Archive for the ‘wildlife photography’ Category

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 22, 2017

On the traditional day when we give thanks for our many blessings, I am especially thankful for the opportunity to be a frequent and careful observer of the natural beauty of several wildlife parks located in Northern Virginia, and for many good friends with whom I share the experience. Happy Thanksgiving! Now let’s have some turkey…

A tail feather from a Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) was photographed in situ along Easy Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

A wing feather from a Wild Turkey was photographed in situ along Easy Road near the preceding tail feather.

Lots of animal scat, possibly from Wild Turkey, was observed along Easy Road near the Wild Turkey feathers shown above.

Did you notice the brown flies on the animal scat? They may be Scathophaga furcata, a species of dung fly. Thanks to Matt Pelikan from the BugGuide Facebook group and Charles Davis from the Capital Naturalist Facebook group for help in identifying the flies!

Related Resource: The Feather Atlas – Flight Feathers of North American Birds, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Advertisements

Eastern Gartersnake

November 18, 2017

An Eastern Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) was spotted during a photowalk along Easy Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

After taking a closer shot of the snake’s head (above), I backed away for a wider view that shows the snake is a little more than two (2) feet in length (below).

Eastern Gartersnakes can be differentiated from Common Ribbonsnakes (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus) by the presence of “dark vertical lines on the supralabial scales.” This key characteristic is shown clearly in the following photo.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Five Guys

November 16, 2017

Several Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) were spotted along Easy Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. All of these individuals are male, as indicated by their terminal appendages.

Did you notice the preceding male appears to be missing his right hind wing? Perhaps I should rename this blog post “4.75 Guys.”

Editor’s Note: The photos in this gallery were taken a day before the first hard freeze in Northern Virginia that occurred overnight on Friday-Saturday, November 10-11. It will be interesting to see how many Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies survived the record-setting low temperatures in the mid- to upper 20s.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Confused by mild fall weather

November 12, 2017

A frog-let/toad-let — my term for small frogs and toads — was spotted during a photowalk along Easy Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. Turns out it’s a Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer), as indicated by the dark “X” on the frog’s dorsal side.

Every spring, the sound of male Spring Peepers calling for mates is deafening. You hear them, but you see them rarely. You don’t expect to see them during the second week in November!

Some amphibians have been confused by the mild weather in Northern Virginia, thinking it’s spring. The first hard freeze this fall occurred overnight on Friday-Saturday, November 10-11, when the record-setting low temperature at Reagan National Airport (DCA) was 26°F. I hope this little one hunkered down like frogs are supposed to when it’s cold.

Related Resource: Spring Peepers, a blog post by Alonso Abugattas, Natural Resources Manager for Arlington County Parks, Virginia USA.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Unambiguously Sympetrum ambiguum

November 10, 2017

Two Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) were spotted during a photowalk along Charlie Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. Although Blue-faced Meadowhawk is on the species list of dragonflies and damselflies at Occoquan Bay NWR, this is the first time I have seen Sympetrum ambiguum at the refuge.

Male

This first individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages.

19 OCT 2017 | OBNWR | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male)

This guy was skittish. I was able to take one photo before he flew toward the tree canopy. The preceding photograph is what my good friend Mike Boatwright calls a “record shot,” that is, a photograph that records (verifies) my sighting of the male Sympetrum ambiguum. The photo was cropped slightly for improved composition.

Female

The last individual is a female heteromorph, as indicated by her tan coloration and terminal appendages.

The preceding photograph is my “record shot” of the female. I worked the shot…

…until I found the best viewpoint, shown below.

The first and last photos of the female were cropped slightly for improved composition; the second photo is uncropped.

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.

Lumix loves him some head-tilts!

November 6, 2017

An Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) was spotted at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages.

Regular readers of my photoblog know I’m fond of head-tilts in which the dragonfly seems to display some of its personality, especially when the individual is looking at me (below).

OK, so no head-tilt in the last photo, but I like the knot in the wooden dock on which the dragonfly is perching.

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.

Like a bad guest at a party

October 31, 2017

Common Whitetail dragonflies (Plathemis lydia) are like bad guests at a party — they are among the first odonates to arrive in spring and among the last to leave in fall. Unlike bad guests, it’s good to see Common Whitetails after a long, cold winter and you have to admire the fact that they survived a long, hot summer.

22 OCT 2017 | HMP | Common Whitetail (mature female)

The preceding photograph shows a Common Whitetail dragonfly that was spotted near a vernal pool at a remote location in Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a mature female, as indicated by her terminal appendages and pattern of wing spots.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


%d bloggers like this: