Posts Tagged ‘Riverbend Park’

MYN – Hits and misses

May 25, 2020

This blog post might have been called “New ways of doing the same old thing.” In other words, experimenting with new techniques for shooting sets of macro photos of a familiar  subject and new variations for creating focus-stacked composite images.

80mm (120mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/16 | 1/200s | ISO 160 | 0 ev

Tech Tips

In-camera focus bracketing was used to shoot a photo set with my Fujifilm X-T3 mirrorless digital camera and Fujinon 80mm macro lens (coupled with 11mm and 16mm extension tubes for a little additional magnification).

The camera lens was focused manually on the closest point on the face of the subject. The shutter button was pressed one time; the first photo was taken after a 10-second timer elapsed, then the focus point advanced automatically from the initial focus point to a far point on the subject in the background of the photo.

RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 3.0 was used to batch-convert the resulting 50 images from Fujifilm RAF files to TIFF files. Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create five sub-stacks (10 photos per sub-stack) that were combined into one focus-stacked composite image. The final image was edited using Apple Aperture.

Analyzing the results

Most of the “misses” were self-inflicted.

For example, minimal effort was invested in arranging the subject and lighting the scene. Generally speaking, better lighting results in better photos.

Some trial and error is required in order to determine the correct focus bracketing settings for a given combination of camera and lens. The following settings were used to shoot the photo set for the focus-stacked composite image featured in this post: Frames = 50; Step = 10; Interval = 4 s.

Step size is a number from one (1) to 10, with one being the smallest increment and 10 being the largest. Although a step size of 10 enabled the camera to cover the subject completely from front-to-back in 50 frames, selecting the coarsest step increment might have resulted in small “focus gaps” that are noticeable in a few places on the full-size version of the composite image.

I cabled a Godox PROPAC PB960 to the Godox TT685C external flash unit that is used to backlight the white background. The power pack enables faster flash recycle times and increases the number of times the flash can be fired before its AA batteries run down. That was a big “hit!”

I didn’t realize the radio flash trigger was set for a power ratio of 1/4 +0.7 — that’s 2/3 of a stop slower than my preferred setting of 1/2 +0.3 that usually results in the pure white background (255, 255, 255) that is a goal of the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. That was a big “miss” I was able to correct in post-processing, although increasing the exposure enough to blow out the background might have degraded image quality a little.

One of many reasons the Fujifilm X-Series cameras are so popular is their retro look and feel, including lots of buttons and dials on the camera body. That’s good and bad: it’s good to be able to adjust many camera settings using either an external button or dial rather than navigating through menus in the camera’s firmware; it’s bad that it’s easy to change camera settings accidentally.

I must have rotated the back dial slightly because the shutter speed was set for 1/200 s rather than the camera sync speed of 1/250 s. Using a faster shutter speed can result in sharper images.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Macromia illinoiensis exuvia (face-head) redux

May 22, 2020

A Swift River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia illinoiensis) exuvia was collected, with permission from park staff, on 27 May 2017 along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The preceding image shows the remnant ommatidia clearly.

From this viewpoint, it’s harder to see the prominent horn on the face that is a key field mark for larvae/exuviae in the Family Macromiidae (Cruisers). The base of the triangular horn is located above the labium (face mask), between the long, thin antennae; the apex of the triangle is pointed toward the viewer.

It’s easier to see the horn in the featured photo in my last blog post.

Tech Tips

The subject was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique.

20 photos of the specimen were taken using 2.5x magnification at an aperture of f/4; in-camera focus peaking was used to highlight select areas in each photo. RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 3.0 was used to convert Fujifilm RAF files to TIFF files. Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create a focus-stacked composite image that was edited using Apple Aperture.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Macromia illinoiensis exuvia (face-head)

May 20, 2020

The following photograph of a Swift River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia illinoiensis) exuvia shows a prominent horn on the face that is a key field mark for larvae/exuviae in the Family Macromiidae (Cruisers).

The specimen was collected, with permission from park staff, on 27 May 2017 along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Tech Tips

The subject was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. The specimen was posed on its dorsal side, so the camera was focused on the face-head-ventral view of the exuvia. The final image was cropped and rotated 180° during post-processing.

10 photos of the specimen were taken using an aperture of f/16; in-camera focus peaking was used to highlight select areas in each photo. RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 3.0 was used to convert Fujifilm RAF files to TIFF files. Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create a focus-stacked composite image that was edited using Apple Aperture.

Editor’s Note: This blog post is the last installment in what turned out to be a three-part series. The featured focus-stacked composite image is a little closer to what I had in mind when I set up the photo shoot.

  1. MYN – Macromiidae larvae/exuviae are horny
  2. RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 3.0

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – Macromiidae larvae/exuviae are horny

May 15, 2020

A prominent horn on the face is a key field mark for larvae/exuviae in the Family Macromiidae (Cruisers), as shown in the following photograph of a Swift River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia illinoiensis) exuvia.

The base of the triangular horn is located above the labium (face mask), between the long, thin antennae.

The specimen was collected, with permission from park staff, on 27 May 2017 along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Tech Tips

The subject was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique. The specimen was posed on its dorsal side, so the camera was focused on the face-head-ventral view of the exuvia. The image was rotated 180° during post-processing.

My vintage 2009 Apple iMac desktop computer is too old to support drivers for importing RAF files from my Fujifilm X-T3 mirrorless digital camera into either Apple Aperture or Adobe Lightroom.

The work-around is to use a free application from Fujifilm that converts RAF files to TIFF files, which can be opened and edited with Aperture and Lightroom. Problem is I’m a big procrastinator and haven’t learned how to use the file converter application, so I simply edited one of the JPGs straight from the camera.

For the most part, the finished image looks fairly good although the eyes are blown out a little to a lot. JPG files have less dynamic range than RAF files so I was unable to recover the blown highlights.

Hmmm, it might be time to buy a new desktop computer!

Post Updates

I finally got around to figuring out how to use the free Fujifilm application to convert RAF files to TIFFs. See my follow-up blog post entitled “RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 3.0” for step-by-step instructions.

10 photos (converted from RAF to TIFF), including the one-off featured in this blog post, were used to create a focus-stacked composite image of the specimen that is a little closer to what I had in mind when I set up the photo shoot.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – Clubtail exuvia (possible G. vastus)

February 21, 2020

An odonate exuvia was collected from the concrete boat ramp at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a member of Family Gomphidae (Clubtails), possibly Cobra Clubtail (Gomphurus vastus).

The specimen was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique.

The first photograph was especially challenging to shoot. The camera viewpoint and the beam of light used to backlight the “stage” were at a nearly 90° angle, relative to each other, with the net result that the light level fell below pure white toward the background. The work-around that I used is less than elegant and needs to be refined. Any suggestions?

27 MAY 2017 | Riverbend Park | Clubtail exuvia (face-head-dorsal view)

Although the next photo appeared in my last blog post, this version was rotated slightly for a more pleasing appearance than the last iteration.

27 MAY 2017 | Riverbend Park | Clubtail exuvia (dorsal view)

The last photo is focused on the thorax in order to provide a relatively clear view of the prementum. Notice the specimen has a flat labium that doesn’t cover the face (not mask-like), as shown in the first photo. This field mark indicates the exuvia is from either Family Aeshnidae (Darners) or Family Gomphidae (Clubtails). Other field marks, including club-like antennae and the shape of the body, indicate this individual is a species of clubtail.

27 MAY 2017 | Riverbend Park | Clubtail exuvia (ventral view)

Related Resource: Gomphurus vastus exuvia, an identification guide by Walter Sanford featuring annotated images.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – Clubtail exuvia (dorsal)

February 19, 2020

An odonate exuvia was collected from the concrete boat ramp at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual appears to be a member of Family Gomphidae (Clubtails), possibly Cobra Clubtail (Gomphurus vastus).

27 MAY 2017 | Riverbend Park | Clubtail exuvia (dorsal view)

The specimen was photographed against a pure white background using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique.

Related Resource: Gomphurus vastus exuvia, an identification guide by Walter Sanford featuring annotated images.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – Cicada exuvia

February 17, 2020

An Annual/Periodical Cicada (Family Cicadidae) exuvia was collected from a wooden kayak rack near the concrete boat ramp at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The specimen was photographed against a pure white background using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique.

27 MAY 2017 | Riverbend Park | cicada exuvia (face-head-dorsal)

Notice the proboscis between the cicada’s two large front legs, as shown in the preceding photo. I’ve seen zillions of cicada exuviae but never noticed a proboscis. Macro photography. It’s good thing!

27 MAY 2017 | Riverbend Park | cicada exuvia (dorsal view)

27 MAY 2017 | Riverbend Park | cicada exuvia (dorsallateral view)

27 MAY 2017 | Riverbend Park | cicada exuvia (dorsallateral view)

The proboscis is plainly visible in the following photo. (Look between the base of the two front legs.)

27 MAY 2017 | Riverbend Park | cicada exuvia (ventral view)

In situ Photographs

Which photo set do you thinks looks more interesting, the Meet Your Neighbours style photographs or the more traditional style of nature photography? In my opinion, the winner is clear!

Related Resources

What are the take-aways?

Based upon the table of “broods” featured in the Wikipedia page listed under Related Resources, I’m thinking the cicada exuvia that I collected during 2017 is more likely an annual cicada than a periodical cicada. For what it’s worth, no evidence of a mass emergence of cicadas was observed.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

What is it?

February 14, 2020

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages — it’s time for another exciting episode of “What is it?” Well, what is shown in the following photograph? If you think you know what it is, then please leave a comment. The answer will be provided in a post update.

27 MAY 2017 | Riverbend Park | What is it?

Post Update: Behold the humble cicada exuvia!

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly

August 7, 2019

A Zebra Swallowtail butterfly (Eurytides marcellus, Protographium marcellus) was spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

29 JUL 2019 | Riverbend Park | Zebra Swallowtail butterfly

Notice the Zebra’s proboscis is extended and inserted in wet mud and sand along the shoreline of the river.

Adults take nectar and (males only?) take fluids from damp sand. Source Credit: BugGuide, Species Eurytides marcellus – Zebra Swallowtail – Hodges#4184.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Eastern Ringtail reunion, continued

August 5, 2019

Whenever possible I prefer to photograph odonates against a clean background, such as the concrete pavement in my last blog post. In my opinion, a simpler background makes it easier for the viewer to focus on the subject.

In contrast, my photowalking buddy Mike Powell prefers a “natural” background (as opposed to man-made). Knowing Mike’s preference, I “influenced” an Eastern Ringtail (Erpetogomphus designatus) to relocate from his perch on a concrete sidewalk to a new perch on a grass lawn. Although the green grass complements the unusual color palette of the dragonfly, the viewer’s eye must work harder to find the subject.

This individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings, and terminal appendages. He is perched on a grassy area in between concrete sidewalks surrounding a berm/observation area alongside the boat ramp, near the main parking lot at Riverbend Park.

Adult flight period

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 E. designatus is from May 16 to September 24. The species is classified as uncommon to common. Its habitat is “rivers.”

Bear in mind, Dr. Roble’s records are for the entire state, therefore the adult flight period for E. designatus seems to be longer than it is in reality. The adult flight period for a single site is probably shorter. For example, according to records for Northern Virginia maintained by Kevin Munroe, former manager of Huntley Meadows Park, the adult flight period for Eastern Ringtail is 09 June to 20 September.

Related Resource: Posts tagged ‘Eastern Ringtail dragonfly’

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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