Posts Tagged ‘Shadow Darner dragonfly’

“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.

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Composite image: Shadow Darner dragonfly

January 11, 2019

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

This individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings.

Shadow Darner (Aeshna umbrosa) | face-head-dorsal

Artifacts

In my experience, focus stacking either works or it doesn’t. When it doesn’t work, “artifacts” appear in the final output that can be caused by many factors. There are work-arounds that can be used to repair the artifacts with mixed success. (See Tech Tips/Related Resources.)

I shot 19 photographs that were used to create a focus-stacked composite image of the Shadow Darner dragonfly. There’s a lot going on in those photos that caused too many artifacts to publish the final output. Several of the more noticeable artifacts are shown below.

I created another composite image; I used as many photos as I could before the first artifacts appeared. As it turns out, only five of 19 photos were used in the do-over composite image (shown at the beginning of this blog post). Look closely — some of the same artifacts are also noticeable in the do-over version.

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the preceding composite image: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Kenko macro automatic extension tubes (12mm, 20mm, and 36mm)Canon 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 spot-heal and sharpen the final output.

Tech Tips/Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Test shots: Shadow Darner dragonfly

January 9, 2019

Bob Perkins collected and reared a Shadow Darner dragonfly (Aeshna umbrosa) larva/nymph. This is a preserved specimen of the adult that emerged from the larva.

Test shots of this beautiful specimen were taken using a relatively small aperture of f/16 for greater depth of field. The following photo is a “one-off,” that is, not a composite image.

Related Resource: Test shots: Aeshna umbrosa exuvia.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the preceding photograph: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Kenko macro automatic extension tubes (12mm, 20mm, and 36mm)Canon 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 spot-heal and sharpen the final output.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Test shots: Aeshna umbrosa exuvia

December 3, 2018

Bob Perkins collected and reared an unknown species of odonate nymph from a tiny stream in Carroll County, Virginia USA. The larva emerged from one of Bob’s holding tanks overnight on 23-24 November 2018 and metamorphosed into an adult male Shadow Darner dragonfly (Aeshna umbrosa). Shadow Darner is a member of the Family Aeshnidae (Darners). The following test shots show the exuvia from the odonate nymph.

Test shots of this beautiful specimen were taken using a relatively small aperture of f/16 for greater depth of field. Each photo is a “one-off,” that is, not a composite image. Focus stacks will be created sometime in the near future, after the exuvia is rehydrated and its legs are repositioned  for easier posing.

Lateral-ventral view

The focus point of the first photo is on the right eye. Given the orientation of the specimen, most of the exuvia is acceptably in focus at f/16. For what it’s worth, I really like the composition of this photo!

Notice the specimen has a flat labium (prementum) that doesn’t cover the face (not mask-like). That is a characteristic field mark of two families of dragonflies: Family Aeshnidae (Darners); and Family Gomphidae (Clubtails).

Shadow Darner (Aeshna umbrosa) | exuvia (lateral-ventral)

This individual is a male, as indicated by vestigial hamules that are visible on the ventral side of the specimen.

Dorsal view

The focus point of the next photo is on the head: the head is tack-sharp; the terminal appendages are in soft-focus. Sometimes it’s necessary to create focus-stacked composite images in order to render the subject in focus from head-to-tail and edge-to-edge.

Lateral spines on abdominal segments six to nine (S6-9) indicate this specimen is A. umbrosa.

The focus point of the next photo is on the abdomen, just below the wing pads. Relative to the preceding photo, notice the head is slightly softer in focus while the terminal appendages are slightly sharper in focus.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot all of the preceding photographs: 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.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to spot-heal and sharpen all three images.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

New discoveries in 2016

December 26, 2016

The more you know, the more you know how much you don’t know. Huh? There’s always more to discover/learn! My new discoveries in 2016 are presented in reverse-chronological order.

Eastern Amberwing dragonfly exuviae

Perithemis tenera exuviae, published on 06 December 2016.

An Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) exuvia collected from the Potomac River, Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

07 JUL 2016 | Potomac River | Eastern Amberwing (exuvia, head-on)

I’m a man on a mission to demystify the art and science of odonate exuviae identification. The task is as challenging as I was led to believe, but with determination and persistence it is do-able.

The specimens featured in this post are the first odonate exuviae that I was able to identify to the species level. Although the specimens were collected in early July, they were identified in early December. New species will be added to my Odonate Exuviae page when their identity is confirmed.


Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR) is a familiar location where several species, previously unknown to occur at the park, were discovered in 2016.

Shadow Darner dragonfly

Shadow Darner dragonfly (female), posted on 18 October 2016.

A Shadow Darner dragonfly (Aeshna umbrosa) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female heteromorph.

14 OCT 2016 | JMAWR | Shadow Darner (female heteromorph)

Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly

Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (male), posted on 26 September 2016.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly

Another new species discovered at JMAWR, posted on 20 September 2016.

Lancet Clubtail dragonfly

Identifying clubtails by the calendar, posted on 30 June 2016.

A Lancet Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphus exilis) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

26 JUN 2016 | JMAWR | Lancet Clubtail (male)


In addition to my contributions to the odonate species list at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Mike Powell discovered the first official record of Swift Setwing at JMAWR and in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Shadow Darner dragonfly (female)

October 18, 2016

A Shadow Darner dragonfly (Aeshna umbrosa) was spotted during a photowalk at Mulligan PondJackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR).

A Shadow Darner dragonfly (Aeshna umbrosa) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female heteromorph.

14 OCT 2016 | JMAWR | Shadow Darner (female heteromorph)

This individual is a mature female, as indicated by her coloration, rounded hindwings (near abdomen), and terminal appendages. Female Shadow Darners are polymorphic; this one is a female heteromorph, as indicated by her brown eyes and duller coloration than males of the same species.

A Shadow Darner dragonfly (Aeshna umbrosa) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female heteromorph.

14 OCT 2016 | JMAWR | Shadow Darner (female heteromorph)

The following annotated image illustrates some parts of the reproductive anatomy of a female Shadow Darner dragonfly, including an ovipositor for egg-laying and two styli (sing. stylus), structures that serve as sensors in egg positioning.

A Shadow Darner dragonfly (Aeshna umbrosa) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female heteromorph. [Good view of ovipositor/styli.]

14 OCT 2016 | JMAWR | Shadow Darner (female heteromorph)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Both female and male Shadow Darners have two long, petal-like cerci (sing. cercus). Notice the female (shown above) is missing both cerci.

[Female] Cerci rounded at tip, longer than S9–10, usually broken off at maturitySource Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Location 4604). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

In contrast, the following male has both cerci and an epiproct; the three terminal appendages are collectively called “claspers.” Claspers are used to grab and hold female damselflies during mating.

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Related Resources: Scanned digital images from Western Odonata Scans in Life.

  • Shadow Darner | Aeshna umbrosaheteromorph female
  • Shadow Darner | Aeshna umbrosaheteromorph female (note very tattered wings of this old individual)
  • Shadow Darner | Aeshna umbrosaandromorph female
  • Shadow Darner | Aeshna umbrosamale (typical “A. u. umbrosa” with small green abdominal spots but nowhere near the range of that subspecies!)

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Last man standing?

November 13, 2015

It was an honor to spend Veterans Day with my good friend and photowalking buddy Major Michael Powell, U.S. Army, Retired. We were men on a mission: Searching for Great Spreadwing damselflies (Archilestes grandis), in the hope of extending the “official” late-date for this species in Virginia. Mission accomplished, but it wasn’t easy — the operation was unsuccessful until we called in an “air strike!”

Since 06 October 2015, Mike and I have been frequently monitoring the Great Spreadwing damselflies that inhabit a small permanent pond and surrounding fields at a remote location in Huntley Meadows Park.

On 11 November, Mike and I spent several hours intensively searching for our quarry; no luck. A little after 1:00 p.m., we were standing near the pond watching a lone Shadow Darner dragonfly (Aeshna umbrosa) aggressively hawking smaller odonates perching around the perimeter of the pond: the darner dipped into small hiding places in vegetation growing along the shoreline, briefly chasing odes that flew up-and-away from the relative safety of their perches. (Remember, odonates feed on flying insects.)

The Shadow Darner flushed a male Great Spreadwing from a concealed location; I happened to be standing near the spot where the damselfly landed. Talk about being in the right place at the right time!

For a few minutes, we followed the skittish damselfly from its first perch (shown above) to two more perching places. Stop two is shown below.

I was able to shoot only 11 photographs of this individual before he flew away. The last photo in this set is actually the last shot I took of what may turn out to be the last Great Spreadwing damselfly of 2015.

Although we were happy to see a Great Spreadwing, it was sad when we realized the male was neither “Mr. Magoo” nor “Bendy Straw.”

Related Resource: Final fall farewell, by Mike Powell.

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

A sampler of male dragonfly claspers (Part 1)

March 16, 2015

All male dragonflies have three terminal appendages, collectively called “claspers,” that are used to grab and hold female dragonflies during mating: an upper pair of cerci (“superior appendages”) and a lower unpaired epiproct (“inferior appendage”). Claspers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but their function is identical for all species of dragonflies.

There are seven families of dragonflies. Part 1 (of 2) features a sampler of select images showing male dragonfly claspers from the Clubtail Family, Cruiser Family, and Darner Family.

Clubtail Family

The following image shows a male Ashy Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphus lividus) perching on the ground in a field located near Giles Run at Meadowood Recreation Area in Fairfax County, Virginia.

Ashy- or Lancet Clubtail

02 MAY 2014 | Meadowood Recreation Area | Ashy Clubtail (male)

Cruiser Family

The next image shows a male Stream Cruiser dragonfly (Didymops transversa) spotted along “Beaver Pond Loop Trail” at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, a 1,200 acre preserve located at Army Garrison Fort Belvoir, Fairfax County, Virginia.

Stream Cruiser dragonfly (male)

02 May 2013 | Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge | Stream Cruiser (male)

Darner Family

The last image shows a male Shadow Darner dragonfly (Aeshna umbrosa) spotted near a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park.

Shadow Darner dragonfly (male)

24 OCT2014 | Huntley Meadows Park | Shadow Darner (male)

Related Resources:

Editor’s Notes: Part 2 (of 2) will feature a sampler of select images showing male dragonfly dragonfly claspers from the Emerald Family, Skimmer Family, and Spiketail Family. The author never has been fortunate to photograph either species of the Petaltail Family.

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Top 10 Photos of 2014

January 1, 2015

The following gallery shows 25 finalists for my “Top 10 Photos of 2014.” The photos are presented in reverse-chronological order beginning in October 2014 and ending in April 2014.

This year I decided to select the Top 10 photos using reader feedback. Please enter a comment at the end of this post listing the number for each of your 10 favorite photos. If listing 10 photos is asking too much, then please list at least five photos, e.g., No. 2, 5, 11, 20, 21, etc. Thanks for sharing your selections, and thanks for following my photoblog!

Editor’s Note: The “Discussion Settings” for this blog were edited to remove most of the “filters” that are intended to prevent SPAM comments. This should make it much easier for regular readers to share their list of favorite photos.

No. 1

No. 2

No. 3

No. 4

No. 5

No. 6

No. 7

No. 8

No. 9

No. 10

No. 11

No. 12

No. 13

No. 14

No. 15

No. 16

No. 17

No. 18

No. 19

No. 20

No. 21

No. 22

No. 23

No. 24

No. 25

Common Ribbonsnakes (mating pair)

02 APR 2014 | HMP | Common Ribbonsnakes (mating pair)

Editor’s Note: The following location codes are used in the photo captions, shown above.

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Year in review: New finds in 2014 (odonates)

November 20, 2014

In addition to several “New discoveries in 2014,” I spotted several species of odonates in 2014 that were new finds for my “life list,” as well as a few first-time sightings of either a male or female for familiar species of dragonflies.

Ashy Clubtail dragonfly (male)

This is my first confirmed spotting of an Ashy Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphus lividus).

Ashy- or Lancet Clubtail

02 May 2014 | Meadowood Recreation Area

Common Baskettail dragonfly (male)

This is my first confirmed spotting of a male Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura). I have seen a few females in the past.

Common Baskettail dragonfly (male)

02 May 2014 | Meadowood Recreation Area

Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (young male)

This is my first spotting of a Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula axilena).

Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (young adult male)

31 May 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Painted Skimmer dragonflies (male, female)

Although I had seen one Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) in the past, these individuals are among the first ones I photographed.

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (male)

Male | 06 June 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (female)

Female | 23 May 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Swamp Darner dragonfly (female, oviposition)

I have seen lots of Swamp Darner dragonflies (Epiaeschna heros) in the past, but it’s challenging to identify their gender on the wing. I photographed one perching male on 04 June 2012. The following individual is one of the first confirmed females that I have spotted.

Swamp Darner dragonfly (female, oviposition)

02 June 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (female)

This is the first confirmed female Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) that I have spotted.

Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea)

15 July 2014 | Beacon of Groveton

Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (mating pair, in wheel)

This mating pair of Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (Erythemis simplicicollis) is one of the first times I was quick enough to photograph a pair “in wheel.” This image is also among the first photographs taken using my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera, 55-200mm zoom lens (88-320mm, 35mm equivalent), and Fujifilm Shoe Mount Flash EF-42 in TTL mode.

Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (mating pair, in wheel)

20 August 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Slender Spreadwing damselfly (male)

I have seen many female Slender Spreadwing damselflies (Lestes rectangularis) in the past, but this is the first male I spotted.

Slender Spreadwing damselfly (male)

28 September 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Shadow Darner dragonfly (male)

Although I have spotted Shadow Darner dragonflies (Aeshna umbrosa) in the past, this is one of the first individuals I photographed.

Shadow Darner dragonfly (male)

24 October 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Related Resources:

Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 in a three-part series — a retrospective look at 2014.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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