Tripods and Window Mounts
The tripod is a key element of a good digiscoping system. The high
levels of magnification available require a very stable platform or the
quality of the image will be substantially degraded by vibration.
To support your scope, select a rigid, mid-weight tripod with as few leg adjustment mechanisms as possible. The flip-lock design provides a secure mount for your scope and a quick way to adjust the legs for uneven terrain.
An inexpensive tripod:
If your tripod is not the most stable, you will gain increased stability by keeping it as low as possible, starting with the center post, and then by spreading the legs as much as possible.
A better tripod:
Tripods are sometimes rated by the amount of weight they will support. A tripod rated at 10 lbs may seem adequate but one that will handle more weight, 20 pounds as example, will provide increased stability. More robust tripods often weigh and cost more.
Carbon-fiber tripods are lighter and do a better job of absorbing vibration than most metal tripods. They are expensive, however.
Gitzo and Bogen are two well-known tripod manufacturers that offer a variety of models suitable for digiscoping.
Some tripods come equipped with a head for attaching the scope to the tripod. The head provides the handle for moving the scope up and down and left to right. The quality of the head can make a big difference in terms of how easy it is to move the scope around, and how well the scope stays positioned. More expensive tripods are often sold without the head. The user can choose from a variety of head designs including a gimbal type Wimberly head. Most digiscopers and photographers avoid the ball type tripod head.
If you are photographing from your car there are various methods for achieving a stable platform.
A 20 pound bag of rice (in a cloth bag) works well as a stable platform. Place the bag over the open window and the scope on the bag of rice. The scope will nestle into the bag and can be easily moved back and forth for locating or tracking a bird.
Commercial photographers' bean bags are also available and do a similar job.
Several manufacturers offer window mounts for spotting scopes. In a window mount system a small, rubber-mounted device clamps to the car window. The spotting scope is then attached to the window mount. This system can work well but some of the less expensive units do not handle the weight of the spotting scope and camera combination in a way that provides smooth scanning.
A good combination is a Manfrotto (manufactured by Bogen) tripod head (#3130) connected to a Manfrotto (#3292) window mount. The quality head supports the weight of the spotting scope and allows for smooth scanning.
The ultimate window mount:
Whether you are using a spotting scope or high-powered professional camera and lens, the Groofwin Pod (L.L. Rue) provides excellent support and flexibility. Whether shooting on the ground, on the roof or hood of a car, or out of an automobile window, the design of the Groofwin provides excellent stability.