|I've now been digiscoping for 12 months, I've learnt a lot over the last year and when I look back at the pictures I was taking 365 days ago, I can see the improvements in my recent pictures.
Like anything else, digiscoping is all about practice, and not running before you can walk. If you are new to digiscoping these simple tips may help you out.
The right equipment:
Digiscoping is becoming more and more popular resulting in more and more products available on the market. If you already own a spotting scope and digital camera, there are lots of digiscope adapters available to help you connect the items together. Depending on camera and scope you will need either a universal adapter which doesn't actually physically connect the camera to the scope, the use has to align the camera with the scope using the adapter. This type of adapter is ideally suited to cameras with external zoom lenses. The other type of adapter is the standard adapter, this adapter physically connects the scope to your camera. This type of adapter is suited to cameras with internal zoom lenses or cameras which can have filters attached to their lenses.
If you don't own any equipment, then I would advise searching the internet to see what other digiscopers are using and recommending. My advice would be choose a camera which has flexible shooting and focus modes (Program, Aperture Priority or Manual) as using cameras in full auto mode generally produce disappointing results. You will also need a camera with around 3x optical zoom to eliminate vignetting (the black circle surrounding your image that the camera picks up from the scope eyepiece).
Spotting scopes with high resolution glass do give better results but come at a high price tag, but non ED scopes can also offer pleasing results. I personally think that scopes with a large lens (70 - 90mm) also give better results as they capture more light.
Other equipment that I think is essential is a good sturdy tripod to help keep your set-up stable plus a good tripod head to help you locate the subject matter. Plus - also essential is some kid of remote shutter release cable for your camera to ensure minimal camera shake. Spare camera batteries are useful as digiscoping is heavily reliant on the use of your cameras LCD screen. Also I would advise a number of media cards as you do tend to take a large number of pictures.
You can find out more about digiscoping equipment and adapters by visiting the my gear page.
You will also need some kind of image editing software on your computer to enhance your pictures. The majority of images you see on the internet have all been improved on the computer. More information can be found here on image manipulation.
Before you start digiscoping, get to know you camera and spotting scope individually before using them together, that way when you do combine the two it should make your life easier. I would always recommend practising using static objects in your garden before proceeding to the real thing, this way you can learn the technique without getting frustrated. I would then suggest moving on to larger sized birds like ducks and geese as they are slower and easier to photograph. Then once you have mastered this move on to the smaller species.
Taking a picture:
For me a successful digiscoped image is all about light. We need good light to illuminate the subject matter and more importantly to give us faster shutter speeds to eliminate motion blur. I myself now only digiscope on bright sunny days. The position of the subject is also important, you need to be in between the light and your subject so that the light is behind you, that way your subject matter will be nicely lit so that you don't get just a silhouette of the subject with no detail.
If you are using a zoom eyepiece on your spotting scope, I would always recommend using this at the widest setting - for example my eyepiece is 22-68x and I always use it at 22x. Using your zoom eyepiece at full magnification dramatically reduced the amount of light into the camera lens and also increase the risk of camera shake - both contributing to the risk of camera shake and blurred images
After connecting your scope and camera using your digiscope adapter, turn on the camera and use the LCD screen on the camera. You will probably notice that your camera is showing the image in a circle surrounded by black, this is perfectly normal, it's an effect called vignetting. Especially if you camera that has a wide angle setting the effect will be worse, basically the camera is seeing the outer edges of the eyepiece. To eliminate this effect and to fill the screen with the image that the scope is seeing, apply some optical zoom on your camera, not only does this eliminate the effect, it also increases the magnification power.
Example of severe Vignetting
Vignetting is a common problem and is worse on some camera models than others.
|This image demonstrates vignetting when the camera is set to it's widest angle.
To minimise vignetting apply a small amount of optical zoom on your digital camera, the camera will then zoom past this effect and also increase the magnification of the image.
If you are a beginner, I would recommend setting your camera to the aperture priority mode (usually 'A' on your cameras settings dial). Select the widest aperture available (the smallest F number) this will allow the most light into your camera. Remember, the more you increase the optical zoom of your camera, the smaller the widest aperture you can select. With this setting the camera will then select the most suitable shutter speed to correctly expose the image. The more light, the faster the shutter speed, therefore your image has a greater chance of being sharp. Ideally shutter speeds above 250/1 second is required -faster if possible. Altering your cameras ISO settings (sensitivity) can help to produce faster shutter speeds, but remember the higher the ISO (greater sensitivity) the more grainy your image will look.
I personally think that Spot Area AF is the best focus option to choose, that way you can align the focus area of your camera directly over the subject, I also choose spot metering so that the camera takes the metering information from the subject matter.
Focus your scope through the LCD of your camera, you should be able to see when the image is sharp using the LCD screen. Then I usually find the best way of getting a sharp shot is by half pressing the shutter release to get focus lock on the subject, once focus lock has been achieved, you can then fine tune focusing using he focus wheel of your scope, before finally fully pressing the shutter release to take the shot.
For more information on taking digiscoped pictures , please proceed to the my technique pages of this website. You will also find information on improving your digital images in your computer using image manipulation software.