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Improving photography skills with an extension tube

Recently I took my new Fujifilm MCEX-16 16mm Extension Tube to Keio Mogusaen.  That was where I gave them their first test run.  The results were rather disappointing as I got few keepers.  It was obvious I needed more practice.  On a Sunday morning after breakfast, I decided to go for a walk and take lots of photos.  I needed to improve my photography skills again.

camellia flower

What caused so many blurred flower photos at Mogusaen?

An extension tube offers so little depth of field.   When you are only a couple of centimeters from the flower, only a sliver will be in focus.  It doesn’t give much margin for error in macro photography, though.

FUJIFILM MCEX-16 16mm Extension Tube used to photograph flower filaments
FUJIFILM MCEX-16 16mm Extension Tube takes picture of white and yellow flower

I shot everything at f/8, which I use for bread and butter shots.  That is fine when you a couple of meters from your subject.   But for an unskilled macro photographer, it wasn’t enough.  And I wasn’t using a tripod.  Those two things were the cause of my problems, I’m sure.

How did I get more keepers with the extension tube?

This time I stopped down my lens.  Instead of working at f/8, I took most of my shots at f/14.  F/14 gave me more depth of field to work, but I had less light.  As I had a flash, that wasn’t a problem.

grape hyacinth
yellow anthers and filaments of flower taken with FUJIFILM MCEX-16 16mm Extension Tube

Once I got everything uploaded to the computer, I saw I got more keepers.  From nearly 200 photos, I got 40 that satisfied me.  Notice I didn’t say happy.  But many YouTube videos will warn you of this.  Many experts say that the keeper rate for handheld macro can be only 10%.

mimosa flower

Where did I go?

As I live in Takaido, I thought Zenpukuji Park might be good.  It is only a short walk from my apartment.  On arrival, I discovered it only had some plum blossoms.  That will change in a couple of weeks when the cherry blossoms bloom.  Until then, it is pretty green.

pink flower photographed with FUJIFILM MCEX-16 16mm Extension Tube

Next, I went to Hamadayama.  That was much better.  Many people have tiny gardens in front of their houses.  And you’ll find many pots and planters filled with flowers hanging off walls.  Taking photos of them is no problem if you don’t step onto the property.

pink and yellow Primrose flower

The last place I went was the garden of my apartment building!  A couple of my fellow tenants are genuine green thumbs.  I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never noticed their work.  But, from now, I’ll be visiting there more often.  They have done a great job.

pink flower with pink filaments taken with FUJIFILM MCEX-16 16mm Extension Tube_

Wrapping up

In short, I had a great morning.  I saw a marked improvement with the number of keeper photos I got by stopping down.  Most were acceptable, but I was especially delighted with a couple.  My next step might be to buy a tripod suitable for macro photography.


Anyway, I had a great time using a flower walking to practice using my extension tube.  Next time, I might go to a real garden like Shinjuku Gyoen or Koishikawa Botanical Garden.  If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

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