Using remote DSLR cameras to capture wildlife in remote locations can be a real challenge. There are so many issues associated with managing the correct equipment to maximise the most out of the time you will have the cameras deployed. Batteries, weather conditions, cable protection from rodents eating into cables, humidity in tropical habitats etc. However the images they will produce can be spectacular and the secrets they reveal of the lives of species most of us will never see or experience can be incredible. The set up I am profiling here is a design that is constantly changing and improving. I use Nikon DSLR’s, the D7100 and D7200 matched with either Nikon or Tokina wide angle primes or short zoom lenses.
The pelican 1300 is the best sized case I have found for DSLRs. They are not too expensive, are tough and weather proof and can be easily modified to fit mounts and a filter plate on the front. After cutting a hole in the front of the pelican case, a threaded aluminium plate with a 77mm UV filter screwed into the plate is attached and provides a good weather proof opening in the case for the lens. Its screw mounted to the front of the case with a silicon sealant applied to provide water proofing. The RAM mount ball head and screw bracket then screws into a custom made aluminium mounting plate that is attached directly on to the bottom of the pelican case allowing a strong, flexible mounting option that then provides lots of options for securely positioning the camera.
The Nikon SB-28 is currently the best flash option available for remote field work. They have a stand by mode and if you use lithium AA batteries you can get least a 1 months deployment out of them. I have been until now using a hard wired arrangement where I write the flashes directly from the camera box but this can be problematic for many reasons. One, you have limited options for mounting the flashes because of the cables length limitations. Secondly the cables are often exposed to attacks by rodents, which love to chew plastic cables, opening up the probability the flashes will fail to trigger. Thirdly it limits options for effectively water sealing the flash in a housing. One good option thats available now is the Camtraptions wireless trigger units. They are very good capable flash triggers (transmitters and receivers) that have a 120m range and are very reliable. These provide a much better option that having a custom wired set up that can potentially fail and limit your creative options. The triggers are compatible with both Canon and Nikon cameras and flashes which means you can use a Canon camera to wake and fire Nikon SB-28 flashes and vice versa without any additional adapters. The triggers can wake sleeping flashes when the camera powers up which means your flashes will be ready to fire at the first shot opportunity.