Wednesday, May 19, 2010

more with the Leica V-Lux 20

handheld digiscoped imagetaken with new Leica V-Lux 20 at 75 mm equivalent

Following up on the comments from the last blog post discussing the performance of the NEW Leica V-Lux 20 compact superzoom digital point & shoot camera. Clearly as a stand alone camera it functions swimmingly. but above and below I will show some more performance proofs from the V-Lux 20 as a digiscoping camera. In the last post I showed a number of images with the camera zoom near minimum, hand held behind the Leica 20-50x wide-angle zoom eyepiece and APO Televid spotting scope. The question was asked at what point of zoom and to what degree do the images degrade. At minimal zoom (as shown in the image in my past post of the Purple Martin pair), you get a solid defined vignetted edge on each corner with camera zoom at a 35 mm lens equivalent.
With camera zoom near 75 mm equivalent (above in this Great Crested Flycatcher image) the field begins to collapse. It presumably continues to collapse as more zoom is added, but unfortunately I only had the camera to test for one full day and was trying to get nice wildlife shots rather than doing standardized tests.
Eastern Wood-Pewee digiscoped w/ Leica V-Lux 20 through APO Televid scope

The Eastern Wood-Pewee above was again taken with the new V-Lux 20 handheld behind the Leica APO Televid 82 mm spotting scope. The camera was zoomed to a 44 mm lens equivalent and the scope zoom was at lowest power (25x wide angle). This image is completely unaltered and shown as uploaded from the camera. You can see that with this combination of camera & eyepiece zoom there is no visible vignetting at all! While I've always been a huge fan of using adapters to stabilize a digiscoped image it is nice that this camera is a pocket-sized (compact) superzoom with 12x optical zoom (300 mm equivalent) that can be easily handheld on this scope / eyepiece combination with incredible results. It is just another tool in the arsenal for those who want something that is more versatile as a stand alone and still able to be coupled with the scope to reach magnifications well over 1,000 mm equivalents.

Eastern Wood-Pewee digiscoped Magee Marsh, OH 5/14/10

Again with 14.5 megapixel resolution at my disposal, I was able to easily crop the image to a portrait mode with the bird and snag filling most of the frame with negligible loss of quality.
male Cape May Warbler digiscoped through Leica APO Televid 82 w/ V-Lux 20


Yet another example of a high-quality handheld digiscoped image is shown above. This adult male Cape May Warbler image was once again taken simply holding the new Leica V-Lux 20 behind the APO Televid eyepiece.
- Program mode, ISO 200, 1/250th sec, f/3.7, +1 step EV, auto image stabilization, 42 mm lens equivalent & 25x on scope zoom eyepiece


video

As a final example of the camera's prowess as a digiscoping tool, here is a digiscoped video (videscoped) taken by holding the V-Lux 20 camera behind the scope eyepiece once again. This video shows an adult male Baltimore Oriole feeding. In this instance the wind reduction feature was activated and the video was recorded at the highest level of quality at 1280x720 pixels @ 60 fps (frames per second)!

Needless to say I'm VERY impressed after being able to "play" with this little gem of a camera for only one full day. Unfortunately, I had to send it back though, so will have to wait before showing more tests & results. Never fear though, there will certainly be some!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

NEW Leica V-Lux 20 Breaks all the rules!!!

brand NEW Leica V-Lux 20 compact superzoom point & shoot camera

I was working the "Biggest Week in American Birding" in Ohio last week and the local sales rep loaned me his sample of the new Leica V-Lux 20 to test. I fully expected that I would be able to use the 12x zoom (300 mm equivalent) effectively to capture images of closer birds seen along the boardwalk at Magee Marsh in Oak Harbor, OH. This was a certainty and the camera performed "spot on" in this regard. At 14.5 megapixels with high def movie mode and built in GPS, I was looking forward to playing with this and as you can see from the image of below I was not disappointed!


male Northern Parula image taken with the new Leica V-Lux 20 camera 5/14/10

The colorful male Northern Parula shown above was taken by simply holding this tiny pocket-sized camera up, zooming and snapping the image! Obviously the bird cooperated by being close and at eye-level, but that is why so many birders visit this gem of a site during spring migration; for "in-your-face" views of these vibrant migrant birds. (taken at max zoom - 300 mm, program mode, ISO 200, 1/250th sec, f/4.9, +1 ev, with optical image stabilization and built in flash activated for fill).

Purple Martin pair @ Oak Harbor, OH 5/13/10

Those who know me, know that I am a digiscoping freak so despite the fact that "superzoom" cameras don't lend themselves to digiscoping, I'm sure you know I had to try this new "compact superzoom" behind our new wide-angle scope eyepiece to see how it worked for myself! The above is the exact image completely unaltered that I took through the scope when I first tried this on the evening of 5/13/10.

Amazingly, the Leica V-Lux 20 broke all the digiscoping rules and actually worked f0r digiscoping on its first test above. I was completely stoked! This was handheld behind the Leica APO Televid spotting scope with the wide-angle zoom eyepiece set a bit over 25x and the camera zoom set at a 35 mm equivalent.

Purple Martin pair digiscoped with NEW Leica V-Lux 20 camera

With 14.5 megapixel at my disposal, I was easily able to crop up and eliminate the dark circular frame to capture both the male & female birds (above) and then cropping further even the female alone as below!



female Purple Martin cropped from digiscoped image above


On the way back to the car (near 7 PM), I found my next photo opportunity and tested my luck again. A male Baltimore Oriole was singing unabashedly in an oak tree at the edge of the parking lot. I quickly set up my scope, pulled the V-Lux out of my shirt pocket and held it behind the scope eyepiece. This time I had the scope zoom at minimum 25x, and there was no vignetting around the frame! The image below is again completely unaltered. This is as it turned out by simply holding the new V-Lux 20 to the wide-angle eyepiece and shooting the image! Note there is just the tiniest hint of black vignetting at the lower right corner but otherwise nothing.

adult male Baltimore Oriole digiscoped with Leica V-Lux 20 evening 5/13/10
Image properties:
ISO 200
shutter speed: 1/80th sec
f/3.5
+0.7 step EV
35 mm equivalent

Baltimore Oriole digiscoped image slightly altered.

In the above image I've taken the liberty to add ~10 seconds of photoshop magic, cropping slightly to eliminate the dark corner and some of the "blown out" sky , and adding a bit of "shadow/highlights", but nothing more for the finished look above. At any rate, it is clear I need to get a V-Lux 20 of my own and begin experimenting some more both behind the spotting scope and as a stand alone unit! On 5/14 & 15 I took some more and better images and videos using the same camera scope combination which I will highlight next!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Carribbean visitors

dark morph Red-footed Booby digiscoped with Leica APO Televid scope & D-Lux 4

Made a trek with my son to the Miami area to enjoy the two celebrity birds visiting from the Carribbean! Above is the Red-footed Booby that has been in the area for the past couple of months.


La Sagra's Flycatcher at Bill Baggs Park in Key Biscayne, FL

Just as popular, has been the La Sagra's Flycatcher that has thrilled many observers at Bill Bagg's State Park in Key Biscayne, Florida. We enjoyed fantastic views this AM as the bird fed very actively and called repeatedly. Another birder photographing complained that digiscoping was too ineffective compared to his DSLR setup, but I rattled off nearly 20 frames in less than 1/2 hour and enjoyed 5 to 10x the magnification. I was not unhappy with these images obviously! All were shot with the Leica D-Lux 4 point & shoot camera, through a Leica APO Televid 82 mm spotting scope.

rare La Sagra's Flycatcher, digiscoped on Key Biscayne, FL 3/14/10

Both the La Sagra's Flycatcher and the Red-footed Booby are species commonly found throughout the Carribbean and rarely seen in the US only in Florida. There has been one of each of these species, hanging in the greater Miami area for a couple months now!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

North shore wildlife!

Rockport harbor - Leica D-ux 4 camera - 2/7/10

When most people think of New England their thoughts turn to quaint shore communities with lighthouses, sheltered harbors, and some of the best chowder and lobster rolls in the nation. These observations are undoubtedly accurate, but my focus (pun intended) has always been more on the natural areas and the unique wildlife it supports! What can I say, I'm wired a bit differently than most and despite the scenic marvel offered by the lovely sheltered Rockport harbor, while other tourists snapped pics of the buildings I was drawn to even the most common wildlife occurring here. For example, I turned to photographing the Herring Gull sitting on the post in front of the red building above....

adult Herring Gull digiscoped through Leica APO Televid spotting scope w/ D-Lux 4
...and even though they are abundant throughout the US and beyond, I still couldn't help but appreciate the behaviors of the Rock Pigeons here behaving "properly" as their name implies!

Rock Pigeon digiscoped with Leica APO Televid 82 spotting scope & D-Lux 4 camera
Winter isn't the typical time when most plan their New England trips, but I was thrilled to go up and attend the 2nd annual Cape Ann Winter Birding Weekend organized by the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce and Mass Audubon. This area offers some fantastic bird & wildlife opportunities in winter to include hordes of sea ducks, loons, alcids, and marine mammals, among others.

rocky shoreline off Cape Ann, MA - 2/5/10, Leica D-Lux 4 camera
The rocky coastline as seen directly across the road from the scenic venue where the event was held, made for a spectacular location to show binoculars and spotting scopes. As there was much wildlife supported here.

Purple Sandpipers make their living on Northern rocky shores!
The rocks themselves attracted amazing birds like the Purple Sandpipers above and below. A flock of 30+ fed among the algae and barnacles that clung to the sides of the lowest rocks when the tide dropped. It seemed like a cold way to make a living for a guy visiting from Florida, but these birds are perfectly adapted for the task. The birds did well on the slippery rocks and were able to avoid the crashing surf effectively. I wouldn't have fared nearly as well and was happy to to shoot from a safe distance and increase the magnification on the scope rather than creep out onto their precarious perches. I was not eager to feel the water temperature to say the least! ;p

Purple Sandpiper digiscoped Cape Ann, MA 2/5/10
More distant rocks also provided a favorite haunt for Great Cormorants, the largest species in this family found in the New World. The birds below seemed very animated and I couldn't help snapping images of them despite the distance and harsh side lighting.

large Great Cormorants roosted & consorted on ice-covered rocks off shore - MA 2/7/10

Common Loons fed near shore & were joined by lesser numbers of Red-throated Loons, Horned Grebes & Red-necked Grebes.

winter Common Loon, digiscoped off Cape Ann, MA 2/7/10
Common Loons (above) have sturdier builds than the more dainty Red-throated Loon (below). Note the Red-throated's lighter brownish-gray coloration, slimmer build, and thinner bill which is sometimes described as appearing upturned due to the angle of the lower mandible. These more subtle differences are necessary to note if you want to separate these species in winter. They are easily distinguished by markings in summer though.

Red-throated Loons were occasionally seen near shore.

Winter ducks were another big highlight here. Buffleheads and Red-breasted Mergansers like the male seen preening below were commonly seen very close to shore.

male Red-breated Merganser digiscoped through Leica APO Televid 82 mm scope

This is also a fantastic area to find and study many of the species of "Sea ducks" which include Long-tailed Duck (formerly Oldsquaw), and the three species of Scoters: Black, Surf, & White-winged. We saw all of these species right through the window of the venue! Below are some pictures of some others I caught up with during my quick trip here.

The male Harlequin Duck digiscoped above was feeding along the famed granite jetty just North of the Rockport Harbor. This was a late evening shot captured through the Leica APO Televid 82 mm spotting scope with the D-Lux 4 camera. This was the only male that I saw in my 3 days here. In summer these stunning ducks move into clear fast moving streams near the arctic coasts to nest.

Common Eiders digiscoped near Gloucester, MA 2/7/10
Another wonderful treat was watching the behaviors of the large rafts of Common Eiders, the largest sea duck species found in North America!

Common Eider digiscoped with Leica APO Televid 82 mm spotting scope & D-Lux 4

Female and young male Common Eiders are mostly brown. The adult females found along the Atlantic are typically reddish-brown with dark coloring on the breast as well. Young males tend to lack the red tones and show light to white breasts. I would guess the bird above is a first year male molting and its breast is just starting to appear lighter.

adult male Common Eider, digiscoped Gloucester, MA 2/7/10
Adult males were easily seen and identified though. Their distinctive black and white bodies reflected light from great distances. You can note the black cap and yellow-green bill on the bird above.

digiscoped with Leica C-Lux 4 camera through Lica APO Televid 82 mm spotting scope
Closer inspection reveals that the dark crown is actually split with a thin white stripe and that the area behind the white cheek is washed with a subtle avocado green that is more notable when the face is in shadow (as seen below).

adult male Common Eider digiscoped near Rockport, MA 2/7/10

Males would often rise out of the water flapping letting their light breasts reflect light. I assume this behavior may be territorial as females don't seem to do this often. In some lighting the breast seems to reflect a faint rosy bloom. Studies in some white bird species like the arctic Snowy Owl suggest more reflective males are more successful breeders. Also, tern species like Sandwich, Arctic, Roseate Tern and others show a pinkish "blush" on their breasts when breeding as well. Clearly there is a lot we do not understand about the complex displays of birds, and ultraviolet wavelengths we do not see well are likely involved.

both adult & young male Common Eiders regularly display as above.

For the past 3 winters the Cape Ann area has hosted a local avian celebrity, an adult male King Eider! This bird is a bit smaller than the Common and shares a similar black & white body patterning. However, an adult male King Eider's face and head are a fabulous pale, powder blue and the bill is bright orange with a bulbous base. While I got no images worth sharing, I was fortunate enough to see this bird each day I was there including very close images from the deck of the Seven Seas Whale Watch boat out of Gloucester. This trip was the final birding event of the festival, and seeing this bird up close was a clear highlight for many of those aboard!


winter-plumaged Black Guillemot, Cape Ann, MA 2/6/10

The Alcids is the family of birds to include the puffins and their allies to include less universally recognized species like the Black Guillemot (seen above), Murres, Dovekie, Rozorbill, and even the extinct Great Auk. They are weak-flying birds that can dive to great depths. They are often black and white in plumage and superficially resemble penguins. They most likely fill the same ecological niche that Penguins do in the Southern Hemisphere. Each day from shore you could find small groups of Black Guillemots and Razorbills.
Harbor seals were also easily seen lounging on rocks & beaches and feeding (you guessed it) in the boat harbors in the area. The image above was taken aboard the Sunday whale watch trip by holding the D-Lux 4 camera behind my 7x42 Ultravid binoculars. This photographic technique has been dubbed "digibinning". Not surprisingly, this is not as precise as digiscoping where you have the scope on a tripod and the camera secured to the scope eyepiece, but in a pinch it does offer a great way to extend the reach of your small point & shoot camera by 7 to 10x!

The "spy-hopping" seal above was digiscoped from shore using my typical rig (Televid spotting scope & D-Lux 4 attached via mated digital adapter). We watched each other for a while. At one point I saw this anaimal eat some sort of crab. I took a video of the event and will have to view it large scale to see if I can make out any more details. There were also a few Gray Seals around but again I didn't get any images of these larger pinnipeds. They have large "horse-like" faces and heads with blocky features.

VERY distant adult Snowy Owl, digiscoped on Plum Island 2/5/10
One of my favorite birds to see is the Snowy Owl. This rare denizen of the high arctic and cigar box tops, is the main reason I started watching birds in the first place (but that's another tale for another day). Just before leaving on my flight North I searched for Boston area bird information and noted that these birds were being seen regularly on Plum Island. Armed with this information, I made a beeline here immediately after securing my rental car at Logan international airport. It was near 3 PM when I finally arrived and I swung through to get some more detailed information from the helpful staff at Mass Audubon's Joppa Flats facility located right at the entrance to the island's causeway. I read through the recent sightings log and the woman at the front information counter mentioned she had seen a very distant & very light Snowy from parking area 3 on the refuge earlier that day. The image above is this same bird and as promised it was indeed VERY distant. Bear in mind the image above is magnified 60x, so this bird was likely 1/2 mile away!
Have you spotted him yet?... It's not easy to see if you don't have a proper "search image" in your brain. Look just above and right of center in the image until you note the curiously reflective ovate blob peering through the short stumps/posts in the circular formation known as a staddle (used to store salt grass when haying). As hard as he is to see and as bad a view/image as this was (even with great optics), I'm happy to note that I apparently still have a knack for spotting these birds. I spotted the white oval above as I was still driving toward parking area 3! I spent 2 full winters searching for and trapping & banding these magnificent birds in upstate NY, but again this is another story. :)
yet anotherVERY distant adult Snowy Owl at Plum Island!
Continuing on I located another adult Snowy Owl a mile or more further south near the "Hellcat" observation tower. This one would have been easier to get close to as there was a path along a dyke that went very close to this one, but this portion of the refuge was restricted so I had to settle for 2 very distant views of these magnificent birds. A much better alternative to no views at all. Do you see this one?... just left of center now, below the right edge of the large tilted ice sheet!
the sun sets on Plum Island - Leica D-Lux 4 camera
Despite temperatures cooler than the ones I enjoy here in Florida, I had a fantastic time at this marvelous young event only in its second year. It was treat to see these hearty northern species and to meet many new people with similar interests, I'll be back to enjoy this again, surely. Some of you may want to mark your calendars for the third annual event in 2011 as well!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Binocular Basics - 2: numbers


All binocular models have a a brand and model name followed by a series of numbers to describe them. This "nomenclature" can give you some important information about the binocular. However, it requires a bit of knowledge to understand how these characteristics affect performance.

The binocular model above is a Leica 7x42 Ultravid HD. Leica of course is the manufacturer, and the model name is the "Ultravid HD". The model name is derived from the Latin root "vid" meaning "to see", and HD indicates that this model contains the highest level of flouride-infused glass, offering the best possible color rendition possible. Manufacturer & model numbers are of course random and vary between models, and don't tell you much about performance. The "nomenclature", however, (the series of numbers) are consistent throughout the industry and tell the consumer a lot about the product.

The product above is an older model, a Leica Trinovid 10x42 BN. Lets consider just the nomenclature on this product the "10x42" portion - "10x" describes the power of magnification. As you'd suspect, this binocular magnifies the subject 10 times. This means your subject will appear 10 times larger or 10 times closer than it does when viewed with your eyes alone.


The image above is a representation of a subject at 1x and 10x respectively. Unfortunately, at this size the graphic is not very effective because it is difficult to see well. The most popular powers of magnification in binoculars are generally 7x, 8x, and 10x. It is common for people to assume more magnification is better than less. However, it is important to remember that you are not only magnifying your subject, but you are also magnifying all the hand shake and movement from wind, etc.

Most people cannot hold a binocular with more than 10x magnification still enough to benefit from the increased power. As a matter of fact, many are surprised to realize that when comparing binocular models within the same manufacturer's line, that they resolve details better with a lower-powered binocular. When trying to decide which binocular is right for you, it is best to use a resolution chart (the optical equivalent of an eye chart). In lieu of a resolution chart, a dollar bill (or similar) usually offers suitable fine print for this test. Simply, hang one to the wall and compare which binocular power within a given line allows you to discern more detail. For me, I find I can discern more detail with a lower-powered binocular. I just can't hold a higher-powered glass steady enough to benefit from the increased power, and typically use a 7x42 binocular (7 times magnification) - I feel I see more detail on a smaller and brighter subject.



The second number describes the diameter of the objective lens in millimeters. The binocular above is an Ultravid 8x32. It magnifies 8x and the objective lens is 32 mm wide. In this binocular a 32 mm circle of light enters the binocular (the diameter of the objective), however for every 1x of magnification you must reduce the size of the circle of light entering your eye by the same power. Therefore, the circle of light seen coming out of the eyepiece & entering your eye is 32 mm divided by 8x, or 4 mm (see above). This circle of light is defined as the "Exit Pupil".



How does exit pupil affect binocular performance?.... Well again, all else being equal (assuming we are considering one particular line of a given manufacturer's products), a larger exit pupil means more light enters your eye.


In bright light, when your pupil is fully constricted, exit pupil is less important. However, in low lighting conditions your pupil dilates/expands. So an exit pupil of 4 mm may not fill every cone and rod in your pupil, where the 7x42 above with a 6 mm exit pupil will deliver a brighter image with superior resolution under these conditions. Also, as your hands shake, a smaller circle of light will be harder to stay over your pupil, while a larger exit pupil will continue to deliver consistent light to your eye. While your brain may well assimilate the image, over a full day's use your eye may feel more strain and discomfort with a smaller exit pupil, compared to the binocular with the larger exit pupil (once again assuming the same binocular quality/line).


Of course, this is but one consideration in binocular selection, and each individual will have to balance power & objective size, versus binocular size/weight & ease of use/ergonomics. This personal balance will obviously vary from user to user, but I think it safe to say that if "lightweight" and "compact" are two of your main criterion for binocular selection, it is true to suggest that within a given line, this cannot be achieved without sacrificing some optical performance. However, we will consider this fully in another post!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Binocular Basics 1

This is the first post in a series that will review binocular basics for those interested. As you'd expect I'll start at the very beginning with very basic information. Throughout the series though the information will get more complex. Feel free to comment or question in the comments section below though.


Generally speaking, binoculars are manufactured in two basic designs in regard to prism assembly and structure. The first is a "porro prism" design which is easily recognized by shape. In a porro prism binocular the eyepiece or ocular lens assembly, is offset from the distal objective lens assembly. In most cases the objective lens will sit outside the eyepiece, although some manufacturers offer compact "reverse porro prism" designs where very small objective lenses nearly touch and are much closer together than the ocular.
I've superimposed the typical shape of a porro prism assembly in red lines above while the green dashed line shows the light path as it travels through the binocular. Note how the light enters the objective lens cell, passes into the upper prism, is reflected 2 times, passes into the lower prism block, bounces two more times and finally exits through the eyepiece.

Roof prism binoculars are quite different in structure and are generally favored for their superior ergonomics. In a roof prism binocular the ocular and objective lenses are lined up in a straight line (not off-set as in porro prism designs). Once again, I've drawn a rough roof prism assembly in red and the dashed, green line represents the path of light travel through the system.
As always, the light enters through the (typically larger) objective lens and travels up to the prism assembly. The assembly (in this case) is compromised of two glass blocks just as in the porro design at top. Unlike the porro however, a roof prism assembly reflects the light 5x. The area where the two blocks meet is called the "interface mirror", and this surface has to both reflect light at points and allow light to pass in others. It is very difficult to accomplish this without losing light through back reflection and/or refraction though, and the angles are more crucial than in simpler porro designs. As such, roof prism binoculars average more expensive than a comparable porro prism.

This higher price adds some very real advantages though to include: superior ergonomics, better waterproofing, and a higher impact resistance (again assuming a comparable level of manufacture and design). Roof prism binoculars generally offer better ergonomics through their slimmer design, as porro prism binoculars average bulkier due to the offset design.
Most porro designs utilize a moving external bridge (see above) that slides the oculars in and out to achieve focus. Once again, this is a simpler and cheaper manufacturing design, however it suffers from one predictable flaw. As these tubes slide over top of one another you are continually wearing the seals that keep moisture out and inert gases in. Over time these will wear to the point of failure leading to moisture problems and internal fogging. In addition this external bridge is very susceptible to impact damage, leading to alignment problems as well.

In most roof prism binoculars the focusing system is internal. In the case of the Leica Ultravid above, internal "field collector lenses" move back and forth between the prism assembly and objective lens cell. Since this system is completely internal it is much more impact resistant, and since you are not constantly wearing the seals through abrasion the roof prism design maintains its water proofing & fog proofing.

Summary
As a final note, I need to qualify implications above. I've used words like generally & typically above and also used qualifying statements like, "assuming comparable quality". In most cases in optics the old adage, "You get what you pay for" is true to its word. In looking at binocular prices quickly online, I note full-sized porro prism binoculars (compacts excluded) range from just over $25 up to about $1,200 US. By comparison roof prism prices ranged from about $50 on up to nearly $3,000 US. Assuming less expensive binoculars are created by cutting costs on raw materials (quality of components), manufacturing costs (quality of construction), & labor costs, I certainly expect that a $1,200 dollar porro prism would out-perform a $100 roof prism in every way. However, if we compared the highest quality premium roof prism versus the highest priced porro prism, I'm certain most users would prefer and gravitate toward the roof prism. I say this from my own personal preferences, my experiences of meeting and birding with thousands of birders annually (and noting what binoculars they are using), and from my knowledge of the many independent reviews that have appeared in industry articles in varying popular publications. All suggest roof prism designs are favored across the board by most users.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Canopy Critters from Panama

male Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth resting in a tree near Canopy Tower

In an earlier post I'd mentioned how Canopy Tower was an ideal location for digiscoping, but I didn't explain fully why that is. I will try to explain this more thoroughly and share some of the many pictures I was able to capture from the tower as well! Let me backtrack and review a bit for those that are perhaps just joining us. Digiscoping (at least as I practice it) is coupling a digital point & shoot camera like the Leica C-Lux 2 that I used behind the Leica APO Televid spotting scope for these pictures. Again my primary aim here (pun intended) is to capture wildlife images with the spotting scope that I carry most of the time in my pursuit of birds and wildlife anyway. As such, by simply adding a tiny camera and digital adapter to a hip pouch or shoulder strap, I'm ready to take stunning images at a moment's notice!

Hoffman's Two-toed Sloth in trees at the Canopy Tower

The Canopy Tower offers an ideal situation for digiscoping not only because you are in the tree tops in a safe, stable structure with the creatures that utilize the canopy, but because many of these creatures are anywhere from 50 to 150 feet away. With patience most will come close enough for standard SLR and telephoto lenses, but I tend to be impatient and love the fact that this digiscoping set up allows me to achieve the equivalent of a 6,000 mm lens (120x magnification)!
Geoffrey's Tamarin digiscoped from Canopy Tower, July 2007

This allows me to get up close and personal with the wildlife even when it is farther away. The Geoffrey's Tamarin above was actually much closer but I still shot this at a 35 mm equivalent of a 1720 mm lens because I wanted to see it's whiskers! ;)

EXIF data:
35 mm equivalent on camera = 86 mm
scope zoom eyepice at 20 power
or 86 mm x 20x = 1720 mm equivalent lens.
Sloth hangs out at Canopy Tower

To put that into perspective, the longest telephoto lens readily available on the commercial market is an 800 mm lens. So even at nominal camera zoom I'm far exceeding the capabilities of most telephoto systems. Plus, an 800 mm lens can reach over 2 foot in length, weigh over 20 pounds, and force you to have to re-mortgage your house. ;p The Sloth above was actually scratching but I've entitled this shot "the Thinker!"
Mantled Howler Monkey (male) hangs down to get to Cecropia fruit

There's always a good assortment of mammals "hanging out" in the trees surrounding the Canopy Tower. Both of the aforementioned sloth species, preferred the loner approach but the troops of Monkeys always seemed to come through en masse. The small Tamarins were less numerous and came and went quickly during our stay, but the Howlers were regular and numerous throughout our stay. One guest told me that the large wound on the side of the male above was a Bot Fly larvae, but don't know this for certain. Seems plausible. He explained that Vampire Bats can often make the initial wound and allow the Bot Fly to get under the flesh. Makes for a good story but I can't say for certain if this is the case.
Does anyone reading know more about this relationship or hypothesis?... would love some feedback.
male Howler Monkey stares intently at some distant subject

The ever vociferous and social Howlers were a treat to watch. Even though they are a common species throughout much of the Neotropics, I don't see these in the wild here in Florida so it was a great treat.
female Howlers with tail at the ready feeds on tree top fruit

The female Howlers were notably slimmer and smaller than the mature males lacking the distinct "mane" shown by the latter. The animal above was taking full advantage of fruiting Cecropia that surrounds the Tower. It is also worthy of note that this is not a tower in the typical sense (a narrow spire sticking up) but more of a very wide 4 story building with large observation deck ringing the top. This allows easy panoramic viewing options in any direction which is also advantageous for viewing the birds and wildlife moving through the tree-tops. It's a very unique and beautiful perspective for observing the "Canopy Express".
Mantled Howler Monkey digiscoped July 2007, Canopy Tower

These are merely a few of the many species that could be viewed by the tower and to see and digiscope them all will undoubtedly take more trips! I will share more from our 8 day trip, never fear, but for now I'll wrap it up by saying the trip was more fun than a Barrel full of Monkeys (or better yet a wild troop in their natural habitat), and we are already planning on offering this workshop again next year.
I can't wait!