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Macro Digiscoping

The subtleties of life as the perfect subject

Hannes Nothdurfter, originally from Tyrol, lives in Australia and here he takes photos of small creatures such as butterflies, bees, and flies using digiscoping equipment from SWAROVSKI OPTIK. In his feature, he reveals the tricks he uses when “macrodisgiscoping” to produce his spectacular shots.

© Hannes Nothdurfter

Hannes Nothdurfter is the SWAROVSKI OPTIK representative in Australia and has been involved with macrodigiscoping for years. He used an ATS 80 spotting scope with a TLS 800 adapter to shoot his photos.

After missing out on taking lots of good photos because I didn’t know where I had focused, I began to pay more attention to pre-focusing. This ensures that I focus on a particular distance so that I only need to make a minor adjustment afterward when photographing a bee landing on a flower, for instance.

For macro pictures, I generally use a distance that is around a meter further than the shortest possible (closest) focusing distance. I make sure that the zoom is set as far back as possible to achieve the largest possible field of view and greater depth of focus, which helps me get the subject into the picture as fast as I can.

Why depth of focus is important

I don’t use a tripod. Using the spotting scope without any kind of support certainly has its downsides, but there are definite advantages as well. First of all, it is much easier to move and make adjustments without having to wrestle with the tripod. It is much quicker for making movements forward, backward, or to the side. The same is also true for finding the right angle. Since the distance to the subject is very small in macrodigiscoping and the spotting scope has a large focal length, depth of focus becomes a crucial factor.

Macrodigiscoping sets different priorities

This is where the camera’s viewfinder comes into play as it indicates which part of the subject has been put in focus in the camera and spotting scope. This is important for making fine adjustments. If I’m producing photos like this, my priority is therefore quite clearly to ensure that the focus is set correctly. Selecting the right shutter speed is only a secondary priority for avoiding blurred movements. And the ISO values only come after this.

  • © Hannes Nothdurfter
  • © Hannes Nothdurfter
  • © Hannes Nothdurfter
  • © Hannes Nothdurfter
  • © Hannes Nothdurfter

Steady position producing excellent pictures

It is important to find a stable resting position for producing good macro images. Everything possible should be done to avoid any shaking so that the perfect focus setting can be achieved. After all, as it’s so neatly put: you can only focus on what you can actually see.

Slight movement causes a big impact

In addition to this, depth of focus poses a real challenge with the magnifications and distances that are normally used in macrodigiscoping. This is because the slightest movement forward or backward – even if it is only a millimeter – quickly puts the subject out of focus. But these problems are part and parcel of this kind of photography. Indeed, this is what actually makes it particularly appealing.

Below you can find a table which indicates the shortest focusing distances of SWAROVSKI OPTIK telescopes currently available:

TelescopeShortest focusing distance
ATX/STX 652.1 m/6.9 ft
ATX/STX 85 3.6 m/11.8 ft
ATX/STX 95 4.8 m/15.7 ft
ATS/STS 65 5.0 m/16.4 ft
ATS/STS 80 5.0 m/16.4 ft