Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Leica digiscoping set-up. Courtesy Mike McDowell.

Most birders are now familiar with the term digiscoping—using a digital camera to take photographs or digital video through a spotting scope or (less commonly) through binoculars. There are countless websites devoted to sharing digiscoped images (here is a good one from Leica, and one from Swarovski, one from Zeiss, one from Nikon, and another one affiliated with Eagle Optics). There are also online forums where digiscoping's ever-changing technology is discussed and debated.

I learned a new "digi" term at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas last weekend. But before I describe it, let me set the scene for you.

The SHOT Show is held annually in either Las Vegas, Nevada, or Orlando, Florida. It is the outdoor industry's largest trade show, drawing more than 30,000 buyers from retail gun shop owners, to travel outfitters, catalog publishers, hunting club managers, law enforcement, and the military. There to display their wares and services are manufacturers of anything you might need for hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, recreational shooting, gun or knife collecting—it's actually impossible to describe the scope of the SHOT Show. It is, some would say, naturally, a very male-dominated show.

So you can imagine the conflict—the torment even—when the SHOT Show's regularly scheduled operating hours conflicted with the year's biggest sports event: The Super Bowl. We're talking thousands of people who HAD to stay in their display booths while the most-watched sporting event in the world took place last Sunday afternoon.

SHOT Show booth operators are nothing if not resourceful. Many of the largest companies at the show spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their booths. Some of this money is spent on the highest-end video display monitors and these are often mounted where passersby can watch a promotional message from the company, or videos of their products in use, or, most often, episodes of the hunting shows they sponsor. So in spite of warnings to the contrary, several of these companies with massive booths and steroidal TV sets tuned in to the Super Bowl. As you might guess, these booths were very crowded during the game.

As I was walking the show aisles, I happened upon the Leica Sports Optics booth where my friend Jeff Bouton was working. Behind Jeff was a TV with a scruffy-looking Tom Petty singing away during the Super Bowl halftime show. The following conversation ensued.

"Jeff! Dude, you guys have the GAME on!" I said.
"No, we don't. That would mean we had an outside video feed. We do not," he replied.
"But how....?"
"It is digi-poaching my friend!"
"You see that massive booth 50 yards down this aisle here?"
"Do you see their huge-screen TV tuned to the game?"
"We are demonstrating the clarity of our Leica digiscoping system by focusing on that screen and sending the image to this otherwise normal TV display in our booth."
"Digi-poaching! Genius!"
"No amigo, merely superior optics doing what they do best!"

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