Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Method for Safe Keeping Your Digiscoping Camera in the Field

Digiscoping, the technique of photographing wildlife at a distance with a digital point-and-shoot camera held to the eyepiece of a field spotting scope, has gained popularity since it was first discovered somewhat accidentally by Laurence Poh, a Malaysian birdwatcher, back in 1999. The method enables nature observers to easily record photographs of wildlife subjects without investing in more costly telephotography equipment. Assuming you have already purchased a quality scope, all that is lacking to digiscope is a comparatively less expensive digital camera and a heavy dose of patience. I started digiscoping over two years ago, have taken a large number of satisfying photos but not having had much previous technical photographic experience, my techniques continue to develop. There is a lot of information available via internet sources suggesting basic equipment needs and techniques (e.g. Mike's Digiscoping http// and Eagle Optics Readers are encouraged to check these sites out if they have not done so previously.

Birding as with any other field endeavor has its basic equipment requirements (binoculars, scope, field guide, notepad and pencil) in addition to all the ancillary things we individually "need" and stuff into our field jacket pockets and/or day pack. I have long suffered from equipment overload and digiscoping (the camera and spare batteries) has added to it. The number of times I have had a subject targeted in my scope and have fumbled to retrieve the camera and prep it to shoot an image only to have the bird drift out of sight or worse yet disappear altogether, well, are too many to want to remind myself of. With regard to storing the camera safely in the field and at the same time have it handy when needed most is something I have been looking at for a better solution.

I think I have finally found it. The camera when not in use is stored in a sturdy case attached by straps to one of the scope tripod legs (Figure 1 below). The case is a Model 1010 Micro manufactured by Pelican Products. It is strong, durable and water resistant. The interior is padded with a rubber insert that accepts a camera having maximum dimensions of 4" x 2.5" x 1.25." The case snaps firmly shut and is moulded with two belt loops. Two 24" long, 3/4" wide nylon straps each fitted with a ladder-type slide buckle at one end are used to amount the case to the tripod. Total cost of these items is less than $20 (case $15; straps $2.50).

Assembly of the components and attachment to the tripod is simple. Connect the two straps by the buckles end to end to make one continuous loop. Insert an end of the doubled over strap through one of the belt loops and repeat for the other belt loop (Figure 2). The strap should extend between the two belt loops across the back of the case. Stretching out the strap creates a figure 8 (Figure 3). The strap loops are then slid over a tripod leg and cinched up real tight to prevent the case from sliding off or moving sideways. I found that attaching this to one of the legs with a foam hand grip provides the greatest stability.

Advantges of this setup are: (1) you know exactly where your camera is and is handy to get to when you need it, and (2) when stored in the case it is protected from bumps, scratches and moisture.