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.