Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Testing, Testing!

At last some bright conditions that coincide with me having some free time. I took advantage of the situation and decided to run a few tests with the iPhone and scope. And also to compare the results to pictures taken through my Canon SX40. The results surprised me.

All pictures are cropped only, apart from that, they are as the camera used took them.

A lot of pictures were taken. These are the best ones.

This was taken at about 30 yards, using the SRB Griturn adapter to hold the iPhone in place.


Same bird, same distance, phone hand held against eyepiece.

The first thing I noticed is that the colours are so much more vibrant hand holding the phone. I estimate that the adapter holds the phone about half an inch from the eyepiece, and the eyepiece adjustable eyecup has to be fully wound down to minimise vignetting.

Handheld is the opposite. The adjustable eyecup has to be fully extended to minimise vignetting. The phone is simply held against the rubber eyecup. Lining up is a little tricky at first, but youngest better with practice.

It is my opinion that the better pictures I took today with the phone were all with the phone handheld.

That particular Gull decided it had had enough and left me to pick a new model.

This one was about 40 yards away. Same bird, same distance, different cameras. To compare quality of pictures. Again, pictures cropped only.

iPhone handheld.

Canon SX40 full optical zoom with 1.5x tele-convertor enabled.

The Canon SX40 had slightly more reach with the 1.5X tele-Convertor. It was easier to get on the subject with, and the picture is sharper.

What have I learnt? Still not sure. So many variables to consider in different situations. Bottom line is smartphones can capture a very acceptable picture through the scope. So, if its in your pocket and your scope is focused on a stationary target, take some pictures. I do believe hand holding is the way to go.

For more mobile subjects, the dedicated camera is a better option. I suppose though as photographers say, "the best camera is the one you have with you."


Saturday, 22 December 2012

Dark Times.

I just can't seem to catch a break at the moment in terms of light quality for digiscoping. Since the purchase of a digiscoping adapter to attach my iPhone 4S to my scope, we seem to have not seen sunlight. Ok, I will rephrase that, we have seen some reasonably decent light conditions when I am at work.

Broke up for Christmas at lunchtime on Wed 19th. I had taken my scope to work with me with the intention of heading straight to a local nature reserve from work. This, was the start of a real grey period! It rained, light was poor, everything looked drab and grey. I took it on the chin, and went to the nature reserve anyway. I set up stall out of the rain in a hide with a feeding station and had a go with the iPhone and adapter. Results to be honest are not great, but better than I expected considering the appalling light conditions, rain, and resulting slow shutter speeds and high ISO.

45 Yards

The above pictures were edited using the ipad.

These two pictures, which I rather like, were edited on the phone itself.

Roll on some decent light conditions so I can see what this phonescoping is really capable of.


Sunday, 16 December 2012

More iscoping

Out for a walk this morning with John around Dosthill nature reserve. Nice bright morning. We both had our scopes with us In the hope a Bittern reported the previous day may put in an appearance. It didn't! As John has just taken possession of a new smartphone with excellent camera (Samsung S3), we were soon experimenting hand holding our phones against our scope eyepieces to see what they could do.

I was again surprised that at range, I could take a clearer sharper picture through my scope hand holding my phone than I could with my Lumix F10 camera on its digiscoping bracket?

These geese were taken at a range of about 90 yards.

Not bad hand held and manually operating shutter release.

This has again motivated me to persevere with this form of digiscoping. After all the phone is always with me. I have also discovered that the full 1080p HD video though is excellent through the scope too.

I have discovered that if I use my iPhone digiscoping bracket as mentioned in my previous blogs, I can remotely release the shutter using my earphones by pressing the volume up button on them. Thus, fully eliminating camera/scope shake during shutter release.

I intend giving this a real testing next week when I break up for my Xmas holiday and have some daylight time to see what kind of results I can produce.

As a finish to this posting, here is a still picture captured from the HD Video I took of these geese today. Still 90 yards. This picture is straight from the phone and untouched except for cropping.



Sunday, 9 December 2012

Worth the effort!

Felt much better this morning. Not 100%, far from it, but a definite improvement. Thought I would take a chance and visit Dosthill Lake to see if the Long Tailed Duck that had been there all week was still in residence?

As is usual with my luck in these situations, it would probably have left yesterday after "showing well" to all and sundry. I really wanted this tick. The fact I was about to tackle cardiac hill while still not back at full fitness shows my enthusiasm to see this bird.

Wellies on, scope packed, trusty Plummer Terrier by my side and we set off from the car.

Taz - My Birding Companion (Plummer Terrier)

Cardiac hill is deceiving. It looks and feels like nothing special on the way down. It's coming back you feel the burn.

Anyway, in the twilight as we strolled toward the lakes, we were treated to some spectacular views of a Barn Owl hunting and then taking some time out to perch not more than 50 yards away. I felt it was still too dark to attempt a picture, so we just watched for a while. Eventually, it resumed the hunt and disappeared from sight. So Taz and I resumed our own duck hunt.

We made straight for the nature reserve pits and I set the scope up and started scanning. No luck! We moved to several different vantage points, still no luck! I scanned the reed line for a bonus Bittern (clutching at straws) no luck there either. What I did notice were a couple of anglers hiding in the far bank reeds, no self respecting Bittern would be in there with them.

Anglers hiding in the reeds. This was taken through scope hand holding iPhone to eyepiece.

I scanned the whole lake, no joy.

John texted me to ask if I had found it. I phoned him to tell him no, it was looking like a big fail.

During the call, John informed me the Long Tailed Duck was actually not on the lakes I was looking at, but the Jet Ski lake. He told me where he had twice seen it earlier in the week, and we were off again. Cheers John!

After a hour of scanning the Ski lake I was about to give it up as a bad job. Suddenly, something caught my eye in the distance through the scope and promptly disappeared from sight. I could be in here? I lifted the scope and headed off for a better and closer vantage point. Again, it took a bit of finding, spending more time submerged than on the surface. Eventually, it stayed on top for about two minutes preening. Again, light was too poor to try for decent pictures. The best I got was this rubbish one, and it's terrible.

Poor light, distant, iPhone.

Anyway, result!

Cardiac hill didn't seem as daunting as usual as Taz and I tackled it at a leisurely pace. A very worthwhile morning. I will sleep well tonight. Taz has been asleep all day.


Saturday, 8 December 2012

Man Flu and Exposure Compensation

Been ill most of the week with a particularly virulent strain of Man Flu. Felt pretty crap, so after work each day I have just curled up on the settee and done a bit of reading. I have noticed that some of the best photographs I have seen published on the Internet, taken with the same camera I have (Canon SX40), all have one thing in common! The people using them are experienced photographers and all when questioned on the quality of their pictures state the importance of exposure compensation. So, this week while fighting the good fight against whatever bloody pathogen is reeking havoc with my body, and seemingly losing for a while, I swatted up on exposure compensation for novices.

So, the arrival of Saturday morning, and even with a pounding headache I still wanted to put into practice what I had been reading about. I still have a lot to learn about when and how much exposure compensation to dial into each individual situation, but here are a couple of results from today I am quite pleased with.



These I feel are much more representative of what my eye could see.

I will definitely be persevering with the nuances of exposure compensation.


Monday, 3 December 2012

Success at Weekend

Well, the Great Northern Diver hung around at Shustoke reservoir. Not only that, its mate turned up too.

Pete, Dan and I set off on Saturday morning and located one of the Great Northern Divers within 10 mins of our arrival. Result! Love it when it's that easy.

We did eventually see both Great Northern Divers and they happily swan around together showing very well to the birders that had turned out to see them.

Also, on the plus side, a single Common Scoter was located and provided a nice bonus bird.

I am now hoping for some very local Waxwings. Dan had a flock of about 20 today near CO-OP Superstore, Wilnecote. Nice find.

Birdguides have reported some seen briefly in Glascote, I want more.

Waxwings were in this area. You gotta love them. You scour the countryside for them and they turn up in a superstore car park, or on a housing estate.


Friday, 30 November 2012

Iscoping, initial,thoughts.

I purchased the digiscoping adapter I mentioned previously in my blog from SBR-Griturn.

I have not really had any decent weather or light conditions since taking possession of the adapter. My initial thoughts are that there are still a few areas that can move and it may be tricky to initially line up correctly.

I also don't like the iPhone case supplied which must be used to fit the adapter to. The case is a pretty cheap looking thing.

From research I have done, it seems no company makes an adapter that allows you to use an iPhone in the phone case of your choice. There are a few Iphone digiscope adapters out there, and if you have to take the phone out of your chosen case to use it, and you don't mind that, the Meopta Meopix seems the best. No moving parts to cause any issue, perfect lens alignment every time. This adapter is only made for the Meopta range of scopes though. However, they make two adapter ring sizes. So measuring the eyepiece you wish to digiscope with may find you dropping lucky. However, I'm sure that if the eyepiece you wish to use has an outside diameter of less than 49mm (the internal diameter of the largest available adapter) it wouldn't take much to build the inside of the adapter up with tape of some sort. They are a bit on the expensive side though at £50.00.

Now, with the advent of the iPhone 5, will there be any new adapters released? None of the existing adapters will accommodate one. However, with a bit of selective iPhone 5 case hunting, the SBR-Griturn adapter may be able to do the job?

Anyway, poor light and a bit misty, tried the SBR-Griturn adapter in the back yard through my Opticron HR66 ED. Here are some of the results.

About 15 yards out.

About 12 yards away
These are pretty good considering the very poor light conditions today. These are straight out of the phone apart from cropping.

Obviously in backyard I am restricted with the distances I can attempt to photograph birds at.

Here are the furthest distances I tried today. About 20 yards.

You can see how dull the sky is.

Then tried a little bit of zoom on the phone.

The SBR-Griturn adapter actually worked very well once set up. It was a little fiddly to get aligned but the end result is acceptable.

I still think this is worth pursuing.


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Roll on the Weekend.

Not been out since the weekends floods. Never seen flooding so bad locally. I would think some of the local angling clubs will suffer losses from their still waters.

Town Centre
Levels dropping now and a cold snap forecast. Plenty of birds being reported locally.

I am hoping the Great Northern Diver hangs around at Shustoke reservoir until Saturday, fingers crossed eh!

Great Northern Diver
Would like that, life tick!


Saturday, 24 November 2012

More Waxwings and a Big Breakfast.

It started off very foggy this morning. I took Taz for a walk along the canal early this morning as it was the only place I could think of that wouldn't be flooded.

Darkness and fog, not easy to photograph with a phone.

The fog still hadn't lifted when I picked Pete up at 8.50am and we headed off intending to look for Waxwings in Lichfield. Pete reckoned we should hang on a bit and give the fog a chance to lift. It sounded like a good idea, so we went to the CO-OP and had a full English and a mug of Coffee a piece. Very nice!

After breakfast, we set off to Lichfield in search of Waxwings. Some had been reported near the Post Office, and sure enough about a dozen were there on our arrival.

I held the iPhone up to the scopes eyepiece and took a quick video to show how thick the fog was.


My second Waxwings of the year, and a lifer for Pete. I tried to get a few pictures but the fog and poor light made it very difficult. These again taken with the iPhone handheld to the scope eyepiece.


To be honest, am very pleased with how these record shots have turned out. Also edited on the iPhone. Opens a lot of birding possibilities.


Tuesday, 20 November 2012

New Gadget

I have ordered an iPhone 4S adapter to attach it to my scope. Looking forward to seeing what it is capable of in digiscoping terms. It will be handy as I always have my phone with me. Looking forward to its arrival and the time to put it to the test.



Saturday, 17 November 2012

Mud, Sweat and Tears.

Well, that White-Rumped Sandpiper hung around and I again set out for it on this fine Saturday morning. Friday night had brought heavy showers to the area, so mud was obviously going to be an issue. It was pretty bad.

This was by no means the worst area. I didn't want to get my phone out to take pictures in the really bad mud as I was concentrating on keeping my balance and Sod's law I would have slipped and dropped my phone in it.

Did the hike and on the way down met a guy who must have been there very early,on his way back. He informed me that it had yet to be seen today! He had seen it already in the week and wasn't too bothered. Mild panic swept over me, had it vacated the area?

Anyway, I headed on. In the distance I noticed a large group of birders all suddenly moving in the same direction, even better, all,pointing their scopes in the same direction. I hurried on, stepping up the pace as it looked like Lady Luck was smiling on me.

I arrived, set up,scope and as if on cue the White-Rumped Sandpiper appeared from behind a small island and did its thing.

Poor light and distance involved meant good pictures were not going to happen. So I settled for some poor ones. Record shots.

I did however decide to have a go at a digi-video through my scope to see how that turned out. Video is more forgiving of poor light and it actually turned out better than expected.

The walk back to the car was leisurely and mud filled. I encountered a nice flock of Redpoll and plenty of Goldfinches.

As I cleared the mud and got back on Mill Plantation lane, I couldn't help, but smile at the amount of people heading to try their luck with this bird. It's probably the most people I have seen at Middleton. As many of them asked directions to the White Rumped Sandpiper, I assume it was their first visit. The fact most of them were wearing walking boots rather than Wellies suggested they had no idea of the mud bath that awaited them. I almost went back just for the entertainment value. But, that would have been sadistic wouldn't it?


Thursday, 15 November 2012

Man, it was Muddy!

So, John informed me yesterday that on his visit to Middleton while I was stuck at work, he ticked the reported White Rumped Sandpiper. He then let me know he had had Brambling and my bogey bird, the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. I replied to his text messages with a short succinct reply of only two words, the second one being "off!" A good afternoon of ticks though.


Anyway Thursday, and the White Rumped Sandpiper is again reported. I manage to leave work like a Whippet out of the traps at 3.35pm. The plan being a 10 min drive to Middleton and a brisk 10 min walk to the North end of the complex. This i felt would give me about 40 mins before I lost the daylight. On my arrival I met a birder who Informed me he had indeed seen the White Rumped Sandpiper only half hour earlier. Result!


I pulled on boots, put on my coat, hung binoculars round neck and scope on back and we are off. Quick glance at feeding station, No Brambling. Bastard!

Can't hang about, race to use the remaining daylight to see the White Rumped Sandpiper. Remain alert along Mill Plantation for Lesser Spot. No surprise with this one, not a chance. I can't find one when taking my time about it, so the slight canter I was moving at didn't prove to be a winner!


Then as I reached about the two thirds along Mill Plantation stage, my North Pit in 10 mins plan started to hit problems. Namely copious amounts of slippery and past ankle deep mud. This situation remained pretty constant all the way to the North Pit.

End result, it took me longer than anticipated to get to my destination. I had been informed the White Rumped Sandpiper had been showing well in front of some mini islands right in front of the still active excavating machinery.

When I arrived there, I was hot, knackered and aching from the pace I had tried to maintain. I quickly set up the scope and started scanning the area. I reckon it was around 30 mins later, that I had to concede and abandon the search. The light had gone.

So, a complete failure. I started heading back towards the car park at a much more leisurely pace, cursing the rapidly failing light, the mud that slowed me down and the fact birds keep being found while I'm at work.

Just as I squelched up to Fishers Mill, I was cheered up by cracking views of a Barn Owl hunting the grass along the canal hedgerow. I stood a good 5 minutes and watched this awesome spectacle. It made me feel that maybe it had all been worth it after all . Who knows, that White Rumped Sandpiper may hang around for the weekend? Here's hoping. With my first Brambling thrown in, and maybe a glimpse of a Lesser Spot too? Well, if you have to hope for good luck, you may as well aim high.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Where did the weekend go?

A very enjoyable weekend is already a far away memory after a day back at work. Waxwings are starting to be reported in Staffordshire, so hopefully only a matter of time before Tamworth gets a few. I will be keeping a close eye on the Rowan tree opposite my house. It is laden with red berries and just screaming for some Waxwing attention. It's got to happen!