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Remote Camera Action – For Basketball, it’s a Slam Dunk!

Mike Tedesco is a freelance sports and performance photographer based in Sammamish, WA. One of his favorite assignments is to photograph local High School sports – the action, the emotion, and the spirit of the crowd all make for memorable images.

Basketball Remote Camera Set Up

For basketball images, Mike likes to set up a remote camera behind the backboard to capture the exciting action as the players drive for the basket. We asked Mike to share how he uses a remote camera to kick it up a notch and capture images that go beyond your typical high school sports shots.

Setting up the Remote Camera – Safety First

When setting up a remote camera, Mike is always thinking safety first – he makes sure the equipment is secure and that his security has back up security! He always choses a spot where he can add a second magic arm/clamp and safety cables. In the words of Mike, “Never sacrifice safety for a different angle/shot.” For this game, he used (2) Manfrotto Variable Friction Magic Arms (one with camera bracket), (3) Manfrotto Super Clamps, (2) Impact Safety Cables, gaffers tape, and zip ties. In addition, since the camera was angled slightly downward, Mike used electrical tape to secure Cinefoil, an anti-reflective paper, underneath the lens to help guard against unwanted reflected light from the highly polished gym floor.

Pro-tip:  to minimize distraction to the players, electrical tape was chosen to secure the Cinefoil because it is black on both sides. Gaffers tape has a gray sticky side which when adhered to the backboard, could be distracting to the players.

Setting up the Remote Camera – Anticipate the Action

Pro sports photographers know that to capture the best images, you must anticipate the action – so it’s important to know the level of athletes that you are shooting.

Remote Camera Placement

For this high school game, Mike knew that the players were not dunkers. To best capture their action, he placed the camera higher up on the backboard and angled it down. If you are shooting a college or NBA level game, it would be good practice to bring the camera down and shoot more at rim level. In addition, the remote camera must be discreet, not distracting to the players, and far enough away from the backboard rectangle that identifies the sweet spot.

Remote Camera Focus

Mike anticipated that he would be grabbing most of the action a bit below the rim. He put his remote camera, a Sony a9, in full manual focus with focus assist turned on and asked a colleague to stand on a 6 foot ladder that was placed in the lane a couple of feet away from the rim – to mimic a player driving the lane. He manually focused on his colleague and to ensure it wouldn’t move – he taped the focus and zoom rings down.

When to Set up the Remote Camera

Since Mike was dealing with a school and a busy gym, he had to do the bulk of the setup at 7 AM before school started at 8. After school, they had three games before the main event, the Varsity game, which started at 7 PM – 12 hours later! Mike did all the mounting, taping, and pre-focusing work before school, then went back to the camera during a short window before the games started to do a final safety, focus, and remote check. After the final check, he turned it all off and then turned it all back on just prior to the Varsity game.

Setting up the Remote Camera – Details, Details, Details

Remote Camera Settings:

Mike used a Sony a9 with a Sony FE 16-35 f/2.8 lens set at 20mm and f2.8. His shutter speed was 1/1000 which he recommends as a minimum shutter speed for the action. He would have preferred to shoot at f/4 to give him a little more depth of field flexibility, but as is the case with many high school gyms, the lighting was not great, so he opened it to f2.8 to keep his ISO at 6400.

PocketWizard Set Up

Mike placed a PocketWizard Plus III that was in Rx Mode on his remote camera and connected it with a PocketWizard remote camera cable (13369-S) to the camera’s remote camera terminal. He placed a second Plus III in Tx Mode in the hot shoe of his main camera – a Sony a9 II. Both radios were set to the same Channel/Zones.

Making sure the Camera Doesn’t Sleep

Mike set his Sony a9 sleep setting to the maximum setting of 30 minutes. Once he turned it on, he had to make sure that he triggered it at least every 30 minutes. which obviously isn’t a problem during the game. However, it can be a problem when you turn everything on and have a break between games or possibly an extended halftime.

Pro Tip: Using the MultiMAX II instead of the Plus III would give Mike the ability to wake the camera from sleep mode remotely and using the PTMM adapter would keep the camera awake constantly.

Battery Considerations

Mike has been very happy with his FZ100 battery on his camera by Sony. But he always shoots with the battery grip on all his cameras so that he can always have 2 fully charged batteries at the beginning of every event. But since his set up began 12 hours before game time, he turned the camera off after it was set up in the morning and then turned it back on just prior to the Varsity game for final testing.

Pro Tip: PocketWizard’s 13369-S remote camera cable for Sony’s camera has twin heads – one to plug into the camera and one USB head that can be plugged into a portable battery for even more battery life!

Getting the Shot – It’s all in the Preparation

These two images are an example of a shot taken with his handheld camera which then also triggered the remote at the same time. As you can see in the handheld photo, there was a ref in the way and the shooter’s left arm blocking his face. The image from the remote camera got a clean view of the actual action.

The Best You Can Do is to Be Ready

Mike was disappointed in the lack of real action in front of his remote camera all game long. Despite his pre-game research, he felt the best drives happened on the left side of the hoop! Good example of Murphy’s Law in action! However, he still felt the time spent was incredibly valuable. Mike feels strongly that any time you can gain experience setting up for safety, framing, focus, and exposure is a win regardless of the images. Once the game starts, the action is out of your control so the best you can do is be ready.

Practice Practice Practice

One way to practice your remote camera skills is with a workshop. Summit Workshops and Sports Shooter Academy are examples of educational workshops that offer great hands-on experience in setting up remote cameras for sports. Have you attended a workshop that helped you with remotes?  Let us know in the comments! 

To check out more of Mike’s work, check out his website at www.reactionphotography.com and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

PocketWizard’s Moonshot

You never know when creative inspiration will strike. Our Sales and Marketing Manager, Sarah Lavoie, was inspired by Michael Heeney’s amazing photos from Lone Rock Point and had the creative idea for an epic family portrait at this beautiful location.

Inspired by the PocketWizard’s E Release Range

The new E Release firmware upgrade is a simple way to get incredible range for off-camera flash and remote cameras. The extended range in regular mode is up to 5 times further than our legacy firmware. Sarah wanted to put it to the test by taking an epic family photo in front of a rising full moon. In this case, she wanted to be far away so that she could use a long zoom and she needed a flash to light the family at twilight. A zoom gave her the compression she wanted for the full moon appear closer and larger. PocketWizard Plus IIIs upgraded with the E Release gave her the power to trigger two speedlights from a distance.

PocketWizard Made the Distant Triggering Possible

The speedlights were triggered from a distance of about 2300 feet (700 meters). It is also worth noting that the distance was spread over water and with an elevation rise – both of which are notoriously challenging for any radio triggers. That is, any radio trigger other than PocketWizard!

 

 

 

Behind the Scenes Video with the E Release

Press play to watch this video to see how this photo was taken.

Tips for Long Distance Off-Camera Flash

  • Update your PocketWizard radios with the E Release. Learn more here.
  • Have a way to communicate with your subject(s). In this case, Sarah was so far away that the family could barely see her and they felt like they were posing for no one. They also could not see the moon and needed to know where to stand and when to smile.
  • Train your subject(s) on how to set up and test your flash and radios. Send them with spare batteries just in case.
  • Use technology to help you plan. Sarah used an app called PhotoPills to help her plan when and where the moon would rise.
  • These photos were taken in TxRx Mode – Sarah did not need to use Long Range Mode (LR) to get this distance. When using LR with a flash, you may lose a stop or two of sync speed. Sarah was using a 200-500mm lens on a canoe – she didn’t want to reduce her shutter speed any more than necessary – and she didn’t need to!
  • Be creative – the E Release opens a world of opportunity!
  • Tag us! #whypocketwizard

Explore the Possibilities!

With PocketWizard, we can help you Make it Possible!

Shoot this Look

3 PocketWizard Plus III Upgraded with the E Release:

  • Plus IIIe on the camera
  • 2 Plus IIIes attached to speedlights with a flash sync cord mounted on light stands

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Remote Photography for High School Sports

Our Sales Manager took a set of PocketWizard Plus IIIs to her son’s high school lacrosse game and ended up with a great example of using a remote camera to capture two very different perspectives at the same time. We asked her to write up a quick overview of her experience. This technique works with any two PocketWizard radios!

Find a Safe Location for a Unique Perspective

I enjoy taking pictures of my son’s lacrosse games and sharing them with the team. This particular game was taking place on a field we had never played on. It was unusual because it was on a bit of a plateau and as I was walking up to the observation area, I noticed that if I set up a low camera in one section, I could capture some photos as they ran past me with nothing but the sky in the background.

Remote Camera Set-Up

I set up my remote camera on a mini-tripod low to the ground with a wide angle lens. I set the remote camera to manual focus and guessed the focus point. For settings, I set the camera to f16 and aperture priority and my ISO was set at 800 which enabled the shutter to be fairly fast at 1/500th. I also set exposure compensation to +0.7 so that I wouldn’t end up with complete silhouettes against a bright sky.  I placed a PocketWizard Plus III on the remote camera and connected it to my camera with a PocketWizard remote camera cable. 

I set the other PocketWizard Plus III on my main body which was using a 200-500mm zoom and shot away! I was able to roam a little and still have my remote capture the wide-angle shots.

The two shots displayed may not have been taken at the same instant but they are close, as I shot about 10 frames to capture the action and then chose the best ones from each camera’s series.

Share your favorite remote shots and tag us! #whypocketwizard

Remote Camera Wide Angle Perspective

Zoomed in Perspective

PocketWizard Auto-Relay

Selfies Using Remote DSLR Camera and Remote Flash

Getting together with family and friends this holiday weekend?  Get yourself in the photo using PocketWizards set up for Auto-Relay.

At PhotoPlus Expo in NYC this past October, we hosted an informal photowalk where we showed participants how to set up a selfie using a remote DSLR camera and an off-camera flash using Auto-Relay. Our location was on the High Line, a former elevated train line that has been converted into an elevated walkway, green space and park.

Auto Relay Set Up – Three PocketWizard Radios

PocketWizard Sales and Support Team

In order to take this selfie, we held a PocketWizard Plus III in our hand and used it to trigger our camera in sync with an off-camera flash. This is called Auto-Relay and it requires three PocketWizard radios. Auto-Relay is the only situation where not all PocketWizard radios are set to the same Channel.

  1. We set the transmitting PocketWizard Plus III radio in our hand to Tx only and set it to a desired Channel and Zone.
  2. We set the relaying Plus III for our remote camera to the same Channel and Zone and set the triggering mode to TxRx. We put this radio on our camera’s hot shoe and connected it to the camera with the remote camera cable.
  3. We connected our remote flash with a sync cable to our third PocketWizard Plus III set to Rx Only. We set the Zone on this radio the same as the other radios, but we set the Channel one higher than the other PocketWizard radios. (If we had them all on the same Channel, the timing of the flash would fire before the camera and miss the shot.) We could have used multiple lights – they would all need their own PocketWizard all set up the same.
  4. Making sure all our radios were set to the same Zone, we took our places then pressed the TEST button on the PocketWizard in our hand to take the shot and the magic happened seamlessly.
  5. To capture the best city lights, we used a somewhat slower shutter speed to let in as much of the ambient light as possible.

Settings:
ISO 1250
Aperture: F4.0
Shutter Speed: ¼ sec

For more information, check our our Wiki. Note that Auto-Relay can be accomplished with our other PocketWizard radios in the same manner.

Try it and tag us with #pocketwizardselfie!