Posts Tagged ‘Family Libellulidae (Skimmers)’

Skimmertime, and the livin’ is easy.

May 24, 2019

Skimmers (Family Libellulidae) — like this female Spangled Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula cyanea) — remind me of “Summertime,” a classic song from the opera Porgy and Bess.

One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing
And you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky

This individual was spotted during a photowalk around a small pond with my good friend Mike Powell.

21 MAY 2019 | Northern Virginia | Spangled Skimmer (female)

The last two photos are similar takes on the same pose.

21 MAY 2019 | Northern Virginia | Spangled Skimmer (female)

21 MAY 2019 | Northern Virginia | Spangled Skimmer (female)

Gear talk

All of the photos featured in this blog post are uncropped JPGs, that is, full resolution for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 superzoom bridge camera (4,000 x 3,000 pixels), published “as is” straight from the camera. I tweaked the settings for in-camera processing of JPG files and I must say I think the results look good!

It’s worth noting that I always shoot/save/edit RAW photo files. Period, full stop. I have been using JPG (Fine) plus RAW (actually, RW2) while field testing the FZ300.

Deeper dive

I recently expressed disappointment and frustration with the performance of my newer Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 superzoom digital camera versus my older Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150. After making the switch to shooting in Manual Mode, I’m pleased to report I think I’ve found a new “set it and forget it” configuration for the FZ300.

In Manual Mode, my “walking around” settings are ISO 100, an aperture of f/4.5, and a shutter speed of 1/800 s. All of the photos in this post were shot at f/4.5.

The camera features three Custom Modes: C1; C2; and C3. C1 uses all of the “walking around” settings, except for changing the aperture to f/5.6; C2 uses an aperture of f/6.3; and C3 uses an aperture of 7.1. With the mode dial set for “C” it’s easy to switch from one custom mode to another by pressing the menu button and selecting one of the three custom settings, depending upon the desired depth of field.

An external flash unit is used in Manual mode;. The power ratio is adjusted for proper exposure, depending upon the aperture: more power is necessary with a smaller aperture (larger f-stop number); less power for a larger aperture (smaller f-stop number).

As I mentioned previously, I tweaked the settings for in-camera processing of JPG files: Photo Style = Standard; Contrast = +2; Sharpness = +2; Noise Reduction = 0; and Saturation = 0.

Noise reduction can be a good thing, but NR can soften image sharpness so it’s an adjustment I prefer to make in post-processing.

Related Resource: DMC-FZ150 versus DMC-FZ300, a blog post by Walter Sanford.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Faked out!

May 13, 2019

A Blue Corporal dragonfly (Ladona deplanata) was perched on a tree alongside Wildlife Loop trail at the North Tract of Patuxent Research Refuge, Anne Arundel County, Maryland USA. This individual is an immature male, as indicated by its lighter coloration and terminal appendages.

My good friend Mike Powell and I were searching for Harlequin Darner (Gomphaeschna furcillata). At first glance, we thought we might have found our first Harlequin; after a closer look, we realized we’d been faked out by a Blue Corporal.

Another Blue Corporal dragonfly was perched on the great red spot of the planet Jupiter. Kidding! Seriously, Blue Corporals typically perch on the ground — this dragonfly was perched on a wooden boardwalk near a small pond.

The last two individuals are mature males, as indicated by their darker coloration and terminal appendages.

Predator-prey relationship?

There is some speculation that Blue Corporal dragonflies might prey upon Harlequin Darners, so Mike and I weren’t happy to see lots of mature Blue Corporals in our target search area. For what it’s worth, we hunted intensively for Harlequin Darner for hours and found only one individual; G. furcillata was described as “relatively abundant” two-to-three weeks earlier at the same location, before Blue Corporal began emerging.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (female)

April 29, 2019

Painted Skimmer (Libellula semifasciata) is one of my favorite species in the Family Libellulidae (Skimmers). It’s hard to believe I didn’t post any photos of this beautiful dragonfly during 2018!

This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages. She was spotted near a mid-sized pond at the North Tract of Patuxent Research Refuge, Laurel, Maryland USA.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (mature male)

April 12, 2019

Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) was spotted near a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a mature male, as indicated by his terminal appendages, discolored abdomen, and tattered wings.

This male has mated many times, as indicated by the scratches on his abdomen.

Males that have mated often have marks on their abdomen where the female legs have scratched them. This is especially obvious in species in which males develop pruinosity, as the pruinosity on the mid-abdomen is scratched off, and the signs are visible at some distance. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 390-392). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

So close, yet so far!

April 10, 2019

Two Common Whitetail dragonflies (Plathemis lydia) were spotted perched on a wooden fence rail located near the terminus of the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The individual shown on the left is a mature female; the one on the right is a mature male.

15 SEP 2016 | HMP | Common Whitetail (mature female and male)

Sexing Common Whitetail dragonflies

For many of the common species of odonates found in Northern Virginia, I created a collection of annotated guides that illustrates how to differentiate gender by looking at terminal appendages. The difference in the pattern of wings spots for male and female Common Whitetails is sufficient to identify gender.

Life Cycle of Odonates

Odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) are aquatic insects that spend most of their life as larvae that live in water; this stage of their life cycle can last from a few months to a few years, depending upon the species. Finally, they emerge from the water and metamorphose into adults in order to reproduce; their offspring return to the water and the cycle begins again.

I wonder how these two mature adults were able to be so close yet resist the compelling biological urge to hook up!

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (males)

April 5, 2019

Two Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) were spotted at Old Colchester Park and Preserve (OCPP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. There is a true vernal pool at the park where Blue-faced Meadowhawks are relatively abundant.

03 OCT 2016 | OCPP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male)

Both individuals are male, as indicated by their coloration and terminal appendages.

03 OCT 2016 | OCPP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male)

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

More test shots: Ladona deplanata exuvia

January 16, 2019

As promised, this blog post features more test shots of the exuvia from a Blue Corporal dragonfly (Ladona deplanata) larva/nymph collected and reared by Bob Perkins.

All of the images in this photo set (including the dorsal view featured in my last blog post) are underexposed, except for the following photo: this photo looked overexposed on my camera LCD; the rest of the photos looked fine.

In reality, the photos were underexposed because I didn’t compensate for the effect of the extension tubes on exposure — a problem that was probably caused/exacerbated by switching the ISO from my usual setting of “A” (Auto) to 200. This photo turned out to have the best exposure because the flash power was several stops higher than the rest of the photos in the set. Remember the exposure triangle. (See Tech Tips/Related Resources, below.)

Oh, so close to a good shot! The left front leg blocks part of the face-head, and that doesn’t work for me. This specimen is a good candidate for rehydrating the exuvia and reposing its legs.

Related Resource: Test shot: Ladona deplanata exuvia.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the preceding photo: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-11 and MCEX-16 extension tubes; Fujinon XF80mm macro lensGodox XProF TTL Wireless Flash Trigger for Fujifilm camerasGodox TT685F Thinklite TTL Flash for Fujifilm CamerasGodox TT685C Thinklite TTL Flash for Canon Cameras fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier; and Canon 580EX II Speedlite mounted on a Godox X1R-C TTL Wireless Flash Trigger Receiver for Canon.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to spot-heal and sharpen the final output.

Tech Tips/Related Resources

What you should remember, as a rule of thumb, is that by the time you get close to magnifications of 1:1, the effective f-stop of the lens will have changed by about 2 stops. That means you, or your camera, are needing to compensate for this with a higher ISO, or a shutter speed that’s 4-times longer than you’d need without those tubes.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Test shot: Ladona deplanata exuvia

January 14, 2019

Bob Perkins collected and reared a Blue Corporal dragonfly (Ladona deplanata) larva/nymph. This is the exuvia from the nymph.

I took a series of test shots with the specimen in four poses: dorsal; dorsal-lateral; face-head; and lateral. The following photo is the dorsal view; other poses will be featured in one-or-more follow-up blog posts.

I was also testing two new pieces of photography gear: a Fujifilm 16mm extension tube; and a Godox X1R-C TTL Wireless Flash Trigger Receiver for Canon external flash units.

For more magnification, I combined my Fujinon XF80mm macro lens with Fujinon MCEX-11 and MCEX-16 extension tubes.

My Canon 580EX II Speedlite features two wireless modes: optical master and optical slave; it does not feature wireless radio master/slave modes. Having said that, if the Canon 580EX II external flash is mounted on a Godox X1R-C, then the Canon flash can be triggered by wireless radio using a Godox XPro-series flash trigger.

For example, I mounted a Godox XProF TTL Wireless Flash Trigger for Fujifilm cameras on my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera. During limited testing, I discovered both my Canon 580EX- and 580EX II Speedlites fire when mounted on an X1R-C, with the following caveats: the flashes are set for Manual Mode only, at shutter speeds less than or equal to 180s (the sync speed of the XT-1 camera); neither TTL nor HSS works.

Related Resource: More test shots: Ladona deplanata exuvia.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the preceding photo: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-11 and MCEX-16 extension tubes; Fujinon XF80mm macro lens; Godox XProF TTL Wireless Flash Trigger for Fujifilm cameras; Godox TT685F Thinklite TTL Flash for Fujifilm CamerasGodox TT685C Thinklite TTL Flash for Canon Cameras fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier; and Canon 580EX II Speedlite mounted on a Godox X1R-C TTL Wireless Flash Trigger Receiver for Canon.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to spot-heal and sharpen the final output.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Three-layer focus stack

December 7, 2018

Bob Perkins collected and reared a Widow Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula luctuosanymph. This blog post features a three-layer composite image of the exuvia from the odonate nymph.

Three photos were used to create the focus stack: The focus point is on the face mask/head in the first photo; the thorax in the second photo; and the terminal appendages in the third photo.

Due to the orientation of the subject, the entire body of the exuvia is acceptably in focus, including most of the legs. I wish I could say this happy accident is a result of careful planning!

Related Resource: Test shots: Libellula luctuosa exuvia.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot both of the preceding photographs: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Kenko 20mm macro automatic extension tubeCanon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens (set for manual focus); and Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite set for “Master” mode, and several external flashes set for “Slave” mode including Canon 580 EX- and Canon 580EX II Speedlites and a Godox TT685C Thinklite TTL Flash fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create the focus-stacked composite image, as well as spot-heal and sharpen the final output.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Test shots: Libellula luctuosa exuvia

December 5, 2018

Bob Perkins collected and reared a Widow Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula luctuosa) nymph. This blog post features test shots of the exuvia from the odonate nymph.

Several field marks worth noting include the “tiger stripes” on top of its head, wing pads that are perpendicular to the body, dorsal hooks (exact number unknown without closer examination), and lateral spines on abdominal segments eight and nine (S8-9).

The exuvia has small pointy eyes, a mask-like labium (prementum) that covers the face, and thin threadlike antennae.

Background color

In this case, “Test shots” also refers to experimentation with the background color. At the suggestion of Larry de March, Western Odonata Facebook group, I shot the test photos on a Vello 18% gray card.

For a background, I prefer something less bright than pure white to simplify exposure and stay within the dynamic range of the camera. Source Credit: Larry de March.

I edited Photo No. 1 and No. 2 a little differently in an attempt to arrive at a pleasing shade of neutral gray. Notice that No. 1 appears bluer in color than No. 2, which seems to be slighty yellowish.

Although a sample size of one doesn’t necessarily prove anything, my initial opinion is I prefer either an off-white or pure white background. Which color do you prefer?

Related Resource: Three-layer focus stack.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot both of the preceding photographs: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Kenko 20mm macro automatic extension tubeCanon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens (set for manual focus); and Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite set for “Master” mode, and several external flashes set for “Slave” mode including Canon 580 EX- and Canon 580EX II Speedlites and a Godox TT685C Thinklite TTL Flash fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to spot-heal and sharpen both images.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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