In our last looks at hiking gear part one and part two, we got our gear paired down pretty well for weight but still having lots of options to make interesting images. One piece of gear we haven’t talked about yet is the macro lens and extension tubes.

Get close with macro

A 45mm macro lens allows frame filling with buds that were the size of my thumbnail

It’s often a photography truism that if you want to make a better photograph get closer. In the case of making different nature images that means filling the frame. That can be problematic with optics limiting the focusing distance. The highest quality option is to get your hands on a macro lens.

While that may be the best it is also the most expensive. I chose a 45mm Leica Macro-Elmarit f/2.8 lens. One reason is the lens can also do double duty as a very nice portrait lens. The field of view on a 45mm micro four-thirds lens is similar to a 90mm on a full-frame sensor, making it great for head and shoulders as well as 3/4-length people photos. If I can find something that does more than one thing well, I’ll always try to make that the item that I get.

Get close another way: Extension tubes

Photographed with long lens and extension tube

You can get close in a different way. While it is not technically macro photography you can play with frame filling imagery with a much less expensive but effective way using extension tubes. An extension tube moves the lens element further away from the sensor or film plane. This allows for a closer focusing distance thereby filling more of the frame with your subject.

This combination is the Leica 100-400mm lens (similar to the field of view of a 200-800mm in full-frame) with a 16mm extension tube.

Put them both together

A ‘macro-macro’ image of a flower bud the size of my pinky fingernail

I’ve been experimenting with what I call macro-macro. I add an extension tube or two to the macro lens, which allows me to get in even closer to my subject. The image above was made with a 45mm macro lens. Additionally a 10mm and 16mm set of extension tubes was added. The bud in this photo was tiny and filled the frame for a totally different look.

Gear suggestion

The extension tubes I recommend for value vs. build in the micro four-thirds line is the Vello brand at about $75. If you have a different model or type of camera you can also find other extension. Here are additional some extension tube choices to find your best fit.

Making macro images calls for having your camera mounted on a tripod. It is essential. One tripod I have found that is lightweight and a solid support comes from Benro under the name MeFoto. The tripods come with an Arca-Swiss ball head. There are various sizes, but I work with the Roadtrip model for size to weight ratio considerations.

Yours in Creative Photography, Bob