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.
Wonderful images Thomas. How do you address the focusing issue when it’s windy?
I use a fast shutter speed and use a combination of adjusting zoom lens focal length to achieve approximate focus, then leting my Nikon 1 V2’s fast single point AF grab focus for me as I time my shutter release to the bobbing motion of the plants.
Hi, Judit. An extension tube is a tube without glass that you mount in between your camera and any lens. One of the advantages of using extension tubes is the fact that you can use it on all lenses. This tube thus increases the distance of the lens to the camera (sensor). This increase in length will enlarge the projection of the picture on the sensor. The further away the bigger the picture and the smaller the depth of field (DOF) and unfortunately also the less light will be transmitted. I bought myself in the beginning a set of automatic extension tubes from Kenko. Automatic means that all functions of setting between the camera and the lens are retained. So the light values and Aperture values set on the camera will be communicated to the lens. Now I have bought myself a Sigma 105mm Macro lens and don’t make that much use of the extension tubes anymore but together with an extension tube the results are phenomenal. The problem with DOF will always remain though. I hope this explains it for you. Success.
Thanks for adding to the discussion Hans!
Thanks Hans. I thought tubes had some sort of magnifying glass in them.
Looks like I’m the only one who has no clue what an extenstion tube is… :|
Fantastic images though!
Thanks for the positive comment Judit!
Very nice article.
I own Nikon D90 with 18-105 kit lens. I mostly shoot flowers. As you may be knowing with a 18-105 kit lens I can’t get close enough to capture minute details of flowers or insects. What options do I have? Can I use extension tubes? If so can you recommend one please that fits 18-105 lens
I no longer shoot with or own any DSLR gear so unfortunately I’m not the best person to ask for a recommendation regarding extension tubes. Generally speaking buying tubes with metal mounts is preferred. Kenko tubes seem to get decent reviews from owners. They also report that communication between the camera and the lens works well. The body on the Kenko tubes is made of plastic but the lens you are planning to use them with isn’t a large, heavy lens so I imagine the tubes should be secure enough. Perhaps some other readers can comment and provide you with some additional insights.
Incredible photos! I most likely couldn’t get photos half this good with no wind at all. You are a master!
I’m glad you enjoyed the images Joni! Thank you for your generous comment.
What kind of light did you use ?
All of the images in the article were shot without any kind of additional lights or flash….just natural sunlight.
Wonderful images. Beautiful detail!
Thank you David!
Excellent photography, Tom!
I appreciate the supportive comment Vern!
Top shelf, Tom!
Thanks, those are fantastic images for the conditions you described. What I would like to know though are the lengths of the extension tubed you used normally they start with 12 20 and 36mm I am curious which one you used for every shot.
My MOVO extension tubes for Nikon 1 come in a set of three: 10mm, 16mm and 21mm. I didn’t keep track of extension tube use by individual image. from memory, any of the images shot at ISO-800 or ISO-1600 were done with a 21mm tube. The images shot at ISO-3200 would have had the 21mm and 16mm stacked together.