I recently visited Tophill Low Nature Reserve, primarily in an effort to digiscope the Otter family that has recently been showing well on the North Marsh. Within 15 minutes of sitting down in the hide, bingo! A mother and two pups appeared. Unfortunately, they quickly disappeared and did not return, so I was unable to photograph them.
As the light was excellent for photography, I decided to make the best use of it and went to digiscope birds visiting the nearby feeding station. Feeding stations are a great place to hone your digiscoping skills for a number of reasons. Firstly, birds tend to be more numerous than in the wilder environment. Secondly, they tend to be tamer than elsewhere. Thirdly, they provide a good variety of species.
The advantage of digiscoping over SLR photography is that it produces a better focal length ie 1200+mm compared to an average of 400mm for an SLR.
There are a number of things to bear in mind when digiscoping at feeding stations.
1. Keep at an adequate distance so as not to cause disturbance to the birds, if too close you will probably destroy the advantages gained by using the station. I would suggest 5-6m.
2. Watch the station for ten minutes or so before going near your equipment. This will give you a good idea of which branches and other perches the birds are using as the approach and leave the station. 3. You can then focus your scope and camera on the most used perches. Although it is easier to digiscope birds on the feeders, the images gained are not as good as when they are approaching or even leaving the feeders.
3. Even if the feeders still show in the photograph of a bird on a nearby perch, you can in most cases crop them out afterwards.
4. Take as many shots as you can, the more, the better. I took about 200 shots at the Tophill Low but I have deleted the vast majority of these.
5. Never forget that practice makes perfect. Don’t get discouraged if your early shots aren’t as good as you would like. Keep at it!
6. Try getting close-up shots of parts of birds these can provide some stunning images.
7. And finally, try to capture the birds looking directly at you rather than side-on, this makes the images more intimate. Most photographs do not need to show every feature of a bird, there are far more interesting shots to be obtained.
Here are some of my results from Tophill Low using these techniques…..
The above were taken with a Panasonic GH3 camera with a 20mm pancake lens and Swarovski 80 with a 30mm wide angle lens.
And a close-up…..