On a day like this…


1-23-14 schoodic btc

… I love my remote release. It was cold when I made this photograph – somewhere in the low single digits or maybe even zero – but when you add the wind chill whipping in off the ocean, I was glad that I didn’t need my camera-operating fingers exposed to the elements any longer than necessary.

A remote release allows me to control the pressing of the shutter without having to fumble with gloves and bare fingers in the freezing temperatures, and it also permits me to trigger the shutter without touching the camera and risking moving my equipment. Even the tiniest of nudges as you manually depress the shutter with your finger can introduce “camera-shake” and ruin a photograph – moving the camera even ever so slightly might result in a not-so-sharp image, especially if you plan on printing big. I usually take my paranoia in this regard one step further and engage the mirror lock-up feature on my camera – one squeeze of the remote to lift the mirror, and a couple of seconds later a second squeeze to fire off the exposure. By using this technique, I’m minimizing the chances of the elements coming together for an epic sunrise in a beautiful place, only to return home with a slightly blurry photograph due to vibration.

So there’s the technical reason why I use a remote release, but it also provides me with a myriad of creative options, one of which I especially enjoy. As the light fades and exposure times naturally lengthen, I like to choose the size of the aperture, set the camera dial on bulb mode, and experiment with the length of the exposure. Adding a 6-stop neutral density filter will lengthen the exposure time even more, so I choose an appropriate aperture size (usually between f11 – f14), and use my remote to trigger the shutter, holding it open for anywhere between a few seconds to a few minutes. As colors deepen and movements are condensed through the longer exposure, results can be pretty interesting. Oh yes, and perhaps most importantly, I get to sit back, relax and soak in the scene without having my body hunched over the camera holding the shutter button down by hand.

In the photograph below, the outgoing tide is rendered smoother than it actually was, and the high clouds streaking overhead appear much different than if I had chosen a typically faster shutter speed.

You could spend a lot on either a tethered or a wireless version, but the remote cable release I use is a simple knock-off purchased on Amazon for about $6. Despite the low cost, it has become one of the most used and valuable pieces of equipment in my bag. I love the creative options it provides, but on a day like this, my fingers also appreciated the comfort and convenience it offers. Do you use a remote release? if so, what are some of the creative ways that you deploy this little gadget?

1-23-14 schoodic5

23 thoughts on “On a day like this…

  1. Hi there,

    Ever thought about getting a wireless one? Seems easier than having to connect the cable release to the camera. Also, if the weather is rough you don’t have to expose the cable slot/outlet/thingy?


        • David Patterson

          Aha… it’s actually quite simple. You could set the camera up and frame the scene as you wanted it to be composed. Then it’s just a matter of waiting for the right moment – wave crashing or lighthouse beacon shining – and from the comfort of the warm car you could trigger the shutter wirelessly. Although I complain about the cold, methinks I’d probably miss the connection you make by actually being there – really being there – in person and on task.

  2. I love that last comment about sitting in the car to make a photograph, made me smile. I do have a wireless remote but really haven’t used it much as the type of work I tend to do involves moving around alot, eg: chasing big horses. I do see the value in using it though… I am gunning for a 100mm macro so then it would most def come into use. Cheers! Great shot btw, worth getting frozen into a popsicle for.

    • David Patterson

      Thanks… yeah, I guess I’m “holding on” to the connection to the camera. Methinks it would make a lot of sense for me to get a wireless remote some day. OK… am off to Amazon to see what I can find…

  3. Johann Briffa

    I use the remote every time I use the tripod. A knock off time remote came in very handy for star trails and night shots, the one time I did that. Recently I discovered that my old wireless remote (that I bought for my Elan II a long time ago) also works with my 6D, so have been using that when I just want a remote trigger. Oh and by the way: if you use live view you won’t need mirror lock up – the mirror has to be locked up anyway…

    • David Patterson

      Thanks Johann… I use the live view for confirming accuracy of focus. I’ll usually use auto-focus first, then I’ll turn on live view where I can zoom in x10 to see if in fact that part of the frame I want in focus actually is in focus. You’ve got me thinking now… I can’t even recall what, but I was always under the impression that if I turned on live view and shot with it on, that I would be at the mercy of the auto mode and that the iso would be automatically chosen for me?!?!?!?

      Am going to have to do some research. If I’m wrong, it won’t be the first time 🙂

      • David Patterson

        OK… I’m an idiot.

        Not sure why I believed what I believed about using Live View. Maybe I mis-read the manual way back when I first got the camera. Anyhoo… methinks I’ll be using it a lot more, especially when using a neutral density filter – live view actually lets me see the scene on the LCD, whereas when not in live view the viewfinder goes dark.

      • Johann Briffa

        Not necessarily. Though there are settings that apply only in live view, so it is rather confusing. Only real problem with live view on is that the CCD stays warm since it’s already active, which in theory this increases noise level and uses up battery more quickly.

        • David Patterson

          Johann… thanks for the information. It is much appreciated. I’ll have to take another look at my processes and see where I can make better use of live view.

  4. Skip King

    I use the remote, and a tripod, almost every time I shoot landscapes for all the reasons mentioned about above. But my favorite way to use it is to time the shot (or shots) of crashing and breaking waves, especially during a cold winter storm. After I’ve framed the shot, it’s a lot easier to stand there with my gloves on, or my hand in my pocket holding the release, and then firing off multiple shots in hopes of catching the perfect wave. Much easier than standing with my hand, gloved or not, on the shutter button waiting, and waiting……..

    • David Patterson

      Skip… good advice. Before I discovered the remote release, an intermediary step toward reducing vibration that I used was the self-timer. Seems silly now, but I can remember pressing the shutter manually and hoping that I could get the timing right for when the wave broke, or the lighthouse light was on 🙂

  5. Skip King

    Lighthouse light! Another good suggestion. I remember doing that manual hope-and-spray shooting, and being disappointed that the best timed picture wasn’t sharp. Sometimes the cheapest accessories make life the easiest. I think I paid $20 for my remote. That’s got to be the least I’ve spent on photography gear, and the biggest bang for the buck. As for the live view, it took me a lot of trial and error to figure out what to turn on and off when using it, and always I read manuals. I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me to figure out why the 6D won’t focus when it’s in Face Mode Live View, and there are no faces to focus on in the landscape! 🙂

    • David Patterson

      Remote release, lens pen, and hand warmers… indispensable and cheap!

      Part of the fun in photography for me is that we’re always learning. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, something new pops up.

  6. Jocelyne

    Oh that last photo is breathtaking David !! I froze my hands yesterday when I went out taking photos, so I’ve decided I’m buying a remote release 🙂

  7. Charlie Zevon

    Beautiful shot! I recently tried an intervalometer for some star trail pictures in Death Valley. It worked well and I could have sat in my car while it was triggering shots. But it was a nice night so I just enjoyed the view and talked a bit with the other star gazers around.

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