Gear I use: CamRanger Wireless Transmitter

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The following is how I make use of the CamRanger for outdoor and adventure sports photography. For more information on CamRanger, e.g additional features, accessories and the operating systems and camera models it works with, visit their website - www.camranger.com. (Product image used with their permission).

I first took notice of CamRanger when I saw the wireless transmitter device being used in a video posted on YouTube by German action sports photographer Lorenz Holder. He was using the CamRanger to trigger his camera remotely using his iPad, which was also replicating what his camera was seeing (similar to Nikon's Live View).

Naturally, I was curious (not just because Lorenz's work is excellent) but because, as part of an on-location workstation I was setting up, I was interested in technology that would enable me to capture images on location and immediately view them on my laptop or iPad without the need for a tethered cable. CamRanger, I've found, is such a device. It offers a number of other solutions (e.g. off-camera live view as Lorenz was using above - plus the ability to adjust your camera settings as you view the live view - as well as focus stacking for macro photography) but I mainly use it for its ability to share and rate images on-location so I or an Art Director can confirm we're capturing images that meet the client's brief.

CamRanger is simply a small plastic Wifi router. It works by generating its own Wifi signal - in town or in the backcountry - that you can connect your mobile device, tablet or laptop to. Plug the CamRanger device into your camera using the USB cable provided, switch it on to generate a Wifi signal and then, once the devices are paired, you can control your camera or share images to a third party device using the CamRanger app.

These are the CamRanger features I find of most value;

  1. Sharing images on my iPad - Client Mode on the CamRanger app provides you with the ability to take photos and have your images display as high-resolution JPEGs on your (or a client's) iPad. To do this, you set your camera to shoot Raw files + Basic JPEGs and make sure the CamRanger app is installed on the iPad and Client Mode is switched on (Note - Client Mode is not available for the iPhone). You can then simply hand the iPad to the client or Art Director and ask them to use the in-built Rating system (1 to 4 stars) to mark up their preferred images for selection or for further review.
     
  2. Sharing images on multiple iPads or mobile devices - Separate from the CamRanger app is the CamRanger Share app. You can download the CamRanger Share app to a number of separate devices and then use the main CamRanger app to wirelessly shareimages to multiple people, e.g. a Creative Director and an Art Director or an Art Director and the client. A nice feature of the Share app is you can selectively share images and only share the images you choose.
     
  3. Sharing images on my laptop - US-based photographer Von Wong provides details on his website for how to synchronise CamRanger with your laptop and import images into Adobe Lightroom using the 'watched folder' functionality;

    The reasons I prefer using my laptop (as part of an iWorkcase location workstation)  rather than an iPad or iPhone are;

    a.) I can use the full-screen option in Adobe Lightroom to view images more clearly

    b.) I can have a backup - I carry a Tethertools USB cable in case the wireless approach doesn't work (it's not yet not worked but I like the comfort of an alternative option)

    c.) I can backup images on location to a portable hard drive using an automator script or GoodSync software. So I can have a copy on card, on my laptop and on a hard drive before I've even got home.
     
  4. Camera LiveView - Sometimes, when shooting landscapes. you don't want to or it's difficult to look through the viewfinder. LiveView on the CamRanger app allows you to position your camera anywhere within a reasonable distance and view what the composition is directly from your iPad or iPhone.

What I like about CamRanger

  • It's small and lightweight - which is always a bonus when you have to carry your gear on your back into the outdoors
  • The ability to be able to review images on a bigger screen - all images have a tendency to look in focus on a small LCD screen
  • It forces you to shoot slower and really think about the work you're producing - valuing quality over quantity
  • It enables you to sign off images on location and focus on those images in post-production, delivering work quicker for the client

What I'd like to see improved

  • A proper full screen view on the iPad - rather than a 7/8th view with a logo along the bottom
  • Pinch and zoom - The CamRanger is always reminding me to double-click to zoom in on images on playback
  • The ability to set Client Mode on the iPhone - simply because it's more lightweight to take outdoors than an iPad
  • Longer battery life - I find using the CamRanger chews through my Nikon D4S camera batteries much quicker than normal. The CamRanger battery life I find more than sufficient but I carry a spare just in case

Alternatives

Gear I use: iWorkcase on-location workstation

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(Product images used with permission from www.iWorkcase.com)

When shooting outdoors, it's often difficult to view images on your camera's LCD screen and check focus, especially when it's bright and sunny outside. For personal work this isn't too much of an issue (the autofocus technology on today's cameras is very reliable) but for commercial work -  although I'll always pitch to shoot at dawn or dusk or in late afternoon light - a brief will often dictate the need to shoot all day and it's imperative an Art Director and I can see the LCD screen, even at high noon, so we can check composition and ensure critical focus.

On really sunny days, I'll make use of a Hoodman loupe, a lightweight device which fits over your LCD screen and shields the sun so can see your images. It works perfectly but I've found it's often tricky to simultaneously hold the camera, play back the images and zoom in whilst using the loupe.

The iWorkcase is an on-location workstation specifically designed for Apple Macbooks. I believe it's ideal for outdoor photographers on commercial advertising shoots and for portrait and architectural photographers or others who have a need to shoot outside the studio and check capture on location.

I'd first seen the iWorkcase in YouTube footage posted by US photographer Joey Lawrence . It was in the background of a 'behind the scenes' video Joey had posted of an environmental portrait session he had with US actor Michael K Williams. After a bit of research on Google, I worked out what the product was and I sent the manufacturer an email.

iWorkcase is the brainchild of Daniel and Immanuel Maeir from Germany. The principal parts of their iWorkcase location workstation are simple. Included in the price is a waterproof and shock-resistant laptop case (which Immanuel confirmed as a Pelican 1490), a firm, pre-cut foam inlay matched to the dimensions of your Macbook (I purchased an iWorkcase 2 Retina / Special Edition for a 2013 Macbook Pro but you can buy other inlays to suit your model of laptop - also available are 15" and 17" Macbook versions), a foldable screen to shield your screen from the sun, a thick cloth that enables you to completely block out the light, a piece of plastic that lifts your computer off the foam unit to aid the circulation of air and an external coupling plate that accepts traditional screw-in or Arca-Swiss tripod attachments. There's also an additional, optional iWorktablet attachment (not for iPads, which I first thought, but for using a mouse or Wacom tablet) and Hyperjuice 1.5 150 or 1.5 220 batteries for working as long as possible.

(What's not included in the iWorkcase is the means to transfer images from your camera to your laptop. After some research, I opted for a CamRanger wireless transmitter device to send images wirelessly to my Macbook and a Tethertools USB cable as a backup).

What I like about the iWorkcase

  • I love the ability to see and share images on a big screen immediately after I've shot them (but that's more a plus of the CamRanger wireless transmitter or the Tethertools cable I use alongside it rather than the iWorkcase) 
     
  • Being able to take my laptop out in the field in a super protective, waterproof case also puts my mind at ease (but, again, that's a forte of another manufacturer (Pelican) rather than iWorkcase).
     
  • What Daniel and Immanuel have done is build on this and designed a really fast, simple way for a photographer or digital technician to set up a laptop for tethered shooting on location. All the parts are good quality materials, they're simple and they work well - the foam inlay and accessories (purchased separately) are situated underneath the laptop and the sunshield unit and black cloth sit on top. The sunshield especially fits quickly and securely and you're ready to start shooting in minutes. Neat touches like the feet on the case for using it without a tripod, the velcro attachment for the cloth (and the air circulator) and the air circulator itself show that they've thought about the product in use and it appears they've designed it (and updated it after feedback) for optimal use.

What I'd like to see improved

  • 'Flyability' - It's not Daniel or Immanuel's fault but, if you're travelling abroad, the Pelican 1490 case the iWorkcase sits within is too large for a second piece of hand luggage. You'd either have to check it (carrying your laptop by other means) or have an assistant carry the case as their main hand luggage. The latter's not a bad idea as the case is not that lightweight (4.5kg without the Macbook). I'd suggest it's most suited to shoots where you're in a vehicle or you're not far from the beaten track (though if you do plan on carrying it up and down hills, see a potential lighter weight suggestion below*).
     
  • Comfort - The carrying strap provided with the iWorkcase isn't very padded and I found it  uncomfortable after a period of time. I use a spare strap from a LowePro Toploader AW75 camera bag
     
  • Space - I'd prefer to be able to store more items underneath the laptop (e.g. tethering cable) so all the technology I needed for on-location photography was in one place. The iWorkcase 2 workstation has pre-cut space to accommodate a few memory cards, a Hyperjuice MBP 1.5 150 or 1.5 222 battery, a CF card reader and up to three portable hard drives, depending on size (definitely not three WD ones). If you choose not to take a battery, the CamRanger does fit in, as does a tether cable, but it's a very neat fit and I'd be wary about damaging the laptop when I close the case (something the manufacturer warns against). There's also a risk I'd run out of power. Plus there would be less foam and therefore less protection for my laptop. It's not a great hardship to carry the additional tethering items, or a power cable, separately.

Alternatives


*Lighter weight option - All the above options are still fairly heavy and likely not appropriate for shoots far from the beaten track. If you have a need to view images on a separate device on location and you want to travel lightweight, you could take just the black cloth and the CamRanger or tether cable and carry your laptop in your backpack (my 13" Macbook Pro fits perfectly in my F-Stop Loka and F-Stop Satori backpacks). Or you could share images from your camera to an iPad or your iPhone with a CamRanger wireless transmitter and use the cloth to shield the screen. It's not ideal but it works.

Published in Germany's Outdoor Magazin: Hiking in the rain in Scotland

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The October 2017 edition of Germany's quality Outdoor Magazin includes an image of mine illustrating a review they've published of this year's top waterproof jackets and trousers. The image is from a trip to Torridon a few year's back in the North-West Highlands of Scotland when we were completely rained off the hills. I recall we'd had a fun evening in a bothy the night before, drying off in front of a roaring fire.

My thanks to Alexandra Gutierrez, Photo Editor at Outdoor Magazin, for choosing to use my image.