This morning after a light rain, I noticed little water droplets on a rose bud in my front yard. So, I ran in to get my camera gear to get a good close-up picture. See the image below. This is a Julia Child rose that I picked up at a rose nursery one day. It has done quite well in the central Texas sun and produces lots of beautiful yellow blooms for me.
Now, ordinarily you cannot get this close to an object and keep it in focus, so you need to step back for your picture and perhaps crop it later. However, there is a simple device that you can put between the camera and lens called an extension tube. The extension tube moves the lens farther away from the sensor which moves the focus point closer to the lens. This allows you to get really close to a tiny subject and fill the sensor with it for much better resolution than a cropped photo. The photo below shows my Kenko extension tube set with a 12mm, 20mm, and 36mm tube. The tubes can also be stacked to form other length tubes. These tubes are made for a Nikon lens mount.
The lens I used is a Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR lens which has a specified minimum focus distance of 1.15 ft. or 0.35 m, which means I can’t get any closer to the rose than that and still focus on the subject. But, with the 36mm extension tube between the camera and the lens, I can get the camera lens almost right up to the flower to the point where the flower fills the sensor. The picture below shows my camera with two of the extension tubes and lens mounted.
The extension tubes work well at moving the focus distance closer to the lens, but there are some other effects to deal with when using them. For instance,
- The plane of focus become very thin and it will be difficult to get the entire subject in focus even when stopped down.
- This extreme close-up also has the effect of magnifying any movement of the subject or camera. So you may need a tripod to steady the camera. And if you are outside on a windy day you may need some sort of wind shield.
- The subject will also require more light than you would ordinarily need which means that your shutter speed is reduced making the subject more prone to motion blur.
- The auto-focus may not work well or work at all when using an extension tube, so you will probably have to manually focus.
- Also, the longer lens you use, the longer extension tube you will need to get the same results.
Fortunately for me, it was a very calm morning with plenty of diffuse light from the cloud cover and I was able to get down close to the rose bud and takes some good photos. I did have to manually focus and prop myself against the house to remain steady. I also bumped up the ISO a bit to get a faster shutter speed. I love the crisp water droplets on the new rose bud, and in this instance I wanted as much background blur as I could get as it makes the subject stand out nicely.
The above image is with the 20mm extension tube and the focal length set to 55mm, aperture set to f/4.5, shutter speed of 1/500s, and ISO800. You wouldn’t know that there is a brick wall in the background from looking. Even the lower petals of the bud are out of focus. I only cropped to make the image 1:1 as I like the way that frames the rose.
I have also tried to take pictures of insects and circuit boards as shown below. With the bee, the issue was motion blur from any movement, so I had to be patient waiting for the wind to cooperate. With the circuit board it was difficult to get enough light on such a small area to get a good exposure, so I used a tripod, a remote shutter release, and a flash light to get a long exposure. See the photos below.
Thanks for reading about my fun with extension tubes and my yellow rose. Leave a comment if you like.
I also made a sway out of this for the fun of it.