Archive for the ‘Panasonic DMC-FZ300’ Category

My MYN technique studio macro photography rig

March 25, 2020

The following annotated photos show the current iteration of my “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique studio macro photography rig, set up at BoG Photo Studio, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This rig represents the culmination of continuous experimentation spanning several months — it works well most of the time but not always. Some of the gear shown in the photos is nice but not essential. Start small and add items as necessary.

An equipment list and legend follows the photo set.

My MYN macro photography rig, front view.

Notice the orientation of the clear plastic stage relative to the white plastic background, optimized for best exposure of both the white background and the subject.

My MYN macro photography rig, side view.

Most of the essential gear is shown in the following photo. However you set up the rig, all you really need is a translucent white background, some sort of clear plastic stage, one or more radio-controlled external flash units (with light diffusers), and a camera, of course. I’m guessing many photographers will have most of the necessary equipment on-hand already.

Close-up of clear plastic stage and white plastic background.

In this case, the subject is a Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius) exuvia collected by Mike Powell, my good friend and photowalking buddy.

Equipment List (Legend)

  1. light stand (Promaster Deluxe Light Stand LS-2n)
  2. white plastic background
  3. clear plastic stage [part of a repurposed sandwich box from a delicatessen]
  4. Godox TT685F (fill flash, stage right)
  5. Canon 580EX II Speedlite (fill flash, stage left) fitted with a “Vello Bounce Dome (Diffuser) for Canon 580EX II Flash
  6. Godox X1R-C
  7. Lastolite Ezybox Speed-lite 2
  8. Tether Tools articulating arm [A large articulating arm is useful but DO NOT BUY Tether Tools articulating arms — they’re OVERPRICED and either work poorly (like this one) or not at all (like a smaller one shown in one of my YouTube videos)! Articulating arms and clamps made by Manfrotto are the best albeit expensive; arms and clamps made by SmallRig are a close second at a modest price point.]
  9. Westcott Reflector Arm Extreme
  10. Godox TT685C (backlight)

Everything is mounted on a Promaster Deluxe Light Stand LS-2n using the following Manfrotto articulating arms and clamps (and more).

A collection of articulating arms and clamps makes it easier to position everything exactly where it needs to be, enabling quick and easy set-up, repositioning, and break-down.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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.

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.

Testing off-camera lighting configurations

November 27, 2019

I spent some time in the BoG Photo Studio experimenting with off-camera lighting configurations for macro photography using the pass-through hot shoe camera rig described in a recent blog post.

Both photos feature “Lizzie,” my toy dinosaur-lizard. Lizzie is one of my favorite models.

The soft, diffused lighting in the first photo is mostly even, with relatively little contrast between light and shadow. As a result, the photo looks a little flat.

The soft, diffused lighting in the last photo shows more contrast, achieved by repositioning one of the two small flash units on my Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite. The juxtaposition of light and shadow seems to convey a greater sense of depth than the flat lighting in the first photo.

Now that I have figured out a lighting configuration that works, I will substitute a different “model” for Lizzie. I have learned from experience that it’s better to use a rugged toy like Lizzie for testing purposes, rather than one of the fragile scientific specimens that I like to photograph. Choose a test subject that is about the same size as your intended subject.

Tech Tips

The equipment used to shoot the macro photographs (shown above) is described in a recent blog post entitled Pass-through hot shoe. Two off-camera external flash units were added to the rig: a Godox TT685o/p Thinklite Flash for Olympus/Panasonic Cameras; and a Godox TT685F Thinklite TTL Flash. Both Godox flash units were fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier.

All of the external flash units were set for manual mode, including the Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite. The Godox off-camera flashes were fired by a Godox X2To/p radio flash trigger mounted on top of my camera; the Canon flash was triggered synchronously by the pass-through hot shoe on the X2To/p.

I shot JPG plus RW2 (Panasonic’s proprietary raw format). Both photos in this post are unedited JPGs straight from the camera.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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