19 January 2011
I was birding at the Cairns botanical gardens, tripod slung over my shoulders. Atop this was my companion Swarovski 80HD spotting scope, which I have used extensively now for several years.
Digiscoping is a term which I am familiar with as it pops up here and there but for some reason I never took it serious enough to actually try it. Well, that was up until recently.
Affordable cameras nowadays sport High Definition (HD) Video capabilities and capture high megapixel pictures. A few years ago, the sort of long lens that enables close up bird photography and video, was regarded as professional gear. Now, a combination of scope and a relatively inexpensive camera fulfills requirements for any amateur. I couldn’t resist the temptation to give it a shot.
Since I already had the scope and eyepiece, the only things left to get was a digiscoping adapter and camera.
After a bit of research on the net I decided to go with the Canon EOS 550D digital SLR – though with the Swarovski Universal Camera Adapter (UCA), almost any camera would do. The 550D is light-weight and inexpensive, plus I already own lenses which can be used with it. Next thing to do was to convince the boss! If anyone of is struggling to come up with a plausible and sound argumentation to get the formal approval, this is what worked for me: “honey, this is an essential and worthwhile investment, no, it is a necessity because we can (also) take beautiful family videos and pictures, …”
Back to where we started. I’d just shot HD video of a Little Kingfisher at Cairns Botanical Garden – it was my first successful use of the gear. Fantastic! I was walking away with tripod, scope, Universal Camera Adapter (UCA) and camera on my shoulders. A woman walked past and exclaimed “do you think that’s big enough?” I replied, “I’m a bloke, the lens is never big enough!”
Isn’t it true though? It doesn’t matter how big the lens is, we always seem to want to get that little bit closer and most of us at some point, will have been disappointed by how small a bird appears in the final image taken.
But I digress. Fact is, bird and wildlife photography in general is very difficult in particular without a long lens. The price for say a 600-800mm lens is upwards of US $10,000 and that does not include the top of the range camera to go along with it in order to tickle out all capabilities it has to offer.
If it is not the price, which is well out of reach for any ordinary birder here in Australia, it is the pure thought of having to carry several additional kilos of glass around in the field that daunts people.
This video of Little Kingfisher was taken at as distance of about 30m. The great thing about the UCA is the ability to take shots as you see them through the scope. This can mean zooming up to 20x!
For more examples of digiscoping adventures, check out Dale Forbes’ blogs: http://birdingblogs.com/2010/daleforbes/digiscoping-vultures
Find out more
Swarovski digiscoping gear and advice from the starter to the expert is available from staff of the Bintel stores in Melbourne and Sydney. Bintel stocks a full range of spotting scopes and accessories. Visit the website http://www.bintel.com.au or call (02) 9518 7255.