Follow Optics Blog:



Monthly Archives: February 2011

28 Feb

Digiscoping – taking pics with small digital cameras behind the eyepiece of a spotting scope – has added a great many birds to my bird photo collection and, a good many of these digiscoping pics could not have been obtained with conventional photography equipment and techniques. You might think, then, that I have photos of just about every common bird in my bird collection.

Not so. The interesting thing about bird photography is its inconsistency. When you are in the right place at the right time, you end up with a pic of a rare bird, and, at the same…

Continue reading

25 Feb

For some folks, I suppose it is only natural to favor smaller and lighter equipment as they get older. We all reach a point where we no longer want the hassles of large binoculars, jumbo telescopes, oversize spotting scopes and the mammoth tripods needed to carry them.

As for me, though, I’ve always favored smaller and lighter, even when I was young. Give me small film cameras and small digital cameras. I’ll take compact binoculars, please and only small spotting scopes. Big telescopes are awesome, but there is just something about smaller telescopes that fascinate me. Who wants to drive…

Continue reading

24 Feb

What’s a great way to brighten up a cold, dreary, late winter afternoon? Get into your photo library and pull up some pics of flowers and wildflowers, that’s what. After looking at snowscapes for the last three plus months, those wildflower colors look almost impossibly bright and alive.

Want to start a wildflower collection of photographs? Of all the types of outdoor photography you can enjoy, wildflower photography is one of the easiest and most accessible.

First, you do not need much in the way of camera equipment. Yes, digital SLR cameras and premium quality macro lenses, all mounted on …

Continue reading

23 Feb

People rarely stay up at night dreaming about tripods. Let’s face it: tripods just don’t have the glamour and purchase appeal of the items we like to put on a tripod, such as spotting scopes, digital cameras or, perhaps a small telescope or large binoculars. You buy a tripod because you have to buy a tripod to make that other stuff work.

It’s this utilitarian nature of tripods that can cause you to underestimate the importance of a good tripod. One day in the field with a cheap tripod, though, and you won’t make that mistake, again. The best and…

Continue reading

22 Feb

When your eyelashes freeze to a telescope eyepiece, you know it is cold. (It has happened to me.) Yes, some of us still venture out in subzero to setup & use a telescope or astronomy binoculars. Astronomy in the dead of north country winter can be very rewarding, though. All it takes to be a successful winter observer is some fortitude and a bit of tweaking in the way we use our telescopes.

The trickiest part of looking through a telescope eyepiece in really cold weather is actually how you breathe. Breathe directly on a telescope eyepiece when the temperature…

Continue reading

21 Feb

Is it a little early to be thinking of spring? Up here in the north country, we still have a lot of winter coming our way, but we outdoor folks tend to take that in stride. In a couple months, we’ll have open water on the lakes and green on the forest floor, again. Why, that’s just around the corner! Time to be making a shopping list of new fishing equipment, getting repairs done on the boat and so on. It’ll be summer in no time.

That’s what Bill and I will be doing and a bit more, since I …

Continue reading

18 Feb

Weather is always a factor when you have as many outdoor pursuits as I have, but some of these pursuits are much more dependent on the weather than others. That probably explains why I have so many outdoor interests – no matter what the weather, I can find something to do.

Of all my pursuits, astronomy is easily the most weather dependent. Obviously, the best astronomy binoculars or telescopes money can buy are not going to let you do astronomy when the clouds roll in (unless, of course, you have a radio telescope or similar in your backyard). Thus, I…

Continue reading

17 Feb

What does one do during a mid-February thaw in the north country, such as the one we’ve had this week in northern Wisconsin? I would love to tell that I race outdoors to catch up on my winter birdwatching or sit outside at night in my pajamas with my astronomy binoculars or telescopes to do some astronomy. I would love to tell you that I wax up the skis, grab one of our digital cameras and hit the trail in a t shirt (okay, maybe a light coat). Or maybe I should tell you that I just sit out on…

Continue reading

16 Feb

One of the best field marks for identifying birds is bill shape, bill size, bill color and son on. The bill on a bird follows bird taxonomy quite faithfully and, even better, the bill is one part of a bird that stays fairly constant from season to season, unlike plumage and other bird traits. All this explains why the bill is typically the first thing I check when trying to identify an unknown bird. However, typical birding binoculars do not always show enough bill detail to make full use of this excellent field mark, especially on small birds or very …

Continue reading

15 Feb

Birdwatching never ceases to amaze me in its capacity to provide the unexpected.

It is now mid February and I have been watching my birdfeeders on a daily basis, religiously, despite the fact that most days it is the same crowd as always helping themselves to food. It’s a very predictable and constant mix of species, day after day. Still, I check with the binoculars on a regular basis, just to make sure that a new species of bird hasn’t managed to sneak in under my radar. Besides, looking at birds through birding binoculars is a joy in its own …

Continue reading