Archive for the ‘How To’ Category

A week later…

November 26, 2017

On 09 November 2017 I visited Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA, looking for late-season odonates before the first hard freeze. Several Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) were spotted during a photowalk along Easy Road.

I revisited the same place one week later. I saw slightly fewer Autumn Meadowhawks than the week before. Although some dragonflies survived the freezing temperatures, their numbers seemed to be diminished according to my non-scientific survey.

Both individuals featured in this photo set are male, as indicated by their terminal appendages.

I love the palette of fall colors in the first two photos! The two-photo sequence shows how I typically “work a shot.” I start by “getting a shot, any shot” (above) and slowly refine the shot until I am able to get as close as the subject will allow, while looking at the overall composition (below). Remember to check the edges of the photo for leading lines and distracting elements.

The last dragonfly I photographed was perched on the wooden border of a flower bed located near the parking lot.

Related Resources: Five Guys; Thermal energy vampire!

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Bridge across Marumsco Creek

November 20, 2017

I think I must have been an explorer in a past life. When odonate-hunting season ends, I like to explore new places to hunt for dragonflies and damselflies during the next year, such as Marumsco Creek, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

16 NOV 2017 | VMRP | bridge across Marumsco Creek

The preceding photograph shows a small bridge across Marumsco Creek, accessible from Veterans Memorial Regional Park (VMRP). If you were to cross the bridge and continue walking along Highams Court, then you would end up at the intersection with Dawson Beach Road, near Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

A close look at a trail map of Occoquan Bay NWR shows Marumsco Creek forms one of the natural boundaries of the refuge. Marumsco Creek, mostly located in restricted areas of Occoquan Bay NWR, is practically inaccessible from the refuge. Veterans Memorial Regional Park features a wooded trail located alongside Marumsco Creek. Access problem solved!

Directions: Jefferson Davis Highway (U.S. Route 1) to Featherstone Road. Immediately after a railroad crossing, bear left on Featherstone Road. Featherstone Road morphs into Veteran’s Drive at the boundary of Veterans Memorial Regional Park: same road; new name.

Tech Tip: I used my Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS150 superzoom camera to shoot the landscape photo featured in this blog post. The camera was set for manual focus at the hyperfocal distance for an aperture of f/4, based upon the instructions provided in the excellent video tutorial by Graham Houghton, “Panasonic Lumix FZ camera easier manual focus method — super point-and-shoot tip.”

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

The Road Taken

November 14, 2017

Two ruts converged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth…

With sincere apologies to Robert Frost for slight modification of the title and first stanza of his famous poem The Road Not Taken in order to convey my impressions of Fall 2017 at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Tech Tip: I used my Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS150 superzoom camera to shoot the landscape photo featured in this blog post. The camera was set for manual focus at the hyperfocal distance for an aperture of f/4, based upon the instructions provided in the excellent video tutorial by Graham Houghton, “Panasonic Lumix FZ camera easier manual focus method — super point-and-shoot tip.”

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Autumn Meadowhawks (mating pairs, in tandem)

November 8, 2017

Two mating pairs of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) were photographed at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area (MRA), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. Both pairs are “in tandem.”

The first pair is perching on the small wooden dock at Hidden Pond: the male is on the upper-right; the female is on the lower-left.

27 OCT 2017 | MRA | Autumn Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in tandem“)

The last pair is perching on an American sweetgum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua) growing alongside the dock. I love the way the fall coloration of the tree leaves complements the coloration of the dragonflies! The male is on the upper-left; the female is on the lower-right.

27 OCT 2017 | MRA | Autumn Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in tandem“)

Tech Tips

The photographs in this gallery were taken using my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom digital camera set for ~24x zoom (focal length of 600mm, 35mm equivalent), and Canon 580EX Speedlite external flash (manual mode).

In order to reduce “camera shake,” the camera was set for shutter priority mode. Using the reciprocal rule, the shutter speed was set for 1/800s. The ISO was set for “100.” An inexpensive Sunpak 6700M aluminum monopod was used for added stability.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (mating pairs)

November 4, 2017

This blog post features more photos taken using my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera, Fujinon XF55-200mm zoom lens, and a Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube. The camera was set for manual focus in order to use focus peaking; back-button focusing was used to focus automatically.

In wheel

ISO 640 | 200mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/11 | 1/500s | 0.33 ev

Two of many mating pairs of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) were photographed on 27 October 2017 at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. Both pairs are “in wheel“: the male is on top; the female is on the bottom.

ISO 800 | 200mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/18 | 1/500s | 0 ev

In tandem

The last mating pair is “in tandem“: the male is on the upper-right; the female is on the lower-left.

ISO 800 | 200mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/16 | 1/500s | 0 ev

After copulation, Autumn Meadowhawks engage in a form of guarding behavior known as “contact guarding,” in which the male and female fly “in tandem” to egg-laying sites. Contact guarding is used by some species of odonates to prevent aggressive males from hijacking the female.

Related Resource: Adding an 11mm extension tube, a blog post by Walter Sanford.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Adding an 11mm extension tube

November 2, 2017

Optics theory

The net effect of adding an extension tube between a lens and camera body is the “working distance” is decreased, that is, the distance from the front of the lens barrel to the subject is decreased. A smaller working distance means the same lens will focus closer to the subject, thereby increasing magnification.

The effect is greater at shorter focal lengths, as shown by the following annotated table of magnification for the two extension tubes sold by Fujifilm USA.

Table courtesy Fujifilm USA.

Theory into practice

On 27 October 2017 several Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) were spotted perching on the small dock at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. All individuals featured in this photo gallery are male, as indicated by their terminal appendages.

All photos in this set were taken using my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera, Fujinon XF55-200mm zoom lens, and a Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube. The camera was set for manual focus in order to use focus peaking; back-button focusing was used to focus automatically.

At 200mm, the working distance of the lens is 905 mm (90.5 cm, ~35.63 in), or approximately three (3) feet. With an 11mm extension tube mounted between the lens and camera body, the working distance is reduced to 665 mm (66.5 cm, ~26.2 in), or a little more than two (2) feet. At a focal length of 55mm, adding the extension tube would result in photos that look more like “macro” photos; at 200mm, adding the extension tube resulted in photos that look like a lens with a longer focal length was used to take the shots.

All of the following photos were slightly cropped for improved composition. The 11mm extension tube is the difference-maker that enables me to take close-up shots using a mid-range telephoto zoom lens such as the Fujinon 55-200mm.

ISO 640 | 200mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/11 | 1/500s | -1 ev

ISO 640 | 200mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/11 | 1/500s | -1 ev

When I changed the aperture from f/11 to f/16 (larger to smaller opening) for more depth-of-field, notice the ISO increased from 640 to 800. ISO was set for “Auto” with a limit of 800.

ISO 800 | 200mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/16 | 1/500s | 0 ev

ISO 800 | 200mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/16 | 1/500s | 0 ev

ISO 800 | 200mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/16 | 1/500s | 0 ev

ISO 800 | 200mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/16 | 1/500s | 0 ev

More tech tips

Focus peaking can be activated when the camera is set for manual 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.

In order to reduce “camera shake,” I almost always shoot in shutter priority mode using the reciprocal rule. Remember, it’s the 35mm equivalent that matters: since my lens is ~300mm, the shutter speed should be set for at least 1/300s; in this case, it was set for 1/500s. In manual mode, I set the shutter speed and aperture; ISO was set for “Auto” with a limit of 800. An inexpensive Sunpak 6700M aluminum monopod was used for added stability.

Editor’s notes

Did you notice I didn’t use an external flash unit to shoot the preceding photos? The afternoon Sun is lower in the sky in late-October than it would be at the same time during mid-summer. I wanted to faithfully capture the shadows cast by the dragonflies in order to convey the feeling that the Sun is setting on these dragonflies, literally for the day as well as figuratively for the current odonate season.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Quick and dirty macro photos (Part 2)

October 29, 2017

A mating pair of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) was spotted on 25 October 2017 during a photowalk along the boardwalk in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is “in wheel.” The female is the primary subject; the tip of the male’s red abdomen is the secondary subject.

The first photo is my favorite in the set.

ISO 100 | 56mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/4.1 | 1/800s | -1 ev

All odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back. Notice the small black “rivets” around the joint between segments seven and eight (S7, S8) of the male’s abdomen. Does anyone know the function of these structures?

ISO 100 | 56mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/4.1 | 1/800s | -1 ev

Each compound eye has approximately 30,000 ommatidia!

ISO 100 | 56mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/4.1 | 1/800s | -1 ev

Tech Tips

The photographs in this gallery were taken using my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom digital camera set for ~12x zoom, Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter, and Canon 580EX Speedlite external flash (manual mode). The close-up filter screws onto the front of the camera lens using a 52-43mm step-down ring.

I estimate the “working distance” between the camera and subject was approximately three-to-six inches (~3-6″). I attempted to photograph several mating pairs of Autumn Meadowhawks; this is the only pair that allowed me to get close enough to shoot some macro photos.

Related Resource: Quick and dirty macro photos (Part 1), a blog post by Walter Sanford featuring photos of male Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Quick and dirty macro photos (Part 1)

October 27, 2017

Several Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) were spotted on 25 October 2017 during a photowalk along the boardwalk in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. All of these individuals are male.

The photographs in this gallery were taken using my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom digital camera set for ~12x zoom, Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter, and Canon 580EX Speedlite external flash (manual mode). I estimate the “working distance” between the camera and subject was approximately three-to-six inches (~3-6″). Now that’s what I call cooperative models!

ISO 100 | 56mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/4.1 | 1/800s | -1 ev

The following photo is my favorite in the set.

ISO 100 | 56mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/4.1 | 1/800s | -1 ev

Each compound eye has approximately 30,000 ommatidia!

ISO 100 | 56mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/4.1 | 1/800s | -1 ev

The Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter is a relatively inexpensive solution that enables my Panasonic superzoom digital camera to be used for macro photography. Set-up is quick and easy — the filter simply screws onto the front of the camera lens using a 52-43mm step-down ring.

As you can see, depth-of-field is very shallow, caused in part by shooting in Shutter Priority mode rather than Aperture Priority. A cooperative subject, good light, and a lot of patience are essential for success.

Related Resource: Quick and dirty macro photos (Part 2), a blog post by Walter Sanford featuring photos of a mating pair of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (in wheel).

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Lentic and lotic

October 3, 2017

Doesn’t this idyllic place look like ideal habitat for lotic species of odonates? It is!

Lotic refers to flowing water, from the Latin lotus, washed. … Lotic ecosystems can be contrasted with lentic ecosystems, which involve relatively still terrestrial waters such as lakes and ponds. Source Credit: River ecosystem, Wikipedia.

The preceding photo shows the stream crossing at Popes Head Creek, Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA (facing downstream toward Bull Run). Both streams provide ideal habitat for many species of dragonflies and damselflies that prefer flowing water rather than still water.

Tech Tip: I used my Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS150 superzoom camera to shoot the landscape photo featured in this blog post. The camera was set for manual focus at the hyperfocal distance for an aperture of f/4, based upon the instructions provided in the excellent video tutorial by Graham Houghton, “Panasonic Lumix FZ camera easier manual focus method — super point-and-shoot tip.”

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

September 5, 2017

Several Black Swallowtail butterflies (Papilio polyxenes) were spotted on 30 August 20017 during a photowalk along Deephole Point Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

The following individual is a male. All of the Black Swallowtails that I observed seemed to be quite skittish, including this guy. He flew away every time I approached him slowly. I noticed that he returned to nearly the same spot after a lot of fluttering around, so I moved to a position from which I could shoot his photo without moving.

108mm (600mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 100 | f/8 | 1/800s | -3 ev

Exposure Compensation

Exposure compensation is your friend when shooting high-contrast subjects like this Black Swallowtail. It is usually possible to pull detail from underexposed shadows. On the other hand, detail is lost when the highlights are “blown out.” What’s the solution? Expose for the shadows and use exposure compensation to capture detail in the highlights.

Related Resource: The exposure triangle and exposure compensation

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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