SLR Camera Trap Photography

Photographing wildlife with a SLR camera trap seems easy in concept. Place a camera trap in the wilderness, let it sit there, and have it take amazing pictures while you rest at home. This isn’t quite the case. One of the hardest parts about camera trap photography is getting your set-up to work like you want it to. The camera and flashes have to be ready to take a picture at moments notice, but need to also conserve batteries enough to last for an extended period of time. And then everything has to be safe in a serious down drench. Finally the biggest challenge of all is that you can’t buy professional camera traps at a store, ready to use out of the box. Even national geographic cameras use customized set-ups.

For inspiration, visit two of my favorite blogs. Chris Wemmer’s blog Camera Trap Codger which is not only filled with witty, educational, and fun writing but also accompanied by great camera trap images; as well as Jake Kirkland and Christian’s Camera Trapping Campus blog, filled with great stories and it hits close to home for me since I also got my degree from UCSC. All of them ‘hack’ much of their equipment to function for the camera trapping needs!

Once you have the equipment figured out the really fun part starts. Its time to hit the field to select your location for your camera trap. Natural game paths are always a perfect option, they provide ample chances for wildlife to walk by. During set-up, take the appropriate time since you can’t make any quick adjustments once the camera is in place. Using yourself always works:

Myself, getting some test shots in - reminder, comb your hair next time...

Myself, getting some test shots in – reminder, comb your hair next time…

After you are done setting up you want to leave it be, it will take a while for your smell to be masked by nature’s more natural smells and some time for the animals to get used to the new objects in their environment (don’t think they don’t know its there).

After some time you will get your first shots. In the beginning most likely just your neighbors pet:

Neighbors dog checking out the camera

Neighbors dog checking out the camera

Maybe even some behavioral images:

Mule deer buck licking front leg

Mule deer buck licking front leg

Of course many times you will get another curious human:

This one is having quite a lot of fun!

This one is having quite a lot of fun!

In the end though, when you get a shot like this, you are quite the happy camper:

Juvenile Mountain Lion at Night

Juvenile Mountain Lion at Night

Whenever you go to check the camera and replace batteries its like Christmas. You don’t know what you will get except a bunch of happy surprises. Camera trapping is a great way to get an intimate view into the lives of animals you may hardly see. It is something I very much cherish.

*If you are interested in purchasing any of the pictures displayed in this post, please check out my fine prints page for pricing.*

5 thoughts on “SLR Camera Trap Photography

    • Hey Denis,
      glad you like the mountain lion picture.

      I do make custom housings for my camera trap as well as custom cables but I use a DSLR; I think what you are referring to is hacking your own point and shoot camera, adding a controller board with a passive infrared sensor and putting that into a small waterproof housing. The person to talk to is Chris from Camera Trap Codger

      He also teaches a workshop on camera trapping and discusses how to hack your own camera trap so it might be worth checking out. I hope that helps, otherwise just let me know and I’ll try to help more.

  1. I have a few DSLR I would be interested to convert to trail cam, I know Yeticam make board and White tail supply to, Did you make oyur own board?. Do you have skematic you could share to setup DSLR? Sorry for all hte question but I’m so interested about setup trail cam. Right i have too setup in the hill above my house in pasadena but in the summer I odn’t get out to do regular wildlife photography, so I tohugh trail cam would be a good alternative to obeserve and learn.

  2. I would love to try this camera trapping – I have buitlt my own equipment, regrettably the biggest problem here in South Africa is getting your equipment stolen – I did do a IR set up in the garden to catch the culprit who was spray marking my front door – then switched the IR detector to switch on the sprinkler system – problem solved !

    • Hi Dennis,
      sadly that is in fact the biggest problem in most places, especially when ever putting out a whole dSLR system that is bulky and more easily seen, you run a bigger risk of it being taken.
      Thanks for the comment!

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