BigEye Photography: Blog en-us (C) BigEye Photography [email protected] (BigEye Photography) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:43:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:43:00 GMT BigEye Photography: Blog 86 120 eyeSee Book Release at The Morris Book Shop Come see us for the release and signing event for eyeSee: An Interactive Experience

 at The Morris Book Shop in Lexington, Kentucky!

Date: Sunday, March 15, 2015          Location: The Morris Book Shop

Time: 2:00- 4:00 p.m.                                       882 E High St, Lexington, KY 40502

                                                                                                      Click on the book cover below for more information on our new book, an interactive photography experience covering 13 countries and 12 U.S. states!

[email protected] (BigEye Photography) Kentucky Lexington QR codes art book event eyeSee interactive photography release signing Fri, 13 Mar 2015 03:57:25 GMT
How did I do it? Lightning bugs How did I do that? Lightning Bugs (Fireflies)

Lightning bugsLightning bugsLightning bugs in late spring over a meadow in Central Kentucky

Every once in awhile I will be letting you in on my little secrets. Today I will tell you how I did The Photo of the Day – Lightning Bugs.

They came out early this spring. I first noticed some about a week ago, and last night turned out perfect for the shoot, the air was clear and perfectly still. No wind at all. The only thing I was concerned about – light from crescent moon. Originally I wanted to have totally dark sky with a bunch of stars but it turned out I could use the crescent to my advantage.

For the location I chose my neighbor’s backyard which backs up to the very tip of our lake. There is a meadow with some tall grass and bushes on the other side – that’s where the action was. There was also a dock and a tree in front of me – a nice foreground and good subjects for some light painting. Might as well, right?

The gear:

  1. First and foremost – a sturdy tripod. Mine is carbon fiber Induro – a nice alternative to much more expensive Gitzo. It’s been my trusted companion for the last 6 years or so and indeed endured some very harsh environments.
  2. My tripod is outfitted with BH-40 ball head from Really Right Stuff. It’s also Really Expensive Stuff but when I upgraded to it from much more economical Manfrotto I never looked back.
  3. On top of all this sits my Canon 5D Mark II with 16-35mm f/2.8 L lens. In this project I will be pushing the limits of this wonderful piece of glass.
  4. I also use a remote shutter release whenever I set the camera on the tripod. It just makes sense – you don’t want to shake the whole rig when pressing the shutter button. I also brought with me a powerful flashlight for light painting. That’s about it.

In the Field

Lightning bugs don’t emit much light. It’s visible to our eyes (and most importantly to the bug of the opposite sex), but the camera sensor struggles to register it. I took several 2-2.5 min. exposures at f/8 and ISO 200 to do my light painting. I painted the dock, the grass in front of the camera and the edge of the grass on the opposite side of the lake. I could see star trails in the sky but only light trails of bugs flying close to the camera were visible. The meadow was totally dark.

On to the next step. I decided to try the same technique as they use for photographing stars. If you want the stars appear as dots in the sky (as opposed to light streaks or trails) you need to take into consideration the focal length of the lens and the latitude of the star field in the sky (if you want to be very precise). A simplified rule says that your shutter speed can’t be longer than 600/FL, FL=focal length. In other words, if I’m shooting with 16 mm lens my shutter speed should be under 37.5 seconds (600/16). It is not very long for night time. This means you have to use high ISO and have your lens aperture wide open – hence f/2.8.

I made several test shots and found satisfactorily results with ISO 1600, f/2.8 and shutter speed 15 sec. I could see the stars in the sky and lightning bugs in the meadow. I took 10 exposures in rapid succession with these settings to be combined (or stacked) later in Photoshop. Now I have my lightning bugs and starry sky and also my light painting exposures. Perfect! Now I’ll be taking all this back to my digital darkroom.

Digital Darkroom

I import all the images into Adobe Lightroom (I always shoot in RAW format) and make my normal adjustments – white balance, levels (or tone), clarity and vibrance, curve, noise reduction and lens correction. I also like to play with camera profiles to see what works the best. Camera Landscape yields amazing results sometimes but for this shoot I chose Adobe Standard.

I synchronize the adjustments for 10 shots with the high ISO setting and modify my developing settings slightly for the light painting images that are generally much darker. Now I select 10 shots with lightning bugs and stars (high ISO), right click on them and choose “Edit in -> Open as Layers in Photoshop”. In Photoshop CS5 I change blending mode of each layer, except the last one on the bottom, to Lighten. If you own Photoshop CS6 you can select all layers and change the blending mode all at once. Now I have all the lightning bugs from all 10 exposures combined!

Changing blending mode

Unfortunately the same happened to the stars in the sky, and now I have short star trails. This is not what I want. To remedy the situation I duplicate the top layer, change the blending mode of the copy back to Normal and mask everything but the dark portion of the sky where the star trails are visible. Fortunately the bugs stay fairly close to the ground and I don’t have to worry about losing them. 

Removing star trails

Image -> Flatten -> Save, which imports it back into Lightroom with the star trails removed.

I will use the same technique to stack the resulting image with low ISO light painting images. The lens is sharper at f/8, so the additional benefit here is bringing back some fine details in lighted areas.

For quick reference while processing, here's the highly abbreviated version of the Digital Darkroom steps above:

  1. Import images to Lightroom
  2. Make desired color and tone corrections/adjustments
  3. Select the high ISO shots
  4. Right click> Edit in> Open as Layers in Photoshop
  5. Change the blending mode to Lighten for all layers except the bottom layer
  6. To remove star trails - duplicate top layer
  7. Change the blending mode of the copy back to Normal
  8. Mask all areas except the darkest part of the sky (where trails are)
  9. Image> Flatten> Save

That’s it! If you’re a photographer I hope it inspires you to go and experiment at night. These steps were appropriate for these shooting conditions, but you may have to change strategies, repeat steps, or try different settings for your shoot. If you have questions or need more detail on certain steps, please post them in the comments and I'll be happy to answer them.

If you‘re not into all this technical mumbo-jumbo, just enjoy the view!



[email protected] (BigEye Photography) Bluegrass June Kentucky blue bug clouds crescent dark dock field firefly glow grass green how insect lake landscape light lightning mating meadow moon nature night outdoor painting photography reflection scenes season sky spring stars summer technique to tree tutorial water Thu, 05 Jun 2014 01:15:50 GMT
Travel Habits By: LittleEye

It's not a definitive or exhaustive list, but here are a few of the travel habits we've picked up over the years that work well for us. Hopefully at least some of them will come in handy for you, too.

1. One Flight Itinerary

It can be very tempting to split your flight itinerary in order to save money; we know, we tried it once. You can sometimes find savings by buying tickets for the different legs of your flight independently. The problem we encountered is that when something goes wrong (cancellation/delay) with the first leg of the trip the first airline isn't responsible or compelled to help at all because as far as their computer is concerned they are getting you to your final destination. Same issue with the second airline, it isn't their fault or responsibility that the first airline caused you to miss your flight.

The only way we would consider doing two itineraries again is if we planned to do an overnight or couple day layover at the connecting destination so we wouldn't have a time crunch.

2. TripIt

TripIt is a wonderful itinerary organizer that makes things easy to find and can be used without a wifi or cell signal. I do take an emergency printed copy of my TripIt itinerary still just in case my phone would break or get lost, but I print it two pages/sheet front and back so I don't have much paper to carry. I use the app on my phone constantly during our trips to know where we're going or staying next.

You can also add other events and activities to your TripIt itinerary which I will sometimes use to save bits of local history or tips applicable for that day. For example, I saved the "instructions" for being granted our three wishes at Helgafell mountain in Iceland so that I would have easy access to it when we arrived.

  Atop Helgafell Mountain after my three wishes.





3. GPS and Screenshots

Screenshot of Google Maps. Also our favorite stay in Iceland, a great 3 BR cabin with a view of the fjord.

Take screenshots of the maps you need with different levels of zoom so you can access them offline in your pictures folder on your phone. 

We've always relied on the wi-fi connections at restaurants or hotels/hostels for our internet connection when outside the U.S., rather than paying for international service. So far, it's worked out well for us. The one downside is that Google Maps or TripIt's map features aren't viewable (or at least can't be interacted with) unless you're connected. I think there may be apps now that will store the maps you've created for offline use, but until I find one I like, I'll be sticking with the screenshots.










4. Space Bags

Travel space bags can make packing for cold weather much easier.

For sweaters, jackets, and other bulky items, space bags can be a luggage hauler's best friend. No particular preference on which brand,  but I found some at Big Lots, a discount store, for about $10 for a set. Try not to get the ones that require a vacuum cleaner to seal (it's still possible to use them, but it's more difficult and less efficient).




5. The Underwear Roll

Why roll clean underwear? It's easy to tell which undies are clean when the suitcase is disheveled half way through the trip, and it allows you to throw and wedge the tiny little fabric rolls wherever you have a nook or cranny free in your suitcase. Works on any briefs. For those more dedicated to space saving, there is the military roll method for undies, socks, and t-shirts on YouTube which will save additional space, but appears to take much longer and requires more muscle.

6. Shoe Stuffing

Stuff socks into your shoes. It's a good use of space and helps keep the shape of your shoes.

7. The Ultimate "Personal Item" Bag

LL Bean's Quick Load Carry On Bag  is small enough to fit comfortably under the airline seat in front of you, and yet oddly hard to fill. I'm convinced this bag has special spacial relations laws, or has an allotment of space in a parallel universe, because there is always room for that one extra little thing. It has a plethora of pockets that are so well designed you can stash a ton of stuff and still get to everything with ease. If you leave the kitchen sink at home, you can even use this as an overnight bag. 

Bean's amazing bag My favorite part is the top entry pocket which has a spill-proof liner to hold a drink and snacks, but my preferred use for it is as my phone, passport and document holder. Perfect for all of the taking out and putting away at the ticket counter, security, and gate without disturbing the rest of the bag.

It's truly a genius bag.






8. Keep a Trip Record

Having a record of your trip is a wonderful way to bring back your experience even once the memories start to fade. I've used old fashioned paper journals, Smart Phone Apps, and a hybrid of Facebook and Geotagged photos to create records of our trips. 

Paper Journal - In theory this is my favorite method, I've never regretted the trips were I used a journal. It's great way to capture small moments that would otherwise be lost. In the entry below, I was so excited about that Snickers bar I ripped open the journal at random and exclaimed about its melty, chocolatey wonderfulness in the margins.
Jungle Snickers are Awesome!!! The downside is being awake enough at the end of the day to have enough energy to write in it. Plus, if you're roughing it and using a headlamp to write by in the forest you will attract all of the nearby flying insects right to your face. In my experience even mosquito netting won't stop all of them. This entry was written by headlamp during an insect attack after having some boxed wine in the Amazon; for the record I did not send Alexey off into the forest alone, and he returned unscathed.
"I have been thoroughly introduced to Gato Negro wine this evening. I was buzzed enough to send Alexey off into the forest"

I have been disciplined on a couple trips and am grateful for the journals, but other trips I only have a few entries followed by a bunch of blank pages. 

Day One app entry

Smart Phone Apps - The iPhone has a number of different diary apps, the one I use is called Day One. It allows you to combine phone pics with your entries, captures the weather, date, time, and location automatically. Pretty much like having a private version of Facebook, but you can share your posts to social media selectively if you choose. Downside? I hate typing on my phone. Therefore, it's not nearly as thorough as an entry to a journal would have been.












Facebook - Pics, text, and video all in one place and time stamped with the bonus of being able to share with friends what you've seen while you're still travelling. You can also geotag your posts with the location feature. So, if you don't write anything private, or don't care what you share...just use Facebook. 












9. The Miracle of OneNote

If you have Microsoft Office Suite, you should also have the OneNote program, but may not know what an excellent tool it is for trip planning. If you aren't familiar with it, Microsoft has a great demo on its support site and OneNote itself is built with an interactive user guide notebook.

When we've narrowed down our destinations, I create a section for each country in my "Trips" notebook. Then, as I do flight searches or look up activity information I use the screen clipping feature to select the section or piece of the screen I'm interested in saving. It copies that clip into my notebook and marks the date, time, and links the web address so I can easily get back to it.

The screenshot below shows four different screen clippings from a past trip. The clippings can be easily moved around, re-sized, and deleted. It saves me from having to keep 10 different tabs open and having to jump back and forth between websites to compare information.

I sing the praises of OneNote!

Note: Changes made to Windows OS have disabled the screen clipping keyboard shortcut. It used to be the windows logo key+S, but in Windows 8.1 that now brings up a Bing search that makes me want to cry. Here's an article that takes you through changing the OneNote keyboard shortcut.

10. External Battery Pack

A recent edition to our packing list is an external battery pack. It is great for powering battery chargers and phones on the go. It's also a

 necessity when camping or spending a few days without electricity available to keep your camera batteries juiced and ready to go. On our last trip I often had something charging in my backpack as we hiked, very convenient.

We freely admit our dependence on battery powered devices, and we make no apologies.

We have, and are very happy with, a pack made by Limeade, but we haven't tried any others to be able to give a comparison.





Have something to add or a question? Please let us know your favorite travel habits in the comment section. Happy travels! 


[email protected] (BigEye Photography) Day One Facebook L.L. Bean OneNote Quick Load TripIt apps bag carry-on convenience diary digital electronics external battery pack flights gadgets geotag habits hints iPhone itinerary journal jungle Snickers luggage memories notebook organization packing photography plane posts record screen clippings space tips tourism travel tricks trips Sat, 15 Feb 2014 22:18:59 GMT
Free Photoshop Brushes I got this today from a Shutterstock tweet: a beautiful collection of 55 free Photoshop brushes is available for download here.

Some of these you'll find useful to spiff up your photos, others you can use to create graphic designs from scratch. Most of the brushes come with no limitations but some are restricted to non-commercial use only - read the descriptions carefully.

To install the brushes copy files with .abr extension from zip archives into this folder:  Program Files > Adobe > Photoshop (xx) > Presets > Brushes.

When in Photoshop select Brush tool to activate brush presets dialog and click on the "menu" icon (red arrow). Select "Load Brushes" from drop-down menu and choose the brush set you want to use. In PS version CS 5 or CS 6 new brushes will appear in the bottom section of the drop-down menu. Choose "Append" in the next dialog box.


[email protected] (BigEye Photography) Photoshop brush creative design download free graphic install photography Tue, 11 Feb 2014 03:21:52 GMT
A Simple Way to Erase People in Photoshop Have you ever wanted to photograph a landmark or historic site or an interesting piece of architecture, and wished you could do it without including hundreds of tourists in your shot?

Photos of crowded places present a problem if you plan to submit them as stock – unless, of course, all the people in the shot are your friends and will gladly furnish you with their model releases.

Well, there is a way around this. You will need two things (besides your camera): A steady tripod and Adobe Photoshop Extended, version CS3 or higher.

Set up your tripod in a place where it won’t be bumped by anybody, compose your shot, and start taking pictures (preferably using a cable release). Make sure to set your focus manually and turn the autofocus off. Since the camera is mounted on a tripod, you also should turn off the image stabilization on your lens (if you have this feature). The idea is to expose all the stationary elements of the scene in a series of shots. The number of shots and time between them will depend on how crowded the scene is and how quickly people move about. Take note of people sitting on benches or standing in the same spot without moving. It is best to set your camera on manual exposure – hopefully the light won’t change too much during the shoot. Aperture priority mode will also work.

Back at your computer, open all the images from the series in Photoshop. From the top menu, select File -> Scripts -> Statistics. In “Choose Stacks Mode” dialogue, select “Median.”

That’s all there is to it! After crunching some data, Photoshop will spit out a new image without anybody in it. You may need to use some of your individual files to clean up a few artifacts generated by the process. In this example, I took 25 exposures during approximately 15 minutes (the place was incredibly busy as you can tell from the first picture). The clouds had shifted, so I “borrowed” the sky from one of the shots. Here is the final result:

Now how about taking a photograph of a highway interchange in downtown with no traffic?

[email protected] (BigEye Photography) busy crowds disappear editing eliminate erase image stacking photography photoshop removing people technique tourism Mon, 03 Feb 2014 00:52:56 GMT
BigEye's Story by LittleEye

BigEyeBigEyeExtreme close-up of a human's eye BigEye Photography is a small, but active operation that began in 2005. It consists of Alexey Stiop (BigEye himself, the photographer) and me, Clare (aka LittleEye; the pack mule, logo, and behind the scenes business manager).


SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA Alexey is a very tall person...and I am rather vertically challenged. The dog is even shorter than I am, so when he and I are discussing Alexey we often refer to him as "the big guy". Bigguy sounds an awful lot like bigeye when spoken aloud. So, when a name for the burgeoning photography venture was needed, BigEye seemed an appropriate fit, plus we didn't need to adjust to a new nickname for Alexey.  Muttering to the dog about what "Lens Leopard" or "Captain Camera" did seemed cumbersome.

In the blog the more technical posts and tutorials will come from BigEye, and I will pass along travel information and commentary for some of the images. If you'd like to hear more about one of the places we've been, or are looking for a how-to on a particular photographic technique, please let us know.

[email protected] (BigEye Photography) Introduction blog business photography travel tutorial Mon, 03 Feb 2014 00:51:55 GMT