Posts Tagged ‘gear talk’

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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3 Legged Thing “Ellie” Universal L-Bracket

May 17, 2019

This post is a quick review of the 3 Legged Thing “Ellie” Universal L-Bracket, Desmond DAC-X1 adaptor, and Manfrotto RC2 quick release tripod plate.

The primary advantage of using an L-bracket is to be able to switch from landscape view to portrait view quickly when using a camera tripod.

Many L-brackets, including the 3 Legged Thing “Ellie” bracket, feature an Arca-Swiss style tripod mount. Since most of my tripod heads use the Manfrotto RC2 system of quick release tripod plates, I needed to find a solution that would enable me to mount an Arca-Swiss tripod plate on my RC2 plates. After a little research on the Internet (Google is your friend), I decided to buy the Desmond DAC-X1 Skeleton Clamp. It’s well-designed, lightweight, and works as advertised.

“Ellie”

The following photo gallery shows a 3 Legged Thing “Ellie” Universal L-Bracket mounted on a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 superzoom bridge camera. That’s right, “Ellie” — such a clever name for an “L” bracket!

“Ellie” Universal L-Bracket | Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 camera

“Ellie” is cleverly designed too. It can be assembled in multiple configurations.

“Ellie” Universal L-Bracket | Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 camera

The best configuration for the DMC-FZ300 is to mount the L-bracket so that the vertical component is on the right side of the camera body, otherwise the bracket blocks the articulating LCD from its full range of motion.

“Ellie” Universal L-Bracket | Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 camera

“Ellie” blocks access to the battery/memory card compartment, as shown in the preceding photo. It’s worth noting that a simple tripod plate, such as the Manfrotto RC2 quick release tripod plate, causes the same problem.

Accessories

“Ellie” is bundled with a drawstring pouch for storing the L-bracket and a small blue tool that is used to assemble and disassemble the component parts, as well as tighten/loosen the tripod screw. I prefer using a U.S. five-cent coin (nickel) for the tripod screw. A nickel fits the screwdriver slot on the tripod screw almost perfectly, and unlike some coins, its smooth edges won’t scratch the slot.

Desmond DAC-X1 Skeleton Clamp (black) connects to the “Ellie”; a Manfrotto RC2 quick release tripod plate (gray) connects to the DAC-X1.

Accessories for the 3 Legged Thing “Ellie” Universal L-Bracket.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

DMC-FZ150 versus DMC-FZ300

May 8, 2019

For years, my go-to camera kit for photowalking has been the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom digital camera and a Canon 580EX Speedlite. A formula of camera and flash settings that I call “set it and forget it” works most of the time, enabling me to focus on the subject rather than futzing around with camera/flash settings.

My new Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 features some significant upgrades over the 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, 4K video, and an intriguing new feature that Panasonic calls “Post Focus.”

The two cameras are similar, but as I say often, similar is not the same. As appealing as the new features of the FZ300 are, the newer camera doesn’t perform like my older FZ150. After limited testing in both the studio and in the field, I have yet to find the new formula for “set it and forget it” using the FZ300. Disappointed and frustrated, I am!

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150

A Springtime Darner dragonfly (Basiaeschna janata) was spotted along Popes Head Creek at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

108mm (600mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 100 | f/5.2 | 1/800 s | -1 ev

Flash fired, in compulsory flash mode. My external flash unit is set for Manual mode at a power ratio of 1/16, plus or minus one stop. The other settings listed in the photo caption are typical of what I call “set it and forget it,” that is, these settings work for most subjects in most lighting conditions.

The preceding photo was included in my “Top 10 Photos of 2018.” Many, if not most, of the photos in this gallery were taken using the DMC-FZ150 and my “set it and forget it” formula.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300

A Brown Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster bilineata) was spotted at Occoquan Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

108mm (600mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 100 | f/2.8 | 1/800 s | 1 ev

Flash fired, in compulsory flash mode.

A Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius) was spotted at the North Tract of Patuxent Research Refuge, Anne Arundel County, Maryland USA. This individual is a female.

108mm (600mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 100 | f/2.8 | 1/800 s | 0 ev

Flash fired, in compulsory flash mode.

A Harlequin Darner dragonfly (Gomphaeschna furcillata) was spotted at the North Tract of Patuxent Research Refuge, Anne Arundel County, Maryland USA. This individual is a female.

108mm (600mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 100 | f/2.8 | 1/800 s | 0 ev

Flash fired, in compulsory flash mode.

What are the take-aways?

I prefer shooting in Shutter Priority mode at relatively fast shutter speeds (using the reciprocal rule) in order to reduce camera shake at longer focal lengths. If the ISO is set for 100 then the exposure triangle tells us that the only variable is aperture (f/stop). Using my “set it and forget it” formula of settings, the FZ150 typically opts for an f/stop of f/5.6 or higher (that is, a smaller lens opening); for some reason the FZ300 always seems to opt for f/2.8.

Problem is, there is too little depth of field at f/2.8! The only way I’m able to shoot serviceable photos using the FZ300 is to compose photos so the entire subject is nearly parallel to the focal plane and to sharpen the images using Adobe Photoshop.

I’m planning to start shooting in Manual mode so that I can set the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. During limited testing in the studio, it was necessary to use a higher flash power ratio in order to get good exposure. Otherwise, Manual mode is the ultimate in “set it and forget it!”

Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Aging gracefully

March 1, 2019

The following gallery features several photos of a Valentines Day gift of appreciation from The Beacon of Groveton. A little more than two weeks after the red rose was delivered, the flower appears to be aging gracefully.

I experimented with a different lighting setup than the last photo shoot of this flower. An articulating Loc-line arm was used to hold and pose the cut flower. The background is a 12″ x 12″ piece of white plastic, mounted vertically and backlighted by a radio-controlled external flash unit. Notice the vignetting on the left side of the photo, caused by the flower being offset from the center of the sweet spot of the backlight.

28 FEB 2019 | BoG Photo Studio | Valentines Day rose

The simplest solution to the vignetting problem is to crop the image. Ah, much better, and much closer to achieving my vision for the finished product — the red rose posed against a clean white background!

28 FEB 2019 | BoG Photo Studio | Valentines Day rose

The next photo is the only photo in the set that turned out exactly as I wanted. Well, the flash in Group B (off camera, to the front-left of the subject) is a little too bright, but that’s just the perfectionist in me talking.

28 FEB 2019 | BoG Photo Studio | Valentines Day rose

The first two photos were taken at f/8. I moved the camera closer to the subject for the last photo and switched to f/11 for more depth of field. The shadow of the flower stem on the white background wasn’t part of my plan — I’m not sure whether it adds to the photo or detracts. What do you think?

28 FEB 2019 | BoG Photo Studio | Valentines Day rose

Tech Tips

The following equipment (shown below) was used to shoot the preceding photos: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-16 extension tube (for some photos, but not all); Fujinon XF80mm macro lensGodox XProF TTL Wireless Flash Trigger for Fujifilm cameras; a Godox TT685F Thinklite TTL Flash for Fujifilm Cameras; a Godox TT685C Thinklite TTL Flash for Canon Cameras fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier; and a Godox TT685O Thinklite Flash for Olympus/Panasonic Cameras. All three flashes were set for radio-controlled slave mode, in Manual Mode.

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

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Composite image: “Generic Gomphid” (face)

February 27, 2019

larva/nymph in the Family Gomphidae (Clubtails) was collected by Bob Perkins from the New River in southwestern Virginia. The larva died before it metamorphosed into an adult.

“Generic Gomphid” larva (preserved specimen) | New River, VA USA

An Ashy Clubtail dragonfly nymph was also 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.

Although face-head of the “Generic Gomphid” and Ashy Clubtail look similar, they aren’t identical. More later after the specimen is keyed out carefully.

Related Resources

Tech Tips

13 photos were used to create the focus stack of the “Generic Gomphid.” A single focus point was positioned over select anatomical features; photos were taken at each point of interest.

The following equipment was used to shoot the composite image of the “Generic Gomphid”: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens (set for f/11 at ~2.5x); a Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite set for “Master” mode, and a single external flash set for “Slave” mode — a Godox TT685C Thinklite TTL Flash fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier.

Auto power-off was disabled for the camera and external flash units.

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

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Cordulegaster sp. larva (dorsal view)

February 25, 2019

This post features a focus-stacked composite image that shows a dorsal view of an odonate larva/nymph from the Family Cordulegastridae (Spiketails) that was collected and reared by Bob Perkins. The larva died before it metamorphosed into an adult.

Cordulegaster sp. larva (female) | dorsal view

Most larvae go through 10-13 stages of development known as “instars.” The author lacks sufficient experience to identify the instar of this specimen, although it appears to be one of the later stages as indicated by its well-developed wing pads.

Related Resources

Tech Tips

12 photos were used to create the focus stack. A single focus point was positioned over select anatomical features; photos were taken at each point of interest.

The following equipment was used to shoot all of the photographs for the focus-stacked 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); 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.

Auto power-off was disabled for the camera and all external flash units.

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

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Cordulegaster sp. larva (ventral view)

February 22, 2019

Bob Perkins collected and reared an odonate larva/nymph from the Family Cordulegastridae (Spiketails). The larva died before it metamorphosed into an adult.

This post features a focus-stacked composite image that shows a ventral view of the preserved larva; a composite image showing the dorsal view will be published in my next blog post.

Cordulegaster sp. larva (female) | ventral view

This individual is a female, as indicated by her rudimentary ovipositor that can be seen on the ventral side of the specimen along the boundary between abdominal segments eight and nine (S8-9). Do you see it?

Related Resources

Tech Tips

Nine (9) photos were used to create the focus stack. A single focus point was positioned over select anatomical features; photos were taken at each point of interest.

The following equipment was used to shoot all of the photographs for the focus-stacked 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); 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.

Auto power-off was disabled for the camera and all external flash units.

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

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Sometimes you just need to stop…

February 20, 2019

…and smell, er, see the roses. Seriously, man doesn’t live by odonates alone!

The following gallery features several photos of a Valentines Day gift of appreciation from The Beacon of Groveton. Nearly a week after the red rose was delivered, it’s beginning to show a little “character.”

19 FEB 2019 | BoG Photo Studio | Valentines Day rose

19 FEB 2019 | BoG Photo Studio | Valentines Day rose

19 FEB 2019 | BoG Photo Studio | Valentines Day rose

Tech Tips

The subject was posed in front of a black background — the lower door of the refrigerator!

The following equipment (shown below) was used to shoot the preceding photos: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-16 extension tube; Fujinon XF80mm macro lensGodox XProF TTL Wireless Flash Trigger for Fujifilm cameras; and a Godox TT685C Thinklite TTL Flash for Canon Cameras fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier. A Sunpak LED-160 Video Light was used to add fill light to some of the photos.

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

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

“Generic Baskettail” (definitely not a Cruiser)

February 18, 2019

larva/nymph in the Family Corduliidae (Emeralds) was collected by Bob Perkins on 02 December 2017 from a pond in Orange Park, Florida (USA). The larva died before it metamorphosed into an adult.

As you can see by looking at a close-up image of the face-head at 3x magnification, there is no horn on the face of the specimen. Therefore this individual is not a member of Family Macromiidae (Cruisers), as I speculated in my last blog post.

“Generic Baskettail” larva (preserved specimen) | face-head

Knowing the limits of our expertise

Although I still need to key out the specimen carefully, at this point I’m certain Bob is correct — the larva is a member of the Family Corduliidae (Emeralds). The question that remains unanswered is “Which genus/species?” We may never know the answer, as Bob and I have reached the limit of our experience and expertise.

I did a quick scan of Paulson’s [book], looking at the Emerald Family. Here, according to the range maps, are the possibilities for Orange Park [FL]. I believe you can see why I stopped at “generic basketttail.” Source Credit: Bob Perkins.

What do you think the identity is? Most of the items in the preceding species list feature links to photos of odonate larvae/exuviae. See the links to BugGuide from the scientific names in the list.

Related Resource: Test shots: “Generic Baskettail?”

Tech Tips

Four (4) photos were used to create the preceding focus-stacked composite image. A single focus point was positioned over the face, between the antennae. At a magnification ratio of 3:1, it’s difficult to manually focus on a single point — the slightest movement around the macro rig changes focus unintentionally. A simple work-around for this problem is to take several shots of the same focus point and create a composite image of the photos.

The following equipment was used to shoot the preceding composite image: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens (set for f/16 at 3x); a Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite set for “Master” mode, and a single external flash set for “Slave” mode — a Godox TT685C Thinklite TTL Flash fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier. A Sunpak LED-160 Video Light was used to add fill light to the top of the subject.

Auto power-off was disabled for the camera and external flash units.

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

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Composite images: “Generic Gomphid”

February 13, 2019

“It’s like Deja vu all over again.” (Source Credit: Yogi Berra.) But seriously folks, if you were thinking “Hey these pictures look familiar!” then you’re right. My last blog post features “one-offs” of the same subject, that is, photos with a single focus point on the mid-body of the specimen.

This post features focus-stacked composite images that show dorsal- and ventral views of a preserved larva in the Family Gomphidae (Clubtails) that was collected by Bob Perkins. I think both composite images look better than the “one-offs” in my last blog post; the difference is especially noticeable by looking at the head and tail in the vernal view.

Dorsal

Five (5) photos were used to create the first focus stack. A single focus point was positioned over select anatomical features; photos were taken at each point of interest.

“Generic Gomphid” larva (preserved specimen) | New River, VA USA

Ventral

Six (6) photos were used to create the second focus stack.

“Generic Gomphid” larva (preserved specimen) | New River, VA USA

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The following equipment (shown below) was used to shoot the preceding photos: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-16 extension tube; 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 a Canon 580EX II Speedlite mounted on a Godox X1R-C TTL Wireless Flash Trigger Receiver for Canon. A new Godox TT685O Thinklite TTL Flash for Olympus/Panasonic Cameras was added to an array of radio-controlled external flash units used to light the specimen. All flashes were set for Manual Mode at 1/128 power.

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.


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