Birder's Guide

DEC 2013

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 24 of 51

For more in-depth coverage of phonescoping, check out Sharon Stiteler's article on p. 30. N otice I have not mentioned binoculars or spotting scopes with built-in cameras? For now, these are still mostly gimmicks that are best suited for those Air Mall magazines to browse on the plane. A few years ago, Zeiss came out with a real, functional spotting scope with a built-in digital camera, but at over $7,000 the cost is prohibitive for most people--at least for the time being. I very much look forward to what I expect will be rapid innovations in this category. With the rapid advancement of every one of these options, our photos get better, get cheaper, and are easier to share. While I ardently believe that feld notes are an invaluable way to document rarities (and to learn an unfamiliar bird; see Sophie Webb's article on p. 24), it's hard to argue the value of some sort of record shot, no matter how lousy. On one hand, I lament how some bird records committees insist on photo documentation; on the other, I fnd it hard to believe that, in most birding situations, there isn't some sort of photography option available nowadays. There is no right answer. Instead of recommending any particular tool or technique, I have outlined the costs and the benefts of each option for you to start the process. Each one of the four options deserves its own full-length treatment; think of this as merely scratching the surface. We have to ask: What is our priority? How much energy and money do we want to invest? How much physical exertion do we want to put forth? Perhaps most important, ask what level of quality you will really be satisfed with. What is good enough for you? And how much effort do you want to put into learning how to do this? Do you want a bunch of dials and buttons, or just a plug-and-play system? See if you can test someone else's system on a feld trip. Most birding festivals have at least one person attending, whether a presenter or vendor, that you can learn from, and many offer workshops or photography feld trips. For me, the SLR is the way to go when I know I am going to spend the time for a good bird shot, or if I am pursuing something specifc to add to my photo library. In the peak of rarity season, I usually deal with the weight, carry the camera, and whine to my physical therapist. Most of the rest of the time, I just stick my phone, with its Phone Skope adapter, in my pocket. And after seeing what my friend was doing with the new slow-motion, highdefnition video on the iPhone 5, I think it's time for an upgrade. The author greatly appreciates comments and suggestions offered by Cameron Cox, David La Puma, Jeannette Lovitch, and Clay Taylor on an earlier draft of this article. Whichever camera you use—or even if you don't use one at all—never forget that birding is about having fun! Photo © Jeffrey Gordon. December 2013 | Birder's Guide to Gear 23

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