Archive for the ‘Lastolite flash modifier’ Category

Dark and moody

November 19, 2021

I spotted an emergent Uhler’s Sundragon (Helocordulia uhleri) during a photowalk along a mid-size stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA. The following photograph shows the exuvia from which the teneral adult eclosed.

13 APR 2021 | PNC. Wm. County, VA | Uhler’s Sundragon | exuvia (ventral)

In the opinion of the author, larvae (nymphs)/exuviae from Family Corduliidae (Emeralds) and Family Libellulidae (Skimmers) can be challenging to differentiate and identify to the family level.

One way to differentiate Emerald from Skimmer larvae/exuvia is to look for a “ventromedial groove” in the prementum: it’s probably Corduliidae (Emeralds) if there is a ventromedial groove; it’s probably Libellulidae if there isn’t.

Look closely at a version of the preceding photo that was reformatted, rotated, and cropped to show an enlarged view of the prementum. You should notice a ventromedial groove on the basal half of the prementum, indicating this specimen is a member of Family Corduliidae (Emeralds).

13 APR 2021 | PNC. Wm. County, VA | Uhler’s Sundragon | exuvia (ventral)

Three raised structures on the underside of the prementum remind me of the hood ornament on a 1949 Lincoln automobile. (No, I wasn’t alive in 1949!)

Related Resources

Tech Tips

One reason I underexposed the photo is to add definition to the ventromedial groove and avoid overexposing the black background.

I prefer a white background for photographing odonate exuviae. Using a black background proved to be more challenging than I expected. More later in a follow-up blog post.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Comet Darner exuvia: annotated images

October 8, 2021

My last blog post was a “sketch pad” of test shots of an exuvia from a Comet Darner dragonfly (Anax longipes) collected by Stanley Caveney on 19 July 2021 from a pond at MeadowWoods in West Elgin, Ontario, Canada. All of the shots in that post are unedited JPGs straight from my camera. This post features edited versions of the RAF (raw) files from that photo shoot, including some images with value-added annotations.

Lateral view

I considered annotating the first photo but decided to allow it to stand on its own as the latest addition to my Odonart© Portfolio.

Comet Darner (Anax longipes) | exuvia (lateral)

Ventral view

I used Adobe Photoshop to create a composite image that features the best parts of two photos from the sketch pad.

This specimen is from a male Comet Darner, as indicated by its vestigial primary- and secondary genitalia. The inset photo shows a clear view of the vestigial hamuli (secondary genitalia) that are partially obscured in the background photo.

Comet Darner (Anax longipes) | exuvia (ventral)

Prementum

The last photo shows a closer view of the mentum, a two-segment hinged “jaw” that is used to grab food: the prementum is the segment of the labium closer to the mouth; the postmentum is the segment closer to the base of the head. Only the prementum can be seen in the following photo.

Comet Darner (Anax longipes) | exuvia (prementum)

The preceding annotated image of the prementum includes labels for the moveable hooks (2 of 2) and palpal lobe (1 of 2). Notice that A. longipes palpal lobes are squared off, in contrast with the more rounded shape of the labial palps of Common Green Darner (Anax junius).

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Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Comet Darner exuvia: photo sketch pad

October 5, 2021

Sometimes I shoot test shots of an odonate exuvia that are used to plan the final shots I have in mind for an identification guide featuring annotated photos.

All of the shots in this post are unedited JPGs straight from my camera, with the exception of the first ventral view (cropped to remove a distracting element from the composition).

Lateral view

I started with a lateral view of an exuvia from a Comet Darner dragonfly (Anax longipes) exuvia collected by Stanley Caveney on 19 July 2021 from a pond at MeadowWoods in West Elgin, Ontario, Canada.

Comet Darner (Anax longipes) | exuvia (lateral)

Ventral view

The next two photos show my frustratingly poor attempts to pose the specimen for shots of the ventral side of the exuvia. Every time I positioned the subject the way I wanted, it rolled over before I could take a shot!

Comet Darner (Anax longipes) | exuvia (ventral)

The two shots combined show the vestigial primary- and secondary genitalia that indicate this specimen is from a male Comet Darner. Yeah, I know it would help to annotate those parts of its anatomy, but that’s the next step. In the meantime, please follow the embedded hyperlink shown above and you might be able to figure out what I’m saying.

Comet Darner (Anax longipes) | exuvia (ventral)

Prementum

The last photo shows a closer view of the prementum. My goal was to get a better look at the labial palps. Again, annotations would help, but if you know what I’m talking about then you can see the palpal lobes are squared off.

Comet Darner (Anax longipes) | exuvia (prementum)

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Macromiidae – It’s all about the “horn.”

September 24, 2021

A “horn” on the face-head is a characteristic field mark for odonate larvae/exuviae in the Family Macromiidae (Cruisers).

Look closely at the full-size version of each of the following photos and you should be able to see the horn on the face of a Stream Cruiser dragonfly (Didymops transversa) exuvia that was collected during mid-April 2021.

13 APR 2021 | PNC. William County, VA | Stream Cruiser exuvia (face-head)

It’s easier to see the horn in the next photo…

13 APR 2021 | PNC. William County, VA | Stream Cruiser exuvia (dorsal)

The horn is clearly visible in the last photo. Notice there are three “bumps” located between the eyes of the exuvia: the middle bump is the horn; the antennae bases are located to the left and right of the horn.

13 APR 2021 | PNC. William County, VA | Stream Cruiser exuvia (dorsal)

Related Resources

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Test shots: Didymops transversa exuvia

September 21, 2021

An exuvia from a Stream Cruiser dragonfly (Didymops transversa) was collected from one of the concrete abutments of a man-made dam located along a mid-size stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

I prefer to photograph odonate exuvia like this one “as is” — presumably its appearance is similar to the way larva looked when it lived underwater.

13 APR 2021 | PNC. William County, VA | Stream Cruiser exuvia (dorsal)

If so, then I’m guessing D. transversa larvae are bottom dwellers, as indicated by the dirty, sediment-covered dorsal side and relatively clean ventral side of this specimen.

13 APR 2021 | PNC. William County, VA | Stream Cruiser exuvia (ventral)

Post Update

The nymphs are sprawlers that cling to roots or hunker down in sediments of mixed sand and silt particles. Source Credit: K. J. Tennessen, Dragonfly Nymphs of North America, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-97776-8_10, Macromiidae, p. 330.

The Backstory

The preceding photos were shot using the prototype for a homemade curved clear plastic tray intended for staging subjects against a white background.

With a few minor tweaks, the curved stage performed better than during initial testing. I needed to add a second external flash unit to more evenly illuminate the white background.

Although I’m fairly satisfied with the results of these test shots, more testing is required to be sure the set-up is working the way I want.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Test shots

September 17, 2021

I have been working on the prototype for a homemade curved clear plastic tray that is intended for staging subjects against a white background.

My goal for Thursday: Test the prototype stage using a toy mini-lizard as the model for some test shots, and if the proof-of-concept were established, substitute an odonate exuvia for the toy lizard and shoot another set of photos.

16 SEP 2021 | BoG Photo Studio | toy mini-lizard

Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans! First, a line of fairly strong thunderstorms moved through the region where I live so I had to shut down my computer equipment. Second, the Washington Football Team played the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football so I had to watch the game. That’s right, had to watch. Turns out it was time well-spent.

Bottom line: I never finished the test shots of the toy lizard, and of course that means I didn’t shoot any photos of a real scientific specimen.

The curved surface of the clear plastic stage caused reflections from the single external flash that was used to light the subject. I had just figured out a work-around when the thunderstorms rolled in: I took 14 test shots; only the last one (shown above) is usable. I hadn’t intended to create a photo with a pure white background, but it was easy to adjust the image exposure during post-processing.

The Backstory

What’s my motivation? Many macro photographers use insect pins for mounting small subjects like odonate exuviae. I think there’s a big problem with that technique: The position of the pin is permanent. In other words, if the pin is attached to the ventral side of the specimen then it’s challenging at best and impossible at worst to take clean, clear shots of that side of the subject. I don’t want to use insect pins because some of my specimens are one of a kind.

For quite some time, I’ve been experimenting with the use of flat clear plastic stages as a solution for this problem. I think a curved stage might be a breakthrough, but more testing is required to be sure.

For example, notice the color fringing near the tip of the lizard’s tail — I’m not sure what caused that problem in only one part of the photo, therefore I don’t know how to fix it. Yet.

To be continued. Please stay tuned.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Anax junius versus Anax longipes

September 10, 2021

The following photograph shows the relative size of odonate exuviae from two species in the Genus Anax: junius; and longipes. Both specimens are from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners).

Relative size of exuviae from Anax junius versus Anax longipes.

The Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius) exuvia was collected on 17 June 2021 from a small pond at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

The Comet Darner dragonfly (Anax longipes) exuvia was collected by Stanley Caveney on 19 July 2021 from a pond at MeadowWoods in West Elgin, Ontario, Canada.

Taxonomy

There are five species of dragonflies in the Genus Anax for the United States and Canada: Amazon Darner (Anax amazili); Common Green Darner (Anax junius); Comet Darner (Anax longipes); Giant Darner (Anax walsinghami); and Blue-spotted Comet (Anax concolor).

Common Green Darner and Comet Darner are the only species from the Genus Anax found where I live in Northern Virginia USA.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Post update: What is it?

July 6, 2021

I spotted an odonate exuvia along the shoreline of a small pond at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA that was collected by Mike Powell, my good friend and photowalking buddy.

This specimen is from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners), as indicated by the following field marks: the exuvia has a flat labium that doesn’t cover the face (not mask-like); the antennae are thin and thread-like (not club-like, as in Gomphidae larvae/exuviae); and the eyes are large relative to the size of the head.

17 JUN 2021 | PNC. Wm. County | Anax junius exuvia

Lateral spines along abdominal segments seven, eight, and nine (S7-9) indicate the genus is Anax; the length of the exuvia indicates junius (greater than ~4 cm, measured as is).

Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius) is one of the more common species of Aeshnidae found in Northern Virginia.

Related Resource: What is it?

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Uhler’s Sundragon dragonfly exuvia

June 1, 2021

Michael Powell spotted a small odonate exuvia clinging to the base of one of two concrete abutments for a man-made dam located along a mid-size stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

I collected the exuvia in order to examine it more closely in my home laboratory/photography studio. Michael photographed the specimen in my hand immediately after I removed it from the abutment, as shown in the following photo.

Photo used with written permission from Michael Powell.

The first photo shows a face-head view of the exuvia.

13 APR 2021 | Prince William County, VA | Uhler’s Sundragon (exuvia)

The next two photos, showing a dorsal-lateral view of the specimen, confirm the exuvia is from a Uhler’s Sundragon dragonfly (Helocordulia uhleri).

Notice the dorsal hooks on abdominal segments seven through nine (S7-9). This distinctive character confirms the identity of the specimen as H. uhleri.

13 APR 2021 | Prince William County, VA | Uhler’s Sundragon (exuvia)

Another photo taken from the same view point, exposed and edited for more contrast, shows the three dorsal hooks a little more clearly than the preceding photo.

13 APR 2021 | Prince William County, VA | Uhler’s Sundragon (exuvia)

Knowing when good is good enough

A dear friend sent an article to me years ago entitled “Knowing when good is good enough.” I think she was trying to tell me something.

I tend to be a perfectionist. For example, I’m a man on a mission to take the best possible macro photographs of odonate larvae and exuviae given the limitations of my photography gear and small home studio.

Sometimes perfection is a road block that prevents me from shooting and posting photos that are more than serviceable for my purposes, in this case, informal instruction.

I did a quick Google search for the article from my friend. No luck, but I found one that’s close enough — you might even say one that’s good enough — for a little self-help.

None of the photographs in this blog post are perfect — not even close! But I published them anyway. Baby steps, Bob.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Sumo Citrus still life

March 19, 2021

Have you seen/eaten Sumo Citrus? They’re easy to peel, seedless, and billed as “the sweetest orange.” Delicious, I say!

How I got the shots

I set up a tripod at a good distance from the subject for a 50mm lens. Then I switched cameras without moving the tripod. Each camera/lens combo was set for an aperture of f/8; other camera and flash settings varied as necessary. (See EXIF info for details regarding camera settings for each photo.)

Canon 5D Mark II

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens (“Nifty 50”), Godox X2TC, Godox TT685C plus Lastolite flash modifier.

18 March 2021 | BoG Photo Studio | Sumo Citrus

Fujifilm X-T1

Fujinon 18-55mm zoom kit lens set for 34mm (51mm, 35mm equivalent), Godox XProF, Godox TT685C plus Lastolite flash modifier.

18 March 2021 | BoG Photo Studio | Sumo Citrus

Fujifilm X-T3

Fujifilm 11mm extension tube, Fujinon XF80mm macro lens, Vello Off-Camera TTL Flash Cord, Godox X2TF, Godox TT685C plus Lastolite flash modifier.

18 March 2021 | BoG Photo Studio | Sumo Citrus

Sumo Citrus from Giant Food

Bernard Nimmons is the produce manager at the Giant Food located in Beacon Center. I sent a Facebook Messenger message to Bernard recently…

I need Sumo Oranges STAT! Are they back in stock?

The following selfie photo is Bernard’s reply to my message. Now you can see why I always say “Bernard puts the ‘Pro’ in Produce.”

Selfie photo used with permission from Bernard Nimmons.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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