|Stars over the Teton Range, from the Cascade Canyon Overlook, Grand Teton, N.P. ~ © Royce Bair|
How I did it: In the above photo of the Milky Way over the Teton Range, I programmed my Canon intervalometer to give me a 3-minute head start (called a "delay"), so that I had time to walk 800 feet to the right (about 300 feet past the view of the camera). It then remotely opened the shutter for a 30-second exposure, during which time I paint the foreground with a 2-million candlepower spotlight. The remote waited 30 seconds for me regroup myself (called an "interval"), and then it opened the shutter again for another 30-second exposure. I had programmed it to do this five times so that I had a chance to get the light painting just right in at least one of those shots! That's because I had to light the trees and bushes on the left side much longer than the trees on the right side (closest to me) in order to give all the foliage an even exposure. During all of this, I kept an eye on my iPhone stopwatch display, which had been started at the same time as the intervalometer.
I used a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, with a 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens @ f/2.8, with a 30-second exposure, ISO 6400. The photo was taken at midnight. The orange glow to the left of the Milky Way is light pollution from the town of Jackson, WY, about 20 miles away. The orange glow in the notch of the Teton Range is from the Idaho Falls metro area, about 75 miles away.)Time Lapse and Star Trails: Intervalometers can also be used to do time lapse photography where you program the length of each exposure, the interval or time between each exposure, and the number of exposures you want to make. Software, i.e. QuickTime, will chain these exposures together into a video. Similarly, these remotes can be used to produce star trails, where the exposures are "stacked" together, thus reducing the need for one long exposure, where noise build-up would degrade the final image.
My Intervalometer is the Canon Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3 (about $129 - $210, depending on where you buy it). I've had it for over a year now, it is solidly built, and has proven itself to be dependable and accurate. I also have a 2nd intervalometer that I use as a back up, or to operate a second camera. It's called the Digital Timer Remote For Canon EOS by Neewer (about $14). This is my second purchase of this product. After about four months, I dropped it and broke the plastic battery door on the back. This remote seems to work well, but is not built as solidly as the Canon product. Still, at this price it's a great timer remote for the occasional user, or if you're only going to use it as a remote shutter release (which requires no programming --you just push the button). It also uses two standard AAA batteries that go dead after about six months, because it has no on/off switch, and just stays on all the time (of course, neither does the Canon, but its flat CR 2032 battery last about twice as long).
Nikon MC-36 Multifunction Remote Cord (about $155 to $180, depending on where you buy it). It is compatible with the D2 series, D1 series, D100, D200, D300, D700, D3, F6, F5, F100, and the MC-26 Adapter Cord. This Nikon support page shows a variety of remote connections that can be used to trigger your camera. The Neewer brand Digital Timer Remote for Nikon is available for under $10 --a good option for the occasional user, or someone just wanting to use it as a remote shutter trigger (no programming required, and even works if the batteries are dead).
Royce Bair is the editor of this blog and the photographer of the above image. Here is my gallery of NightScape images. My schedule of workshops, tutorials, and other events is available here.