CHALLENGE 2: Auto Extension tubes
With the formal garden now filling up with visitors, we decided to walk fur ther into the garden to escape the hoards. With the close- up filter packed away, we begin searching for new and varied subjects. We decided to take a closer look at a blossoming magnolia tree. The large pink flowers looked beautiful, but again an unaided standard lens couldn’t do the subject justice. However, with 20mm of extension attached, Ian could achieve the levels of magnification he desired. For the challenge, we had a set of Kenko auto extension tubes at our disposal . You can buy a set of 36mm, 20mm and 1 2mm tubes, for around £ 100. The more extension you use, the greater the level of magnification you will achieve. However, for a larger flower like this, the medium tube sufficed. Again, this is a close- up attachment that doesn’t provide a large subject- to- camera distance, so Ian had to get within 10- 20cm of his subject to record a frame- filling result. Although this can restrict light, with inanimate subjects like flowers, it is not a huge drawback. While Ian worked hand- held, I encouraged him to increase his ISO rating to help maintain a workable fast shutter speed. Ian snapped away, var ying his shooting angle and perspective. He commented on how even the tiniest adjustment can make such a significant difference to the shot when you work in close- up – even a few millimetres of movement this way or that can completely make or break your composition.
Next, Ian noticed some lovely detail on the leaf of a tree. We held the branch steadily in place using a clamp attached to my tripod legs. Ian carefully placed his camera, this time using a tripod and positioning his camera parallel to the leaf to keep as much of the subject as possible within the lens’s plane of focus for overall sharpness. Again, focusing was achieved via Liveview, and adjusted manually, rather than using autofocus, which can prove unreliable when working at higher magnification. However, with the light being so flat, results looked rather lifeless and lacked vibrancy. I decided to introduce Ian to the creative possibilities of using ar tificial light. With small garden subjects it is relatively easy to alter or manipulate light using flash or LED units. I explained to Ian that I t ypically favour reflected or LED lighting, as you can easily preview and regulate their effect before triggering the shutter. I hand- held a small LED light behind the leaf in order to create backlighting – the light completely transformed the scene, making the image far more striking and colour ful . Ian admitted that photographing such an ordinar y object in a creative way opened his eyes to what could be achieved with minimal time, effor t and cost.
Time for a quick slice of chocolate cake in the garden tearooms, before swapping Ian’s standard 50mm for a dedicated macro as we embark on the final challenge.
4 1) Ian takes the shot while adding a little artificial light. 2) The extension tubes sit between camera body and lens. 3) With various lengths of extension tube available, we settled on the 20mm medium length for the task at hand. 4) Backlighting highlights the leaf's veiny structure. 5) For pin- point focusing accuracy, Ian focuses manually using the Liveview's zoom.