Making it work: Behind the scenes of a ground remote…

I have received several emails from readers and people who have seen my shot from the 2008 Carolina Cup Races, that I posted a few weeks ago, so I decided that I amy going to demystify how you make a shot like this work, by using a remote camera.

For those who don’t know, a remote camera, is a camera which you place in a specific location ahead of an event that would not be accessible during the event, and is then triggered by a hard wire, or radio signal. The list of equipment I used to make this image is as follows.

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Digital SLR
Lens: Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM
Remote Trigger: Pocket Wizard (not pictured) and LPA Designs Pre-Release Cable CM-N3-P
Mounting Hardware: Ultra-Pod II
Protection: Kata E-702 GDC Elements Cover






Complete Setup: This is what the setup looked like when it was completely assembled. The camera and lens were mounted to the Ultra-Pod II and then inserted into the GDC Elements Cover. After everything was strapped down and the camera was protected from any flying mud or sudden rain showers, I used the left arm hole to attach the PocketWizard and the Pre-Release Cable to the camera and then cinched up all the other loose openings. You don’t have to use a rain cover or a remote cover, a clear plastic bag, a plastic cup, and some tape will do the same trick. I really do prefer rain covers as opposed to remote covers, so you can see to make any adjustments to exposure or focus without disturbing the entire setup.

Now comes the setup. Be prepared to get there early, some venues require you have the remote in place days before the event, while others will allow a remote to be placed hours before the event. It is also a good idea to make sure your liability insurance is up to date, because if someone or something trips over your remote and gets injured, you could be in some hot water. Once you have looked into all of the logistical details, its time to place the remote. It generally helps to have some working knowledge of the event or sport you are photographing, because you will have to anticipate everything happening long before it actually occurs. Since this was not my first time photographing a steeplechase or horse racing in general I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to see. With this in mind I chose a fence to place the remote under, and estimated the spot in the jump where most ofthe horses would come over. With these things in mind I had my assistant for the day, Cindy stand at that position in the jump so I could focus and frame the image up. Once everything was set, I taped all of the adjustment dials, focus rings, etc… on my camera in place so they wouldn’t move, made sure the whole setup was nice and tidy, and proceeded to make some test images of Cindy and I jumping around the frame to verify focal plane, and framing of the image. Once this was all done, it was time to go make some feature shots while waiting on the race to begin. *This is why it is important to use a pre-release cable, because it will keep your camera awake and ready to fire, so there is no delay firing the first frame when the time comes.* When the race began I decided to shoot from down the track with my 300mm f/2.8 and 1.4x converter, with the PocketWizard on the hot shoe of the camera, so I could have two angles of the shot, incase the remote didn’t work for some reason. Once the event is done with, you can go back to your remote, and collect your images and hope you got what you envisioned.