Using iPhone 7 Plus For Digiscoping

Here I am contentedly digiscoping with my iPhone 6s when a new iPhone 7 family debuts. Insert Krusty The Klown ugh here. How many new gadgets to I need to get. Fortunately, Non Birding Bill was due for an upgrade and got a 7 Plus so I can see if it's worth my while. 

The dual camera lenses that are getting people hot and bothered with an iPhone 7 Plus.

The dual camera lenses that are getting people hot and bothered with an iPhone 7 Plus.

The big deal that has people all a-twitter is the dual camera system with the iPhone 7 Plus. I'm intrigued by the camera, but at the end of the day, I'm not too interested in a smartphone that is bigger than my 6s--I have small hands. The new iPhone 7 comes with a 12 megapixel camera. The larger 7 Plus comes with the same wide-angle camera but also has a 12 megapixel telephoto camera that zooms with the lens, not digital zoom as in other iPhones. There's also "portrait mode" which is supposed to blur your background while focusing on what's up close...something I already get from digiscoping with an iPhone, so not as interesting to me. 

I tried portrait mode--it doesn't work with digiscoping. You keep getting an error that says you're too close to the subject or that there's not enough light to make it work. It's interpreting that the iPhone camera lens is too close to the spotting scope eyepiece. 

So, I tried regular digiscoping. Now, I don't have an adapter for an iPhone 7plus yet--I know PhoneSkope is working on one and they will be out soon and I'm very curious to see how it works based on some of the problems I was having. I headed out to some bird feeders on an overcast day with my iPhone 6s and Non Birding Bill's new iPhone 7 (you know your marriage is rock solid when your spouse will give you a couple of hours with their brand new smartphone outdoors). 

Here is an image taken with my iPhone 6s, PhoneSkope adapter and Swarovski ATX 65mm spotting scope:

White-breasted nuthatch taken with iPhone 6s and Swarovski spotting scope.

White-breasted nuthatch taken with iPhone 6s and Swarovski spotting scope.

I left the image unzoomed so you could see what you're getting without zooming in the scope or camera on the iPhone. It's not the best nuthatch picture ever, but the image is fairly bright for an overcast day. 

Here's the same bird but taken with the iPhone 7 Plus, no adapter and Swarovski ATX 65mm spotting scope:

White-breasted nuthatch photo taken with iPhone 7 Plus and Swarovski spotting scope.

White-breasted nuthatch photo taken with iPhone 7 Plus and Swarovski spotting scope.

This was harder because I have no adapter here, I'm just hand holding the phone. Here are both images cropped and side by side. 

So here are the above images cropped. Both digiscoped with a Swarovski ATX 65mm scope. The nuthatch on the left is the iPhone 7 and the nuthatch on the right is the 6s.

So here are the above images cropped. Both digiscoped with a Swarovski ATX 65mm scope. The nuthatch on the left is the iPhone 7 and the nuthatch on the right is the 6s.

Both images aren't bad for a cloudy day. I'm sure if I had some good sun, I could get better photos. Now I wanted to play with using the telephoto zoom on the 7 plus. When digiscoping first started with point and shoot cameras, you wanted to avoid a point and shoot with more than three power zoom, because then it wouldn't work with the spotting scope lens. I felt pretty good about being able to zoom in with two power and still get a good image from the scope and the phone. You can still digitally zoom with the 7 plus by sliding your fingers, but do to the telephoto zoom, you need to tap the phone where it says "1x" and that will switch to the "2x" telephoto. So I tried that on the feeder birds and here's the majority of the photos I got:

The screen would suddenly go black as I hit the shutter button while in "2x" telephoto mode with the iPhone 7 plus.

The screen would suddenly go black as I hit the shutter button while in "2x" telephoto mode with the iPhone 7 plus.

Just as I would have the shot lined up, the screen went black--several time. I thought maybe I was having trouble handholding it, but what I suspect was actually happening was that the phone was getting confused about which mode to use, that it would just switch back to the original camera which by the time I have the shot lined up, wouldn't be line up with my scope lens. When I came home, I emailed PhoneSkope and asked if they had experienced anything similar. Here's what I got from Tim Schreckengost, "Yes, that's an issue. Try using the Pro Camera app, which allows you to choose which lens you want to use. Our adapter will allow you to choose the camera you want to use at any given time. It's still being engineered, but should prove to be a very useful digiscoping tool."

I don't have an adapter yet, but I'm very curious to see what happens when I do. I'll also have to check out the Pro Camera app--a $3 third party app. 

That's not to say that I didn't get any shots. Here's a junco taken with my iPhone 6s:

Dark-eyed junco taken with iPhone 6s, Swarovski spotting scope and PhoneSkope adapter. Minor zoom with the scope, you can see a tad bit of vignetting in the lower corners of the photo. 

Dark-eyed junco taken with iPhone 6s, Swarovski spotting scope and PhoneSkope adapter. Minor zoom with the scope, you can see a tad bit of vignetting in the lower corners of the photo. 

Same junco with the iPhone 7 plus with 2x telephoto, handheld up to a Swarovski spotting scope. No cropping.

Same junco with the iPhone 7 plus with 2x telephoto, handheld up to a Swarovski spotting scope. No cropping.

When I could get the camera to work with my scope--I got some full frame shots of the junco. It wasn't as crisp as I'd hoped, but that could have more to do with the zoom picking up minor shakes from me handholding it and it was overcast. 

At this point, there are so many smartphones out there with great cameras, any one of those that was made in the last two years will give you some great images when digiscoping if you practice. I really like the size and camera of my iPhone 6s and I'm not sure that I see the benefit yet to upgrade to the 7plus. I don't want a larger phone, portrait mode doesn't fit with my particular style of photography and I'm not sure I need to be any more zoomed in on birds--zooming can be helpful, but on a humid day, not amount of zoom is going to counteract heat shimmer. It may be a different story when I play with an adapter that properly attaches it to my scope. 

And remember if you order an adapter from PhoneSkope and use the code Birdchick13 you get a discount on your purchase. 

Birdchick Podcast #214 Levi Wants A Goshawk Tattoo

Kabuki back when he would chill on the porch with us. 

Kabuki back when he would chill on the porch with us. 

You may have noticed we went on a bit of a hiatus. For those who didn't see on social media, our 18 year old cockatiel Kabuki went blind in September. At first he seemed to adapt but things got worse and...well we had to make the decision that no one likes to make for their pet. Over this period, it was all I could do to just to meet the bare minimum at work, let alone all the other things I enjoy doing. 

When I finally felt ready to return to normal life, I thought it might be fun to revamp the podcast. We're bringing in special guests. Not just birders but people who have an interesting relationship with birds. Our first guest Levi Weinhagen a non-birder who wants a northern goshawk tattoo!

Sponsors this week: Holbrook Travel--want to come with me to Cuba next April?

Things we talk about in the podcast:

Common swifts break the record for nonstop flight

Sibley has a coloring book!

Who got Murphy Brown pregnant

Pluggers...I'm sorry. Here's a bird related one

Things we recommended:

Learn more about Levi at his Pratfalls Podcast and his newest venture the Not About You Podcast. Levi recommended Breaking the Jump a book about the history of Parkour. 

Non Birding Bill recommended Civilization 6.

And I recommended Beautiful Anonymous Podcast

 

Birdchick Podcast #213 Duck Stamp Documentary and ABA Contest

The American Birding Association is having several contests this year in an effort to get new members and get former members to renew. We are also having a contest for people to join the American Birding Association. If you join the ABA and in the comments on the application say you joined because of Birdchick or Non Birding Bill, then send us the confirmation with your mailing address you could win one of three prizes:

An Advanced Guide to Birding autographed by Kenn Kaufmann (we'll put in a personal message too if you want).

An autographed postcard from Neil Gaiman thanking you for joining the ABA. 

An autographed copy of Disapproving Rabbits (Sharon's first book).

Send confirmations to sharon@birdchick.com with your preferred prize and mailing address. 

Autographs from Kenn Kaufman, Neil Gaiman and us are prizes. 

Autographs from Kenn Kaufman, Neil Gaiman and us are prizes. 

Other things we talked about include the documentary about the Duck Stamp art contest called Million Dollar Duck. We highly recommend it.

PokemonGo players help injured pelican.

Some jerk got a worthwhile fine for killing hawks that were hunting the quail he wanted to kill.  

Birdchick Podcast #212 Poaching, Parrots and Pokemon

I love that not only have I received official federal guidance about Pokemon for my job but that a hook and bullet publication put my post about Pokemon Go out there. If you think Pokemon Go is the beginning of the end of society...read this. 

JOIN THE AMERICAN BIRDING ASSOCIATION Send us proof that you joined or renewed and you could win one of the Kaufman field guide. Specify which one you want to sharon@birdchick.com. First come, first serve. 

You won't believe how high some birds can fly. 

Weird, it's legal to release rehabbed starlings and house sparrows in the United States but not parrots...

You cannot unsee this. 

You cannot unsee this. 

Experiments With Eagle

I went to the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival in Homer, Alaska--which is a delightful festival, I highly recommend it. I met a ton of people who were originally from Minnesota and for one reason or another had moved to Alaska. I can see why, it's beautiful and great for people who enjoy the outdoors. Homer actually reminded me quite a bit of northern Minnesota--only with glaciers and mountains. 

I got a kick out of this sign--it reads "gulls" and not "seagulls."

I got a kick out of this sign--it reads "gulls" and not "seagulls."

As I was birding along Homer Spit, I saw the above sign and suddenly remembered this was where you used find Jean Keene the Eagle Lady (another former Minnesotan).  She lived along the spit and collected fish from various sources as well as roadkill moose to feed 200 - 300 bald eagles a day in the winter. That's a lot of bald eagles. Many enjoyed it--especially tourists and wildlife photographers (if you Google search "bald eagle flock" the first several photos are from the Eagle Lady feeding spot). Local hotel owners also appreciated a boom in business in winter. But some residents were not so thrilled to have eagles perched on their cars or homes and pooping all day. So the town of Homer has banned the feeding of predatory and scavenging birds, grandfathering her in so she could continue. But when she died, the eagle feeding stopped.

Me with Lynne Schoenborn, Sue Keator and Flat Michelle. 

Me with Lynne Schoenborn, Sue Keator and Flat Michelle. 

Two friends from Minnesota, Lynne and Sue came up to the fest and we got to spend some time together. Sue brought along a couple of photos of another friend named Michelle. I love Michelle, she takes photobombing to another level, knows lots about native plants and is always a good time at Birds and Beers...but there's one way we differ: she hates travel. She hates it so much she has said that her goal is to never have a passport. 

So we brought along her avatar in the form of Flat Michelle and began posting photos of her on Facebook. Michelle says it's her favorite form of travel. 

Flat Michelle kicking on back with an obliging sandhill crane in the background. 

Flat Michelle kicking on back with an obliging sandhill crane in the background. 

Here's Flat Michelle with an obligatory Alaska bald eagle photo. 

Here's Flat Michelle with an obligatory Alaska bald eagle photo. 

One of the places Lynne, Sue and I birded was Anchor Point--which is great for sea ducks, shorebirds and sparrows. There were a gazillion eagles and unlike Homer, people are allowed leave piles of unwanted fish on the beach. You could get quite close to the them, they really are used to people. I suggested that we put Flat Michelle in one of the fish piles and step away. We could then digiscope her with some bald eagles right next to her face. 

Flat Michelle posed with some halibut carcasses. 

Flat Michelle posed with some halibut carcasses. 

We had two different Flat Michelles. One kicking it with a beer bottle and one looking freaked out. We thought with a close proximity to eagles it would be funnier to start out with freaked out Michelle--you'd look freaked if an eagle was eating a dead fish next to your head, right? We placed it in front of a pile of fish that some eagles had been chowing on. We walked back, I set up my scope and we waited...

And waited...

And waited...

A bald eagle warily eyes Flat Michelle.

A bald eagle warily eyes Flat Michelle.

Eventually an eagle flew over, but it flared up when it saw Flat Michelle and circled a few more times. It landed nearby and just stared at her. A few more eagles flew in but like the first, just lingered along the periphery, occasionally squeaking in apparenty disapproval. The majestic eagles, all reluctant to land near the picture. Gulls and crows flew in but like the eagles, everyone kept their distance. 

The first to let down their guard were the northwestern crows. As soon as one got some food, the others flew in and gobbled up all the fish they could before the eagles and gulls moved in. 

A bald eagle walked behind Flat Michelle and the feasting crows. 

A bald eagle walked behind Flat Michelle and the feasting crows. 

Several more bald eagles flew over and around the fish pile, but none would get near it with Flat Michelle. I thought once the crows showed that it was safe the eagles would join, but they were having none of it. 

A glaucous-winged gull yells at Flat Michelle while a northwestern crow gets a morsel. 

A glaucous-winged gull yells at Flat Michelle while a northwestern crow gets a morsel. 

After awhile I thought it would be fun to get a time lapse video of Flat Michelle. Here it is:
 

Soon, another fisherman dumped a pile of halibut on the beach. And not just fish carcasses that have been filleted already but a few completely intact specimens. The eagles immediately flew over and completely ignored our mostly picked over fish pile. I suggested to Sue that we try that tastier pile and maybe use the beer version of Michelle. I wondered if her wide-eyed expression and both hands up was a threatening site to an eagle? So we placed the relaxed, chill beer drinking picture with the pile and stepped way back. 

The northwestern crows wasted no time in joining Flat Michelle. 

The northwestern crows wasted no time in joining Flat Michelle. 

The young glaucous-winged gulls were t he first to come sample the fish. After the adults watched to see that nothing bad happened to the young ones, they moved in. 

The young glaucous-winged gulls were t he first to come sample the fish. After the adults watched to see that nothing bad happened to the young ones, they moved in. 

Meanwhile, that was as close as a bald eagle dared to get to Flat Michelle.  

Meanwhile, that was as close as a bald eagle dared to get to Flat Michelle.  

Here's another time laps with the "beer Michelle."

We also made a movie trailer so Michelle could see the fun she had around Homer, Alaska.