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 which 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, remote triggers, and (most recently) camera traps. 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.

Trailcam elk in 2014

I have owned eight trail cameras, four of which are in good condition and 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 Of the other four, one is obsolete, one is in perfect condition but takes horrible images, one was damaged but is still working, and one was destroyed in a forest fire. For the purposes of including remotely-triggered images here, I'm designating the 5D Mark III as #8, 1D Mark II as #9, and the M100 as #10. Click on the link to see images from that camera:

  • #1 Bushnell purchased 2009, is obsolete for my purposes. My wife's cousin borrowed it a few years ago to track deer, which is what most people use trailcams for. I don't have it so I'm guessing he still has it.
  • #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. Currently in Custer Gallatin National Forest in Montana.
  • #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. On sunny days, 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 put rechargeable batteries in it and it is acting as a security camera at my brother's cabin in Custer Gallatin National Forest. Since the area is shady, the daytime images are acceptable.
  • #5 Browning Strike Force HD Pro acquired 2017. Currently in the back yard of my new house in Montana.
  • #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 to cover the warped seams and it is working for now. Currently in the back yard of my new house in Montana.
  • #7 Reconyx HyperFire 2 Professional Covert IR received June 2018. Currently in Custer Gallatin National Forest in Montana.
  • #8 Canon 5D Mark III, acquired 2012, images here were taken with remote trigger or motion sensor.
  • #9 Canon 1D Mark II, acquired 2004, images here were taken with remote trigger or motion sensor.
  • #10 Canon M100, acquired 2018. images here were taken with remote trigger, a phone app connected by Bluetooth.
  • #11 Browning BTC Patriot FHD trailcam acquired 2022. It bears superficial resemblance to the 5-year-old #5 and #6 but should be a big upgrade. No images yet, currently in the back yard of my new house in Montana monitoring the arrival of the spring bluebirds.

See below for trailcam blog posts.

Camera Traps

A step up in quality (and cost) from a trailcam is a camera trap with external motion sensors and flash connected to a DSLR in a box. In 2021, I purchased an external motion sensor for use with my Canon DSLRs. In order to save shutter activations on my "new" (2012) 5D Mark III, I have been using my 2004-era Canon 1D Mark II most of the time. But I don't have the weatherproof box, adequate flash, or big external batteries which apparently would be necessary for long-term deployment in a remote location. The summer of 2021 I've used the PIR/DSLR to get whatever comes to the bluebird nest box and bird bath in my back yard.

Back yard camera trap, 2021


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 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. I don't do digiscoping often because setup is a pain and I usually have better alternatives.

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 triggers

I'm including four different methods here: USB cable tethering, time lapse, wireless SLR trigger, and app 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've had a Canon DSLR wireless trigger with a 300-foot range for decades, which is overkill for the back yard where I currently use it. My newest camera, a Canon M100 mirrorless, can be remotely triggered using a phone app connected to the camera via bluetooth. See below for two images and a link to more.

The first image is a very early remote triggering effort using my first decent digital camera, a Kodak DC290, and a long USB cable. The second was taken 20 years later with the big 500mm lens on Canon M100 triggered with a cellphone app.

Tethered Cardinal 2001

Remote triggered bluebird, 2021

More Remote Trigger Images

Trailcam Blog Posts

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:

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