1300 digiscoped photos from 40 countries were submitted to this year's Digiscoper of the Year competition and the results are now out. There are some stunning images in the final selection of 20 but my favorite has got to be the Blue-tailed Bee-eaters by Chung Han Wu.
(note: the photos on this post are from screen shots of the official website)
I have just googled Chung Han Wu (吳崇漢) to try find out a little more about him and what his background is. It seems he won Birding in Taiwan's national bird photo campaign 2006 for a beautiful image of a Mikado Pheasant (Syrmaticus mikado) in the snow. More than that seems really hard to find out given my embarrasingly poor knowledge of international writing systems and alphabets. At any rate, it seems he has a good few beautiful images out there but these bee-eaters are stunning!
I also found the image of the Silver-breasted Broadbill (Serilophus lunatus) particularly powerful. But then again I have a weakness for broadbills!
The photo was taken by Sataporn Suvitvong in Thailand (another place I have got to visit!). Not only did he get a great photo, but he was only 10m from such an incredibly stunning bird.
I love photography, and digiscoping has opened up a whole new world for me (and lots of other birders and photographers). Suddenly I have the opportunity to take (passable) bird images using the equipment I have with me when birding anyway. I have had countless hours of joy and fun trying to get a decent photo of some shy little passerine, or a rail that insists on only showing itself when the light is disastrous. Digiscoping certainly adds something to our birding experience; we see details we never would have seen, we are forced to study their habits and movements, and we get to take home stories about "the one that got away" and - with a smattering of luck and perseverance - we might even be able to show our loved ones and friends what it was we saw. For a few talented ones out there, they may even be able to turn their hobby in to a business, or even better, a lifestyle.
But one thing I have noticed about photography, is that if we always look at life through a lens then some times we miss part of the joy and beauty of nature. Over the summer, I spent some time on the Spanish Costa Brava. The one afternoon, I met a Dutch birder who told me about a family of Purple Gallinules (Purple Swamphens, Porphyrio porphyrio, Purpurhuhn) at one of the hides. I very excitedly scuttled over to said hide. Hours went by as I rattled off rolls of virtual film. exciting, entertaining, captivating... way better than a Dan Brown novel.
But that evening I realised that I had spent the entire afternoon staring down the lens of a camera and not once had I sat back to enjoy the brilliant beauty of these "ugly purple chickens" (as my wife called them). It was a shame, really.
So the next day I went back again. And sat back to admire them. (but I took some photos too, I couldn't help it ;-)