We recently saw an amazing picture of a rider on a mountain bike trail in the UK. The photo was a selfie taken by the rider, James Vincent. He used a remote camera set up that was enabled by PocketWizard. I reached out to James to see if he could share how he set it up.
The Bike Selfie – Born of Necessity
As well as getting paid to take photos of other mountain bikers, I spend a lot of my time testing bikes and kits for Singletrack Magazine and it’s pretty unfair to ask your riding buddies with regular jobs to sacrifice their precious weekend rides to muck around taking photos of various test kits. My need to take bike selfies is born out of necessity rather than some vain egotistical desire, or at least that’s what I tell myself anyway.
Don’t Use Cheap Triggers (You Might Crash)
This is actually the second remote trigger setup I’ve developed. Initially, I tried using cheap triggers, but they weren’t latching, and when you’re dropping in to a steep chute or jump, the last thing you want to be thinking about is moving your thumb to an awkward position and pressing a button repeatedly to get the shot.
Use the Right PocketWizard Cable
Fortunately, the PocketWizard Plus III has an input for an external trigger cable and using a button trigger cable (BT1 or BT3) with a little bit of tape to lock it “on”, I could send a continuous signal to the receiver unit that’s hooked up to the camera so that I was free to focus on riding the section cleanly.
The Selfie Set-up
You will need 2 PocketWizard radios set to the same channel. Put one on your camera and mount the other on your bike. Pop your camera on your trusty tripod of choice and frame the shot, then set your focus on the feature before switching the camera to manual focus mode (the last thing you’ll want after all this is to miss focus). Get in place and when you are ready, press the remote trigger, lock it down with the tape, and get your hands back to a comfortable position just before you drop into the feature. Once you hit the jump and clear the section, remove the tape. Simples.
Use Relay Mode to Pop a Flash in your Selfie
Want to pop a flash? You will need a third PocketWizard radio attached to your flash with a flash sync cable. This Channel needs to be set 1 Channel higher than the other 2 radios in order to work. This is called Relay Mode.
PocketWizard Cable Inspiration
Inspired? Our Button Trigger cable is just one of the specialty cables we offer to help you pull off your own epic selfie.
Our Sales Manager took a set of PocketWizard Plus IIIs to her son’s high school lacrosse game and ended up with a great example of using a remote camera to capture two very different perspectives at the same time. We asked her to write up a quick overview of her experience. This technique works with any two PocketWizard radios!
Find a Safe Location for a Unique Perspective
I enjoy taking pictures of my son’s lacrosse games and
sharing them with the team. This particular game was taking place on a field we
had never played on. It was unusual because it was on a bit of a plateau and as
I was walking up to the observation area, I noticed that if I set up a low
camera in one section, I could capture some photos as they ran past me with
nothing but the sky in the background.
Remote Camera Set-Up
I set up my remote camera on a mini-tripod low to the ground with a wide angle lens. I set the remote camera to manual focus and guessed the focus point. For settings, I set the camera to f16 and aperture priority and my ISO was set at 800 which enabled the shutter to be fairly fast at 1/500th. I also set exposure compensation to +0.7 so that I wouldn’t end up with complete silhouettes against a bright sky. I placed a PocketWizard Plus III on the remote camera and connected it to my camera with a PocketWizard remote camera cable. (Check out our Cable Finder to find the cable that works for you.)
I set the other PocketWizard Plus III on my main body which was using a 200-500mm zoom and shot away! I was able to roam a little and still have my remote capture the wide-angle shots.
The two shots displayed may not have been taken at the same instant but they are close, as I shot about 10 frames to capture the action and then chose the best ones from each camera’s series.
Share your favorite remote shots and tag us! #whypocketwizard
PocketWizard radios not only enable you to remotely trigger a flash, they also enable you to remotely trigger a camera. You don’t even have to be within view of your camera. With the right set-up, you could even be hundreds of feet away from your camera in any direction. And it works with all PocketWizard radios on every camera we’ve tested. The photo of our camera tree is our fun demonstration of this versatility!
The Possibilities are Endless!!
Here are a few ways photographers are using remote cameras:
Unique vantage points: Capture images from a dangerous or tight location – like racing events, behind soccer or in hockey nets.
Ultra-low perspective: This is great for sports photography to make athletes look even more powerful.
High perspectives. We have lots of users that are mounting their cameras in the rafters at sports arenas. You can also put your camera on a super high tripod or mount on a pole.
Wildlife photos: Put your camera in an inconspicuous location and stay safe by manually triggering from a distance.
Epic selfie: Got an amazing shot? Put yourself in it!
Photographing Children: Get out from behind the camera and engage with your playful subjects! Use a manual trigger and your subject will forget about the camera.
Street photography: Get out from behind your camera for some candid street photos.
Your own family photos: Easily put yourself in the family photo. No more hitting the button and running.
Capturing multiple perspectives with a single click. This one is BIG! Put one PocketWizard radio on your main camera and one on your remote. Every time you take a photo with your main camera, the remote camera is also taking a photo. It’s like having a second shooter without paying for one. Not only can you tell a more complete story with multiple perspectives, you can actually make more money. Here are some specific examples:
Finish Line: At a race finish line, have one camera with a wide angle capturing a wide view and have your main camera outfitted with a zoom to capture the details. Each time you click, your remote captures the wide view at the same time.
Wedding: Tuck a small mirrorless camera on silent mode hidden up front during the ceremony. Now you can stand out of the way and not invade the moment. Your remote will trigger and capture the critical moments from a different perspective in sync with your main camera.
Architecture Photos: That golden or blue hour window is short. Set up a remote camera to capture a different angle and get multiple perspectives with the same light.
Sports: You can capture that amazing play from different angles getting all the action and emotion you are looking for.
Tips for Remote Photography
You will need two PocketWizard radios. One PocketWizard radio to use as a transmitter (attached to your main camera or to hold in your hand to manually trigger) and one PocketWizard radio with the correct remote camera cable for each remote camera. Yes, you can have multiple remotes all linked to a single transmitter.
You will need a cable. The remote camera needs to connect to a PocketWizard radio with a remote camera cable. While we engineer our cables to be the best, accidents can happen! You may want to have a back up! Find your remote camera cables here.
Make sure your internal camera clocks are in sync on all your cameras. When you import into your editing application of choice, your images can sort by time.
Safety is first! Make sure your remote camera is secure and isn’t going to injure anybody or isn’t going to get damaged itself. You may need to ask permission before you set up. There are many tutorials on the web on how to secure your equipment to minimize accidents.
Watch this quick video on how to set up a remote camera.
How do You Use Remote Cameras?
Share your examples of photos using a remote camera and tag us! #PocketWizard #RemoteCamera
Last week we gave you a little insight into what goes into setting up remote cameras for the Super Bowl by speaking with photographer’s assistant Shawn Cullen. After the big event, we caught up with Shawn to see how it went and get some more detail about what it’s like to shoot one of the biggest sporting events in the world.
Photographers Does it Take to Photograph the Super Bowl?
In short, the answer is a lot! And, it takes a lot to support them. For USA Today Sports, there were 12 photographers, 10 runners, at least 8 editors and IT staff to make sure the network stayed up. The photographers were stationed as follows:
2 photographers, one on each sideline
2 photographers, one in each end zone
4 photographers on the upper level, one level up from field
1 photographer stationed in an upper level shooting position
2 photographers roaming upper levels for action and beauty shots
1 photographer dedicated to triggering the 6 remote cameras. (See last week’s blog for more information.)
When possible, the photographers are connected to the network to
transfer images as soon as possible after they are taken. When network connectivity is not possible, 10
runners are stationed to grab cards from the photographers and run them to the
command center. The cards are placed in labeled bags and the runners are
instructed to never take their hands off the cards. The command center was set
up in an unused ticket office where editors review and select the best images to
put on the wires.
On Super Bowl Sunday morning, USA Today had a staff meeting with
everyone where they review the game plan and what to look for including
players, coaches, half-time performers, singers, cheerleaders and the crowd. While
this historic game did not have huge amounts of scoring action, there was still
plenty to capture. While Shawn didn’t know exactly how many photographs were
taken, he estimated around 75,000 or more.
Remote Trigger Radio Frequency and Interference
PocketWizard radios communicate wirelessly via radio waves. Just like any radio, they operate on certain frequencies and some frequencies are better than others. In North and South America (and some parts of Asia) we use the 340 – 354 MHz range because it is the least crowded frequency range for our class of wireless triggering devices. Other frequencies, used by our competitors, like the 2.4 GHz band, have many more interfering devices on them. These frequencies are getting more and more crowded as they are used by Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and wireless microphones. That makes the PocketWizard frequency the best because it is the least crowded which improves reliability and reduces the possibility of missed shots.
PocketWizard Best Practices to Minimize Radio Interference
While our frequency range is the most reliable, there are a few best
practices that we can share to enhance reliability and Shawn has a few of his
Whenever possible, try to maintain a line of sight between the radios and keep the antennas parallel. While radio does not require line of sight, it does help dramatically.
When working in the catwalks of large stadiums, Shawn feels he gets the best reception by pointing the antennas slightly downward.
Make sure the radios are not near any large metal, concrete, or high water-content objects. People and trees are mostly water!
Hard to avoid any of this in a large stadium! To minimize interference, Shawn uses a long cable to keep the radios as far from the camera as possible and 2 of our non-metallic 4 inch mounting bars (MB4) screwed together to position them as far from the metal stadium supports as possible.
Do not mount the radios close to the ground – try to have them several feet above the Earth or building floors whenever possible.
In order to get that awesome low perspective, try and mount the PocketWizard above the camera if the camera is low.
Shawn swears by Long Range mode to extend the signal even farther. “Dead spots” have a number of causes, but the solution is usually the same: move the radio a few inches or feet away from the problem area.
Test, Test, and Test Again.
The Super Bowl 2019 was played at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, arguably the best venue in the NFL. Some of its features include a 360-degree Halo Video Board that frames the roof opening – it is the world’s largest LED scoreboard at 63,000 square feet. Fans enjoy complete connectivity with 2,000 TV screens – even embedded into bathroom mirrors and on the 101-foot-tall “Mega Column” three-dimensional video board. The venue has 1,800 wireless access points where 71,000 people can concurrently stream. Read more about the stadium here.
While all of these amenities make for a great fan
experience, they can interfere with radio signals. At the Super Bowl there is a frequency
coordinator who manages all the frequencies to minimize interference.
Whether you are shooting your child’s pee-wee
football game, or the Super Bowl, or best advice is to test, test and test
again your set up and adjust where necessary.
Want to learn more about radio waves? Check out our Wiki!
Want to see some of the epic photographs taken by USA Today sport photographers? Check out their gallery of their 100 best photos.
Who’s ready for some football? Have you ever wondered what it’s like to photograph the biggest event in sports? We talked with Shawn Cullen who works as a photographer’s assistant with USA Today Sports and was setting up on Friday for Sunday’s big event. He explained how he sets up to captures this epic event.
Remote Camera Set-Up
Shawn has 6 remote cameras all set up in the catwalk aimed at
key areas on the field.
Two at the 50 Yard Line – Both are aimed at the logo in the center to capture all the activity at the center of the field including the coin toss. One remote camera is equipped with a super wide lens to capture the end-to-end field overview including the scoreboard. Shots from this camera are helpful since capturing the scoreboard will give you an overview of the game at any time.
One at Each 25 Yard Line – Aimed at the roman numeral logo LIII.
One at Each End Zone – Pointing down the field poised to capture a field goal and the trophy presentation.
Custom IDs – A Premium Difference Only Offered by PocketWizard
PocketWizard Plus III radios are attached to each camera. The radios are tuned with a Custom ID which is a private digital code that ensures that only you can trigger your remote camera. In crowded shooting environments, like the Super Bowl, Custom IDs give you the confidence to know that your remote camera isn’t going to be accidentally triggered by another photographer. While all the PocketWizards are set to Custom ID, they are programmed to different zones. PocketWizard Plus III units offer the ability use 4 different zones. All the cameras are connected to an ethernet cable so that the image editors can have fast access to the images to review and post online as quickly as possible.
Long Range Mode
The radios are all set to Long Range mode to extend the range. The Plus III Transceiver can trigger a remote up to 500 meters (1600 feet). An indoor football stadium is not an ideal shooting environment as there is a lot of noise. Using Long Range Mode nearly doubles the effective triggering distance in almost any environment.
During the game, the remote cameras will be triggered by USA Today photographer and engineer James Lang. The cameras are all connected through a VLAN network and a video feed from the camera’s eye piece gives James the camera’s view. James remotely triggers the cameras when the action is right.
On Friday, two days before the game, all the remote cameras are set and tested individually. In fact, USA Today photographers are required to participate in a “Burn Test” where the photographers fire all cameras at the same time to test the network. This is to simulate what might happen at any critical point in the game when everyone is trying to capture the action. This is done so that they can anticipate and correct any issues that might arise.
Shawn and James – good luck at the game, we can’t wait to see your photos!