One of the most useful tools I have found for my outdoor photography is a radio remote triggering device for firing flashes and my camera.
These can be useful to fire a flash that is far from the camera but also will trigger the camera to fire from a remote location. The uses are unlimited and can be used for just about any subject depending on your imagination.
The radio remote device have a sender and receiver although some are transceivers and will work as both as the sender or receiver. The sender attaches to your camera and the receiver to your flash.
Maybe you are wondering about the Infra Red triggers that are available by the manufacturers for firing flash? These are nice but have more limitations than a radio remote. The distance the IR is effective is much shorter than the radio devices and theline-of-sight between flash and sender can be an issue. Often if anything obstructs the line-of-sight between the devices the flash wont fire. You may have trouble as well if you are trying to hide the flash and receiver around a corner or maybe even in tent. If anything obstructs the signal the flash wont fire. The IR trigger also won't fire the camera. Here is how I use them.
© CHARLIE BORLAND
I have found the triggers most useful when lighting up a tent that is far from the camera. This is a nice added accent to camping images. It makes you believe that people are in the tent where warm light making it feel warm and cozy and that adds to an images marketability.
In earlier times we used Coleman lanterns for the same effect, but with wireless flash you have more options in controlling exposures. A lantern is a constant light that does not change so it is just like the outside ambient light. And since it is a constant light you have to wait for the perfect balance between the lit tent and the ambient light.
2 ON THE SHUTTER SPEED MAKES IT DARKER WHILE THE FLASH EXPOSURE STAYS THE SAME. © CHARLIE BORLAND
TAKEN WITH CAMERA METERED SETTINGS. IT DOES NOT LOOK DUSK ENOUGH.
Somewhere after sunset there will be the perfect time when the brightness of the tent and the ambient light are just right for the exposure of the tent and the exposure of the ambient light. The tent will glow nicely and not be over exposed while the ambient light looks like it is dusk and still has detail. But with a constant light lantern and constant light outdoors your window of perfect exposure is limited to my estimate of 15 minutes. As it gets darker outside, you adjust your exposure to keep detail in the surroundings by increasing the shutter speed. Soon the tent with the constant light lantern begins to blow out as the exposure is increased to maintain detail everywhere else.
With flash you can achieve the perfect balance throughout the period of increasing darkness. By setting your flash to a certain power and your f/stop to the appropriate setting you can then bracket your shutter speed for lighter and darker ambient exposure while the brightness of the tent remains the same. This allows more time to make changes to your scene like moving in more or less people, arranging the camp gear, etc.
THE FLASH WAS PLACED OFF TO THE SIDE TO ADD LIGHT TO THIS CONTRASTY FOREST SCENE. ©CHARLIE BORLAND
I pre-test my flash with the specific tent I plan to use. Each tent will have a different thickness and if you add the rain fly you have even more layers to get the flash through, so it is good to test in advance.
This small dome tent has my 580EXII at 1/4 power with no rain fly and I also use the wide angle panel to disperse the light far and wide filling the tent. I can set up the tent, set the flash to manual and 1/4 power, set it to f/8 and then bracket the shutter speed to lighten or darken the outdoor light.
With the appropriate cables you can also use the same remote to fire your camera from a distance. You can also use a programmable cable release and set it to taking a picture every so often as desired, but with the radio remote can be fired when you are ready. I have found this most useful when I have no person to be a model and stand in myself, firing the camera as I change poses.
THIS SELF PORTRAIT WAS SHOT USING A RADIO REMOTE TRIGGER WHILE BACKPACKING.
WILDERNESS CAMP: HERE THE FLASH PLACED A SILHOUETTE ON THE TENT SIDES TELLING THE STORY.
The radio remotes can also be useful for wildlife photography when your camera is set close to a scene where wildlife would enter, like camera traps, and you can observe from a distance and fire the camera at will.
There are a ton of these devices out there but the most popular are the Pocket Wizard and Quantum Radio Slave, of which I have both and have used in these situations.
All My Best,
Charlie is teaching following classes at PPSOP: