It wasn’t that many years ago when an article on digital photography by Arthur Morris graced the pages of Living Bird (“Crossing the Digital Divide,” Summer
2003). Being diehard film addicts, my friend and fellow bird photographer Rich Wagner and I scoffed at the claims in the article, which promoted digital photography. We went so far as to write a lengthy letter to the editor in defense of film. I’m so happy that the letter was never published. I hate eating crow! Today, my only use of film lies in the thousands of images collected over the course of a lifetime, patiently resting in plastic sheets in file drawers, awaiting their turns for a trip to the scanner to become digitized.
Although most professional photographers use expensive single-lens-reflex digital cameras that look almost indistinguishable from their film-using predecessors, another way to go for folks interested in taking bird pictures for the sheer fun of it is digiscoping. At its most basic level, digiscoping is simply holding a small point-and-shoot digital up against the eyepiece of a spotting scope and snapping a picture (See “Digiscoping Revisited” by Kevin J. McGowan, Spring 2007). The big advantage is that you don’t have to buy an expensive telephoto lens. Since most avid birders already carry a scope and tripod, it’s just a matter of aiming and focusing the camera properly through the scope and holding it steady as you snap a picture of whatever bird you are viewing.
But how do you line up the camera quickly and keep it steady? People have come up with all kinds of solutions—holding the camera a certain way with their finger wrapped around the camera lens and scope eyepiece; using a variety of homemade adaptors; or buying a custom adaptor from an optics shop. The best one I’ve seen is the Zeiss Digital Camera Adaptor, which is hinged so you can move your camera out of the way when you want to look through your scope but then move it instantly into place to take a picture of the bird you’re viewing.
The setup I use with the adaptor employs a Zeiss Diascope 85 scope, a Bogen 3221 tripod with a 3130 head, a Sony DSC N-1 camera, and a shutter release cable (which is vital to minimize camera shake). The Sony camera is wonderful, and worthy of a review of its own. A touch screen focusing option allows you to touch the spot on the viewing screen that you want to be in focus, and it instantly becomes sharp, eliminating the possibility that your camera might automatically focus on a branch instead of the bird you want to photograph. As you can see in my picture of a Tufted Titmouse (see print edition), this setup produces incredibly rich images with unsurpassed feather detail. I’ll never go back to film!
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