Digiscoping With Clay & Sharon, Episode 4 Light and Photography

This is a fun episode, there are two cameos: our pet rabbit Dougal and Greg Miller (aka Jack Black's character in The Big Year). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3i3L_gwdgtQ

Please visit the pages of our generous sponsors if you see something you like in the series:

Swarovski Optik (the optics I've been using for years)

Princeton University Press (my favorite nature publisher and sign up for updates on their cook BirdGenie bird call identifier app that's coming)

Alamo Inn Bed & Breakfast (the best place to stay for birding in the Rio Grande Valley, TX)

South Texas Nature (information for birding south Texas, including the Rio Grande Valley)

If you are enjoying the series, please consider sharing an episode on your social media outlets.  And remember, kids, birds shown in the first seven episodes have all been digiscoped by both Clay and me and are a clue to the series theme! If you correctly guess the series theme, you are entered into a drawing for a Swarovski spotting scope.

Please read over the contest rules before entering. All entries that deviate from the contest rules will be disqualified. The winner will be announced in the eighth episode airing on June 26, 2014.

To make sure you do not miss an episode, subscribe to the Birdchick YouTube Channel.

Contest Rules (To make sure you do not miss an episode, subscribe to the Birdchick YouTube Channel. )

1. All entries for the Swarovski STS spotting scope need to be emailed to digiscoping@birdchick.com and must include the answer, your first and last name, mailing address and phone number (in case I need to contact you regarding shipping).

2. You can guess the theme more than once, but only ONE correct entry per person will count in the drawing. (You should probably watch a few episodes before you guess).

3. All entries guessing the series theme must be received no later than 11:59pm Central Time on June 23, 2014.

4. The winner of the Swarovski spotting scope will be chosen at random and the decision of the judges is final.

Austria and CL Pocket Binoculars

bird watching I often marvel at how life gets me to the places it does. I try not to question it, but simply enjoy the ride. And for anyone whoever thinks that birding is boring...note the above photo and bite me.


This was one of my offices in June: The city of Innsbruck in Tyrol, Austria and I got see the mothership aka the Swarovski Optik headquarters. It's an incredibly beautiful city with fascinating architecture and cuisine that was a lovely combination of German and Italian food.

Not only did I get a tour of the factory, I also got to whip on a lab coat and put together a pair of new binoculars they debuted this week. I have to admit, in my work in the birding industry, I've had the opportunity to see lots of behind the scenes things, but actually using tools, greasing threads, turning screws really helped understand the inner workings of optics, how the mechanics function together to adjust for individual eyes and all the precision involved to keep a pair running smoothly for the long term.

CL Pocket

DO NOT WORRY--the pair I put together will not go out for individual sale--so if you order from Swarovski, your pair will be put together by a well trained professional. But I got to put together their new CL Pocket Binoculars--so tiny or Shaz sized as Non Birding Bill might say. The amount of individual care and time that is taken with every binocular and scope from that factory is incredibly hands on. Oh sure, there were a few JARVIS type contraptions for proper timing with cleaning lenses, but they are primarily human made pieces.

gold roof


Part of seeing this new bad boy was of course taking it out in the field--from the bustling streets of Tyrol and seeing historic sites like the Golden Roof, a 15th century as the residence of the Tirolean sovereigns...where I could use the pocket bins to take closer look at the art like...

snake eating a baby


A snake eating a baby which is part of the coat of arms for Maria Biana Sforza who was married to Emperor Maximilian. But we also took trams up the Nordkette Mountains:



Which gave us incredible panorama views.  There wasn't a huge variety of birds, but the ones we saw were quality like alpine accentor and snow finch.

alpine chough


I was especially chuffed to see an alpine chough and get to digiscope it.  Let me tell you, this Minnesota girl who is used to elevations of 1200 feet was not quite used to that elevation: 7,657 feet.  Fortunately, my elevation sickness manifests itself as me feeling like a just downed 2 martinis but I tried to be a bit more aware of my footing.  Tiny binoculars that fit in my pocket are a good thing...as was the choice to bring along my smaller spotting scope (the 65mm is much lighter than my 85mm and was glad to not have the extra weight).


fresh spring


But we also spent a day in the Pinnis Valley at the base of the Habict mountain--a place so remote, only one taxi service is authorized to drive you on the roads (which incidentally was called the Pinnis Shuttle Funk Taxi and keep in mind that Pinnis is pronounced like the male anatomy). We used the Karalm Alpine Lodge as our base for food and our water came directly from the Habict mountain springs.



And the cheese...I ate so much cheese...Just about everything on the table was made on site--including the night's dinner which was a red deer that had been wandering around injured on the lands that the hunting guide had recently shot.  This feast of cheese, meats and veggies was laid out and we were given lunch boxes to fill up for a picnic lunch in the mountains. There was of course coffee and the milk served with it was directly from the cow.  The milk was so fresh, it had a distinct mammalian smell and taste--mmmmmm.

hiking in the alps


The morning was spent climbing the mountains (some of us more slowly than others). There was still quite a bit of snow to trek through and in the case of some of us, we used some plastic bags to slide down the sides of the Alps.  I'm warned that there's a YouTube video taken by a Spaniard of me  sliding down Gangnam Style.  If shows up, I'll be sure to share.

mountain stream

The week before we arrived, there had been a significant snow event and all of that was in the process of melting.  Small mountain streams from the melting snow grew as the sun shone brighter, echoing off the valley walls.  Periodically, tiny avalanches crashed above us.  What was lacked in bird variety was more than made up for by the mammals:


Chamois (the above and not to be confused with ChamWOW) roamed the cliffs as did marmots and ibex. There weren't many trees but one of them was the stone pine and I was very excited because that is what used to make Zirbenz one of my favorite odd liquors.  It's not something you want all the time, but especially around the holidays, it's a fun after dinner sip.  Your first sip: "Oh cool, this tastes like a pine tree." Your last sip, "Yep.  That was a pine tree." But sipping it now, I can also get a flavor of that mountain air and remember the echoing songs of alpine accentors and dunnocks.

carina swarovski

After a morning of hiking, we collapsed in a mountain meadow to eat lunch and take a nap. What a strange sensation to wake up surrounded by the Alps. One of our companions for the day was Carina Swarovski--the head of Swarovski Optik. If you listened to the last podcast, I'm a bit ambivalent about the blog post at the ABA about women not being in the upper echelons of birding. I felt like the upper echelon was considered bird listing.  Who cares? Well, listers care but here we have a woman who head of one of the top optics companies in the world...I'd call her in the upper echelon.


Swarovski CL Pockets


I have to admit, I'm not personally someone who has sought out pocket binoculars.  They are usually so futzy because each barrel adjusts individually to the eye and the companies that make them, make them as cheaply as possible to appeal to the person who just wants something inexpensive and not really something that works. What a difference it was to have something so tiny with REALLY great clarity like the CL Pocket Binocular.  They come in ten power magnification or eight, I prefer eights and even though the objective lenses are small (25mm), you would think that they wouldn't let in much light, but they did almost as well as my larger 32mm binoculars do in cloudy light.


These are handy for someone who is a very casual birder, wants them for stadium use or sight seeing in a big city. If you don't consider yourself a birder, but you want a pair of binoculars that are small, will fit in a pants pocket (or small purse) but actually will give you a clear, bright image--these are for you.




PhoneSkope & Swarovski Objective Lenses

Right before I left Europe I was faced with a packing choice I had not expected. The new Swarovski series of scopes have a choice of objective lenses. It's a modular system and you can switch out your objective lenses.  Due to the infamous bathtub video, I have all three on loan for a bit. I generally prefer the 85mm for digiscoping but my trip to Europe is half work and then a trip to Paris and Amsterdam for fun and a visit with my nephew. I can't not go birding, but wasn't sure about taking the 85mm while eating my way through Paris...but then remembered...I have a 65mm objective lens...I could take that and I bet the whole system would be fine with all the biking I'll be doing in Paris and Amsterdam. But I'm such a photo junky by now, would I be satisfied with the results?

As luck would have it, right before I left for Europe, I received an adapter for my iPhone 4s from PhoneSkope that attaches it to an ATX scope. I thought I'd give both the scope objective lenses and adapter a quick test drive before I left.

1 Robin Nest

About a block from my apartment, a robin has built a nest in the yellow section of a traffic signal. It was cloudy and I thought this would be a perfect way to test it out. Would I be losing anything by using a smaller objective lens (the 65mm vs the larger 85mm or 95mm scopes)? Let's see...

65mm scope

So here is the compact 65mm ATX scope with PhoneSkope iPhone 4s case.  Incidentally, there is now a promo code to get a discount on the PhoneSkope.  If you order from their site and use "birdchick 13" when ordering, you'll get 10% off.  It's a thin, easy to carry case and it can be adapted to several different scopes and phones. It doesn't work with the battery charging Mophie case...but I've yet to find an iPhone digiscoping adapter that does, alas.  But this is an easy and lightweight set up.

65 mm iphone

Here is the view you get with the iPhone without any zoom in at all. One thing that I like about using my iPhone 4s for digiscoping vs my Nikon V1--I get a much wider field of view with the iPhone. This gives you an idea of the field of view you get with the 65mm scope on the lowest eyepiece setting (25 power).

65mm iphone skope cropped

Here it is zoomed in with the iPhone to take out the vignetting. There's a bit of chromatic aberration on the white part of the roof behind the robin nest, which with this sort of camera and a 65mm objective lens isn't entirely unexpected on a cloudy day. This is not a bad photo and certainly the sort I could live with to get souvenir shots in Europe.

65 Nikon V1

And here's another just to see how it works with the Nikon V1--which has no vignetting and a smaller field of view. But not bad for a 65mm scope on a cloudy day.

85 mm scope


The 85mm scope is what I use the most. It's optimized for digiscoping, I get a lot of light gathering ability but it is a bit heavier compared to the 65mm...but far lighter in weight than other scopes on the market. It's something I'm used to taking EVERYWHERE with me. But lets see how those photos stack up:

85 mm iphone

I didn't really lose or gain anything in terms of field of view--still very wide.

85mm iphone crop

Here's a photo of the robin nest zoomed in with the iPhone 4s to remove the vignetting. Still a tiny bit of aberration on the white behind the nest but overall not bad. I'm not seeing a large enough difference to encourage me to take along the larger 85mm.

85mm scope nikon v1


Here's a shot with the Nikon V1 and the 85mm ATX. Satisfactory...also, how does that robin stand incubating with that yellow light coming on every few minutes? That would drive me bananas.

95 mm scope

And since I have it, I had to take a few shots with the 95mm objective lens. This thing is huge.  It looks really cool when you have it out, but it's heavier than an 85mm. If I were the sort of person who was mostly stationary and my scope use was primarily lake/ocean watching or hawk watching--I'd be all over this scope. But I prefer the 85mm for it's compactness and that it is lighter in weight.

95mm iphone

When this objective lens connects with the eyepiece, the magnificaiton starts at 30 power as opposed to 25 power with the 65mm and 85mm scopes.  You lose a tiny bit of field of view, but not much. However, for digiscoping, I often find I'm too close to a subject even at 25 power magnification, so for general birding, I think the 85mm is better for me. Again, if I were one of those birders who is all about gull watching and hawk migration, then the 95mm is aces.

95mm iphone crop


Here's a shot with the iPhone zoomed in while attached to the 95mm scope. A big plus is that the 95mm is going to give you even more light gathering ability compared to the other two smaller objective lenses, but you need to ask yourself how significant is that for your type of birding and digiscoping.

95mm nikon v1

And here's a shot with the Nikon V1 and the 95mm.  A very, very bright image for a cloudy day--this scope is incredible in low light conditions, especially dawn and dusk--a perfect tool for surveys and point counts.

So. All three objective lenses are giving me good images on a cloudy day. The PhoneSkope adapter works great with the ATX eyepiece.  It is the first iPhone digiscoping adapter that I have found that works with the new Swarovski scope. But will I leave my beloved 85mm scope behind and travel to Europe with only a 65mm?

You bet your bippy! And here's the deciding factor:



When you take the scope apart, it becomes very compact. The 65mm fits in my purse (Baggallinis are fantastic purses, I've had the above one for almost a decade).

Swarovski Spotting Scope In A Purse


Check it out--a spotting scope inside a purse! I know the tripod won't fit, but that's easy enough to carry and strap onto a bike (especially if it's a carbon fiber one). Also, having a purse doesn't look like I have a camera or scope bag that would be worth stealing. I love the incognito ability that I could have with this set up. So, since I have access to the equipment and this trip isn't strictly birding, I'm going to see how life works with a truly compact scope. I never thought I'd go 65mm...but what can I say, I'm at the at point in life when I'm willing to experiment with my light gathering ability.

phoneskope swarovski atx

With that new PhoneSkope adapter, I'm half tempted to leave my Nikon V1 at home, but...nah, it takes such great photos. But I'm excited to test out a truly compact birding system while biking around Paris.

As wifi permits, I'll post photos on the Birdchick Facebook page and Twitter while I am abroad.

What To Expect When You're Married To A Birder

Having been married to a non birder for a long time, we've had to negotiate certain things. You will find yourself having strange arguments and in hindsight, funny misunderstandings. Here's a video example that Non Birding Bill and I made that anyone considering marring a birder who is a non birder may want to check out.  This will give you an idea of to expect throughout that relationship (also you get to actually see NBB in this video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJ-NDqxVmZI

And yes...Swarovski scopes (and binoculars) are THAT waterproof.  After they are particularly dirty, I do shower with them.


My Scope's Travels

Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 1.15.15 PM In case you missed the drawing, Saundra Martz is the winner of my spotting scope. Above is her bad bird photo of a Cooper's hawk...can you find it? Saundra doesn't get the scope right away, it's currently being cleaned up at Swarovski.

Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 1.14.47 PM


They sent me photos to show that my scope arrived safely (though I suspect they already started cleaning it for this photo...there is noticeable lack of heron poop on the scope body).

Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 1.14.30 PM

Here we have Dean from marketing (he's the guy who was nice enough to say yes to my crazy idea of giving away my old scope) and Kyle from the repair department.  So, Saundra, your scope is in good hands and getting all spiffed up for delivery to you!

Incidentally, Swarovski does encourage people to send in their optics every 3 to 5 years for a good once over.  They do things like make replacements of parts that might need them, double check the alignment or if they've made a change to the optic since your purchase, make that change in for your piece--this is a free service. All you have to do is pay for the shipping to Swarovski.  It's best to call ahead of time and have your optics assigned a number so as soon as it arrives to the clean up department they can know what needs to be done. Also, it's best to avoid doing this right before spring or fall migration--those are they busiest times.




Spotting Scope Contest WINNER!

This contest got a little nuts!  It is hands down my favorite contest of all the ones I've ever done, because people made me laugh so freakin' hard! You guys--you are not good photographers.  Out of over 500 submissions, I alas, can only have one winner.  We narrowed down the 512 entries to 151 finalists and you can see the finalist set over on Flickr...along with the hilarious descriptions. From there, we used a random number generator to select five finalists from the 151 and then we assigned our aloof pet rabbit Dougal to select the winner by scattering treats all over cards with the random five names.  Whichever one he ate off of was the winner.  But first! Let's see some of my personal faves from the finalists

Christine Williams rgv bird feeder

...like the above feeder in the Rio Grande Valley by Christine Williams, that is a crap photo!

I noticed that we had some subcategories like...people who were too close to the bird  (they seriously needed a scope):

Dawn Bailey pelican

Dawn Bailey, you were lucky this bird didn't give you pouch lice...

AJ Zich turkey

I'm not sure what the turkey had in mind for AJ Zirch.

Deborah Weston

Deborah Weston, I hope you survived the goose attack.

Chelsea McGlynn penguin

Chelsea McGlynn claimed this penguin gave her nasty bite.  Hopefully her camera survived.

Another category that cracked me up was the "near miss." We've all been there.

Sharon Hull Eagle

Sharon Hull almost got that bald eagle (incidentally, that was the most submitted bird species).

Kathy Java red tail

Almost got that red-tailed hawk Kathy Java!

There were some photobombs, I loved this:

R Oxley jay photobomb

Robin Oxley was trying to get the jay but the lady wasn't thrilled, the jay was stealing her food.

Melissa Hero condor

There were some digiscoping fails like poor Melissa Hero's condor picture.

Carrie Laben binoculars flamingo

Then there people like Carrie Laben who got shots of their optics as opposed to the actual bird.

Shelley Rutkin Willet

Poor Shelley Rutkin had more vignetting in her photo than actual bird.

Saundra coopers hawk



I loved the people like Saundra Martz who got shot of their screen in focus...as opposed to the Cooper's hawk who is hiding Where's Waldo style in the photo.

Mandy Klehr Over-exposed Gull mouthThis one by Mandy Klehr cracked me up because she labeled it over-exposed gull mouth...which would be a great name for a Courtney Love cover band.

Then there were the photos where I just kind of asked for it (like the guy giving me the bird...well played, sir, I sprayed coffee out of my nose on that one. But other photos from people who have picked up on certain things about me and used photos that they thought would get our attention.

Mark Robininson me peeing

At first, I didn't quite get this photo...then I saw the feet, then recognized my own feet...a birder on a trip with me out in North Dakota submitted of photo of me peeing behind a truck on the prairie...yep, that's a bad bird photo.  You're a dead man, Robinson.  Just sayin'.

kirk mona dead eagle

Kirk Mona submitted this photo of dead eagle he found...very creative, my man.

Wendy Root Bald Eagle

And bless Wendy Root's heart.  I do see the eagle, Wendy.  Thank you for pointing it out.  I'm gonna go watch some brown birds now.

Claudia Lee turkey


Though in focus, Claudia Lee's photo is certainly not the best turkey photo I've ever seen.  Very creative, Claudia!

And there are the ones that just are so cute:

deanna wright snowy owl with arrow

Like people who have to point out exactly where the bird is and yet, I'm still dubious there is an actual bird. Nice try, Deanna Wright.

Jen Vieth word documentI love this one because it's a crap photo of a bobwhite and Jen Vieth, bless your little heart, you sent the image in a word document. Some of you may not get the beauty of that, but those who do are shaking their head and saying, "Alright."

Adam Beeler encoded

This was from Adam Beeler and was supposed to be a bad photo of long-tailed manakins and instead, there was a problem with the encoding of the photo in his email.  I don't know if he sent it to me this way on purpose but either way--THAT is a very lousy photo of a bird.

Be sure to see the full set of the bad photo finalists.

And now, here is the video announcing our grand prize winner! Thanks again to everyone who entered. All of you made me laugh in the best way for days during this contest:

And now for the video of our winner.  Watch Dougal select who wins my spotting scope:


Link to the winning photo.

Win My Spotting Scope!!

This is the story of a girl and her spotting scope... Syria

Oh, the adventures I have had with my Swarovski ATM spotting scope. It has literally traveled the world with me. We ascended Volcán Atitlánin Guatemala to see horned guans. We survived rigorous airport security in Kazakhstan to view breeding sociable lapwings on the Kazak Steppes. We got our lifer Syrian woodpecker outside a mine field on the Syria/Israel border. We even delighted in digiscoping tufted titmice at Neil Gaiman’s bird feeders. We’ve showered together when covered in sand and dust. In short: we have had a blast.


But, some partnerships must end and some things are so awesome, they should be shared. Swarovski hires me from time to time to teach workshops, test equipment and help out at booths. That means I need to have the latest equipment to take to events. When equipment changes, I have the option of purchasing the older equipment or I can send it back to Swarovski. With the debut of the new Swarovski ATX scope, it was time to change out my equipment.

This time I asked, “Hey, could I have a contest so one of my blog readers could get my scope and all the great birding mojo that has built up with it over the years?”

And Swarovski said, “Yes!”

So, anyone who reads my blog has a chance to win a FANTASTIC spotting scope. You will receive my ATM scope with 20 – 60 zoom eyepiece and my carbon fiber tripod (and I’ll even throw in my DCA digiscoping adapter). This is a scope and tripod that has been loved hard and used on a daily basis. I will send it in to Swarovski headquarters to get cleaned up before you get it (maybe Gail can finally get that heron poop stain off) and whoever wins it will also get the Swarovski Optik limited lifetime warranty with the scope. I love this thing, it has been such a wonderful birding companion and helped me id so many birds and I hope whoever wins it, gets the birds of a lifetime that I have gotten with it.

I really wanted to come up with a contest that would level the playing field. The logical thing would be a photo contest, but if you can get really great photos, you don’t need my scope. I want any birder of any age to have a shot at winning this magnificent, light-weight beast. I thought about a guest blogging contest but I know not everyone is comfortable writing, so Non Birding Bill and I kicked around ideas to figure out what would be something universal that anyone could do…and we landed on a contest that would truly level the playing field:

 Birdchick’s WORST bird photo contest!


That’s right, kids, send me your worst bird photo: blurry, over exposed, under exposed, funny, weird, get creative. That’s right, I want to see the worst bird photo you can possibly take. There are any number of ways to do it, so you can go bonkers with this.

bad bird photo 1

We will post our favorite images and then those that are selected as our favorites will be entered into a drawing and we will pick the winning name from that bank of entries!


Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 10.26.40 PM

  1. Photo must be one that you have taken. You can’t just harvest a bad photo off of Wikipedia or Google Image Search. I have strong Google Fu and will find it if you do.
  2. Photo must be accompanied by a brief description or what you think the bird was that you were trying to photograph.
  3. Photos must be emailed to sharon at birdchick dot com.
  4. Photo submissions must include your first and last name in the email and your shipping address (so if you win, I know where to send my scope off to).
  5. Photos must be submitted no later than February 8, 2013. The winner will be drawn and announced on February 11, 2013.


Don't be afraid to get creative! Good luck!!

Tryin' To Get That Digiscoping Feelin' Again

So in an effort to get to know my new digiscoping set up better, I keep stopping out here and there to test out different settings.  Today...I had my ISO way too high and ended up with some arty shots that I kind love: crows bleached


I love how eerie these bleached out crows look--something only a photographer would say when most of their photos are bad...they're ARTY!

Canada Goose


This kind of looks like a drawing.  I did get the ISO down to 100 and got a more reasonable shot (and bird #11 for my Big Half Year).

Canada Goose 1

And this would be my first official photo with my new digiscoping set up.  Once I get used to this system, I think we will get along fine. I've taken just under 800 photos with my set up and this is the first one that I thought was good enough for the blog.  I write that because I meet so many people who get a digiscoping set up and after 16 pictures, never touch it.  It takes several shots to get used to all the bells and whistles on your camera.  You should go out and practice on starlings, chickadees, Canada geese to get a feel for the system, figure out what adjustments you need for different light settings, that way you'll be ready when you go warbler watching or on that trip to Central America. I didn't expect to take over 700 hundred photos to get used to the system, but this camera has burst mode so I ended up with more shots than I bargained for even when lightly pressing the button.  But when  you have a set up, take a crap load of photos and get on a first name basis with your delete key.  That is the number one step to getting better photos: PRACTICE!

I'm desperately trying to get this in before we head to Space Coast next week.  I want a lot of these settings to be second nature so I can grab spectacular shots of spoonbills, ibises, wood storks and limpkins.

New Swarovski Digiscoping Set Up With the ATX

I had such high hopes for the start of 2013.  I am back freelancing, I set some minor digiscoping goals for the blog, I downloaded apps on my iPhone and iPad to synch things and make sharing links via all my social medias and easy cheesy process.  I spent the week between Christmas and New Years getting my collective crap in order. Then, I got a new spotting scope! And the new scope's digiscoping adapter doesn't work with my Nikon D40.  Then my five year old MacBook Pro had some screen issues.  For no apparent reason and with incredibly unpredictable timing, the screen would go black.  I found a temporary fix that worked about one out of twelves times that I tried it, but it was not an ideal situation for answering work email, blogging and in some cases sharing links.

I was irritated and fascinated.  It's amazing to me how much my laptop is like a car and breaks down at the least convenient moment, like when I am in a tiny town in Missouri with no hope of an Apple store within 50 miles. I really hoped I could do some patch fixes until February because I didn't want to deal with a new laptop and new camera at the same time but that's the way it crumbles, cookie-wise.

So! Here is what my old digiscoping set up involved:

Nikon D40 Swarovski Digiscoping Set up


A Swarovski ATM spotting scope with a 20-60 zoom eyepiece, a DCA digiscoping adapter and a Nikon D40.  A trusty system that has seen me through several states, countries and even survived a broken camera battery door.  I was very pleased with this setup, would have preferred a smaller camera that also did video, but at the end of the day, loved what this system did for me.

iPhone Swarovski ATM digiscoping setup

Over the last year I have also incorporated an iPhone 4s into my digiscoping routine with my Swarovski ATM, DCA adapter and an iTelligent adapter.  I am fairly adept at hand holding my iPhone up to the scope to get decent still images, but at the end of the day, to do video, you really need something to secure it to the scope if you want to take video.

Then Swarovski sent me the new ATX scope with the new TLS APO adapter...and as said earlier, that adapter does not work with the Nikon D40.

lens not attached


The TLS APO adapter is designed to go directly on the camera body, so you take off the camera lens to attach the adapter.  With this particular Nikon, it thinks that you do not have a lens attached and refuses to take any photos.  I had to get a new camera.

I talked to my friends at Swarovski, checked in with digiscoping guru Mike McDowell to see how he was using the new scope and what didn't work and what did work.

How to find a digiscoping camrea


Then I took my scope, my adapter and my budget to National Camera Exchange in Golden Valley, MN (there is a difference in customer service between the various locations and in my experience, that one is the best.  Ask for Curt or Kevin). I cannot stress enough that when you have a new scope and you want to find a camera, take it in with you to find your camera.  Play with them together, get a feel for how they will work together.  My favorite camera was the Nikon V2.  However, after purchasing a fancy new laptop, it was not in my budget.  Since the Nikon V2 had just come out, the Nikon V1 is discontinued and you can get the camera body right now for $350 to $399.  It's a steal.  It's compact, it does video and it works with the new system.

Nikon v1 Swarovski digiscoping set up


Here is my new rig: the Nikon V1, a Nikon T ring, a Nikon FT 1 adapter, (a crazy, somewhat pricy piece of equipment that has electronics in it but tells the camera that there is an actual lens on the camera), the TLS APO adapter and the ATX 85 mm scope.

I'm still learning how to get my digiscoping mojo on.  I took 549 photos with it the other day and none of them are worth posting in the blog because I'm still trying to get my settings figured out.  FYI, you cannot use every mode the V1 offers with the TLS APO.  I cannot use the Smart Photo Selector Mode or the Motion Snap Shot Mode but I can use general camera and movie mode which is what I wanted.

And after the laptop and new camera, I am now setting my check card in some ice to cool off.

Some of you may be wondering what I'm doing with my old spotting scope since I now have a new one...well, folks, I'm going to give it away! That's right, I'm going to have a contest coming up soon and the rules are going to even the playing field.  I'll announce details very soon, but the contest is geared so that anyone could enter, no matter the birding ability.  It has nothing to do with getting the best photo of a bird (if you can do that, you certainly don't need my scope). So keep your eye pealed, you could win my old Swarovski ATM 80mm scope!