The first stop during our recent extended photography tour was the town of Frankenmuth Michigan. My wife specifically wanted to visit Bronner’s, which is known as the world’s largest Christmas store. While she had an very enjoyable time browsing and shopping, I had the chance to use my Deluxe Vello Extension Tubes for Nikon 1 to photograph a Halloween diorama that was on display at the store.
My wife found my interest in the Halloween diorama quite funny saying, “Only you would visit one of the most famous Christmas stores in the world and spend your time photographing a Halloween related display.”
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
I was intrigued by the small-sized characters and the terrific job that the employees at the store had done to put the diorama together. In order to provide you with a frame of reference the images above and below will give you an idea about the display.
I captured all of my Halloween diorama images hand-held using a Nikon 1 J5 with a 1 Nikon 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 zoom, and a 16 mm Deluxe Vello Extension Tube for Nikon 1. I find this combination very light and easy to handle and simply love using it for this type of photography.
I am often attracted to details I find around me and the Halloween diorama was no exception.
I found the faces of the various characters to be quite expressive and I also enjoyed the level of craftsmanship on the individual pieces.
The lighting was not the best and I ended up shooting mainly at ISO-3200 and used wider apertures than I typically might have if the lighting would have been brighter.
It was also a great opportunity to practice my hand-holding technique as I often had to shoot at slower shutter speeds. As long as I could find a small area to place one elbow to help anchor my Nikon 1 J5 I found that I could shoot at 1/20 of a second and get some reasonable images.
Anything slower than that was beyond my hand-holding skill level. I did manage one ‘OK’ image at 1/13 of a second, but none of my attempts at a shutter speed slower than that were successful.
Where there was no opportunity to brace one of my elbows on a solid structure I tried my best to shoot from hip level and anchor my J5 into my body, and control my breathing to help reduce potential camera shake. This approach produced a few usable images.
I used single point auto-focus, placing it on what I considered the most critical part of each image. Being able to place the single AF point anywhere on the rear screen of my J5 was very helpful.
When using extension tubes one has to remember that not only do you lose some light, but also some depth-of-field depending on the number of tubes used. I decided to use one Deluxe Vello tube only – the 16mm.
As I studied the Halloween diorama certain characters or lighting would catch my eye and I would attempt to capture the character at the angle that would best represent its main features. I also looked for the natural ‘flow’ of the piece. For example, if it had a decided right to left visual flow I would place it on the right-hand side of the frame.
There were some additional figures on display in an adjacent merchandising area and I did take a few photographs in this area. Often I had to shoot from a lower angle in an attempt to get the background I desired.
I really enjoyed spending time photographing the Halloween diorama. It was good practice in terms of shooting at slower shutter speeds and using the Deluxe Vello Extension Tubes for Nikon 1. Another benefit was the additional attention I paid to depth-of-field when composing my images.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about the Nikon 1 system, you may want to have a look at our eBook, The Little Camera That Could. It illustrates the capability of the Nikon 1 system through hundreds of original photographs. There is also commentary and tips about the Nikon 1 system. The cost is $9.99 Canadian.
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