Content & Photos © Bill Schmoker unless noted otherwise. Thanks for visiting- drop me a comment!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Digi-schmokin'

Update: I'm now using the Leica C-Lux 2 camera. Other than re-positioning my cable release, everything else works the same with my digiscoping rig as described below...

Note equipment update here...

I'm feeling like I have my new digiscoping rig dialed in now. While I prefer to use my DSLR rig (Nikon D2x + 200-400mm f/4 VR, etc.) for bird photography whenever possible, there are many situations where digiscoping still rules. For example, last weekend my dad Jim & I re-found a young Brown Pelican that has been hanging around Colorado's northern Front Range all summer. The Colorado Bird Records Committee wants documentation of this rarity, a process always made easier with a photo. Unfortunately, we were seeing the bird from over 1/2 a mile away, well beyond the practical range of the DSLR. While it won't make the next cover of National Geographic,
I could obtain an identifiable photo even at that extreme range with my digiscoping rig.

A couple of months ago, the supportive folks at Leica Sport Optics sent me their C-Lux 1 camera and Digital Adapter 2 to hook up with my APO-Televid scopes. The camera is pretty amazing- super fast start-up & focus speed, virtually no shutter lag, no vignetting beyond the widest zoom stop (and only minor corner vignetting then...), etc. Plus the LCD screen is really wide & bright, the camera is small, the pics are sharp, battery management is really good, and so on (can you tell that I like this camera?) The adapter is a little bulky but light, very easy to set up, and goes on and off the eyepiece quickly with a one-screw lock. Basically, once you have a bird in view it is only a matter of a few seconds to have the camera mounted and shooting. Here's an example of a preening Long-billed Curlew taken with this rig (and not at 1/2 mile away- more like 70 yards.):

Still, there were times when I missed the ability to fire the camera remotely. On a previous set-up, I had used a cable release bracket made by EagleEyeUK to fire my Nikon Coolpix 4500. After using the C-Lux 1 / Digital Adapter 2 rig for a while, I realized that by adding a simple aluminum extension on the top of the adapter, I could use a cable release to accomplish hands-off digiscoping (and thus minimize shake, the ultimate enemy of high-magnification photography.) To accomplish this on my new rig, I just used some thin aluminum bar stock, riveted it on the top of the adapter, and drilled a hole above the shutter to accept the cable release. I put a spot of self-adhesive felt on the shutter button so the cable release actuator wouldn't slip around, and used a small wood screw to taper the hole and have some starter threads for the cable release tip to bite into. Lastly, I slightly bent the aluminum bar down towards the shutter to compensate for the tendency of the cable release to push the thing up.

So now I'm feeling like I can worry about the bird, and not my equipment, when I'm digiscoping- a state of photographic nirvana. Jeff Bouton coined the term, "digi-schmokin'" when we were blasting pics left and right on our World Series of Birding digiscoping big day. I like the term, capturing the gestalt of digiscoping with confidence and success. With my new rig now dialed in, I'm confident I can get in the digi-schmokin' zone whenever I've got birds in my sights.

2 comments:

Amy said...

Nice to see that you've joined the bloggy world, Bill!

Gordon said...

Bill:

I am an amateur photographer of butterflies and birds. I am extremely excited about the new Leica technology. I just ordered the camera and will soon look into the telescoping attachment. I live in the Pinery near Parker, CO. Last night I saw a pair of Cerulean Warblers at Cherry Creek. Now I will get a clear picture of it, the blue grosbeaks, orchard orioles and other species that I see there -- but bird guide cook maps show CO is not in their range!

Thanks for the great site and info; please contact me if you are interested in doing a bird or butterfly photo shoot in this area. I am very involved with the area butterfly specialists. Our annual counts are coming up 4th of July week. I can e-mail the schedule to you if you are interested.

Sincerely,

Gordon Revey,
grevey@earthlink.net