Improving photography skills with an extension tube

Recently I took my new Fujifilm MCEX-16 16mm Extension Tube to Keio Mogusaen. I gave them their first test run there. 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.

What caused the blurred flower photos at Mogusaen?

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

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.

How did I get more keepers with an 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.

Once I got everything uploaded to the computer, I saw I got more keepers. From nearly 200 photos, I got 40 which 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%.

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 green.

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.

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.

Wrapping up

In short, I had a great morning.  I saw a marked improvement in 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 on my flower walk to practice using my extension tube.  Next time, I might go to a real garden like Shinjuku Gyoen or Koishikawa Botanical Garden.  That might be real fun.

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