radio transmitter while the off-camera unit automatically acts as a radio receiver for the Canon 580EX II Speedlite mounted on top.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR camera, Canon 580EX II Speedlite, plus a pair of Yongnuo YN622C II Wireless Flash Trigger Transceivers.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II | Canon 580EX II Speedlite | Yongnuo YN622C II (2)

Wireless off-camera flash is another game-changer, especially for macro photography. I tried using a coiled six-foot Vello Off-Camera TTL Flash Cord for Canon Cameras that is fully compatible with the two-foot Canon OC-E3 Off Camera Shoe Cord, but the cord always seemed to get in the way and couldn’t be extended fully without causing either the camera or external flash unit to tip over.

The simple set-up shown above features a Canon “nifty fifty” 50mm lens and a couple of Kenko macro automatic extension tubes from a set of three. In this case, the 20mm and 36mm extension tubes combined with the 50mm lens produce ~1:1 macro photos.

As a bonus, the Yongnuo radio transceivers work with every other camera I own to wirelessly control my Canon Speedlites in manual mode. Makes sense, since the “C” in YN622C II means the flash triggers are designed for Canon cameras and flashes.

First impressions

In my opinion, the Nissin i40 is overpriced for a somewhat underpowered external flash unit. But hey, since the i40 is currently the only external flash unit compatible with Fujifilm X-T1 that enables high-speed sync, it’s a price I was willing to pay!

In contrast, $80 for a pair of Yongnuo 622C II transceivers is a bargain — there is no less expensive option for wirelessly controlling external flash units that enables both E-TTL and high-speed sync. I highly recommend this product, despite the virtually unintelligible English translation of the user manual. Special thanks to Alan Pezzulich for suggesting I consider the YN622C IIs!

Related Resources:

Editor’s Note: The photographs featured in this post were taken using an older Canon PowerShot G9 compact digital camera along with a hot shoe-mounted Canon 580EX Speedlite and Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce plastic diffuser; the camera-flash combo was mounted on an inexpensive Sunpak tripod. Adobe Photoshop was used to remove some distracting elements from the upper corners of all photos.

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


%d bloggers like this: