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Wednesday, August 1, 2018


What do you call it when you mix a digital camera with a spotting scope?

The answer is digiscoping.

Taking quality pictures from far away requires expensive lenses, lenses worth thousands of dollars.

I can’t afford them.

But Mr. P already has a legacy spotting scope and he had heard that there were adapters available to connect it to a digital camera. The question became, would digiscoping be a viable option until such a time as purchasing an $8,000 telephoto lens would be deemed justifiable? And more to the point, would it be fun?

Right now, the longest lens I have access to is a third-party 70 - 300 mm, F/4 - 5.6 zoom. When combined with my camera sensor's crop factor of 1.6, it becomes equivalent to a 112 - 480 mm zoom. But if I could hook my camera up to Mr. P’s spotting scope, I theoretically should be able to achieve a focal length equivalent to 2,700  mm

It took some research and eventually some help from Kowa experts Mr. Paul Kardos (National Sales Account Manager) and Mr. Robert Wilton to identify the necessary components to connect my particular camera to the TSN-822 scope, but eventually, I had pieces that fit together. Even so, it took more input form Kowa US Brand Ambassador Robert Wilson to help me understand that digiscoping isn’t a magic solution and that a 2,700 mm focal length requires a certain technical expertise to yield sharp results.

Essentially, with the camera body hooked onto the scope, I’ve created a 2-foot teeter-totter that readily rocks on top of the tripod at the drop of a shutter. Worse, the attachment point on the scope (red arrow) is thrown off center which, though I’m no master at physics, makes me think vibrations are amplified at the long end. I enabled the mirror-lock mode for my camera and triggered the shutter using a remote. I also counterbalanced the scope so the tripod head stopped creeping up. Even so, the wind was an obvious variable leading to motion blur as well as available light and subject motion.

I wanted to capture the cormorants diving on the surface of the ocean. However, not only are the cormorants fast, they are sitting on a surface that is also moving up and down.


I set up my digiscoping rig on Fishing Rock. With the eyepiece set somewhere around 20x, I was able to obtain the image above — the mouth of Fogarty Creek.

At 60x I was able to see the observation area at Boiler Bay State Park (1.26 miles away as shown in the clip from Google Earth below)

At 480 mm, my third-party lens makes the moon this big in the frame.

Using the spotting scope at 20x, I get an image of the moon substantially bigger (but also significant color fringing)...

...and at 60x I get this, but at this magnification, the moon’s apparent motion is also making sharpness an obvious issue. So, while the equipment holds promise, I still have refinements to make with the gear and considerable practicing to do.

Shedding the scope, I headed to Boiler Bay where I was sidetracked by the appearance of whales.

This is a shot looking back North to Fishing Rock, taken from the fence I had earlier seen through the digiscope rig. 

I mistakenly thought these were the pickle-like pyrosomes that had previously been in the news, but it turns out that this is probably squid eggs.

As the sun draws ever closer to the horizon, its oblique rays deign only to illuminate the top portions of the waves.

Meanwhile, the waves force a substantial school of small silver fish close to the shoreline. The seagulls quickly catch on.

...and begin playing a daring game of tag with the ocean in hopes of collecting the enticing morsels.

(Should I stay or should I go?)

The gulls and black and white duck-like things compete together for the fish windfall.

Early the next morning I walk the beach noting some kind of infant crab apocalypse.

And then content myself at a vantage point with the seagulls to watch their feeding behaviors.

This morning, they seem to be arranged in a pecking order, taking turns standing on an ideally situated rock at the surf line where they snag fish that are left in compromised positions in ebbing waves.

The seagulls must brave the incoming waves to be in an optimal position to dive at the fish in the receding water.

They do not seem to be enthusiastic divers like the cormorants — but neither are they afraid to get wet.

Sometimes, even seagulls miscalculate.

The black and white duck-things blur the distinction between bird and fish.

And seals look on ominously, almost as if they’d be willing to blur the distinction as well.

In February, the intertidal zones are evidently affected by the input of copious amounts of precipitation and cloudy skies.

In the harsher summertime, the range of lush tidepools appears to contract as evaporation causes established algae to crystalize.

Wonders and mysteries present themselves whether I'm looking up or down, close or far away. The few moments I spend at the beach remind me that we all once had to be keenly aware of the patterns of the seasons and be fit to chase after our food wherever it appeared. Perhaps my attempts to capture small-mouthed bass from my kayak are like spasming frog legs in a frying pan — a neural vestige from those days when we were alive, and not hunting big bites at the 7-11 twenty-four hours a day. This post was just going to peter out after the last picture, but I thought I should try to tie it all up with some kind of thoughtful conclusion. But this is all I came up with. I guess what I really mean to say is photography — even primitive efforts at digiscoping — provides ways to extend my sight, to see things in ways that I wouldn't ordinarily see.

Totally worth it.

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