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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Elevating Your Game

Get a new perspective to make your photos stand out

The third and most vexing problem would be how to see what the camera would be seeing up there on the pole and how to fire it remotely from that distance. Sure, I could lower the camera down, set the self-timer, and raise it up to fire and lower it down again to check the result. But that's slow and tedious, and you'd be surprised at how quickly you'll tire of raising and lowering that weight.

My first solution was to use my PocketWizard flash remotes to trigger the camera. I have cords for each of the Nikon DSLRs I own and have used the PocketWizards to fire remote cameras in the past. This would be a no-brainer and wouldn't require running another remote cord 20-plus feet from the camera down to me on the ground.

To monitor what the camera was seeing, my first solution involved going into Live View and running an HDMI cord from the camera's HDMI out port to a small five-inch Lilliput HDMI display that I sometimes use when shooting video. This solution worked, but it involved running another long cord, and during my tests, I found that having two cords dangling and getting twisted up with one another was a huge pain.

Also, with the PocketWizard transmitter in one hand and the Bescor remote control in the other, I still had to deal with the small monitor and would have to rig up an articulated arm on the stand itself to hold the monitor where I could see it. This quickly was becoming a rather unwieldy setup for the kind of run-and-gun guerilla work this job would entail.

Still, it was the only alternative, so I was resigned to getting used to it when I stumbled onto the Hähnel Inspire Wireless Remote Control with Live View. This is an ingenious little system, and you can buy Canon or Nikon versions. Essentially, it's a remote transmitter/receiver that sits in the hot-shoe and has one cord that runs to your remote release socket and another cord that connects to the camera's video-out port.

When the camera is in Live View, this transmitter/receiver sends out the picture to the small 3.5-inch LCD remote transmitter/receiver that you hold. The LCD remote also has a button to allow you to wirelessly focus and trigger the camera. Using this rig, I'd only have one cord running down from the camera (the motorized Bescor tilt-and-pan head controller), and I'd need only two hands, one for the wired Bescor remote and one for the Hähnel LCD controller. The resolution of the LCD is nothing to write home about, and it can be difficult to see in full sunlight without rigging some sort of shade, but it does the job.

The whole rig costs less than $1,200 and can be set up and ready to shoot in minutes; it takes a few minutes to break down and roll to another location. To this day, I've never used the three guy-lines. It seems I just pick days that aren't too windy. Even on calm days, you have to wait for the camera to stop swaying before you shoot. Plus, even though we were working for the city, we never did get any permits due to a lack of interdepartmental cooperation in the City of Brotherly Love, so it was essential for us to work fast and as inconspicuously as possible. Staking out guy-lines might have been the straw that broke the camel's back. We've received some odd looks from police when shooting with this rig, but so far no hassles or objections because we're really not getting in anyone's way.

The project will continue for another couple of months, and the client is thrilled with the results thus far and the fact that we're well within budget. I've always loved getting high angles on things and can foresee many uses for this PAP rig in both my still and video work. So if you need to get a different view of a familiar place, try running this solution up the flagpole and see if it will also fly for you!

For a schedule of Bob Krist's workshops and seminars, visit www.bobkrist.com, and go to the "Teach and Talk" heading.


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