Remote Triggers

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, or charge and do nasty things. 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. In fact, most manufacturers lie about image quality. I'm unaware of any trail cameras with a sensor larger than 5 mp, but most falsely claim much higher resolution by using interpolation. Only Reconyx with its 3.1 mp sensors tells the truth, as far as I know. 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.

Trailcam elk in 2014

I have owned nine trail cameras, five of which are in good condition and 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 Of the other four, one is obsolete, one is in perfect condition but takes horrible images, one was damaged but is still working, and one was destroyed in a forest fire. I also have access to the images from my brother's trailcam at his cabin. For the purposes of including remotely-triggered images here, I'm designating the 5D Mark III as #8, 1D Mark II as #9, M100 as #10, and 6D Mark II as #12. Click on the link to see images from that camera:

  • #1 Bushnell purchased 2009, is obsolete for my purposes. My wife's cousin borrowed it a few years ago to track deer, which is what most people use trailcams for. I don't have it so I'm guessing he still has it.
  • #2 Reconyx PC900 was in Wind Cave National Park 2011-2018. Restored by Reconyx to new condition after being damaged in the Legion Lake Fire, December 2017. Currently in Custer Gallatin National Forest in Montana.
  • #3 Moultrie M-880 acquired 2014, destroyed in the Legion Lake Fire, Custer State Park, December 2017.
  • #4 Primos Proof Cam 02 HD acquired 2015 and except for night is almost useless. Images and the first few frames of video are usually blown out. Sometimes I can extract frames, but the image quality is not great. I'm not wasting lithium batteries on it, and it is currently between assignments.
  • #5 Browning Strike Force HD Pro acquired 2017. Currently in the back yard of my house in Montana.
  • #6 Browning Strike Force HD Pro acquired 2017, while in Wind Cave National Park damaged in the Legion Lake Fire, December 2017, but I taped it up to cover the warped seams and it is working for now. Currently between assignments because image quality is not great.
  • #7 Reconyx HyperFire 2 Professional Covert IR received June 2018. Currently in Custer Gallatin National Forest in Montana.
  • #8 Canon 5D Mark III, acquired 2012, images here were taken with remote trigger or motion sensor.
  • #9 Canon 1D Mark II, acquired 2004, images here were taken with remote trigger or motion sensor.
  • #10 Canon M100, acquired 2018. Images here were taken with remote trigger, a phone app connected by Bluetooth.
  • #11 Browning BTC Patriot FHD trailcam acquired 2022. It bears superficial resemblance to the 5-year-old #5 and #6 but is slightly larger and has better image quality. Currently in Custer Gallatin National Forest in Montana.
  • #12 Canon 6D Mark II, acquired 2023, just a few images so far since I generally use #8 or #9 for backyard motion trigger or remote trigger. Like the M100, the 6D can be operated with a phone app connected by Bluetooth.
  • #13 My brother's Campark T180 located at his cabin in Custer Gallatin National Forest, Montana.
  • #14 Gardepro T5CF close focus, acquired April 2024, currently shooting bluebird closeups in my back yard.

See below for trailcam blog entrys.

Camera Traps

A step up in quality (and cost) from a trailcam is a camera trap with external motion sensors and flash connected to a DSLR in a box. In 2021, I purchased an external motion sensor from the British company Camtraptions for use with my Canon DSLRs. In order to save shutter activations on my newer DSLRs, 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. The summers of 2021-23 I've used the PIR/DSLR to get whatever comes to the bluebird nest box and bird bath in my back yard.

Back yard camera trap, 2021


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 don't do digiscoping often because setup is a pain and I usually have better alternatives.

This wood post in my back yard in Massachusetts appears in dozens of images posted on this site up until I moved in 2007. 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.

Digiscoped Chipmunk 2006

More Digiscope Images

Remote triggers

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 DSLR wireless trigger LC-4 with a 300-foot range for decades, which is overkill for the back yard where I currently use it. My newest cameras, Canon M100 and 6D Mark II, can be remotely triggered using a phone app connected to the camera via bluetooth. See below for two images and a link to more.

The first image is a very early remote triggering effort using my first decent digital camera, a Kodak DC290, and a long USB cable. The second was taken 20 years later with the big 500mm lens on Canon M100 triggered with a cellphone app.

Tethered Cardinal 2001

Remote triggered bluebird, 2021

More Remote Trigger Images

Trailcam blog entrys

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:

  • Badlands and Black Hills, September 2017. [Photos] [Blog Entry]
  • A Brief History of (My) Trailcams, August 2017. [Blog Entry]
  • Multitasking during Eclipse Trip, trailcam update and some burrowing owls, August 2017. [Photos] [Blog Entry]
  • Badlands Bighorns and trailcam update, April 2017. [Photos] [Blog Entry]
  • Western South Dakota parks, November 2016. [Photos] [Blog Entry]
  • Trailcam update from Wind Cave National Park, May 2016. [Photos] [Blog Entry]
  • Trailcam update from Wind Cave National Park, November 2015. [Photos] [Blog Entry]
  • Trailcam update from Wind Cave National Park, March 2015. [Photos] [Blog Entry]
  • Trailcam update from Wind Cave National Park, October 2014. [Photos] [Blog Entry]
  • Trailcam update from Wind Cave National Park, April 2014. [Photos] [Blog Entry]
  • Trailcam update from Wind Cave National Park, October 2013. [Photos] [Blog Entry]
  • Trailcam update from Wind Cave National Park, lazy bighorns in Custer State Park, March 2013. [Photos] [Blog Entry]
  • Various western parks, October 2012. [Photos] [Blog Entry]
  • Custer State Park, December 2011. [Photos] [Blog Entry]

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