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.
A step up in quality (and cost) from trailcams is to construct a custom camera trap with external motion sensors and flash connected to a DSLR in a box. I recently 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. This summer (2021), the most utility I've gotten out of the PIR/DSLR is watching whatever comes to a bluebird nest box and a bird bath.
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'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 wireless trigger with a 300-foot range for many years, which is overkill for a back yard where I use it. My newest camera, a Canon M100 mirrorless, can be remotely triggered using a phone app connected to the camera via bluetooth.
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. 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:
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:
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.
This is a very early remote triggering effort using my first decent digital camera, a Kodak DC290, and a long USB cable.
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All photos ©1998-2017 by Thomas O'Neil