Photographing Frogs with Extension Tubes

In has been a couple of years since I had the opportunity to photograph frogs at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington Ontario. Since photographing frogs with extension tubes involves a number of considerations, I always find this to be both an enjoyable and challenging experience.  

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 42.7mm, f/5.6, 1/100, ISO-3200, extension tube used

The first challenge is dealing with the glare on the glass display cases as well as the always-too-present fingerprints and grime from young visitors.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 44.2mm, f/8, 1/125, ISO-3200, extension tube used

This can be mitigated to a great extent by shooting as close as possible to the glass surface of the display case and choosing shooting angles which have a minimum of glare present. It also helps to wear dark, monochromatic clothing as your own apparel can create glare in your images.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 57.2mm, f/5.6, 1/60, ISO-1600, extension tube used

There are often quite distracting reflections on the eyes of the frogs which, depending on the use of your images, may necessitate quite a bit of work in post. While I did not spend time to correct these types of reflections in all of the images in this article, I did use the burn tool in CS6 with the image above to minimize the distracting reflections.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 30mm, f/5.6, 1/100, ISO-3200, extension tube used

Another challenge is finding a frog that is in the right spot in the display case that provides an interesting view. Often times this involves switching out extension tubes or stacking them to achieve the correct focusing distance and desired level of magnification effect.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, f/5.6, 1/60, ISO-1600, extension tube used

Most of us fall into habits of behaviour and how we choose to use our photography gear is no exception. My favourite lens to use with extension tubes is the 1 Nikon 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6. I tend to forget that there are occasions when that particular lens is not the best choice. An example is the image above which was captured with the 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 94.2mm, f/5.6, 1/80, ISO-1600, extension tube used

This lens has a shorter minimum focusing distance than the 30-110mm which can be problematic at times. When a subject is pressed up tight against the display glass this issue turns into an advantage. Rather than stacking tubes to shorten the minimum focusing distance, swapping out a lens on the extension tube is sometimes a better solution as you can see with the image above.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 109.8mm, f/5.6, 1/50, ISO-1600, extension tube used

I also found a few occasions when having my 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 in my bag came in very handy as I needed a bit longer minimum focusing distance as demonstrated by the photograph above.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 64mm, f/8, 1/80, ISO-3200, extension tube used

Regardless of the camera gear we may own, there are some key things to remember when using extension tubes. The first is that we lose light based on the length of the tube used and with every tube we add. The second is that increasing the magnification effect of our lenses by using extension tubes makes any optical imperfections of our lenses more apparent.  Matching up the best combination of extension tube and lens helps us get the best performance out of our camera gear.

Technical Note:
All photographs were captured hand-held using Nikon 1 gear as noted in the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO OpticsPro 11, CS6 and the Nik Collection. All images in this article are displayed as 100% captures without any cropping done to them.

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4 thoughts on “Photographing Frogs with Extension Tubes”

  1. After seeing your photographs on photographylife.com, I decided that I’m going to take my wife there to snap some frogs, too. We only have a 16-55mm and 55-230mm lenses and a single extension tube, so I’m not sure how successful we will be.

    1. Hi JH,
      I’d suggest doing a few tests before you go to help establish what kind of minimum focusing distances that your lenses will produce using the extension tube. I imagine that the 55-230 should work well, especially towards the long end of the zoom…not sure about the 16-55. When you visit the RGB you’ll follow some signs to the frog display and they will lead you down some stairs to the main display area. Before you go down those stairs you can also find some additional displays if you go to your left or right. I missed these other small displays during my first visit.
      Tom

  2. Wow! Herp fans will love this one. Sure Nikon and RBG Burlington will as well.
    Great shots and helpful advice. Thank you.

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