New To Digiscoping? Start Here – Digiscoping Guide
If you’ve ever been out in the field somewhere and you’ve witnessed something so spectacular, so amazing that you’d wished you could’ve captured that image on film, or better yet, on video, then it’s time you learned about digiscoping. Whatever you see can be captured forever either as a single image or as a moving image clip. Welcome to the awesome world of digiscoping.
What Is Digiscoping?
Digiscoping is the art of combining your spotting scope with a digital camera. Whether it be a digital camera or a digital phone with video capability, it can be connected to the spotting scope and you have then become a card carrying member of the digiscope society.
Imagine whilst filming that special scene, you have the ability to zoom in, up to 60 times closer. Think of the amount of extra detail you could see at 60, or even 45 times magnification. The real advantage here is shooting DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex)quality images, at a fraction of the cost using a DSLR camera with a massive telephoto lens would cost. A good spotting scope is capable of providing magnification that’s equal to a lens of between 1,250 to 3.000 mm!
How To Digiscope Successfully
The principle is a simple one, attach a digital camera to a spotting scope and start clicking, and in theory that will work. But 98% of your images will be discarded. Let’s face it we discard quite a few images anyway, but 98% is too high even for the perfectionists out there. So let’s look at the correct way to practise the art of digiscoping, it’s all about preparation.
Practise Your Shots
You’re probably a competent photographer, you might even be a great photographer, but until you can master using a digiscope your images will be of poor quality. Combining the spotting scope to your digital camera should be easy enough (there are plenty of spotting scopes that have an attachment purposely for DSLR cameras, and even some to connect to phones too). But joining 2 types of top quality kit together doesn’t make you a great photographer.
It’s all about taking as many shots as possible until you perfect that particular angle, image, light, shade, we could go on but you get the point. Learn how to use both bits of kit singly and combined. You need to obtain a good understanding of your equipment, and dual processing to obtain those top quality shots you’re after.
Weather And Climatic Conditions
For digiscoping, good light is of paramount importance, to allow for fast shutter speeds to capture that moment when the bird splashes water up over its head, and limit camera shake too. Remember too, that warm, humid days can create heat haze,which will reduce the quality of your shots. Strong gusts of wind will cause camera shake no matter how good your tripod is or how securely it’s attached to the ground.
Be Fully Prepared
The art of digiscoping is fully reliant on the LCD of your digital camera (or phone), be sure the batteries are fully charged before leaving home. Pack spare batteries too, in duplicate if possible. Extra battery packs are available for phones too and instant recharge pads, It’s too late once you’re in the field, miles from anywhere and your batteries die.
Do Your Research
This should probably be at the top of this list, if you don’t own a spotting scope or a digital camera, it’s time to do some serious research. Get online, search for relevant videos, articles and tutorials. Read as many independent articles as possible. Join a few forums for advice and information on the best tools and pieces of kit for the job. Compare as many items as you can before making that all important purchase.
Positioning Is All Important
The most important thing needed to take that perfect shot is light. You need enough light to light up the subject, and allow fast shutter speeds to eliminate image blur. The perfect light should be behind you and the subject matter to light up the subject so that you get details and not silhouette. Just by following this simple rule, you will get many perfect results.
Not All Shots Produce Great Images
It’s very likely that once you get home a good ¾s of your shots will be binned. But don’t let that get you down, that’s the beauty of digital photography. Imagine how it was back in the day, you took your shots, then waited at least a week for them to be developed only to find that out of 30 prints, 22 had to be binned. At least we find out instantaneously and there’s no actual waste to throw out. But the real joy comes from the ones that make the grade, out of 100 images shot that day, you have 25 decent images. Say 10 of those make the final cut, how good are they? And how good do you feel producing them?
Digital Image Software
Even those 25 shots from the 100 taken might still need tinkering. That’s where decent image software becomes vitally important. It’s very rare that you get the perfect image that needs no touching up at all. When you were researching for the perfect digital camera and spotting scope, you were probably bombarded with pop ups showing the best software for editing photographs. Editing software has also come a long way in recent years and you owe it to yourself to buy the best possible editing software as you can. Many people use photoshop but we’ll refer you back to our “Do Your Research” heading again.
The Joy Of Taking Part
Remember to take a moment while you’re sitting out there in the wild, studying nature, to just appreciate your surroundings. You are very privileged to be spending your time out amongst the natural world, just listening, looking and relaxing in the wonder that is planet earth. And if you have to bin all of the images from today’s little excursion, at least you spent a day out in the peaceful countryside.
A Word Of Warning
We live in the UK so there’s not too much out there in the wild back of beyond to cause us serious injury. But be aware of tree branches or twigs if you don’t have your wits about you, it’s possible to walk into a branch, or get poked in the eye with a twig. Whilst on the subject of eyes, never look directly at the sun through the lens of either your camera or your scope, you can cause serious injury and think of the embarrassment you’ll feel at the emergency centre.
Choosing The Right Equipment
While we decided from the beginning not to get too technical in this post, there are a few simple tips that you might find useful. Firstly, using an angled neck spotting scope can result in a sturdier tripod. This is because of the lower centre of gravity of an angled neck scope and the resultant lower positioning of the tripod.
Secondly, some spotting scopes don’t appear to have an attachment area for the camera, there are a range of DSLR camera adapters and universal camera adapters available at pretty reasonable prices.
As you are not using one of the extremely large and heavy lenses for capturing nature shots, using a spotting scope allows you to use a much smaller (and cheaper) tripod.
If you’re using a smartphone for digiscoping just attach the phone to the scope, it will automatically adjust itself to configure how to work.
There are adapters available for pretty much every camera or phone on the market today so it will be easy to correctly attach your camera or phone to your spotting scope with absolute ease.
Frequently Asked Questions
To Automatically focus, first focus the scope on the object, then allow the camera to autofocus through the scope. Select the “spot AF” to choose the bit of the object to focus the camera. Autofocus works best on a bright part of the image.
Digiscoping is just a matter of connecting a digital camera or phone to a spotting scope or telescope using an adapter that can be bought from any camera or spotting scope store for a reasonable sum of money. This allows the user to take images at high magnification that would be impossible by hand due to the amount of natural shaking that would affect the image.
It is possible to digiscope using binoculars but the higher the power of magnification you use, the better the image that can be produced. As spotting scopes can magnify up to 60 times, the scope for creating amazing images is mindblowing.