Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Time Machine

Looking over my short-lived blog history, I noticed a blog that for some reason was saved but never published, so here ya go.

I have been looking for a product for several years that would allow me to do timer-free, hands-free self-portrait work for product and personal use. Basically this entails some type of hands-free shutter trigger actuated by motion within a given path. Wildlife photographers have used such gizmos for years to capture rare animals/birds or difficult to capture scenes from a distance, using anything from microphone/vibration actuation to complex cross-patterned laser interruption. The first product that I was able to find in a Google search was the Shutterbeam. I emailed them twice and they never replied. Next I found the PhotoTrap, but it's size and weight prevented any type of remote access for me while on my bike. I kept researching, and waiting, until finally I found it.

Enter the Time Machine. Bryan Mumford of Mumford Micro Systems is one smart cookie. This guy invented the exact device I have always wanted, about the same year I was born. Hailing straight outta the 80's is a device that I can only describe the looks of as being like a first-generation Nintendo Gameboy only made by Atari 10 years prior. Looks can be deceiving, and that is a serious understatement with the Time Machine.

You could write a book about this device, and Bryan did. I will never use the endless feature set of this device, but the one thing I wanted, it does, and it does it so well in fact that every time I use it I can't even believe it. I inquired to Bryan about his Time Machine and he was quick to reply to my emails (within minutes) and was even able to make me custom cords to adapt to my Pocket Wizard remotes.

I could go on and on, but here's what I'm doing with the Time Machine:

I ordered my Time Machine with the Infrared Beam attachment. A small box contains an electronic eye that detects light from an infrared beam. The beam originates from a small diode that either A) attaches to a cord and points directly into the eye of the box, or B) plugs directly into the box and uses a reflector to direct the beam back into the eye. I opt for option B, and this allows up to an (untested) range of...get this...60 feet! I have tested it up to 20 feet and it works flawlessly. The infrared beam attachment plugs into the Time Machine.

The Time Machine weighs half a pound, is powered by one 9-volt battery, and is smaller than my D700 camera body. With the infrared beam plugged into the accessory inlet in the Time Machine, I plug a transmitting Pocket Wizard into the shutter jack outlet. I put a receiving Pocket Wizard on my camera using a pre-trigger cable and bam, anything that breaks the infrared beam triggers the shutter of the camera. By doing this, I can completely isolate the Time Machine and infrared beam from my camera, only dependent on the range of a Pocket Wizard (1600 feet I think). This is insane! I can now hide the Time Machine within my scene undetectable by the end photograph.

Taking it one step further the Time Machine is programmable for 10 different modes of operation. I only use the Shoot mode, and within this mode there are several settings to set triggering options. There is a delay I can set up to 1/1000 of a second. I can set it to trigger continuously up to 8 frames per second (depending on the camera specification) the entire time the beam is broken. I can set the shutter to BULB mode and use the beam to trigger a flash, or multiple flashes, or intermitent flashes when used in conjunction with Pocket Wizard Multimax's set in Speedcycler mode. The list goes on and on, and every option is compatible with nearly every other option, creating near-infinite possibilities.

On the camera end of things, I have another Pocket Wizard remote on top of the camera to activate my flashes. It sounds complex, but is amazingly simple on the user end of things. I have my pack setup to carry everything in a manner that allows for near instant setup on location. I spend about as much time setting up the Time Machine and infrared beam as I spend setting up my flashes. Tear-down back into the bag is super fast. Generally I spend about an hour per shot, although I already have plans for some more complex setups soon to come. The Time Machine, heck, I even love the name.

My bag of tricks, with the Time Machine in the middle of the mix
delay on the beam trigger allows for shots to be taken a specified time after the beam is crossed, 0.625 seconds in this case

the main reason I wanted this device was for hands-free triggering
I've got alot of ideas utilizing the Time Machine, so look for upcoming blog posts that may just be something out of the ordinary.


emma said...

great shots - love it

I hate bikes said...

it looks like I need to buy more gear. cool post, thanks.

rob said...

I'm new to using transmitters and remote shutters in photography. I'm interested in using a laser sensor to trigger the time machine as a vehicle passes it, and then have the time machine trigger my camera for burst of shots. I've never used pocket wizards before. I'd be using a Nikon D1X. Can you provide me with the pocket wizard models you are using? My distance from camera to target is about 150' which means the time machine and laser sensor would be a considerable distance from the camera. Any advice would be helpful. Thanks!

rob said...

by the way...i found your post thanks to bryan mumford who i had previously messaged about long distance applications...thanks to bryan!

jowdjbrown said...

Next I found the PhotoTrap, but it's size and weight prevented any type of remote access for me while on my washer repair