First, a warning. This post gets pretty geeky. If you aren’t into cameras, or how images are made, you might just scroll to the bottom. You could also check out this link, to some cool images in my portfolio.
I’ve been looking for way to wirelessly fire my SLR remotely for some time now. In this quest, I’ve tried a few different products intended for firing the shutter on my Canon SLR, with mixed results. None of them really worked that well. I found the first one in a camera store in Kelowna, BC.
At $120, the shutter release seems a bit pricey, but when a single cord for a for a Pocket Wizard Wireless Transmitter is $80 or so, it appeared to be a less expensive solution to the problem. It seemed to fit the bill- I was able to fire my camera using a remote in my hand. The plan was to tape it to the handlebars on my bicycle in order to do self portraits while riding trails in the woods, for my site ihatebikes.net.
Things seemed to be good- it fired the camera from an reasonable distance, and I was able to hang it on my grip easily with a hair bungee and some tape. That is, until halfway into a paid gig, when it abruptly stopped working. I ended up getting the shots I needed, but had to fiddle with it a bit until I got it working again. However, using old school Nintendo tactics (ie, blowing on it) is a bit ridiculous. For what I paid, I wasn’t willing to be stuck with a random piece of plastic from Taiwan that may or not work a week from now, so on my way back through Canada, we made a detour and I returned it.
I foolishly tried again with a similar product, the Cleon, from Phottix. I believe I found it on Ebay, and with a price of $30 or so shipped from China, it looked like the same product with different packaging.
Unfortunately I had similar results. The product worked- at times. The wireless remote didn’t fire the camera half the time, and that led to a bit more hair pulling, although I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. The push button release would fire the camera consistently, and that is about all I could recommend using the product for.
At this point, I was tired of messing around, and after reading the Chase Jarvis post on POV photography, and seeing some of the possiblities a reliable remote trigger system had besides just using myself as a MTB model in a pinch, I ordered up the rather expensive (it is all relative I guess) PW pre-trigger cable.
Finally- a real solution.
Now the question was, how am I going to attach and position this thing so I can reach the button and fire the damn camera? Back to Google, and after some searching, I found it on Reuben Krabbe’s blog. In his DIY tutorial, he modifies a miniphone jack, and connects it to a push button switch.
Heading off to Radio Shack, I purchase the necessary supplies, and shelved the project temporarily, as I don’t own a soldering iron. However, my brother is a full blown RC fanatic, and he just happens to be a master of the solder, so on my last visit, I pulled the bag of parts out and sat down with him to complete the mod.
Little bro did a great job, and even added some seriously nice finishing touches. I was expecting to wrap the soldered connection with electric tape; what he did turned out super pro.
Plugging it in to my Pocket Wizard, the project seemed to be successful. Pushing the button activates the PW on the camera via channel one. In order for everything to sync correctly, the Pocket Wizards on the speedlites need to be set on the next channel.
All that was left was to get out and test the new set up. Heading into the woods near our apartment, I set the camera up on my tripod. I bungied the Pocketwizard to my bars, and using gaffer’s tape, set the trigger up near my grip so I could actuate it while riding. The big test would be seeing if I could time the pushing of the button with aggressive moves while riding.
It turns out I was able to manage hitting the button at the right time- although I did end up shooting each position I was trying to shoot 10 or 20 times before I started getting results I was happy with. The downside to this system is that I am going to need at least one more Pocketwizard, as one is mounted on the camera, one on the bar, and one with my speedlite. I had issues slaving the flashes, so I’m going to get another (preferable at least two more) to get the effects I’m after.
Here is the final image from the day. It was creating using a composite of five separate images in post processing. I have one flash that is mounted to the camera right that is pointing to the rider. In this case, it’s me. I ripped through this s-turn section on the bike over two dozen times. Each time I would tap the push button on my left hand at the appropriate point, and capture an image. At one point in the day, the sun popped through the trees and lit the trail, which was perfect. The final product took a considerable amount of time to shoot and put together in post, but in the end, I came through with what I think is a pretty sweet image that I can add to my portfolio.
What do you think?