Tip of the week – getting closer

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World © Geoff Wilkinson – All rights reserved

Interesting stuff last weekend. If you follow me on twitter @GeoffWilkinson7, you will know that while the sun was shining outside and people were sunbathing and barbecuing, I was in my little studio crashing out dozens of still life’s. Actually it was quite a challenging project, lots of things to be photographed ranging from very small to about A4 size. With so many to do how to go about it with the minimum of fuss and lighting changes ?

I have a 60mm f2.8 Nikon micro lens, a great lens which I really like for doing close up stuff. In this case to photograph the really small pieces I was in so close that I was a} blocking the light source and b} it was very difficult to work without tripping over the lighting stands. As an aside, the 60mm is also a great portrait lens on a cropped frame sensor. So there you are two problems to be overcome to make working speedy and comfortable. What I needed was distance from my subject and flexibility to shoot large and small objects without too much messing around lens wise.

The answer came packed away in my smaller Domke backpack, don’t these Domkes ever wear out? In one of the compartmentalised sections I had a set of Kenko extension tubes, I bought them a year or so ago but had never really used them as I had the micro lens. There are three tubes in the set, 36, 20 and 12mm, they can be used singly, all together or in any combination and it’s very handy that they retain autofocus on the camera. So the tubes would let the lens focus closer but what lens? I took the F2.8 80/200mm Nikon zoom from ‘the beast’, which is in fact my large Domke bag, chose the middle tube, 20mm, plugged it onto the lens and then the whole combination onto my Nikon D80. Mounted on my Manfrotto tripod the idea worked perfectly, I could use the lens to zoom to fill the frame and the extension tube allowed me to get close enough for the smallest object. It did involve moving the tripod back and forth depending on the size of the object being photographed. However, it always kept me a comfortable working distance so I didn’t become entangled with the lights. Perhaps not the most conventional use of extension tubes using them with a long zoom but hey it worked. It’s always worth trying something new.

As you can see from the picture at the top of the page I was using an Elinchrom D-Lite 4it flash with a white shoot through umbrella and then various reflectors and mirrors to bounce the light around. I also chucked in a Nikon SB900 flash unit on very low power as a fill light on some of the shots. I triggered the Elinchrom using their great little Skyport unit which sits in the hot shoe of the camera. You may also notice in the background an Apple computer, for still life studio jobs I try and shoot ‘tethered’ so I can see the picture on the screen as soon as it’s shot.

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So what was I shooting? Well I’d love to tell you, but if I did i’d have to….. I’m sure you know how the rest of this saying goes. Suffice to say there will be a whole new adventure starting in the Gallery next month, you’ll just have to wait and see!

Technical info: all illustration pictures on this page shot with a Nikon D7000 handheld using either the 60mm f2.8 Nikon lens or the f3.5/f4.5 10/24mm Nikon zoom. The shutter speed was 1/100 of a second and the aperture was at f11 for the picture of the tubes and f4.5 for the overall picture. The ISO was 200.

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