Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Eastern Screech Owl - 14 Jan 2019

Blue Jays - 13 Jan 2019


As many as 10 Blue Jays visited the yard this morning.  Their bright blue bodies were popping against the gray skies and vegetation. Another day that I wished I had thinner windows.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Digiscoping for Macro - 13 Jan 2019

I've been playing with focus-stacking using Adobe Photoshop CC 2019 and learning how I can use my digiscoping rig for macro photography. After watching several You Tube videos on the subject I am happy to report that it is possible to extend depth of field for solitary subjects by photographing through the subject and stacking the images using post-processing.

As a test I focused on this ornament on the deck from just a few feet away. Starting with a close-focus I took a series of 12 images using the remote on the Sony a7III with the focal plane moving to farther distances. Here are 3 images showing front, center and back-focused images.

After making adjustments to the 1st image in the series using Adobe Lightroom Classic CC (exposure, highlights, clarity, noise reduction, etc.) I selected the entire series of images and clicked on "SYNC". This applied the corrections to all photos in the series.

Next, I right click on the image series and select "Edit in Adobe Photoshop CC 2019 / Open As Layers..."

Once all of the images are loaded inside Photoshop its just a matter of 

1. Select all of the Layers
2. /Edit/Auto-Align Layers (select "Auto" in the Projection Window)

3. /Edit/Auto-Blend Layers (select "Stacked Images" in the Auto-Blend Window)

This should give you a stacked-focused image.  You'll want to crop / resize / sharpen to taste for a final image. Additional steps can be taken to mask individual layers, but for now I'm avoiding the extra work.

 I can see this working nicely for a digiscoped image of stationary bird (owl, egret, etc.) and hope to try it out shortly.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

My Digiscoping Rig - 25 Dec 2018

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone. I've been spending this morning playing with the Sony Alpha a6300 APS-C Camera and Zeiss 4/16-70mm Zoom Lens. While listening to Mark Galer's Sony Alpha Series Master Classes on YouTube I decided to photograph the digiscoping rig nicely illuminated by the morning light. The above image is a composite of 6 images that were taken (hand-held) at f/4 after flex-spot focusing on the camera, digidaper, focusing ring, then Swarovski logo. The images were selected in Lightroom, then opened as layers in Photoshop. I then auto-aligned the images before auto-merging to create a sharp, focused image of the entire rig.

Swarovski STX85 with 25-60X Zoom Eyepiece.
Sony Alpha a7III Full-Frame Camera
Zeiss 2.8/35mm lens
Manfrotto 501HDV Video Head
Manfrotto 055CXPRO4 Carbon Fiber Tripod

Even though the a7III is the better of the two cameras the a6300 produces crazy-sharp images especially when the DMF mode is utilized to obtain magnified, critical focusing of the subject.
It helps when focusing through a single-pane window to photograph a Blue Jay in the yard.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Heat Shimmer - 08 Dec 2018

On this cold, crisp morning our resident Eastern Screech Owl took advantage of the warming Sun's rays. I grabbed the scope and stepped outside onto the deck to get some digiscoped images from about 200' away. I could see the heat shimmer through the scope as the moisture in the air created some diffuse filtering affects on the view. This is an issue with digiscoping at long distances.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Fox Sparrows - 12 Nov 2018

I came home from work this afternoon and peered out the back window. Not one but three Fox Sparrows were foraging under the feeders out back of the house here at Brownton Abbey! Skies were overcast and dark, but I took the opportunity anyway to digiscope them from inside the house.

The birds were moving around quite a bit, and skittish, so the slightest disturbance would send them deep under the brush. Focus-peaking was difficult, but I managed a few nice portraits of the dark-colored birds.

I then took the opportunity to take some 4K and Slo-Motion videos of the foraging birds to compare the speed of their scratching.

Here's a Fox Sparrow scratching in the mulch at normal speed. The 4K video is captured at 30 fps.


Here's the Fox Sparrow scratching in the mulch at 120 fps. The action is slowed 4X normal speed.


Those little legs do move at a clip that is barely perceptible to the human eye. But, when slowed down they appear quite graceful!

I also had a brief appearance by my first American Tree Sparrow of the season. Winter is officially here. It did not stick around as the birds were flushed by a juvenile Cooper's Hawk that blasted through the yard. It scattered the 14 Dark-eyed Juncos that were also in the yard.

Just before dusk the Eastern Screech Owl stuck its head out of the box in preparation for his evening hunt. Snow is expected after midnight w/ 1-2" predicted (we'd get less than ½").

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Sony RM-VPR1 Remote - 10 Nov 2018

I picked up a Sony RM-VPR1 Remote Commander when I bought the Sony Alpha a7III Full-Frame camera. Plugged into the power port of the camera this remote allows me to trigger the camera without having to press the shutter button. This is most helpful when digiscoping as it allows me to hold the remote while panning the scope on the tripod. My left hand is free to focus the scope or camera lens (focus-peaking) and leads to improved capture ratios. Not only is vibration reduced on the scope with the remote, but it also allows me to react quicker to dynamic situations.

Added bonus with the remote is a number of controls it offers:
1. The shutter can be depressed and locked for Bulb functions
2. The toggle switch below the shutter button can be used to zoom motorized lenses
3. The Record button allows hands-free video recording and pausing without having to search for the button on the back of the camera (which is a better location than the side corner).
4. The camera can be turned ON/OFF w/ the side switch

Being new to the camera I found the remote a great help while trying to photograph a Spotted Redshank that had shown up in SE Michigan. With blowing wind and the bird 200' away focus-peaking was critical to capturing a sharp image of the North American rarity.

Incidentally, Brian Smith has a terrific blog post about recommended accessories for the Sony a7III.