Category Archives: Photography

Backing up Digital Image Files

What is backing up digital files?

Digital photograph files are a non-tangible entity, a digital data file, living insecurely in the ether of ones and zeros in a computer storage system. No longer do we have a shoe box or file drawer of negatives, prints or color slides. Therefore, we must house our files in a place that is easy to access, readily retrievable, and safe.Box of Slides-0003

Tangible photographs, including negatives, prints and slides are no longer a part of digital photography. Shoe boxes and file drawers full of photos are a thing of the past. Today. we must safely store digital image files where they may be organized, accessed and protected. Such is just one job of today’s digital photographer.

 

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To achieve a storage system that meets these criteria requires some thought, planning, and a bit of monetary outlay.

Today’s planners and designers of most modern computer operating systems do not do the serious photographer any favors. Operating systems like Windows, and Apple iOS are designed around the principle of a single computer operating system drive whether a hard, spinning disk drive (HDD), or a solid-state drive (SSD), or a hybrid of both, like a fusion drive.

We must understand these components are electronic, some with mechanical components. Within the computer system, the drive with the operating system is operating full time when the computer is turned on. Electro-mechanical drives are spinning all the time. It’s understandable that these components will fail. Solid-state SSDs are vulnerable to component failure by detrimental heat.

Failure will happen. It’s not if — but when.

So, if all our photographs are on our computers operating system (op-sys) drive, and we have only one –like most photo enthusiasts– our images will be lost with the failed drive. Therefore, we must put our photographic images some where else that is safe. That’s the first step. The second step is even more important, that is making a duplicate of every photo in a second place for safety through redundancy. That’s backing up!

In an ideal situation, the op-sys drive should contain only the operating system itself plus other software such as the photo editing software and so on. Everything else including, photos, financial and medical files and all other personal files must be kept elsewhere.

There are several ways to do this. Some photographers have multiple drives installed within their computer cabinet. This is a good idea at the time of computer purchase, or at the time of its assembly. This generally requires a larger case or cabinet and lots of fans to move air for cooling- the detrimental foe of electronics. Given the physical space and electronic capability, additional drives may be added at a later time.

The use of additional drives requires not only initial planning for installation, but a serious thought toward file organization. This is food for a later discussion.

The alternative plan used most frequently is the use of external electronic drives, or portable drives. Today, these drives have become very inexpensive and create a low-cost solution to the storage issue. Let’s look at common solutions:

JBOD- Just a Bunch Of Drives

As an addition or addition to internal drives installed in the computer cabinet, external electronic drives are now very inexpensive and are available as spinning hard drives, or solid-state units. Capacities are now available in 1TB, 2TB, for pennies compared to the past, and larger capacity drives don’t cost much more. Today the HDD drive is the low-cost choice of the two and the SSD drive, the most reliable over time.

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Several electronic portable drives are a simple, cost effective manner of storing images off of the computer operating system drive. Over time, the file data may grow quite large. Organizing and securing the data is a more complicated task when using such a bunch of drives.

 

In operation, these additional drives are connected to the computer via a variety of methods, including USB, Firewire, or Thunderbolt. Regardless, the computer will recognize these external drives and data files may be moved to them readily.

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Some manufacturers offer drive systems that enable expansion as required. The three drives above are tied together in JBOD system. But, management of file storage and redundancy is a continuing issue.

 

In this manner, the JBOD requires manual moving, saving, and management of file material. To create any type of redundant protection, all the data on one file must be completely duplicated on a frequent basis to a second drive.

With personal dedication and commitment, this is a most workable, inexpensive solution.

RAID- Redundant Array of Independent Disks

A RAID solution takes the JBOD solution one major step further. Most frequently, a RAID consists of two or more physical drives housed within a single enclosure and it automatically creates the duplication of data and back up continuously as it is used. The computer “sees” the drives as one and operates as such. Management of storage and duplication of data is accomplished by the electronic RAID controller within the system enclosure.

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The three units pictured above are a RAID system. Each box contains two independent drives, with an electronic controller. It provides a seamless, user-friendly method of safely backing up the images through redundancy. The process is managed by the internal RAID controller. Each unit is a 20TB RAID. When used together, the system will store 60TB of data, providing 30TB of file storage with an equal amount of redundant backup.

 

In such a system, disks are combined into different RAID configurations known as RAID levels. The RAID level you choose depends on which storage attributes are most important to you, including:

Capacity-               The total amount of data you can store.
Performance-        The speed at which data is copied.
Protection-             The number of disks that can fail before data is lost.

RAID 0—Data is not duplicated on both hard drives in RAID 0. This results in faster transfers and more storage, since the full capacity of both drives can be used to store unique data. However, RAID 0 lacks a very important feature: data protection. If a hard drive fails, all data in the array is lost.

RAID 1—RAID 1 provides greater safety since data is duplicated on each disk in the array. If a single disk fails, the data remains available on the other disk. However, this comes at a cost -since the same data is written to each drive, copying data takes longer and overall storage capacity is reduced by 50%. RAID 1 is a good choice when safety is more important than speed or disk space. It is the best solution for photographers requiring redundancy AND security.

Remember: Always eject a storage drive from your computer before physically disconnecting it. Your computer must perform filing and housekeeping operations on the drive before it is removed. Therefore, if you unplug the drive without using the operating system’s software, your files can become corrupt or damaged.

NAS (Network Attached Storage)

NAS is a storage system device that connects to your home or office network and can include one or more hard drives. A NAS is engineered to be a single drive, JBOD, or RAID systems. Unlike direct, hard wired solutions, files on the NAS can be accessed using a computer, tablet, or smartphone that is connected to your local network or even over the Internet. Many systems offer an intuitive and user-friendly NAS experience while offering tons of rich applications, allowing you to share files and enjoy multimedia anytime.

CLOUD Storage

Online, or Cloud storage is now a viable option for independent photographers. This system requires the upload of digital files to an online, commercial site for storage and retrieval. To commit to a cloud-based solution, keep in mind several considerations:

Internet speed and reliability– how long does it take to upload and access your files
Cost of internet service– are you charged a premium for high use
Frequency of use– do you need the service all day, every day
Type of files stored– are you storing only JPGs or RAW files and complete projects

After a review of the above, you may find cloud storage may not be a good fit for you. Some plans are good for small amounts of data (images) but if you shoot in RAW and have thousands of images, some plans can’t cut the mustard.

If you do feel the Cloud is right for you make certain you carefully consider the following before you commit:

Have a Plan with Three Backups (see the 3-2-1 Backup plan below.)
In addition to your master working files, have at least one Local Backup

Have an Off -Site Solution
Use a multiple hard drive system
Use on-line Cloud storage only as part of your strategy
Don’t rely on the Cloud as your primary or only backup

The Cloud may not be reliable
Internet goes down
Servers get hacked
Fees are late or don’t get paid
Terms change without notice
Cloud companies go out of business or are acquired by others

Minimum Acceptable Usage Scenario
Consider 1TB of RAW files as minimum capacity- (Some plans don’t support RAW)
Fast broadband connection- No Dial-Up or Wi-Fi
No metered web usage from your service provider
Fast service Up / Down Speed
Works with either Mac or Windows.

The 3-2-1 backup plan

Serious photographers who are conscientious about their work carefully store, safeguard, and backup all their images. As we have seen, there are several ways to do this and additional variations on each system. Regardless of the system that is used, you should have a thoughtful plan in place that will provide you the comfort in the safety of your work and your legacy. A workable plan is outlined below:

  1. Have at least 3 copies of your data
    Having three copies of data means that the first one would be your actual data, wherever they reside. The other replicas (redundant clones, or mirror images) will provide for high availability and redundancy, since the more replicas you have, the more chances to keep the data safe.
  2. Keep these backups on 2 different media
    You should keep the data in two different formats, for one format outlives the other. For example, disks from the same RAID are statistically dependent, and often, after one disk failure, you might experience the failure of another disk from the same storage in a short period (often because the devices are of the same age). Using different formats reduces the risks that all your backups will be damaged, as different formats have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to redundancy.
  3. Store 1 backup offsite
    It is understandable that a big disaster like an earthquake, fire or another unpleasant event will destroy buildings, and even data centers may burn down resulting in powerful data loss. It is the reason why considering offsite data backups comes into view.
    Offsite means as FAR AWAY as possible, in another city, state, country or even continent. Your data is safe then, even if there is a fire or national disaster.

There are many ways and solutions to accomplish this 3-aspect task, be they software or hardware. Backup process should be set as far from manual interaction as possible to avoid human error. It is highly recommended to run backup jobs on a regular basis and scale (weekly, monthly backups, etc.) to be able to restore from the most recent and consistent one.

Copyright © 2019 Brian Loflin. all rights reserved.

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South Texas Bird Workshop – May 2019

May begins a traditionally long hot, and often humid, season in far south Texas. This year is no exception. However many copious rains in April have kept the countryside lush and green. This has been a blessing for bird life.

This workshop during the last week of May was very productive with a large variety of great birds. Frequently in pairs, the species photographed numbered thirty-one, including some favorites including Painted Bunting, Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak and Grove-bill Ani. The traditional South Texas favorites included Green Jay, Pyrrhuloxia, Great Kiskadee, both Long- and Curve-bill Thrasher, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Olive Sparrow and many more.

The following represents just a few of the favorites.

.From the top left:Painted Bunting female, Painted Bunting male, Painted Bunting first year male, Blue Grosbeak, Summer Tanager male, Couch’s Kingbird, Grove-bill Ani, Green Jay, Curve-bill Thrasher, Mature and immature Crested Caracara, Crested Caracara Portrait with mouse, Greater roadrunner with mouse, Greater Roadrunner, Pyrrhuloxia, and Long.bill Thrasher.

Everyone was able to make many amazing and similar images to take home. And the camaraderie was top notch.

If you have interest in a similar workshop, the next one is scheduled for October 24-27. 2019. If you have interest visit my web site at The Nature Connection or send me an email to bkloflin@austin.rr.com.

Copyright © 2019 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

Colorful Buntings and More!

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May is the ideal time to capture the best images of our special buntings. both Indigo and Painted. Come to the rich bird habitat of South Texas with Brian Loflin, a noted wildlife photographer and workshop leader.

Our workshop kicks off May 23, 2019 at Laguna Seca Ranch near Edinburg, TX. This ranch is purpose built for bird photographers and proudly offers the best all-weather bird photography blinds anywhere.

Painted Bunting (M)

Come to South Texas for three days of great bird photography. Capture great images of the Buntings and much more. Our Raptor shoots are always a highlight as well, offering Crested Caracara, Harris’ Hawk, Turkey Vulture and other Texas raptors.

For more information see our workshop schedule and details at http://www.thenatureconnection.com/workshopschedule.html .

Copyright © 2019 Brian Loflin
All rights reserved.

Advanced Macro Photography & Digital Imaging

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This new book was just published in January 2019 and is the ideal volume for everyone seriously interested in close-up and macro photography. Written in simple language for the digital photographer, its 150 glossy pages are cram-packed with over 270 images and diagrams in full color.

Advanced Macro Photography & Digital Imaging begins with the digital camera, basics of digital exposure, close up photography and a easy-to-understand discussion on the tools and techniques required to produce close-up and macro images. Each technique is well-illustrated with color images that enhance the text.

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This book is written with the wildlife scientist and biologist in mind, but every application is useful for any field of study where close focusing and high magnification images are used.

Included in the text are methods to standardize color and to achieve true-to life images in a manner that is accurate and repeatable.  There are sections on how to set up a macro photography studio or lab, as well as photography in the lab and in the field.

Several detailed chapters are dedicated to new digital techniques, including the use of electronic flash, very high magnification, focus stacking of multiple images for enhanced Depth of Field, and post processing software and techniques.

The ample appendix is also filled with lighting tools, techniques and diagrams, information on memory cards, electronic storage devices, file production for publication, archival standards, and much more.

The book is now available in digital format for download and in a soft cover, 8.5 x 11 inch, paper format. Both formats are available through online sales at MagCloud at http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/1556203 .

Copyright © 2019 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

 

 

Two Stories: Extirpation vs. Restoration

 

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Fossil fish, possibly of the extinct genus Knightia, which is only about seven inches long. This is typical of the fossil fish that are found in shale and limestone strata. Complete fish tend to be rare, and it is far more common to find just parts of fish, like the backbone with ribs and spines attached shown above, which came from sedimentary layers of the Eocene period about 55 million years ago.

 

The National Geographic Channel is currently airing a television series called One Strange Rock. The program talks about the history of life on earth and five mass extinctions on the planet [Earth]. In the series, host Will Smith narrated, “Ninety-nine-point nine percent of all species that ever lived are gone.”

That statement refers to all the dinosaurs and all the animals and plants of the fossil record. That’s in the past, for sure. But you must be certain, this process of loss continues even today. Let’s look:

Extirpation:
Sandbur prickly pear cactus, Opuntia Pusilla

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Long, prostrate chains of elongated pads are typical of Opuntia pusilla. These pads are easily detached, making the plant typically quite short.

 

During the field work and production of our 2009 book, Texas Cacti, I was elated to be able to find a little-known cactus, Sandbur prickly pear. This species is recorded to be found only in a small area on sand dunes and rocky outcrops, behind the beaches along the Gulf Coast only on Bolivar Peninsula in Galveston County, Texas.

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Detail of Opuntia pusilla pads, or stems. These stems are usually low and are seldom more than 4 in.  (10 cm.) tall.

 

Making landfall over Galveston and the Bolivar Peninsula in Texas at 2:10 a.m. on September 13, 2008, a category 2 hurricane named Ike caused extensive damage, with sustained winds of 110 mph, a 22 ft storm surge, and widespread coastal flooding.

The effects of Hurricane Ike in Texas were crippling and long-lasting. Ike’s effects included deaths, widespread damage, smashing and flooding an estimated 100,000 homes. Galveston was declared uninhabitable, and the Bolivar Peninsula wiped clean of boats, buildings and most vegetation.

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Aerial photograph of the Bolivar Peninsula at Galveston Texas the day after Ike. The 2008 hurricane Ike wiped most all vegetation and structures from this area.

 

After several visits to the Bolivar Peninsula after Ike, we are very disappointed to to be unable to find any remaining indications of this little plant of the species.

Restoration:
Tobusch Fishhook Cactus; Sclerocactus brevihamatus var. tobuschii

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Endangered Sclerocactus brevihamatus var. tobuschii is quite cryptic in its growth among the grasses of its habitat. Often pollinating bees may lead us to the flowers in season.

 

The endangered Tobusch fishhook cactus, named for its unique hooked central spines, is found in only eight counties on the Edwards Plateau in central Texas. This uncommon cactus spends the first five years of its life smaller than the size of a quarter before even producing its first flowers. This cactus is a low, deep-seated and very inconspicuous plant because of its diminutive size, and the fact it is camouflaged within the grass and limestone of its habitat. Therefore, it very difficult to find.

During the production of our same publication, I was thrilled to be shown a small population in Kerr County, Texas by Jackie Pool, a biologist from Texas Parks and Wildlife who monitors this critically endangered species.

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Inconspicuous funnel-form, greenish flowers are about one half of an inch in size and bloom in February and March. The hooked central spines give rise to this plants common name.

 

 

Tobusch fishhook cactus was classified as an endangered species in 1979, when scientists knew of less than 200 plants in the wild. At the time of my photos there were just over 2,000 plants identified. Today, numbers have since improved through the discovery of additional populations, research on threats, conservation efforts at documented sites, and teamwork between a host of partners including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, private landowners and many more.

Now, approximately 4,500 cacti are known to exist across the species’ range. In big news for a little plant, the Tobusch fishhook cactus’ federal conservation status was this week reclassified from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act as of June 14, 2018.

I have been honored to get to know this little cactus in the wild, to photograph the little plants, and to watch its recovery.

Change continues. Today there are reported to be over 1.7 million species of plants and animals described by science. And new ones are discovered every day. And, of course, we know nothing of the species yet to be discovered. Only time will tell.

Copyright © Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

New Workshops for 2018

The Favorite DigiNite:
Starry Night Sky Workshop-
September 7-8, 2018
$195.00

The night skies are bigger in Texas! Join us during the dark of the moon for an afternoon and overnight photography experience that will be unforgettable. The workshop will be held at Mason Mountain in a very remote Texas location without light pollution to take advantage of the best night skies. The workshop begins at 1:00 PM the first day and ends after breakfast the second. Emphasis will be placed upon planning, locating dark sky destinations, and how to prepare for a night sky photography shoot. Photography techniques to be demonstrated include selection and use of the appropriate equipment, photographic stills of the stars and the Milky Way, star trails, time lapse star motion techniques and light painting with all the above.
Outdoor hands-on photography will include location set-up and star photos of the Milky Way, star trails and landscape features. Transportation, meals and lodging not included.

Only time scheduled in 2018.

Milky Way, Inks Lake, TX

Back by Popular Demand!
Macro & Close-up Photography Intensive in the
Texas Hill Country-
October 12-14, 2018

$695.00

Learn to photograph our small world around us in the heart of the magical Texas Hill Country for a three-day photography workshop geared to shooting close focusing images. This highly-praised workshop will be packed with hands-on instruction to help you grow your close-up photographic abilities with newfound skills, tools, techniques and proficiency. The workshop will feature one-on-one instruction and demonstrations with abundant native Texas flora and fauna. Techniques will feature creating the perfect exposure, use of flash and lighting modifiers, one-to-one life size magnification, focus stacking, macro panoramas, and also include collecting, management, and photography of small animals.  Photography will be in the field and lab setting. This workshop is held at Mo Ranch, a 500 acre facility located on the North Fork of the Guadalupe River with aquatic, woodlands, and limestone hill habitats. Meals and lodging included.

Few seats now available!

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Most Popular:
Bird Photography in the Texas Rio Grande Valley-

October 25-28, 2018
$1,495.00

Come to the avian rich Rio Grande Valley for a hands-on bird photography workshop in the heart of South Texas. The workshop features hands-on instruction and intensive shooting in some of the best birding habitat available and specifically timed for the best South Texas specialty birds and migrants. The workshop will be held at the 700-acre Laguna Seca Ranch north of Edinburg, Texas, a purpose-designed ranch for bird photography.The ranch is preserved with all-native plants and animals and features constant-level ponds, and permanent photography blinds oriented for the best use of light. Each blind provides outstanding photographic opportunities. A highlight of the workshop is the favorite raptor shoot, featuring Crested Caracara, Harris’ Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, Black Vultures and more! At our workshop we bring the birds to you creating an outstanding South Texas birding and photography adventure! Meals and lodging included.

This one sells out fast! Only five spots remain.

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For more information see our web site HERE.

Copyright © Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

NEW- Photography Workshops for 2018

2018 Workshop Promo

Copyright © 2018 Brian Loflin
All rights reserved