Pinout: Versatile Remote Controller and App for Nikon cameras!

Hey photography freaks! I used a Pinout camera remote control device and app to do star trails and long exposure photos when I was out in Joshua Tree N.P. last weekend. I really liked it and thought I’d turn you on to it. I have nothing to gain by doing this, and am not sleeping without anyone from the company. ūüėÄ ¬†All photos on this post were taken using the Pinout except for, uh, the one showing the PInout, which is from Zesty’s website. Sadly, it’s only available for Nikon at this point.

Pinout’s Pro kit, which is one of three models, supports loss/theft prevention, simple release, long exposure, timed-release, time-lapse, distance lapse, star trail, geo tagging, geo logging.


Above: Pinout on a Nikon D800. On my D610, it actually goes into the side of the camera, not the front, inserting where the remote shutter release goes.

Pinout is a bluetooth remote control device that acts as an amazingly varied multi-functional remote for your camera (and with the top-of-the-line Full Kit, offers multi-camera remote control!), a geo-tagging device, and a loss/theft prevention feature. You can also activate the camera via voice command, or by shaking your phone. Cool.

The loss/theft aspect, as near as I can tell, only works when your camera is on. This would be handy, particularly for night photographers like us weirdos, if you are doing a long exposure photo and you either lose where your camera was or if your camera “grows legs” and wanders off. However, it’s not so great if you are storing it, as your camera battery is not likely to be on.

I love this aspect of Pinout also. Once you begin the exposure, whether it is a long series of photos for star trails or anything else, you can actually close the app on the phone and do something else (or let the phone “sleep”) and it will continue. This is really well designed, and the app is very easy to use and intuitive.

5477_kenlee_2017-02-13_0111_joshuatree30mtotal-3mf8iso800_startrailslargetree_byroad_star-trails_1000pxAbove: 30 minute stacked photo taken with Pinout.

Here’s what I like about it so far:
1.) Super easy to register and set up and directly connect to the camera.
2.) Does not need to be mounted on the hot shoe and connected with a cable and dongle (again, easy set up).
3.) Small and unobtrusive.
4.) Bluetooth connection appeared solid most of the time, and even if it wasn’t, as long as the star trails or long exposure had been set in motion, it didn’t matter. I could fire the connection reliably from at least 50 ft./15 meters away.
5.) The app is really nicely laid out and easy to use, and I have not needed the manual so far to figure it out.
6.) You can use it to focus the camera as well as trigger it.
7.) The star trails portion is very easy to figure out and set and is extremely flexible.
8.) Unlike Triggertrap, you don’t run down your smartphone. In fact, you can turn off the app on your phone completely, and it will still complete the task at hand, whether star trails or something else.
9.) Also does simple release, long exposure, timed release, time-lapse, distance lapse, geo-tagging, bulb ramping LE HDR, LE HDR Time-lapse, and loss prevention (if the device strays beyond a certain distance, it will alert you, but even if the connection were broken, if the exposure had already been set in motion, the PInout faithfully continued).
10.) Blinks to let you know that the device is connected. Connection seems solid so far.
11.) Draws a very small, minimal charge from the camera instead of requiring the device to be charged, which is very convenient because I don’t have to be concerned with whether yet another device has been charged.
12.) You can close the app and lock the phone and Pinout continues (with Triggertrap, the app had to remain open and illuminated; if you closed the app, its control also stopped).
13.) Responsive customer service via email.


Above: Photo taken in Joshua Tree National Park, CA using the Pinout remote camera control device and app. The layout of the app is really simple.

Concerns at this time:
1.) I said it was small. This is generally a bonus, but I am concerned that it might be easy to lose. I already put some orange gaffer’s tape on it so it would be easier to see ¬†since I photograph at night.
2.) I am concerned that it will be easy to break off in the camera if I mistakenly bang it around doing night photography. Because of this, I purchased a 3-year extended warranty.
3.) Only works with Nikon at this time.
4.) It does not fit on a Nikon D610 when using an L-Bracket.
5). Occasionally, even when the phone is within 3 ft./1 meter of the Pinout and the camera, a warning would appear saying that I was in danger of breaking the connection. Again, even if the connection were broken, it seemed that if I were doing a star trails or long exposure, Pinout would continue regardless, which is a relief.
6.) Sometimes requires time for the smartphone and Pinout to re-establish contact if you shut down the phone or close the app, which the app thankfully indicates by having the camera icon light up. This will only matter for triggering the device, and will not matter if you have already triggered the camera, as Pinout will faithfully execute this regardless.
7.) Loses contact if something obstructs the signal path between you and Pinout, such as a building or sometimes a very large tree.T his too will only matter for triggering the device, and will not matter if you have already triggered the camera, as Pinout will faithfully execute this regardless.

I absolutely love this device. Excellent and very capable, and invaluable for things like star trails. I also love that I can trigger the camera remotely, which is good for night time selfies or getting in position to “light paint” quick photos of the Milky Way when there are only 15 or 20 seconds in the exposure. And I love that Pinout is powered by the camera and not another device that requires charging. Excellent device.

Above: Beautiful desert scene in Joshua Tree National Park using the Pinout remote control camera device and app on my smartphone.
Pinout website:
This is the model Pinout I am currently using:
Long Exposure Night Photo with Light Painting Using Pinout. All photos taken with a Nikon D610 and 14-24mm f/2.8 lens on a Feisol tripod with Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead.

You can see more of these photos here ¬†on my¬†Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page¬†(poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like), on 500px, or my Ken Lee Google+ Page. We discuss long exposure, night sky, star trails, and coastal long exposure photography, as well as lots of other things, so I hope you can join us!

And you can go to the Ken Lee Photography website, which has more photos from Ken Lee.  Thank you very much for visiting!



Joshua Tree: Stone And Tree Revisited

Please click on the photo to view it larger and more clearly!  Thanks!


I returned to this stone and tree location to try another photo. ¬†This time, instead of clicking a photo quickly as I was walking past, I took my time and set up the shot with a tripod. ¬†I am thinking of printing this one to hang on the wall in at Blueberry Buddha Recording Studios (I’m also a recording engineer).

This one is a blending of two photos, one shot for a general overall exposure, and the other  exposed for just the foreground tree.  I then simply blended the foreground tree in a bit, a sort of handmade HDR to create a little more dynamic range in the photo.  I could have also done it by illuminating the tree with a flash, but was happy with blending them as well. Whatever works.

Equipment:  Nikon D7000, Tokina AT-X 116, Feisol tripod.

See some more photos from our trip to Joshua Tree in February 2013!

You can see more of these photos here ¬†on my¬†Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page¬†(poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like). We discuss long exposure, night sky, star trails, and coastal long exposure photography, as well as lots of other things, so I hope you can join us!

And you can go to the Ken Lee Photography website, which has more photos from Ken Lee.  Thank you very much for visiting!


Photo Tip of the Month: Exposing For Sky And Sea (Dynamic Range Without HDR Software)

You’re at the coast taking photos. ¬†If you expose for the sky, the water, the cliffs, the rocks, the foreground becomes too dark. ¬†If you expose for the foreground, the sky becomes blown out and appears like a white or gray blob.

What to do?  Ask a photographer from the 1850s!

Please click on the photo to see it.  The algorithms for making the photo smaller seem to also make it appear blurry.  Thanks!

Title: The Secret Coast
Info: Nikon D7000, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 with B+W 1.8 ND filter. ISO 400, 8 second exposure, f/14.
Photography: Ken Lee
Location: Los Angeles County, California, USA

You could use a graduated neutral density filter to make the sky darker. ¬†This works very well if the horizon is flat and doesn’t have rocks or mountains.

You could use Photomatix or another kind of HDR software.  A lot of people do.

But if you don’t have HDR software or flat horizons or graduated neutral density filters, all is not lost. ¬†There’s a technique for doing it “by hand” that I believe creates a very natural look and can be done in many photo editors that can create layers, using a technique that was developed well over a hundred and fifty years ago! ¬†Read on, my friend, read on!

Combining two exposures together
One way of dealing with dynamic range is to create two versions of the same photograph. That’s what was done with the photo above, a long exposure photo of eight seconds in which I exposed for the foreground.

Here’s how I created it:

1. ¬†I created two versions of the same photo. ¬†Using View NX 2, which I use for my RAW photos, I created a second version of the photo in which I lowered the exposure slightly, revealing the true colors of the sky. ¬†I don’t make the sky too dark because otherwise the final result can look abnormal. ¬†Maybe -1.0 exposure. ¬†Play around with this and do it by feel.

I could have also used another photo of the same scene altogether that was exposed for the sky, which I’ve done for other photos. ¬†Either way works. Create one exposed for the sky first, name it “sky”, and convert to TIFF. Then change your settings so that it’s exposed for the sea, rename it “sea”, and convert to TIFF. ¬†We’re naming something meaningful simply so it’s easier to spot later.

2. ¬†I combined the two TIFFs together as layers. ¬†In Photoshop CS4, I opened the two TIFF files I had just created. ¬†While viewing my “sea” TIFF – in other words, the photo in which I exposed the photo for the water, rocks, and foreground – I selected “all” (on a Mac, “Apple” + “A”; on a PC, “Control” + “A”), then copied it (Mac “Apple” + “C”; PC “Control” + “C”).

I then clicked on the other TIFF labeled “sky” – in other words, the photo in which I exposed for the sky – and pasted the “sea” photo in (Mac “Apple” + “V”; PC “Control” + “V”). ¬†I could now only see the “sea” photo that was exposed for the foreground only. ¬†The Layers Menu now showed two layers, the background being the “sky” photo. Cool. On all my versions of Photoshop, the Layers Menu has always defaulted to the lower right corner of the monitor in the event that you have difficulty locating it.

3. ¬†I erased part the top layer to reveal the sky. It’s really that simple. ¬†In Photoshop CS4, I selected the Eraser Tool, which should be found on the upper left side in a vertical bank of tools. ¬†I like to use the Brush Tool, altering the size of the Brush depending on what I am doing, and starting off with 100% opacity and 100% flow. ¬†You can change these as you see fit on the upper left corner in the horizontally-oriented taskbar of Photoshop.

So what I did was first select a very large brush, and at 100% opacity, kept erasing to reveal the ideally-exposed sky in the background layer underneath. As I got closer to the horizon or the rock, I made the brush size considerably smaller and changed the opacity to 50% to blend the borders better.

This part is hard to describe and takes some experimentation and patience, as you’ll probably need to zoom in on your photo near the horizon or edges to really see what you are doing. ¬†This is art, after all, and how you do this depends on your taste and aesthetic. ¬†Make sure you keep saving the image as you go in case Photoshop crashes and you lose all your work. ¬†I personally like to blend the area where the water meets the sky a little bit rather than attempting a hard, discrete “line” of erasure. ¬†Again, this is about aesthetics. ¬†It’s art, so do it as you feel it looks and feels best.

When you’re finished, you should have a nicely blended image in which the sky looks like what you remembered, and not a white blown-out blob, and the foreground is nicely exposed as you originally did it. ¬†Blending them artfully with the eraser is key. ¬†Once you do this once or twice, you’ll get the hang ouf it and be able to do it quite nicely.

This technique is seriously old school!
Think dealing with dynamic range like this is relatively new? ¬†Would you be surprised if I told you that Gustave Le Gray were doing this in the 1850s? ¬†That’s right, the idea of combining more than one exposure was pioneered way back when your great-great-great grandfather was just a gleam in his pappy’s eye. ¬†Le Gray combined two negatives for the very same reason I have here, using one negative for the sky and another for the sea, and then combining them into one photo (positive).

Some people have this attitude that this is fake and you shouldn’t Photoshop. ¬†But if so, people have been faking it for quite some time. ¬†No, we’re just exposing for the sky and for the sea. ¬†And I would submit to you that a photo of a sky looking like a white blog instead of the deep blues and yellows that I saw would be unrealistic.

Thank you for reading, and thank you if you comment below!!!

Equipment:  Nikon D7000, Tokina AT-X 116

Photo Link: Nikon D4’s Amazing Low Light Capabilities And Other Features

I’ve been receiving some information about the new flagship Nikon camera, the D4. here’s a link to the manufacturer’s website. ¬†Every once in a while, I’ll link to something that may be of interest, and today, that’s the D4.

King of Low Light
One of the specs I’m most interested in is its low-light capability, with an¬†ISO Range ¬†of100-12,800 (extendable from 50 ‚Äď 204,800). ¬†I’m going to repeat that again. ¬†204,800. ¬†One can only hope that light sensitivity like this will eventually filter its way down to more affordable cameras for the rest of us. ¬†In my opinion, this is one area where Nikon shines. ¬†I think Canon offers more “bang for the buck”, but when Nikon is offering low light sensitivity like this, it’s difficult to look elsewhere for this price range.

Additionally, the D4 offers HDR, combining multiple images in-camera to produce images with increased dynamic range. ¬†Obviously, other cameras that are considerably cheaper do this too, but something tells me that this’ll do it really darn well.

The D4 also has a giant new higher-resolution 16.2 megapixel CMOS sensor, but has also added a 91,000 pixel RGB 3D Color Matrix metering sensor that senses brightness and color, and supposedly interprets this with increased accuracy in color reproduction and balanced exposure.  And it adds face recognition, an appealing feature that is on many consumer cameras, but has often been left off cameras designed for professional use.

1080p HD Video
Probably the biggest, most obvious change is that Nikon has no doubt been noticing how well the  5D Mark II has been doing in the professional video market and wants to step it up.  Coupled with its fantastic low-light capabilities, The D4 captures HD 1080p video at various frame rates, easily suitable for broadcast quality video, and is capable of streaming the video out its HDMI port.

Field Monitor and Remote Capable Through iPad
Of some interest as well is that Nikon reports that the D4 is also iPhone/iPad compatible.  But what does this mean?  You can control the D4 via a web browser through your iPhone or iPad.  Nikon uses an HTTP protocol, meaning that with a Wifi or other internet connection, you can control the D4 remotely.  This could be handy for photographers or filmmakers who, say, have the camera attached to the top of a basketball backboard for sporting events, attached to a moving vehicle, or perched on top of a tree or crane.

The Sucky Part
I’ve seen on several reviews that due to the increased functionality of the camera, the battery life is lower. ¬†However, Nikon has said that they are coming out with a new battery that promises better battery life.

Overall, this sure makes me wish I had US$6000.

Equipment:  I currently use a Nikon D90, 18-200mm VR Nikkor lens, and a 50mm f/1.4 lens.