The practice of sketching animals in the field while observing them through a spotting scope has been in use for quite some time, and many wildlife artists employ it. For commentary on the benefits of using sport optics for field sketching, read my article – Why Use Sport Optics to Sketch Wildlife?
In a nutshell, a spotting scope gives us detailed images of animals that allow us to create drawings and paintings of great complexity and precision. These days, spotting scopes and tripods are light and compact enough, that they allow for easy portability when we are pursuing fleeting subjects – such as birds – even when we are carrying additional gear and supplies.
With a stable tripod, your hands are free to hold your sketch pad while you observe your subject through the scope. It helps to be familiar with the functions of your scope and tripod before setting out to sketch with them.
- Find your subject through the scope and zoom to the desired view.
- Position yourself in a comfortable location.
- Adjust the height of the tripod so that you don’t have to move your head much to look down at your pad and look through the scope.
Above, I am sitting at the edge of the boardwalk at Magee Marsh in NW Ohio, looking at a Long-eared Owl through my scope. I’ve tilted the tripod so that both my sketchbook and the eyepiece are in view without having to move my head. This last point would not be possible without an angled eyepiece, which I’d recommend over a straight scope for this purpose.
For this owl, I am using an angled Leica Televid APO 65 scope, a pocket pad and a #2 pencil. Sketching through a scope works well for both standing positions, and lengthier sitting efforts. In this case, the boardwalk made for a great impromptu seat.
Above is a watercolor of many wading birds done from Florida Bay over several visits. In this instance, I am working from the boardwalk at the end of Snake Bight trail, in the Everglades. There is a bench out there where I can place my watercolors, brushes, water and stretched paper while affording expansive views of the salt flats, which are often filled with birds to work from. Considering the lengthy session this painting has demanded, I also make good use of the bench as a seat. The swiveling capacity of many scopes to rotate on their axis is a tremendous advantage. In this case I’ve swiveled my Leica Televid APO 77 scope 45 degrees clockwise for ease of viewing over the banister.
The photos from Magee Marsh were first included in a post about the Biggest Week on the Traveling Trinovid Blog. You may also be interested in the following articles: