Two days ago at Sandhouse Lane Nature Reserve I watched a fellow snapper using a close focussing ring on a long telephoto lens (500mm in his case). I had discounted our old close focussing rings ‘cos I had tried them on my 17-85mm digital lens and they had not fitted. Digital lenses foul older non-digital mounts and will not fit. I thought no more of it. However, my brain jumped out of neutral with the sudden realization that my trusty old 75-300mm IS lens is not a digital-specific lens. I could try the same close focussing trick. Yeah! Back to Sandhouse Lane.
For this attempt I decided to try the middle-sized ring of our set of three: 21mm. This seemed to get my focus distance down from the “naked” 1.5m to about 1.2m. With a close focussing ring I can’t focus on infinity but I wouldn’t want to. Just for a little focussing practice, since this is all a manual exercise rather than automatic, I tried zooming in on some blissfully stationary flora, ragwort in this case. Of course, the fly was moving but not much. With a little judicious cropping I found myself rather liking the result (right). Carol thought the picture would be better if the fly were looking into the frame but it’s looking the way it felt like looking. One has to go with what one can.
Enough of practicing on static subjects and on with the main, more mobile subjects. Since it was perching very prettily, I couldn’t resist yet another shot of what I think is a female Common Darter (left). The purpose, after all, was to get more detailed shots using the lens ring rather than to find new subjects. I was using f11 (which gave me 1/500th) but even so, with this set up the depth of field is very narrow and focussing is a bear; sway a little on your feet and you’ve lost it. Eventually I began trying f16 and here’s what the business end of a Common [Ed: correction, 2010-02-08] Ruddy Darter looks like (right) when it stayed still for long enough, which, of course, mostly it didn’t. I may need some more practice before trying a larger focussing ring to get closer still, assuming the subjects would actually let me, that is.
Maybe because the sun was out, there was more courtship and mating activity going on over and around the pool so I removed the close focussing ring – there was no way I could focus on anything fast moving with that – and chanced my arm again. With the naked 300mm lens shots at these distances have to be heavily cropped (this shot is about 25% of the frame) and so get a little more fuzzy but here’s the best of the bunch showing a pair flying in the so-called tandem formation for a spot of ovipositing. Let’s face it, with the speed these pairs fly, my focussing is at best a swift grab, something of a guess. Worth a try, though, when you’re not wasting expensive celluloid. “They’re just reusable pixels, guv’ner.”