Note: We teach you how to get these birds and animals in front of your camera/Phototrap. This kind of photography is easier than you may think. You really can do this. Our first night out we captured two inflight screech owl photographs within the first 21 minutes. I'll point you to the photography lessons at the bottom of this page.
Phototrap Model 33
Here at Nature Friend, we have been using the Phototrap high speed infrared photographic trigger system to photograph wildlife. This system is very easy to set up, and has enabled us to capture moments that have otherwise been a challenge to get. Whether a barn owl leaving a barn in the middle of the night...
Barn owl photo by Marlin Shank
...or a hummingbird drinking at a flower while we were elsewhere...
Ruby-throated hummingbird photos by Darren Shank
...or a bat leaving its roost...
Little brown bat and screech owl photos by Kevin Shank
...the Phototrap has been our answer.
For the past three weeks we have been using the Phototrap to capture screech owls in flight as they approach prey. I'm going to show you what we have been doing, and then tease you with what you can do.
Here is the first photo we got of a screech owl, taken the first night, within fourteen minutes of starting the attempt...
...and this photo was taken the next night. (I wish I had known how easy this could be [with the right equipment], when I was struggling through this nearly twenty-five years ago. That effort didn't produce any owl photos.)
Over the next several weeks we took the following photos, and many more.
You can get photos like this too. In the August 2009 Nature Friend magazine Study Guide, I teach you in twenty-five minutes what took me nearly twenty-five years to learn. This is available as a back issue even after August. (Note: The Nature Friend magazine, Study Guide edition, has a bonus feature titled, "The Photo Critique" where we teach photo tips, and feature photos from readers. You are invited to subscribe and to also submit your photos.)
Phototrap Model 33 Package
1 Phototrap Model 33 in a weather-proof box
1 set of beams
1 twenty-five foot cable for either a Canon, Nikon, Sony, Minolta (To work with the Phototrap, your camera model needs a socket where a hard-wire remote can be attached.)
Extra camera cord with splitter to hook up two cameras at one time
Give us a call. 877-434-0765
Look how camouflaged the talons are. Are they about to get you?
Send us your photos, and the story of how you got them. We are always looking for photos for both the Nature Friend magazine, and "The Photo Critique" in the Study Guide. We will be happy to consider yours.
P. S. Here is a photo from last night.
This infrared trigger has three modes of operation:
No. 1.... Direct mode - Point-to-point up to 50 feet.
No. 2.... Direct mode - Using reflector to 25 feet.
No. 3.... Reflect mode - Up to 42 inches when used without red reflector (reflection from subject trips system).
Specs for the Model 33.
No. 1….. Power switch
This switch turns the power on to the unit.
No. 2… Camera on/off switch
On the cord (not pictured), push the white dot in to allow the unit to trigger the camera.
No. 3… Camera or flash ports
Plug the camera cord into either of these ports.
No. 4… Trip reset time
Use this dial to set a time delay between camera's triggerings.
No. 5… Battery charging terminal
A 1000 Ma 12 volt charger will charge the battery in about eight hours. The charger must be for a sealed lead acid battery. Center post is positive. The diameter of the center post is 2.1mm and the outside diameter of the plug is 5.5 mm. I use a Werker charger picked up at a Batteries Plus store.
No. 6… RCA jacks for sensor leads
Be sure that the RCA connectors are white to white and red to red. Do not cross the wire colors as this could damage the triggering unit.
No. 7... Sensitivity dial
Rotating the dial counterclockwise decreases the sensitivity of the photodetector. It should be left on #8 for minimum triggering time in either mode.
No. 8.... Brightness dial
This controls the power to the emitter. When the distance between the emitter and detector in the direct mode or the reflective mode is less than eight feet, the dial can be left at #1 which is the lowest power setting. After eight feet the power should be turned up to a higher number. Break the beam once with a dark object just in from the emitter, and once just in front of the detector to be sure it is triggering anywhere between the two points.
No. 9… Trip light
In the direct (point-to-point) mode this light will come on when the beams are not aligned properly or when the subject breaks the beam. In this mode the trip light will be off when the beams are aligned.
In the reflect (42-inch reflection) mode this light will only come on when a subject passes across the two sensors that are together for this mode, or when there is not enough clear space in front of the beam. At least 8 feet is needed.
No. 10.... Mode switch
This switch changes the operation from direct mode (point-to-point) to the reflective (42-inch) mode. When the toggle switch is pushed up, the unit is in the direct (point-to-point) mode. What this means is that the emitter and the detector are opposite each other and looking at each other, or both the emitter and the detector are velcroed together but are pointed at a reflector such as the red one included. When pointed at each other, you can work with them as far apart as the cords will reach, about fifty feet. When aimed at the red reflector, the working distance is about twenty-five feet.
When this switch is pushed down to the reflect mode, both the emitter and detector are aimed at where the subject being photographed will become the reflector by bouncing the light back to the detector. Working distance is about 42 inches in this mode. Obvoiusly, the size and color of the intended target may alter the effective working distance. This mode is very fast to set up.
When in the reflect mode, the emitter and detector may be velcroed together, or they may be separated. The value of separating them is to more accurately determine where the system will fire for more precise focusing. For example, the emitter can be postioned at 5:00 and pointed at 12:00, while the detector is positioned at 7:00 and pointed at 12:00. An insect at 12:00 will trigger the system. This contrasts with when the emitter and detector are together and anything from 1" to 42" will trigger the system.
In the direct mode the trigger operates in 20 milliseconds or less. It is not suitable for small objects traveling at higher speeds. However, large objects passing through at a high rate of speed will most likely trigger the unit due to the longer duration of the time the object is passing through the beam. An example might be the body of a coyote running fast, with the beam at body center vs. low on the feet.
In the reflective mode, the unit triggers faster but is limited to a working distance of about 42". Experimentation is necessary with all the different species and situations.
No. 11.... Photodetector
No. 12.... Emitter
Be sure that these RCA connectors are white to white and red to red. Do not cross the wire colors as this could damage the triggering unit
No. 13…. Battery indicator
If this light is on the battery needs to be charged.
No. 14…. Bulb/meter switch
If you want to hold the camera in the ‘ BULB’ mode until the beam is broken, connect the red RCA plug from the camera cord into this black jack . This will keep the camera shutter open in ‘bulb’ even if the unit is turned off. When the beam is broken, the shutter will close and then open again for the next frame.
Some Canon cameras will not fire more than one time in single shot mode, unless the meter is fully released. To overcome this problem , plug the white RCA plug from the camera cord into the black jack(#14). Push the lower switch (#3) on. This keeps the meter on until the beam is broken, then the meter is released and set again for the next frame. If you are shooting multiple frames, you do not need to plug in the white RCA plug. BUT you do need to push in switch (#2) to keep the meter on. Turn the meter switch off to look at images in camera.
ALWAYS shoot with the METER ON as the lag time is the shortest.
No. 15.... Red reflector
This can be used in the direct mode up to about 25 feet.
MODEL 33 operating instructions
Direct mode is also the point-to-point or BEAM-BREAK mode.
Mode switch is up.
Working distance between detector and emitter; one inch to 50 feet. The brightness dial should be turned towards maximum as the distance between sensors increases. Minimum is between one and two and maximum is fully clockwise.
Separate the emitter and detector for this operation.
Set up the sensors so they face each other. If the detector sees the emitter the LED on the detector will illuminate. If the detector does not see the emitter, the trip light on the control panel will illuminate and stay on until the beams are aligned.
Sensitivity control. When the sensitivity control dial is turned fully clockwise (8) the cameras will fire immediately upon breaking the beam. When the sensitivity dial is turned full CCW, the circuit is much less sensitive to breaking the beam. In this case the beam must be continuously broken for several seconds to fire the cameras. Thus the unit would be responsive to slow moving targets but not to a target just passing quickly through the beam.
Using a red reflector in the direct mode, the working distance may be 3 to 25 feet.
Mode switch is up.
Place the sensors together with the Velcro for this operation.
Set up the sensors so they face in the same direction. In this mode the cameras will fire if an object passes between the sensors and the reflector. Aim the sensors at the reflector. They must be on the same plane.
The light will illuminate until the beam and reflector are aligned properly.
The sensitivity dial in this mode operates same as in the BEAM-BREAK mode. The brightness dial should be turned towards maximum as the distance between sensors and reflector increases. Minimum is between one and two and maximum is fully clockwise.
Reflective to 42 inches without a reflector.
Mode switch is down.
Place the sensors together with the Velcro for this operation.
No reflector is necessarily for this operation.
Working distance is 42 inches. This maximum distance will extend in certain conditions such as larger subjects at night, or more reflective or white subjects, to possibly six to eight feet.
Optimum operating ranges between one foot and three feet.
Set up the sensors so they face in the same direction. In this mode the camera will fire if an object passes in front of the sensors such that the emitter light is reflected back to the detector. This is how we set up on our owls, bats, and hummingbirds.
The trip light LED will illuminate if there is continuous reflection. In a proper setup the trip light LED will be off.
Most important, there must be four to five feet of clear space behind the subject. This distance may need to be extended if the background, rocks , trees, branches, ground or ceiling are highly reflective.
The sensitivity control in this mode operates the same as in the BEAM-BREAK mode.
5. INDICATOR FUNCTIONS. When the unit is first turned on the trip light (on the board) will illuminate for 1 second then go off.
The trip light is programmed with a code to indicate status as shown in the table below.
OFF - Emitter and detector are aligned waiting for a trigger
ON - (Steady) Emitter and detector not aligned.
TRIPLE PULSE - The unit has been triggered and is awaiting time-out of the trip delay at which time the unit will re-arm and be ready to take another picture.
RAPID REPEATED FLASH
The battery voltage has dropped below 9.5 volts and the unit is now placed in a stand-by mode and will not trigger camera or detect subjects.
The 2009 hardbound volume of Nature Friend includes the in-flight owl photography lesson where the owl catches prey.
The 2010 hardbound volume of Nature Friend includes the in-flight bat and hummingbird lessons, as well as owls bringing food to a nest.
The 2011 hardbound volume of Nature Friend includes the coverage we gave to in-flight albino hummingbird photographs.
Hardbound editions are limited, and when supplies are gone they are gone. Click here to see what hardbound volumes are still available.