Posts Tagged ‘gear talk’

“Bender” on grass

June 22, 2018

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) is well-known for its tendency to perch on gray and tan colored surfaces, including tree trunks. Less well-known is the fact that Gray Petaltail perches wherever it wants, including tall grasses growing in the forested seeps from which the species emerges.

“Bender,” my nickname for a male Gray Petaltail with a malformed abdomen, is shown perched on grass stems in the following photo set.

No. 1 | 06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

The next photo provides a good view of the gentle curve in Bender’s abdomen, as well as his hamules, visible on the ventral side of abdominal segments two and three (S2 and S3).

No. 2 | 06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

Like many male odonates, Bender probably perched on the grass in order to make himself available for hook-ups with females of the same species.

No. 3 | 06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

Bender aggressively defended the prominent perch against other odonates that intruded upon his territory.

No. 4 | 06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

No flash/flash

Compare/contrast Photo No. 3-4. The batteries in my external flash unit were almost drained completely by the time I shot the photos. As a result, the flash worked sometimes and didn’t work other times. I’m fairly certain the flash didn’t fire for the Photo No. 3, and equally certain it fired for Photo No. 4. Some photographers might contend the no-flash photo is “arty”; I contend Photo No. 4 — the fill-flash version — has better color balance, color saturation, and more detail in the shadows.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Swift River Cruiser exuvia

April 25, 2018

A late-stage emergent teneral female Swift River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia illinoiensis) was spotted on 27 May 2017 along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. The exuvia was collected, with permission from park staff, after the female flew away from the place where she metamorphosed from a nymph to an adult.

No. 1 | 27 MAY 2017 | Riverbend Park | Swift River Cruiser (female)

The next image is a composite of 35 photos. The specimen is perfectly in focus from head-to-tail, including the legs.

The last image is a composite of eight photos. The focus point for each photo in the set is limited to the body only. Surprisingly, all six legs are acceptably in focus except for the tip of the left hind leg.

The official early-date for Swift River Cruiser dragonfly is 08 May in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Since the early-date for Royal River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia taeniolata) is 15 May, the exuvia helps to confirm the identity of the adult is Swift River Cruiser. 10 October is the late-date for both species.

Tech Tips

Photo No. 1 was taken using my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom bridge camera plus Canon 580EX Speedlite, my go-to kit for photowalking.

The following equipment was used to shoot Photo No. 2 and 3: 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.

Photo No. 2-3 are focus-stacked composite images created using Adobe Photoshop CC 2017.

Related Resource: Swift River Cruiser (emergent female).

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

A good spot for spiketails and emeralds

April 23, 2018

21 APR 2017 | Huntley Meadows Park | Little Hunting Creek

The preceding photo shows a view of the forest, seen from the banks of Little Hunting Creek as it flows through Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. The forest floor is carpeted with Spring Beauty wildflowers (Claytonia virginica).

Little Hunting Creek is a good place to look for Twin-spotted Spiketail dragonflies (Cordulegaster maculata). Arrowhead Spiketail dragonflies (Cordulegaster obliqua) and Mocha Emerald dragonflies (Somatochlora linearis) have been observed at the same site.

Tech Tip: I used my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom camera to shoot the landscape photo featured in this blog post. The camera was set for manual focus at the hyperfocal distance for an aperture of f/4, based upon the instructions provided in the excellent video tutorial by Graham Houghton, “Panasonic Lumix FZ camera easier manual focus method — super point-and-shoot tip.”

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Another focus stacking face-off

April 19, 2018

Here’s another face-off between a single macro photo and a focus-stacked composite image. Let’s start with the composite image this time.

The first example is a composite image created from 14 photos.

In a recent blog post, I wrote…

My goal is to shoot the fewest number of photos (using a relatively small aperture such as f/18) that will show the entire specimen in focus when the photo set is focus-stacked to create a composite image. Source Credit: More Calico Pennant exuvia composite images.

I used to shoot several photos of a single focus point, e.g., the prementum, and select the sharpest image for editing/focus stacking. Now I’m using a wider aperture such as either f/11 or f/8 (for sharpness), shooting more photos, and using every photo that I take. My rationale is simple: A single photo may not be the sharpest photo of a single focus point, but it probably shows other areas that are in focus. In this case, I think more “raw material” is better than less.

The last example is one of the better photos from the set of 14. When you click on the images they open in a new tab automatically. Toggle back-and-forth between tabs and I think you will agree the composite image is clearly better than the following single photo.

The Backstory

An American Rubyspot damselfly (Hetaerina americananymph was collected by Bob Perkins on 06 August 2017 along the New River in Grayson County, Virginia USA. The nymph was reared in captivity, albeit briefly, until it emerged on 09 August 2017.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Why focus stack macro photos?

April 17, 2018

Why focus stack macro photos? The answer is obvious: The difference between a single macro photo and a focus-stacked composite image is like night and day.

The first example is one of the better photos from a set of 13. It is the same photo that is featured in Hetaerina americana exuvia, my identification guide for American Rubyspot damselfly exuviae.

The last example is a composite image created using all 13 photos in the set.

You may not notice the difference in quality unless you look at the full-size version of both images. When you click on the images they open in a new tab automatically. Toggle back-and-forth between tabs and I think you will agree the composite image is clearly better than the single photo.

The Backstory

An American Rubyspot damselfly (Hetaerina americananymph was collected by Bob Perkins on 06 August 2017 along the New River in Grayson County, Virginia USA. The nymph was reared in captivity, albeit briefly, until it emerged on 09 August 2017.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Focus stacking workflow

April 15, 2018

By trial and error, the workflow that I use to create focus-stacked composite images has been refined to its current semi-steady state. My goal for the workflow is to maximize efficiency and minimize unexpected results. I’m not saying this is the best way to focus stack images, but it is the best way I have found to do it…so far. Suggestions for improvement are invited and welcome.

Photo editing using Apple 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 Lightroom.

Make all necessary edits/adjustments to one photo except Spot & Patch, Vignette, and BorderFX (a plug-in for Aperture). This process works because I shoot the entire photo set for a composite image using manual exposure and manual flash. Add metadata (IPTC and Keywords).

  • Right-click on the photo; select “Lift Adjustments.” <Replace> <Stamp Selected Images>.
  • Right-click on the photo; select “Lift Metadata.” <Replace> <Stamp Selected Images>.
  • Select all images for focus stack; Photos / Edit with Adobe Photoshop CC 2017.app…

Editor’s Note: Aperture seems to “choke” when too many photos are selected to send to Photoshop. Alternate procedure: Select the images (to be focus stacked); export as TIFFs (16-bit), 300 dpi; save in folder entitled either “TIFF” or “TIFF versions.”

Focus stacking workflow using Adobe Photoshop…

Launch Photoshop.

  • File / Scripts / Load Files into Stack…; either Add Open Files <OK> or browse to the location of the folder where the TIFF files are saved. Do not check the box for “Create Smart Object after Loading Layers.” By default, Photoshop creates a new document called “Untitled1”; either rename the document or leave it as is.
  • 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 [backup copy].
  • Select Untitled1: Layer / Merge Layers (Photoshop merges all layers into one TIFF, named after the first file in numeric sequence.)
  • Straighten and Crop as necessary.
  • Duplicate the layer [or drag the layer to the copy icon (at the bottom of the Layers panel)].
  • Spot image (zoom in): Spot Healing Brush: 27-54 pixels, Content-Aware.
  • Duplicate the layer [or drag the Spot layer to copy icon].
  • Select the top layer: Filter / Other / High Pass…; adjust the radius until you can just see an outline of subject <OK>; change Normal to Overlay. Don’t oversharpen! I set the radius to around 5.4 pixels or less for composite images; ~1.5 pixels for single photos.
  • Duplicate the finished layers to a New document, temporarily called “Temp1.”
  • Save documents: Untitled1 (Save As… TIFF); backup copy of masked layers (Save As… PSD); Temp1 (Save As… PSD; change name to Untitled1.psd after the file is saved).
  • Import the composite TIFF file into Aperture [or Lightroom]: add additional keywords, as appropriate; Export using BorderFX.

Adobe Photoshop | High Pass Filter

Related Resource: High Pass Filter: Ep 134: Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace (10:13).

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Post update: Phanogomphus lividus exuvia

April 13, 2018

Phanogomphus lividus exuvia, my identification guide for Ashy Clubtail exuviae, was updated to feature two new annotated high-magnification macro composite images.

  • Photo No. 1: The specimen was rehydrated/relaxed in order to reposition the front legs for an unobstructed view of the prementum, especially the median lobe of the labium.
  • Photo No. 2: A close-up view of the anal pyramid (terminal appendages) verified the “superior caudal appendage (epiproct) is as long as inferiors (paraprocts).”

The first image is a composite of six photos that shows a ventral view of the prementum.

Editor’s Note: Sincere thanks to Sue and John Gregoire for guiding me to the location of the median lobe.

The last image is a composite of 15 photos that shows a dorsal view of the abdomen; the inset image is a selection from a composite of 10 photos that shows a ventral view of the anal pyramid.

No. 2 | Ashy Clubtail (Phanogomphus lividus) | exuvia (anal pyramid)

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).

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot all of the photos for the preceding composite images: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens (manual focus only, set for f/8 at either 2x or ~3x magnification); Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite set for “Master” mode; and Canon 580 EX- and Canon 580EX II Speedlites in “Slave” mode.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create the composite image by “round-tripping” with Apple Aperture.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

P. lividus prementum

April 11, 2018

The following image shows a composite of six photos of the prementum for an Ashy Clubtail dragonfly (Phanogomphus lividus) exuvia. The composite is one of at least two new images that will be annotated and used to update Phanogomphus lividus exuvia, my identification guide for Ashy Clubtail exuviae.

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).

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot all of the photos for the preceding composite image: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens (manual focus only, set for f/8 at ~3x magnification); Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite set for “Master” mode; and Canon 580 EX- and Canon 580EX II Speedlites in “Slave” mode.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create the composite image by “round-tripping” with Apple Aperture.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

More Calico Pennant exuvia composite images

April 9, 2018

The Backstory

Calico Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa) evuvia was collected by Sue and John Gregoire at Kestrel Haven Migration Observatory. For the last 13 years, Sue and John have closely monitored the annual emergence of a large population of C. elisa at their farm pond.

The preceding image is a composite of 12 photos; the following image is a composite of 10 photos. My goal is to shoot the fewest number of photos (using a relatively small aperture such as f/18) that will show the entire specimen in focus when the photo set is focus-stacked to create a composite image. The number of photos required for each composite image varies depending upon the f/stop and the subject, among other factors.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot all of the photos for both composite images: 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 in “Slave” mode.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create the composite image by “round-tripping” with Apple Aperture.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Calico Pennant exuvia composite image

April 7, 2018

Sometime during the late 50s or early 60s, my father bought a new car. That was a big deal in our family. My family was poor, although I didn’t realize it when I was a young boy. We couldn’t afford a new car very often. Anyway, I don’t remember many details about the car other than it was a sky blue Plymouth with tail fins. Big tail fins! For some reason, the following odonate exuvia reminds me of the tail fins on my father’s Plymouth automobile. Go figure.

The Backstory

A Calico Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa) evuvia was collected by Sue and John Gregoire at Kestrel Haven Migration Observatory. For the last 13 years, Sue and John have closely monitored the annual emergence of a large population of C. elisa at their farm pond.

Tech Tips

The preceding image is a composite of 11 photos taken using the following equipment: 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 in “Slave” mode.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create the composite image by “round-tripping” with Apple Aperture, including a few detours in my experimental workflow. I made a lot of mistakes along the way. For example, I was so focused on the technical side of the photoshoot that I never noticed the specimen isn’t posed well. (I wish there were some space between the front leg and the face mask.) Nonetheless, I think the final output turned out OK.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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