Very remote shooting

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by NK Guy, Jul 20, 2012.

  1. Okay - so I'm not sure this fits in with the pro forum, but there aren't really any others here it fits. I'm posting here because it's the kind of thing that maybe some pro sports shooter may have encountered.

    Basically I'm looking to set up a camera - any still digital camera - in a remote and inaccessible location. The camera will be destroyed at the end of the shoot, so I won't be able to recover a memory card. I need a means to transfer the data swiftly before the camera dies. Here are some thoughts.

    - Direct USB is out. Range.

    - WiFi won't work. I can't get closer than about 200 feet, and WiFi isn't reliable at that range.

    - I can string Ethernet partway. So I could stick an access point 100 feet away, and rely on WiFi for the remaining distance.

    - USB over Ethernet adapter box. They're kind of expensive, and the remote box would die as well. The cheap ones are USB 1.1 only, so I'd need something like the StarTech USB extender.

    So. Any thoughts? I'm kind of thinking Ethernet to an access point, and relying on an EyeFi card. My main concern is at 100' you're at the outer edge of the EyeFi range. WiFi is going to slow down, and I don't know if the pictures - even as JPEG - can get downloaded in time before the camera's destroyed.

    Has anyone successfully used a still camera with a USB over Ethernet extender?


    - Neil K.
  2. Tether to a cheap used laptop with 3G or 4G network connection?
  3. I will confess that I'm really curious about the project. I'm picturing a dam release, building demolition, some sort of fighting-fire-with-fire event, or perhaps something really destructive like street photography outside a bar just after some sort of intercontinental soccer match. Or perhaps a volcanic eruption. Or a visit by The Mother In Law. All terrifying, to be sure.

    The tethered el-cheapo used netbook approach, with an external exposed-antenna USB-connected WiFi adapter ... that has some appeal because you could peer-to-peer that WiFi connection with another WiFi device that has an external higher-gain antenna, and use something like a homebrew waveguide rig to really boost range.

    The tethered sacrifical netbook has the added advantage of being able (depending on the camera/software) to let you do something like run an RDP session on the console of the netbook, and actually control the camera, confirming exposure, etc. Just some random thoughts. Good luck! Keep it ... legal. Hope that whatever it is, you'll post some results showing the water buffalo stampede, avalanche, alien invasion, nuclear test, etc. No need for mother in law footage, though, as this is a family-oriented web site and we don't want to frighten anybody. :)
  4. " in a remote and inaccessible location" - sounds like some illegal activity, possibly in a teritory of a hostile country.
    Contact apropriate US Gov. agency, and they could help you with your project, or put you in jail.
    Satellite radio communications would be appropriate.
  5. WiFi is fine. You can get a pretty good distance with just a high gain antenna on the receiving end.
    See for example.
    802.11g is typically good for around 300ft outdoors, line-of-sight without any extra antennas. Not sure what the range on a EyeFi card is, but with a 24dB gain receiving antenna I'd be surprised if you couldn't get a few hundred feet.
    You can also get active USB cables with have repeaters built into them. I've used them to send a signal over maybe 50ft. See
    Your other alternative is to stream live video over a coaxial link
  6. What is your budget?
  7. Thanks for the replies! Though I'm not sure this deserved to be moved into the "casual" photo forum - I'm pretty serious about this gig!
    Anyway. Bob's thoughts about WiFi are interesting. I might see if we can experiment with a different antenna setup. I know from previous experience that EyeFi cards don't have the greatest range. Their antennas are just PCB circuit traces, and they're tucked away inside camera SD card holders, which often have metal shielding around them. But it's worth a try. I'm expecting throughput to be an issue, so we're probably going to have to shoot JPEG and not RAW to maximize the number of frames that make it.
    I remember that article about the shuttle launch. But I don't think I can quite justify the expense of wrecking an EOS-class camera, EF lens and WFT transmitter. It would be cool to be able to control the camera remotely, which is something that EyeFi cards don't do. That's why a USB over Ethernet converter would be great, but the distance is just too far for a repeater.
  8. Used netbook and external-antenna WiFi (suitable for gain boosting), and 3' USB cable for tethered shooting ... you can probably do that for well under $150.

    Shoot to local storage on the sacrificial netbook, and use WiFi to continually shuffle those files to your other laptop in the field. Use the same WiFi connection to RDP to the netbook for camera control. It will work, if you don't mind the death of the used netbook.
  9. More details would be helpful, but maybe you're not at liberty to provide them.
    Will you be able to recover a busted camera? If so, the card could well be intact and readable. You could hedge your bets by having multiple el-cheapo cameras snapping away. There might be at least one surviving card. If the camera is to die by drowning, consider one that uses SD cards, as (I'm pretty sure) water won't enter the card and provide conductive pathways to dissolve tiny traces. You might have FAT corruption and might therefore need to use photo recovery software; however, the pics should be there.
    Perhaps you could harden a laptop connected by USB? Perhaps bury it in a box underground to shield it from the blast?
    It seems there should be some smartphone app to tether to the camera via USB and FTP files via 3G/4G. It might take a special cable.
    Without revealing too many details, exactly how will the camera die?
  10. The camera's going to be photographing a burning art installation and is unlikely to survive in any usable form. I'm thinking wireless download to a sacrificial WiFi access point is probably the way to go.
    Thanks to everyone for helpful answers!
  11. Without revealing too many details, exactly how will the camera die?​
    No spoiler alerts?!

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