Scott Staats on Optics and Butterflies

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Editor’s Note: Editor's Note: Scott Staats from Prineville, Oregon, is a widely-published and award-winning outdoor writer and TV and radio host for outdoor programs with an overview of all that is outdoors. He's a birder, a butterfly observer, a hunter, a fisherman, a camper and a backpacker with a long list of outdoors credentials.

"I use a wide variety of Alpen products for the different types of outdoor sports I cover," Staats says. "Whenever I'm out hunting, fishing or birdwatching, a pair of binoculars is always close at hand. But one thing I tire of is having to continually mess with the focus and the right-eye adjustment. When a deer or elk is spotted about to go over the rise, there's no time to waste adjusting your binoculars. But Alpen has solved this problem with the company's new fixed-focus binoculars. You can quickly view images without having to adjust the focus, and there's no right-eye adjustment. The binoculars are pre-set to allow clear viewing from 50 feet to infinity.

"The 7X35 binoculars have a wide-angle field of view, which provides a wider-than-normal viewing area. The long eye relief allows those with glasses to see the full field of view, and the multi-coated optics provide a super bright image. The ergonomic comfort-fit grip provides slip-free handling in wet conditions, but should you drop them, a shock-resistant rubber coating protects them from damage. This is the first pair of binoculars I've ever picked-up that require no adjusting. Whether through magic or technology, Alpen has now made viewing the outdoors easy for everyone."

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"While I'm out hunting, I look at everything around me, and I want to learn about everything around me. One time, when deer and elk weren't showing up, I started looking at other wildlife and became interested in it. That's how I got into birding a few years ago and into butterflies this year. I noticed the different types and colors of butterflies and became curious. So, I got a butterfly-identification book. Since I was a wildlife photographer as well as writer, I photographed butterflies and then tried to find out all I could about them. I used a Nikkor 300 zoom lens to photograph the butterflies, their many-different colors, species and types.

"The real challenge is to get close enough to the butterflies to identify and photograph them. The summer is the best time to observe butterflies, but you'll start seeing them in the spring and continue seeing them through the fall. I like to go into the mountains when I'm birding and search for wildflowers and butterflies. I like the Alpen Apex 492 for observing birds and butterflies because more often than not, a butterfly will land just far-enough away to prevent identification with your eyes and too close for most binoculars. Only a few companies have developed binoculars that focus down to only a few feet, specifically for butterfly watching. However, Alpen's new Apex 492 Super Close Focus binoculars are definitely the right tool for the hobbies of butterflying and birding."

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The 8X32 binoculars are waterproof and fogproof and can focus up to 4 feet and even a little closer. Most binoculars have a close focus of about 20 to 25 feet. Weighing in at only 20 ounces, the Apex provides clearer, high-resolution viewing in bright and dim light, even in the wettest conditions. Rubber armoring adds to the comfort, protection and durability of the binoculars. Other features include twist-up eyecups that allow instant adjustment for both eyeglass and non-eyeglass wearers, a carrying case, a wide, comfortable neck strap and Alpen's lifetime warranty.

According to Staats, "I've learned to hunt butterflies with my binoculars instead of just chase butterflies. If you stand still and quietly, the butterflies will come up to you, close enough for you to photograph and study. But if you chase them, they'll fly away or won't sit still long enough for you to study and photograph them. And whether you're looking at butterflies, birds or elk, the more still you can be, and the less movement the animal sees, the better chances you have of getting close to them. When you're studying butterflies, you have to be as patient as you are when you're hunting, fishing or doing anything else in the outdoors. To get close to nature, you can't be on a schedule. You've got to let the birds and the animals and the butterflies dictate your timetable.

"I don't believe in chasing butterflies with nets to catch, hold them and hurt them. Most butterfly organizations discourage their members from chasing and catching butterflies. Instead, they suggest you use a quality pair of binoculars like the Alpen Apex 492s that are super-close focusing to study the butterflies. Then, you can enjoy the butterfly without harming it. If you've got a telephoto lens on your camera, you can zoom in without having to move, and you can get some really-dramatic shots of beautiful butterflies.

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"One of the unique butterflies I've photographed is a cabbage white. This butterfly is very common such that anyone can photograph it, but a more-unique one I've found is called a pine white. I've also photographed a common Wood Nymph and a Woodland Skipper. One of the most colorful butterflies I've ever photographed is called a Mormon Fritillary. I was up in the mountains here in central Oregon, and I saw this really-beautiful orange butterfly. It resembled a Monarch butterfly because it was orange and black, but I knew it wasn't. When I got photos of it and checked my guidebook, I was able to identify it. Fritillary butterflies are often hard to identify because there are so many different species of them. I often use my butterfly pictures in my articles. I've really enjoyed my digital camera because I can take 50 pictures of a single butterfly, and pick that one butterfly trophy shot."

To get in touch with Staats, email him at falcon@crestviewcable.com.