Posts By Scott Kelby

On Tuesday I did a post about my latest “Epic Remote Camera” fail (my 2nd fail in a row at an NFL game). The camera shoots fine in tests minutes before the players take the field, but once I move into position a bit farther back and the players actually come out, the remote camera only triggers intermittently at best. Arrrrggghh!!!)

ABOVE: That’s my basic remote floor mount rig: four pieces: a metal floor plate (from, then an Oben BB-0 Ball Head which attaches to that plate. Then a PocketWizard Plus X and a sync cord that connects the PocketWizard to the camera. The Camera is a Canon 1Dx and I generally use either a 16-35mm lens or an 8-15mm Fisheye zoom. 

Anyway, the folks at PocketWizard contacted me and had some ideas as to what might be causing the interference, and strategies to get more reliable results (and to keep me from pulling my hair out). I asked if it was OK to share key parts of their three-page letter to me with you here, and they were happy to let me share it in hopes it might some other shooters experiencing similar issues. It sounds a bit “markety” here and there, but it’s still solid info. Here’s a few highlights:

“Our first piece of advice; Use the right gear for the occasion, in this case use the Plus III or MultiMAX the next time. The PlusX is our "value priced" radio and is perfect for simple setups, but shooting remotes in a stadium requires a bit more than the PlusX has to offer. Both the Plus III and especially the MultiMAX have special features that help make sure the radio signal gets through in challenging environments.”

OK, that makes sense, and when I look back, I realize that I’ve done most of my remote triggering using the PowerWizard Plus IIIs or the older Plus IIs and haven’t had many problems, so I’m wondering if using the Plus X instead couldn’t be the main culprit right there. Next time, I’m going back to the Plus IIIs for sure. Test results soon on this swap out.

“Second, you're putting your camera close to the ground; real close in fact. The ground is a sponge. A radio sponge. It absorbs radio waves like you wouldn't believe. The higher you can get the radio the better but we realize that isn't always possible which is why we've designed special features just for situations like this. Those features can be found on both the Plus III and MultiMAX, but not on the value priced PlusX.”

Ah Ha! More reason to use the Plus IIIs instead of the Plus X. And those features are…

“In both the Plus III and MultiMAX you have a couple of special features designed particularly for remote triggering.  The one that would have helped the most here is Long Range Mode.  What this does is double the communication to make sure the receiving radio can hear it.  Just like repeating yourself to someone who can't quite hear you. It's a bit more technical than that, but that's the general idea.  Using this feature should effectively double the reliable distance your radios will work in.”

Definitely will turn that feature on. Don’t actually know how yet, but that’s why God invented Brad Moore. ;-)

They also just had some troubleshooting tips in general to help for more reliable remote triggering:

“Due to the invisible nature of radio waves, understanding exactly how they work is not for the faint of heart.  Any one of a million things can have an influence on them and getting them to do exactly as you want is both science and art.   

Here's a short list of the key things you can do to increase your success with remote cameras so before you go out on your next remote triggering event, read these basic rules of engagement: Whenever possible,

  • Maintain a line of sight between radios.
  • Keep the antennas parallel and at least 12" apart.
  • Make sure the radios, especially the antennas, are not near any large metal, concrete, or high water-content objects.  
  • Make sure the radios are not blocked by large objects or hills. Crowds gathering between you and your remotes will reduce range. Try to keep the antennas above the heads of crowds.
  • PocketWizard radios will have reduced performance if deployed close to the ground. 
  • Try to get them up high - 4 feet or higher improves range dramatically. Consider using a cable to locate the receiver higher up.
  • Avoid mounting them to metal railings or other building structures.
  • Avoid "Dead spots".  These can be caused by a number of things but the solution is usually the same: move the unit a few inches or feet away from the problem area.
  • Avoid mounting them near long cable runs for other equipment or close to wiring.
  • When a long burst is needed or especially when using a radio in the hot-shoe of your handheld camera, increase the contact time (MultiMAX only) on the remote receiving unit. If range is an issue or remote operation is intermittent, this will help. If any single trigger is received, a long burst is guaranteed.”

I really found this all helpful, although there are some things in that last list that I can’t change [like deploying remotes close to the ground, or for things like mounting in the ceiling of arenas or domed stadiums, not mounted to metal railings], but at least I know there are some things I can try when I run into interference. I do think just switching to the Plus IIIs might do the trick for my situation, as I’ve never run into these problems before, so I’m hopeful, and will hopefully get to test this fairly soon.

My thanks to Dave Schmidt and his team at PocketWizard for reaching out, and for letting me share this troubleshooting info. and I fully expect to have a better story next game (if I can get permission to set up a remote, which I’d better get on if I have a prayer of doing that).

Have a great Weekend everybody, and Happy Holidays. :)



Above: Me and Mike Carlson, lying down on the job getting our focus set. I use auto focus to focus on the spot where I think the players will come through the smoke (Chip Litherland and Casey Brooke Lawson were our stunt models for focusing position), then once the focus is locked in, I switch Auto Focus off (Photo by Casey Brooke Lawson)

OK, the remote shoot wasn’t exactly “Epic” but to be fair, my buddy Mike Carlson (who shoots for the Bucs) warned me in advance that because of a series of factors, it’s very hard to get an epic shot of the player intros at Raymond James Stadium.

One being that the pyro comes out on these big rubber wheels, and they are incredibly distracting (he was right, and it was worse than I thought); plus you have a huge Publix sign in the background (awesome grocery store, butâ¦.), and it was a gray overcast day (I could go onâ¦.), but what really killed it is that once again, my remote camera didn’t fire consistently (to say the least). Arrrrrrrggggghhhhhh!

Above: Here’s my lonely little rig. f/plate, a Manfrotto ball head, a Canon EOS 1Ds body with a 16-35mm f/2.8 lens, and the evil PocketWizard Plus X remote (more on the evil part soon).

Above: There were three of us firing remotes. The guy on the far left isn’t really a scary stranger — he shoots for the Bucs too, (nice guy in fact) I’ve just never been introduced, so we’ll just call him “Scary Stranger” (Danger!). Then Mike’s rig behind mine, and then mine pretty up close on the far right. It’s the triple threat! (not really).

Above: When we were both lying there getting our focus set, I look over and Carlson is taking a picture of me, so I rolled over and flashed this devistatingly sexy pose. Sorry you had to see this. (Photo by Mike Carlson — his best photo of the day). 

Above: I stand behind my remote camera and do a number of test shots — everything’s working perfectly. Of course, we have to move way away from the pyro, so I back-up about 40 feet away so I can shoot a different angle of the player intros with my 70-200mm. Here’s the Defense taking the field as a unit — the individual Offense intros are next. This was actually shot with the remote camera. Not terrible. Not great. But the individuals is where it gets good!

Above: Here’s a shot from my shooting position on field, taken hand-held with my 70-200mm f/2.8 at 70mm. The guy in the red kneeling on the right side — that’s “Scary Stranger.” He probably thinks his remote is firing, too. 

Above: Here’s what the shots look when I zoom into 200% from the same position. In this case, I kinda like the other shot (zoomed out to 70mm) better, but this is kinda cool. But I’m not worried, that remote has me covered (snicker, snicker).

Above: Here’s Vincent Jackson leaping through the smoke and up in the air. Doesn’t look like much from the remote camera and the wheels look really huge!

Above: The same moment from my hand-held 70-200mm 40-feet away. Not great, but certainly better. 

Above: Well, at least the remote fired, right? Right? Right? (Man, those wheels ARE distracting). 

OK, here’s the problem with the remote
It did fire. Occasionally. Just like in Denver. You see the three shots in a series above? Well, I fired the remote 17 times and it only took those three photos. For the player intros, I fired around 196 shots total, but the remote only fired 28 times total. That’s around 166 times it DIDN’T fire. There are a number of players where it never fired, so I missed them altogether. It would fire maybe one or two frames, or not at all.

It wasn’t just me
Right before kickoff, I went over to Mike and told him my remote didn’t fire most of the time. He said he had the exact same problem (and this wasn’t the first time this has happened). We were both using PocketWizards (we checked — all three of us were on different wireless channels), but I was using the PocketWizard Plus X, and Mike was using the PocketWizard Plus IIIs and yet we’re both having firing issues.

Mike may have figured part of this out
I stood there and tested the remote (just like in Denver) and when I was close to it, it worked perfectly — fired every time, but when I walked to the shooting location 40 or so feet away on the field (like in Denver), it didn’t fire every time. Mike said the same exact thing — when he’s close to the camera — it works every time. When he walks away it stops firing consistently.

Don’t PocketWizards have like a 400 ft range? 
Nope. According to their Website, the Plus X’s range is actually 1,600 feet (500 meters). So, why aren’t they firing when you’re just 40 or 50 feet away? That’s exactly what I’d like to know. Could it be some sort of interference? Could be, but I have no idea from what. The three of us are firing the only remote cameras. There’s something seriously wrong here, and I’m not the only one having the problem, so if you’ve run into something like this and you’ve found a solution, please let me (and Mike) know ’cause this is really starting to get old. I don’t want to blame PocketWizard because they are the gold standard when it comes to stuff like this, but I’m stuck and very hesitant to rig any more remotes until I get this figured out, so any help, ideas, or advice would be really appreciated big time.

Above: Parting shot: So where does all the smoke go after the player intros? At Raymond James Stadium it gets sucked down the tunnel and back into the media and locker room area. I took this quick shot so you could see what it looks like as I headed back in to the photo work room to tear down my “it works sometimes” remote rig.

Ah wellâ¦maybe next season, as this was the Buc’s last home game of the season (and after all this time of shooting the Bucs, this was my first time setting up a remote camera at a Bucs game. Sigh). Thanks and a shootout to Mike Carlson for his help and advice — I hope to repay his kindness by solving this “we only fire sometimes” mystery. To be continued…

Above: It’s my original film SLR kit, including three filters and a cable release (yes kids, that steel cable is what we used to capture photos of dinosaurs, and those two small circles with gray caps were what film rolls came in). 

Each year we throw a Christmas Party at our house for our family and friends, and this past Saturday was this year’s get-together and one of my dear friends from my childhood days, John Couch, was able to come this year with his lovely wife Diane and his kids Will and Katie (they live hours away so we don’t get to see each other very often). It was really a treat to see John and his family (I was his Best Man at his wedding, and now not only does he have kids, they’re pretty much all grown, and just wow — how time flies).

At some point during the party, John calls me over and says he brought me a special Christmas present. He holds up a camera bag and asks, “Does this look familiar?” I looked at it, and it kinda did look familiar I guess, but I wasn’t sure. Then he says, “Your gift is what’s inside. It’s your original camera.” He opens the bag and sure enough — there is was — my first SLR film camera, a Minolta SR-T 101 body with my old Soligar 50mm lens and my 200mm Vivitar Telephoto lens. I was just astounded (and I had a smile as big as the moon)!

Above: Here’s a close-up of my mighty Minolta SR-T 101 (later supplanted by a Pentax SLR). Kind of ironic that these photos of SLRs were taken with my iPhone, rather than a DSLR. 

John said I had given it to him many years ago, back when we were roommates just out of high school, and he thought I might like to have it back to display on my desk at work or at home, and was he ever right (and man did that old gear bring back memories of my older brother Jeff and I traveling together and shooting and laughing and spending more money than we could afford on film and processing).

Above: Clearly there must have been a problem at the factory, because the LCD monitor is missing. ;-)

Anyway, I can’t tell you how tickled I am to have that old camera back again (it still has film in it. Now, if I could just find a place that actually develops filmâ¦). Anyway, I thought I’d share a few photos of my new “old” rig here with you. It certainly was a wonderful surprise and surely a Christmas Gift I’ll never forget. Thanks John, and Merry Christmas!

This week we had New York-based fashion photographer Lindsay Adler as our in-studio guest on our free weekly photography talk show “The Grid”, and I gotta tell you — she gave some of the most clear, concise, helpful, and just downright “on-the-money” advice for fashion photographesr I’ve ever heard.

People are absolutely raving about this episode and if you’ve got a few minutes, you’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn — she totally rocked it! (you can watch the free rebroadcast above — just click the Play button).

Also, I start the show with the story of my “Canadian Border Fiasco,” (and it’s some story), so I hope you get to check it all out.

My 12-days-of-Christmas Giveaways Start Today
For the past couple of years I’ve been doing giveaways over on my Facebook and G+ pages each day leading up to Christmas, and I’m kicking it off (in reverse) today by giving away 12-copies of my just refreshed book, “The Digital Photography Book, Part 2.” All you have to do is stop by my Facebook or Google+ page starting at 8:00 am ET, leave a comment and you’re entered to win (We just pick random names as winners) and it doesn’t matter where in the world you are — we’ll ship your prize direct to you.

Here’s the link to my Facebook page and my G+ page. Good luck everybody (and don’t forget to check back each day for that day’s contest (tomorrow I’ll be giving away 11-gifts, then 10 the next day, and so on until Christmas Day).

Happy Holidays everyone!


P.S. I’ll be shooting the 49ers/Bucs game this weekend, and if I get any decent shots I’ll post them on FB and G+

First, to kick things off here are a couple of shots from the Bucs/Bills game on Sunday (I’ll share some game action shots over on my Facebook/Twitter/G+ accts. The 49ers come to town this Sunday and that should be a really fun game to shoot, so I’m looking forward to that one for sure.

Thanks Toronto!
What a great city to wrap up this year’s tour! It was my last seminar of the year and the photographers in Toronto sure made it a memorable one. Great turnout (The seminar was sold out weeks in advance). I’m over at Henry’s Camera on Church St. in downtown Toronto today if you’re around and want to come by (it’s free!). I’ll be talking lighting and retouching.

Jeff’s giving away the farm!
My buddy, sports photographer Jeff Cable is doing it again, but this time he’s giving away nearly $3,000 worth of goodies (including some of my new books, and Lexar cards and readers, and an Epson printer, and on and on). To enter, just head over to Jeff’s Facebook page (here’s the link).

New Kelby Training iPad App is on the way!
We’ve submitted the updated, IOS7-compatible Kelby Training Online App to the App store, and as soon as Apple approves it (hopefully by the end of this week/first of next week), I’ll let you know. We’re working with an Android developer to create our first Android version of the App and I’ll let you know how that progresses (thus far, we haven’t had a whole lot of luck developing for the Android platform, but our fingers are crossed that this time we’ll have better luck).

OK, that’s it from the frozen tundra of Canada (OK, that might just be stretching it a bit, but it is super-brrrrrrr here — at least for this Florida guy). Hope you all have a fantastic Tuesday!

The video above explains the new ebook (and it’s short and sweet, just like the book), but I just wanted to reiterate: this ebook is designed for photographers who are shooting on assignment and have to get their images sorted, tagged and uploaded on a deadline. But don’t buy it without watching the video above (important!).

Here’s the link to it on Amazon and on Apple’s iBooks Store. 

It’s $9.99 (cheap!)

Hope you find it helpful. :)