Top tips for watching nature

Bringing to life spectacles of natural wonder on our doorstep

Chris Packham

Nature's Top 40
Nature’s Top 40 counts down to the UK’s number one wildlife spectacle. Wildlife experts ranked suggestions from the public to compile the UK’s Top 40.

Digiscoping Tips

  • Taking photographs of wildlife is one of my great passions in life. But how do you capture that elusive moment when a stunning bird, animal or insect comes into view in the far distance, sometimes for only the briefest of moments?
  • In my early career I would gaze through a telescope feeling frustrated that I wasn't able to capture an amazing bird or creature at the end of the lens. Then technology lent a hand - and thanks to developments in digital cameras I discovered the joys of digiscoping which opened a whole new world to me. Today digiscoping is common amongst wildlife photographers and it can result in some really great close-up images.
  • Digiscoping is a great way of capturing subjects out of the range of a standard digital camera. It's basically a marriage of two pieces of kit - a digital camera and a telescope. The end results can be sensational and it's worth trying out a few different set-ups to see which gives you the best results.
  • Seeing a creature which is almost indistinguishable in the distance in sharp detail on a digiscoped image is a real thrill especially when you try this technique for the first time. Digiscoping also enables distant subjects to be captured in tricky conditions - and this technique is especially good for identification and verification of birds or animals when back home.
  • So what do you need to get started on digiscoping if you're a beginner?

Basic kit

  • First, you'll need some basic kit - a decent telescope and tripod, a digital camera, an adaptor and a cable release. You don't have to buy the most expensive camera or scope - the price of digiscoping kit can be quite cheap compared with a conventional 35mm big lens kit. It has the advantage that the kit is lightweight and portable - and you may already have the telescope for your bird watching trips in any case.
  • It's up to you how complicated you want to get with the digiscoping kit. A standard digital compact camera can do a decent job if you want to take wildlife snaps. You can simply hold the digital camera against your scope viewfinder and snap away to get basic pictures. But for steadier shots, especially under poorer lighting conditions, you'll need an adaptor to fit your camera on to the scope. These can be bought cheaply from specialist camera shops.
  • Experiment with your scope's tripod. Certain types of tripod can be better than others. I find that fluid heads can be helpful as they adjust smoothly and lock onto the subject directly. This helps in obtaining professional looking shots.    
  • Avoid scope shake! Any light breeze, movement of feet on the ground or vibration from passing cars or buildings can throw your carefully composed digiscoped image out of focus. Try to get as steady a position as possible - hold the scope in place firmly to avoid any wind wobble if conditions are poor. Also try adjusting the speed of the camera to minimise any movement. Wildlife hides can be a problem if people are moving about, so try to find a quieter, undisturbed location wherever possible.

Continued - more tips...

Meet the Nature's Top 40 photographers

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