Looking for ways to keep expanding your creativity and technical skills this winter? Cree and I have been photographing backyard birds almost every morning for months now. It is just a great way to start the day, even if we only get a few pictures. It’s just good to sit behind that camera!
But in the quest for original perspectives, I’ve starting photographing birds using a remote camera set up. I’ve used remote cameras for years on commercial shoots…triggering cameras on helmets as kayakers paddle through rapids, firing fisheye lenses inches off the ground as mountain bikers fly past. What I like best about remote photography are fresh perspectives using wide angle lenses. The viewer is seeing the world from a different view, and instantly the image is fresh and engaging.
There are numerous ways to trigger cameras remotely. Many camera brand apps will now allow you to trigger, focus and even change camera settings from your iPhone. Taking it a step further, the popular Cam Ranger offers full control and triggering of your camera from phones and tablets. Most of these systems use a blue tooth or local wifi hotspot to communicate with the camera. That’s great if your camera is close, and being able to focus in live view is really cool. But I have to say I am still hooked on the tried and true way sports photographers trigger their cameras remotely.
My set up consists of two Pocket Wizards. One is on the camera hotshoe attached to a cable that triggers the camera. (The new pocket wizards don’t even use a cable, they just fire the camera when attached to the hotshoe). The other Pocket Wizard is in my hand. I just hit the button and it fires. How do I focus? I preset focus to a known spot. I often use apertures like F11 to increase my depth of field. My favorite lens for bird photography is my 28mm F1.4. This lens allows me to see enough of a ground bird at 2 feet away and the bird is still decent sized in the frame. Wider angle and the bird starts to get really small, and longer lenses have less room to work with to get the bird in the perfect composition. The reason I like Pocket Wizards is they work on a radio signal, and I literally can trigger my camera from miles away. I never have to worry about my signal. Prefocused and ready to go, don’t have to worry about my app or iPad going to sleep. I set my D850 to aperture priority and my ISO to a high setting so I get fast shutter speeds when the bird comes into my scene. A little bird food well help! I love setting my camera on the ground so the viewer sees the world from a bird’s eye ground view.
Remote camera photography is really pretty simple. With just a few accessories or even your camera phone app, you should be able to trigger your camera remotely. Happy shooting this weekend!