Extension tubes and zoom lens

Hoverfly, Nikon 105mm macro lens

In my previous post I discussed my first experiments with extension tubes. I noticed that my Nikon 50mm f/1.4 prime lens is doing quite well as far as magnification is concerned, while my 135mm prime lens is not. However, the distance from the front side of the lens to the subject is more comfortable with the Nikon 135mm lens, especially for moving objects like bees and butterflies. I also noticed that by using too many extension tubes you lose a lot of light, decreasing the quality of the picture.

Butterfly, Nikon 28-300mm & 300mm

So, my next step is to experiment with my Nikon 28-300mm zoom lens. For all kinds of photography and if I am taking only one lens it is this one. For this experiment I choose the 20mm extension tube to make sure there is some magnification and enough light.

One thing that I noticed right away is that by zooming you actually focus (in a similar way by getting closer or further away). This is very handy for finding the focus area. For actual fine tuning it is much better to use Live View (and zoom in) and to focus with the focus ring. This is the best way to get really sharp picture. This means that you also have to use a tripod. I use my Peak Design Travel Tripod.

Bee and Chinese rose, Nikon 28-300mm @ 68mm

I also noticed that for the combination of the zoom lens and the 20mm extension you really need a lot of light, or you have to increase the ISO. An other observation is that below 35mm there is hardly or no focus area at all. Also, for the 150mm and above the magnification is minimal.

What I really like about using the zoom lens is that if a bee is hopping from one flower to the other it is easy to adjust the zoom and still get a sharp picture (just like with normal photography). Of course, the quality of the picture does not match the ones of the Nikon 105mm macro lens. The flexibility allows me to take pictures that are not really macro pictures, which means that I have to crop a lot afterwards (losing a lot of detail).

So, to conclude, the zoom lens in combination with an extension tube works fine for regular pictures (if you know the limitations). However, my personal experience is that I get better pictures with my Nikon 105mm macro lens. As soon as my macro lens is back from repair I will try it in combination with a small extension tube.

Succulent, Nikon 105mm macro lens

Experimenting with extension tubes

Nikon 105mm macrolens

Recently I noticed that the autofocus of my Nikon 105mm macrolens did not perform properly and that the lens gave a high-pitched squeak. When I brought it in for repair I bought Caruba extension tubes so I could continue my macrophotography.

Nikon 50mm with extension tubes

I had been reading a bit about extension tubes being a cheap way of doing macrophotography. The promise is that for 100 euros you can get a better a magnification than a 1000 euro macrolens. The basic idea is that the hollow tubes put the lens further away from the sensor, thereby reducing the minimal focus distance. So, you can take a picture from closer by. As a result of getting closer to the subject the magnification increases. Just as you would expect, if you put something right in front of your eyes it looks bigger than if you hold it at arm’s length. For example, 68mm of tubes gives 1.5 magnification for a 50mm lens. Notice, a macrolens only gives 1.0 magnification! It looks like paradise.

So, after unpacking I put my 50mm lens on all the tubes together (68mm) right away. I was shocked: the camera could not focus! After reading some more (in Dutch), I realised that the range in which the camera could focus was reduced from 45cm-infinity (without tubes) to a few millimeters at a distance of a few centimeters (with all tubes) in front of the lens. Understandable that the autofocus could not handle this. The subject was out of the focus range.

Nikon 28-300mm @ 115mm with extension tubes

Getting sharp pictures in macrophotography is quite a challenge. The size of depth-of-field (DoF)—a portion of the range in which the camera can focus—depends of course on the aperture. So, we are talking about a millimeter or even less. In practice this means that when holding the camera in my hand, and by breathing and by keeping balance, the subject is getting in and out of focus continuously. So, you really have to try to press the button at the right time! Of course, you could use a tripod, however, that does not work very well with bees and butterflies flying everywhere. However, for flowers it works perfectly. I use my Peak Design Travel Tripod.

Furthermore, when using extension tubes you lose some light. Trying to get more DoF, to make focussing a bit easier, you choose a smaller aperture, which again means less light. The combination results in higher ISO. As a consequence, the dynamic range decreases and it introduces some noise in the picture, which becomes visible if you decide to crop to further increase magnification.

How about other lenses? It turns out that wide-angle lenses do very well as far as magnification is concerned, however, if you use too many tubes the focus area will end up inside the lens. Making wide-angle lenses almost useless for macrophotography. Telelenses, on the other hand, do not do so well as far as magnification is concerned.

My provisional conclusion is: Focussing in macrophotography is already a challenge, using extension tubes it is even more a challenge if you push it to the limits by using too many tubes.

My advice is to use mainly one of the smaller tubes (12 or 20mm). It already gives you a substantial magnification for mid-range lenses and you don’t have to put your lens right in front of the subject. Furthermore, you do not lose a lot of light.

In my next post I will share my experience with extension tubes and a zoom lens.

Nikon 28-300mm @ 300mm with extension tubes


Challenges of macrophotography

Budding of pink rhododendron flowers

In this post I will discuss two challenges of macrophotography:

  • small depth-of-field (technical)
  • right background (creative)

Due to the corona crisis I spend a lot of time in the garden. I never realised the variety of flowers in our garden, including our tub plants. Almost every day I scout my garden to find new flowers or new compositions. I rediscovered macrophotography. Also a webinar of Janneke van de Pol about macrophotography inspired me to look at taking macro pictures differently.

Only first row of stamens of Delosperma is sharp

The first thing you notice when you enter the macro world is that the depth-of-field is very small. For example, with my 105mm macrolens at a distance of 30cm with an aperture of f/8 the depth-of-field is only 2mm. By just moving a little bit the subject is already out of focus. I find it difficult to judge the quality of a picture on the screen of my D800. So, in practice this means that I have to go to my computer to see whether the subject is in focus or not.

To deal with this small depth-of-field I have two approaches depending on whether the picture is for Instagram (have a look on the right) or for Dreamstime. For Dreamstime I try to keep the ISO as close as possible to 100 to avoid noise in the picture. For Instagram this is less important. The settings of my camera are normally:

  • ISO is automatically increased if the shutter speed becomes below 1/60sec. If the ISO exceeds 6400 then the shutter speed is lowered.
  • AF-ON is used to focus. Normally I use that for focussing on moving subjects. Now I use it also to compensate for my own stabilising motions.

For Instagram this is perfect. I take a couple of pictures with different apertures and on my computer I decide which picture I want to share on Instagram. For Dreamstime, I want to keep the ISO close to 100. So, I switch off the automatic increase of the ISO. If there is sufficient light this is no problem (fast shutter speed). Otherwise, due to the slower shutter speed, I use my Peak Design Travel Tripod. To avoid any further vibrations I use Arsenal for wireless control to focus and to hit the shutter. The resulting pictures are of very high quality.

Cornflower with waving corn as background

The second thing you notice with macrophotography is that the right background is very important. I observed that in the beginning I was too concentrated on getting the subject in focus that I often forgot about the background. Sitting behind my computer I saw the disturbing background which is of course hard to fix in Lightroom.

So now I spend more time on the composition (which includes the vague background) before getting my camera. Although this is not an easy task -we deal with the imperfections of nature – it is important to look at lines and light and dark spots. Also colours are more important than I thought. Try to look at the subject from different angles and decide on the one you like. Creativity plays a central role in this decision. Composition rules are helpful, however, do not be too rigid. By experimenting you get a feeling of what wow pictures look like. Feedback on Instagram also helps me.

What I like about macrophotography is the combination of the technical and creative challenge. My appreciation of nature has increased substantially. After the corona crisis I will continue taking macro pictures.

Enjoy the beauty of nature; taken during sunset

A Magnificent Sunset at the Beach of Texel

Sunset at the beach of Texel

September last year I visited Texel for the first time. It was for business reasons: Visiting NIOZ, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research. I stayed overnight at Hotel Lindeboom in Den Burg. After visiting Vlieland, Ameland and Terschelling, I was a bit disappointed: the sea was too far away to walk from my hotel to the beach. So, I visited the Oudheidkamer Den Burg, Texel. It makes you realise that even basic healthcare is not trivial on an island.

After discussing my disappointment with friends they suggested us to go to De Koog and to rent a bike. So, in October we took the train to Den Helder (there is really no need to take a car to Texel). From the railway station there a direct bus to the boat and from there another bus to our hotel: Hotel Greenside.

We arrived late in the afternoon. The first thing we did was pick up our bikes and go to the beach. We were just in time for a magnificent sunset (see on top and below). It was a perfect gift after a day traveling.

Sunset at the beach of Texel
Lighthouse of Texel

The next day we visited several places on the island by electric bike. The red lighthouse up north on the island (see on the right), a small village called De Cocksdorp on the Waddenzee-side of the island, for an excellent lunch, and De Slufter, a natural hole in the dunes (see below).

De Slufter is a salt marsh, which is the result of an opening in the dunes. The lower parts get flooded every high tide, only with strong western wind and high tide, also the higher parts get flooded. Below you see the opening in the dunes and the higher and lower parts of the marsh.

De Slufter

After my initial disappointment, I really fell in love with Texel. It is the largest island of the Waddenzee, so please rent an e-bike.

Hiking near Grindelwald

The previous post mentioned our stay in Grindelwald and the visit to Jungfraujoch. This post focuses on hiking near Grindelwald.

One of our first hikes was an easy one. We took Bus 128 from the railway station of Grindelwald to Alpenvogelpark (on the map below, on the right). Our hike on the slope of Schwarzhorn started with a magnificent view of the mountain Mittelhorn. From there we walked almost 5 km to Bort, a ski lift station in between Grindelwald and First. It was small climb from 1405 to 1630 meters. After that we took the ski lift back to Grindelwald and had dinner at CundM, upstairs (excellent meals).

From Alpenvogelpark to Bort

The second hike was also on the slope of the Schwarzhorn only a bit higher. Now we took the bus all the way to Grosse Scheidegg (on the map below, on the right, 1960m). After 6km we reached the highest point at First, a large ski lift station at 2180m. On the way and also at First we had the most amazing views. All pictures were taken with my iPhone X (I did not want to carry my Nikon D800). From there we took the ski lift down to Grindelwald.

From Grosse Scheidegg to First

The last hike took us to Berghaus Bäregg (1770m). First we took Luftseilbahn Grindelwald Pfingstegg to our starting point at the slope of the Mättenberg at 1400m (in the map below, halfway on the right). We followed the head waters of the river Lütschine (deep down). Looking back we had a splendid view of Grindelwald spread out in the valley.

The last climb to Berghaus Bäregg was quite steep and the sun was burning. We really needed a refreshment to recover from that. From the balcony of the restaurant we could see the Unterer Grindelwaldgletscher. Later on we heard that in the early 20th century the glacier would come down all the way to the village. On the way back we were too late to take the Luftseilbahn, so we had to walk back all the way to the valley (1000m). In total we walked almost 10km.

Via Pfingstegg to Bäregg and back to Grindelwald

We really enjoyed the various hikes, and there are still many to be discovered by us. Although the area is expensive it is high on our list for a second visit.

Grindelwald and Jungfraujoch

About a year ago I watched a TV-program about trains in Switzerland. They mentioned Grindelwald and Jungfraujoch, the highest European railway station. It attracted my attention and searching on the web I found many hiking trails around Grindelwald. So, we decided to go there. We stayed in a chalet near the railway station Schwendi bei Grindelwald, one stop away from the center of Grindelwald.

Eiger

On arrival we were impressed by mountain Eiger, one of the 4K-mountains near Grindelwald. On the right a view from our chalet. As a matter of fact, Grindelwald is surrounded by quite a few other mountains. Just to name a few: Wetterhorn, Faulhorn, Mönch, and Jungfrau.

After a couple of days we decided to go to Jungfraujoch. You can go there by train via Kleine Scheidegg, where you have to change trains. We were definitely not the only ones. We never thought about seat reservations. A consequence was that we had to stand in line for a long time before making the final track from Kleine Scheidegg to Jungfraujoch.

Jungfraujoch

Upon arrival at Jungfraujoch you see this magnificent view of eternal snow (in the middle of summer). Jungfraujoch is like a saddle connecting the mountains Jungfraujoch and Mönch at an elevation of 3466 meters. To be part of this we went outside. The view from Jungfraujoch is fantastic.

Here are some of the pictures I took that were accepted by Dreamstime.

To get an impression of my gear: Peak Design Everyday Backpack with Capture to carry my camera: Nikon D800 with Nikkor 28-300mm lens. As you can see, it was cold, sunny, and slippery. However, it was very much worthwhile to take these pictures. I really enjoyed it.

Below you see the map around Jungfraujoch (indicated by the camera marker) in between the mountains Jungfrau (4158m) and Mönch (4107m). In the upper part you can still see the Eiger.


All pictures of Grindelwald and Jungfraujoch are available at Dreamstime:

Foto van de Week: De Pier bij Scheveningen

Regelmatig vertel ik het verhaal achter een foto uit mijn collectie. Als je belangstelling voor een van deze foto’s hebt, mail mij dan even.

Deze keer gaat het over de iconische Pier bij Scheveningen. Het is een toeristische attractie en er zijn al veel foto’s van De Pier gemaakt. Elke keer wanneer ik in Den Haag ben ga ik naar Scheveningen om foto’s van die pier te maken, bij voorkeur bij zonsondergang. Hiernaast een foto genomen van de zuidkant. Iemand heeft deze foto als behang besteld bij Werk aan de Muur voor zijn of haar kantoor.

Wat speciaal aan deze foto is, is de reflectie van de wolken in het rustige water en de zachte kleuren van zonsondergang. Door de reflectie in het water en de meeuwen gaan de ogen van de kijker van dichtbij naar de verder gelegen pier en terug. De lege ruimte in het onderste deel van de foto geeft ook veel vrijheid aan de ogen. Daardoor verveelt de foto niet gauw.

De foto is in 2013 genomen met een Nikon D700 met de 16-35mm zoomlens: brandpunt 35mm en diafragma f/8; sluitertijd 1/320 en ISO 200. De snelle sluitertijd had ik nodig ivm de meeuwen en de golven. Inmiddels is het Reuzenrad erbij gebouwd (een Instagram-volger wees me daarop; was ik vergeten, is er al sinds 2016).

Hier een meer recentere foto genomen van de noordkant van De Pier met een mooie, rode, oranje zonsondergang. Deze foto is in 2019 genomen met een Nikon D800 met de 28-300mm zoomlens: brandpunt 78mm en diafragma f/6.3; sluitertijd 1/160 en ISO 100. De diepte is heel beperkt dus kon ik een groter diafragma gebruiken zodat de sensor voldoende licht zou krijgen. Ondanks het gebrek aan diepte ten opzichte van de eerste foto is het kleurenspel met De Pier en het Reuzenrad als silhouet boeiend voor het oog.

Misschien vind je het leuk om naar de vorige Foto’s van de Week te kijken. Je kunt onderstaande foto ook bij Werk aan de Muur kopen.

Short visit to Finland

Our short short visit Finland started of course in Helsinki. It was late May and we had wonderful weather, although it was a bit chilly. From the main railway station in Helsinki we walked to the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Cathedral, the White Cathedral. The building is really impressive, especially when viewed from the lower stairs. When we were there, a group was rehearsing for a music concert for the evening. A big stage right in front of the building made it a bit challenging to take pictures.

White Cathedral

As you can see the white building against a blue sky gives a really nice picture. By the way, this picture has been sold via Dreamstime. After that we continued our walk to the Uspenski Cathedral, the Red Cathedral.

Red Cathedral

Helsinki is a very nice place to visit: impressive buildings, the harbour, a lot of green. Not an average capital of a large country.

Time to explore nature. In Finland they have a lot: an enormous number of lakes and many woods. Nuuksio National Park is a nice example of the wonderful nature of Finland. However, it is close to Helsinki, which means that is also attracts many tourists.

Lake in Nuuksio National Park north of Helsinki

Our next stop was the cottage of friends in the neighbourhood of Lappeenranta at the largest lake of Finland: Saimaa Lake. The Finnish really enjoy nature and silence. Below the view from the cottage during sunset.

Sunset at Saimaa, largest lake of Finland, near Lappeenranta

Our short visit to Finland was wonderful. We really enjoyed being part of the beautiful nature.

All pictures in this blog were accepted by Dreamstime.

Stormy weather on Dutch coast

Waves during storm at Scheveningen

For business reasons I had to go to a meeting early in the morning in The Hague. So, I decided to go the day before. As it turned out, a heavy western storm was expected for that day. A reason the more to leave for Scheveningen earlier than originally planned.

When I arrived at the boulevard in Scheveningen near the pier, I realized how strong the storm was (8+ Bft). There were just a few people on the beach and I could not see any boats.  The waves were impressive for Dutch standards. 

Pier at Scheveningen

First I took some shots of the pier, with the waves splashing against the supporting pillars. It turns out that there was a lot of foam, so in seconds my camera and my lens were covered with the remains of foam. So, I decided to go to the upperdeck of the pier. 

Waves splashing against supporting pillars

Looking at my pictures I noticed a couple of things. The power of the sea, the wind pushing me away all the time, the sounds was lacking in my pictures. Therefore, I made a couple of videos with my iPhone. Below you see one of them.

They look much better, however, it still looks like a storm in a glass of water, in a confined, shallow frame. Also, zooming in both with the camera and the iPhone compresses the whole scene, making it very shallow. So, it does not give the feeling of being part of it.

Waves during stormy weather

To experiment, I went to the front of the pier to take a picture where the water below me and the horizon were sharp (wide angle and large depth-of-field). Here it was really stormy and the wind was really unpredictable, my camera was shaking in all directions (fast shutter speed). Because of all this I chose for zoomlens at 28mm, aperture f/9, shutter speed 1/640sec, and ISO 320. It gives you a better feeling of being part of it. 

Wide-angle view of the incoming waves

At home, I was a bit disappointed in the raw pictures: too white, no contrast, and too flat. So, I did quite a bit of processing: added a bit of light, added a lot of contrast, lowered the highlights a bit, added a lot of black, and added some blue, and sharpened the image. You can see the result in the one above. 

“Het Oerd” on Ameland

Beach near lighthouse

It seems that this year the islands in the Waddenzee are my favourite holiday destination. After Vlieland (twice) and Terschelling, we visited Ameland together with friends. After arrival we picked up our bikes (regular bikes). It turned out that our friends had hired e-bikes, so after the first day —we took a ride through the hilly dunes—we changed our regular bikes for e-bikes as well. Ameland with its magnificent dunes is hilly and it is of course always windy. A good reason to hire e-bikes. 

The second day we explored by bike the western part of Ameland: the dunes along the North Sea, the beach near the lighthouse (some of us went swimming), the village Hollum, and the tidal mud flat (“Het Wad”) on the southern side. 

The tidal mud flat, called “Het Wad”

The third day we walked along the North Sea beach, where we enjoyed the cloudy scenery: ranging from white to dark grey clouds with a deep blue sky. Really beautiful. After the hike we took the bike to the village Buren to have lunch.

Clouds above the North Sea

The last day we went to an area called “Het Oerd”, which is on the eastern side of the island. We biked all the way to the “Oerdblinkert”, which is the highest dune (+24 meters). Below are all the pictures I took at Ameland that are accepted by Dreamstime.

 

Our dinner highlight was Het Witte Paard in Nes, a cousy restaurant that serves excellent food.

Before going to the islands I thought they would all be more or less the same. Nothing could be further from the truth. After this week, Ameland has become one of my favourite islands. 

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