I’m giving a free talk on Monday for the nice folks at Looking Glass Photo in Berkeley, CA where I’ll talk about my approach to B&W photography. RSVP at their website below for the Zoom invite –>
Want to learn how to make the classic looking black and white photographs with a digital camera and digital processing? My five week online course will teach you! We start on January 14, and the first lecture is free if you register at the link below! Looking forward to seeing you there!
If you don’t have a local backup in addition to your cloud backup, there is a big hole in your backup plan that you may not be aware of. Cloud backup takes time, because it has to go across your internet connection. For small documents like word processing, spreadsheets, you won’t see any problems. But photographers don’t deal in such small files. How often do you come back form the field with 32GB or more of data? How long does that take to upload to the cloud? If you can’t answer that, then your data may be at risk.
Here’s an example. Last month I returned from teaching a workshop with 100GB of new files that needed to be added to the hard drive where I store all my photos. Checking my BackBlaze control panel, I see that my upload rate is 28GB per day. That means it would to take three and a half days before all my data is transmitted to Backblaze. And for most of those three days, my data is at risk of loss.
That’s why we need local backup in addition to cloud backup.
My backup plan includes several “backup” drives that I use with CarbonCopyCloner to keep exact duplicates of my main hard drive. Whenever I download photos from my memory cards, I immediately make a backup onto the backup drives before I erase the card. I can do this in a matter of minutes, not days like an online backup takes, so I can get an almost instant backup of my new photos.
So why use cloud backup when it can take days instead of minutes? Because we need to protect against extreme disasters.
What if my house burns down, or my drives are stolen? Or a virus? Even with multiple copies of my data in one location, there are a number of very real ways those could all be destroyed. Putting a copy in the cloud gives me an “offsite” backup that is protected from local disasters like fire, flood, theft, etc. It make take a couple days to get it all uploaded, so there is still some risk, but I’ve greatly lessened my overall risk by having both onsite and offsite. backups
Understanding your needs and how your backup plan works will go a long way to protecting your work.
To make improve your backup plan, think about your answers to the following questions:
- Do you have an on site backup?
2. Do you have an off site backup?
3. How fast can you upload a 32BG shoot to the cloud?
4. Are your backups automated and run regularly?
The Booth Museum has posted an amazing 3D walkthrough of Robert Glenn Ketchum’s latest exhibit.
The picture posted above shows some of the work I and my team at West Coast Imaging helped produce for Ketchum over the years. The three pieces on the back wall are 48×66 inch prints mounted to dibond which really have to be seen in person to appreciate the effect scale has. Big prints like these are time consuming to produce well, technically challenging but immensely rewarding when finished.
What this walkthrough doesn’t show is the many phone calls, back and forth mailing of proofs, and sweating the details to get them just right. Hours and hours often go into these larger prints, inspecting every square inch of the file for defects and working to bring out the artist’s vision.
The walkthrough works chronologically through Ketchum’s many projects, starting with the work of Elliot Porter that influenced Ketchum and his take on color.
You can find a complete list of the photographs that in the display here. The prints marked “Fuji Crystal Archive” were made by WCI.
I want to be sure to acknowledge the contributions of all the West Coast Imaging team members that worked to produce these prints over the years. Master Printmakers Michael Jones, Terrance Reimer, and myself all had a hand in the Photoshop processing at various times. Jeff Grandy did his magic on the Tango drum scanner to turn Ketchum’s original film into high resolution digital data. And of course the many other talented individuals who helped output, inspect, and ship the prints so they could be turned into this exquisite museum show.
One of my “safer at home” projects is updating my file storage system. The drive I put new camera captures on was getting close to filling up, so I needed to expand my system by purchasing a 8TB Seagate external drive that could hold the contents of a partially full 6TB drive, along with the contents of a partially full 2TB drive.
It took me many hours of copying with CarbonCopyCloner to transfer the files from both drives to the new 8TB drive, which always tests my patience, and my tendency to want to watch the pot to see if it’s boiled.
With the copy complete, the next to do is a major reorganization of my folder structure to better fit my current needs and to work with my backup scheme. As part of this, I’m going to erase and reuse some older backup drives, but before I erase those drives, found myself with a nagging question. Did my computer actually copy all my files correctly to the new drive?
Most file copy operations, including what I did with CarbonCopyCloner, are optimized for speed. They read the file from one location and write it to another without verifying that the file was written correctly. Verifying a copy would take re-reading each file and comparing them, which would take a lot more time. In the case of my 5.5TB of data, it would have to read 11TB total of data. 5.5TB on the original drives, and 5.5TB on the copies.
Since my copies weren’t verified, it’s entirely possible that when I copied my files to this new drive, files that hold decades of work, valuable drum scans, irreplaceable originals and memories, that some did not copy correctly, and I could be losing some data. I used to accept that risk in the past, but experience has made me less willing accept it going forward. So what to do then?
CarbonCopyCloner has an option to compare your backup with your original, but for the size of my archive, it was going to be a very time consuming project, and difficult to organize. Fortunately I remembered Lloyd Chamber’s IntegrityChecker software that was designed to do just what I wanted.
First a couple lines about Lloyd and why I’m trusting his software to check my files. Many years ago I met Lloyd when he attended one of my workshops. He was using 8×10 film at the time and trying to push the bounds of what it could achieve…no minor feat. His film was of fantastic quality, but he was still not satisfied. He’s the type of person who obsesses over details in a way I greatly appreciate. But he’s not just a photographer. He has a couple patents to his name for compression technology he used in his very popular DiskDoubler and RAMDoubler software. He has the knowledge and experience to get very deep in the weeds of some interesting computer and digital imaging problems, and he blogs about lens and camera testing at diglloyd.com.
IntegrityChecker validates files in a very unique way. It creates a cryptological hash for every file on a storage volume that can be used to check if the file has been changed in any way. This lets you check the integrity of files and backups in the most efficient way I know how.
So now I’m in the process of creating hash files for my “original” disks. Once all the hash files are created, I’ll use those to validate that my multiple backups are faithful copies of the “original.” That will let me have peace of mind that I have good copies of all my files, and let me decide which copies are redundant so I can re-use those drive.
This kind of integrity checking is something we should all do, but since it’s not built into the operating software we use, it doesn’t happen unless we seek it out. If this is something you’re interested in, check out IntegrityChecker on Lloyd’s website.
I think it’s important to note that this is more of a “expert” level tool. It’s offered in both GUI and command line versions, and it’s going to take some understanding of the underlying principles of what it’s doing if you want to apply it correctly. Because of that, it’s not a tool for everyone, but it’s one I wish I had started using a lot sooner. For now it’s the easiest way I know to ensure my files copy correctly and don’t change once they are copied. Check it out and see if it belongs in your toolbox.
Do you know how to count in full shutter speed stops?
Even with all the auto settings available on our camera, this basic photo knowledge still can help us solve many exposure problems.
If you don’t have this chart memorized, take some time to learn it, and understand how cutting the amount of time in half cuts the amount light in half, and how doubling the time doubles the amount of light.
It seems so basic but understanding it gives you so many more ways to apply it to your photographs.
My advice, hold off on equipment and take a good photo trip instead. #makememories
For nature photographers, photos happen by being in the field. In general, You should probably be spending more “being out there” than you do on equipment. So bank that check for when we can travel again and start plotting out the trip that will cure your cabin fever.
When is the last time you did a proper backup? You know, three total copies of your photos?
If you are stuck at home because of the Corona crisis, now is the perfect time to finally get your backup up to date. If you already know how to backup, then just do it.
If you don’t know how to backup, then now’s the time to learn. Figure out what software you want to use (Carbon Copy Cloner is my favorite for mac) and take the time to read the manual and figure out how to use it.
Looking for a simple plan you can follow? Then send me your email address and I’ll give you access to my members only Simple Backup Plan article. It explains many of the ints and outs of backing up your photos, how to structure your backups, and much more.
Backup doesn’t get solve by itself. Only you can protect your photos, so what are you waiting for?
How we approach photography is shaped by our experiences. This episode of my vlog shares some of my foundational experiences, how they shaped my vision and my expectations for quality, and gives some of the backstory behind what I teach.
What are some experiences that have shaped your photography?
As the current Corona Virus situation unfolds, many of us are going to be spending more time at home, and more time in some sort of semi-isolation. I don’t know about you, but being closed off from my normal day-to-day is going to have me climbing the walls soon, so I want to suggest to you that this extra time is an opportunity to keep growing in your photography.
The good news is that we can keep photographing wherever we are, with whatever we have. Even inside our homes there are whole worlds to explore. The 20th century photographer Edward Weston https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Weston made his famous “pepper” photos during a time when he was so poor he had to ration himself to one sheet of film a day, and the peppers he used as subjects became his meals. Out of those challenging circumstances, he made enduring images, and his photograph “Pepper #30” sets records at art auctions.
Don’t let equipment be a barrier either. When I was studying photography in college, one of my classmates did an amazing series on shoes for our product photography class, using just a desk-lamp and long exposures to light paint. The result was something that equaled the best photos produced in a NYC studio. Cost and equipment isn’t a barrier. Weston’s Pepper #30 was made putting a pepper into a steel funnel as a “background.”
Even if we are avoiding social settings, nature remains open. From our yard, to green spaces and parks, there is a whole world we can explore while still keeping ourselves safe. Spring is upon us and every day gives new possibilities as flowers bloom and trees leaf out. Get down on your hands and knees with a macro lens and see what’s growing and photograph it!
The learning can also continue at the processing stage. I don’t know about you, but I have a whole host of “to learns” from new software packages, to techniques, to photos I’ve been meaning to get back to. Pick one of those and take advantage of the chance to dive in as deep as you can go. If you’ve been putting off learning Photoshop, now is a perfect time to learn!
Those are my ideas, and I’d love to hear yours! Tell me what projects you’re planning on pursuing.