Monthly Archives: October 2008

Have You Ever Needed to Use Your Photo Backup?

Everybody says that backups are important, but not everybody has lived through the crisis of losing photos. If you haven’t experienced this yet, it may seem like something that only happens to other people. So this poll aims to show what percentage of photographers out there have actually lost their photos one way or another.

I’ve got four answers in this poll. Choose No if you’ve never lost your photos. Choose Yes if you have lost some or all of your photos, but you were able to restore a great majority of them with a backup. Choose Lost the Backups Too if you did keep backups, but they were also lost. And choose Didn’t Have One if you lost your photos and you didn’t have a backup. I’m sure there are various situations that blur the line on these answers, but choose the one that best fits.


Also, go ahead and tell us your horror stories in the comments (it is Halloween after all). Or share your story of how your backups saved your photo collection.


And don’t forget to check out the results from the last poll, “How Big is Your Photo Collection?” It appears that nearly half of you (44%) are still under 100GB, about 16% are in the 100GB to 200GB range, and another 12% in the 200GB to 300GB range.

Photo Backup: External Hard Drive

LaCie Hard Disks
Creative Commons License photo credit: pietel

In the last part of this series, we talked about internal hard drives as backup hardware. As promised, this time around, we’ll be exploring external hard drives for backing up your photos. Throughout these in-depth discussions of hardware solutions, I’ll try to keep the same format and flow so they’re easier to follow.


I would expect that many of you are familiar with external drives, but we’ll go through their various aspects, strengths, and weaknesses as it relates to backing up photo archives.


LaCie Hard Disks
Creative Commons License photo credit: pietel

An external hard drive is simply an internal drive that is housed in some type of case and connected to your computer via external data cables. Some external drives require auxiliary power, while others are powered by the data connection (such as some compact USB 2.0 drives). External drives serve as good backup hardware because of their storage capabilities and portability.

Like internal drives, external drives come in various shapes and sizes. Some are considered “compact” drives (typically housing a 2.5″ drive) while others are slightly larger (typically housing a standard 3.5″ drive). While the casing may look different between brands and models, most external drives have the same basic anatomy.

Also like internal drives, external drives may have several variations on the data connection interface — but these connections are different than those discussed on the internal drives. One typical connection type is USB, and most often USB 2.0. But external drives can also come with Firewire connections and even eSATA connections.

Again, my point is that you need to be aware of the capabilities of your computer(s) before purchasing an external hard drive. Maybe the one you’ve got your eye on is a Firewire drive, but your computer doesn’t have Firewire connections. This will result in you having to either return the hardware or purchase additional hardware in order to make it work.


Gears gears cogs bits n pieces
Creative Commons License photo credit: Elsie esq.

Just like with the internal drives, external drives will give you a few options for methods of backing up your data. There are two basic camps of people who use external drives: connected all the time, and connected only when backing up files.

If you decide to leave your external drive permanently connected to your computer, it may be possible to use the drive as a mirror, or RAID 1 configuration. Sometimes the software included with the drive will allow you to do this, while other times you’ll have to use third party software. If you’re interested in doing this, check the manufacturer’s website for RAID documentation prior to purchasing the hardware. The advantage to this method is that it’s easy and you get real-time backups. The disadvantage is that the drive is constantly running and constantly attached to your computer.

The other mentality of external drive users (including myself) is to only attach the drive when backing up photos or other data. This method would require that some type of backup schedule be adhered to, otherwise your backups can quickly become out of date and nearly useless. The advantage of this method is that you can store your external drive separately from your computer in a safe or off-site location. The disadvantage is that your backups may not be completely up to date on any given day.

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Creative Commons License photo credit: d_vdm


External drives are fairly cheap, reliable, and portable. They don’t cost much more than internal hard drives, and they can have about the same life expectancy (possibly better if not constantly plugged in). But the real benefit of an external drive is the fact that it can be removed from the computer and stored elsewhere. Storing the drive in a fireproof safe or in an off-site location can add an extra layer of security to your backup solution.


New boots and a fake lacoste polo
Creative Commons License photo credit: assbach

External hard drives are still hard drives and they’re prone to the same failures as internal hard drives. The disk may just give up one day without warning or reason. And if you decide to leave the drive connected to the computer at all times, it essentially has the same weaknesses as your computer (lightning strikes, fire, theft, etc.). External drives also tend to be a target for other failure modes, such as being dropped or knocked off the desk. Hard drives don’t like that.


External hard drives can be great backup solutions, and many people utilize them for doing just this. I, myself, use an external drive to store one copy of my photos and other vital documents. The great thing about them is that they can be truly separate from your computer between backups.

And as with any backup solution, I’d suggest keeping more than one. So an external backup drive is good, but it’s not complete by itself. The next section of this series will discuss the infamous RAID tower, including the Drobo.


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PhotoDump 10-26-2008

More great stuff this week from the Epic Edits Flickr Pool! It must be getting close to Halloween… I’m seeing more pumpkin photos in the pool than usual. Oddly enough, most of them have been in black & white. I guess orange is “out” this year ;)

Ominous by rh89b & w roadside flowers by Peggy Dthe window box by rickabbothe lighthouse by dawn m. armfieldJazz by hitkaiserStay Away From This Beach by Brian AuerThe beginning of the end... by cmiperLet There Be Light by reggiemateoPlastique by Chris Farrugia© Rex Lisman_3194 by Rex Lisman Photography by nicole beeDowntown San Diego by Brian AuerPumpkins by 2BlueCranes by JanneMI Alone by reggiemateopurple glow by photo_outlawJumpShot 4 by Adam MelanconHappy Friday!! by echobelliEvening walk by amathadpumpkin 0024 by mandybleWindow seat please... #2 by FLOODkOFF© Rex Lisman_3348 by Rex Lisman Photography  by the_wolf_brigadeThe Small Hand that Kills (41th/52) by skippyjonpep by wasabifishMusic sitting on the Stairs of Reason by Salvatore FalconeAutumn Fog by Mark OehlerCity of Arts and Sciences, Valencia by CdL CreativeWater Road by austincabotthree kings by vandyll.netPumpkins by binah06Economic Depression by Crashmaster007Jumping for Joy! It's Fall Again! by Will FosterThoughtful by Salvatore FalconeBusiness and pleasure by Victor BezrukovAmong Giants by rexauer by Blutat2 by t3mujinLincoln by Meredith PurvisModish Machines by Colour VoidTrue Love by bestgramps8 Feet 4 by NutGoneFlake3 Feet Down in the Bathtub by TimTim74manegg by So gesehen.Abandoned Ohio Farm House by AIA GUY..RwoodFly Away by {Tasha}On The Other Side of the Fence by Brian Auer~ by *ojoyous1*Magic2 by javiyHeart attack. by the_wolf_brigadeswingers by dldailey32FREE BIRD! by robinn.with the goggles comes crazy hair by poopoorama by nicole bee by TyClast light by xgrayeagleman by Ryan Holloway Photographythe last tree by Victor BezrukovLondon, October 2008 by .sasharappaportHotel by sebastian.yepes.inMemoria In Aeterna by rh8920081019-K10D-7194_2000px by coneslayerI'm no angel, but I've spread my wings a bit. by vandyll.netKel by ndbutter by t3mujinHotel by

Link Roundup 10-25-2008

Well… it’s a day late this week, but here are some interesting things happening around the web this week.

Photowalking Venice Beach 10-25-2008


Just a quick shout to anybody in the general vicinity of Southern California — A few of us are hanging out at Venice Beach on Saturday, October 25, 2008. We’ll meet up at 3PM near the “Sausage Kingdom“. We’ll stick around until sunset, then leave before it gets dark (and scary).

Sausage Kingdom

If you’re in the area, come hang out and shoot some photos with us. Nothing formal, just a couple hours of walking around and soaking up the atmosphere. If you’re planning on coming out and you don’t see us (or if you’re late), don’t hesitate to give me a call at 208-659-2901.

Photo Backup: Internal Hard Drive

Hard Drive - 2 Flash/Brolly
Creative Commons License photo credit: geerlingguy

In the last big part of this series, we talked about working drives — the various options and their strengths and weaknesses. In the next few sections, I’ll be diving a little deeper while discussing various options for your backup hardware. Once we make it through the hardware, we’ll talk software. And finally, we’ll finish off with a discussion about strategy.


Our options for backup hardware is much the same as the working drives, but we have a few other options too. To kick off this section, we’ll go over the use of internal hard drives as backup hardware.

The PC under the MiniMac
Creative Commons License photo credit: veeliam


An internal hard drive is simply a hard drive housed within your computer case and attached to its power and data connections. All computers have at least one internal drive to run the operating system, but an internal backup drive is one separate from your main drive. Simply creating a copy of your data on the same hard drive won’t give you much data protection. On that same note, most computers have more than one power supply cable and hard drive data connection, so installing a second, third, or even fourth drive should be no problem.

Hard drives come in all different flavors. Common form factors include 3.5″ (commonly found in desktops) and 2.5″ (commonly found in laptops). Let me just interrupt the flow to state that this article is based on the assumption that you’re using a desktop computer with 3.5″ drives — laptops don’t usually have too much extra space for additional drives. Hard drives also come in a multitude of disk interfaces (or the shape of the data plug). The SATA interface is most common today, but some computer are still supporting the old ATA drives. SCSI (pronounced “scuzzy” if you’re a geek) is not terribly common, but some people still use them. And I’m sure that by the time I publish this article, the next best thing will have obsoleted the SATA drive.

So my point is this: make sure you know what type of drive you can plug into your computer. Don’t jump on that ATA drive because it’s cheap, only to find out that you can’t even plug it in. Also beware of differences within a particular interface — for example, we’ve got SATA 1.5 Gb/s, SATA 3.0 Gb/s, and now SATA 6.0 Gb/s is in the works. So again, figure out what you need before you buy.


Internal hard drives can be used as backup drives a few different ways. The simplest method is to install the drive as a secondary drive, or extra storage space, and use some type of software backup utility to make a copy of your chosen data from your main drive. We’ll talk about software options later, but most operating systems (excluding Vista) give you the ability to make backups of specific files and directories.

Another method is to use the drive as a mirror, or RAID 1 configuration. A mirror is simply a disk that is a duplicate of another disk or portion of a disk (like your photos), usually updated in real-time. For this, you’ll either need a piece of software or hardware (like a RAID controller) to manage the mirror operations.

The last major method of internal drive backup I’ll talk about is a full-blown RAID 5 configuration. This method will require at least 3 separate internal drives and a RAID controller to work (though I believe that some distributions of Linux can do this via software). A RAID 5 setup utilizes these 3 or more drives as a single drive with the data split between them in a manner that allows one drive to fail and your data to remain in-tact (of course the failed drive has to be replaced though).

Lucha Libre
Creative Commons License photo credit: Brian Auer


Internal hard drives are fast, cheap, and they stay out of your way. They won’t clutter up your desktop or get knocked off the printer stand because they’re bolted to the inside of your computer case. They also have fairly high capacities given the cost — 1TB drives are not so uncommon. Drop down to 500GB or so and you can pick one up for much less than $100.


still fighting the burger wars
Creative Commons License photo credit: Sumit

Well… for starters, it’s sitting right next to your main drive. This means that you’re not protected against theft, fire, lightning strikes, computer viruses, and spontaneous combustion. If something happens to destroy your main drive, it’s probably going to destroy your back up drive. It does protect against a random hard drive failure though, which is more common than most other catastrophes. The other downside to the internal drive is that you can’t pack it up and move it around or store it off-site without lugging your whole computer along or ripping it apart.


Extra internal drives can be a very feasible backup solution. They’re certainly better than nothing, and you have a couple of options for how you set up the drive to interact with your other internal drives. If you do choose to go this route, I’d strongly suggest a secondary backup plan (which is something I’d suggest anyway). Just don’t get stuck in the notion that you need an external hard drive to backup your photos — which is what we’ll be talking about in the next article for this series.


Book Review & Contest: Visions of Paradise

Where — or what — is heaven on Earth? This question was posed to the ranks of National Geographic photographers, and their answers are contained in the book Visions of Paradise. This collection of 155 images from 82 photographers takes us on an adventure through every corner of the world, on land, water, and air.

The photos are accompanied by the photographers’ own recollections and thoughts, providing us with a unique and intimate view into the bit of paradise presented. And each chapter is prefaced with an in-depth discussion of various aspects of the environment and human impact.

Visions of Paradise can be purchased directly from National Geographic or through


To celebrate the release of this book, National Geographic is hosting the Visions of Paradise Photography Contest. The general public is invited to submit images that best represent their unique vision of Heaven on Earth. The contest runs from October 21, 2008 to December 21, 2008, and each week 20 editor’s picks will be selected from the qualified entries and posted on the site where viewers can vote for their favorites. At the end of the contest, an expert panel of photographers and art directors will select a final list of 20 official winners. Winners will receive a customized copy of Visions of Paradise with their winning photograph as the cover image. Visit the contest website for more information.


Visions of Paradise is a collective publication from some of the most world renowned photographers of our time. 82 individuals attempt to present the audience with a vision of paradise based on their experience and travels. We are taken on a visual journey through places such as Canada’s Queen Charlotte Islands, the rain forests of Borneo, the Tallgrass Prarie National Preserve in Kansas, the ocean surrounding Hawaii, the city of Berlin, North Dakota, New York City, Syria, Darfur, Montana, and the list goes on.

Each of the three chapters (land, water, and air) is introduced by a different noted writer. Linda Kulman speaks to the issues facing our land, how we’ve impacted it, and what we can do to ensure it stays healthy. Joel Bourne Jr. dives into a discussion on the state of our world’s water, and offers some hopeful solutions. And Brian Doyle extols the miracles of air in a lyrical salute.

Each chapter is filled with brilliant and breathtaking imagery as large as life itself. Ranging from one to two page spreads, the photos contained in the book are easily appreciated and adored.


Many people were involved in the creation of this book, so it’s difficult to say who is truly the author. Bronwen Latimer had the premise for the book, and initially posed the question “where is heaven on Earth?” As I mentioned, Linda Lulman, Joel Bourne Jr., and Brian Doyle present us with words for thought prior to each chapter, or theme. And the 82 photographers all have a hand in contributing to both the visual and written portions of the book.

The end of the book also contains short photographer bios, which give you a glimpse of the talent and experience contained within the pages of the book. And in that list of photographers we can find Sam Abell, who also just released a book of his own titled The Life of a Photograph.


This is really a wonderful book to read and enjoy. It tends to contain more text than most photo books you’ll encounter, but the extra insight and understanding is well worth it. At 304 pages, this book requires several nights of reading — though, my wife managed to read it in one day (but she also has the superhuman ability to finish long novels over a weekend). But for the rest of us with sub-superpowers, it’ll take a few more days of getting lost in the photos and digesting the text.

I think the most enjoyable aspect of the book lies in its diversity of style. Photos from a single photographer are typically of similar artistic style and aesthetics. But in a book such as Visions of Paradise, the style is constantly fresh and changing.

Visions of Paradise can be purchased directly from National Geographic or through

Book Review: The Life of a Photograph

The folks at National Geographic approached me about reviewing an upcoming book from master photographer Sam Abell. The book, The Life of a Photograph, draws on 40 years of fieldwork from Sam and presents readers with a unique view of his work and the life of his photographs. I was also given the great pleasure of speaking with Sam on various topics surrounding his book and photography in general (and that alone would constitute a blog post). So this article is a bit of a mix between a book review and an interview.

The Life of a Photograph can be purchased directly from National Geographic or through

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a paid review, nor has it been reviewed or edited by the book’s author or publisher. The book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge. I am in no way affiliated with the book or the publisher of the book.


The Life of a Photograph is a collection of work from Sam Abell’s experience in the field as a National Geographic photographer. But the book isn’t about National Geographic or the stories covered by the photos — it’s about Sam Abell, his photos, and how they’ve taken on a life of their own. Sam has long been thought of as one of the most artistic photographers working for National Geographic, and this book is certainly filled with artistic photos — some having been previously published by National Geographic, and some being published for the first time ever.

The book is a hearty 208 pages filled with approximately 200 color photos (except for one). Each of the 11 chapters contains thoughts and anecdotes from Sam as he attempts to answer the question “What gives a photograph a life?” Sam has identified photos that have lasted through time and talks about the reason for this. The book was carefully designed by Sam and his editor to show each photo in a most truthful manner. No images were cropped or otherwise post-processed (except to preserve the image, not fix it). The photos are given plenty of room to be enjoyed, and no image bleeds up to the edge of the page or crosses the gutter of the book. The presentation of his work was of the utmost importance to Sam during the creation of this book.

One unique aspect of the book that stands out is the “two views” presentation seen on many of the pages within. Often times, a particular scene is photographed from multiple perspectives and the publication editors (such as those from National Geographic) have the task of choosing one that works best. The other photos are never seen by readers. Sam brings these photos back into the picture and opens up a whole new aspect of his work by showing “two views” from the same scene. This method of presentation has the effect of slowing down the reader because the visual relationship introduced. It also puts the reader in the shoes of the photographer and the magazine editor. All in all, the “two views” presentation is an amazing part of this book.


Sam Abell began his journey into photography during his childhood mainly thanks to his Father, Thad S. Abell. One of his first life-changing experiences was brought on by a photo Sam took of his Dad with his Dad’s Rollei in 1960. The photo went on to win a prize in a national contest in 1961, and this experience helped to shape Sam’s future. He also mentions that one of his major life-changing experiences was reading a simple book on the Great Depression by Dorothea Lange in the mid-1960′s. He was inspired by Lange’s ability to document the world in an artistic fashion, and Sam’s own work through his career has followed the same example.

Sam began his career with National Geographic in 1967, and has since contributed nearly 40 years of work in the field. Along the way, Sam has published several books of his own (The Photographic Life, Stay This Moment, and Seeing Gardens) in addition to several best-selling National Geographic publications (Lewis & Clark: Voyage of Discovery and The Mississippi and the Making of a Nation: From the Louisiana Purchase to Today).

Today, Sam has turned more of his attention to teaching and educating via seminars across the country. He’s also spending a great deal of time editing past photos from his body of work for use in possible future publications. But he certainly hasn’t put down the camera, and he still enjoys taking on side projects in the field and photographing for his personal diary using black & white film (which is the medium that is most dear to this lifelong photographer).

Though my interview with Sam Abell was quite informal, I learned a great deal from this man in just one hour. For a more formal interview with Sam, visit Photo District News for a verbatim discussion.


Some books are flipped through, where the reader glances at the photos within. Others demand to be read and appreciated, but can still be knocked out in a single sitting. While few photography books require a detailed inspection and re-inspection over many sittings, The Life of a Photograph is definitely one of them.

I do believe that every photographer out there can learn much from this book while being inspired by its imagery. I would even go so far as to say that it’s changed the way I look at photos. Sam’s style is incredibly quiet and simple (just like his approach to photography). Upon first glance, the photos don’t appear to be incredibly special — but then they immediately draw you into them and hit you with a profound sense of interest and meaning.

I leave you with Sam’s favorite quote from the book, as he talks about that 1960 photograph of his father:What I no longer remember is the day itself. It was in color wasn’t it? And the snow I knelt on to compose the picture in my dad’s Rollei — wasn’t it cold or wet or both? Surely we talked afterward — about trains or photography or what we’d do next. But all that has vanished. In its place is this photograph. The photograph is what I remember.

The Life of a Photograph can be purchased directly from National Geographic or through

PhotoDump 10-19-2008

More great stuff this week from the Epic Edits Flickr Pool! I’m glad to see that the group is still growing each week, but you guys are getting difficult to keep up with! We had nearly 350 new photos in the pool this week (and I make it a point to view each and every one of them).

Kelp Me by Brian AuerBallet by Christian KahlbomMorning Barn by kerry okraThings are looking up by reggiemateo. by javiypdx_9362.jpg by spudcheyneFarm by Vintage CarouselFall Vines by Ryan Opazi have new specs by poopooramaFlickr Meet Garage Studios Brighton by XA2/2Spiral Staircase by Chris Farrugia by TyCHit That Backflip by Christian KahlbomEskbank Railway Yards by the_wolf_brigadeRussell by icemanukflexing for the masses by vandyll.netLay It All Down For The Lord by Will FosterChloé by pawoliStop Staring At Me by rexauerHBW! Morning Glories by AIA GUY..Rwoodprater. vienna. by felicity crewstraight by andreeaonlineSunset Boulevard by Christian KahlbomSetup through the eye by fmedery41 weeks by lifeography™surviving by su3h3nryTo the West by Brian Auer by Kate FerraraThe Sheep look III by ergatesWelcome to the dark side. by the_wolf_brigadeConfusion (278/366) by bryanvillarinMounted Police in Verona (summer 2008) by Salvatore FalconeIn Red by TimTim74jingoism by XA2/2Over my Dead body by bassqeeI Poop Little People, Then Ride Away by Brian AuerBest Gnome by wbeemCorvette II by ergates by kajatlOct 11 1939 - Albert Einstein informs FDR of possibilities of atomic bomb by sharaffGolden Swan by visuellegedankenCamille by sebastian.yepes.inCondensation by Scott CoulterFreedom by javiyHelen9 by jleigh5282s039_frame12 by ★ Mathias Pastwa ★ by kidtrip712My baby shoes by udijwSunrise over the Grand by Gary Simmonsyellow fog by tomaschekFisher boy with his toys by robinn.Metropolis 1 by hitkaiserAnd you? by sebastian.yepes.inonieda lake 6 by rcolamecoLake by photographie.inTrakošćan Lake & Castle by deymosDSky's the Limit II by Christian KahlbomCollecting III by cmiperspeed junky by marvinnet.Awareness.... by *ojoyous1*

Link Roundup 10-18-2008

Another round of informative and inspirational photography stuff…

  • How To Use Vintage Lenses with Your DSLR
    Those good old manual lenses are the best! Here’s a rundown on how you can use them with your newer digial SLR.
  • Chidren Shot Dead in West Bank Village
    A sad story of the brutal reality that plagues the Middle East… two young boys shot in the head, and the story of the effect it’s had on their families.
  • Review: Cactus Wireless Flash Trigger V2s
    Beyond Megapixels
    Ever want the ability to fire an off camera flash without cables? Check out this review of the Cactus wireless flash trigger.
  • Discover How to Become a Photojournalist
    digital Photography School
    Tips and suggestions for improving your photojournalism skills. This includes things like focusing on people, submitting photos, and using the right equipment.
  • High Speed Photography
    Chase Jarvis
    Chase gives us a rundown on high-speed flash photography. And he uses the material from the Kung Fu project to show us how it’s done.