Remote Triggers

Every photographer of the subjects on which I've concentrated over the past 20 years, sports and wildlife, has to contend with the problem of being in the right place at the right time to get the shot. In the case of wildlife, this problem is complicated by the tendency of animals to run from humans, some of whom will do nasty things to them if they can get in range. This page links to images I've gotten with various equipment such as trailcams, digiscopes, and remote triggers. In other words, things that are not hand-operated cameras.


Trail cameras are off-the-shelf units developed primarly for hunters. Manufacturers emphasize fast trigger speeds, long battery life, and night vision capability over image quality. Although I do crave image quality, trailcams offer the advantage of monitoring a particular spot for months and a time and telling a story through the time, date, weather conditions, and sequence of images. The next step up in quality (and cost) is to construct a custom camera trap with external sensors and flash connected to a DSLR in a box, but I don't know if I will ever tackle that.


In my case, digiscoping usually involved pairing a telescope with a small digital camera. Most of my digiscoping examples pre-date my acquisition of a "real" SLR telephoto lens, the monstrous Canon f4 500m, but in one somewhat recent and extreme case, I was working in New York City in 2012 and didn't have most of my stuff for the transit of Venus. I got a shot of it by holding my small camera up to the eyepiece of my binoculars. Now there are gadgets for attaching cell phones to telescope eyepieces. I have one but haven't gotten past the experimental stage.

Remote triggers

I'm including three different methods here: USB cable tethering, time lapse, and wireless SLR trigger. In my back yard in Massachusetts, I attached small digital cameras to my computer using very long USB cables and triggered them to capture birds and small mammals visiting my feeders. A few years later, I used time lapse rather than tethering for the robins nesting under my deck in South Dakota. I haven't used time lapse in the cliche manner to watch a plant grow or something like that, but I found it has its uses. Although I've had a Canon wireless trigger with a 300-foot range for many years I haven't really used it to its full capabilities. My back yard in Massachusetts wasn't that big. I do plan to use it this spring to try to get burrowing owls.


Trailcam Images

Trailcam elk in 2014

I have owned seven trail cameras, three of which are fully operational. Of the other four, one is obsolete, one is in perfect condition but takes horrible images, one was damaged but is still working, and one was destroyed. Click on the link to see images from that camera:

  • #1 Bushnell purchased 2009, is obsolete for my purposes. Currently loaned out to my fiance's cousin to track deer, which is what most people use trailcams for.
  • #2 Reconyx PC900 was in Wind Cave National Park 2011-2018. Restored by Reconyx to new condition after being damaged in the Legion Lake Fire, December 2017. After a brief test near Jewel Cave National Monument, deployed near my brother's cabin in Montana July 2018.
  • #3 Moultrie M-880 acquired 2014, destroyed in the Legion Lake Fire, Custer State Park, December 2017.
  • #4 Primos Proof Cam 02 HD acquired 2015 and except for night is almost useless. During the daytime, images are blown out and false triggers are constant. No way to set it to capture only at night or adjust the sensitivity so I'm not wasting lithium batteries on it. I use it with rechargeable batteries for short-term tests.
  • #5 Browning Strike Force HD Pro acquired 2017, was at my brother's cabin in Montana in 2017. Currently awaiting reassignment.
  • #6 Browning Strike Force HD Pro acquired 2017, while in Wind Cave National Park damaged in the Legion Lake Fire, December 2017, but I taped it up and it is working for now. After a test deployment near Jewel Cave National Monument in May-June 2018, currently awaiting reassignment.
  • #7 Reconyx HyperFire 2 Professional Covert IR just received June 2018, now deployed near my brother's cabin in Montana. No images yet.

I have posted regular trailcam blog updates. In February 2018, I started putting trailcam posts in a separate blog, Tom's Trailcam Central. These earlier posts from my main blog have to do with trailcams:

Digiscope Images

This wood post in my back yard in Massachusetts appears in dozens of images posted on this site and I used a variety of techniques (in this case digiscoping) to get the birds and small mammals that came to get the sunflower seeds in a tuna can concealed just below the top of the post.

Digiscoped Chipmunk 2006

More Digiscope Images

Remote Trigger Images

This is a very early remote triggering effort using my first decent digital camera, a Kodak DC290, and a long USB cable.

Tethered Cardinal 2001

More Remote Trigger Images

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All photos 1998-2017 by Thomas O'Neil