Poor Photographs (1 Viewer)

mickporter

Oswaldtwistle birder
Ok guys, first I confess...... I ignored all advice. I bought my eagle eye adaptor, and couldn't wait to get out and photograph birds! After reading Andy's advice for camera settings (I did get that bit right!!) I whizzed around to the nearest bird site, mounted my Coolpix 4500 onto my scope using the eagle eye adaptor and clicked away. Took over a hundred shots. Really confident. After all I take good pics of the kids, portraits, animals at the zoo etc etc.. No need for all that practice on inanimate objects. Back at home I uploaded my pictures to the computer. Every shot looked out of focus. Some birds were not even recognisable.

I showed one to a friend who pointed out that because nothing in my pictures was in focus, intimated that camera shake was my problem. (I had not used a remote or cable release!). I bombed around to my local camera store who were happy to sell me a nikon remote at great expense. (Don't tell the wife!)

After double checking my settings again, I returned to my usual haunt. (I never learn!!) Again clicking away, this time much much more confident. This time my pictures were very much better. More or less in focus although not all. Lots of them contained ducks rear ends! (I assume that is why Teal have that yellow patch on their backsides. To help me pick them out in pictures!) It seems that after pressing the button halfway and composing the picture, to the camera actually recording it, is enough to allow the bird to swim off. Most annoying. I complained to the Wetland Centre manager about that! He needs to ensure his ducks behave more responsibly in future.

Which after boring you all with this brings me to my questions:

1. My pictures appeared very washed out. Colours seemed dull. Why???
2. Some appeared as though they were taken in a haze, Why??
3. Finding the birds with my binoculars is easy, finding them through a telescope is not too hard, but finding them on that little screen is really hard. Have you any sure fire tips for finding my targets more easily??
4. My tripod no matter how I try seems to kick back slightly after it is set on a target. I assume the camera weight makes the scope heavy at the back and no matter how I tried I found it really difficult to lock the tripod with the bird in the screen. After some practice I found that aiming the scope under the bird and then leaving loose sometimes resulted in the front rising to the target but it was very hit and miss. Holding the scope handle again caused camera shake. Would putting a weight on the front of the scope to counterbalance help? Or is my tripod at fault? (It is a manfrotto and was not cheap. I have no problems with just the scope alone). Any suggestions would be appreciated.......

In fact any help would be appreciated. I am at the glueing the birds to the fence stage.... fast moving into the jumping on the camera approach. Tell me there is light at the end of this long tunnel!!

Regards Mick Porter
 
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stevo

Well-known member
Hi Mick

A sunshade with a built in magnifier will help you to see the birds better on the monitor(ie in focus etc).Try altering the position you are standing in so that the sun is behind you because it sounds like your shots are ending up backlit which is why they are turning out hazy.Also try turning the contrast down as the cp4500 has a habit of blowing out the highlights a bit.As regards your tripod I have found,only a personal experience that some Mannfrotto tripods do not stay lined up properly on the subject (128) head.I went back to my original tripod (SLIK D3)this solved the problem.A manual cable release is more reliable than Nikon`s own one & a darn sight cheaper!!
Regards Steve.
 

IanF

Moderator
Hi Mick,

First of all, on behalf of Admin and the Moderators, welcome to Bird Forum :t:

Lots of questions and I'm not certain of all the answers.

Certainly camera shake accounts for lots of blurred photos. I find a cable release is the solution though not every time as windy conditions and bouncy hide floors, even as you transfer weight fromm one foot to another still cause problems of shake.

Some demo photos would certainly help with making suggestions. Certainly if you have followed Andy's advice on settings then the camera must be set up right.

1. Dull colours and lack of contrast could be due to flare off the sun if you're pointing the scope in that direction, likewise dull overcast conditions.
2. The haze could be as above or in Summer particularly heat haze can be a problem. What scope are you using though ? Some non-ED glass scope can give very soft images lacking in cntrast and looking hazy. I had this problem with a Lowa 611 a few years back. They may still produce decent images though int he right conditions.
3. Practice makes perfect with finding birds in the LCD. I usually set the scope up, sometimes setting the zoom at 20x, attach the camera locate the bird in the LCD which with my set up the camera weighs the scope down so normally I just need to marginally raise the scope without sideways movement to centre the bird in the LCD and then zoom the eyepiece a bit to 30x.
4. A question of balance -see above! Some people do put counter weights on the front of the scope, slung from the objective end or sewn onto the scope SOC, but I just make do and tighten everything up. Manfrotto do make a balance plate, which lets you move the centre of gravity to compensate, but is just something else to carry about.

Just a few suggestions for you, though I would still advise practice in the back garden until you feel comfortable with the camera settings and results.
 

thos

Well-known member
Ian, I practice quite a lot and have had reasonable success, but am still not happy with the overall quality. I use equipment identical to that which you used for sometime, Kowa 823M etc. and as a result of one of your postings I downloaded NeatImage which has improved some of my shots without doubt. However, I do get fuzzy edges to images which I find difficult to remove.I've posted a typical shot which you will see has that particular problem. could you suggest a remedy for this .
 

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IanF

Moderator
Hi Thos,

The Bullfinch smacks of being a bit too over processed in NI. If you have the settings set too high then you get that bright edging like across the breast on your shot. I seldom set anything higher than 40%.

The shot looks sharp and detailed enough so it may be the order you are processing it.


If you want, send me an email with an unaltered shot and I'll see if I can suggest anything. You're right in that I couldn't fault my Kowa and still regret parting with it.
 

Doug Greenberg

Well-known member
It would be helpful to see Tom's photo prior to the noise reduction step. I have found the effects of noise reduction highly variable, to the point where in some cases a slightly "noisy" photo unprocessed is simply inherently more pleasing than one that has been processed through NI.
 

scampo

Steve Campsall
thos said:
Ian, I practice quite a lot and have had reasonable success, but am still not happy with the overall quality. I use equipment identical to that which you used for sometime, Kowa 823M etc. and as a result of one of your postings I downloaded NeatImage which has improved some of my shots without doubt. However, I do get fuzzy edges to images which I find difficult to remove.I've posted a typical shot which you will see has that particular problem. could you suggest a remedy for this .
Neat Image is very subtle and works best, in my experience - very limited - on pretty near perfect images, adding a final polish, as it were. You could try downloading a trial of AutoFx AutoEye 2 - you might be surprised at how effective this is at rescuing photos. Also there is a product from a Northamptonshire company called Extensis Intellihance Pro 4 - worth a try if a trial is on offer.
 

Jay Turberville

Well-known member
As Ian said. More info and examples would be helpful. And to my mind, examples should be cropped and unprocessed.

1) It could be flare as Ian suggested. It could be use of too much magnification. Or it could be shooting long distances. Use your lenshade and don't shoot at magnifications greater than 3000mm equivalence (20x at full camera zoom or 30x at around 24mm camera zoom). Make sure your camera saturation is set to normal or auto. Also, consider stopping down fo f7-8 if you are using a relatively low scope magnification and if lighting is strong enough to allow it.

2) See above. Long distance shots are often shots through a haze. We just don't tend to notice it. Air turbulence can start to detract from image quality as distances as short as 50 feet. High magnifications lead to lower image contrast. Also, many scopes have a color cast. Try setting a white balance preset through the scope to get more neutral colors right out of the camera. Try shooting with sharpness set to the maximum.

3) Yes. Mount a little LED sight to the scope. The Max View Electronic Point sight is sold by Daisy (a U.S. airgun company) and costs less than $10 at U.S. discount stores like Wal-Mart.
http://daisy.ifworld.com/cgi-bin/daisy/products_maxspeed.html
Here is the sight picture:
http://www.jayandwanda.com/digiscope/sight.jpg
This is how I mounted it to the ATS80HD (I used the virtually useless peep sight as a mounting point:
http://www.jayandwanda.com/swaro/DaisySight.jpg

This type of sight give you the freedom not to have to align your head perfectly behind the sight and you can sight with both eyes open. I simply align the sight before heading off. If aligned properly, putting the red dot on your subject virtually guarantees the subject will be in the scope view. On another scope with a more stable mount, you can almost frame the shot based on the dot placement.

4) As Ian mentioned, good scope balance will help that a lot. Possibly better tripod heads as well. I also will gently lean on the scope handle to make minor framing adjustments and take the picture while the scope is nudged in this manner.
 

Tannin

Common; sedentary.
OK, let me take a crack at this. I'm going to reply first, and then read the other replies later, so it will be interesting to see if we all come up with the same advice or not!

1. Pictures washed out. Colours dull.
This is a classic sign of two things. (a) Too far away from the bird, and trying to compensate with too much magnification. Or (b) backlighting. Even with a top-quality scope, you need the light behind you (or at very least on the side) to get decent quality pictures. (You can do OK against the light, but it requires a great deal of luck, lots of time and care, the best equipment you can afford, and a signed contract with a large and nasty gentleman who smells rather too much of sulpher.) Or, (c) perhaps you have the ISO equivalent turned up too high: you lose a little colour and quality at ISO 200, quite a lot at 400. Finally, (d) I imagine that a cheap, low-quality scope would do this too. I think (a) or (b) though, in your case.

2. Some appeared as though they were taken in a haze.
Probably focus problems. Getting the focus right takes a good deal of practice. Here is my method, which works for me almost every time. Let's say about 9 out of 10. But it took a lot of practice to get to this stage. In the early days, I used to get 1 good one out of 10 if I was lucky. You soon improve though, so stick with it.

Start by sticking the Coolpix into the normal auto focus mode.

Remove the camera from the scope and find your bird. (This gets easier with practice too - but it's never easy.) Get a quick, rough focus.

Now zoom in as far as the equipment will go and re-focus. It doesn't need to be an exact focus, just fairly close. Because you are now working at maximum zoom, the zone of focus is very narrow (sometimes just a few inches) and getting in or close to it is fast and easy, as you don't have to make any fine distinctions: if it's not right, it will be obviously wrong.

Zoom all the way back out. Don't touch the focus! You were in or close to the very narrow max-zoom focus zone, so you are now at or very close to the centre of the much wider minimum-zoom focus zone. In other words, you now have (near enough as makes no difference) perfect focus - and because an out-of-focus condition is so instantly obvious at max zoom, it took you only about 1/2 or 2/3rds as long as it would have taken you to focus at the minimum zoom setting.

Oh, one more thing about ths part of focusing. Unless the bird is keeping absolutely still for you, don't try to focus on the bird itself. Pick something that is more or less still, at the exact same distance, and focus on that instead. For small birds, the twig it's perching on is often good. Or a particular part of the bird - something instantly recognisable, such as the eye or the scales on its leg. The thing is, trying to focus on a vaguely defined and often moving part of the bird requires thought and concentration and constant mental adjustments as the shape of that particular part of the bird (the curve of the breast feathers, for example) keeps changing as the bird looks around, calls, scratches, preens, and so on. The foot though, often remains still, and you only have to concentrate on that one un-moving part for a short moment, where to focus on a moving part (the head when it keeps turning to look this way and that, say) takes ages.

Re-fit the camera and shoot.

That's the main part of getting the focus right, and doing that you should get about 50% of your shots nice and sharp. The other 50% will still be out of focus because although your scope is focussed perfectly, your stupid camera gets confused and tries to focus on the tree in the background, or the twig in the foreground, or any damn thing except the bird.

You need to know two things about cameras. (a) They are very stupid and can't tell the difference between a Night Parrot and a bucket of night soil. (b) They are recalcitrant little things that are, in general, utterly determined to focus on anything they can see, just so long as it doesn't have feathers on it. So, what you have to do is accept that the camera will nearly always choose to focus on the worst possible object in its focus area, and make sure that you only ever give it one object to chose from.

Set the focus to spot, or any of the several spot-like alternatives. Know where the focus spot is (you can move it around using the joystick thingie on the CP4500) and make sure that that spot in your viewfinder is nuffin but bird. It helps if that part of the bird has some nice sharp lines or colour variations for the auto-focus system to get hold of. If you can't get a good focus on the bird itself, another object (a branch, say) that is the same distance away will do. Sometimes you have to (e.g.) use the left-hand focus spot (some branches that are about the right distance away) to take a picture of a bird on the right-hand side of your screen that the camera otherwise refuses to focus on. (Perhaps because there is a contrasty twig three feet in front of the bird, or simply because the bird has very soft-looking plumage that doesn't give the auto-focus system anything to "grip" on.)

In short, camera focus systems are evil-minded things, and only behave properly when you outsmart the little buggers and give them no other choice but to behave the way you want. (Sort of like children, actually. Or possibly wives. But I digress.)

3. Finding the birds with my binoculars is easy, finding them on that little screen is really hard.
Use the scope first. Add the camera when you have found the bird and focussed.

4. My tripod no matter how I try seems to kick back slightly after it is set on a target.
If I ever find a tripod and head that doesn't do this, I will marry it. Don't bother trying to get the head to lock up in exactly the right place, you never will. (Well, not before the bird has flown off to Siberia for the breeding season, anyway.) Instead, leave the head unlocked, but screw the tension up as high as it will go. Moving the scope with the handle should feel like trying to swim through molasses on a cold day wearing flippers. Stiff as you can make is so long as you can still make it move. Sure, it's slow and cumbersome that way, but it's worth it.

Throw away the cable release. Hold the handle with your left hand, leaning on it (or pulling up on it) just hard enough to keep the bird centered in your view. Hold the camera with your right hand, damping out any vibration. Use your right hand as a sort of bean bag, a camera steadier. To shoot, squeeze gently and smoothly with both thumb (under the camera) and forefinger (on the shutter release).

To further reduce camera shake, always set the camera to "continuous", and when you shoot, use "double taps". Squeeze and hold, so that you get two or even three shots in a row. To begin with, your second shot wiull often be sharper. As you gain experiece though, you will get better and a lot of your first shots will be sharp too.

5. Crawl, then walk.
Start with easy birds! Don't race off thinking you are going to get great shots of small, fast-moving, shy or rare birds! That comes later. Maybe much later. First, get some great shots of easy birds, then start chasing great shots of difficult birds.

Go down to your local city lake and find some ducks or geese. Do this on a nice day, with really good light. (The brighter the light, the shorter the exposure, the better your shots.) Water birds tend to be (a) large (so you don't need to get too close); (b) un-fussed about people (so they don't fly off every time you scratch your head), (c) pretty slow-moving, so you get lots of time to set up and get everything right, and (d) very photogenic.

Do this two or three times and I practically guarentee that you will wind up with lots of good usable shots and two or three really great ones. Then, little by little, start raising the bar. As you get faster and better at it, you start trying for shots of slightly more difficult birds. Stick with it, and you slowly start to build up a portfolio, slowly start finding that the "impossible" shots are within your grasp.

Just last weekend, I had two very brief meetings with birds I had wanted shots of for ages (Flame Robin, which I don't see at home, and the tiny, never still Striated Pardalote, which is often heard and rarely more than glimpsed), and all that practice paid off. I got good, usable shots of both of them. Not perfect - perfect shots are rare things indeed - but I had only one chance and nailed both of them. It was a 600 kilometre drive home from there, and I smiled all the way.

Digiscoping is like that. It's hard work, it takes a lot of time, and often you spend hours achieving very little, but every now and then it pays off - and then you don't begrudge a single minute of the time you spent learning your craft.

PS: I'm using a Manfrotto tripod (nothing special and due to be replaced with a carbon one next time I have some spare dollars), Manfrotto 501 head, Swarovski ATS80HD with the 20-60 zoom E/P, Swarovski adaptor, and Coolpix 4500. But I suspect that the general methods I've outlined above will work OK with most equipment.

PPS: Everyone has different methods. The above is what works for me. But you may discover a completely different way. If it works for you, do it! And good luck!
 

scampo

Steve Campsall
Well - I've learned much from that, even if it wasn't aimed at me! Thanks, anyway. Especially, I was interested to read about the tripod head's movement after locking with the pan/tilt arm: so they ALL move do they? Well, that's one problems sorted - but are they all jerky or are some smooth? My Velbon seemed ideal before I started digiscoping, but now it's simply not smooth enough when I'm trying to frame the bird properly.

Any tips? I have a chance of a Manfrotto with "junior" head - do you know if that is useful - or is the 128RC head better?

Thanks again!
 

checklg

Graham Checkley
scampo said:
is the 128RC head better

The 128RC suffers from tilting on my Manfrotto 441. That's with a Leica APO Televid 77 and a CP4500 on-board. It's simply too much weight out of balance. The point of attachment for the scope was never designed to work with a camera attached, and there's too much weight for the 128RC to handle out of balance.

I've recently purchased a Gitzo 1325 and a Wimberley head to take a DSLR and a 500mm lens. My intention now is to use the Gitzo and the Wimberley for Digiscoping as well. The Wimberley should allow me to shift the balance to a more appropriate point and it will certainly take the weight ok.

Regards,
Graham.
 

scampo

Steve Campsall
It's none too easy to find out these things, neither is it easy to try tripods out. I thought the 128 was a classic head for digiscopers, but it seems not.

It was tough finding out about adapters- it's proving as tough to make a good decision on tripods and heads! Interesting hobby this - but mighty frustrating at times (and that's before you even get to press the shutter).
 

thos

Well-known member
Phew!!! I agree with you Steve. I would also like to thank all you guys for the generous and obviously sound advice that I shall do my best to pyt to good use. For your perusal, I have posted a copy of the shot in question- un-edited, but cropped and re-sized to permit posting.

Regards
 

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mickporter

Oswaldtwistle birder
Yes cheers guys, some good advice to wade through there. I think my dissapointing colours are a result of several things. Probably lighting being the main problem (there was an annoyingly bright sun! Getting the sun behind you in not much of an option when sat in a hide.) Combined with distance and I have to say my scope is probably not the best for the job, its a Kowa 602 straight scope. I am saving and trying to persuade my wife how much a new scope is better and more necessary than a new bedroom suite!!

I like the idea of focusing on something at the same distance as the bird and not on the bird. A simple solution which simply had not occured to me. Also the LED sight. Does this not disturb all around it?? I imagine my fellow watchers running for cover in fright!!

I will study all your suggestions and keep you posted with progress. As you have pointed out its simply not just point and shoot here. It is going to take practice and experience to get that first postable picture. But I will persevere. Digiscoping is a way to combine both my hobbies or birds and computers....... Strangely enough both are my wifes pet hates! But I am working on her.

Wives you can't beat em!...............................but you would like too!
 

Jay Turberville

Well-known member
scampo said:
It's none too easy to find out these things, neither is it easy to try tripods out. I thought the 128 was a classic head for digiscopers, but it seems not.

I use the Manfrotto 128RC and an 055N (Bogen 3021N). I suspect that if you did a survey, you find this combo to be very common. But that isn't to suggest it is the optimal solution. For my style of shooting, however, I consider it very adequate.

I made a balance bar for my first larger scope and it works well. However, it will never work perfectly, since the center of gravity of your scope will always be different from the pivot point of a conventional tripod head and consequently the scope is only ever perfectly balanced at one angle. A Wimberly head is the design that should get you near perfect balance.
http://www.tripodhead.com/wimberley.html
The Manfrotto 393 / Bogen 3421 is the bargain head of this gimbal type.


I seldom digiscope at much past 2500mm and often below 2000mm. So I only need to overshoot by a very small amount to get good framing. Its not perfect, but it is quite serviceable. I very seldom miss a shot because of the issue.
 

Jay Turberville

Well-known member
mickporter said:
I like the idea of focusing on something at the same distance as the bird and not on the bird. A simple solution which simply had not occured to me. Also the LED sight. Does this not disturb all around it?? I imagine my fellow watchers running for cover in fright!!

Some might be disturbed by the style since it it a gun sight, but other than that, there is no reason for anyone or any bird to be disturbed. This is NOT a laser sight. It does not shine or project a beam onto the subject. It is an LED reflex sight. A little red dot is reflected onto a clear screen that is part of the sight. The clear screen is housed and shaded in the end of the sight (the tube shaped thing). You look through the tube and screen and the red dot is superimposed on the subject. Astronomer types use these as well, though they may not be suitable for terrestrial use depending on how bright the LED is.
 

Glen Tepke

Well-known member
Jay Turberville said:
3) Yes. Mount a little LED sight to the scope. The Max View Electronic Point sight is sold by Daisy (a U.S. airgun company) and costs less than $10 at U.S. discount stores like Wal-Mart.
http://daisy.ifworld.com/cgi-bin/daisy/products_maxspeed.html

Jay - Is the red dot in this sight visible in bright light? I have a Televue Qwikpoint which looks similar but lacks an adjustment for the intensity of the dot, and it can be very hard to see against a bright background such as the sky. Thanks. Glen
 

mickporter

Oswaldtwistle birder
Quote: "This is NOT a laser sight. It does not shine or project a beam onto the subject. It is an LED reflex sight."

Oh I see, I imagined it was one of these things that snipers use. The ones you see on tv with a red dot on the person who was about to be shot! I can imagine some of the people in the hide thinking I was about to shoot the birds!

All I want to do is to stun them for a few seconds while I take their picture!!
 

Jay Turberville

Well-known member
Glen Tepke said:
Jay - Is the red dot in this sight visible in bright light? I have a Televue Qwikpoint which looks similar but lacks an adjustment for the intensity of the dot, and it can be very hard to see against a bright background such as the sky. Thanks. Glen

I have no problem with seeing the dot and I'm in the Sonoran desert near Phoenix, AZ. But then, I've never use it to aim at the sky. :)

The apparent visibility is better than what this shot shows:
http://www.jayandwanda.com/digiscope/sight.jpg

The red stands out. I suspect that it probably isn't optimum for lining up on a Cardinal in a field of red roses though. But I'd bet it would still work. It is far superior to the peep sight on the ATS80HD.

I've got two. One is on one of my other scopes. The one I purchased for the Swaro is slightly different in that it has a three position switch instead of a simple ON/OFF switch. The new one has ON, OFF and LOW. I suspect this is to cater to the astro fellas who are known to modify these for a dimmer dot which is better for use at night. I suspect that the TeleVue is optimized for night viewing.

The Daisy sight can be had for less than $10 at WalMart. It would probably be the cheapest digiscoping accessory you can buy.
 

GR Triever

Well-known member
Jay Turberville said:
The Daisy sight can be had for less than $10 at WalMart. It would probably be the cheapest digiscoping accessory you can buy.
And if you'd like a little higher quality, check out BSA's 30mm red dot scopes; IIRC the last one I picked up was around $30-40USD.

GR
 

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