Posts Tagged ‘focus stacking’

“Post Focus” image: toy dinosaur

February 8, 2019

A toy dinosaur was “photographed” at BoG Photo Studio using my new Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 digital camera set for “Post Focus.”

The camera was set for ISO 100 and Aperture Priority at f/2.8. Two Sunpak LED-160 Video Lights plus a Nissin i40 external flash unit (set for video light) were used to light the scene. 30 individual frames were extracted from the resulting MP4 video, and saved as TIF files; Adobe Photoshop was used to create the following focus-stacked composite image.

A plastic toy dinosaur.

Noise (graininess) has been a problem in some previous test shots using “Post Focus,” due to low light (underexposure). I changed the ISO from AUTO to 100 for this test, opened the aperture all the way to f/2.8, and added a third LED light source.

This is the first time I tested “Post Focus” and felt like the camera had a mind of its own! Nonetheless, the final output turned out OK. Further research and experimentation is required in order to understand what happened and why.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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“Post Focus” images: Shadow Darner dragonfly

January 30, 2019

Bob Perkins collected and reared a Shadow Darner dragonfly (Aeshna umbrosa) larva/nymph. This blog post features two focus-stacked composite images of a beautifully preserved specimen of the adult that emerged from the larva.

Each composite image was created from 30 TIF files extracted from a one-second MP4 video of the subject, “photographed” using my new Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 digital camera set for “Post Focus.”

This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages and “indented” hind wings (shown above). All male dragonflies have three terminal appendages, collectively called “claspers”: the two cerci are missing (they broke off the terminal end of the abdomen during shipping); the epiproct is intact.

Shadow Darner (Aeshna umbrosa) | dorsal-lateral view

Takeaways

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from on-going experimentation with Panasonic “Post Focus” is that the process continues to impress — it works quickly (typically one second or so) and works well, using lightweight, inexpensive equipment for making composite images of acceptable quality.

What’s not to like? The obvious answer: The image quality isn’t as high as comparable images created using HEAVY and EXPENSIVE camera gear in the controlled environment of a photo studio. On the other hand, I know from experience I’m unlikely to lug all of that gear into the field. I call it a BIG WIN to have found a relatively lightweight, inexpensive camera kit that does essentially the same job almost as well!

The next test: Use adult dragonflies in the wild as the subject. Regrettably, that will have to wait until the first odonates begin emerging during early spring.

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the “photos” for creation of the composite images, shown above: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 digital camera set for “Post Focus“; and two Sunpak LED-160 Video Lights.

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

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

More testing: Panasonic “Post Focus”

January 28, 2019

A toy dragonfly was “photographed” at BoG Photo Studio using my new Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 digital camera set for “Post Focus.” Two Sunpak LED-160 Video Lights were used to light the scene. 30 individual frames were extracted from the resulting MP4 video, and saved as TIF files; Adobe Photoshop was used to create the following focus-stacked composite image.

A plastic toy dragonfly.

The test shots featured in my last blog post, and this one, were taken in order to establish the proof of concept that Panasonic “Post Focus” can be used to quickly (well, everything is relative) create high quality focus-stacked composite images. After limited testing, I can say the process works fairly well.

The next test: Use a preserved specimen of a real adult dragonfly as the subject. Please stay tuned for my next blog post.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Testing: Panasonic “Post Focus”

January 25, 2019

My new Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 features some significant upgrades over my DMC-FZ150 such as a touch-screen LCD, built-in WiFi (enabling remote control of the camera using the “Panasonic Image App“), 49 focus points, and 4K video, to name a few. Perhaps the most intriguing new feature is what Panasonic calls “Post Focus.”

“Post Focus” can be used to change the focus point after a photograph is taken, in camera. OK, that’s astounding! But wait, there’s more.

With “Post Focus” enabled, the camera is used in the same way as when you’re shooting still photos. In reality, the camera records a small movie clip in 4K video at 30 fps (4:3 aspect ratio) every time you press the shutter button.

The 4K movie recording function is used to record roughly one second of MP4 video at 30 frames/second. During this recording, the camera’s autofocusing system scans the lens around the subject, moving from the foreground to the background to cover the entire scene. … It’s like a sophisticated form of focus bracketing and produces a movie clip containing about 30 frames. Source Credit: How the Panasonic Post Focus function works.

One reviewer of photography gear opined the process is too slow to be useful in real-world situations; in contrast, my first impression is the process works surprisingly quickly.

An MP4 file can be opened in Adobe Photoshop in order to export individual frames from the 4K video clip; the files can be saved in either JPG or TIF format. In turn those files can be imported into Photoshop to create a focus-stacked composite image, such as the one shown below.

A plastic toy Pterodactyl, 6.5″ in width.

A toy Pterodactyl was “photographed” at BoG Photo Studio using Panasonic “Post Focus.” One Sunpak LED-160 Video Light was used to light the scene. 30 individual frames were extracted from the resulting MP4 video, and saved as TIF files; Adobe Photoshop was used to create the preceding focus-stacked composite image.

I think Panasonic “Post Focus” shows great potential for enabling the production of high quality focus-stacked composite images when photowalking, without carrying a lot of photography gear into the field.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Do-over

October 24, 2018

The Backstory

An Ashy Clubtail dragonfly (Phanogomphus lividusnymph was collected by Bob Perkins. (The date and location where the specimen was collected are unknown.) The nymph was reared in captivity until it emerged on 21 March 2017 and metamorphosed into an adult female. This specimen is the exuvia from the nymph. P. lividus is a member of the Family Gomphidae (Clubtails).

A focus-stacked composite image was created from 39 photos focused on the face and head of the exuvia. I had relatively little experience using Adobe Photoshop to make focus stacks when I created the first iterations of the Ashy Clubtail composite image. I was never satisfied completely with the final output, so I decided to do a do-over.

After…

The updated version of the composite image was created using my “Latest focus stacking workflow.”

Before…

The version that I published in late-March 2018 was created using the RAW photos (CR2) from my Canon digital camera, without any post-processing. I tried to adjust the white balance and color palette of the resulting composite image, but was unable to get the “look” I wanted. The image is probably over-sharpened too.

Which version do you prefer?

I know the version I like more. Which do you prefer, After or Before?

Tech Tips

The preceding images are composites of 39 photos taken using the following equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens (manual focus only, set for 3x magnification); and Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite set for “Master” mode, and Canon 580 EX- and Canon 580EX II Speedlites set for “Slave” mode.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to focus stack the photos and post-process the final output.

According to the “Focus Stacking Step Size Calculator” embedded in the “Focus Stacking” Web page, the “safe step size” is 0.213 mm for an aperture of f/11 at 3x magnification using a full-frame DSLR. That’s right, 0.213 mm! The safe step size is the incremental distance at which the in-focus areas of two photos overlap. The ruler on the inexpensive focus rail that I use is marked in millimeters only, so I attempted to move the focus rail in tiny increments in two passes: one pass moving from front-to-back; and a second pass from back-to-front.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Macromiidae larvae/exuviae are horny

October 4, 2018

A prominent horn on the face is a key field marker for all larvae/exuviae in the Family Macromiidae (Cruisers).

The first image shows the top of the head of an exuvia from an Allegheny River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia alleghaniensis), collected by Mike Boatwright on 07 June 2018 at Otter Lake in Amherst County, Virginia USA.

07 June 2018 | Amherst County, VA | exuvia (head-horn)

The next photo shows the top of the head of an Allegheny River Cruiser larva reared by fellow Virginian Bob Perkins, providing an excellent view of both the horn and antennae (2).

Image used with permission from Bob Perkins.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the composite image of the exuvia: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens (set for 3x); Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite set for “Master” mode, and Canon 580 EX- and Canon 580EX II Speedlites set for “Slave” mode.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create the focus-stacked composite image from eight photos.

Bob Perkins’ photo of the larva, taken on 03 October 2018, was shot using a Canon EOS Rebel T3i camera body and Canon EF-S 60mm macro lens.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Latest focus stacking workflow

October 2, 2018

I shot a small set of photos for a focus stack showing the ventral view of an unknown species of odonate exuvia. There are five “slices,” focused from head-to-tail along the body only (no shots focused on legs/feet).

The following gallery shows the five focus points along the body of the specimen, highlighted by a red square.

Although this photo set has fewer “slices” than I have been using to create focus stacks recently (~15-20 photos, on average), the resulting composite image (shown below) is perfectly in focus along the entire body and is serviceable for the purpose of identifying the genus and species of this specimen.

07 June 2018 | Amherst County, VA | exuvia (ventral)

The preceding composite image shows an exuvia from an unknown species of dragonfly (possibly River Cruiser sp.), collected by Mike Boatwright on 07 June 2018 at Otter Lake in Amherst County, Virginia USA. This individual probably is a male, as indicated by vestigial hamules located on the underside of abdominal segments two and three (S2-3).

Shooting the Photo Set

  • Set the camera for Manual Mode.
  • Set the lens for manual focus and turn off image stabilization (when the camera/lens is mounted on a tripod).
  • Compose the image so the frame is a little bigger than the scene you really want. This will give you some wiggle room during post-processing.
  • Set external flash(es) for Manual Mode. (~1/16 power is a good starting point.)
  • Select single focus point; move focus point around image.
  • Live View plus 5x and 10x magnification.
  • Drive mode: 10s timer.
  • DON’T MOVE THE CAMERA. Shoot as many images as necessary.

Advance Preparation – Edit Photos Using Aperture [or Lightroom]

Although Apple discontinued development of/support for Aperture years ago, the desktop application still works and in many ways I prefer Aperture over Adobe Lightroom.

  • Edit one image: make all adjustments except spot and patch, vignette, and BFX.
  • Right-click on edited photo; select “Lift Adjustments.”
  • <Replace> <Stamp Selected Images>
  • Add metadata: Lift and Stamp selected images.
  • Select images (to be focus stacked); export as TIFFs (16-bit), 300 dpi; save in folder entitled either “TIFF” or “TIFF versions.” File / Export… / Version… [Export Preset: TIFF – Original Size (16-bit)]

Focus Stacking Using Adobe Photoshop

Launch Photoshop.

  • File / Scripts / Load Files into Stack… [Alternate option: Add Open Files <OK>] Do not check the box for “Create Smart Object after Loading Layers.” By default, Ps creates a new document called “Untitled1.”
  • Select all layers.
  • Edit / Auto-Align Layers; Auto <OK>
  • Edit / Auto-Blend Layers; Stack Images, Seamless Tones and Colors <OK>
  • Duplicate all masked layers to a new document. Layer / Duplicate Layers… / Document: New / Name: Backup-copy
  • Select Untitled1: Layer / Merge Layers. (Ps merges all layers into one TIFF, named after first file in sequence.)
  • Straighten and Crop as necessary.
  • Duplicate the layer; append name with “Spot Healing.” [Alternate option: drag layer to copy icon]
  • Remove dust spots from the image: Spot Healing Brush: 27-54 pixels, Content-Aware.
  • Duplicate the layer; append name with “HPF.” [Alternate option: drag Spot Healing layer to copy icon]
  • Select the top layer: Filter / Other / High Pass…; adjust until you can just see outline of image <OK>; change Normal to Overlay. [Don’t oversharpen! ~2.6 used for the composite image featured in this blog post.]
  • Untitled1: Save As… TIFF.
  • Backup-copy (of masked layers): Save As… either PSD or Large Document Format (for documents larger than 2 GB).
  • Import composite TIFF file [Untitled1.tif] into Aperture [or Lightroom]: add additional keywords, as appropriate [e.g., annotated, composite image, focus stack, Photoshop]; Export using BorderBFX.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the composite image (shown above): 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); Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite set for “Master” mode, and Canon 580 EX- and Canon 580EX II Speedlites set for “Slave” mode. A Sunpak LED-160 Video Light (with a white translucent plastic filter) was used to add soft light to the underside of the white “stage” used for posing the specimen.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create the focus-stacked composite image from five photos.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Helocordulia uhleri exuvia

September 14, 2018

An odonate exuvia from the Family Corduliidae (Emeralds) was collected on 06 April 2018 by Michael Boatwright, founder and administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group.

The Backstory

I found a recently-emerged teneral sundragon still clinging to its exuvia along Beck Creek in Amherst County, Virginia USA. Source Credit: Michael Boatwright.

Image used with permission from Michael Boatwright.

After snapping a photo, I gently moved the teneral adult to a nearby blade of grass, snapped another shot, and then collected the exuvia. Although I have seen both Selys’ Sundragon (Helocordulia selysii) and Uhler’s Sundragon (Helocordulia uhleri) in that area, I assumed this one was Selys’ since it’s the more common species there. Source Credit: Michael Boatwright.

Image used with permission from Michael Boatwright.

This is a small genus [Helocordulia] of only two known species found in only the eastern United States and Canada. Source Credit: Needham, J.G., M.J. Westfall, and M.L. May. March 2014. Dragonflies of North America, 3rd Edition: p. 376. Scientific Publishers, Gainesville, Florida.

A two-step process was used to verify the genus and species of the exuvia.

  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 used to identify the exuvia as a member of the Family Corduliidae (Emeralds).

  • The specimen has a mask-like labium (prementum) that covers the face, as shown in Image No. 1, characteristic of four families of odonates: Cordulegastridae (Spiketails); Corduliidae (Emeralds); Libellulidae (Skimmers); and Macromiidae (Cruisers).
  • There is no horn on the face-head, characteristic of Macromiidae, so it’s not a cruiser.
  • Cordulegastridae has jagged crenulations on its labium, so it’s not a spiketail. The crenulations for Corduliidae and Libellulidae look similar.
  • Look at the anal pyramid to differentiate Corduliidae and Libellulidae: It’s probably Corduliidae if the cerci are at least half as long as the paraprocts. [Editor’s Note: It’s probably Libellulidae if the cerci are less than half the length of the paraprocts.]

In summary, the exuvia has a mask-like labium with relatively smooth crenulations, and no horn on its face-head. Although the specimen is too dirty to see the anal pyramid clearly, field observation of the teneral adult confirms the dragonfly is a member of Genus Heliocordulia (Sundragons) in the Family Corduliidae (Emeralds).

Image No. 1 shows a face-head view of the exuvia, magnified approximately three times life size (~3x). Notice the labium that covers the face is missing one of two palpal lobes; the missing lobe is shown in Image No. 4.

No. 1 | Helocordulia uhleri | exuvia (face-head)

Step 2. Genus and species

The dichotomous key for “Helocordulia larvae” that appears on p. 377 in Dragonflies of North America (Needham, et al.) was used to verify the genus and species of the exuvia. Markers that match this specimen are highlighted in boldface green text. Three boldface green asterisks (***) are used to highlight the thread for identification of this specimen.

***1. Dorsal hooks on abdominal segments 7-9; palpal setae 7; lateral spines of segment 8 about 1/2 as long as on segment 9 [uhleri]
1’. Dorsal hooks on abdominal segments 6-9; palpal setae usually 6; lateral spines of segment 8 about as long as on segment 9 [selysii]

Image No. 2 shows a dorsal view of the specimen. Notice the mid-dorsal hooks on abdominal segments seven through nine (S7-9), labeled using white text.

No. 2 | Helocordulia uhleri | exuvia (dorsal)

Image No. 3 clearly shows the dorsal hooks on abdominal segments seven through nine (S7-9). This distinctive character confirms the identity of the species as H. uhleri.

No. 3 | Helocordulia uhleri | exuvia (lateral)

Image No. 4 shows a palpal lobe from the specimen, viewed from the inside, magnified approximately three times life size (~3x). There is one palpal seta and at least seven sites where setae might have been located before the palpal lobe broke off the prementum. Although this character is inconclusive for confirming the species (given the condition of the palpal lobe), it’s not exclusive.

No. 4 | Helocordulia uhleri | palpal lobe (inside)

Image No. 5 shows a ventral view of the specimen. Notice the lateral spine on abdominal segment eight (S8) is about half as long as the lateral spine on segment nine (S9).

When measuring spines, I measure them ventral from the inside corner to the tip. There is a suture on the ventral side, near the base, that makes a nice repeatable starting point for measuring. Source Credit: Ken Tennessen, personal communication.

No. 5 | Helocordulia uhleri | exuvia (ventral)

Takeaways

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from working to identify this exuvia is the fact that it enabled the correct identification of the teneral adult dragonfly that Mike observed and photographed. In fact, Mike is the one who first recognized the species is H. uhleri, based upon the number of mid-dorsal hooks on the exuvia.

Tech Tips

Mike Boatwright’s photographs, taken in-situ, were shot using a Canon EOS 7D digital camera and Canon 300mm prime lens paired with a Canon 1.4x Extender EF.

The following equipment was used to shoot Image No. 2, 3, and 5: 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); Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite set for “Master” mode, and Canon 580 EX- and Canon 580EX II Speedlites set for “Slave” mode. Image No. 1 and 4Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens (manual focus only, set for ~3x magnification) plus the multiple-flash setup.

Image No. 1-5 are focus-stacked composite images created and annotated using Adobe Photoshop CC 2017: Image No. 1 (seven photos); Image No. 2 (30 photos); Image No. 3 (16 photos); Image No. 4 (10 photos); Image No. 5 (24 photos).

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Epitheca princeps exuvia

September 6, 2018

An odonate exuvia was collected by Michael Boatwright, founder and administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, on 07 June 2018 at Otter Lake in Amherst County, Virginia USA.

A two-step process was used to identify the genus and species of the specimen.

  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 used to identify the exuvia as a member of the Family Corduliidae (Emeralds).

  • The specimen has a mask-like labium (prementum) that covers the face, as shown in Image No. 1, characteristic of four families of odonates: Cordulegastridae (Spiketails); Corduliidae (Emeralds); Libellulidae (Skimmers); and Macromiidae (Cruisers).
  • There is no horn on the face-head, characteristic of Macromiidae, so it’s not a cruiser.
  • Cordulegastridae has jagged crenulations on its labium, so it’s not a spiketail. The crenulations for Corduliidae and Libellulidae look similar.
  • Look at the anal pyramid to differentiate Corduliidae and Libellulidae: It’s probably Corduliidae if the cerci are at least half as long as the paraprocts, as shown in Image No. 4. [Editor’s Note: It’s probably Libellulidae if the cerci are less than half the length of the paraprocts.]

In summary, the exuvia has a mask-like labium with relatively smooth crenulations, no horn on its face-head, and the cerci are more than half as long as the paraprocts, confirming that the specimen is a member of Family Corduliidae (Emeralds).

No. 1Epitheca princeps | exuvia (face-head)

Step 2. Genus and species

Characters from two dichotomous keys were used to identify the genus and species: Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps). See Epitheca princeps exuvia, another of my illustrated guides to identification of odonate exuviae, for a detailed explanation of the decision tree used to identify the genus and species of this specimen.

No. 2 | Epitheca princeps | exuvia (dorsal)

This individual is a male, as indicated by the vestigial hamuli visible on the ventral side of abdominal segments two and three (S2-3).

No. 3Epitheca princeps | exuvia (ventral)

Notice the cerci are at least half as long as the paraprocts, as shown in Image No. 4.

No. 4Epitheca princeps | exuvia (posterior abdomen)

Image No. 5 shows a dorsal-lateral view of the mid-dorsal hooks.

No. 5Epitheca princeps | exuvia (dorsal-lateral)

Look-alike species

I really wanted this specimen to be Stream Cruiser dragonfly (Didymops transversa). I think exuviae from D. transversa and E. princeps are similar in appearance — an opinion not shared by at least one expert on identification of odonate exuviae.

Two characters proved to be the deal-breaker that forced me to abandon D. tranversa in favor of E. princeps. 1) The specimen does not have a horn on its face-head. 2) This specimen is only 25 mm long (2.5 cm); D. transversa larvae/exuviae are 30 mm long (3.0 cm), according to Dragonflies of North America, Needham, James G., et al.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot Image No. 1-5: 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); Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite set for “Master” mode, and Canon 580 EX- and Canon 580EX II Speedlites set for “Slave” mode.

Image No. 1-5 are focus-stacked composite images created and annotated using Adobe Photoshop CC 2017: Image No. 1 (7 photos); Image No. 2 (22 photos); Image No. 3 (19 photos); Image No. 4 (10 photos); Image No. 5 (20 photos).

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Stylurus sp. exuvia

August 25, 2018

Two similar odonate exuviae were collected by Michael Boatwright on 11- and 13 July 2018 along a medium-size stream in Amherst County, Virginia USA. Mike and I collaborated to identify the specimen collected on 13 July.

A two-step process was used to identify the genus and species of the exuvia.

  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 used to identify the exuvia as a member of the Family Gomphidae (Clubtails).

  • The specimen has a flat labium (prementum) that doesn’t cover the face (not mask-like), as shown in Image No. 1, 3-5.
  • Antennae are club-like (not thin and thread-like, as in Aeshnidae larvae), as shown in Image No. 1.
  • Eyes not exceptionally large compared to the size of the head (not large, as in Aeshnidae), as shown in Image No. 1.

It’s relatively simple and straightforward to recognize this specimen is a clubtail. Determination of the genus and species is more challenging.

No. 1 | Stylurus sp. | exuvia (face-head)

Step 2. Genus and species

Several dichotomous keys were used to determine the genus and species of the exuvia. (See Related Resources.) By far the easiest keys to use are found in Identification Keys to Northeastern Anisoptera Larvae, compiled by Ken Soltesz. Markers that match this specimen are highlighted in boldface green text. Three boldface green asterisks (***) are used to highlight the thread for identification of this specimen.

p. 7 – Key to the Genera of the Family Gomphidae

p. 9
***8a. Tibial burrowing hooks vestigial or lacking; 1-4 palpal teeth [see Image No. 5]; abdomen slender, no wider than head [see Image No. 2]. [Stylurus]

p. 16
[diagrams (showing palpal lobe)] … traced from Walker (1928)

This specimen is a species from the genus Stylurus, confirmed by Kenneth J. Tennessen, Ph.D. in Entomology (personal communication).

p. 17 – Key to the Species of the Genus Stylurus

***1b. Abdominal segment 9 less than twice as long as wide at base [see Image No. 2]. [2]

2a. Vestigial dorsal hook, represented on segment 9 by small flattened triangular rearward projection on mid-dorsal line, not hooklike in form. [3]
***2b. Nothing representing a hook on 9. [4]

3a. … [notatus] ← Elusive Clubtail
3b. … [plagiatus] ← Russet-tipped Clubtail

4a. Total length less than 34 mm; median lobe of labium very convex. [amnicola] ← Riverine Clubtail
***4b. Total length more than 34 mm [see Image No. 2]; median lobe of labium only slightly convex [see Image No. 5]. [scudderi] ← Zebra Clubtail

Note: See Walker (1928) for a complete description of the nymphs of Stylurus.

[diagrams (showing posterior abdomen)] … traced from Walker (1928)

The exuvia is ~37 mm (~3.7 cm) long, measured from end-to-end, including the antennae that extend ~1-2 mm in front of the face. The overall shape of the posterior abdomen most closely matches S. scudderi, as shown by tracings in the Soltesz key. The length of abdominal segment nine (S9) is less than its basal width. S9 is only slightly longer than S8. S10 is wider than its length.

No. 2 | Stylurus sp. | exuvia (dorsal)

Notice the flat labium (prementum) doesn’t cover the face of the specimen, as shown in Image No. 1, 3-5. The basal width of the lateral spine on abdominal segment nine (S9) in lateral view is approximately equal to the basal width of the spine in dorsal view.

No. 3 | Stylurus sp. | exuvia (lateral)

The lateral spine on abdominal segment nine (S9) is nearly as long as abdominal segment 10 (S10).

No. 4 | Stylurus sp. | exuvia (ventral)

The overall shape of the palpal lobes most closely matches S. scudderi, as shown by tracings in the Soltesz key. Note the median lobe of the labium (prementum) is only slightly convex, as shown by both the tracings and Image No. 5.

No. 5 | Stylurus sp. | exuvia (prementum)

What it is

According to the identification key for the genus Stylurus compiled by Ken Soltesz, this specimen is Zebra Clubtail (Stylurus scudderi).

Soltesz’s key is based, in part, on the excellent work of E. M. Walker in 1928. (See Related Resources.) Neither Walker’s paper nor Soltesz’s identification key includes Laura’s Clubtail (Stylurus laurae), described in 1932 (Benjamin Coulter, personal communication). There is considerable overlap in the characters used to identify S. laurae and S. scudderi that cannot be ignored.

We referred to two more identification keys, one of which is known to contain misinformation in the keys for S. laurae and S. scudderi (Kenneth J. Tennessen, personal communication) — if one is flawed, then so is the other since both keys refer to many of the same characters. That being said, the greatest number of matching characters indicates S. scudderi although S. laurae cannot be 100% ruled out.

Further evidence

One of the two virtually identical odonate exuviae that Mike Boatwright collected included a teneral adult that failed to emerge successfully.

After careful examination, Mike tentatively identified the adult as a male Zebra Clubtail (Stylurus scudderi) based on the following characteristics.

Face yellow with crossbars forming a dark “X” with a light center. Front half of frons yellowish; rear of frons and vertex dark. Top of thorax dark brown with two vertical yellowish white stripes, and a light colored mid-dorsal stripe narrowing to a point at the yellowish-white collar stripe. Humeral and anti-humeral stripes (T1 and T2) dark brown and almost completely fused. Area between T2 and T3 a fairly broad yellow stripe. T3 and T4 dark brown, mostly fused, and bordered by light colored broad oval area below.

Abdomen slender with dark blackish-brown segments. Two pale yellow spots on the sides of S2 with one completely covering the auricle. Anterior end of S3-6 and posterior end of S9 with thin pale yellow to whitish ring. Lateral edges of S7-9 widely expanding forming a club with broad irregular whitish-yellow markings on lateral surfaces. Source Credit: Michael Boatwright.

Significance

Either Zebra Clubtail (S. scudderi) or Laura’s Clubtail (S. laurae) are new species of odonates for Amherst County, Virginia USA, as shown by the Dragonfly Society of the Americas species checklist for Amherst County.

Zebra Clubtail is not within range of Amherst County; Mike’s discovery could indicate expansion of its range farther eastward into Virginia. Laura’s Clubtail is within range of Amherst County, although unknown to occur there.

According to records for the Commonwealth of Virginia maintained by Dr. Steve Roble, Staff Zoologist at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, the adult flight period for Zebra Clubtail is 13 July to 02 October; Laura’s Clubtail is 20 June to 26 September.

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot Image No. 1-4: 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); Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite set for “Master” mode, and Canon 580 EX- and Canon 580EX II Speedlites set for “Slave” mode. Image No. 5Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens (manual focus only, set for ~2x magnification) plus the multiple-flash setup.

Image No. 1-5 are focus-stacked composite images created and annotated using Adobe Photoshop CC 2017: Image No. 1 (13 photos); Image No. 2 (14 photos); Image No. 3 (11 photos); Image No. 4 (18 photos); Image No. 5 (six photos).

Mike Boatwright’s photos, taken soon after the specimens were collected, were shot using a Samsung Model SM-G950U cell phone.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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