Monthly Archives: November 2008

Gear Swap Project at DIYPhotography.net

DIYPhotography.net is running a cool project where you’re asked to swap gear with a buddy and write up a review of the borrowed equipment. This is a neat idea because we often become desensitized to the pros and cons of our own equipment, but these things are very obvious when using new gear. The project gives you the opportunity to experience something new while also contributing a resource to the online community (your review).

The guidelines for the project are simple: find a partner, swap gear, go shooting with your partner, write a review, and post some photos. The gear swap could be anything including cameras, lenses, lighting equipment, tripods, etc. Some good ideas might include exchanging your Canon for a Nikon, your dSLR for a P&S, your digital camera for analog, your super-telephoto for a super-wide, your zoom for a prime, and so on.

The project is also a contest, and three winners will be picking up some two-week equipment rentals from BorrowLenses.com. First place gets a camera/lens combo, second gets a camera body, and third gets a lens (the specific bodies and/or lenses will be chosen by the winners). Also, the contest is only open to US residents due to the nature of the prizes and the location of the sponsor.

As a judge for the contest, I’ll be looking for quality reviews that are packed with good information and accounts of the experience. I’ll also be judging the entries on creativity and presentation, so put a little extra time and effort into it — it’ll go a long way. Jim Talkington will also be choosing a winner for the contest.

OFFICIAL PROJECT ANNOUNCEMENT AT DIYPHOTOGRAPHY.NET

Link Roundup 11-15-2008

Keeping Up With Flickr Via RSS

If you have more than a handful of contacts on Flickr, you’ll have a hard time keeping up with all the new photos uploaded to their streams. It’s probably not the end of the world if you miss a few photos here and there, but it’s nice to have the ability to keep up with certain people of interest.

I recently started subscribing to the RSS feeds of a small group of close friends and other people whose photos I don’t want to miss. It’s really great not having to remember to visit every single person’s Flickr stream each and every day. Now, I just let the photos drop into my feed reader and I can quickly decide if I want to see it larger or leave a comment on the Flickr page.

You can subscribe to people’s Flickr feeds at the bottom of their photo stream — you should see something similar to the image above. You can also subscribe to the group pools or specific sets from your contacts.

RED Gives Birth to the Modular Revolution

RED Digital Cinema has announced some revolutionary news regarding two of their new camera lines: Scarlet and Epic (hey, cool name!). But these are more than just cameras — they represent entire collections of interchangeable and modular components. While RED cameras are aimed at the cinematography crowd, there are a few things that we photographers should pay attention to.

First of all, the cameras have the ability to shoot motion and stills. We’re seeing the same thing happening from the dSLR market with the Nikon D90 and the Canon 5DII. So RED is bridging that same gap, but from the other side. Eventually, I’d expect that the line between still and motion cameras will be hard to distinguish. In fact, doesn’t the camera below look an awful lot like a medium format dSLR?

Aside from the actual hardware that they’ve announced (which is quite impressive), the real revolution here is the modular approach they’ve taken. You pick out the “brain” (or sensor/processor), you pick out the accessories that you need, and you pick out your lenses. How cool would that be in the dSLR market? When something like a new sensor comes out, you would just replace the sensor unit rather than the entire camera. Or maybe you’re fine with your sensor but you want to upgrade your old 2″ LCD and backpanel.

You get the idea… Does anybody else out there think the concept is downright amazing? Is this kind of approach even useful for digital photographers? Be sure to check out the links below for more information.

OFFICIAL SCARLET AND EPIC ANNOUNCEMENT FROM RED
SUMMARY, SPECS, AND THOUGHTS FROM 1001 NOISY CAMERAS

Photo Backup on DVD: Love or Hate?

Love, Hate
Creative Commons License photo credit: A.gonzalez

My last post about backing up photos on DVD immediately brought out the comments… mostly negative regarding the use of the medium as a feasible backup solution. Hey, everyone is more than entitled to their own opinion, and I even said right up front that when it comes to DVD backups photographers either love it or hate it.

FOLLOW THIS SERIES OF ARTICLES!
TOC — PHOTO BACKUP GUIDE
BACK — DVD
NEXT — DVD PHOTO BACKUP… AGAIN

So I’m actually very curious about this topic now. Am I the only one left who uses (and likes) DVD backups? I was pretty certain that I knew of more than a few photographer who backup on DVD. Or are the other DVD-lovers just not speaking up? Let’s find out!

{democracy:59}

And when you’re done voting here, check out the results from the last photo backup poll: “Have You Ever Needed to Use Your Photo Backup?” Over 50% of those who voted have lost photos at some point. Luckily most of those photographers had a photo backup, but there is a portion that either lost the backup too or didn’t have one.

Photo Backup: DVD

Information Superhighway
Creative Commons License photo credit: nickwheeleroz

I hope you’re all not getting too tired of this backup stuff — I promise, we’re winding down soon. This article deals with a form of photo backup that people either love or hate: the DVD.

FOLLOW THIS SERIES OF ARTICLES!
TOC — PHOTO BACKUP GUIDE
BACK — RAID TOWER
NEXT — PHOTO BACKUP ON DVD: LOVE OR HATE?

After this article, we’ll hit on one last form of backup. Then we’ll talk about software, strategy, and general advice. So stay tuned!

THE BASICS

The DVD, or more specifically the Recordable DVD, is basically a plastic disc with some other stuff in/on it. DVD’s are optical discs, so there are actual pits and bumps in the media (or variations in dye color) that make up the data (kinda like a record, but different). But regardless of their anatomy and inner workings, I think most of us are familiar with the DVD. To backup on DVD, you’ll need a DVD recorder and the blank writable discs.

As technology advances, so do the formats and capacities of the DVD. The most common disc is the single layer DVD with a capacity of 4.7GB. These discs come in various flavors, such as DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, and DVD-RAM. There’s really no difference between the – (dash) and the + (plus) variations, other than the fact that some recorders are built for one or the other (but there are also multi-format recorders out there). The RW indicator just means that the disc is rewritable, and I would caution against using such discs for backing up photos. DVD-RAM is another rewritable format, so I’d stay away from it for backups (though they do have a very long shelf life). You can expect to find DVD-R and DVD+R discs for about $0.30 per disc when purchased in bulk.

Then we have Dual Layer technology, with a capacity of 8.5GB. And again, we have the -R and +R variations. The downside to these discs is that they cost more money per GB. You can expect to pay about $0.90 per disc when purchased in bulk.

And now we have Blu-ray… the latest format for optical discs. These are way new in comparison to the older formats, so they’re not widely used yet. But the capacity is quite amazing at 25GB for single layer discs and 50GB for dual layer discs. The major downside to Blu-ray is the cost. You can expect to pay about $10 per disc, and good luck finding them in bulk.

OK, so you have a lot of options. My point here is that you need to be aware of which hardware you already have (because most new computers come standard with a DVD recorder). Don’t buy DVD+R if you have a DVD-R recorder — it won’t work. And don’t buy dual layer discs if you only have a single layer recorder — it won’t work either.

BACKING UP

I think I’ve said this a couple of times, but I’ll say it again: Don’t use rewritable discs for backing up your photos! Two reasons — they’re more expensive, and they have the potential to be overwritten or erased. The whole idea behind using a DVD to backup is that it’s cheap and permanent (well… sort of). They’re cheap enough that you can recopy the data every 5 or 10 years to new discs, and they’re permanent enough that you don’t have to worry about erasing them by accident.

If you have a DVD recorder, you should also have some software that goes with it. The backup process for DVDs is a bit more manual and labor-intensive than other methods we’ve discussed, but it’s not terrible. Most software now is just drag, drop, and hit a button.

If you decide to use DVDs to backup your photos, you’ll have to decide when those backups will take place. Some photographers like to immediately backup to DVD after the photos hit the hard drive. Others, like myself, just do a DVD backup every week or every month. Either way is fine, just as long as you’re fine with it.

Some photographers also like to use archival quality DVDs for backing up their photos. These can run about $2.50 per disc and they claim to be good for 100 years. Personally, I just use regular discs (but not the uber-cheap ones) and I write the recording date on them (along with the photos contained) — I figure I’ll re-copy them to fresh discs every 5 or 10 years just to be safe. Plus, as capacities go up and prices come down, I can condense my DVD archive as the years go by.

Girl power
Creative Commons License photo credit: aeter

STRENGTHS

As I mentioned above, DVDs are cheap and (mostly) permanent. At $0.30 per single layer disc, you’re paying about $.06 per GB. For a 500GB hard drive to be economically equivalent, you’d have to find one on sale for $32. So anybody who says they don’t use DVDs because of the cost is full of it. You don’t have to use the archival quality discs — regular ones are better than nothing at all. But if you want to invest in the expensive stuff, go for it.

And as I also mentioned above, the data recorded to a DVD (not a rewritable DVD though) is permanent. You can’t erase it by accident. You can’t overwrite it by accident. You simply burn it and stick it in a binder or a case and stow it away somewhere. I like to keep mine offsite — it’s easy just to bring new discs to the location and add them to the stash. No back and forth business.

WEAKNESSES

Effervescing Elephants
Creative Commons License photo credit: Dude Crush

The main downside to a DVD is how fragile they can be. The discs are prone to scratches and dings that could ruin all the data (especially the really cheap no-name brands). It’s best to not handle them any more than is necessary. Get a binder, throw them in the sleeves, and don’t take them out unless you need them. Or put them in jewel cases and leave them on the shelf (though this adds considerable cost per disc). Along the same topic of fragility, DVDs will age and go bad after some number of years.

Another issue with the DVD is the capacity. Unless you have a large budget, you’ll likely be using the old 4.7GB discs. You could potentially be splitting up a single photo shoot across multiple discs. If you’re prone to taking a lot of photos like that, you might consider dual layer discs just for the convenience. And once you have a large collection of DVDs, they take up quite a bit of space in comparison to a hard drive (another reason I like the binders or books).

And the last weakness isn’t so much with the DVD, but the person using the DVD backup method. You have to remember to actually do it. You can’t rely on your fancy automated software to pick up a disc, put it in your computer, and make an up-to-date backup. You’ve got to have a schedule, and you’ve got to stick to it.

CONCLUSIONS

If you couldn’t tell by now, I’m a fan of the DVD backup. I would recommend this method to all photographers. It makes for a great primary or secondary backup solution and it’s dirt cheap.

Sure, it’s not as automated as some other methods and it can even be a little tedious, but burning a couple DVDs each week or month is certainly less stressful than losing all your photos in the event of a catastrophe.

PRODUCTS

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Link Roundup 11-08-2008

  • Photographing the desert night with Troy Paiva
    PhotoNetCast
    In this episode of PhotoNetCast we interview Troy Paiva, a well-established night photographer and urban explorer. The guy is such a riot, this is definitely worth a listen.
  • Studying Light in Photography
    Beyond Megapixels
    An overview of the various aspects of light as it pertains to photography — quantity, temperature, direction, and quality.
  • Goodbye George W. Bush!
    ZORIAH
    A glimpse into the inner thoughts of soldiers, written on the walls of latrines.
  • How to Improve Your Wedding Photography
    digital Photography School
    A few simple tips to help improve your wedding photography game… if that’s your thing.
  • 5 Surprising Places to Sell your Photos
    Photopreneur
    If you’re trying to sell your photos, here are a few venues you might want to check out.
  • How to Photograph a Conference – 10 Tips
    digital Photography School
    If you ever attend a conference and you have the opportunity to bring your camera, here are some killer tips for getting the most out of the experience.
  • Image Optimization For The Web, Part I
    Digital Photo Pro
    A quick rundown of some basic things you should be thinking about when producing images for web display.
  • How to Shoot Super Macro Photos
    digital Photography School
    Here’s an old trick to getting WAY beyond 1:1 with your macro photography. I’ve tried this particular setup, and it does work, but it certainly takes some patience.
  • Basic Travel Photography
    Photodoto
    Traveling to new places can present may great opportunities for photos — just don’t fall into the typical “tourist” mode! Here are some tips to keep your travel photos fresh and original.

Will You Help Me Stock My Darkroom?

I’ve got an enlarger and a whole mess of film, so it’s about time that I start making black & white prints. This is something I’ve been anxious to do since I started shooting film earlier this year. The problem is that I’ve only got the enlarger and none of the other items necessary to make a print.

It's Lonely Out HereWhat Lies BeyondMetro TimetablesKiteboarderMarlinSubway Shuffle

After pricing things out, I’ve determined that it will cost about $300 to have a fully stocked darkroom (aka the kids bathroom). That’s a chunk of change that I can’t fully justify quite yet, so I’ve devised a plan that could make it possible — but it all depends on you guys.

Big White BoxesRescue BoardThe LifeguardBeach GhostsLifeguardCount the Lines

I’m considering offering black & white prints (silver gelatin process using traditional darkroom methods) at a seriously low price for a very limited time. My hope is that I can raise enough money to cover the cost of the darkroom supplies and maybe a little extra so I can buy film developing supplies too.

IF there seems to be enough interest, I’ll probably offer the following items from my collection of public b/w film photos:

  • $20 for an 8 x 10 print, not signed
  • $100 for a 16 x 20 or 11 x 14 print, signed and limited

The price includes shipping, to any location (I’m assuming that the average cost of shipping will be less than $10). If I go ahead and do this, I’ll probably take orders for a month or two at the rates listed above. After that point, only signed prints will be available at the typical $300+ range (because they are limited prints, typically 30 to 50). So…

{democracy:58}

And as always, feel free to comment on this little experiment before I decide to pull the trigger.