Trail cameras offer a wonderful insight into the natural world around us. Often they’re fully automated to capture what wildlife does when we’re not around. After all, they usually get spooked pretty easily. I have a camera set up in the backyard for that very purpose. We often get foxes, deer and badgers entering the garden during the night.
But what wildlife photographer Levi Dojczman has done, however, is take it to the extreme. He built a custom trail camera with a DIY tree-bracket, Sony A6100, 200-600mm lens and a 60ft remote cable to let him shoot the animals he wants to see without being anywhere near them.
The idea to build a custom “camera trap” like this came at a time when Levi was out photographing some birds. He saw some tracks on the ground and thought that they might be a fox. It turned out that he was right, it was. He got one obscured shot of it through some branches, but as he tried to get closer for a clearer shot, it just disappeared.
Levi makes it clear in the description of his video that this is not an automated solution. It only works with human input using Sony’s Remote software on his laptop through the use of a really long USB cable that lets him stay 60ft away from the camera. But thanks to the long reach of that 200-600mm lens on a Sony crop body, he’s also able to capture animals filling the frame a further 60ft+ away from the camera, keeping him 120ft+ away from the wildlife he’s photographing.
You could, hypothetically, set up sensors on a rig like this to try to detect wildlife. A PIR sensor on an Arduino or ESP32 might work, or a Raspberry Pi running some kind of AI vision software. Then just have it fire the camera automatically when it’s “sensed” something.
But automated methods usually don’t work very well with such a long lens. You’ve got such a narrow field of view and shallow depth of field that you really need to be able to see what it is that you’re shooting. And that’s what the Sony Remote software running on the laptop allows Levi to do.
Levi faced a lot of challenges, not to mention just keeping the laptop warm enough that the battery didn’t die too soon, but I’m sure you’ll agree the results were well worth it.