As photographers we often try to anticipate the weather when planning to capture specific images. Sometimes Mother Nature cooperates, and sometimes not. I was out today using some extension tubes to capture a few images of insects and flowers. Ideally I would have preferred a nice calm day, rather than the strong winds I faced today.
When dealing with windy conditions obviously one of the most important factors to consider when using extension tubes is your shutter speed, increasing it with the strength of the wind.
As a part of the exposure triangle, our shutter speed is only one consideration. We have to balance that with the creative aspects of our intended image in terms of our aperture setting and related depth-of-field, as well as how much noise and image degradation we are willing to tolerate in terms of the ISO we are using (dynamic range and colour depth are both reduced as higher ISOs are used).
I was out shooting in a public garden today in Dundas Ontario. Much of it was in very bright sunlight. Other areas were in light to medium shade. The wind was also quite variable with some of the more open areas subject to strong winds on a fairly consistent basis. Other areas were somewhat protected and the wind wasn’t quite as significant a factor.
While I had gone to this location to photograph butterflies, there were very few to be found. I ended up focusing on bees and wasps, along with a few other critters.
I often shoot in Manual and let my ISO ‘float’ by using an auto setting…when photographing birds in flight for example. Today I decided that I wanted a bit more control of my ISO and I chose to shoot in Aperture priority, setting my ISO, and letting my shutter speed adjust as necessary. I kept an eye on my shutter speed of course, and if anything I likely used some speeds faster than I needed for some images. When using extension tubes in windy conditions it is always better to be too fast, than too slow.
I knew from doing post processing of Nikon 1 J5 images in the past that I was quite comfortable going as high as ISO-3200 for casual images. Experience also indicated that I’d use an aperture of either f/5.6 or f/8 depending on the subject matter when shooting with my MOVO extension tubes.
Using an aperture of f/8 does risk a bit of diffraction when using a smaller sensor camera, but for many of the images I was trying to capture I decided that a bit more depth-of-field was more important and I was willing to accept the trade-off.
I started my visit shooting at ISO-800 as this yielded a sufficiently fast shutter speed. A few minutes later the wind picked up, causing me to move to ISO-1600. After I added a second MOVO extension tube to my rig (I used a 21mm and a 16mm) I chose to move my ISO up even further to ISO-3200 as there is a loss of light penalty to be paid when using extension tubes.
It was a bit of a challenge to capture some images as the plants were thrashing about in the wind which also caused the bees, wasps and other insects to move more readily from flower to flower. In some cases I had to wait for the flower or stem to slow down its movement a bit before I could attempt to frame my photograph, acquire focus and capture my image. Throughout the day I had to coordinate the timing of my shutter release with the bobbing motion of the plants.
Additionally, in many cases I only had a second or two to frame and focus my image before the insect would move on to another flower or leaf.
I shot all of the images in this article hand-held using AF-S single auto focus and using Single Point AF. By anticipating my shots and presetting the location of my Single Point AF on the rear screen of my Nikon 1 J5 I was able to speed up my image capturing technique quite a bit and adjust to the windy conditions. While I would typically shoot at f/5.6 and place my single AF point on the head/eye of the subject insect, the strong winds and constant motion of the flowers and plants did not allow for the precise focusing I prefer.
I decided to switch to f/8 and do my best to get my single AF point at least on the body of the insect while it bobbed about in the wind. I still missed some shots but the added depth-of-field did help to compensate for the breezy conditions and helped to yield some acceptable images.
As you can imagine trying to frame images from the rear screen of my J5 in very bright sunlight can be a bit challenging at times. This has necessitated an adjustment in my technique. In the past I have used my wide-brimmed hat to help shade the rear screen while I’m composing images. This does take some extra time…a luxury I didn’t have today. By presetting my Single Point AF and using other reference points in my image as general composition guides I could get the approximate framing I needed to capture my shots even if I only had limited visibility on the rear screen of my J5. As a result I found that I didn’t have to use my hat as a camera sunshade at all during my visit.
Even though I was probably breaking some ‘rules’ by shooting my Nikon 1 J5 at f/8 with an ISO of 3200 for the majority of my photographs I came back from my outing with some usable images. Today was a good reminder that photography is often about making appropriate compromises based on the subject(s) we are photographing, the conditions we face, and the gear we are using.
Article and all images are Copyright 2016 Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, adaptation or reproduction of any kind is allowed without written consent. Photography Life is the only approved user of this article. If you see it reproduced anywhere else it is an unauthorized and illegal use.