I take a lot of pictures with the Simple PIR DSLR Camera trap deep in the woods behind my house. Setting up an outdoor studio deep in the wetlands where I shoot requires a mounting system that I can carry in my pocket, install quicky, and cheap enough that I can have multiple sets throughout my area without fear of theft or misplaced mounts. While scouting a new location, I'll find several sites that I'll want to shoot at, and I will mount these to trees. Trees provide an ideal light stand and remove the need for me to carry additional tripods or light stands into the woods.
Commercial mounts are available for the trail camera market, but you can make 10 of these for a single commercial mount, and these provide multiple positioning and mounting options.
This Bobcat image was possible by using off-camera flash, using the Simple PIR DSLR Camera Trap at 2:34 a.m. The only way I could quickly set up my strobes, is with the Basic Tree Mounted Flash Stand.
I did not come up with the idea for this mount, the Trail Camera forums are full of similar articles. I wrote this Instructable to make it easier for me to assemble basic mounts in the future, containing parts list and ideas for future mods in a single location. I add different solutions to the basic mount.
Step 1: Why Use a Tree Mounted Flash
Most wildlife is active at night. I'm not going to sit out all night, day after day, waiting for the perfect shot. DSLR camera traps allow the Simple PIR DSLR Camera Trap to capture anything that trips the sensor at night. If you are shooting at night, you will need to use off-camera flashes.
All of these nighttime images were capture at night with off-camera flash, mounted on Basic Tree Mounted Light Stands.
Step 2: Basic Tree Mount Parts List
You will need the following to complete a single Basic Tree-Mount Flash Stand mount.
- (1) 1/4-20 x 1" Round head bolt combo
- (1) 1/4-20 x 2-5/8" eye bolt with nut
- (1) 1/4" x 3-3/4" Screw Eye Lag Thread bolt
- (3) flat washers
- Philips head screwdriver
- Vice grips
You can purchase all of these at your local hardware store, Lowes, or Home Depot for less than $2.00. All can be bought in quantity which will lower your per unit price. I have dozens of these in my inventory and installed in the field.
Step 3: The Basic Tree Mounted Flash Stand (BTMFS)
Assembling the Tree Mount
Assemble the Basic Tree Mount Flash Stand using the above image, working left to right. Thread the 1/4-20 3/4" bolt through the washers and eye bolts. Attach with the 1/4 nut and tighten.
It should be pretty clear how to assemble the mount.
Installing the Tree Mount
I bring a drill with me when I'm installing mounts. You might be able to use pressure and existing cavities in your trees, but a portable drill makes installation easy. Make sure the tree you are mounting your flash to can support the additional weight. Many times I've installed a mount on a dead tree only to find that the wind has blown the flash out of position.
Attaching your Flash to the Tree Mount
The photography industry uses the standard 1/4-20 threaded mount, which is great because we have access to the entire catalog of strobist/camera mounts. The following steps show the attachments that I use, but there are many more available. If your flash as a 1/4-20 mount, then you can mount your flash directly to the Basic Tree Mount Flash Stand.
Step 4: Cold Shoe Adapter
At a minimum, most likely, you need to attach your flash to the Tree Mount. A cold shoe mount attaches to the 1/4-20 thread of the Tree Mount and allows us to attach a flash. These are the cold shoe adapters that I use: Cold Shoe Flash Adapters.
The disadvantage to this solution is you lack flexibility in directing the flash.
Step 5: RAM Mounting Solution
Providing more flexibility, but adding to the cost of the mount, the RAM system provides more adjustable options and more flexibility. You can mount a RAM-B ball mount to the Flash mount with the RAM mounting system and RAM arms.
Advantages: Provides the most flexibility in the field when positioning strobes.
Disadvantage: This is the most expensive solution. I don't like to leave these out in situations where they could be stolen.
Step 6: Spigot Bracket Holder Camera (1/4" to 1/4") Adaptor
Using a Spigot Bracket Holder (1/4" to 1/4") adapter threaded onto the 1/4-20 Flash mount, we can mount the Flash Tilting Bracket, umbrella swivel adapter, umbrella adapters, or more commonly know as just "swivels."
Advantages: This solution allows a lot of flexibility in moving the flash on site. Inexpensive. I typically leave this mount in the field unattended for weeks until I can retrieve them.