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Up for Discussion – Using Extension Tubes

On this blog I have noticed how many of you seem to enjoy macro photography, me among them.  I don’t have a macro lens and it was frustrating me quite a bit, and then Ben, from APERTURE64, suggested I get some extension tubes.  He told me how I could use them with my 50mm lens.  So I did and they have been fantastic.  I also like, now that I have the loan Tamron 90mm Macro lens, I can also use the tubes on it as well.  I asked Ben if he would write a post on using them for us.  

What is an Extension tube?

Extension tubes are a tube that goes between your camera and lens, at present extension tubes are available for DSLRs with full frame and cropped sensors. An extension is a tube placed between the lens and camera reducing the minimum focus distances of the lens, enabling you to get closer to your subject. As you move closer to the subject the bigger it becomes.

Orb Weaver Macro-3489

There are many companies that make extension tubes, when buying you really get what you pay for. The more you spend the better the build, which means it is less likely to cause problems with your camera and lens (eg lenses getting stuck or even tubes getting stuck to cameras, it can happen).

There are two types of extension tubes, those with electronic connections, and those without. Electronic connections are important as they allow you to change the aperture of your lens as well as use auto focus. Non-connector tubes won’t let the camera talk to the lens, leaving you unable to change the aperture while the lens is connected to the tube as well as not being able to use the auto focus. The non-connector type will be fine with older lenses with manual focus and aperture ring.


One element of extension tubes that seems illogical is that; the smaller the lens (shorter focal length) the closer you can get to a subject. An 18mm lens will let you get closer than a 100mm lens. Although zoom lenses are great, I tend to use prime lenses as they create sharper images and are lighter. If you attach a heavy lens to a long extension tube, if the lens is not supported this could cause damage to the camera.

How to use

Using an extension tube is just the same as a normal lens. I use Polaroid tubes that came in a set of three; 13mm, 21mm and 31mm. These three tubes can be mixed and matched with each other, with all three connected I have a 65mm extension tube. I add my lens to the tube/s and then attach everything to the camera.

Instagram Image.

I have found that although I can use auto focus on my lenses it doesn’t really focus and I always manually focus with my lens. The inability to focus is because the AF system doesn’t have enough light to focus with. I manually focus the lens to infinity and move close to the subject until it is sharp.  I am usually seen swaying in and out as I take macro shots with my extension tubes, as the area of focus is really slight sometimes a matter of a mm.

Depth of field of the lens is extremely narrow compared to the lens by itself. I prefer to use the sharpest aperture so that the details I capture are sharp instead of having a larger area in focus which is not as sharp. Also as you get closer to a subject the less light there is, using the smallest aperture may not be possible.

Instagram Image 2

I favour the use of a tripod although there are times when that isn’t possible. When using a tripod I use the LCD screen, not the view finder to compose and focus my image, as I can magnify the area I am focusing on to make sure that it is sharp.

Into The Mouth Of the Dragon

Some issues and photo hacks

Extension tubes mean longer exposure times because there is less light reaching the sensor. Without a tripod the rule of thumb for the minimum shutter speed for sharp images is, no slower than the focal length of the lens. Attaching all my tubes and my lens equals an exposure faster than 1/100. As I said early it is not possible to use your tripod all the time, I have found this especially true when photographing insects and bugs. The only way increase shutter speed is to raise the ISO or use a larger aperture. In Raising the ISO you are adding more noise to an image resulting in a lower image quality and using larger aperture would result in a smaller depth of field.

Another option is to use flash. When using flash you want to have even defused light, nothing too harsh as this will create contrast in the image. An expensive option is to buy a ring flash which is attached to the end of your lens. A cheaper photo hack is to use a Pringles tube and some tracing paper.

I call it a flash extender; I eat the Pringles (the fun part) and then cut a square hole on the bottom side of the tub, I then tape tracing paper over the hole. I place this on my flash and securing with tape and then photograph. If it gets battered and damaged eat some more Pringles and start again.

Lady Bird Red 2

When it comes to photographing insects the major drawback is the lack of auto focus and the need to move in and out to take the shots, this with the need to get quite close to the insects as well has a habit of to making them more skittish. One option is to carry sugar water and place a drop for the insect to feed on giving you some time to take the shot.

Other uses

Abstract Macro

Extension tubes are not only for Macro photography they can also be used to dramatically decrease the depth of field, great for portraits and standard still life pictures. Also if used creatively can be great for creating abstract pictures with a large aperture.

Tulip Red and Yellow-0903

Extension tubes are a good cheap alternative to a Macro lens but I will admit once you start to get into Macro photography you will crave to move on from them and buy a macro lens. This doesn’t mean that the tubes are then a waste of money as they can be used with a macro lens to get you even closer.

wordless wednesday Macro Landscape


Thank you Ben, great explanation of what they are and how to use them.  I hope you will all thank Ben.  He is going to answer comments, so if you have any questions, please ask.  If you would like to see more of his work please visit his blog, APERTURE64.  I am going to put the images from the post and a couple of others that Ben sent in a gallery for you now.

Quiet Thursday’s – The Night Sky

Last time I was up at the Mallee, you know I took photos around Lake Albacutya, but I also got to go to Jonesy’s camp and do some night photography of the milky way from there.  It was a beautiful clear night and the burnt trees from the bushfires in January made great foreground interest.

I don’t want to talk too much today, I have a Social Snappers event this afternoon, which looks like is going to be great, the weather could be perfect for it.  So today I am going to leave you with the following gallery.

MM34 – Monochrome Madness 34

Here we go again, Monochrome Madness 34.  Quite a few of you have been talking about how fast it comes around each week and I have to say, I agree.  I feel like I have just recovered from the previous week and then I have to start thinking about the next week.  I never know what image I will do until it is done.


I took this image on Monday morning when I was taking photos at Marysville with a friend.  We had planned on photographing something else, but we didn’t think much of it, so in the end we decided to go to Marysville and take some photos of Steavensons Falls.  The last time I went there the sun was shining on it, but this time it was earlier in the morning and it was much better to take photos of. I have written a post on it over at my other blog.


Laura Macky has sent in her image for MM34, and if you want to find out some more information on it, then please go to her blog, Laura Macky.

Don’t forget all the instructions on how to enter your own images are at the bottom of the post.  If you have entered an image then please remember to check your image in the gallery, scroll down and see if anyone has left you any comments.

Now, if you wish to participate and submit an image here is how you do it:-

  • You must email me the image you want to include and if you have a blog or website, or somewhere else, please include the link. My email address is
  • The image size should be low res, so the largest side should be 1000 pixels or less.
  • Please insert either your name or your blogs name in the file name.
  • Remember I am on Australian time, so with GMT I am +11 hours at the moment, I publish my post on Wednesday morning.
  • If you need more help with sending images, and get confused about time zones, etc, well, there is a great website called The World Clock, if you go to that and look at Melbourne time, if it’s before 6pm on Tuesday evening, then you can still send me images.  If it’s after that time, you can send me an image, but it will be set aside for the following week.
  • Remember to include a link to your blog or website.
  • Please remember to resize your images, it is fairly simply, you just need to go into any editing software and usually under Image you will find, resize, scale, or image size, something like that and you can resize your image there. Change the dimensions to pixels and make the longest side 1000 pixels or smaller, hit return, and for most types of software that should change the other side automatically as well. Just remember to save it with a different name so you know it is the smaller version.  If you have any problems, please contact me, I don’t mind helping out.

Please note you don’t have to be a WordPress blogger to be in this challenge, you can have a link to a Facebook page, a Flickr page, anywhere really, or no link.  We just want to encourage people to do monochrome images, just for the madness of it. Just to let you know also, that as soon as the challenge is published, all emails and images you have sent me are deleted from my computer.  I respect your copyright and would never keep any of the images.

Tuesday’s Bits and Bobs – Cokin Z Series Filters

Last week I told you that I thought the Cokin filters would have to go back and I hadn’t really had much chance to use them. Well I was given an opportunity to explore them some more and I’ve been trying to make the most of it.  I’ve been out a few times to see what I can do with them.  I suppose that is the wonderful thing about digital, it does make experimenting a lot easier.

In the kit that was sent to me, I got a 77mm adaptor ring for my lens, the Z-Series bracket, and 3 graduated filters.  I was lent the ND2, the Tobacco and a Blue filter, it is all part of a kit that you can purchase.

Graduated filters, for those that don’t know, are where the filter starts at the top and the colour goes down and then fades to clear. The coloured part covers about 2/3 of the filter, which measures 10cm to 15cm.  The advantage of that is that you can then use the filter as a graduated filter, or you can use the end as a filter that will cover your whole lens.  So I have been experimenting with both.


Stacking 3 Cokin filters, the ND2, the Tobacco and the blue filter. All Graduated filters

I found the adapter ring and bracket easy to use and didn’t have any trouble with them.  I had heard that the little things that stick out make it hard to use some filters because they wouldn’t go down, but I just pushed them back, which also made it fit more snugly on the adapter ring.  I actually found myself using it a lot, which surprised me.  I would fit it to the camera and just carry the filters I wanted to use in my pocket.

I tried to see what would happen if I stacked all three filters in the kit with the above image.  So it is an exposure with all three.

One of the things I found hard, at first, was using them as graduated filters, the filters are subtle and I couldn’t tell the difference from the clear part to the filter part, but with practice I got better at it.  The above two images show the difference between no filter and the graduated ND filter.  I was surprised at how dark the foreground was without the filter, but how with the filter it would leave it looking lighter.  I tried to get the ND2 on the sky and not the foreground.

These two were done the same way.  The filter has made the clouds more like the colour you would expect as well.

I tried using my ND400 to see if I could get smooth water, and then thought what if I stacked the ND2 on it as well.  I was told years ago that you shouldn’t stack ND filters, but then the guy I have been talking to at  Maxwell International Australia suggested I do that, so I did it with the second image.  The first image was a 10 second image, and the second a 15 second, so it gave me more time to achieve what I wanted to do.

I did the same here, using the ND400, but this time the first image was 15 seconds and then I added the ND2 and I got a 30 second exposure.  I know the differences are subtle and you really have to look carefully at them to see the differences, but they are there.  I was surprised at easy it was to stack them and the results.

I took these yesterday at Marysville. The first image is a close up the water without the filter, and the second is with it.  Again a subtle change, but the second was double the time of the first, so the water is more blurred.

I also want to add that all of these images, well the pairs, have been processed the same.  They were processed in Lightroom and then the second image was synced with the first so that the only difference between them was the filter, and some slight variations in composition.  The idea was to show how different the filters were.

One of the purposes of using the filter system was to see if it would remove the vignetting I was getting with my other Cokin Series, the P series, and I am happy to say that there was none of it.  I found it easy to use, and the covers for the filters were great to just slip into the camera bag or your pocket.  I don’t know that I would get the filters that came with this particular kit.  I think I would possibly go for the ND series more, so I would get the ND2, the ND4 and the ND8.  I do like the idea of the graduated filters and the options they give you, you do get more.

I am not sure when they are going back, but I really hope to get down to the beach for a chance to try them out some more.  It would be good to try some of those slow motion images I’ve been trying to do with the filters, see what I get.  I am hoping to get down this week.

I know this hasn’t been a typical bits and bobs post, but I already told you my big news and really this is what I have been doing this last week, experimenting with the filters. I am going to put all the images into gallery, though all the pairs are also in smaller galleries.  I hope you have lots of experimenting happening where you are.

Introductions – MyGuiltyPleasures

When I think of the blog of today’s Introduction, I always think of spring.  I don’t know why and I wonder if you will find the same thing when you go to her blog.  Today I would like to introduce you to Viveka, and her blog MyGuiltyPleasures. I have known Viveka for quite a while now, I don’t know exactly how long, but it has been at least a couple of years. She loves traveling and though she is based in Landskrona, South West Sweden, though she doesn’t seem to stay there a lot.  I always love seeing where she has been and what she is up too.


There are lots of flowers on her blog, and I think it is something that she must love doing.  I like the way she looks at things and takes photos of them.

Why do you take photos? For me is more about test if my imagination and eye see the same object and view the same way.

How long have you been taking photos for? Since 1991 – with a break of 6 years.


She likes to experiment with her photography and try lots of things.  It amazes me sometimes what she comes up and I think it is really obvious that she loves taking photos.

What is your inspiration? Other photographers and postcards/cards.


Photos from her travels also play a big part on her blog and there are often photos of where she has been.  I think she might like travelling as much as she likes taking photos.  She seems to be on the move all the time.

Is there anything special about the way you work? I’m just a happy amateur. I like to take photos from an ant’s view – down on grass level and i take a lot of images on angle. I also try to capture the beautiful in a little more rough object and environment.


Viveka is also a generous person with her time and I’ve always enjoyed her visits to my blog when she can.  We have communicated by email and I am hoping she may make the long journey here so we can meet in person one day.

What gear do you use? Canon Powershot SX50HS & Canon PowerShot SX100IS

I love it when I can feature someone who loves photography and doesn’t feel the need to use a DSLR, is just happy with a camera like that.

I hope you will visit Viveka’s blog, MyGuiltyPleasures, and say hello.  I would also like to thank her for allowing me to showcase her work here, thanks Viveka.  I have a gallery now of some of the images that I really like from her blog.

Weekend Wanderings – Lake Albacutya 2

When I was in the Mallee last time I took lots of photos of the areas that had been burned out in the bushfire earlier this year in January.  It still has a long way to go, but it was really nice to be able to see things sprouting.  It is always amazing to see how nature recovers from fire, I know I have said this before, but nature does do a better job of it than us, I think sometimes.


The boat ramp at Lake Albacutya.  I know this doesn’t have anything to do with the fires, but I couldn’t get over the idea that we had driven through the lake and then when we arrived on the other side, we drove up the boat ramp.


This is the track that we had driven on. Lake Albacutya hasn’t had water in it since 1982, and apparently it fills every 25 years, so it is long overdue.  It is quite a deep lake too when full, around 25 feet, but you wouldn’t know that as you drive through it.  There are even fences in it.  I have other photos taken from the banks around the lake which I will put into the gallery.


As you can see the remains of the trees from the fires are still there, fallen down trees and bare trees that you know won’t get new growth now that it is spring.


But, if you look hard enough you see other signs of spring.  Wildflowers popping up everywhere giving this barren environment some bursts of colour.


As we drove around we could also see what Parks Victoria had been up to.  They are doing more planting to stop the sand dunes from moving.  The locals are still unsure of this, sand dunes move naturally, and they don’t understand why they are trying to stop them.  I don’t have the answers. I am a bit concerned about the plastic they have around the new plants, that are blowing off and away, I really hope it is degradeable and they aren’t littering the parks.  I saw many that had blown away.

I am not going to go on much now, I think in this case the images do speak for themselves.  I have done a video slideshow of some images that I took straight after the fires, I am hoping to use it for a presentation at the end of the year, but if you would like to check out, here is the link, Lake Albacutya – A Week After the Fires.

Now a gallery, the close up of the flower, the white and yellow one is a poached egg daisy, and I think the orange one is a poppy of some sort, and I don’t know the others, sorry.


Weekend Wanderings – Getting Dark in the City

Yesterday I was in the city doing some photos with someone.  We started in the late afternoon and took photos until just after 9pm, it was really getting dark in the city then, so I thought I would do some of those photos as my Weekend Wandering post today.


Melbourne Town Hall, it is looking rather ordinary at the moment, but in a month or two I’m sure it will be decorated for Christmas.  I like photographing the same buildings over, they are always different, whether it is the light, or what they have on them.  I would like do a great fine art architectural shot of this building.  I realised yesterday that I will need to use my wide angle, otherwise I can’t fit in the tower.


Stopping at the Hopetoun Tea Rooms in the Block Arcade is almost something I can’t stop doing.  I didn’t get many photos as by the time we got there they were clearing the window.  I might have to try getting a shot of that one day.  I did ask some questions about the window, so will try some more photos soon.


Can you see the bright lights in the water, something reflecting off the bridge.  It was really strange, but we had fund trying to get photos of it.

These two photos look the same, well they are really. except one has a blue sky and the other one is browner.  Maxwell International Australia has let me keep the filters a little longer so I could experiment a little more.  The sunset we got in the city was terrible, really, not much colour, so I thought it would be interesting to try the tobacco graduated filter.  It really warms the image up.  I have been playing around more and on Tuesday will show more photos and talk about the kit a little more.


We saw the gas going off outside the Casino.  We got there hoping it would happen at 8pm, but then some other people who were there looked it up and said that it wouldn’t be on until 9.  We thought, oh well, and just kept taking photos of other things, and then all of a sudden, on they came.  I hope the people who thought it came on later still saw them.  Unfortunately for us, we didn’t think it was going to happen, and so weren’t really prepared, still we got some shots, I just wish I had got a little more of the reflection.


Then it was time to do some night photos of the city.  I love photographing the city at night.  I love seeing how it looks.  So I love it when people say they want to do it. I especially love doing One on One Photography Lessons for people who want to learn night photography. I don’t know that I will ever tire of it, there are always different places along the river to go.

I am going to leave you with a gallery now, I need to start planning a driving trip today for my daughter to get in some more driving hours, but also so I can go somewhere to try out the filters again.  Have a couple of ideas, but you will have to wait and see.  I hope you have somethings planned for the weekend.  I am back into the city tomorrow for Social Snappers, we are doing architecture along Collins Street, should be great.



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