Tag Archive | DIY

Cheapskate Tuesday 3: Trigger Happy

No not the Weird Al song (although that is awesome).  I refer of course to radio triggers. What is a radio trigger? Well, very simply this type of device transmits a signal which then tells a receiver unit to make a pulse of electricity, which fires either a flash or your camera. If the transmitter is mounted on your camera, the trigger will command receivers to fire flashes or other cameras mated to receivers with a trigger cable.

I have been using the Yongnuo YN-602 triggers, but many of the more modern ones use a transceiver design, with each unit being able to act as both a transmitter and a receiver. The YongNuo products are cheap, and a transmitter with two receivers is about 54 bucks. Other brands may be even less expensive.


How does this work in practice and what can it be used for? Well, this summer, while sitting in front of this Osprey nest in Port Moody, I had my camera set up on a tripod, with a 300 mm lens aimed and focused on the nest. Rather than stand by the tripod with my finger on the trigger, I mounted a receiver on the hotshoe and held the transmitter in my hand. This way I was free to move around and not jostle my camera while waiting for the very infrequent visits by the adult Ospreys. When an osprey was about to land, I would trigger the camera, which was set to high speed burst mode, and get some shots…Maybe not the most elegant shooting, but fun and relaxing.

This Bombus vosnesenskii, was taken with my 100 mm lens and Yongnuo triggers firing the two speedlights mounted to a special bracket on my camera (to be covered in an upcoming post). In this case, the trigger is being used for its most common purpose, namely to trigger flashes.

A sidelong portrait of the charming  Tailed Frog (also to be covered in an upcoming post) was also shot using the trigger to fire a flash, this time with a single speedlight with a Cheapskate Diffuser over the frog.

This unusual shot of a male Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) cleaning out the nest hole of baby poop was a bit more involved. It used two Yongnuo transmitters, one in my hand commanding a receiver attached to the “cable release” ( a 2.5 mm jack) to trigger the camera (as with the osprey shot), and the other transmitter on the hotshoe commanding a speedlight near the nest to fire.  This froze the bird in flight, and allows us to see what was going on.

These triggers can also be used for other things, such as triggering studio mains and other larger lights. Another useful trick is to combine them with Magic Lantern software to trigger recording of video on Canon DSLR’s. Probably the coolest usage would be to use them to trigger your camera in situations that would be impossible or too dangerous otherwise  such as near shy or dangerous animals. The range is about 100 m or so, so you will have lots of room!

These things are versatile and cheap, so get trigger happy!

Cheapskate Tuesday 2: The Raynox DCR 250

This shot of a sharpshooter, Oncometopia nigricans, was taken with a compact superzoom and a Raynox DCR 250 lit with the onboard flash and some styrofoam bowls (see below).

Much of the reason I got into photography is the desire to document the wonderful world of insects. This is the realm of macrophotography and is a great one for beginners to get into, because stellar results can come from even modest equipment (provided you are willing to work to achieve them).

One of the best pieces of equipment to get going in macro is the Raynox DCR 250. This marvelous piece of glass fits on the front of a lens and allows you to snap some great high magnification shots. If you are hesitating about getting a macro lens, but still want to get some nice closeups, this is your tool. It costs about 70-90 bucks.

These types of attachments are often called “diopters” or “close-up filters”, but the difference between these and most others on the market is that these ones don’t suck . They are a 3 element design, and are multi-coated for good contrast and flare control. When using this lens adapter, you use your zoom to set your magnification, and then the focus for the close work. Using my DSLR with it attached to the front of my 18-55 IS (kit zoom), I can fill the frame with something 35 mm across. This is not quite 1: 1, but getting there.

If you do not have an SLR, fear not! It also makes a wonderful attachment for compacts, especially the so called “superzooms”. You may need a special adapter to fit it to, but once it is on, the strong telephoto character of the superzoom allows some pretty good closeup ability.

My early days shooting macro I used the combination of the Raynox and a Canon S2IS extensively. I loved the versatility of this combination, and I sometimes still miss it! Below is a monstrously ugly photo I once took of that setup. Here you can see the styrofoam bowl which acts as a flash diffuser for the onboard flash fitted around the bayonet adapter,.  The Oncometopia nigricans photo at the top was taken with this setup, as were many of my favorite macro shots.

Below you can see the Raynox itself. It comes shipped with a clip on adapter (visible in the shot above) to mount it to various sized filter threads, but this is somewhat flimsy and will break at some point. The interior portion is threaded, so you can just get a step-up ring from 43 mm to whatever size filter thread you want to attach it to.



Here is a shot I took yesterday of a Polistes aurifer (from the lab!) using a borrowed (thanks Mike!) Canon G12 and Raynox DCR250. The light is the YN460 with the Cheapskate diffuser featured in last week’s Cheapskate Tuesday.


This is a subject that is close to home for many of you, the Cellar Spider, Pholcus phalangiodes shot last night with a Canon A720, the styrofoam bowl diffuser, and onboard flash.


The equipment used to capture the Cellar Spider. The camera was 50 bucks at a pawn shop.


The same Polistes aurifer male from the lab, this time shot with my DSLR and the inexpensive EFS18-55 IS with Raynox DCR 250, also lit with the Cheapskate Diffuser. This same  lens combo is often used to stunning effect by Techuser, a.k.a. Brazilian nature photography guru  João P. Burini of Primal Shutter.


The combo in question. EFS 18-55 IS II, a lens you can probably buy for 100 bucks, and the DCR 250.

To sum up, the Raynox is an adaptable piece of equipment, and unlike many macro adapters, this one is actually good.  I no longer have one of these, having given mine away a couple years back to an aspiring macro shooter from French Guiana, but picking it up again to write this up makes me nostalgic. I think I will have to end with a gallery of some of my favorite shots with this awesome little lens.