Slovensko Angleško
A few tips on digiscopy or »sweets«, as Matjaž Intihar would say


    As it is necessary to store films in cool place it is just as important that digital equipment is stored away from exposure to high temperatures or to direct sunlight. In digiscopy, and above all in nature photography, where we wait for hours and hours under various conditions, I became aware that shots taken under lower temperatures have less noise.
I have tested this assertion a little, and from this time on two equal compacts accompany me in the field, one of them in the cooling bag. Some might say that I am a »nit-picker«, yet differences do exist and you can see in the two shots below.


    For easier handling and to avoid unwanted vibration of the telescope I recommend using a cable release which should be at least 60 cm long. Using a telescope with an inclined ocular it is possible to take shots around corners and it is easier to remain hidden. Indeed we need to turn the telescope onto the horizontal as the picture below shows. The same method is also useful when one wants to take a picture of something over some barrier – a wall for instance or a dyke since it is much easier to hide.

Iz vogala

1 foto: photographing from behind a corner

Iz vogala

2 foto: photographing from behind a corner – an example


    For good shots the tripod needs to be very stable and even though they are more heavy to transport, I go for the heavier ones as for the focus points in digiscopy this is a necessity. The head should be appropriate for the weight of the telescope with the rest of equipment fixed on it. It is much better to work with a video head since it is easier to orient telescope in the desired direction. For quick directing the telescope onto the object it is recommended to use a red dot sight, the smaller the better, so it does not get in the way. I myself do not use it often, therefore it is not seen in the pictures of my equipment. It is best fitted to the base of the head since centering on the spindle of the telescope is then much quicker and easier. I use the same one as hunters use on guns however, as I have already mentioned, very rarely.


    With some species the use of a disguise tent is almost inevitable since it is difficult to get near enough to them for a good shot. As for the location of the tent or the watch one needs to take into consideration a few important things. The sun should be behind your back, if possible, at the time of taking the picture not at the time of preparing the cache. Therefore it is good to inspect the location before. If we pitch the tent when it is already daylight, it is good to have an assistant so that the photographer can hide himself in the tent, whilst the assistant leaves the scene with some »commotion« since the birds are watching us all the time. This trick often helps. In the case that we do not have a tent one can try hiding in a bush, or behind a pile of stones or mound of earth, making sure we cannot be seen. We can also use a combination with masking nets – everything of course depends on the location and the animal we want to photograph.


    We often want to get a lustre in the eyes of the bird yet this is often not easy to achieve, especially with black-headed birds with black eyes without a border. To get the nice clear structure of the plumage with this combination we need not only an excellent exposure but also a bit of luck. Sometimes the bird does not to turn the way we would like it to, therefore I use an old trick and whistle to them to catch their attention. Most of the time, with a bit of luck, I manage to get the desired shot, but I use this trick only just at the end, after I have photographed the bird thoroughly, since it often happens that it flies away and leaves the photographer without anything. With this method I have previously set up everything and, before I whistle, I press the trigger with the setting on »burst snapshot«.


    This example holds for the Zeiss lenses I use, and probably for others, as well. The fixed lens has a larger maximum aperture and bigger diameter of rear element, whilst the zoom has a smaller maximum aperture and yet is more useful for close-up and composition. There are other important diferences which I will not mention now since for better understanding each of them should be shown with an example. I use both depending upon the distance in combination with the size of the bird I am shooting.


    For digiscopy I always use previously set settings that is, I decide from the sort of species of the bird (or animal) that I want to photograph and the exposure conditions. For birds which are relatively peaceful when they rest I use aperture priority since the shutter speed is not so significant – here the depth sharpness (depth of field) is more important since - as with macro photography - it is very small with digiscopy. For more dynamic ones shutter priority is used, allowing for the lighting conditions, of course. With Nikon Coolpixes I used to use spot metering with the Samsung, however, I use center-weighted since the latter does not have spot metering. Spot metering is more useful since one does not need to move the telescope later to get a better composition. Those who use longer telephoto lenses know well what the smallest movement means.

8. ISO:

    Compacts can have lots of noise so, at least with Samsung I am using at the moment, the upper ISO limit is 100, and of course keeping the camera cool, as I mentioned earlier.

    These are just a few tricks I have learnt, and I stick to them since by using them I get pictures with better technical quality and I also have more success with approaching the birds, waiting in the hideout…

    Whilst photographing animals I have experienced many beautiful moments… in a way I live with nature and even though I am not content with the shoots some days, I have learnt something new, gained some new experience which will help me to take better pictures in the future. I try to photograph particular species several times in different ways and at different times, since birds change through the seasons – in mating plumage for example… Therefore one needs lots of time and persistency in nature photography.

    Enough talking for now - I wish all of you lots of good shots and good light.

Marjan Cigoj

Home | Foto gallery | Digiskoping | Bird ID | Linking | Contact
Content of web page is protected by 2007 © Marjan Cigoj