I've recently acquired two new pieces of equipment: a flash, and extension tubes for macro photography "on the cheap". I bought a Canon 580 EX II flash a few weeks ago, but I haven't really used it all that much. I haven't really had the opportunity to use it, and when I do have the opportunity I'm afraid to use it because I haven't used it enough. A chicken and egg situation that I must resolve. Otherwise that wonderful piece of equipment is going to be a complete waste. I've tried taking a few photos of Richa with it, and have been learning how to use wall bounce to create a nice, pleasing, balanced light. Overall, it has turned out to be impressively easy and straightforward. The next time I have a chance to use the flash, I am not going to hold back.
Today I also picked up a set of Kenko extension tubes. Extension tubes are an interesting piece of equipment. They fit on the lens, between the lens and the camera, basically adding some air. This causes the focal distance of the lens to be reduced, and gives the lens much greater magnification. The lens at this point can no longer focus to infinity, but only within a very short range from the lens. With a 50mm lens, the focal range of the lens is only a few inches, and drops to only a couple of inches if you use all the extension tubes. The photo quality is surprisingly good, but I now see why it is essential to have a decent flash for macro photography. The amount of light available is so small, you effectively have to choose between having reasonable depth of field, and having a reasonable exposure time. With a tripod, this setup will work pretty well for still subjects, such as flowers. But I can't imagine using this setup for insects. At some point I will have to see if it's possible to set up the external flash off camera and use it for macro photography. Canon's twin light and ring light are fairly expensive pieces of gear, with very specialized use. This is not how I want to spend my photography budget.