Archive for the ‘Sunpak LED-160’ Category

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

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.

Comet Darner dragonfly (exuvia)

August 27, 2021

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

This specimen is from 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.

19 JUL 2021 | Ontario, Canada | Comet Darner exuvia (lateral view)

Lateral spines along abdominal segments seven, eight, and nine (S7-9) indicate the genus is Anax; the length of the exuvia indicates longipes (~6 cm, measured as is).

The Backstory

Stanley Caveney is shown in the first of several photos taken by Hugh Casbourn. Stan contacted me for confirmation of his tentative identification of several Comet Darner exuviae that he collected during July 2021. Stan kindly gave one of the exuviae to me.

Photo used with written permission from Hugh Casbourn.

I asked Stan whether he had taken photographs of the Comet Darner exuviae in situ. Stan hadn’t, so he and Hugh revisited a local pond where they searched for and found two more exuviae.

How many exuviae do you see in the next photo? Look closely — both cast skins are shown in the same image.

Photo used with written permission from Hugh Casbourn.

An exuvia from a female Comet Darner appears in the foreground of the preceding photograph…

Photo used with written permission from Hugh Casbourn.

and a male Comet Darner appears in the background.

Photo used with written permission from Hugh Casbourn.

I asked Stan for advice regarding where to look for Comet Darner exuviae.

The six exuviae found to date were mainly at the inner edge of the cattail beds, facing the open water of the pond and where the individual cattail plants were spaced out. Source Credit: Personal communication from Stanley Caveney.

Related Resource: Identification Keys to Northeastern Anisoptera Larvae, compiled by Ken Soltesz. Refer to pp. 21-22.

Editor’s Note: Sincere thanks to Derek Caveney, Stan’s son, for shipping the exuvia to me. The specimen was packed so carefully that it arrived in excellent condition, as you can see in the first photo in this blog post. I’m looking forward to shooting a complete photo set of the exuvia.

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.

Dromogomphus spinosus exuvia (dorsal view)

February 19, 2021

Gomphidae (Clubtails) is the second largest family of dragonflies, behind Libellulidae (Skimmers). Many types of clubtail larvae (nymphs)/exuviae look similar, adding to the challenge of identifying some specimens to the genus and species level.

This specimen has a flat labium that doesn’t cover the face (not mask-like), indicating it’s either Aeshnidae (Darners) or Gomphidae; the shape of the body suggets Gomphidae. Several more field marks can be used to identify this specimen as a Black-shouldered Spinyleg (Dromogomphus spinosus) exuvia.

16 FEB 2021 | BoG Photo Studio | D. spinosus exuvia (dorsal)

The specimen is approximately 3.3 cm (~1.3 in) long, measured from head to tail. Notice the mid-dorsal hooks/spines located along the abdomen of the body.

At first I thought the exuvia might be a species from the genus Stylurus, based upon the mid-dorsal spine on abdominal segment nine (S9). After careful examination of two excellent photo-illustrated PowerPoint presentations by Kevin Hemeon at NymphFest 2016 (see Related Resources, below), I noticed none of the species in the genus Stylurus have dorsal hooks. That’s when I realized the specimen must be D. spinosus. Eureka! Source Credit: Dromogomphus spinosus exuvia – a blog post published on 28 June 2019 by Walter Sanford.

Related Resources

The following PowerPoint presentations by Kevin Hemeon are available in the “Files” section of the Northeast Odonata Facebook group. Direct links to the documents are provided below.

Odonate Exuviae – a hyperlinked list of identification guides to many species of odonate exuviae from seven families of dragonflies and three families of damselflies.

Tech Tips

The photograph featured in this blog post is a “one-off,” that is, a single photo rather than a focus-stacked composite image. The camera lens was set for f/16; the camera body was set for ISO 160 and a shutter speed of 1/250 s.

The photo was taken using a Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera, Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube, Fujinon XF80mm macro lens (120mm, 35mm equivalent), and an array of external lights.

Two external flash units were used to create the white background by cross lighting the front of a piece of white plastic; another flash was used to light the subject. A Sunpack LED 160 was used as a focusing aid.

RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 3.0 was used to convert one RAW (RAF) file to a TIFF file. The TIFF file was edited using Apple Aperture and sharpened using Photoshop.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Dromogomphus spinosus exuvia (ventral view)

February 16, 2021

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 (nymph). D. spinosus is a member of Family Gomphidae (Clubtails).

The specimen is approximately 3.3 cm (~1.3 in) long, measured from head to tail.

15 FEB 2021 | BoG Photo Studio | D. spinosus exuvia (ventral)

Male odonates have two sets of sex organs: primary genitalia located on abdominal segment nine (S9); and secondary genitalia located on abdominal segments two-to-three (S2-3).

This male specimen has too much dirt on S9 to see the primary genitalia; the secondary genitalia are visible on S2-3. I plan to annotate the image in order to highlight select anatomical features.

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The subject was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. The exposure was increased by 0.3 stop during post-processing in order to attain a pure white background.

A composite image was created from several photos taken using a Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera, Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube, Fujinon XF80mm macro lens, and an array of external lights.

One external flash unit was used to create the white background and two others to light the subject. A Sunpack LED 160 was used as a focusing aid.

RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 3.0 was used to convert six (6) RAW (RAF) files to TIFF files. In a departure from my usual workflow, the TIFF files were loaded into Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 in order to create the focus stacked composite image. The composite image was edited using Apple Aperture and sharpened using Photoshop.

Tech Take-aways

Notice there is some color fringing (mostly reds) that is especially noticeable on the front legs and antennae, as well as along the edges of the posterior abdomen. I have been experimenting with a new technique for backlighting the subject. It appears I need to add another layer of diffusion between the light source and the subject.

There is also some “softness” along the edges of the abdomen that could be the result of too few focus points for the shape of the body, which in turn, could have caused artifacts in the composite image.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MWAA jet airplane pencil eraser

February 12, 2021

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) was the school-business partner with Carl Sandburg Middle School (Fairfax County Public Schools) when I worked at the school as a full-time planetarium teacher and later as a part-time planetarium teacher/part-time physical science teacher.

MWAA always brought good SWAG when they participated in school events like the annual “Career Day.” The jet airplane pencil eraser, shown below, was one of the more popular items.

Single image

An MWAA jet airplane pencil eraser was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. The exposure was increased slightly during post-processing in order to attain a pure white background.

08 FEB 2021 | BoG Photo Studio | MWAA jet airplane pencil eraser

Composite image

The following composite image was created from several photos taken using a Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera, Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube, Fujinon XF80mm macro lens, and an array of external lights.

One external flash unit was used to create the white background and another to light the subject. A Sunpack LED 160 was used as a focusing aid.

Seven (7) photos were edited using Apple Aperture, exported as TIFF files, then loaded into Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 in order to create the focus stacked composite image.

08 FEB 2021 | BoG Photo Studio | MWAA jet airplane pencil eraser

Look closely at the pencil shaft and you will notice some serious artifacts from the focus stacking process; more serious artifacts were cropped from the top of the image. Hey, sometimes focus stacking using Photoshop works; sometimes it doesn’t. When it works, it works well; when it doesn’t, well, there are artifacts in the composite image. I have read it’s possible to repair those artifacts, but I’ve never had any luck with that.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

When is a yellow pencil not yellow?

February 9, 2021

A yellow pencil isn’t yellow when the subject is photographed in a studio under artificial light and the photographer is more focused on focus than color fidelity.

08 FEB 2021 | BoG Photo Studio | SANFORD EAGLE yellow pencil

I know what you’re thinking. “Gee, I wish I had a pencil with my last name on it.” But you don’t. Hah! This isn’t one of those cheesy pencils you can order with your name on it — oh no, this “Sanford” brand pencil was manufactured by Newell Brands, a public company headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. Newell Brands also makes “Sharpie” markers.

Tech Tips

A SANFORD EAGLE yellow pencil was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. The exposure was increased by 0.2 stop during post-processing in order to attain a pure white background.

The composite image featured in this blog post was created from several photos taken using a Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera, Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube, Fujinon XF80mm macro lens, and an array of external lights.

One external flash unit was used to create the white background and another to light the subject. A Sunpack LED 160 was used as a focusing aid.

Six (6) photos were edited using Apple Aperture, exported as TIFF files, then loaded into Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 in order to create the focus stacked composite image.

Announcement: New schedule for publishing blog posts

Beginning on Tuesday, 09 February 2021 blog posts will be published on Tuesday and Friday every week.

I want the followers of my blog to know I struggled with this decision. My decision is based in part on the impact of the pandemic on my day-to-day activities. I’m not sure, but I think this is the first time I’ve mentioned COVID-19 in my blog — I always looked at my blog as a sanctuary from the pandemic for my readers and me. So I soldiered on. That said, with no end in sight for the foreseeable future I must admit I’m started to feel drained and just don’t have the energy to post three times a week.

Going forward, this change might be permanent, at least for the winter months of December, January, and February.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


%d bloggers like this: