Archive for the ‘Fujifilm X-T1’ 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.

Tramea carolina exuvia

December 12, 2016

An exuvia from an unknown species of dragonfly was collected 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).

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).
  • Superior abdominal appendage (epiproct) is shorter than inferior abdominal appendages (paraprocts).

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.

04 OCT 2016 | MNWP | Carolina Saddlebags (exuvia, dorsal-lateral view)

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.

04 OCT 2016 | MNWP | Carolina Saddlebags (exuvia, head-on view)

(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.

04 OCT 2016 | MNWP | Carolina Saddlebags (exuvia, anal pyramid view)

(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.

04 OCT 2016 | MNWP | Carolina Saddlebags (exuvia)

No. 5

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

04 OCT 2016 | MNWP | Carolina Saddlebags (exuvia)

No. 6

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

04 OCT 2016 | MNWP | Carolina Saddlebags (exuvia)

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.

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 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.

Identifying dragonfly larvae to family

April 7, 2016

A couple of odonate exuviae were spotted in the bioswale (when it still retained water) at the head-end of the Hike-Bike Trail, Huntley Meadows Park. Both specimens are dragonfly exuvia, slightly less than 3/4″ long. I shot some quick-and-dirty still photos of the pair, as well as two sets of macro photos focusing on key anatomical parts.

Then I watched (and transcribed) the instructional video “Identifying dragonfly larva to family.” Be forewarned: Although the identification process is vocabulary-rich, the prerequisite terminology is well-illustrated in the video. Here’s the decision tree I used to make a tentative identification of the family.

Turns out I was correct — the exuviae are members of the Family Libellulidae (Skimmers)! Thanks to aquatic entomologist Celeste Searles Mazzacano, Ph.D., for verifying my tentative identification. The next (bigger) challenge: Learn how to identify odonate exuviae to the genus and species level.

A couple of odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

ISO 800| 400mm (600mm, 35mm equivalent) | 0 ev | f/11 | 1/250s

The first two photos were taken using a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera and Fujinon XF100-400mm telephoto zoom lens set for 400mm.

A couple of odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

ISO 800| 400mm (600mm, 35mm equivalent) | 0 ev | f/11 | 1/250s

The next set of photos was taken using a Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter with my tripod-mounted Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom digital camera; the scene was lighted using the built-in pop-up flash and Nissin i40 external flash (off-camera, in video mode).

A couple of odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

ISO 100| 28mm (155mm, 35mm equivalent) | -1.3 ev | f/7.1 | 1/3s

A couple of odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

ISO 100| 28mm (155mm, 35mm equivalent) | -1.3 ev | f/7.1 | 1/160s

The following photo is my favorite in this subset.

A couple of odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

ISO 100| 57mm (318mm, 35mm equivalent) | -1.3 ev | f/7.1 | 1/250s

Notice the teeth on the margins of the labium are relatively smooth.

A couple of odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

ISO 100| 55mm (304mm, 35mm equivalent) | -1.3 ev | f/7.1 | 1/250s

The last set of photos was taken using a Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter with my tripod-mounted Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom digital camera; the scene was lighted using an off-camera Sunpak LED-160 Video Light (with a white translucent plastic filter) and Nissin i40 external flash (off-camera, in video mode).

A couple of odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

ISO 100| 56mm (311mm, 35mm equivalent) | -1 ev | f/7.1 | 1/10s

A couple of odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

ISO 100| 57mm (318mm, 35mm equivalent) | -1 ev | f/7.1 | 1/8s

The following photo is my favorite in this subset.

A couple of odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

ISO 100| 30mm (164mm, 35mm equivalent) | -1 ev | f/7.1 | 1/6s

The last two shots are close-ups of the anal pyramid. Notice the cerci are less than half the length of paraprocts.

A couple of odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

ISO 100| 28mm (158mm, 35mm equivalent) | -1 ev | f/7.1 | 1/8s

A couple of odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

ISO 100| 56mm (311mm, 35mm equivalent) | -1 ev | f/7.1 | 1/8s

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Country Beaver, City Beaver

April 5, 2016

Remember “Country Mouse, City Mouse,” one of Aesop’s Fables? In this case, the familiar short story has been repurposed for the North American Beavers (Castor canadensis) that inhabit the wetlands of Huntley Meadows Park.

City Beaver

City beaver lives in two “buildings” located along the thoroughfare through the heart of the park: the boardwalk in the central wetland area. The following photo shows one of two active beaver lodges located along the boardwalk; this lodge can be seen from the observation tower overlooking the central wetland area. The other lodge overlaps the beginning of the boardwalk — believe me, you can’t miss it!

The next photo shows a zoomed-in view of the same beaver lodge, viewed from the observation tower.

The last photo in this subset shows the same beaver lodge as seen from ground level in the central wetland area.

Country Beaver

Country beaver lives far from the madding crowd, in one (maybe two) lodge(s) located along Barnyard Run, far downstream from the central wetland area. The “primary structure,” shown below, is the original lodge built alongside a long dam across the stream.

A “secondary structure,” located closer to the beaver dam, might be a newer lodge. Looking at these two photos, it appears as though the original lodge isn’t being actively maintained. Perhaps the new structure is either a mother-in-law house or summer cottage!

Look closely at the full-size version of the last photo in this subset — a landscape shot showing the environment in which “Country Beaver” lives. Can you see both the primary- and secondary structures on the far side of the beaver pond?

The Backstory (for the preceding photo): I was field testing a technique for focusing at the hyperfocal distance using my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera and Fujinon XF18-55mm (27mm-82.5mm, 35mm equivalent) zoom lens. The camera was set for manual exposure and manual focus. I couldn’t read the distance scale on the LCD in bright sunlight so I wasn’t sure the lens was adjusted to a distance of ~5 feet, the hyperfocal distance for 18mm at f/11. Turns out I was focused at ~7 feet rather than 5 feet, but it’s OK to focus a little farther than the hyperfocal distance — it’s like cheap insurance most of the photo will be acceptably in focus. Just to be sure, I switched to f/16 before taking the shot! The scene was in focus from 2′ 3.2” to infinity. I lost about a foot of depth-of-field (toward the foreground) but ended up cropping a little of the foreground anyway. The technique seems to work well and I’m satisfied with the results of my quick-and-dirty field test.

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.

You complete me

February 19, 2016

Nearly two years ago, I bought into the Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera system. I was looking for a smaller and lighter camera than my Canon EOS 5D Mark II that produces imagery of comparable quality. In addition to the Fujinon XF18-55mm kit lens that was bundled with the camera body, I bought the Fujinon XF55-200mm zoom lens. I also bought the Shoe Mount Flash EF-42 — the only TTL-capable external flash unit compatible with the X-T1 that was available at the time.

After several days of field-testing, I realized I’d need to add two items to my X-T1 “kit” in order to be completely satisfied: 1) a telephoto zoom lens with more “reach” than the 55-200mm lens; and 2) a TTL-capable, high-speed sync compatible external flash unit that would enable me to use flash at shutter speeds faster than the 1/180s default flash sync speed of the X-T1 (actually, up to 1/250s works).

Item No. 1 became available for pre-order in mid-January 2016 and shipped in early February. When the parcel was delivered, I looked at the unopened box and thought “You complete me.” [They had me with its 600mm reach (35mm equivalent).] Then I opened the box. I was shocked by the size and weight of the new lens — it’s much larger and heavier than expected, and unlikely to be the sort of lens I’m going to like lugging around on long walks in the field.

The following photo shows a side-by-side comparison of my newer Fujinon XF100-400mm and older Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L zoom lenses. The two lenses are nearly identical in size and weight. Ugh, so much for down-sizing my camera gear!

A side-by-side comparison of the Canon EF70-200mm f/2.8L and Fujinon XF100-400mm zoom lenses.

Fujinon XF100-400mm (top) | Canon EF70-200mm f/2.8L (bottom)

I never liked hand-holding the Canon EOS 5D Mark 2 camera and 70-200mm lens — always felt like the best images were shot using a tripod. I stopped using the Canon gear when I got tired of carrying my Manfrotto 055XPROB Pro, the heaviest tripod I own. Now that I’ve become a flash enthusiast, I plan to give the Canon a second chance — I’m hoping that the problem of camera shake that I experienced can be eliminated by using faster shutter speeds and hi-speed sync.

I took a few test shots using my new Fujinon lens just to be sure it works properly, tripod-mounted of course. I don’t expect to do much hand-held shooting with the new lens until the new Fujifilm hot-shoe mount flash EF-X500 for X-Series cameras is available, reported to be released sometime during May 2016.

A toy pterodactyl. EXIF: ISO 800; 360mm (540mm, 35mm equivalent); 0 ev; f/16; 1/180s.

ISO 800 | 360mm (540mm, 35mm equivalent) | 0 ev | f/16 | 1/180s

Tech Tips: Studio lighting for product photography is not as easy as one might think, as evidenced by my amateurish efforts. The first photo was taken using a Canon PowerShot G9; the scene was lighted by the G9’s built-in flash that commanded an off-camera Nissin i40 external flash in “SD” mode. The second photo was taken using a Fujifilm X-T1 and Fujinon XF18-55mm lens; the scene was lighted by a Fujifilm EF-42 in TTL mode that commanded an off-camera Nissin i40 flash in “SF” mode. Both cameras were mounted on a Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB tripod and Manfrotto 054 Magnesium Ball Head with Q2 Quick Release.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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