Remote Photography Workshop
A cork captured just a few milliseconds after popping from the bottle
This workshop is designed to educate photographers in the use of a spectrum of remote controlled photography techniques and gear. Applications that will be covered and/or demonstrated include:
- Firing your camera from 50 feet away (or more) without any cables – even with your hand in your pocket.
- Time lapse photography – this is a fast growing application of digital photography, and can be achieved with very little cost – both hardware and software
- Long exposure photography – star trails etc. It isn’t just a case of leaving the shutter open and pointing the camera upwards! Many tips will be offered
- Trail photography – setting up a remote trigger system, typically an infrared beam across a trail to fire a camera when an animal breaks the beam
- Advanced Trail Photography – techniques that radically improve your hit rate
- Burrow Photography – How to set up a camera at the mouth of a burrow and capture images of the inhabitants automatically
- Bird Photography – Capture birds in flight!
- Nesting Cavity Photography – Capture birds entering and leaving nesting cavities in tree trunks.
- Ballistics Photography – Photographing the precise instant that a projectile impacts a target!
- Droplet and Splash Photography – Simple single droplet photography, through to computer controlled, high precision droplet collisions!
- Explosion Photography – balloon popping, champagne cork ejection etc!
See some examples at the bottom of this page…..
The workshops are 4 hour sessions, with a mixture of presentation and hands-on
playing researching and learning….Bring your camera and lenses that will enable some close focusing for droplets, and a general purpose lens. If you have a Canon or Nikon DSLR, you will be able to try everything setup we use, as I will have dedicated cables for both. Some setups will even enable the use of point’n'shoots, assuming they have Manual capability.
The workshops are for a maximum of three people per session, so each student gets the utmost possible time to experiment and learn as well as focused tutoring. The workshops are held in my lab/office at my home, and my surrounding property, in Westlake Village, California.
I spend time describing remote photography techniques, and the equipment necessary to perform them. Technology advances have made all of these techniques both relatively easy and very affordable. I also supply resource documents with comprehensive lists of gear and suppliers. Students then proceed to some hands-on exercises to really understand the processes and gain the knowledge to do it all themselves.
The workshop discusses
- Shutter Lag – What it is, and how to deal with it when necessary
- Open Flash Technique – Likewise
- Infrared vs RF (Radio Frequency) vs Wired Remotes – Pros and Cons of each
- Detailed description and demonstration of many types of remote control releases, triggers, control systems and their associated sensors – when to use them and why. Most of the demonstrations and exercises will be performed with the Cognisys Inc. StopShot – a start of the art control system that is unsurpassed in flexibility and control.
Simple Remote Releases. This demonstration will show what fun can be had with setting up a remote camera somewhere not-very-obvious, and firing it from your trouser pocket. A great way to grab candid shots at parties and such, or perhaps to photograph a bird at a nest
Time-lapse Demo. This will be a quick soup-to-nuts demonstration of how high quality time-lapse video can be made a standard DSLR camera and an intervalometer that costs around $20. Oh, and the software needed? It’s free.
Trail Photography Demo will be performed in the lab (and in the field, time-permitting) using various types of controllers and sensors, from very simple to state-of-the-art. Probably a TrailMaster for the first example, and a Cognisys-Inc. StopShot for the latter. Taking the idea much further, some crucial trade secrets will be divulged to maximise success rates and high quality images.
Burrow, Bird and Nesting Cavity Photography Discussion/Demo will cover what exactly is required for these challenging applications. Some recent product releases have really enabled some huge ease-of-setup advantages in this area, and some in-lab demonstrations will be performed to highlight best practices. We may even attempt some in-flight hummingbird or songbird shots – automatically!
Ballistics and Explosion Photography - ok, the fun stuff! We will get to discuss (and perhaps demonstrate) some ‘impact’ ballistics shots – air pellets vaporizing Jelly Bellies, or destroying other colorful things. All in the name of research, of course. This type of photography involves high precision (yet relatively inexpensive) controllers, such as the Cognisys-Inc. StopShot, and a high speed flash system, such as the EG&G Microflash. These shots are made with the ‘Open Flash Technique’. Tips will be given how the $10K+ Microflash can be replaced pretty successfully with an ~$50 used standard photo flash…. Explosion photography will incorporate the use of microphones, or other acoustic sensors in order to make images of balloons popping (capturing an image of the balloon as it unwraps around the sphere of compressed air). We will experiment with this to understand how to make images of various stages of the balloon collapse (It doesn’t require costly equipment at all!), and how this can be applied to any situation that involves acoustic triggering.
Droplet and Splash Photography has become one of the most popular genres of photography, and for good reason. Harold ‘Doc’ Edgerton pioneered the idea of blending art and science with his famous ‘Milk Drop Coronet‘ shot back in the middle of last century, and my good friend Martin Waugh has become hugely successful taking it a whole lot further. Gear is now cheaply available that make this fun type of photography available to everyone, and we will use it not only to capture simple water drops, but complex collisions – predictably and repeatably.
What Each Student Takes Away:
Students will leave with a number of well exposed images, a CD with the tutorial presentation, resource list and reference notes, and most important of all, the knowledge and experience to be able to perform many different types of remote controlled photography. While I provide an extensive resource list, I also provide my own personal recommendations for each application. Discounts may be available on some of my preferred items.
Important Notes and Disclaimers:
The ballistics photography is inherently dangerous, so
- I expect my students to behave in a responsible and professional manner
- If ballistics are going to be demonstrated or practiced, a Waiver form must be signed
- I reserve the right not to perform demonstrations for any reason.
All students will learn all they need to know about ballistics photography, regardless of whether it be demonstrated or not. Clear examples will be given.
The high speed flash equipment I use for ballistics photography is notoriously temperamental, and sometimes just point blank (pun intended) refuses to cooperate. As such, even if a demonstration is performed, results cannot be promised. Again, examples will be shown, and the full techniques described.
It should also be noted that we will be popping balloons, and maybe even corks. These produce loud (and sometimes unexpected!) explosions, so those with heart conditions should take necessary precautions.
Droplet, splash and explosion photography is always very messy, and camera gear tends to get splashed etc. While every precaution will be taken to protect gear (I will describe several techniques), it may happen that a camera or lens might receive a drop or two of water (or Jelly Belly, or whatever). I cannot be held responsible for any damage caused, and a student’s participation in the workshop is an acceptance of these Disclaimers.
I supply bottled water and sodas. You are welcome to wander around the lawns of my property, but for insurance reasons, students are only permitted in my office/lab, which is above the garage. It has a full bathroom for bio breaks. We may work outside for a while to demonstrate some trail, burrow and/or bird photography. I suggest a hat, bug repellent for the occasional mosquito, sunscreen and perhaps something to wear if the temperature plummets, which it can do when the sun goes down.
What Gear to Bring:
Students will need a DSLR, memory card(s) and a reasonably close focusing lens for water droplets. Prospective students might also experiment beforehand about photographing fully inflated balloons from about 3 or 4 feet away. This will probably necessitate a wide-ish angle lens. You may also wish to bring a tripod, though this is not essential. As for the Hummingbird and High Speed Flash Workshops, students are welcome to bring along their own flashes so I can help them learn how to configure them for high speed flash.
What Gear I Supply:
I supply all gear except cameras and lenses. I supply all the setups themselves, chairs etc. I supply PocketWizard radio slaves for the high speed setups ( I will guide you through how to use these – they are very simple, and provide reliable wireless flash trigger performance). I will provide instruction via presentation on a large computer screen in my lab/office, and then will work with each student at each setup continually to ensure students are prepared to capture great images.
I prefer to have the sessions during the week, however I realize this is not possible for some people. As such, there will be sessions on Wednesday evenings and Sunday evenings if enough people warrant them. If a group of 3 students gets together and determines a mutually beneficial alternative date amongst themselves, I can almost certainly accommodate it. Consult the workshop calendar for dates and openings, however do not hesitate to contact me if you have special dates or requirements in mind.
Weather issues may prevent some outdoor demonstrations, but the absence of these demonstrations will not limit the learning of the process. As such, these workshops are rain, hail or shine, if booked.
If you would prefer to use my personal gear for the session, I rent out my 50mm macro (Canon) lens for $45 and my Canon 7D for $45 or $70 for both, per session. You will need to supply your own CF Flash memory card(s).
A red Jelly Belly being impacted by an air pellet travelling approx. 1000 feet per second…
A water droplet collision – photographed completely automatically with the drip kit option to the Cognisys Inc. StopShot
A kangaroo rat emerging from its burrow, photographed automatically by a Cognisys Inc. StopShot