Archive for the ‘How To’ Category

Mastering Macro Photography

September 23, 2022

What if I told you an expert macro photographer is ready, willing, and able to answer your questions, for free? It’s true! All you need to do is watch a one-hour long live-stream on YouTube every Tuesday from 8 pm to 9 pm Central Time Zone.

The program descriptor is as follows.

Mastering Macro Photography is a weekly Q&A for anyone trying to learn closeup photography, and is brought to you by @Allan Walls Photography. The livestream is for all macro photographers, at every level from beginner to seasoned expert. As a dedicated and experienced macro photography teacher, Allan has made hundreds of videos and written as many articles on every aspect of closeup and macro photography and can answer all your questions on cameras, lenses, accessories, focus stacking, insect preparation, editing and retouching, focus stacking software, or anything else you need to know – and he does it all with his trademark sense of humor. So if you want to learn some macro photography and have a few laughs at the same time, you have come to the right place. Source Credit: Allan Walls Photography.

Tech Tips

The Central Time Zone is five hours earlier than Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) when Daylight Saving Time is in effect in the United States of America; six hours earlier when Standard time is in effect.

Time Zone Converter with GMT time difference can help you figure out the correct time to watch Allan’s live-stream from other locations around the world.

Viewers pose questions by typing comments during the live-stream.

Related Resources

A recorded version of each live-stream program is available online, including a transcript of the Q&A chat. Programs are listed in reverse chronological order.

Copyright © 2022 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Add Fujifilm film simulations fast!

September 20, 2022

RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 3.0 powered by SILKYPIX is a free application available for download from Fujifilm USA. The current version for both Mac and Windows is Version, last updated 29 September 2021.

The application can be used to convert Fujifilm RAF files to TIFF files. “RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 3.0″ can be used to edit photos too. One editing feature I like a lot is the capabilty to quickly add Fujifilm film simulations to RAF files, Fujifilm’s proprietary raw format.

First, select “Development / File output settings…” and configure the menu settings as shown below (or as appropriate for your purposes).

If you’d like to export several files, then select “Development / Batch development settings…” and configure the menu settings as shown below (or as appropriate for your purposes).

Use the left sidebar to navigate to a set of RAF files, then choose the images that you’d like to edit. Select one of the RAF images, as shown below. Next, click on the button in the right sidebar that is labeled “Camera setting” [highlighted by a red rectangle in the following annotated image].

A menu displays all of the Fujifilm film simulations that can be added to the RAF file, including several options that don’t appear in the in-camera menu of film simulations for my Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera.

In order to export an edited RAF file, select “Development / Batch develop selected images…” You can repeat the process over and over to add multiple film simulations to the same RAF file.

For example, the SEPIA film simulation was applied to the first image.

Here’s the SEPIA file after “development” [export]. The SEPIA film simulation is used to make photos look old and yellowed, in this case, as old as a dinosaur.

Next I selected “Edit / Undo.” Then I applied the ACROS film simulation. ACROS is used to “Shoot in Black and White in rich details with sharpness.” Source Credit: Fujifilm.

Here’s the ACROS file after “development.”

The process is easy and fast — much easier and faster than using Fujifilm X RAW STUDIO to add film simulations!

Tech Tips

When your camera is set to record either “JPG” or “JPG + RAF” files, Fujifilm film simulations can be added in-camera as you are shooting but are only applied to the JPG files, not the RAF files.

It’s worth noting FUJIFILM applies the “PROVIA” film simulation to its JPG files by default.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2022 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Iberian odonate larvae

September 16, 2022

During late-October 2021, I was contacted by Miguel A. Conesa-García, PhD, Profesor Tutor Biología, Diversidad Animal, Ciencias Ambientales, UNED-Málaga.

Miguel was working on finishing the second edition of his book about odonate larvae in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal). When Miguel was almost finished, an adult male Wandering Glider dragonfly (Pantala flavescens) was spotted in Spain. P. flavescens is a new species of odonate for the region, so Miguel decided to add the new discovery to the species list in his book.

Cover photo, courtesy Amazon Books.

The following screen capture shows the search string I used to find the book on Amazon.

Screen capture, Amazon Books.

The book is richly illustrated with beautiful photos and diagrams. It’s abundantly evident I could learn a lot from the book — I wish there were an English Edition!

Miguel requested permission to use a photo of a Wandering Glider exuvia in my photoblog, published on 14 November 2018. I was, of course, willing to help.

Page excerpt from Miguel’s book, featuring my photo.

I’m mentioned in the acknowledgements at the end of the book. Regrettably my first name is misspelled and the Web address cited is no longer current. I took the liberty of annotating the page from Miguel’s book to provide the correct information.

Acknowledgements, p. 539 (annotated).

Acknowledgements, p. 539 (original).

Migratory Dragonflies

Wandering Glider is one of at least five major species of dragonflies known to be migratory in North America. P. flavescens is the only species of odonate known to occur on every continent except Antarctica.

The exuvia that I photographed is the “cast skin” from an odonate larva (nymph) that was collected in the field by Andy Davidson, a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia USA. Andy reared the larva in the laboratory as part of a research project entitled “Predator-Prey Interactions in a Changing World.”

Part of the value in rearing odonate larvae in the laboratory is knowing with certainty that an exuvia is from a particular species. This is perhaps the reason that Miguel chose to use my photo.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2022 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Fujifilm/Fringer/Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens

September 9, 2022

In a recent blog post I mentioned that I was looking forward to testing the Fringer EF-FX Pro II lens mount adapter with my Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens.

The MP-E 65mm doesn’t have a ring for focusing on the subject — you set the magnification ratio (from 1x to 5x) and move the camera/lens rig back and forth until the subject is in focus. For all photos, I focused on one eye of the model.


The first studio model is a toy Dimetron, photographed at a magnification ratio of 1:1. The toy is ~3.6 cm (~36 mm) long. The size of the APS-C sensor in the Fujifilm X-T3 is 23.5 mm x 15.6 mm. At 1x magnification, the entire length of the toy doesn’t fit on screen.

Dimetron toy | 1:1 magnification | 1/16 flash power ratio

With the camera/lens set for the same f/stop, shutter speed, and ISO (f/5.6, 1/250 s, and 400, respectively), less light reached the sensor when the magnification ratio was increased from 1:1 to 2:1. So I increased the flash power ratio by one stop, from 1/16 power to 1/8 power.

Dimetron toy | 2:1 magnification | 1/8 flash power ratio


The last studio model is a toy Triceratops, photographed at a magnification ratio of 1:1. The toy is ~4.3 cm (~43 mm) long.

Triceratops toy | 1x magnification | 1/16 flash power ratio

As with the first model, when the magnification ratio was increased from 1:1 to 2:1 it was necessary to increase the flash power ratio by one stop.

Triceratops toy | 2x magnification | 1/8 flash power ratio

Gear Talk

The Fringer EF-FX Pro II lens mount adapter enables one to mount Canon lenses on Fujifilm X-Series digital cameras. As you can see, my Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens works well with the Fujifilm X-T3 camera.

The APS-C sensor inside the Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera has a crop factor of 1.5x, so the Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens has a focal length of ~98mm (35mm equivalent) when mounted on an X-T3. The net result is an increase in apparent magnification, …

Post Update Update

Just because something looks like a duck and seems to act like a duck doesn’t mean it’s a duck. And so it is with the Fringer EF-FX Pro II lens mount adapter — although it looks like an extension tube, it isn’t. Why was I deceived by its appearance? Because I didn’t understand something called “flange focal distance.”

For an interchangeable lens camera, the flange focal distance (FFD) … of a lens mount system is the distance from the mounting flange (the interlocking metal rings on the camera and the rear of the lens) to the film or image sensor plane. This value is different for different camera systems. Source Credit: Flange focal distance. Wikipedia.

For example, the FFD for Canon EF-mount is 44 mm and the FFD for Fujifilm X-mount is 17.7 mm. In order to make a Canon EF lens perform properly on a Fujifilm X-series camera body, an adapter must move the Canon lens 26.3 mm farther from the digital sensor. (44 mm – 17.7 mm = 26.3 mm)

Not surprisingly, when I remeasured the thickness of my Fringer EF-FX Pro II lens mount adapter it turns out to be closer to 26 mm than my original course estimate of 30 mm (cited below). The net result is the 17.7 mm FFD of my Fujifilm X-T3 combines with the 26.3 mm thickness of the Fringer adapter, resulting in an FFD of 44 mm — exactly the right FFD for the Canon lens to work properly on a Fujiflm X-series camera body!

It’s worth noting that “apparent magnification” is still a real thing when a camera lens designed for a “full-frame” camera is mounted on a camera with an APS-C size sensor. The image formed by the lens is exactly the same size regardless of the size of the digital sensor used to record the image, but a smaller part of the image is “seen” by an APS-C sensor than a full-frame sensor, resulting in the misperception that the image is magnified.

I hope this sets the record straight. Sincere apologies for any confusion I might have caused — I never heard of “flange focal distance” before I bought the Fringer adapter!

[Post Update: From this point forward everything I wrote is incorrect. Is my face red, or what? I’ll explain further when I have a chance to use a desktop computer to edit this post.] … although the images appear to be magnified more than can be explained by this fact alone.

In the opinion of this author, the Fringer adapter functions like an extension tube. The adapter is ~3.0 cm (30 mm) in thickness. There aren’t any optics inside the adapter but it does move the lens 30 mm farther from the camera sensor. That, my friends, is an extension tube.

I used an online, interactive Macro Extension Tubes Calculator to estimate the effect of a 30mm extension tube on photos taken with the Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens at magnification ratios of 1:1 and 2:1. The calculator shows the magnification ratio increased from 1:1 to ~1.5:1 and 2:1 to ~2.5:1 respectively.

Macro Extension Tubes Calculator | 1:1 magnification ratio

The values for “new minimum focusing distance” are in millimeters, despite the fact that the second “m” only appears when you click an insertion point in the box and scroll to the right. The values for magnification ratio seem reasonable; the values for new minimum focusing distance, not so much.

Macro Extension Tubes Calculator | 2:1 magnification ratio

[End of segment with information that is incorrect.]

Related Resources

Full-size photos of the preceding studio models are featured in the following blog posts. Those photos should help to give the reader a better sense of how much the subjects were magnified by the Fujifilm/Fringer/Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens rig.

Copyright © 2022 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Fujifilm X-T3: Focus Peak Highlight

September 6, 2022

I like to use manual focus to shoot photographs with my Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera. Set the small dial on the front of the camera to “M.” The beauty of manual focus on Fujifilm X-series cameras is back-button auto-focus still works!

When the small dial is set for “M” both manual focusing and back-button auto-focusing can be used in combination with what Fujifilm calls “Focus Peak Highlight,” or more simply, “focus peaking.”

The following YouTube video by pal2tech explains a technique that makes it much easier to see the focus peaking.

The process is simple. Set the camera to record JPG + RAF [Fujifilm’s proprietary raw format]. Select one of the black-and-white Fujifilm film simulations, e.g., ACROS. [More about Fujifilm film simulations in an upcoming blog post.]

The camera display will be black-and-white. As Chris Lee (pal2tech) explains in the preceding video, it’s much easier to see focus peaking on a black-and-white background.

JPG files saved to a memory card are black-and-white too, as shown below.

Buzz Lightyear plastic toy. [Focus Peak Highlight not shown.]

RAF files are saved in full color, as shown below.

Buzz Lightyear plastic toy.

Tech Tips

“Focus Peak Highlight” can be activated when the camera is set for manual focus mode. Using back-button focus (AF-L button) in manual mode enables one to retain full control of the exposure triangle, focus quickly, and see what’s in focus before shooting a photograph.

Fuji Back Button Focus (4:06), a YouTube video by Ashraf Jandali, provides a clear demonstration of how to use back-button focus on the Fujifilm X-T1. The same technique works with the Fujifilm X-T3.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2022 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Sample photos: Fringer EF-FX Pro II lens mount adapter

September 2, 2022

Oh look, it’s the “Made in the shade” monkey and Buzz Lightyear — two of my favorite studio models! Whenever I need to test new photography gear and/or techniques, they are always willing to help.

As promised in my last blog post, here are a couple of sample photos taken with my Canon EF 100mm macro lens mounted on a Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera body using a Fringer EF-FX Pro II lens mount adapter.

Single point focus was used for both photos. For the first photo, the focus point was located on the monkey’s right eye (bottom eye, relative to the photo). The real world size of the toy monkey is ~4.8 cm long.

“Made in the shade” monkey toy.

The Canon lens is controlled by the Fujifilm digital camera via the Fringer adapter. EXIF information (shown below) is available for each photo. As you can see, the photos in this set were taken using an aperture of f/5.6 and a shutter speed of 1/250 s, the default sync speed for the X-T3.

The “sweet spot” for the Canon EF 100mm macro lens is either f/5.6 or f/8. The depth of field is shallower at f/5.6 than f/8, but I thought the former might be a better test for sharpness than the latter.

Apple Preview | Inspector

Buzz Lightyear reporting for duty, sir. I don’t remember exactly where the focus point was located, but it was probably somewhere near Buzz’s face/head.

Buzz Lightyear plastic toy.

Regular readers of my blog might be happy to know Buzz will be back again for my next blog post.

What are the take-ways?

As you can see, my Canon macro lens works well with the Fujifilm camera. Does it perform better than my Fujinon 80mm macro lens? It’s too early to tell.

The APS-C sensor inside the Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera has a crop factor of 1.5x, so the Canon EF 100mm macro lens has a focal length of 150mm (35mm equivalent) when mounted on an X-T3. The net result is an increase in apparent magnification.

Some of the advantages of mounting the Canon lens on a Fujifim digital camera (rather than my older Canon DSLR camera) are really about features available on the X-T3 that enable me to get more from the same lens.

For example, there are only nine (9) focus points on my Canon EOS 5D Mark II; the Fujifilm X-T3 can be set for either 117 or 425.

The Canon EOS 5D Mark II doesn’t feature focus peaking; the Fujifilm X-T3 does. Focus peaking is a useful aid for focusing the Canon lens manually. More about this topic in my next blog post.

And of course, don’t forget that all of my Canon lenses (including several L-series lenses) can be used with my Fujifilm cameras via the Fringer adapter. I’m especially looking forward to testing the Fringer adapter with my Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens.

In summary, the Canon/Fringer/Fujifilm rig works as expected. During limited testing, I discovered something that doesn’t work. (Again, more about this topic in an upcoming blog post.) The problem isn’t a deal-breaker and it should be something that can be fixed in a firmware update of the Fringer adapter. Editor’s Note: I just contacted Fringer as of this writing. I’m interested to see whether they are receptive to customer suggestions for improvement. I’ll update this post to include their response. Post Update: Fringer replied to my message promptly. Details in an upcoming blog post.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2022 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

What’s wrong with these pictures?

August 23, 2022

Remember “What’s wrong with this picture?” puzzles? For example, a kangaroo hidden in a tower of giraffes. That’s right, “tower” is the collective noun for a group of giraffes. So what’s wrong with the following pictures?

Nothing is “wrong” with the pictures, other than the fact that they are quick-and-dirty photos taken using my Apple iPad mini 6 camera and built-in flash. But there is something incongruous. Look closely and you should notice that a Canon lens is mounted on a Fujifilm camera body. How is that possible?

A closer view shows a Fringer EF-FX Pro II lens mount adapter located between the Canon lens and Fujifilm camera body. Net result: The Canon lens works with my Fufifilm camera just like Fujifilm/Fujinon lenses.

During limited testing, the lens worked perfectly with the camera. I plan to post some test shots in an upcoming blog post.

The Backstory

The Canon EF 100mm macro lens is one of my favorite lenses — it takes tack-sharp photos that look great! I don’t use the lens as often as I should because my Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR isn’t as feature-rich as relatively newer digital cameras such as my Fujifilm X-T3.

I’ve been thinking about upgrading my 5D Mark II to one of the two new Canon APS-C sensor camera models, but for now I decided to save money and buy the Fringer adapter instead. So far so good!

Related Resources

Copyright © 2022 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Pantala versus Tramea exuviae/larvae

August 12, 2022

Sometime during the late 1950s or early 1960s, my father bought a new car. That was a big deal in our family. My family was poor, although I didn’t realize it when I was a young boy. We couldn’t afford a new car very often. I don’t remember many details about the car other than it was a sky blue Plymouth with tail fins. Big tail fins! My best guess is the car was a four-door Plymouth Fury, sold from 1957 – 1960.

Some odonate exuviae/larvae remind me of the tail fins on my father’s Plymouth automobile. Go figure. Anyway, pattern recognition can be used to make it a little easier to identify exuviae. For example, when I see an exuvia with long “tail fins,” my first thought is it’s probably from one of two genera, possibly three: genus Pantala; genus Tramea; or maybe genus Celithemis.

Dichotomous keys

The following couplet from Identification Keys to Northeastern Anisoptera Larvae, compiled by Ken Soltesz, can be used to differentiate exuvia from Genus Pantala and Genus Tramea.

p. 37, Key to the Genera of the Family Libellulidae
12a – Superior abdominal appendage (epiproct) as long as, or longer than inferiors [paraprocts]. Pantala
12b – Superior abdominal appendage (epiproct) shorter than inferiors [paraprocts]. Tramea

Soltesz, p. 39.

Soltesz, p. 40.

Soltesz, p. 41.

Genus Pantala (Rainpool Gliders)

The genus Pantala includes two (2) species in North America: Spot-winged Glider (Pantala hymenaea); and Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens).

Spot-winged Glider and Wandering Glider larvae/exuviae look similar. The lateral spines on abdominal segment nine (S9) are noticeably shorter for P. hymenaea (shown left) than P. flavescens (shown right) — a key field mark that can be used to differentiate the two species.

Genus Tramea (Saddlebags)

The genus Tramea includes seven (7) species in North America. Two of those species are found commonly in the Commonwealth of Virginia: Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata); and Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina).

Carolina Saddlebags

A Carolina Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea carolina) larva was collected by Andy Davidson near Richmond, Virginia USA, and reared to maturity. Andy saved the exuvia after emergence.

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.

(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.”

Black Saddlebags

Athough adult Black Saddlebags dragonflies (Tramea lacerata) are relatively common in Virginia, the author has never seen an exuvia from this species.

Genus Celithemis (Pennants)

The genus Celithemis includes eight (8) species in North America. The author has a specimen from only one of these species in his collection.

Calico Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa) evuvia was collected by Sue and John Gregoire at Kestrel Haven Migration Observatory. For more than a decade, Sue and John have closely monitored the annual emergence of a large population of C. elisa at their farm pond.

Notice the long lateral spines that look similar to larvae/exuviae in genus Pantala and genus Tramea.

Related Resources

Identification Keys to Northeastern Anisoptera Larvae, compiled by Ken Soltesz.

  • p. 36 = Key to the Genera of Family Libellulidae
  • p. 37 = Pantala, Tramea
  • p. 39 = Key to the species of genus Pantala: hymenaea; flavescens
  • p. 41 = Key to the species of genus Tramea: carolina; lacerta

A Checklist of North American Odonata – Including English Name, Etymology, Type Locality, and Distribution, by Dennis R. Paulson and Sidney W. Dunkle.

Copyright © 2022 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


August 2, 2022

In Japanese, the word “kaizen” literally means improvement.

The Japanese word kaizen means ‘change for better,’ with the inherent meaning of either ‘continuous’ or ‘philosophy’ in Japanese dictionaries and in everyday use. The word refers to any improvement, one-time or continuous, large or small, in the same sense as the English word improvement. Source Credit: Kaizen, Wikipedia.

I wonder whether regular readers of my blog have noticed that many posts are updated and/or improved after they are posted. And so it is with the Identification Guide for Family Macromiidae (Cruisers) in Virginia that was published recently.

We corrected a typo (changed “boarder” to “border”) that spell-check missed, added a pointer to a range map for the two subspecies of Swift River Cruiser (see Related Resources), and updated the interactive version of the PDF (already published).

Finally we created a new, non-interactive version of the PDF. The following screenshot shows what the new document looks like.

(See the complete, non-interactive PDF version of the ID guide.)

Related Resources

Copyright © 2022 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blog posts related to instar

July 29, 2022

A while ago I created a series of single-topic blog posts related to instar. I just converted the Web versions of those blog posts to PDFs (Portable Document Format).

The PDF version of each blog post is available in two “flavors”: an interactive version (with Internet access), meaning the embedded hyperlinks work as expected; and a non-interactive version. Both versions are ad-free.

  • “How to estimate instar”: Web version; interactive PDF version, Apple macOS and “Safari” (119 KB); non-interactive PDF version, Apple iOS and “Safari” (533 KB).
  • “How to estimate instar, revisited”: Web version; interactive PDF version, Apple macOS and “Safari” (474 KB); non-interactive PDF version, Apple iOS and “Safari” (2.5 MB).
  • “How to estimate instar using Photopea”: Web version; interactive PDF version, Apple macOS and “Safari” (154 KB); non-interactive PDF version, Apple iOS and “Safari” (308 KB).
  • “Determining final instar the Cham way”: Web version; interactive PDF version, Apple macOS and “Safari” (195 KB); non-interactive PDF version, Apple iOS and “Safari” (1.3 MB).

Related Resources

Copyright © 2022 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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