Photographing with Extension Tubes

Author: David Halgrimson

Here is a little info on using extension tubes to get that super close shot.

An extension tube is used on a lens to allow for getting closer to a subject. It is mounted between the camera body and the lens. They come in many sizes, i.e. I have a 13mm, 21mm, 25mm and 31mm. They are hollow, no glass, and simply move the lens closer to the subject.

There are two types that I am aware of, those that have electronics which allows for auto focus and those without electronics. You can guess which is less expensive. Typically, manual focus will be used anyway as focusing becomes very sensitive the closer you get to the subject. The disadvantage of none electronic tubes is no adjustment for aperture unless the aperture can be set on the lens. The cost is very reasonable, a set of three starting around $40 and up unless Canon, Nikon or other brand names are preferred.

Extension tubes can be combined, i.e. a 13mm and a 25mm for a total of 38mm. The larger the mm of extension used the closer the lens can be to the subject. There is some light loss from using extension tubes and this will have to be adjusted for in the camera.

The use of a tripod when using extension tubes is almost a must as focusing becomes very tricky.  Extension tubes are great for flowers, insects and any other small subjects.

I took these photos using the camera with no extension tube and then with 4 different tubes, 13mm, 21mm, 25mm and 31mm, I did not combine any. A Canon 5D mkII and a 24-105mm lens was used and the focus ring was set to the Macro area of the lens and ISO was 100 for all the images here. The camera was on a tripod and was not moved,

© David Halgrimson — This first image was taken with no extension tube attached, the settings were 70mm, f/7.1, 1/800th and about 10 inches from the subject.

© David Halgrimson —  The second image was taken using a 13mm extension tube, and settings of 67mm, f/7.1, 1/320th and about 9 inches from the subject.

© David Halgrimson —  The third image was taken using a 21mm extension tube, and settings of 67mm, f/7.1, 1/320th and about 5.5 inches from the subject.

© David Halgrimson —  The fourth image was taken using a 25mm extension tube, and settings of 70mm, f/7.1, 1/320th and about 4.5 inches from the subject.

© David Halgrimson —  The fifth image was taken using a 31mm extension tube, and settings of 73mm, f/7.1, 1/100th and about 3.5 inches from the subject.

I started getting shadow on the subject the lager I went with the extension tubes so this is something to keep in mind. Also, focus was getting more difficult and DOF was getting very narrow, I did not try other aperture settings, this is another thing to be aware of. This was not an exact science experiment, I only wanted to show what an extension tube can do for getting those very close shots.

David Halgrimson is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

How to Capture Star Trails

By Megan P Galope
Twitter = @megangalope

At the end of January, I attended the AHPW Advanced Star Trails workshop taught by Beth Ruggiero-York. We learned how to take many photos over the span of a couple hours and stack them together to create incredible photos of star trails. The shape of the star trails depends on the direction you are pointing your camera. If you point east, your trails will arc across the sky:

If you prefer the classic circle, you will need to point towards Polaris (the north star):

Ever since the workshop, I’ve been excited to try this again. For the best results, however, you will need dark skies—meaning you need to get away from the city. I finally had an opportunity to try again when I traveled to Rocky Point, Mexico. The timing wasn’t the greatest as it had just recently been a full moon (it is better to do this closer to a new moon so that the moonlight doesn’t interfere). Luckily, the moon didn’t rise until a few hours after sunset, so that gave me a little time to take some star trails.

The first night I chose to point my camera south towards the ocean. Around sunset, I set up my camera for the composition that I wanted and determined the hyperfocal distance using my handy Depth of Field app on my phone. After getting the proper focus, I set my camera to manual focus and taped down the lens to avoid accidentally bumping it. Towards the end of astronomical twilight (about an hour and a half after sunset), I took some images of the foreground. Once it was fully dark, I took my high ISO test shot to determine the settings I would need to use for my images. I ended up setting my intervalometer to take 3.5-minute exposures at ISO 800 and f/4. I took a couple test shots to make sure everything looked okay, and then let it run. I had time for 36 images before the moon rose. I then took my 2 dark frames (same settings with the lens cap on). Using Lightroom, StarStax, and Photoshop, I was able to combine all of my images to create the final product:

The next night, I decided to try pointing towards Polaris for the circle effect. This would be a bit more difficult as it would mean pointing towards the houses and more light pollution. I determined that I would need to take 4-minute exposures at ISO 800 and f/4, plugged it into my intervalometer and let it run. Unfortunately, I decided to skip the test shots (I blame the wine), and instead of setting the intervalometer for 4-minute exposures, I accidentally set it for 4-hour exposures. Three and a half hours later, I found a very overheated camera with a dead battery and one unusable image:

It pays to follow all the steps!

If you’d like to learn more about creating star trails, come to our Symposium on November 4-5, 2017, where Beth will host a session on shooting and stacking star trails.

How I Got the Shot – Poppies under the Blazing Arizona Sun

Author: Ambika Balasubramaniyan


  • Camera: Canon 5DMIII
  • Lens: Canon EF 16-35mm f2.8 II USM
  • Settings: Av (Aperture Priority)1/40 sec, f22, ISO 100, 16mm
  • Filter: None

Location: Bartlett Lake, Arizona

  • This location in Arizona typically explodes with poppies mid-late March if the rain and temperature conditions are conducive to good bloom. In March 2017, the steady moisture over winter delivered a great bloom year for the poppies. In other years, when the rain is inconsistent over winter – there may be very few poppies. Another note, you also find some white & orange poppies here in addition to the yellowish-orange kind!
  • Location guide: Wild in Arizona™: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers, A Guide to When, Where, & How(Expanded 2nd Edition) by Paul Gill & Colleen Miniuk-Sperry Location #25 Page 102

Vision: An above average heat made for a blazing hot March and I wanted to capture the contrast of the delicate poppies under the blazing Arizona sun – a juxtaposition of hot and cool. I wanted to feature the sun as an integral part of the image in addition to using light the highlight the delicate poppy petals.

Image Capture: I wanted to showcase the sun along with poppies feature the mid-morning sun – higher up in the sky rather than the typical sunrise – on the horizon treatment. I wanted the image to convey “hot” and showcase the sun loving poppies reaching up to soak up the rays. I also included a bit of the surrounding hills to set context. The image capture was set up was with the Canon 16 – 35 mm lens for the wide angle treatment, shooting upwards from below the clump of poppies on a roadside berm to emphasize the poppies reaching up towards the sun. Aperture was set to f22 to include the sun as a “sunburst” in the composition. The small aperture at f22 on the Canon 16-35mm f2.8 II USM wide angle lens generates a pleasing starburst.  I also intentionally under exposed the image to ensure a sharp “sunstar” with a workable image that was not over exposed. Remember to remove ALL filters in front of your lens to minimize any lens flare. You may still get some lens flare from the internal elements of the lens but you can do your part in minimizing them!

If you are interested in learning more about sun bursts & different lens that make good ones:

Post Processing: Images were post processed in Lightroom CC minimally – some cropping, opening up of the shadows, pop of clarity & saturation in Lightroom.  Some of the lens flare artifacts were also cloned out to clean up the sun.

The key post processing move for this image is the opening up of the shadows that show cases the color of the poppies against the blue sky!

Ambika is a Trip Leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

Capturing Clouds : Tips

Author: Kerrick James

Most of my sixty or so Arizona Highways photo workshops have featured the pursuit of Landscape, the endlessly challenging chase for light and drama, texture and natural design that we hope will unite in an evocative slice of time that both defines a place, and your skill in rendering that reality. Somewhat paradoxically, it’s very often the atmospheric phenomena above the land that elevate the image to its greatest impact. In a word, Clouds, are key. Call them ‘icing on the cake’, or any descriptor you wish, but distinctive clouds are always worth waiting or planning for. I’ve whiled away thousands of hours over the years waiting for clouds to arrive or depart, to morph or reveal, and still they surprise, delight and confound me.

Storm clouds of all types are inherently dramatic, and indeed stormlight is my personal favorite situation. But having Clouds in place over a striking graphic landform is always my chief goal, as the clouds themselves without a hint of land are merely meteorological trophies. It seems there are more types of clouds than earthly gemstones, and here are some examples:

Shiprock, New Mexico (linear, horsetail Clouds)

Jungfrau, Switzerland  (clearing storm clouds)

Hunts Mesa, Monument Valley  (morning monsoon clouds)

Three Sisters, Monument Valley (morning monsoon clouds)

Sometimes the clouds are moving at surprising speed over the land, and by using a neutral density filter and very low ISO, you can attain long shutter speeds even in full sunlight. Obviously a sturdy tripod is essential, and don’t forget that you can shoot clouds at night if you have some moonlight to work with.

Colorado River at North Canyon, Grand Canyon  (30 seconds, F 11, ISO 100)

Sunrise light on Totem Pole (Yei Be Chi), Monument Valley (1/10th second, F/16)

Stars and clouds over the Bluemlisalphorn, Switzerland  (172 seconds F8, ISO 100)

And let’s face it, luck favors those who wake up early, or wait past the edge of patience. Last June I finally got sweet light after sunrise, illuminating clouds that featured patterns and weight and well, gravitas, flowing slowly over Double Arch. It only took thirty years to find them there, or to find myself in the right place, at the right moment, watching the clouds go by…

Sunrise clouds over Double Arch, Arches NP, Utah


Kerrick James is an Instructor with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops
Space still available in Kerrick’s Glacier workshop July 24-28, 2017

iPhone or “Real” Camera? Which is better?

Author: Amy Horn

Have you ever wondered what is the difference between an iPhone image and a “real” camera image? Well, here is the test. I was waiting in a Northern Arizona University parking lot for students to arrive for a field trip and I noticed ice. For those that don’t know me, I love capturing images of ice. Instantly, I grabbed my iPhone 7 and built in camera app, placed the phone about 2 inches away from the ice and captured several photos. I still had a few minutes before leaving with the students, so I grabbed my new Olympus OM-D E-M1 MarkII with the 12-100mm lens (sensor equivalent 24—200mm). I zoomed in to 100mm (200mm equivalent) and stood about 12 inches above the ice and shot several images. Both shots were taken with non-macro lenses and here are the comparison images:

Both images are straight out of the camera. You might notice a slight difference in white balance from the different systems auto white balance. Unfortunately, I did not compose the images identically, but, can you tell which image is the iPhone image? Take my iPhoneography/Smart Phone photography class to learn the answer. Not really! The image on the left is from the iPhone and the image on the right is from the Olympus. When I examined these images close up, I have to say the only difference I saw was the white balance! Decide for yourself and compare your smart phone to a “real” camera. Sometimes that mobile phone can be quite a powerful option.

It’s not too late to join Amy in her iPhoneography/Smart Phone Photography class March 25! Follow the link to register.


Amy Horn is a lecturer of photography at Northern Arizona University and an instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops. View her current teaching schedule at or

Instagram: amyhornphotographer
Facebook: Amy Horn: Horndesigns Photography

Vancouver Island with Shane McDermott

Author: Shane McDermott

I grew up on Vancouver Island and couldn’t have imagined a more beautiful place to live! Although it is no longer my home, I can’t wait to get back and show you all how amazing this place is. Join me for 6 glorious summer days on this northwest island paradise tour June 18-23, 2017!


This is truly one of those photo tours that offers everything you could imagine and hope for. You will experience it all including charming cityscapes, bustling harbor scenes, beautiful gardens, ancient rain forests, wild orcas, stunning seascapes and abundant coastal wildlife!

The tour begins in the heart of old Victoria’s inner harbor. This quaint old Victorian city has a very special charm and will capture your heart the moment you lay eyes on it! As you walk through the gobble stoned back streets of Victoria you’ll feel as though your in an old European city. I remember moving to Victoria from up island as soon as I was old enough and my parents would allow it, I just love visiting this place!



Although we could easily spend the entire six days in Victoria, we will visit many of the local highlights, including, the spectacular inner harbor with it’s famous Empress Hotel, fisherman’s wharf, the world renowned Butchart Gardens, Craig Derek Castle, the Edwardian style Hatley castle of Royal Roads and more.


From Victoria, we’ll head to the vast open waters on the west coast of the island, where we will begin the nature portion of our photo journey. Based out of coastal fishing village of Port Renfrew, we’ll spend 3 fun filled days exploring one of the islands true natural gems, Juan De Fuca Provincial Park. Juan De Fuca offers spectacular seascapes, rivers, waterfalls and old growth rainforests as well as abundant coastal wildlife.


Hitnat,Port Renfrew


On the coastal portion of our tour photo, location highlights will include Parkinson beach, botanical beach loop trail, Botany Bay, Avatar grove and a few other surprise locations. Expect to be astonished with the diverse beauty to this enchanting park and it’s rich display of both flora and fauna! The immense moss covered giants of the Avatar grove rival the mighty redwoods of California. Even better, few people even know this place exists, which means quiet serenity and a relaxed photographic environment.



Upon returning to Victoria we’ll finish our tour chasing wild orcas across the open ocean! If lions are the king of the savanna, orcas are definitely the king of the sea! To see and photograph these massive whales in their natural and wild ways will provide you with remarkable photographic opportunities and lasting impressions. We’ll conclude our time together a warm summer evening dinner together overlooking the inner harbor.

Shane McDermott is an instructor with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Capturing Nature with the X-Pro2

What? Nature Photography with a Rangefinder?


 Sometimes in the fall the best images are right at your feet, literally. I had just watched a leaf spiral to the ground and I wanted to convey the feeling of being atop that leaf. The technical part of accomplishing this was to use a slow shutter speed (1/15 sec.) and spin the camera just enough to get the feel of the motion while keeping the red leaf centered and sharp. For this I used the LCD on the back of the camera for viewing so I could grip the camera on both sides to have the best control of the purposeful motion. I used the XF 18-55mm f2.8-4 at 55mm. I shot at f16 to maximize depth of field as I was shooting fairly close to my subject. Because of all the vivid color in the scene I used the Velvia setting in-camera for a quick preview. I also used the Velvia camera calibration in Lightroom when processing the raw file. ISO 500.

Now it’s time for something different. Because I love to shoot many types of subjects I decided to tell you about using the X-Pro2 with one of my favorite subjects, nature. This isn’t something that comes immediately to mind with a rangefinder type camera, but with a capable EVF (electronic viewfinder) and sensor I was pleased by the overall experience.

 This is part 5 of my continuing X-Pro Tour of images from my travels, stories behind the photos, and my thoughts and experiences with the Fuji X-Pro2 and Fujinon XF lenses in many different situations (I posted Part 1  and Part 2 in May, Part 3 in June and Part 4 in Sept ) In the captions I provide the backstory of the shot along with technical info. It started with my original Fuji post Fuji X-Pro2, A Love-Hate Relationship

I’ve blogged about how it works for travel in big cities, little villages, and how adept it is with people and even at my local county fair. Although these have covered a lot of different types of shooting, a lot them are really variations of street photography.


I like shooting in northern Arizona during monsoon season because there are invariably interesting and dramatic skies. This vantage point is in the San Francisco Peaks around 10 or 11 thousand feet (approx 3500m) I liked the layering and tonality and how the shapes of the clouds are almost like another set of mountains in the sky. The color from the sunset is really ancillary. In fact I also like this image as a black and white though it has a different feel that way. I used the XF 55-200mm lens at 190mm (FF = 285mm). Because I envisioned this originally as a monochrome image I was using the Acros +R film simulation for viewing. I knew I could always use the raw file as a color image too. That’s the beauty of shooting raw + jpeg. Interestingly the camera profile I liked best and used for processing the raw file was my custom profile of the X-Pro2 that I created with an X-Rite ColorChecker Passport. It provides a neutral profile specific to my X-Pro2 body. Normally I would favor Provia or Astia for an image like this but the neutral one worked out best this time. 1/320 sec., f8.0, ISO 3200.

 So, how is the X-Pro2 with nature?

I tested this out by using the X-Pro2 to scout for a couple workshops, exploring the nearby mountains for some great nature locations for my participants. These scouting missions were for my See The World in Black and White and Autumn in the San Francisco Peaks workshops I did earlier this year for Arizona Highways. This covered a lot different types of locations and situations from small details to broad scenics.

Scouting is when I get to do my own shooting. Once a workshop starts I’m dedicated to spending my time in the field with participants so I can rarely shoot. When I have the time I like to be deliberate and meditative with my nature photography. I love being outside, in beautiful places and the process can be just as rewarding as coming back with a meaningful shot. Not that the process isn’t enjoyable with other types of photography, just in a different way.


I sometimes take my workshop participants to the sites of old fires because of the nice juxtaposition of the snags and new growth. It’s especially nice for black and white. I was scouting during our rainy (“monsoon”) season off a remote dirt road in the San Francisco Peaks. The clouds started building earlier in the day than usual so I was treated to a really nice dramatic sky. I was imagining that the fire that burned here twenty years ago could easily have started on a day like this. In fact I made sure to get out of there before any real lightning started. In this case I used the OVF (optical viewfinder) to compose and then looked at the Acros +R film simulation to confirm what I was visualizing for a monochrome image. The EVF also helps for more precise framing. I should note that as helpful as these film simulations are, they still require using visualization. EVFs and LCDs on any camera are imperfect. The film simulations are a great starting point but after 30+ years of visualizing black and white my mind’s eye tends to serve me best. I think this is why I found myself using the OVF for several situations shooting nature. Of course with a conventional DSLR you would also be using optical viewing- just without the rangefinder advantage of being able to see outside the frame. XF 18-55mm f2.8-4.0, 1/210 sec., f16, ISO 400.

Here are a few things I noticed about shooting nature and landscape with the X-Pro2


  1. Ahh, An Optical Viewfinder
I found myself switching back and forth between EVF (electronic viewfinder) and OVF (optical viewfinder.) You might wonder why I would even try to use the rangefinder when accurate framing tends to be important with nature and landscapes. The answer is twofold: First, it’s a quick way to remind myself what’s outside my composition, a luxury you don’t have with a DSLR. Secondly, it gives me a quick reference to compare whatever film simulation I’m using against the scene. I can make both of these comparisons without having to take my eye away from the viewfinder- just a quick flick of the lever.
  1. Contrasty EVF
I noticed the deficiencies in the EVF. Don’t get me wrong, the EVF is great but not quite as good as my Sony A7R II. The X-Pro2’s EVF is a little too contrasty, hiding shadow and highlight detail that is really there. One can cheat this a bit by adjusting the processing parameters- you can decrease contrast, saturation and sharpening. Of course you sacrifice your JPEGs to benefit EVF viewing.


Sunrise at the same site of an old fire as the black and white above. The morning sweet light on clumps of grass made for a great foreground to tell the story of regrowth against the background of charred stumps and then behind them, more green forest in the background mountains. I used both the OVF and EVF on the X-Pro2, handheld, with Velvia film simulation, both for viewing and applied to my raw file in Lightroom. XF 18-55mm lens, 18mm (FF = 27mm) 1/160 sec. f8.0, ISO 1250.

Personally I prefer my method above switching to OVF or just plain looking at the scene in front of me. This way I can take advantage of the built-in film simulations for my JPEGs (I generally shoot RAW+JPEG.) With a sensor this good I’m pretty confident of capturing detail in a broad range. If necessary I switch to spot meter and use the good old fashioned zone system to double check the most important parts of the scene will render properly (a topic for another blog.)

  1. What? No Tripod?!
I’m surprised by how little I use my tripods these days, even for nature. I find myself using it more to slow myself down so I can enjoy the process and that meditative zone I get in when concentrating about what I’m feeling, communicating, and capturing. On the technical side one can go to very high ISOs and still make big enlargements with lots of detail.


It was early on a cold, wet fall morning. I had planned to shoot the mountains and fall color reflected in a pond. The conditions just weren’t working so I was scanning the horizon and saw this lone red aspen off in the distance. It was quite far away so I used my Fujinon XF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 with the 1.4X teleconverter. I shot this at 560mm (Full Frame equivalent = 840mm) Naturally I was using the EVF and to help aid in visualizing color I used the Velvia film simulation in camera. 1/320 sec., f8.0, ISO 400.

  1. Ergonomics…Grip or No Grip
I am currently working on another article about essential accessories but because I used the XF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 OIS WR for some of the shots in this article I wanted to mention how this behemoth handles with the X-Pro2. The short version is that Fuji’s MHG-XPRO2 grip, although not very beefy, adds just enough extra bulk to wrap your fingers around and hold the 100-400 quite comfortably and steady. With all my other Fujinon lenses I prefer the camera without the grip. I was amazed at how slow I could go with the shutter speeds and handhold this lens, even at 400mm with the 1.4X. I don’t have a particularly steady hand but the combination of the image stabilization and the grip allowed me to shoot sharp images handheld down to 1/30 sec at 400mm (FF = 600mm) and 1/125 sec at 560mm (FF = 840mm.)


Without the early morning fog augmenting the fall color in these mountains I would not have had much of shot with this composition due to an otherwise boring gray sky. The fog also provided nice dappled lighting throughout the scene adding some nice dimension and tonality. The mist was moving fast so I shot quickly and handheld with the lens that was already mounted on the X-Pro2. It was the 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 zoom at 100mm, f11, 1/500 sec ISO 800. I used the EVF for viewing set on the Velvia film simulation.

I should mention that for most of the shots in this post I used aperture priority and auto ISO, but making use of the shutter speed/ISO presets. Consequently I’m generally shooting at specific apertures and shutter speeds. It’s not that much different than shooting in manual except for moments when I have to shoot very quickly, then the floating ISO helps as a time saver. The X-Pro2 works well at high ISOs but when I have the time I prefer to be careful about highlight detail by shooting at a more nominal ISO range, which on this camera is in the 400-800 range. It has a nice low noise floor so shooting underexposed from the meter reading and boosting it in post capture yields nice detail from shadows through highlights.

 The Bottom Line

A rangefinder doesn’t come to mind when thinking about shooting nature. However, the X-Pro2 with its EVF, LCD, superb 24 megapixel sensor and great film simulations as visualization aids, defies the usual rangefinder mindset. I really enjoyed shooting nature in all kinds of situations with this camera. I’m beginning to wonder why I still have my Sony A7R II system but that’s an article for another day.

 The X-Pro Tour Continues (and other topics for future posts.)

I’m working on several articles for future posts including Is Fuji my new Leica? What about my Sony?Will Microsoft Unseat Mac as the Photo Computer of Choice?, Essential Accessories for the Fujifilm X-Pro2, and more. And of course more about the Fuji X system as I continue to use it in other situations and types of shooting. Stay tuned for more photography, feedback, and insights!

Joel’s X-Pro 2 Series


Joel Wolfson is an Instructor with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

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