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Forum Home > Digiscoping Tips > Digiscoping in the dark.

Posts: 103

Wanna be an owl digiscoper?

Better get used to shooting in the dark.

I tried it tonight. Usually when the wife and I try to get owls, we go after the burrowing owls. They are out in the day and you can actually get some pics of them.

Well, a few minutes ago, we went out looking for owls.

The wife spotted a great horned owl. 

The sun had gone down about a half hour before we found this owl. You had to have the headlights on to drive.

But there was still a bit of abient light in the sky. It wasn't totally black yet.

Why even try right?

All you could see with your eye was a dark silhouette.

Keep in mind, this next image has SEVERE camera settings.

ISO 6400. Yep, maxed out for my little dslr.  I believe that is maxed with the ISO expansion  turned on.

The shutter speed on this pic is 1/30. I had the whitebalance set to shade. There is not a setting for no light, not that I am aware of.

Well, that didnt work, I was maxed out on my ISO, all I could do was drop the shutter speed.

I dropped it to 1/1.

Yep, thats not a typo, 1/1 The shutter was open for 1 full second. It tried to gather light. I managed to get 3 pictures with that setting.

The bad thing was, only 1 out of the 3 pictures worked. The other 2 the owl moved while the shutter was open and all you see is a giant blur.

But, this one kind of worked out.

ISO 6400 and shutter speed 1/1.   

Can you believe it?

It also helped that the owl switched trees on me. He actually flew closer. 

You won't believe, but it flew closer than this pic, and landed on a street sign about 20 feet from our car. I wasn't fast enough to get any pics of him there.

I know, the pics are terrible as far as quality, but this was my first attempt at digiscoping in the dark. 

You cant believe how much frustration there is trying to find out if the camera is focused. You can't see anything. 

Crazy night!

One thing is certain, I will be out there in the area tomorrow looking for it again, a little earlier this time.

Its time to practice some low light digiscoping. 

July 31, 2013 at 12:11 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Posts: 103

Not that this is any good, but its a follow up to this post.

One thing about lots of Owls is that they come out at night.

I found this one at about 9:30 and tried to digiscope it for a few minutes. 

Now, there is no moonlight  to use, the official sun set is 8:29 pm. So, this next picture was taken about an hour after sunset.

I know, its INSANE!!!!!!!, but that is just me.

Magnification cuts out light, there was no light to begin with! 

I took this on 30X ISO set at 6400, shutter speed on bulb. 

I just guessed on how long to hold the shutter open. It took about 10 tries to get this image.

I know, its a terrible image. But, its an image.

Its amazing what you can do with digiscoping gear if you just try stuff. 

I wouldn't think you could even do this with virtually no moon light, and the scope magnification cutting out light.

Now, one thing, focus. Since your LCD is totally black, I mean totally black, the only thing you can do is use the viewfinder and try to focus the outside edge of the bird against the skyline.

Its really a pain in the butt.

I have seen this Owl two nights in a row in the same location. I think I have an idea of where it is spending its days. 

I think I may try and find him, before the sun sets, in a day or two.

August 12, 2013 at 7:18 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Posts: 103

I must continue. 

The more you try, the more you learn. Right?

So, I did it again last night. 

45 minutes after official sunset, the light was so poor, I could only make out the slightest edges of the owl. 

Distance 150 yards, or 137 meters.

ISO 6400 and the shutter speed on bulb held open for 4 seconds.

Good enough to see that it is a Great Horned Owl. Not good enought o please me.

About a half an hour later, and 20 miles down the road, I got a look at another.

This time I had to hold the shutter open for seven seconds. Yeah, seven seconds! Luckily the Owl didn't move.

I had to lighten this image with software, its grainy, and not the best. But it is working.

August 16, 2013 at 3:41 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Posts: 103

Last night, at 2:30 am, yes, 2:30 in the middle of the night, I woke up to the sound of Great horned owls calling back and forth.

Well, I wasn't going to be getting any sleep, so I decided to go out and take a look. See if I could find them.

I knew they would be close because they were loud.

About 60 feet, or 18 meters outside my bedroom window there was an owl perched on a telephone pole.

I guess you get lucky sometimes.

The best part....... moonlight. Plenty of it. 

The hardest part is getting focused. I just try to get the outline of the silhouette as sharp as I can. 

I tried the ISO set at 1800 with the shutter on bulb, holding it open for 6 seconds.

Nope, I guess there is not THAT much moonlight.

I jumped the ISO to 3200, held the shutter open for another 6 seconds.

Hey, thats getting better, and there is not that much noise.

So, I jumped the ISO to 6400 and held the shutter open for 7 seconds.

Ah, the sweet spot. Now that it was dialed in, it was time to take some pics.

I took 30 pictures with this setting. Only 4 of them worked out.

Why? because with a seven second shutter, if the owl moves, you get an owl with multiple ghost heads and blurred images. 

Seven seconds doesn't sound like a long time, until you stand there with your finger on the button watching the counter climb. You say a lot of little prayers "don't move little owl. just give me a few more seconds...."

I am not sure if those dots that look like water spots are stars or if they are noise. 

Usually noise comes in in red and blue specs, and they are smaller. 

I first thought that they were water spots on my lens. But they were not. 

So, that's that. Just try and go back to sleep after that!

There was no sleeping, so I went inside, woke up my wife a daughter and we all went out and walked down the street, looking for owls.

There were four calling, one was just down the road.

It was the only time I didn't mind being woke up in the middle of the night.

August 24, 2013 at 7:26 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Dannys Digiscoping
Site Owner
Posts: 372

Outstanding! I'd have never thought it possible! 

Great subjects too!!

August 25, 2013 at 8:30 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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