Category Archives: Stock 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.

Are you using your lenses effectively?

Zoom lens photography is somewhat fairly understood. But, a lot of deep understanding is missed by the casual photographer. Sure, everyone knows that a wide angle lens, like a 24 mm, will cover a lot of countryside. Hence the name, wide angle. And it is relatively well understood that longer lenses, like a 150 mm produce a telephoto effect, bringing distant objects apparently much closer to the viewer.

But many shooters miss a lot of the benefits of zoom lenses. Remember, lenses do three things: they affect angle of view, affect image size, and perhaps most importantly, they can affect perspective. Lets examine three photographs of a farm house with fresh round hay bales.

Normal lens

The first is with a “normal” focal length lens of 50 mm. This lens produces an image size and a perspective similar to the unaided eye. But the angle of view is far from that of our eyes because we humans have such exceptional peripheral vision of 140 degrees or more.

So let’s understand what we can “see” here. First we can see several of the hay bales, we can see the house and tractor surrounded by the trees. All appear reasonably sized. The background sky takes up a nice portion of the frame. Good. But there is more to understand. Let’s look at the three “grounds”, or visual zones in this photo. The row of bales make up the foreground, the home and surrounding trees, the midground and the sky and clouds become the background. These three layers are very important in a photo like this.

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The human eye enjoys this layering effect. We like to wander around in the frame inspecting what we see. But a normal lens is not our only compositional tool. We have other focal lengths at our immediate disposal. Let’s look at others.

Wide angle lens

Let’s see what happens when we change focal lengths of our lens. For this next image an 18 mm wide angle setting was used. But, more importantly, the image was composed by moving much closer to the hay bales. This did two real important things for the view: first the bales are more emphasized in the foreground, and second, the more distant home and trees of the midground became quite small. This is an effect of changing perspective. This happened because to recompose, the point of view changed and became much closer to the bales. This results in the midground and background receding and becoming substantially smaller.

In photography, perspective is a relationship of elements within the image to other elements of the image and to the frame of the image in size and apparent distance between the elements. Perspective is dependent first, upon distance to the subject and then, lens focal length. Generally, when various focal length lenses are used from the same spot, the perspective is unchanged. That is why the more creative photographers compose with their feet, not just their lens.

Telephoto lens

The next view was made with a 180 mm lens. Some would say it is a telephoto view, bringing distant objects much closer to the viewer. Here we keep the bales as foreground interest. The house and tractor are now much larger with more detail visible. And this view produces more emphasis on the foreground and midground. The background sky is less important. It is important to know that to achieve this view, the composition had to be made from much farther back than either of the two previous views.

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So the lesson learned is to work every scene thoroughly. Certainly, use a variety of focal length lenses. But in addition, it is of paramount importance to vary the subject distance as well. Remember that changing the focal length from the same spot results in a different crop only through angle of view and image size. But to get the best results from any lens, you must vary the lens to subject distance.

Foreground elements are very important in composition. They anchor the scene and can be used to lead the eye into the scene. Depending upon their importance, the size may be easily manipulated through varying the focal length of the lens and most importantly, the lens to subject distance. Just don’t forget to compose with your feet instead of simply zooming your lens. Do both and your images will quickly improve.

Six great tools for photography

How many times have you been asked the question, “What kind of camera do you use?” Or, “Is that made with a prime lens?” I hear that all the time. Many of my students are always focused on the cameras and lenses. And sometimes, not much else.

While the image capture apparatus is certainly important, how you make the picture is even more so. And as a follow-on to that statement, the little regarded accessories often save the day.

While it is true that we need a variety of tools that may be specialized or single- purpose, I have several basic tools in my armamentarium I would not like to do without. Each one is very inexpensive, quite handy and readily available through most hardware stores.

Nikon D2Xs, 60 mm, F2.8 Micro Nikkor lens, electronic flash with softbox and reflector.

These six tools include “A” style spring clamps, ball bungees, blocks of wood cut to a variety of dimensions,  bungee cords of various lengths, carabiners with a rope loop, and spring-style wooden clothespins.

The “A” clamps will hold a lot of things like backgrounds, reflectors and flags and are useful for making tents from foam core boards.  Ball bungees tie up extension cords, secure lighting cables to overheads and booms and of course, to stretch tarps, silks and butterflies to frames. One photographer claims to mount his speedlights on furniture with them.

Blocks of wood in a variety of sizes make their home propping up or elevating objects in still life or table top arrangements. I have a large bucket of pre-cut pieces from 1/2 x 1 x 1 inch to 2 x 4 x 8 inch material.

In my outdoor photography of plants and flowers, bungee cords work well to pull back vegetation and other unwanted material from the subject area. These are also great for stretching as a clothes line to support fabric backgrounds and diffuser material. I also use them to make light stands behave in their closet.

Carabiners are exceptionally handy, spring closing, safety clamps originally designed for mountain climbing. But, small light weight “beeners”, when married to a short loop of rope, are handy for hanging set weights, corralling coils of extension cords and safely securing lighting fixtures when in use.

And of course, the wooden spring clothes pin has many magical uses. More commonly, close pins are used for clamping gels and sheets of diffusion material to barn doors of lighting fixtures. Called C-47s in the movie industry, it is thought they received this highly technical nomenclature because they were once located in Row C-Bin 47 in the lighting department’s grip storage.

So remember, when you admire nice photography there may be just a few dollars worth of these special tools holding a very expensive set together in front of the camera and lens.

© Copyright 2012 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

It’s Snowing! (Somewhere)

Austin, Texas is not known to be the snow capital of North America. And it’s not even the rain city. With the long drought recently broken by nice rains, we have begun to accumulate a little of the much-needed moisture for our spring wildflower germination. If it keeps up into January and some in February it should be a nice year.

While watching some of the snows in New Mexico, and the Northern Plains, I was reminded of a great photo day in the mountains west of Denver in February several years ago.

I thought I would resurrect one of those images to post here.

Nikon D2Xs, Nikkor 80-200mm F2.8 D AF zoom lens, Gitzo tripod.

While this image is not of grand mountains nor famous skiers, it evokes a sense of place for me as it was taken at at a favorite old haunt at Guanella Pass just west of Georgetown, CO.

I enjoy the composition leading upward and to the right from the rock anchoring the lower left corner. Except for the spot of color on that rock, this image could easily be mistaken for a black and white. It is important with images like this to nail the exposure. The blacks need to be good and dark with detail remaining and the white highlights pure, but with detail and texture of the snow remaining.

From a traditionalist standpoint the composition works well with the Golden Rectangle (or Fibonacci Spiral) superimposed on it (black) and the Rule of Thirds grid (red). But those are rules.

I say rules are simply guidelines to coach our eye for compositions that work. Must we follow rules? Well, of course not! We have to feel the composition, and when it feels right, voila! Some say that rules are made to be broken. When? There must be another rule for that.

But that’s another story. If it feels good, save it. Print it.

© Brian Loflin 2011. All rights reserved.

Leafcutter ants

Leafcutter ants (Atta sp.) harvest a wide variety of leaves and store them underground in their nests.  Leafcutter ants have a  social structure that is regimented into finite divisions of labor. This worker is carrying a leaf cutting many times its own body weight back to the nest. This plant material is not for food, but is a substrate media upon which a fungus is cultivated for food for the colony. Shot in Costa Rica with Nikon F5 on Fuji Provia 100 film with 55mm F3.5 Micro Nikkor (1:1) and flash.

© Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.


Texas Bluebonnet

Lupinus texensis

The Texas bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis) is the state flower and is a sure sign of spring around the state. Often in wet years large expanses of this and other wildflowers cover the roadsides, medians and pastures and fill the air with a wonderful fragrance. Nikon D2Xs with 105 mm F 2.8 Micro Nikkor.

Currency

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Wooden puzzle

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