Friday, March 02, 2007

Bird photo experiment

I wanted to take a picture of a red bellied woodpecker we saw a few days ago but the distance and not having a camera ready made it impossible. We have a spotting scope set up on a tripod in the house for bird watching so I put a digital camera (handheld) up to the eyepiece of the scope to see if I could get a photo of birds using that method. I was mildly surprised that the camera could actually focus and take a photo through the scope. I found that extending the camera's telephoto lens to about 50% of it's maximum gave the best results as in the photo of the junco. The downy woodpecker was taken with the lens fully extended and gave a blurry picture, the camera seemingly unable to focus as the out of focus warning lights came on. I took the photo despite the warning because I was afraid the bird would fly away.

The spotting scope has a zoom from 20x to 60x but I used it in the lowest setting as the light was severely diminished in any other setting. The camera's telephoto is 6x with the best results at 3x. I don't know what the final magnification actually is, whether 23x (20+3) or 60x (20x3) but the birds were shot at a distance of about 50 feet so the magnification is quite significant.

The subjects have to be carefully centered using the lcd because the size of the scope's objective lens limits the coverage. You can see how it cuts off the photo especially in the junco picture even with a 80mm objective lens.

Far from best for bird photography but fairly fast to set up and able to get some kind of a picture at long distance. A desperate measure at best. The good part is being in the warm house rather then stealthily trying to get close enough with your regular telephoto when it's cold and miserable outdoors .


Blogger Annie in Austin said...

I like the idea of getting bird photos, but you're actually figuring out how to make technology work for you, Ki! Here it's not too cold, but the birds are skittish - it's almost impossible to sneak outside without them flying off.

There was a woodpecker on one of our front trees early this week, tentatively identified as a Ladderback. He might not be around much now, since a tree service removed the dying tree this morning.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

9:40 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Annie,
Desperation is a goad. I actually was looking through a catalog and saw telescope adapters for cameras so I can't be credited for being so creative. Of course you would have to buy the correct adapter for your make of camera and I think these were for the more expensive single lense reflex cameras rather than the point and shoots I use, so hand holding was the only option.

Too bad about the ladderback woodpecker possibly/probably abandoning your yard. The dying tree must have provided a good source of food for it but would have been unsightly. There's always a trade off in either having a great looking yard or a wild life habitat. We thought leaving pruned branches and brush near the bird feeders would be a good thing for the birds but opted to get rid of the pile because it was too ugly.

4:17 PM  
Blogger Annie in Austin said...

Ki, if it were somewhere else in the yard we might have let the trunk stay up, as a snag, but this was in the front yard, very close to house, sidewalk, and cars, threatening the roof.


4:30 PM  
Blogger Digital Flower Pictures said...

I quite like that first picture. Did you think about trying to use the scope and a tripod?

1:31 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

We cut down 3 wild cherry trees that had large dead branches or were just in the wrong location in the yard. Unfortunately we didn't even think about how we could have adversely affected the birds who may have frequented the trees. The trees were too ugly and had to go. My brother in law who is a woodworker took some of the tree trunks and sent us a finished section of trunk which looked gorgeous. So now I have mixed feelings that we took them out so cavalierly. In any case we've planted many more trees in the cherries' place so in time the birds will hopefully have a better environment to live in. Luckily we have many wild areas closeby, even in parks, that have lots of standing dead trees for the woodpeckers, nuthatches and other birds.


I had the spotting scope attached to a tripod and handheld the camera up to the eyepiece. Kind of Rube Goldbergish but seemed to work - if not well.

6:28 PM  

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