Friday, February 24, 2006

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Celebration 6

Jeff Bouton talked about digiscoping, the technique that combines a digital camera with a spotting scope to take pictures of birds. “These two pieces never were meant to work together, but they let you capture those moments in the field,” he said.

Digiscoping is particularly helpful when you see an unusual bird or one that stumps you in the field. With a picture of that unidentifiable bird, you can take your time later in figuring out its species name.

Another benefit of digiscoping: the greater magnification provided by the spotting scope. “You can really reach out and touch something that you can’t reach with a standard SLR,” Bouton said. Also, the magnification allows you to remain a greater distance from the birds and reduces the risk of disturbing them.

The magnification, however, does carry some requirements, such as a stable tripod, a stable camera adapter and preferably a cable release or remote release for the camera’s shutter button. Bouton also recommended choosing:
* a scope with a larger objective lens to allow more light to the scope’s eyepiece and the camera
* a scope with glass that eliminates chromatic aberration (aka color fringing)
* a fixed spotting-scope eyepiece that allows a wider field of view
* one of the newer models of digital cameras that has TFT for a more useful LCD, no more than 4-power optical zoom, a short start-up time and minimal shutter lag. For camera tips, he recommended Digital Photography Review.

Digiscoping can’t replace SLR cameras, Bouton said, but the quality of the images continually improves. That point became apparent to me during WildBird’s 2005 photo contest when a digiscoped image of a Purple Honeycreeper by David Drake received first prize in the international category.

This year, the photo contest includes a digiscoping category (which, ironically, replaces the international section). You can find contest details in the March/April and May/June issues.

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