Intervalometers - Built-in Cameras and Standalone
Getting the Camera on the Pole to Fire
Multiple Solutions to a Simple Problem
The most quick and easy approach to pole photography is the timed shutter release (i.e., push the release and 10 seconds later the photo is taken).
Since all digital cameras have it (as far as we know), this is the easiest way to get going with pole photography. The main problem with it is that getting the right
photo can take some time because you have to put the camera up and bring it down, push the shutter release again, and put it back up. It works! When we started, we took
many, many photos this way.
If you are willing to upgrade your camera, you can also buy a camera with a built-in intervalometer or to buy an intervalometer for your camera. An intervalometer is just a fancy name for a timed shutter release that shoots continuously at a specified interval (hence intervalometer). For example, you can set the camera to take a full-frame photo every 30 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes, etc. Note: Many cameras also have a "movie mode" which is different than timed release exposures; shooting in movie mode will take a continuous set of photos, but the photo size is much, much smaller than the regular photo size. Instead of taking the normal 6, 8 or 10 million pixel image, it might take a 307,200 pixel image (640x480) or 2 million pixel image if it shoots in high definition (1080x1920).
Like using the Pixie Click, you no longer have to raise and lower your camera. However, you have to live with the interval set forth by the camera manufacturer. If the fastest interval is one minute, then it will take 5 minutes to take 5 photos. (With a remote trigger, you can take the photos as fast as your camera permits.) However, this method also works like a charm, and we used this approach to take hundreds of photos before we decided to develop the Pixie Click. You simply point the camera in the general direction and then adjust the camera position left/right and upward/downward slightly every 30 seconds so that each photo is slightly different. Then, after four or five photos (which is just a couple of minutes), one can lower the pole and review the images taken; usually, one of the photos will be just great.
We previously used an older Canon point-and-shoot pocket camera that had a built-in intervalometer. However, when we needed to upgrade to a larger format, we discovered that Canon removed the feature from their point-and-shoot cameras. We bought a Nikon P4, and the feature was referenced as "Continuous Shooting" mode. However, that was a few years ago; Nikon has kept the feature in their Nikon Professional Series point and shoot cameras, but they now refer to it accurately as "Interval Timer Mode." We're reviewed some manuals, and here are some cameras that have a built-in intervalometer feature. If you know of others, please send us an email.
Be careful when shopping for a camera with a built-in intervalometer. Nikon now markets "Continuous Shooting Mode" or "Sports Continuous Mode" in many of their cameras. This feature is not a timed interval but simply a burst of photos. While very useful for photographing high-speed activities like sports, it will not be very useful for pole photography. Some cameras like the P6000 have intervale shooting but also have a special interval movie mode which appears to be similar to interval shooting, but it probably packages the images together as a movie file instead of as single images.
Thanks to Bob Webster for letting us know about the Samsung TL350 model. The manual indicates that it supports interval shooting for up to 48 hours. The price is right on the camera, and it shoots HD video as well. The only slight drawback for pole photography is that the minimum interval allowed is one minute, while the Nikon cameras allow a 30 second minimum interval. For most photos, this should not be a big issue, but if the framing is tricky and requires a bunch of shots, it will take a bit longer to get the perfect shot.
If you have a DSLR, a wireless (i.e., radio) trigger can be a very helpful tool. The ability to be in one location with the camera in another has many applications: 1) Group photograph where the photographer is one of the group; 2) nature photography where you set up your camera and retreat to a more distant location; 3) architectural photography of bathrooms or other locations with lots of mirrors that would be reflecting the photographer; and 4) yes, pole photography. Typically, the release cord for each manufacturer has its own configuration and can vary even among cameras of the same manufacturer, so one needs to make sure that the shutter release that you are buying is made for your camera.
Recommendations - Here is our list of buying considerations for remote triggers: