Digiscoped favorites                                                                                         gallery 2
by Don Roberson
all bird photos digiscoped in the wild
all shots with an Olympus Camedia 560, 3.2 megapixel,
cheap automatic camera, though a Leica Trinovid scope
One of the biggest problems with digiscoping is that the subject must almost always be stationary. It is not possible to follow a bird in flight and snap a digiscoped shot, or at least it is not possible with my equipment. The telescope is on a tripod to lessen shake. First, one must find the subject in the scope and get it perfectly focused. Secondly, one must set up the camera, hold it up to the scope (I handhold all my shots), find it in the camera's viewfinder, compose the photo to lessen vignetting or for artistic purposes, and then snap the shutter. My cheap camera has a half-second or so delay between the final push of the shutter and the actual exposure. So it is very hard to photograph birds that are constantly on the move.... and yet, sometimes it can be done. Here are a couple of examples.
juvenal Chestnut-backed Chickadee at Pescadero SP, San Mateo Co., 1 Aug 2004
While waiting for Dan Singer to show up to do some herping, I observed that a family party of chickadees was constantly returning to a few seed-bearing heads of a particular weedy plant. This was just serendipity, and it was not all that hard to simply focus on a specific plant head and wait for another chickadee to land there to feed. The half-second or so delay in the shutter met that a number of shots were missed or fuzzy, but among the 20 or so shots attempted, this single one was acceptable.
Bushtit at Zmudowski SB, Monterey Co., 11 Dec 2004
Bushtits are fairly hopeless birds to try to digiscope. They are only 4 inches long or so, and constantly on the move in their chattering little flocks. Yet this is an actual full frame shot. I think I had been trying to focus on one bird at one spot on a little bush, and another bird happened to land right there and look at me when the shutter went. I had carefully focused on the exact center of the frame to avoid getting that near seed pod as the focal point. I've learned that if you hold the shutter down halfway and then move the frame, you can change the primary focal plane. In ordinary autofocus, the camera would focus on the nearest object (the seed pod) and the bird behind would be out of focus. Notice just how narrow a depth of field this type of photography has; the tail is out of focus while the head and breast are in focus.
Say's Phoebe at Salinas, 11 Dec 2004
Despite all the limitations of digiscoping, it does have the advantage of giving fine detail images through a very inexpensive camera if you have a high quality scope. One can study all the details of this underwing, for example, although one could never see these details in the field. The bird preens its underwing only for a second or two. I was just lucky to have the wing full-spread in this shot. Like both the above photos in this gallery, this is a full-frame shot when I am as close to the bird as I can reasonably approach. I just moved very slowly and stopped several times for a series of shots before I got close enough for this one. I was lucky that the phoebe kept coming back to the same perch on the open levee. My prior attempts to creep up on Say's Phoebes have not been as successful.
And finally, after focusing on a series of little things for this gallery, here's something a bit larger.....
pinnacle east of Grandview Pt., Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, 27 Nov 2004
I am impressed by the quality of the landscape shots taken by this pocket-sized digital camera. Here we have a view from the South Rim of Grand Canyon, and the camera handled many variables with which I would have had a hard time using my old 35mm film camera. It captured the snow on the canyon's edge, the warmth of the near walls, and the purple hues of the distant canyon, all very nicely under threatening skies. Its a pretty picture: we can enjoy it here without standing in the freezing cold and biting wind that somewhat dampened our enthusiasm for standing outside on this particular Thanksgiving weekend in Arizona.



Page created 12 Dec 2004