My wife and I are recent recruits to birding, so we're still on the steep part of the learning curve. Over the past 18 months we've acquired a small spotting scope and I recently upgraded our tripod capability with a view to making it easier to use the scope while in a hide. Trouble is, most hides seem to make scant provision for the use of a scope. Our current setup for the scope consists of:
Vortex Razor HD 11x-33x scope, angled eyepiece
Velbon SUB-65 tripod with "fluid" pan/tilt head, integral monopod and hide clamp.
The problem is that most hides are designed for watchers sitting on a bench and viewing with binoculars, so the shelf is set at a suitable height for resting elbows and the window slots are set at a commensurate height. Mounting a scope with the hide clamp on the shelf places the angled eyepiece at such a height as to oblige the user to stand in order to look down into the eyepiece. If the scope is mounted lower, it is looking into the wall below the window slot. My wife has a slight disability, so standing for long periods is painful.
I am currently researching further purchases to enable the scope to be mounted sideways, thus placing the eyepiece at the same height as the objective lens. This particular scope doesn't have a clamp ring that can be loosened to make this change, so we either have to modify the tripod head/QR plate, or replace the scope. But anyway, the resulting arrangement will always be a bit of a cludge, requiring the user to point their head in a direction at about 45 degrees away from the target. Since the vast majority of scopes on offer have angled eyepieces for all sorts of good reasons, it doesn't seem reasonable to say "just buy a second scope with a straight eyepiece".
It seems to me that a better solution than any of the above would be to arrange some viewing positions in hides so that the viewer can easily look down into an angled scope from a seated position while the scope is still able to see through a window. This would require either a higher bench to sit on, or a lower window slot, or both. Has anyone ever articulated this requirement before? If there is some point I'm missing, please explain!
You're not missing anything - the straight/angled conundrum is something we all ponder at times. I have come across hides with a large picture window, also some with extra deep windowsills that are big enough for the scope on a mini tripod, but they're not common. If a hide has a spot for wheelchair users that often has a lower window that can be utilised (assuming no-one needs it for the intended purpose), but otherwise you're going to need a scope with a clamp ring to rotate it (incidentally, it's not quite as peculiar to use like that as you'd expect). Even a straight scope is not always ideal - if the hide has fixed seats, a hide clamp holds it too close to you I find, so you have to lean back when using it (not ideal). Good luck!
Find me on Flickr / All about your camera - The Getting off Auto Index
Have a look at these:
Manfrotto Single Arm 2 Section with Camera Bracket
Manfrotto 349 Column Clamp
And this, which may not be man enough to handle a large scope, but something to give you an idea.
Slik Mini Pro DQ Tripod with Quick-Release Platform
All three are available via Amazon, the Manfrotto ones should be available in most good camera/photographic shops.
Flickr Peak Rambler
Thanks for comments and advice; reassuring to find I'm not being totally dense. I currently have a local camera shop investigating various options, all aimed at enabling our existing (and very new) setup to become slightly more flexible.
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