Birds are like people when they’re bathing: they don’t want strangers standing next to the tub.
But I only want to take your picture. Just a little video, that’s all.
To capture robins, juncos, chickadees, et cetera, cooling off in one of our bird baths, I’d need to position my tripod close and trigger the Panasonic GH4 remotely. Or become invisible. What could I do?
Off-the-shelf corded releases were too short—usually only three feet in length. There was that invisible problem.
I could set up my camouflage photo blind, but it wouldn’t fit in the working space, and I wanted a higher angle to frame the bath.
I don’t own a mobile phone or tablet—if I did, the Panasonic Image App would let me control the camera via its built-in WiFi. But that adds another piece of gear to the mix, and I was going for cheap and simple. Another day, perhaps.
Then I remembered the set of Pocket Wizards tucked away in a bag in my closet. They’ve long been a standard in the industry for wireless work, mostly flash. Mine are Plus 1s; real Oldies. A transmitter and a receiver. They’d worked well on a Canon 5-Series body with a dedicated PW cord—maybe they made a connecting cord for the GH4? Please.
When I emailed PocketWizard Support the short answer was NO; not surprising, since their products are geared toward Nikon and Canon owners, who vastly outnumber their Micro 4/3 counterparts. But rather than simply saying Sorry…, Heather suggested a cord manufactured by Vello that she thought hoped would work.
Officially, it’s the Vello 3.5mm Remote Shutter Release Cable for Select Panasonic and Leica Cameras. The 3.5mm connection fits into the Camera/Flash socket on the receiver, while the 2.5mm end plugs into the GH4’s Remote, on the right side of the camera body. It’s a slender cord, measuring approximately 16” (coiled) and 36” when stretched, and it doesn’t get in the way. (I purchased mine from B&H Photo for $10.95, plus shipping.)
The Good News is that my Pocket Wizards flawlessly trigger BOTH stills and video on the GH4. Response is instantaneous. Another benefit is not having to push a button on the camera to start the video, which often causes slight motion at the ends of a clip.
If you’re going to use your GH4 in a situation similar to mine, I’ll suggest that you turn the SLEEP Mode to OFF. You’ll find it in the Custom section of the menu, on the third page. Scroll all the way to the bottom, and don’t forget to reset this for regular use.
My set-up at the bird bath was simple. I placed the tripod-mounted GH4 and Olympus 40-150 2.8 lens about ten feet away, made the adjustments to focus and exposure I wanted, turned the Pocket Wizard Plus receiver ON, and went inside the house to watch the birds’ morning activities through a living room window. I could see the camera’s articulating LCD screen, and when it went to sleep I still had a direct view to the birds. When the morning overcast began to gradually clear, I went out and changed my exposure settings twice. For anything more demanding, when you want to control the camera’s settings, a tablet is probably a better alternative.
Oh, and a robin made the biggest splash.