Sunday, June 25, 2017

Foot-Actuated Shutter Release: My Take

Another post, another jury-rigged photography doohickey.

(Uh, that's not my foot!)

A few months ago, I bought one of these. I did it to speed up the process of taking photos for this blog. If I could stay by the bench and keep squeezing off shots as I photographed a woodworking process, it would dramatically cut the time I had been taking to frame a shot, set up the timer on the camera, trip the timer, run to my marks, strike a pose, wait for the shot, then run back to the camera to see if I got what I wanted . . . then to repeat all those steps for the next part of the process that needed illustrating. A year or so ago I calculated that photographing a process took 5 times longer than simply doing it.

The remote button works great! This particular model can also be used as a flash trigger, so if I start using a flash, I'll be able to move it off the camera. WAY off the camera, like up to 30 meters or more! I consent for you to upbraid me for buying a cheap, generic Chinese version of something for which the pros, who need the good stuff, pay much more. As William Hurt says towards the end of The King, "I deserve your rebuke."

My only complaint with the new gizmo was that I needed to perform the woodworking task to be documented one-handed, so the off hand could manipulate the camera remote. I vaguely thought about duct-taping the button to the back of my bench so I could lean in and trigger the shutter with my hip, but that didn't feel like a real solution. 

Then I saw this video by Frank Howarth. If you've seen any of Frank's stop-motion videos, you've been entertained. More than entertained; his stop-motion work is flat-out enchanting. I don't always appreciate his autodidactic approach to woodworking. This foot-actuated shutter release is a case in point, and to his credit he points out one or two of the problems with his approach to building the pedal. And hey, Frank, are the roller bearings in your radial arm saw too tight?

However, the basic concept appealed to me, so today I got around to making my own version. Rather than CNC-carved plywood with a piano hinge and polyethylene foam spring, my version is made out of paper birch scraps from my last project, and the spring is a thin, flexible piece of birch mounted at an angle, so that the remote isn't squeezed or touched until my foot presses it. It worked like a charm on my first try, and I don't think I'll be changing anything about it until I have to.

The rest of this post is a sequence of photos showing how I made it. I endorse this little trick; it's a lot better than my light-mounting jury rigs.
First I made a small block to hold the top face of the unit level. Its thickness is the same as the distance the hot shoe protrudes from the bottom of the unit:

Next I added two side walls the same height as the top of the unit. The button sticks up a bit, hopefully enough to be actuated by a paddle coming from above:

Then I added a rear wall, with its top face angled slightly back, so that the "paddle" which pushes the button is usually poised a few millimeters above the button:

I added a short front wall to keep the remote from sliding out of play, and the unit was complete:

I'll be leaving the platform oversized like this, at least for now. It makes a nice secure footrest. If it's too cumbersome later I can cut it to the size I want:

No Croc mockery, please. They were a Father's Day gift from my sons.

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