Posts Tagged ‘gear talk’

MYN – Hagenius brevistylus exuvia (dorsal)

January 3, 2020

An odonate exuvia was photographed against a pure white background using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique.

This specimen is a Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) exuvia. Dragonhunter is a member of Family Gomphidae (Clubtails).

Dragonhunter is the largest of North American clubtails; accordingly the large size and shape of a Dragonhunter exuvia is so distinctive that it’s relatively easy to identify to the species level.

Notice the large, paddle-like antennae. They remind me of ping pong paddles.

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the macro photographs featured in this post: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube; and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens minus the lens hood. The camera was set for both manual exposure and manual focus. That’s right, a switch on the camera body is used to set the type of focus. It’s a Fujifilm thing.

Godox X2TF radio flash trigger, mounted on the hotshoe of my X-T1, was used to control two off-camera external flash units set for radio slave mode.

  1. Godox TT685C Thinklite Flash for Canon Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a “Vello Bounce Dome (Diffuser) for Canon 580EX II Flash,” was used to light the underside of the translucent white plastic background; the top of the flash unit was ~30 cm from the bottom of the white plastic.
  2. Godox TT685F Thinklite Flash for Fujifilm Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier, was used to light the subject from above.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to spot heal and sharpen the image.

Practical Tips for the MYN Technique

A piece of opaque white plastic that is 12″ square is used for the background/”stage.” Actually, the white plastic background appears to be translucent when back-lighted by a flash unit at a relatively close distance.

The flash unit used to light the underside of the translucent white plastic background (Group A) was set for 1/2 +0.3 power; the zoom was set for 50mm in order to spread the beam of light sufficiently to avoid a hotspot on the white plastic background. The top of the flash head was ~10 inches from the bottom of the white plastic “stage.”

Next, take a test shot using only one flash — the flash that’s used to light the underside of the white background. Look at the histogram to check for correct exposure. You should see a spike on the far right side of the histogram that indicates the background is exposed properly (255, 255, 255).

Apple Aperture | Adjustments | Histogram

One or more flash units can be used to add “fill flash” from above the background/stage, as necessary. In this case, I used one flash (Group B) set for 1/64 power.

Use the 1:1 rule-of-thumb to determine how close/far to position the flash unit from the subject. The diagonal distance across the face of a softbox should be the distance to the subject [or less] for soft wrap-around light. Actually, the distance should be as close as possible without the softbox showing in the photo frame. Greater distances will result in a contrasty look.

For example, my Lastolite softboxes are 8.5” x 8.5” square (12” diagonally) so they should be one foot (1’) or less from the subject. In this case the front diffuser panel of a single softbox was placed ~6-8″ from the face of the specimen, off-set slightly to the left of the subject (facing forward).

MYN Field Studio setup

The following photo shows a behind-the-scenes look at one configuration of my Meet Your Neighbours Field Studio setup.

Meet Your Neighbours Field Studio setup, staged at BoG Photo Studio.

The exuvia is staged on the top from a clear plastic delicatessen container. This helps to reduce/eliminate the MYN “halo effect” by raising the subject a few millimeters above the white background.

There’s a flash that’s placed on a black plastic shelf below the white background/stage. It’s an old “bed shelf” from Bed Bath & Beyond that I repurposed for the MYN Field Studio.

Everything is mounted on a Promaster Deluxe Light Stand LS-2n using the following Manfrotto articulating arms and clamps.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Flip-it Friday

December 27, 2019

An odonate exuvia was collected by Andy Davidson near Richmond, Virginia USA. Andy is a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) working on a research project entitled “Predator-Prey Interactions in a Changing World.”

This individual is a member of Family Libellulidae (Skimmers), possibly a species from the genus Celithemis (Pennants). Source Credit: Steve Krotzer, Haysop Hill Photography; and Andy Davidson, VCU.

Dorsal view update

The first photograph is the same photo featured in a recent blog post, with one big difference. I flipped the image digitally so that the exuvia looks more like it’s in its natural resting position on the background. The more I looked at the original image, the more I felt somewhat disoriented. Ah, much better!

Ventral view

Next I flipped the specimen physically to show a ventral view of the exuvia. Look closely at the full-size version of the photo. This individual is probably a male, as indicated by what appear to be vestigial hamules located along the boundary between abdominal segments two and three (S2-3). Remember, all odonates have 10 abdominal segments, numbered from front-to-back. In my opinion, it’s easier to count segments from the posterior- to the anterior end of the body.

The following annotated images of other dragonfly exuviae might help you to recognize the vestigial hamuli on this specimen.

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the macro photographs featured in this post: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube; and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens minus the lens hood. The camera was set for both manual exposure and manual focus. That’s right, a switch on the camera body is used to set the type of focus. It’s a Fujifilm thing.

Godox X2TF radio flash trigger, mounted on the hotshoe of my X-T1, was used to control two off-camera external flash units set for radio slave mode.

  1. Godox TT685C Thinklite Flash for Canon Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a “Vello Bounce Dome (Diffuser) for Canon 580EX II Flash,” was used to light the underside of the translucent white plastic background; the top of the flash unit was ~30 cm from the bottom of the white plastic.
  2. Godox TT685F Thinklite Flash for Fujifilm Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier, was used to light the subject from above.

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

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – Genus Celithemis exuvia (dorsal)

December 23, 2019

An odonate exuvia was photographed against a pure white background using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique.

The following photo shows a dorsal view of an exuvia from the Family Libellulidae (Skimmers), possibly a species in the Genus Celithemis (Pennants).

80mm (120mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 200 | f/16 | 1/180 s | 0 ev

The Backstory

This specimen was collected (near Richmond, Virginia USA) by Andy Davidson. Andy is a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University working on a research project entitled “Predator-Prey Interactions in a Changing World.”

Tech Tips

I’m beginning to feel more comfortable with the MYN technique, including equipment set-up for best results, camera settings, and post-processing. When I feel like my work flow is fairly firm, I will post step-by-step directions and a few behind-the-scenes photos.

The following equipment was used to shoot the macro photographs featured in this post: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube; and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens minus the lens hood. The camera was set for both manual exposure and manual focus. That’s right, a switch on the camera body is used to set the type of focus. It’s a Fujifilm thing.

Godox X2TF radio flash trigger, mounted on the hotshoe of my X-T1, was used to control two off-camera external flash units set for radio slave mode.

  1. Godox TT685C Thinklite Flash for Canon Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a “Vello Bounce Dome (Diffuser) for Canon 580EX II Flash,” was used to light the underside of the translucent white plastic background; the top of the flash unit was ~30 cm from the bottom of the white plastic.
  2. Godox TT685F Thinklite Flash for Fujifilm Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier, was used to light the subject from above.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to spot heal and sharpen the image.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – Genus Celithemis exuvia (face)

December 20, 2019

An odonate exuvia was photographed against a pure white background using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique.

This specimen is a member of Family Libellulidae (Skimmers), possibly a species in the Genus Celithemis (Pennants).

80mm (120mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 200 | f/16 | 1/180 s | 0 ev

A much closer crop of the preceding photo reveals some of the personality of this species. The aspect ratio was changed from 3:2 to 4:3 for better composition.

80mm (120mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 200 | f/16 | 1/180 s | 0 ev

The Backstory

This specimen was collected by Andy Davidson near Richmond, Virginia USA.  Andy is a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University working on a research project entitled “Predator-Prey Interactions in a Changing World.”

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the macro photographs featured in this post: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube; and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens minus the lens hood. The camera was set for both manual exposure and manual focus. That’s right, a switch on the camera body is used to set the type of focus. It’s a Fujifilm thing.

Godox X2TF radio flash trigger, mounted on the hotshoe of my X-T1, was used to control two off-camera external flash units set for radio slave mode.

  1. Godox TT685C Thinklite Flash for Canon Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a “Vello Bounce Dome (Diffuser) for Canon 580EX II Flash,” was used to light the underside of the translucent white plastic background; the top of the flash unit was ~30 cm from the bottom of the white plastic.
  2. Godox TT685F Thinklite Flash for Fujifilm Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier, was used to light the subject from above.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to sharpen the image.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – More Pantala hymenaea exuvia

December 18, 2019

An odonate exuvia was photographed against a pure white background using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique.

This specimen is a Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) exuvia. Spot-winged Glider is a member of Family Libellulidae (Skimmers).

80mm (120mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 200 | f/16 | 1/500 s | 0 ev

80mm (120mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 200 | f/16 | 1/500 s | 0 ev

The Backstory

This specimen was collected (near Richmond, Virginia USA) and identified by Andy Davidson. Andy is a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University working on a research project entitled “Predator-Prey Interactions in a Changing World.”

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the macro photographs featured in this post: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube; and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens minus the lens hood. The camera was set for both manual exposure and manual focus. That’s right, a switch on the camera body is used to set the type of focus. It’s a Fujifilm thing.

Godox XProF radio flash trigger, mounted on the hotshoe of my X-T1, was used to control two off-camera external flash units set for radio slave mode.

  1. Godox TT685C Thinklite Flash for Canon Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a “Vello Bounce Dome (Diffuser) for Canon 580EX II Flash,” was used to light the underside of the translucent white plastic background; the top of the flash unit was ~30 cm from the bottom of the white plastic.
  2. A Godox TT685o/p Thinklite Flash for Olympus/Panasonic Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier, was used to light the subject from above.

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

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Luminous beings are we…

December 13, 2019

Master Yoda’s explanation of the Force to Luke Skywalker (see Related Resources, below) features the following memorable quote.

Luminous beings are we,
not this crude matter.

One of many reasons I like the “Meet Your Neighbours” technique for photographing natural subjects against a pure white background is that it seems to reveal the luminous beings that odonate exuviae are. Feel the force by looking at the full-size version of the following image.

Related Resources

Tech Tips

I added a Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter to my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 24x superzoom bridge camera for a closer view of the anterior of the odonate exuvia.

The camera was set for 1-Area Focusing. The focus-and-recompose technique was used to focus on the eye of the subject.

Godox X2To/p wireless flash trigger for Olympus and Panasonic was used to fire two off-camera flash units.

  1. A Godox TT685C Thinklite Flash for Canon Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a “Vello Bounce Dome (Diffuser) for Canon 580EX II Flash,” was used to light the underside of the translucent white plastic background; the top of the flash unit was ~30 cm from the bottom of the white plastic.
  2. Godox TT685o/p Thinklite Flash for Olympus/Panasonic Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier, was used to light the subject from above.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Meet Your Neighbours – Aeshnidae exuvia (face)

December 9, 2019

An odonate exuvia was photographed against a pure white background using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. Yep, this time the background is actually pure white (255, 255, 255). Now that’s the look for which I was striving!

36.1mm (200mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 100 | f/7.1 | 1/800 s | 0 ev

This specimen is an unknown species from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners), probably Common Green Darner (Anax junius). Compare/contrast the “MYN look” with a more traditional photo set of another A. junius exuvia.

Related Resources

Tech Tips

I added a Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter to my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 24x superzoom bridge camera for a closer view of the face/head of the odonate exuvia.

A Godox X2To/p wireless flash trigger for Olympus and Panasonic was used to fire an off-camera Godox TT685C Thinklite Flash for Canon Cameras (manual mode) fitted with a Vello plastic bounce dome diffuser. This flash unit was used to light the underside of the translucent white plastic background; the top of the flash unit was ~20 cm from the bottom of the white plastic. No other flash units were used to shoot the photo.

Although I own better camera gear for shooting macro photos, I like to use my smaller, lighter DMC-FZ300 for proof-of-concept experimentation with new techniques. Look for a transition to one of my Fujifilm- or Canon macro rigs in the near future.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Meet Your Neighbours – Aeshnidae exuvia

December 4, 2019

An odonate exuvia was photographed against a pure white background using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. Well, almost pure white. More about that later.

9.9mm (55mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 100 | f/7.1 | 1/60 s | 0 ev

This specimen is an unknown species from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners), probably Common Green Darner (Anax junius). Compare/contrast the “MYN look” with a more traditional photo set of another A. junius exuvia.

Take-aways

The MYN technique seems to be simple and straightforward. It isn’t. The challenge is to get the translucent effect without blowing out the thinner parts of the specimen like eyes, legs, etc. In this case, I needed a little separation between the pure white background and the exuvia in order to reduce blow-out. I repurposed the top of a small plastic container from the local delicatessen as the separator. I placed the plastic top on the white background, and the exuvia on the top. The plastic top isn’t perfectly clear, resulting in an off-white background color.

I need to experiment further to refine the technique. A clear glass- or plastic plate should solve the problem with the less than pure white background, and I think more separation between the white plastic background plate and the clear glass/plastic “stage” should help to further reduce blow-out. Trial and error — that’s the way we learn!

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The test photo featured in this post was taken using my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 24x superzoom digital camera, Godox X2To/p wireless flash trigger for Olympus and PanasonicGodox TT685o/p Thinklite Flash for Olympus/Panasonic Cameras (manual mode) fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier, and a Godox TT685C Thinklite Flash for Canon Cameras (manual mode) fitted with a Vello plastic bounce dome diffuser.

The Godox TT685-series flash head is the same size as a Canon 580EX II Speedlite so slide-on plastic light modifiers that work with a 580EX II will work with TT685s. That said, some work better than others. The “Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce OM-EY” is a tight fit — too tight in my opinion. The “Vello Bounce Dome (Diffuser) for Canon 580EX II Flash” is a perfect fit.

The camera lens was set close to “Wide Macro.” 1-Area Focusing and Spot Metering was used for the photo.

Three external flash units were used to light the scene. The flash power ratio for each flash is critical for proper exposure. Begin by setting the backlight, then add the key light(s) on the subject.

The flash unit used to light the underside of the translucent white plastic background (Group A) was set for 1/8 power; the zoom was set for 50mm in order to spread the beam of light sufficiently to avoid a hotspot on the white plastic background. The top of the flash unit was ~20 cm from the bottom of the white plastic.

Two key lights (Group B and C) — that is, the flash units used to light the top of the subject — were set for 1/16 power and 1/128, respectively. In order to reduce blow-out (see Take-aways, below), I turned off the flash in Group C.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to sharpen the final output.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Meet Your Neighbours – “Lizzie”

December 2, 2019

A toy dinosaur lizard was photographed against a pure white background using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique.

4.5mm (25mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 100 | f/7.1 | 1/60 s | 0 ev

Take-aways

The MYN technique seems to be simple and straightforward. It isn’t. I need to experiment further to refine the technique. But hey, I say not bad for a beginner!

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The test photo featured in this post was taken using my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 24x superzoom digital camera, Godox X2To/p wireless flash trigger for Olympus and PanasonicGodox TT685o/p Thinklite Flash for Olympus/Panasonic Cameras (manual mode) fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier, and a Godox TT685C Thinklite Flash for Canon Cameras (manual mode) fitted with a Vello plastic bounce dome diffuser.

The Godox TT685-series flash head is the same size as a Canon 580EX II Speedlite so slide-on plastic light modifiers that work with a 580EX II will work with TT685s. That said, some work better than others. The “Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce OM-EY” is a tight fit — too tight in my opinion. The “Vello Bounce Dome (Diffuser) for Canon 580EX II Flash” is a perfect fit.

The camera lens was set for “Wide Macro,” with a focus range from 1 cm (0.39 in) to infinity. 1-Area Focusing and Spot Metering was used for the photo.

Two external flash units were used to light the scene. The flash power ratio for each flash is critical for proper exposure. Begin by setting the backlight, then add the key light on the subject.

The flash unit used to light the underside of the translucent white plastic background was set for 1/8 power; the zoom was set for 50mm in order to spread the beam of light sufficiently to avoid a hotspot on the white plastic background. The top of the flash unit was ~20 cm from the bottom of the white plastic.

The key light — that is, the flash unit used to light the subject — was set for 1/2 +0.7 power. In retrospect, I know that one or more additional flashes for lighting the subject should be added to the set-up.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to sharpen the final output.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Testing off-camera lighting configurations

November 27, 2019

I spent some time in the BoG Photo Studio experimenting with off-camera lighting configurations for macro photography using the pass-through hot shoe camera rig described in a recent blog post.

Both photos feature “Lizzie,” my toy dinosaur-lizard. Lizzie is one of my favorite models.

The soft, diffused lighting in the first photo is mostly even, with relatively little contrast between light and shadow. As a result, the photo looks a little flat.

The soft, diffused lighting in the last photo shows more contrast, achieved by repositioning one of the two small flash units on my Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite. The juxtaposition of light and shadow seems to convey a greater sense of depth than the flat lighting in the first photo.

Now that I have figured out a lighting configuration that works, I will substitute a different “model” for Lizzie. I have learned from experience that it’s better to use a rugged toy like Lizzie for testing purposes, rather than one of the fragile scientific specimens that I like to photograph. Choose a test subject that is about the same size as your intended subject.

Tech Tips

The equipment used to shoot the macro photographs (shown above) is described in a recent blog post entitled Pass-through hot shoe. Two off-camera external flash units were added to the rig: a Godox TT685o/p Thinklite Flash for Olympus/Panasonic Cameras; and a Godox TT685F Thinklite TTL Flash. Both Godox flash units were fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier.

All of the external flash units were set for manual mode, including the Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite. The Godox off-camera flashes were fired by a Godox X2To/p radio flash trigger mounted on top of my camera; the Canon flash was triggered synchronously by the pass-through hot shoe on the X2To/p.

I shot JPG plus RW2 (Panasonic’s proprietary raw format). Both photos in this post are unedited JPGs straight from the camera.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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