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iPhone + telescope = great bald eagle video

Like you, we at Eagle Nova Films enjoy bald eagle photography that inspires.

Throw in some cool gear and you’re likely to really get our creative juices flowin’.

That’s why we thought it would be fun to share this clip posted on YouTube earlier today.

Bird photographer Bill Schmoker of Longmont, Colorado says he shot this video using his iPhone 5s and a spotting scope (a telescope optimized for viewing wildlife) today.

This type of shooting is called digiscoping.

And, as you can see in Schmoker’s video, Digiscoped Bald Eagle Portrait, the result here is impressive.

We contacted Schmoker by e-mail this evening and asked if we could share his video. He’s graciously allowed us to do so, and he provided some insights.

For starters, he shot this  video at Union Reservoir Park in Weld County, Colorado.

“Great bounce light from bright sun on fresh snow,” Schmoker wrote.

He also also provided the specs regarding the gear that he used:

  • Leica APO-Televid angled 65mm, full zoom (50x)
  • iPhone 5s
  • Phone Skope digiscoping adapter.

Schmoker also agreed to answer some follow-up questions.  You can read our simple Q&A below:

Eagle Nova Films:  Cool to read about the bounce light. Was this video shot this morning or afternoon?

Schmoker:  This was early afternoon, about 1:30 pm.  Normally that would be pretty harsh light but with the blue sky and bounce off of the snow it lit the bird nicely.

Eagle Nova Films:  Roughly how far away were you from the bald eagle?

Schmoker:  I started about 100 yards off but got the tight sequence featured here from maybe 40 yards.  I shot from behind my truck to lessen my profile vs. walking up to the bird in the open.

Eagle Nova Films:  Was this the lone bald eagle in the area at that moment? Had it been there long?

Schmoker:  This area almost always has wintering Bald Eagles. I saw about 6 today but this one was in the best position to photograph.  Four more were out on the ice of the frozen reservoir and another one in a tree was a bit too far out to mess with.
Eagle Nova Films:  Did you have to trudge through much snow?

Schmoker:  The bird was in a cottonwood tree next to a back road.  While not busy, there are several vehicles per hour there so the bird is used to seeing cars & trucks.  I first shot standard DSLR pics out of my truck window and then got out on the side away from the bird, set up my scope behind my truck just peeking out the side enough to film it.  It wasn’t like it didn’t know I was there but it wasn’t overly concerned about me, either.  You can see a little bit of blood on the bill- I’ve found that sated raptors are a lot more likely to sit tight than hungry ones.

Eagle Nova Films:  Were you recording with the standard iPhone 5s video app or were you using Filmic Pro or another app?

Schmoker:  I just used the standard video setting on the built-in camera app.

Eagle Nova Films:  Do you have a specific link you’d like to recommend where people can learn more about digiscoping?
Schmoker: Digiscoping is pretty sweet, especially if you are already apt to have a scope along.  With the soaring quality of phone cameras it is also a lot easier than it used to be, although folks also use DSLR or point-and-shoot  cameras to gain more creative control.  I’ve been all over the board on this but find that for now I usually go to the iPhone for digiscoping.  I still shoot a lot with a DSLR rig (Nikon D7100 + 80-400 VR AF-S or + 200-400 VR AF-S), but when I need more reach or want to shoot video I often go with digiscoping.  I don’t really know of a single digiscoping site to start with.  I’ve learned through friends, experimentation, & the school of hard knocks.

Eagle Nova Films:  Speaking of websites, it seems you might have more than one.  Concerning sharing a link to the home page of your primary website, what would that URL be?

Schmoker: I guess a good one would be
Eagle Nova Films:  Can I share what town you live in? (It appears you’re in Colorado)
Schmoker:  For sure.  I’m in Longmont, Colorado

Eagle Nova Films:  How long have you been a photographer?

Schmoker:  I’ve been a photographer since shooting & developing b&w when I was knee-high to a grasshopper but got my first digital rig and began to focus on birds in 2001.
Eagle Nova Films:  Is it accurate to refer to you as a “bird photographer”?  Do you prefer different wording in that regard?
Schmoker:  Bird photographer is perfect. I don’t ignore other wildlife, people, scenery, etc. but I’m usually out looking for birds foremost.

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