Wildlife
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Digiscoping

By Brian M. Collins
Published: October 1, 2005
webDigiscopeTripod
Photo by Nikon Sport Optics, www.nikonusa.com
It was nature in perfection: The owl hid beautifully, camouflaged deep in coulee timbers along the Mississippi River. One by one, a line of bird-watchers stepped up to a tripod-mounted spotting scope for a personal view into the owl’s hidden world. Finally, someone muttered, “I wish I had a camera.”
   
That wish can now be granted. Add a digital camera to the spotting scope, and you have an exciting new hobby called “digiscoping.” Images can be captured, saved, enjoyed and shared – again and again – as high-quality, digital pictures.
   
And the power of spotting scopes stretches far beyond watching wildlife. Just think, from the comfort of the deck, you can capture images of your father water-skiing around the lake, or your nephew landing a big fish on the dock.
   
Just as in traditional telephoto photography, success in digiscoping depends on five key factors:
   
1. The quality of the digital camera. You will want a camera of 3 megapixels or better to produce clearer, larger prints.
   
2. A tripod to stabilize the camera. You will be shooting under high magnification, so the slightest shake will look like an earthquake through the lens.
   
3. Good glass. The lenses most likely to cause problems are those that have high magnification but low quality. If you are using a mirrored telescope, seek out diffraction-limited mirrors. Cheaper scopes tend to throw light around, causing blurred, ultraviolet “halo” effects and other types of “chromatic aberrations.”
   
4. Camera and scope that are made for each other. If you already own one or the other, shop for its mate and the correct digiscoping adapter.  
   
5. Quality of light. Subjects that are directly lighted from the front will result in higher quality images. Typically, morning and late afternoon light provide the best photos.  
   
If you are impressed with the view of your own world up close and forever captured in pictures, you may wish to point your scope to the heavens. Add your camera and an inexpensive filter to a telescope to zoom in on the mountains of the moon or seek out the rings of Saturn. For the kids, peer into the world of a drop of pond water under a microscope. Digiscoping is great fun there too!
   
For a full line of digiscoping supplies, advice and galleries, check out Eagle Optics (www.eagleoptics.com) or Scopetronix (www.scopetronix.com).

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