Taking pictures in the rainforest—any rainforest or jungle or woods—is a challenge particularly due to the lack of light. On the recent digiscoping trip we took to Trinidad and Tobago, sponsored by Leica Sport Optics, I got to compare the relative difficulty and success/failure rate of taking photographs with a digiscoping set-up versus taking photographs with a professional-grade digital SLR camera.
My loaner digiscoping rig consisted of a Leica APO-Televid HD-65mm spotting scope, a Leica D-Lux 4 digital camera, and a bayonet-mount digiscoping adaptor.
My big-rig digital SLR camera is a Canon 30D with a 300mm fixed, image-stabilized, lens.
One of the images above (a female rufous-tailed jacamar) was taken with each set-up. I took these shots moments apart from one another on a trail in Gilpin Trace rainforest on Tobago.
Both images are just as they were taken, no adjustments to color, sharpness, or cropping. Both were exported as jpegs for use in Blogspot.
Can you guess which one was taken with which rig?
I know from other attempts at digital SLR photography in the deep, dark jungle, that it can be really hard to get good "keeper" photos, especially without the use of a tripod and a bracket-mounted flash unit. When I returned from the Philippines last spring, I was crushed to see how few of my D-SLR images were good enough to keep. Some of this was the result of low-light conditions, some of it was due to "operator error" and some of it was just plain old bad luck.
This is where digiscoping can really pay big dividends for the bird watcher who also likes to snap a few images of birds that happen to cooperate. If a bird sits still for more than a few seconds, it's a candidate for digiscoping. The only downside is that you do need to haul a spotting scope with you in order to digiscope most effectively.
The Leica scopes we were using are the new, top-of-the-line models. Mine was the APO-Televid 65. The coatings and lenses on these scopes gather an incredible amount of light. The focus on them is super-fine. Combining this with the high-end compact Leica cameras we were using, and we had a nearly perfect set-up for digiscoping.
And the images? Well, I can't resist showing off one more digiscoped image from that same day.