Archive for the ‘Lightroom’ Category

What is it?

February 7, 2020

It’s time for another exciting edition of “What is it?” Well, what is shown in the following photograph? If you think you know what it is, then please leave a comment. The answer will be provided in a post update.

03 FEB 2020 | Occoquan Regional Park | What is it?

Post Update

Congratulations to the two readers who correctly identified the mantis ootheca shown in the preceding photo! (See Comments/Responses, below.)

This is a Chinese Mantis (Tenodera sinensis) egg case, as indicated by the distinctive roundish shape of the ootheca. Chinese Mantis is a non-native species.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Skunk cabbage flowers

February 5, 2020

The following photo gallery shows skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) flowers in a forest seep located at Occoquan Regional Park (ORP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This is ideal habitat for Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) larvae, and in fact, numerous adult “Grays” have been observed along a sunny trail near this location. Seeps are home for some species of larvae from Family Cordulegastridae (Spiketails) as well.

03 FEB 2020 | ORP | forest seep, with skunk cabbage flowers

03 FEB 2020 | ORP | forest seep, with skunk cabbage flowers

03 FEB 2020 | ORP | forest seep, with skunk cabbage flowers

03 FEB 2020 | ORP | forest seep, with skunk cabbage flowers

The last photo shows the same location during early Summer 2019. The plant with broad green leaves is skunk cabbage.

01 JUN 2019 | ORP | forest seep, with skunk cabbage

The following quote is perhaps the best description of a forest seep that I’ve read.

[Some] small tributaries … have their sources in numerous woodland seeps. While a few of these perennial springs bubble up out of the ground, most arise in moist hillside patches with lots of decaying leaf litter and luxuriant stands of skunk cabbage. Source Credit: White, Harold B., III. Natural History of Delmarva Dragonflies and Damselflies (Cultural Studies of Delaware and the Eastern Shore) (Kindle Locations 1213-1215). University Press Copublishing Division. Kindle Edition.

Related Resource: Skunk Cabbage: First Flower of the Year… by Alonso Abugattas, Capital Naturalist blog. The blog post includes an embedded link to an informative video by Mr. Abugattas: Capital Naturalist: Skunk Cabbage Blooming (3:58).

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Top Pix of 2019

January 1, 2020

The following gallery shows my “Top Pix of 2019.” (See what I did there?) 28 photos are presented in chronological order beginning in February 2019 and ending in December 2019.

As you will see, I declare 2019 is/was unofficially “Year of the Gray Petaltail (T. thoreyi).”

01 FEB 2019 | Cordulegaster sp. larva (preserved specimen) | face

18 FEB 2019 | “Generic Baskettail” larva (preserved specimen) | face

28 FEB 2019 | BoG Photo Studio | Valentines Day rose

16 APR 2019 | Northern Virginia | Uhler’s Sundragon (male)

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Painted Skimmer (female)

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Gray Petaltail (female)

29 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

14 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

14 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

21 JUN 2019 | PNC. Wm. County, VA | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (female)

21 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Common Sanddragon (male)

09 DEC 2019 | BoG Photo Studio | Common Green Darner | exuvia (face)

13 DEC 2019 | BoG PS | Common Green Darner | exuvia (anterior)

16 DEC 2019 | Richmond, VA | Spot-winged Glider | exuvia (face)

18 DEC 2019 | Richmond, VA | Spot-winged Glider | exuvia (dorsal)

20 DEC 2019 | Richmond, VA | Genus Celithemis | exuvia (face)

27 DEC 2019 | Richmond, VA | Genus Celithemis | exuvia (dorsal)

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

New Life List additions in 2019

December 30, 2019

The anticipation of the hunt and the thrill of discovery — the adrenalin rush from finding the target species is ever more elusive as one gains experience and expertise. Accordingly, the number of additions to my Life List is fewer year after year.

List items are presented in chronological order, based upon the date of the spotting/studio photo shoot.

Eastern Least Clubtail dragonfly exuvia

25 photos were used to create this focus-stacked composite image of an Eastern Least Clubtail dragonfly (Stylogomphus albistylus) exuvia from an odonate nymph that Bob Perkins collected and reared. S. albistylus is a member of Family Gomphidae (Clubtails).

Uhler’s Sundragon dragonfly

A Uhler’s Sundragon (Helocordulia uhleri) was spotted during a photowalk along a mid-size stream at an undisclosed location in Northern Virginia USA.

16 APR 2019 | Northern Virginia | Uhler’s Sundragon (male)

Harlequin Darner dragonfly

A Harlequin Darner (Gomphaeschna furcillata) was spotted at the North Tract of Patuxent Research Refuge, Laurel, Maryland USA. This individual is a female.

Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (female)

An Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster obliqua) was spotted in a sunny clearing along a small forest stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA. This is the first female Arrowhead Spiketail that I’ve seen.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly exuvia

A dragonfly exuvia was collected by Joe Johnston on 22 May 2019 at Aquia Creek, Stafford County, Virginia USA. This specimen is the cast skin from a Black-shouldered Spinyleg (Dromogomphus spinosus) larva. D. spinosus is a member of Family Gomphidae (Clubtails). Although I have seen many adult Black-shouldered Spinyleg, this is the first exuvia I’ve seen/photographed.

Aurora Damsel damselfly

A mating pair of Aurora Damsel (Chromagrion conditum) was spotted along along a trail in the forest at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA. This pair is “in wheel” (“in heart”).

04 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Aurora Damsel (mating pair)

Eastern Copperhead snake

An Eastern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) was observed during a photowalk with my good friend Mike Powell along a small forest stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

04 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Eastern Copperhead

Blue-ringed Dancer damselfly

Blue-ringed Dancer damselfly (Argia sedula) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell along Popes Head Creek at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park (HORP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Spot-winged Glider dragonfly exuvia

A Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) exuvia was collected and identified by Andy Davidson near Richmond, Virginia USA. Spot-winged Glider is a member of Family Libellulidae (Skimmers). I’ve seen many adult Spot-winged Glider but this is the first exuvia I’ve seen/photographed.

18 DEC 2019 | Richmond, VA | Spot-winged Glider | exuvia (dorsal)

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – Pantala hymenaea exuvia

December 16, 2019

An odonate exuvia was photographed against a pure white background using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique.

This specimen is a Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) exuvia. Spot-winged Glider is a member of Family Libellulidae (Skimmers).

Genus Pantala

The genus Pantala includes two 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.

The Backstory

Both specimens featured in this blog post were collected (near Richmond, Virginia USA) and identified by Andy Davidson. Andy is a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University working on a research project entitled “Predator-Prey Interactions in a Changing World.”

Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Luminous beings are we…

December 13, 2019

Master Yoda’s explanation of the Force to Luke Skywalker (see Related Resources, below) features the following memorable quote.

Luminous beings are we,
not this crude matter.

One of many reasons I like the “Meet Your Neighbours” technique for photographing natural subjects against a pure white background is that it seems to reveal the luminous beings that odonate exuviae are. Feel the force by looking at the full-size version of the following image.

Related Resources

Tech Tips

I added a Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter to my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 24x superzoom bridge camera for a closer view of the anterior of the odonate exuvia.

The camera was set for 1-Area Focusing. The focus-and-recompose technique was used to focus on the eye of the subject.

Godox X2To/p wireless flash trigger for Olympus and Panasonic was used to fire two off-camera flash units.

  1. A Godox TT685C Thinklite Flash for Canon Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a “Vello Bounce Dome (Diffuser) for Canon 580EX II Flash,” was used to light the underside of the translucent white plastic background; the top of the flash unit was ~30 cm from the bottom of the white plastic.
  2. Godox TT685o/p Thinklite Flash for Olympus/Panasonic Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier, was used to light the subject from above.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Puzzle solved: Anax junius exuvia (female)

December 11, 2019

Identifying odonate exuviae is a lot like solving a jigsaw puzzle — eventually all of the puzzle pieces fit together to reveal a clear picture. As it turns out, while I’ve been experimenting with the “Meet Your Neighbours” technique for photographing natural subjects against a pure white background, I was also collecting puzzle pieces that would enable me to identify the dragonfly exuvia.

A two-step process was used to identify the genus and species of the specimen featured in my last two blog posts.

  1. Determine the family.
  2. Determine the genus and species.

Step 1. Family

First, determine the family of the specimen. For reference, watch the excellent Vimeo video, Identifying dragonfly larva to family (8:06). Here’s the decision tree I used to identify the exuvia as a member of the Family Aeshnidae (Darners).

  • The specimen has a flat labium that doesn’t cover the face (not mask-like), as shown in Photo No. 1.
  • Antennae are thin and thread-like (not club-like, as in Gomphidae larvae), as shown in Photo No. 1.
  • Eyes are large relative to the size of the head, as shown in Photo No. 1 and 4.

No. 1 | Common Green Darner (Anax junius) | exuvia (face-head)

Step 2. Genus and species

As shown in Photo No. 2 and 4, lateral spines along abdominal segments seven, eight, and nine (S7-9) indicate the genus is Anax.

No. 2 | Common Green Darner (Anax junius) | exuvia (ventral view)

At this point, you know the species could be either junius (Common Green Darner dragonfly) or longipes (Comet Darner dragonfly). The species is determined by the shape of the palpal lobes (part of the prementum) and the length of the specimen.

No. 3 | Common Green Darner (Anax junius) | exuvia (ventral view)

Notice the palpal lobes are rounded, as shown in Photo No. 3. The specimen is ~4.7 cm (~1.9 in) in length, not counting a slight bend in the body.

No. 4 | Common Green Darner (Anax junius) | exuvia (dorsal view)

The rounded shape of the palpal lobes (see Photo No. 3) plus the length of the specimen (see Photo No. 4) indicate the species is juniusAnax junius is one of the more common species of Aeshnidae found in Northern Virginia.

Finally, the rudimentary ovipositor shown in Photo No. 2 indicates this individual is a female.

Related Resource: Anax junius exuvia, another photo-illustrated identification guide by Walter Sanford.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Meet Your Neighbours – Aeshnidae exuvia (face)

December 9, 2019

An odonate exuvia was photographed against a pure white background using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. Yep, this time the background is actually pure white (255, 255, 255). Now that’s the look for which I was striving!

36.1mm (200mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 100 | f/7.1 | 1/800 s | 0 ev

This specimen is an unknown species from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners), probably Common Green Darner (Anax junius). Compare/contrast the “MYN look” with a more traditional photo set of another A. junius exuvia.

Related Resources

Tech Tips

I added a Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter to my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 24x superzoom bridge camera for a closer view of the face/head of the odonate exuvia.

A Godox X2To/p wireless flash trigger for Olympus and Panasonic was used to fire an off-camera Godox TT685C Thinklite Flash for Canon Cameras (manual mode) fitted with a Vello plastic bounce dome diffuser. This flash unit was used to light the underside of the translucent white plastic background; the top of the flash unit was ~20 cm from the bottom of the white plastic. No other flash units were used to shoot the photo.

Although I own better camera gear for shooting macro photos, I like to use my smaller, lighter DMC-FZ300 for proof-of-concept experimentation with new techniques. Look for a transition to one of my Fujifilm- or Canon macro rigs in the near future.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Meet Your Neighbours – Aeshnidae exuvia

December 4, 2019

An odonate exuvia was photographed against a pure white background using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. Well, almost pure white. More about that later.

9.9mm (55mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 100 | f/7.1 | 1/60 s | 0 ev

This specimen is an unknown species from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners), probably Common Green Darner (Anax junius). Compare/contrast the “MYN look” with a more traditional photo set of another A. junius exuvia.

Take-aways

The MYN technique seems to be simple and straightforward. It isn’t. The challenge is to get the translucent effect without blowing out the thinner parts of the specimen like eyes, legs, etc. In this case, I needed a little separation between the pure white background and the exuvia in order to reduce blow-out. I repurposed the top of a small plastic container from the local delicatessen as the separator. I placed the plastic top on the white background, and the exuvia on the top. The plastic top isn’t perfectly clear, resulting in an off-white background color.

I need to experiment further to refine the technique. A clear glass- or plastic plate should solve the problem with the less than pure white background, and I think more separation between the white plastic background plate and the clear glass/plastic “stage” should help to further reduce blow-out. Trial and error — that’s the way we learn!

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The test photo featured in this post was taken using my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 24x superzoom digital camera, Godox X2To/p wireless flash trigger for Olympus and PanasonicGodox TT685o/p Thinklite Flash for Olympus/Panasonic Cameras (manual mode) fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier, and a Godox TT685C Thinklite Flash for Canon Cameras (manual mode) fitted with a Vello plastic bounce dome diffuser.

The Godox TT685-series flash head is the same size as a Canon 580EX II Speedlite so slide-on plastic light modifiers that work with a 580EX II will work with TT685s. That said, some work better than others. The “Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce OM-EY” is a tight fit — too tight in my opinion. The “Vello Bounce Dome (Diffuser) for Canon 580EX II Flash” is a perfect fit.

The camera lens was set close to “Wide Macro.” 1-Area Focusing and Spot Metering was used for the photo.

Three external flash units were used to light the scene. The flash power ratio for each flash is critical for proper exposure. Begin by setting the backlight, then add the key light(s) on the subject.

The flash unit used to light the underside of the translucent white plastic background (Group A) was set for 1/8 power; the zoom was set for 50mm in order to spread the beam of light sufficiently to avoid a hotspot on the white plastic background. The top of the flash unit was ~20 cm from the bottom of the white plastic.

Two key lights (Group B and C) — that is, the flash units used to light the top of the subject — were set for 1/16 power and 1/128, respectively. In order to reduce blow-out (see Take-aways, below), I turned off the flash in Group C.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to sharpen the final output.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Meet Your Neighbours – “Lizzie”

December 2, 2019

A toy dinosaur lizard was photographed against a pure white background using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique.

4.5mm (25mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 100 | f/7.1 | 1/60 s | 0 ev

Take-aways

The MYN technique seems to be simple and straightforward. It isn’t. I need to experiment further to refine the technique. But hey, I say not bad for a beginner!

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The test photo featured in this post was taken using my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 24x superzoom digital camera, Godox X2To/p wireless flash trigger for Olympus and PanasonicGodox TT685o/p Thinklite Flash for Olympus/Panasonic Cameras (manual mode) fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier, and a Godox TT685C Thinklite Flash for Canon Cameras (manual mode) fitted with a Vello plastic bounce dome diffuser.

The Godox TT685-series flash head is the same size as a Canon 580EX II Speedlite so slide-on plastic light modifiers that work with a 580EX II will work with TT685s. That said, some work better than others. The “Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce OM-EY” is a tight fit — too tight in my opinion. The “Vello Bounce Dome (Diffuser) for Canon 580EX II Flash” is a perfect fit.

The camera lens was set for “Wide Macro,” with a focus range from 1 cm (0.39 in) to infinity. 1-Area Focusing and Spot Metering was used for the photo.

Two external flash units were used to light the scene. The flash power ratio for each flash is critical for proper exposure. Begin by setting the backlight, then add the key light on the subject.

The flash unit used to light the underside of the translucent white plastic background was set for 1/8 power; the zoom was set for 50mm in order to spread the beam of light sufficiently to avoid a hotspot on the white plastic background. The top of the flash unit was ~20 cm from the bottom of the white plastic.

The key light — that is, the flash unit used to light the subject — was set for 1/2 +0.7 power. In retrospect, I know that one or more additional flashes for lighting the subject should be added to the set-up.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to sharpen the final output.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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