Sunday, June 24, 2007

Adventures in digiscoping: Two flowers vs. a Mountain

I was doing some digiscoping research, reading tips and tricks from various sources, etc. and I was inspired to give digiscoping another go this weekend. It's been a while since I've done any birds with the scope, because I just wasn't getting good results. This is a good representation of a typical d-scoped shot for me:

This was in good light (though the bird was shaded a bit), camera hand-held to scope (still working on a good adapter) on tripod, and I'm standing on the porch shooting through the open window. Decent, but still blurry. And no matter what I do, I can't get improve the vignetting problem! But blurriness is worse to me, so let's press on and ignore the "custom matte" around the photos....

So I read that setting the camera to different modes sometimes works better than just the general "camera" (on a Nikon Coolpix, this means the green camera icon) mode, which was previously about all I'd ever used on birds. When I photographed the moon the last couple of times, however, I tried different modes because it was so dark. Anyway, I read a lot of suggestions to try putting the camera on "macro" (two flowers icon), so I tried that one first:


These shots were taken while I was standing in the yard this morning. While the blurriness is I daresay significantly improved (I was concentrating on holding the camera steady and pressing the shutter slowly and carefully to minimize vibration), you'll note the weird yellow tinge to the shots. Don't know if this was because of the macro mode or the bright sun or what, but I decided to try another suggestion: the mountain icon, or "infinity" mode.

Again, shooting from my position in the yard, I set the camera to the mountain icon and scoped an obliging bunny:


If you look at the large version of that first shot, you can see the bunny's beautiful brown eyes! This isn't tack-sharp or anything, but WOW what an improvement! I was getting pretty excited, so I went back to the robin from two-flowers mode; he was kind enough to wait for me:

How about that!? AND I got my first shot of a singing bird, mouth wide open!

I'm reinvigorated now. In the fight between the two flowers and the mountain, the mountain wins! Apparently, the mountain allows you to focus not just with the camera but with the scope as well--something I'd never even thought of doing that before! It really makes a difference as I am now able to fine-tune the focus with the scope and get a good sharp photo.

Now, back to the vignetting: It's significant, no matter whether I zoom the camera up or not. I've got the scope's eyepiece rubber guard thing folded down, but I think the lens in the Coolpix 4800 is just set back in the camera pretty far. Still, clear photos, even small ones, are a real improvement for me in my quest to learn digiscoping on my rather modest budget. I'll admit I'm a little jealous of people who start out with a couple of thousand dollars' worth of equipment -- high-end Swarovski scope, custom adapter, and high-end camera -- and get crystal-clear d-scoped images right off the bat.

It hasn't been that easy for me. I've had my struggles, first with my attempts to make a homemade scope (remember that!?), then finally getting a lower-end Meade Condor scope and my nice Coolpix 4800 camera. I know the optics on the Condor aren't even close to what I'd get in a Swarovski or a Leica spotting scope, but I just can't see spending a couple grand on that (nor could I afford to!) right now. Maybe one day, when I win the lottery and live a life of bon-bons, servants, and carefree days.... or maybe not. Right now, I'm happy I got d-scoped some good images!

Now I'm going to wrap up the Nibble for his photo shoot in the garden!

12 comments:

LauraHinNJ said...

You're right - I do see an improvement!

Couldn't you easily crop the vignetting out with photo software?

dguzman said...

Yes, but it seems to leave me with rather small and somewhat pixelated results. I don't have PhotoShop yet (coming), so I'm just using some lame Macintosh photo viewing/editing software; I'm sure I'll be more able to manipulate the photos in PhotoShop and get better results. Still--clearer photos, even if they do look a bit yellow on the blog (the originals don't). Some color correction will help that, though, with PhotoShop.

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