Earlier this month, I’d purchased a set of extension tubes and badly needed practice using them, so I dropped what I was doing, grabbed the camera, slapped on the Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 with the 12mm, 20mm and 36mm tubes (she said the mantis was about 5/8-inch, so if I was going to get a face shot, I knew I’d need as much help as I could get) and followed her outside.
I spent most of the morning experimenting with different exposure modes and techniques. I posted the preliminary shots on my Facebook profile to get my friends to chime in, and a couple gave me some good suggestions on different things to try.
Here are the lessons learned from today’s work:
- Use a tripod with the ballhead loose, so you can move around but still have some stability. What I keep telling my students was true again today—no matter how steady your hands are, your tripod is steadier. You still need a fairly fast shutter speed, but the tripod helps set your focus point. A monopod might have been more flexible, but I didn’t feel like moving my ballhead over to it. Next time.
- You’ll need a fairly deep depth of field. I started out at f/5.6, went to f/8 and eventually ended up at f/11.
- Set the ISO as high as you can tolerate (noise-wise) to keep the shutter speed as fast as possible. I haven’t bent my head around the focal length math with all the extension tubes (anyone want to give it a shot?) but I know the “1/focal length” rule always applies in setting the shutter speed, so I just went as high as I could.
- My instincts as a wildlife and portrait photographer told me the goal was to get sharp eyes no matter what, so I sacrificed everything else to get those. I like a lot of bokeh in shots like these anyway.