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The Idiot’s Guide to Digiscoping

August 9, 2007

We recently purchased a new camera, a really nice one. It’s a point and shoot but it has a 10x optical zoom, so things tend to be really clear even at the high magnification. Needless to say, this makes it a lot more useful for taking pictures of birds, and with the 7.1 megapixels I’m able to crop even distant pictures and they retain their sharpness. It’s a lot of fun and I was fooling around with it on the recent trip to the beach. I’m excited to try to take better bird photos but I’m still figuring out the process and I’m rather slow at it. Gulls made great subjects as they were common and tended to stay in one place for a long time. You can see how I did here, clicking on any of these picture should make them really big.

Here’s the first photo of my subject taken at 10x from about 50m away. A Laughing Gull sure, but not much else is evident.

Photo number 2, taken through my scope and uncropped. I have a zoom eyepiece for my scope, great for birding but not so much for digiscoping as I get that ring around the photo, called vignetting. The zoom was set at 20x and the camera at 1x. I couldn’t really zoom a whole lot closer on scope or camera as I lost a fair amount of light and the picture would come out with odd dark splotches. I think that if I want to do any digiscoping as photography rather then as documentation I’d need a wide angle eyepiece that would allow more light in so I could up the magnification on the camera and avoid much of the vignetting problem. Does that make sense? I don’t know, I’m still new to this.

Pic 3, playing around with the camera I was able to zoom in a bit. This is about the max I can get before the quality goes to hell. But you can see the bird pretty well, it looks to be an adult starting to molt, the feathers around the bill have gone from black to white, with the reddish bill it gave the impression of a clown. The Laughing Gulls were abundant and all in varying stages of molt and age, and many had differing amounts of white around the bill as they turn to their largely white-headed winter plumage. Laughing Gull is a 3-year gull. For my non-birding readers, that means it takes three full years for them to reach their adult plumage indicating sexual maturity. Each year they change somewhat, some detail-oriented birders love aging gulls though I’m not terribly good at it. It can be really difficult and is something of an aquired taste, especially given gull’s propensity to interbreed producing gradiant plumages that can really drive you nuts.

This last pic is the same as the previous only cropped after the fact. You obviously lose some of the resolution but with 7.1 megapixels enough remains that it’s a pretty decent picture. At least, if this were a rare gull and I submitted it to a Rare Bird Committee there’s enough here that it would likely be accepted. That’s really all I want for now. I’m a birder first and a bad photographer second.

One Comment
  1. August 10, 2007 10:56 am

    Look! I found bird news, courtesy of KY3 weatherman/Ozark resident/Springfield blogger Dave Snider.

    But then, you probably already knew all that.

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