Saturday, 31 May 2014

Point and Shoot - Smartphone Photography.

Went for a quick walk around Tameside this afternoon as I had a hour to kill and took the scope along. I decided that I would put the Novagrade adapter to use and see what I could capture with my phone at some greater distances. Practicing now on more common birds will stand me in good stead when I am hopefully trying to capture record shots of rarities at some point.

Finding out your not familiar with the equipment and how best to use it is best not discovered when confronted with a rarity.

So, here are some pictures from my walk. These are meant to be representative of opportunist record shots, not examples of photographic excellence. All taken with an iPhone 4S attached to my spotting scope with a novagrade universal smartphone adapter.

Nest BH Gulls. Distance about 60 yards



I like this one. Distance 60 yards
Young Blue Tit. 25 Yards
Fledgling Blue Tit. 25 yards.


This Carrion Crow was about 35 yards away. There were a few branches and some vegetation between us, I tried to focus the offending vegetation out. I usually only use enought zoom on the iPhone to remove the vignetting, but I used a bit more of the iPhones zoom on these pictures.


Finally, as I headed back towards the car, I spotted a few House Martins collecting mud for their nests. These were about 40 yards away. Also the sun was to my left side rather than behind me.


Using the Novagrade adapter adds a whole new dimension to your birding. It's interesting seeing just what you can capture on the little computer you keep in your pocket, apparently, they make phone calls too!


Tuesday, 27 May 2014

A couple of Photo Opportunities.

Set out this morning around Alvecote pools. I had been told the general location of a Great Spotted Woodpecker nest and fancied a look. Once in the area, I could hear the chicks and soon had the nest pinpointed. I set up the scope attached my phone via the Novagrade adapter and waited for some action. The parent birds were in the area, but didn't visit the nest in the fifteen minutes I was there. A young chick appeared at the entrance to the nest and was very vocal. The nest entrance has a bracket fungi right above it, it looks like a porch.


It was difficult to get a decent exposure due to the light constantly changing and the dappling effect through the tree canopy. It was a bit of a waiting game, and in this situation, an adapter comes into its own, holding your phone in perfect alignment ready for action.

As soon as I had captured this shot, I moved on. The parent birds had not visited the nest while I was there. I was a good distance from the nest, but just to be sure my presence wasn't holding up the feeing routine, I felt it best to leave them to it.

Later in the day, I drove past the area I have recently discovered a Little Owl. I had a quick glance about as I slowly drove through. It was 2.30pm and to my surprise, there was the Little Owl perched on a telegraph wire!

I drove past, pulled over, got my camera from the boot turned the car around and headed back. The Little Owl had now flown across the road and was in a tree opposite where I had first spotted it. I pulled over, put on the hazard lights, and took a few shots through the open car window.

Canon SX40
Canon SX40

The rain started as I was taking these pictures. As the bigger drops started to fall, my Little Owl headed off looking for shelter. I will be keeping my eye on this area.

I have now this year seen Little, Barn and Tawny Owl locally. I would love to see a Long Eared Owl. A local one would be great, but I have a feeling I may have to travel.


Sunday, 25 May 2014

Positive Feedback.

It's very nice to get feedback on my blog and my photograph attempts. As I have said many times, I'm no photographer and don't claim to be. I am a birder/naturalist that enjoys trying to take a few acceptable snaps along the way.

I must admit though, it's very nice when people give me such positive feedback about my blog and my pictures. I have received a few emails and messages recently enquiring about my Digiscoping technique. I have also had some very encouraging feedback verbally from people I have met while birding that know me and read the blog. Thanks folks, it's appreciated!

Weather conditions combined with work commitments have prevented me doing much birding in the last week. But I have taken one picture I am pleased with. I'm not sure which version I prefer? The original, or my photoshoppd version?

Incidentally, i also edit all my pictures on an ipad, a few people have asked. I use a few editing apps, my favourite being Photoshop Touch and iphoto.

Here are both versions of the aforementioned picture. This was taken with my Canon SX40 Brigde Camera. Incidentally, I'm hoping Canon will soon announce the release date of the much anticipated SX60 HS. I find these bridge cameras to be so versatile when out wandering about. They really are the ideal camera for nature enthusiasts.

Little Owl



Photoshopped Version.
Little Owl.



Sunday, 18 May 2014

I'm still playing with the Novagrade adapter

When I took the Yellow Wagtail picture, I also took some HD video. The advantage of an adapter over hand holding really becomes apparent here. The phone is held perfectly aligned while the video is recorded. For some reason I have still not fathomed, my blog will not play you tube videos in HD. So if you want to see it, it's best viewed on my you site. Just click HERE

I have also managed to spend some more time using the Novagrade Adapter with my iPhone 4S and this is probably the best shot I have managed so far.

This sharpness of focus is a direct result of perfect phone to eyepiece alignment, and the phone being held absolutely still. This demonstrates the difference an adapter can make to your results.

Obviously, conditions are not always ideal. Light is always an issue with digiscoping. It's also true to say that regardless of how big a lens you have, the closer you can get to your subject, the better your results. This is the reason photographers and birders often fall out.

I have taken a few shots in what I would consider far from ideal conditions. Low light, distant from the subject, or facing into the light due to the position of the subject relative to me. The results, well I would say they are decent record shots and as good as I would get from a dedicated camera and long lens in identical conditions.

I will keep doing what I do and sharing the results on here. Well, here are a few of those record shots I mentioned.

40 yards. Sun in front of subject.
About 40 yards
I like this one. Light was too bright though. Notice blown whites.
Blackcap. At least 40 yards and hidden in shadows. Also silhouetted as light in front of it.

Obviously, many pictures were only fit for the delete button. However, I am happy with some of these and very pleased with a couple of them. Remember I'm not a photographer by any stretch of the imagination and don't claim to be. I'm a birder with a smartphone always in his pocket and now, an adapter to hold it steady and in correct alignment.

Note - a couple of people have now asked if I am sponsered by or affiliated in some way to Novagrade. The answer is ..... Other than being a customer, No I'm not! (I'm always open to offers though.)

I can assure anyone interested that I put my hand in my pocket and brought and paid for my Novagrade adapter with my own hard earned money. I am sharing the fact I am pleased with the product, because I believe in giving credit where it is due. It may still be early days, but at this point, I am very happy with my purchase and my results.


Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Novagrade Universal Smartphone Adapter

Well, it's arrived, and initial inspection is very favourable. A really quality adapter machined from aluminium. The twist fit to secure it to the eyepiece is smooth and precise, and fitting and removal is easily achieved without struggle or fuss.

The initial setup of the adapter was a little fiddly, but now I'm familiar with it, I could do it again in far less time. It's worth spending a little time going through the instructions and changing positions and type of phone gripper until you achieve the perfect fit. Once it's set up and locked in place, you won't have to do this procedure again unless you change your phone or eyepiece.

What is particularly useful, is the ability to leave your phone in the protective case of your choice. Most adapters these days either require the phone to be case free or, you need to fit your phone in the adapters provided case. Neither of these options appeals to me. I like my phone well protected and use an Otterbox to afford this protection to my phone. As stated above, I can easily clip my phone into the adapter while still in its Otterbox, a major plus point.

The adapter is supplied with a variety of compressing rings and phone grippers to meet the requirements of perfectly aligning most brands of smartphone to most brands of spotting scope eyepiece. My initial impression of this well made adapter is that it should provide years of use. Let's be realistic here, most of us change our phones on a regular basis. This would normally entail the purchase of a new dedicated adapter for your new phone. This is not the case with the Novagrade, a few adjustments to the adapter, and you are back in business.

Since the arrival of my Novagrade adapter, I have due to work constraints only managed to get out and use it once very briefly after work. I was very impressed with my first attempt at capturing through my phone what my spotting scope was pointing at. This Yellow Wagtail is my first capture using the Novagrade Universal Smartphone Adapter.

I am looking forward to the weekend and the opportunity to spend a bit more time using this adapter.

I will add to my review/user experience as I go along. I hope to include a gallery page of pictures on my blog specifically for Phonescoped pictures using the Novagrade adapter. I'm very interested to see what I can achieve with this clever piece of equipment.


Saturday, 10 May 2014

Phonescoping Photography

It's always nice to take a few snapshots of what you happen to have your spotting scope trained on. I really enjoy this practice, termed digiscoping, and have messed about with it for a while now. I have used compact cameras, but without consistent results. However, I soon discovered that most smartphones have a decent camera capable of producing decent record shots with consistently acceptable record shot results.

It was nice today to have other birders comment that they were impressed with some of the pictures on this blog taken with my phone through my spotting scope.

I tend to hand hold my smartphone, currently an iPhone 4S, to the eyepiece of my scope. It takes a little practice, but after a while is becomes pretty quick to line up your lens with the light exiting the scopes eyepiece. Once the scope is focused, activate your camera app, look at your eyepiece through the camera, and carefully follow that visible circle of light you can see on your phones screen until you have achieved perfect alignment of phone and eyepiece.

The main limiting factor in all digiscoping is available light transmission through the scope to the cameras sensor. Smartphones seem to do a very good job of producing acceptable results in less that ideal lighting conditions.

Here are a few shots I took today at RSPB Middleton, hand holding phone to eyepiece.

This Wood Sandpiper was about 50 yards away, light values had dropped as a short heavy storm arrived at the reserve.

Wood Sand, Dunlin landing
Not great pics, but a record in poor conditions.


Improved light conditions and a Redshank.

I'm a bird watcher that just likes taking a few record shots. Without carrying loads of extra equipment "Phonescoping" allows me to enjoy capturing a few images of a days birding.

I have heard some very good reports of a universal phonescoping adapter called the Novagrade. It attaches any phone to any eyepiece and allows for perfect alignment of phone camera and eyepiece. I hope to be in possession of one very soon. I will report back on how I get on with it.