Trail Camera Gain and Exposure

Just a quick little note covering gain and exposure:

To help shed some light, so to speak ironically, on night pictures I will try and explain what some of the biggest factors in getting good quality night photos.  As with most things a lot of it is open to interpretation and what you personally feel is a good picture.
For us, we try and achieve the maximum brightness while maintaining the lowest gain and exposure settings while attaining the furthest range/distance.
Distance is important because most cameras out there use a wide angle lens – which makes targets appear much further away then they actually are – giving the perception that the flash range is also much further then it actually is. So always know the distance. And since I have already covered the differences between red glow and no glow we will just compare only no glow in the article.
What is gain and exposure?
Gain is pretty simply explained by artificially increasing the brightness – there is more to it in reality but for the general term that is what you are doing by increasing gain.
To some, this is acceptable.

Normal picture from our system:cropped-p_049085

Now if we increase the gain a little you get something like this: Does the picture look brighter?
High Gain

We have this conversation quite a bit about what looks “good” and what doesn’t.  For us, quite simply, the less gain means a better picture. You get more contrast with less gain and better detail. Some will still argue that more gain means a brighter picture but in all actuality it isn’t. The target (in this case the deer) has more clarity and brightness in the normal picture with little gain. Because as you add gain you also add noise which will add to the pixelation to picture which then loses detail. It also adds that ghost look to your picture.

The other side of brightness to a night picture is the amount of exposure being used. The longer exposure you use the brighter the picture will be. The downside is that any target that is moving with long exposure times will end up very blurry. So with most cameras they are forced to use a very long exposure and lots of gain to appear to have bright pictures. Our systems use a very short exposure and very minimum amount of gain trying to achieve a nice balance of brightness and contrast so we can maintain the highest level of detail possible.

 

International Wireless Application

Small Company Big Impact
We are a small company located in Southeastern Ohio and have been in business since the mid 80’s. It might (or might not) surprise you that BuckEye Cam wireless systems have been global pretty much since our first release in 2004. Since the system at it’s core level is not reliant on any specific carrier it can operate anywhere in the world. It might also surprise you to learn the different ways in which our systems have been used over the years. The applications for our system have gone from a wireless hunting trail camera to a serious tool used to protect, research and alert.
Our systems have been used to monitor hazardous environments such as monitoring volcano activities, tidal changes, storm surges, flood waters just to list a few.  From Alaska to the Arctic, the Antarctic, deserts, jungles and just about every place in between.
BuckEye Cam systems have spent years in some of the harshest environments around such as on McQuarie Island. Macquarie Island is a World Heritage Listed sub-antarctic island located in the Southern Ocean, approximately half way between Australia and Antarctica (basically, a tiny island in the middle of the no-where). Researchers were studying the affects of burrowing animals on the native penguin populations.

In the War
BuckEye Cam systems were first deployed in Fallujah during the Iraq war and utilized as long range perimeter security for our troops. Cameras were deployed in Afghanistan as well during the same period. They were also used for security detail for our allies as well as many neighboring countries to monitor traffic from a distance. I wished I had pictures I COULD post from this time but I do not… for obvious reasons 🙂

Research
Our wireless systems are used in countless research applications ranging from monitoring the snow leopard in Central Asia to jungle surveys in Central America and everything in between.
One of the more memorable events was when Mexican researchers had our camera systems deployed in 2007-2008 on the Colima Volacano. Ironically, at the time it was suppose to be an inactive period for the volcano.. As you can see from the last series of photos it wasn’t so inactive.
The last picture the camera took…. “small eruption”
Colima explosion
before this happened…
Damaged camera open

So needless to say, the cameras were/are not volcano proof, in case you were wondering……

Securing the Border one country at a time.
Cameras are deployed worldwide being used for border security and enforcement. Our wireless no glow infrared systems have taken border security to an entirely new level. We cut out teeth on the US border security and enforcement and now have systems worldwide. We have agents from all over the world telling us how our systems have changed their entire border security. No longer are they reliant on the old sensors now that they have our system deployed. They are saving time, money and lives and that’s pretty awesome!

 

Anti-poaching
Our systems have played an important role in trying to apprehend and convict poachers all over the world. It is a battle that most of the “general” population isn’t aware of and have no idea how brutal it is.
Our friends at the Sibuya Game Reserve, down near Kenton on Sea, have been fighting a strong fight against rhino poachers in their area. You can learn more about their fight by visiting Sibuya Rhino Foundation.
They utilize our wireless systems as their first line of defense against the poachers.  It’s a brutal and ruthless scene to witness the damage the poachers do the rhinos. Keep in mind most of the rhinos survive brutal attack where the poachers literally hack the horn off only to die a slow painful death later.

 

Watching water…rise..
One of the more common uses is to literally monitor water……rise and fall. Whether it’s for research, the government, storm chasers or just the remote property owner, our wireless systems have been used to monitor waters all over the world.
Having seen thousands of different scenarios over the years, not much is as impressive as the power of water.

 

Big impact
It is amazing to see the impact our systems have had over the years. This entire system came from a coffee cup conversation in the beginning of 2000 I had with one of my engineers. It started off with me saying, “You know what we would be cool? It would be cool if we could capture a picture and transmit it wirelessly to a base receiver….” the rest is making history….

LiveCam

BuckEye Cam first launched LiveCam in early 2006. We had this concept earlier but took some time to develop – as things do. It’s funny because the first thing we discovered after launching the site was our system was on full display for everyone to see. Most standard cameras have always had the luxury of keeping their “flaws” private. I mean to say that once you start automatically posting every single picture from your entire camera system online, publicly, you have zero opportunity to hide from the crowd. You better be confident in your system if you are going to do this.

What is LiveCam?
livecam
LiveCam is a service that we offer to our current BuckEye Cam customers. The LiveCam service is basically a hosting server for them to have their pictures and videos automatically uploaded to their own “site”. Customers can customize their LiveCam site to suit their needs including username and password protected so no one else can view their cameras. It’s a really cool site and since it automatic the user doesn’t need to do anything other than check their pictures and videos anytime and from anywhere in the world.
LiveCam automatically uploads the latest pictures from each and every camera the user wants uploaded. It makes it extremely easy for them to view their entire system from anywhere or any device at any time. If you go to this LiveCam page you will see a list of cameras with some dates, times and a brief description. Each camera has been selected by the user to be uploaded (you can select all or any of your cameras). The ability to select only the cameras you want keeps the ones you want private, private.
You can click on each camera and see the most recent pictures from each camera. LiveCam accounts are setup with a limited number of pictures per camera (300 per camera for example) so you can see the most recent 300 pictures from each camera. As new pictures come in they will be automatically uploaded to the site so the user doesn’t need to do a thing.
Users can also create alias accounts for short term use in the event they want to give access to someone for a limited time (like a building or construction site for example). Then when they are ready to shut it down they can shut down their alias account and go back to using their private account with private access.

NO PLACE TO HIDE!
Like I stated in the beginning, even before we started offering LiveCam just offering a wireless camera system there was no place to hide. Unlike traditional cameras where the pictures are stored on a SD and may not be viewed for weeks or months in some cases, wireless systems have no place to hide. I mean if our system doesn’t work the customers know that day – or that hour. You are held to a completely different standard with wireless – the system has to run 24/7-365 period with no exceptions. If any part of the system doesn’t work the user knows immediately.We can’t tell them to “just put your camera out and check it in a month”. Nope they are going to check in a minute, so it better work…. and it better keep working…
What this has done for us?
It has forced us to continuously improve.  It keeps us honest and that has worked great for us and even better for our customers!

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