Quotes

It’s not that we need new ideas, but we need to stop having old ideas.

Edwin Land

Frosty Morning at Cades Cove, Great Smokey Mountains National Park

Day three of my recent Visionary Wild workshop came with a prediction of freezing temperatures at sunrise, and that had me on the lookout for frost. I thought the open fields of Cades Cove would be our best chance, so we headed out early that morning so we could be at the gate when it opened, and hurried towards a spot my fellow instructor Tillman Crane said would let us see the sun rising over the mountains. The frost was incredible, with delicate crystals and structures from the night’s freezing temps. We knew we have to work fast because the sun would melt this incredible scene all too quickly. 

I decided to use the Sony FE 12-24mm f2.8 GM lens that Sony had lent me for the trip because  I wanted to fill the bottom half of the frame with the incredible detail of the frosty grass and still show the mountains in the distance. This lens is incredibly sharp, and I knew it would hold all the detail in frost crystals across the frame at f11. 

When I’m making a picture, I’m usually thinking of what it will look like as a large print, and as a result, some of the things you’d experience at say 16×20 inches or larger are lost on the small view we get with social media platforms. So I’ve included a detail section that shows the frost detail that will be evident when this is printed. It’s this detail that drives my choice of lenses to produce the detail and resolution I’m used to from my years using large format film.

I also did a virtual split neutral density on this by using a darker frame made at 1/90 second , about 2.5 stops darker, for the topmost part to hold some color and tonality in the sky. 

Technical: Sony A7RII with Sony FE 12-24mm f2.8 GM lens, 12mm f11 1/15 sec 100 ISO

Free B&W Lecture March 16 with Glazer’s Camera

Teaching workshops for me is about creating moments where the “light goes on” in a students head…where they gain a new understanding of photography that helps them better express themselves and enjoy the craft more. It always exciting because with new participants every time, no two workshops are the same, and their photos are always new and unique!

If you’re ready take your black and white photography to a new level, I’ll be giving a free online talk Tuesday night with Glazer’s Camera of Seattle where I’ll introduce you to the foundational principals I use in my B&W processing. The talk is free but registration is required, so sign up today if you think you’ll be able to attend.

This talk is the introduction to my more in-depth four session workshop where I’ll show you my process and techniques, as well as deliver hands-on live critiques and demonstration using your photographs. Working on your photographs provides powerful insight into the craft and vision of making expressive B&W photographs that will stretch and grow you in exciting ways.

Here’s what past participants have had to say about the experience:

I want to thank you for your classes and all the extra effort you’re devoting to your students. The information is worth far more than than the price of admission. 

Al H

This class has introduced me to new tools for vastly improving my images.

Dennis W

I hope you’ll be able to attend. See you Tuesday!

February 24 Classic Black and White with Digital Workshop

I’ll be returning to Looking Glass Photo in February to teach my four session class on creating the Classic look of Black and White using digital tools.

Black and White photography offers us so many unique ways to communicate. Removing color can be a good thing, as it helps us focus more clearly on the shapes, lines, and forms that can be used to tell our story. It’s been a central part of my journey since the first time I saw a print “appear” from the developer in my friend’s basement around 1984. I continue to find new and exciting ways for black and white to tell my stories, and the materials continue to reveal new qualities and possibilities.

I teach these classes using Photoshop, which is my preferred tool, but I focus on fundamental concepts that transcend what software package you use. Every software package gives you tools to address the fundamentals I’ll teach.

You can book the full class use this link:

4 Session Classic B&W Class 2/24, 3/3, 3/10, 3/17 $196

Or book sessions individually:

February 24 – Contrast and how to use it

March 3 – RAW processing and converting to B&W

March 10 – Local Control Dodging and Burning/Brushing

March 17 – Navigating Print Choices

Click on the links above for an extended description of what will be covered in each class.

My thanks to Jon and Jen at Looking Glass for having me back. Camera stores like Looking Glass are an important part of a vibrant, healthy photo community and I encourage you to support them when by purchasing your equipment and supplies through them, and dealers like them, that support the photo community.

February Update

I haven’t been posting as many articles lately because because I’ve been working on curriculum for my online classes. Zoom has turned out to be an amazing way to teach my processing classes online, but repurposing and reformatting everything to fit into four 2-hour sessions does take a bit of effort!

What’s great about these Zoom classes is they offer bite sized opportunities to learn and engage in an ongoing conversation about the tools and process of making great photographs that fit with most people’s schedules and our need to follow COVID guidelines.

My Classic Black and White with Digital class is a chance to learn how I approach the decision making process to make a photograph that achieves a “gallery quality” black and white print. Of course we learn some tools and how to use them, but the “why” we do something, and “what” we should do to our photographs is always central to the process.

I’ll be adding a color class soon that will draw on the lessons I learned helping make hundreds of thousands of prints at West Coast Imaging that will help you take greater control over your own photographs.

Join my email list over on the top left column of my page if you want to receive notification of new workshops and join me for one of these new online workshops! Looking forward to seeing you on Zoom soon!

Are you using cloud backup but not local backup? Your data is at risk.

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:

  1. 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?

3D Walkthrough Of Robert Glenn Ketchum Exhibit

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.

File Backups – Checking for Copy Errors

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.