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 Post subject: Face planting into 2018
PostPosted: Fri Jan 05, 2018 7:03 pm 
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Set a camera in Montana while visiting family. My spot was a canyon headed up into the mountains, with a snowedin jeep road or something that had a game trail with lots of tracks. Didn't see any human sign but had a bad feeling about the game trail so I set on a ridge coming down to it, which had two sets of carnivore tracks headed down it, filled in so couldn't ID them. Made a long exposure set ISO 1600/F11/30s -- a little less exposure than normal cause there was a full'ish moon and snow. 3 lights radio triggered. TRLcam PIR with a 3" snoot on it to make it a narrow beam of detection, aimed it down at 45 degrees or so where the critter tracks got funneled between two trees. I was feeling good about the set.

Checked it yesterday, after 2 weeks. I set the PIR on snag with a tree screw/ballhead and the screw rotated so that the PIR was facing straight down, didn't get any shots. Bummer!!!! especially since I lucked out and the set didn't get snowed in when a storm came through. I pulled the set. Glad I didn't set on the game trail, it had several sets of human tracks on it, I had no idea people came through here and this was my handheld camera that I don't usually trap with.

Snapshots of spot attached. Some fresh tracks down the hill from after the storm, they stop like they are weasel going subsurface, but don't look like weasel tracks, not sure what they are, but not one of the bigger critters I was after. Hopefully my two lion cams in Oregon are doing better.

cheers
Jonny


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 05, 2018 10:58 pm 
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Location: Helmville, Montana
Jonny,

Montana has much going for it when considering cam trapping wild critters!

I like how you are "going for it" with 30 second exposures. Guessing day shots are toast at 30 sec? What camera body are you using that allows such high 1600 ISO and I'm interested in learning how you determine camera settings (ISO 1600/F11/30s) when considering "soft" factors such as ambient moonlight, twilight, cloud cover and mixing in flash? Are you visualizing the perfect shot in you head and just going for a certain window of opportunity?

Seems your taste leans towards inclusion of naturally lit distant landscapes with foreground and subject animal artfully lit with flash. This approach seems to have limitations when considering subject animals triggering cameras during the daytime. Does your cam trap rig read ambient light and shut off during certain hours to conserve batteries? Too many questions???????????? No worries and no need to answer them...I'll learn eventually.

Can hardly wait to see what you capture in 2018. Likely, it'll be excellent whatever it is.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2018 9:14 am 
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Thanks Kalon.

I think one of the big challenges in camera trapping is trying to plan a shot when you don't know how much ambient light there will be; I went down a rabbit hole trying to use ttl flash and camera metering, but it's never worked. I shy away away from intentional daytime shots because the limitations of camera x-synch speeds. Unless I'm in heavy shade, I have to set ~ ISO 200, f11 to not overexpose at 1/200s, then my flashes have to be at 1/2-1/1 power (especially since most waterproofing seems to steal about a stop of light) and fairly close and I'm left with limited options for lighting and the downsides of high power flash (loud, drains battery, can overheat flash, motion blur for small fast critters). I'd be OK with all that if I got more triggers during the day and in certain situations I do, but in this case I figured I'd go with a night shot cause the nights are long and I guessed that carnivores would be more nocturnal here because they get a fair bit of hunting pressure (had hounds tree a cat next to me last year while scouting a site)

I think the hardest thing is to set for a twilight shot -- if you go for night stars you're gonna blow out that beautiful blue hour shot just before/after sunset. I've tried to target this time of day using aperture-priority metering, but if you get a critter in the frame the camera often meters a really long exposure (even if you dial in exposure compensation), so you get a blown out sky and a motion blurred critter, even at like -2ev exp. comp. I've had Av mode work OK sometimes, but got burned bad too. Had a black bear sow and YOY cubs fill the whole frame and then blur out cause of a 6s exposure or something like that.

Cause of all this, I usually just risk it and go for the full darkness long exposure. This is crazy too though because of subtle differences in light levels. The safest bet is to shoot in a closed canopy forest so you know your critter will be in the shade, then you can burn in the sky only. I shot a gray fox under a supermoon in a conifer forest (in a canyon) and was OK even at like ISO 3200, f8 30s, the sky looked like daytime but fox was sharp and in the shade. But I blew it bad a month ago and got several big mystery critters in the snow under a full moon, tortured by those, can just barely make out areas where show up in front of dark tree trunks but otherwise they are see through.

In my experience, setting long exposures greatly reduces odds of success, brings up like 3 more damn things that have to go right, plus you only get one shot so if the flashes don't wake or the position is bad, you're done. However, if I'm targeting a critter that I've already gotten a good shot of; I'm willing to take some pretty bad odds for the opportunity to get something new.

Also, I find that the surprise and uncertainty of long exposures is pretty thrilling; same sort of thrill for me as not knowing what animal you'll get. Once I set with a cascade volcano in the background and in the long exposure it was ringed in fire by controlled burns -- there was no critter in the shot, but it's those sort of surprises that keep me hooked.

I use a full frame camera usually for high ISO stuff, but I did some with a D3200, and with my old 7D I've shot a lot of underwater shots at 1600 and printed them, so I think it's OK wth a crop sensor too, particularly the newer ones. Plus with moonlight you can probably go ISO 800 30s f8 and get lots of ambient.

One other strategy I do is zero ambient, but still high ISO to get flash power so I can light large areas with a speedlight. In these instances, it's not that I want to make everything bright and lose the sense of night, but I want to cast a low level of light evenly.

Hope that helps. Good luck this winter!

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2018 9:35 am 
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Sure is beautiful country that's for sure.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2018 4:07 pm 
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That was a great read, especially for us Camtrappers. Sometimes it pays to listen to your gut. Those hikers might have trashed all your hard work. I fully understand the need to bust loose and risk missing a few "keepers" to get something great. I'm trying a set right now with a d3200 at 400 ISO and f5.6. with 30 second exposure. I'm hoping for a full(ish) moon shot. Camtraptions has a PIR that will allow you to work in Bulb, firing one relatively short exposure (around 1/10) and a second, longer exposure up that can be dialed up to three minutes. In theory this will allow all the flashes to wake and light the scene for the longer "money" shot. Those tracks look like they might be a wood rat.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2018 7:08 pm 
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Beautiful country...but human tracks not good...good luck in your quest...!

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2018 8:10 pm 
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Location: Helmville, Montana
Greatly appreciate all the knowledgeable insights and explanations. VERY helpful! Someone needs to write and/or edit a book of cam trap superstars soon. Hint, hint. I could sure benefit from such a source of knowledge.

I can picture a book where different chapters are authored by different specialists and edited/authored by say, an ecology professor or some such thing. Art of camtrapping, science of camtrapping, know your subject animal, improving odds of success, design the set, build the set, choose the right camera/sensor/flash tool for the job, camera and flash placement, camera settings, flash settings, troubleshooting and building a camera trap. Does such a trove of technical knowledge exist all compiled in one source?

Thanks again for the insights. Awesome!


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2018 9:52 am 
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AV - I'm excited to see what you get on that long exposure. I'm hoping to set a shot with higher odds next, but I'm headed back to OR and it's the rainy season, so another uncertain variable to deal with:( Found a great game trail that's getting regular lion/bobcat/bear visits but it's on a stream in a draw and I know my camera will fog up there--whole place is damp even at noon on a sunny day.

K - That would be really neat to make a camera trap book; Cameratrapcodger has one in the works; I'd think about doing one if I had more free time, first thing I gotta do is start getting shots again, been embarringly long since I got a good one!
cheers
Jonny

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