Thursday, May 11, 2017

Yellow-headed Blackbird - 13 Apr 2017

While visiting Barr Lake State Park, Denver, CO I spent some time digiscoping the male Yellow-headed Blackbird that was singing near the shoreline. The bird spent time between the trees and the small cattail marsh along the shoreline. I spent time digiscoping it from about 50' away.

Yellow-headed Blackbirds have the coolest call of any Icterid sp. I was fascinated by the way this bird not only stretched his neck when calling, but contorted it, as if it needed to be twisted in order to get the sound out. So the question is raised, "Is this normal behavior?"

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Northern (Red-shafted) Flicker - 14 Apr 2017

Northern Flicker at Barr Lake State Park, Denver, CO. Digiscoped w/ Swarovski STX85, Sony a6300, Sigma 30mm f/2.8, Digidapter™. Distance 30'.

Rough-legged Hawk - 13 Apr 2017

Rough-legged Hawk in Pawnee National Grasslands, Weld Co., CO. Digiscoped w/ Swarovski STX85, Sony a6300, Sigma 30mm f/2.8, Digidapter™. Distance 30-50'.

Loggerhead Shrike - 13 Apr 2017

Loggerhead Shrike in Pawnee National Grasslands, Weld Co., CO. Digiscoped w/ Swarovski STX85, Sony a6300, Sigma 30mm f/2.8, Digidapter™.

Swainson's Hawk - 10 Apr 2017

Digiscoped this Swainson's Hawk from across the road as I drove to Gunnison, CO from Denver. First time using the window-mount tripod and it worked well! Heat shimmer a factor as I shot across the hot road to the bird perched on the post.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Sony RM-SPR1 Remote Commander - 08 Apr 2017

With the newly-acquired Swarovski STX 20-60x85 Spotting Scope and Digidapter™ setup producing amazing results, it was now time to decide which tripod head I would use in the field. The Manfrotto 501HDV Video Head is perfect for the scope and digiscoping adapter, especially when using the Manfrotto 501PLONG slide plate, which balances the scope nicely on the video head (I mounted the scope  at the front end of the plate, then slid it forward as far as it could go on the video head before locking down).

The only issue I have w/ the setup, which pans and tilts smoothly, is that 3 hands are needed to operate the setup: one for the scope (focusing/zooming), one for the tripod videohead handle, and one for the camera. I could pan and tilt w/ the camera / digidapter attached to the scope, but it puts undo stress on the scope/camera setup. And it would require loosening the tension on the videohead, which  results in the scope tilting forward w/o the camera attached.

My other option is to mount the scope on the Jobu Jr. Gimbal Head, which allows panning/tilting smoothly and effortlessly, but then requires repositioning the scope w/ and w/o the camera to balance it. With the camera/adapter attached, the scope is back-heavy, even with the scope moved forward as far as it could go. I attempted to stabilize the rig with a bungee cord attached to the front of the scope that would prevent it from tilting back completely, but I found it ungainly. And, without a handle, it is awkward to scope birds.

The solution? Find a remote to trigger the camera.

Several options are possible. A wireless remote can be used to trigger the shutter, and costs only a few dollars, but work best when directed toward the 'front' of the camera. From what I could find, however, is that they only allow a single shutter to be captured at a time. This means no continuous shooting at 12 fps.

Sony has a neat little remote App, which can be downloaded from the Sony website. With the Sony a6300 my iPhone 7 can be used to operate the camera remotely. Its actually pretty cool; I can view the scene through the scope from the iPhone monitor, can adjust exposure compensation, f-stop, and with a touch of the screen, can focus and take an image that is now automatically saved to the iPhone. However, I'm once again forced to a single, autofocus capture and can't shoot continuously.

I would ultimately return to using the scope on the 501HDV Video Head, which is more stable for scoping. To overcome the need for 3 hands, I purchased the Sony RM-SPR1 Remote Commander.

The Sony RM-SPR1 Remote Commander is a wired shutter cable that plugs into the charging port of the a6300. When plugged in the remote allows me to trigger the shutter off-camera, and allows me to shoot continuously! With the shutter half-depressed, I can even focus. If I hold the RM-SPR1 with my right finger and thumb I can use the rest of the hand to pan/tilt the video head while operating focus/zoom on the scope w/ my left hand. With the camera / Digidapter™ attached to the scope the entire rig is stable.

Below are some shots from this morning using the rig.

The Sony RM-SPR1 is a winner.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Seriously Sharp! No Foolin' - 01 Apr 2017

With clearing skies I have the opportunity to test the new Swarovski STX 25-60x85 Spotting Scope and Digidapter™. This morning, I mounted the scope on my Jobu Jr. Gimbal Head - this would allow me to use the camera to pan/follow moving birds.

The only issue I found with this setup was that the wimberly slide plate was not long enough balance the scope w/ the camera/Digidapter™ attached; thus the combination is a bit back-heavy. To counter this I'm setting up a bungy-cord system that will balance the scope w/ and w/o the camera attached. It will allow me to pan / swivel the scope and camera setup to photograph birds smoothly and swiftly.
Its a bit awkward to handle the scope w/o a handle, though, so I'll have to decide which system (501HDV or Jobu Jr.) is the best for me...

The Sony Alpha a6300 doesn't care, though. The images coming from this scope are amazing! Tack-sharp images with tons of feather detail. No chromatic aberration at 25X and only a trace at 60X! Images are also sharp edge-to-edge.  This scope is a winner!