Dec 29, 2012

Get organized (and backed up) for 2013

Digital photos are great, but it does not take long to have a digital pile of images that is almost useless.  I know because I was pretty careless for a while with our family photos after getting a digital camera in 2005.  By 2008 when I started shooting seriously (and for other people) it was time to also get serious about taking care of the digital archive.

Here is a quick overview of my file organization and backup strategy for the thousands of photos I take each year.  The key is to make a system that works for you, and to be consistent in following it.

To be effective, any system needs to be easy to follow, searchable and secure.  The standard for backups is to have at least two copies of original files, and another copy in an off-site (or on-line) location.

With the current low price of hard drives and the size of digital photo files, creating DVD backups on a regular basis does not make sense for me.  That is still a good idea, but only if you also have a good place and organizing system for them as well.


Primary copies of my photos are located in my office.  I use one computer for both home and business archives, but I have separate external drives for each archive.  Each drive is actually a mirrored pair of drives, so no single drive failure will lose images.
2x 3TB drives for client images
2x 1TB drives for family photos
1TB drive in my iMac is backed up on another drive using Apple's Time Machine app.

Another 500gb drive is a Time Machine backup for my Macbook Pro.

In total that is 6 external drives.  Yes it is a lot to buy if you are just starting, but they build up over time as needs demand the storage.

My current offsite backups are on my Zenfolio site, but for 2013 I am going to use BackBlaze to back up both my photo archives and my other important data. At $5 per month it is peace of mind for both me and my clients.  If they lose their photos, I can replace them.

Other sites like flickr can be considered part of your backup solution as well, but it is a clunky way to go, and only for .jpg images.  Facebook and other social media sites re-size and compress images.  Do not think of that as part of your backup unless it is absolutely worst-case-scenario.

There is no way to predict hard drive failure.  They just fail.  Sometimes data is recoverable (for a fee).  Many times, it is not and all you have is what you printed.  Which is likely very little, am I right?

Also good... label your drives.  After a few years, capacity and purchase dates are hard to remember.  That way you can pick out the one you want if you need to replace it or move it.  Also, a good contact number just in case it gets lost or taken.

File Strategy
There are lots of ways to organize photos.  Apps like Lightroom, iPhoto, Aperture and whatever comes on a PC these days will import and organize your photos.  The apps alone become disorganized after a while (and they get slow) so I find it better to organize on the hard drive before moving the images into any editing or organizing platform.

Current work is stored on my iMac's hard drive as soon as I get it home.

Desktop Folders

Separate folders from my desktop hold business photos, family photos, and other files related to the photo business.

Within those folders are additional folders containing a calendar year.  Then a folder for each month of the year.  Notice that the folder names start with a number to keep them in order.
2012 Folder

Finally, within each month are folders containing the files from individual projects.  Descriptive names make it easy to find projects within the given timeframe.
December Folder

Also, I create a new Lightroom catalog for each month so that the software does not bog down.  That catalog is stored in that month's folder so that it travels with the images.

As time goes by and I no longer need ready access to a month's images, I move the entire month at once to the external drives to conserve working hard drive space on the computer.

Other considerations...
Add keywords and descriptive info to your photo files when you import.  Along with copyright information, I try to add good descriptors to photo files when I import into Lightroom.  This metadata is attached to the photo files and travels with them (and new versions that you create) whenever you send them out.

I like to keep my photo numbers intact, as well as including the original photo number on edited files.  That allows you to keep track of which original file you were working with to create the new one.  If someone needs a copy or revision of a file, you can easily find it by number rather than scrolling through dozens of images.

There are other ways to go, of course.  A quick search will find you other methods and strategies.  The key is to do something and be consistent.

Dec 28, 2012

New tools for 2013

Don't call them Christmas presents :)

In an effort to expand capabilities for 2013, my end-of-the-year budget went to some new lighting gear.

A couple of new studio strobes (including the ring light above) will make it possible to get some unique looks.  And best of all is new battery power to take lights out into the world to make beautifully lit photos anywhere you want to go.

Of course I have to test things out on my favorite little model.

As a ring light...

And as a big softbox ...

And with the Paul C. Buff Einstein in a beauty dish back by the tree for separation light..

Next up to test... the Einstein unit has action-stopping very short flash duration.  I need to try it out next time I visit my friends at Satori Martial Arts.

Dec 22, 2012

UIL 4A Division II Championship Game

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In his typical style, Lancaster head football coach Chris Gilbert was cautious about his team's chances ahead of the 4A division II UIL championship game on Friday night.  Unfortunately for Lancaster, while the Cedar Park Timberwolves were a pretty good team, it was the Tigers' own mistakes and in the second half that let the game get away.  Here are some action shots from the night.

Lancaster started fast with a quick score and tough defense for most of the first half.  Cedar Park got some momentum at the end of the first half to go to the locker rooms tied at 7.
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Lancaster could not keep a drive going in the second half.  This interception ended one and seemed to demoralize the Tigers.
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Dec 19, 2012

Christmas circles....


With a severe (but short-lived) thunderstorm rolling through the area, I made preparations for lightning pictures on the front porch as usual.

It was not so good shooting because of low clouds, but there was lots of lightning in them.  Also, I did not do a very good job of prefocusing the camera..  this was about as good as I got...

But then I was going the the photos and noticed the look of an accidental shutter trip as I was picking up the tripod to go outside... the Christmas tree in all its trippy glory.

Sort of a magical weirdness to it.

The storm blew through in a hurry, so I was still plenty awake to play with more tree pics.  And I had the tripod setup.  Sooo.....    How about the angel on top, lit by a handheld flash during a long exposure, then spin the camera around while the shutter is still open?

This (and the pic at the top) were my favorites.  Not perfect, but a fun exercise anyway.

Have a great Thursday.

Dec 17, 2012

Monday Photo Roundup - Dec. 17


Basketball season is in full swing, and already, the problem is finding unique places to shoot from.  For basketball and other court-sports, timing and catching emotion or expressions becomes key....

Gigapixel-sized panoramas are not new, but this one of Mount Everest is surely impressive.  Zoom in for a sense of scale.

Since you obviously like blogs with links... here is a list of Photoshelter's best blogs of the year.

Once again, a non-attentive photog gets killed, this time by a train.  A Union Pacific police officer made it pretty clear to me once (for a newspaper story) that if you are on the tracks anywhere other than a safe road crossing, you are trespassing.  And most of the people killed by trains are trespassers.  It happens more often than you would think, too.  23 fatal and 29 non-fatal trespasser/train incidents in Texas this year.

Dan Winters is one of the photographers I want to be when I grow up.  Here is an LA Times piece with him.

Still Christmas shopping?  There is still time...

One more basketball shot.. as with any sport, you are constantly dodging referees...
Have a great week!

Dec 14, 2012

Fun with gifs part two

After yesterday's fun with some animated .gifs, I noticed another perfect opportunity for more.  Students performed with jump ropes and hula hoops at halftime of this evening's Terrell vs Tyler John Tyler basketball game.

To make these, I just fired a high-speed burst of the action, processed them, and joined them using an online .gif maker.  This one was very user friendly and allowed more images in the mix than some others (some limit to 3).  Google will find you many others if you search 'animated gif maker.'

And, for you Gosnells...

Have a great weekend.

Dec 13, 2012

Quick pic - Flying time

I told Jim over at Terrell Daily Photo that he should make a Gif out of something the other day.  I haven't made one in a while, so I decided to take my own advice....  

Seemed appropriate for this shot because he certainly never got tired of being tossed in the air.

Dec 10, 2012

Monday Photo Roundup - Dec. 10. And a large green man.

I was asked to so some simple head shots for a new ladies' mentoring group at church.  Which means trying to get the most out of a simple set up in a small space.  White cloth on the wall, two lights and a reflector and I'm pretty happy with the results.

Being the official White House photographer would be a dream job, even though it is pretty much giving up four years of your life.  Apparently things get really crazy on overseas trips.

Petapixel has so many interesting things.. just browse around over there.  This made a neat series - Everyday objects as sea creatures.

Photo-geekiness alert.  Reuters selected their 95 photos of the year.  And here is a breakdown of cameras, lenses and camera settings that were used to get them.

I saw this creative baby belly series a couple of places this week... maternity photogs, top that!

The Canon 6D looks like an interesting combination of features and price.  I have been pondering a 5D MkIII to replace my aging original 5D, but the wifi control could be useful from time to time.

If you are looking for fun photog Christmas gifts, I heartily recommend Photojojo.  Because most photog time is spent at the computer, the most useful gift may be these.

Speaking of which, you are almost out of time to do photo Christmas cards.  And you will need to come with something pretty clever to top these.

It is time for year-in-review photo sharing.  The Atlantic's InFocus blog is a good place to start, in three parts.  One.  Two.  Three.

From the flickr blog... use your lenses and glass objects in a different way.

It isn't easy being green.
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Dec 8, 2012

So close ... Five seconds of playoff football

I made the drive up to Allen's Eagle Stadium to shoot Mesquite Poteet taking on Lancaster in 4A division 2 playoff action.  The $60 million facility is just as nice as you would expect.  Most importantly, the lights are very good.

Poteet had no real solution for a strong defensive effort by the Tigers, but they got the ball down by 8 points with about 1:20 left to try to tie it up and no timeouts.  After some heroics and penalties, the Pirates had five seconds to score.

Up to this point, mind you, it had been a fairly mediocre effort on my part.  Nothing dramatic or grand, just decent shots of regular football action.

So on the last play it was a gift to have QB Tanner Ramsey send the ball my way.
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Receiver Nathaniel Gaines and defender Dakota Austin jumped for the pass at about the 5-yard-line, but neither secured the ball.
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Gaines came down under it and willed it into his hand... a tremendous concentration effort...
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As he turned to try to bull his way into the endzone, Austin got help from teammates and they finally stopped Gaines short.
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With a referee coming to block my shot, of course.
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And to think I had considered leaving at halftime.  Sometimes it really is the last play of the game.

Here is former Terrell Tribune staffer Cliff Gibson's game story at

I look forward to seeing how far former Terrell coach Chris Gilbert can take his Lancaster team.

Have a great weekend.

Dec 3, 2012

Monday Photo Roundup - Dec. 3

Oh my, December already.  If you are wondering, I only want one thing for Christmas – good-natured, adventurous photo subjects.  And B&H gift cards.

And to start it off, another image from the Dallas Christmas parade.. another snap by the lovely wife.
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Last week I mentioned "motion fine art"...  I think these slow-motion videos fall in that description.  Be sure to read the details... these were created from single still images, not as stop-motion.

These luminous plastic light fixtures are interesting...  if they can be shaped and molded in any shape, there could be huge possibilities for constant-source photo and video light there. (via @halfpress)

Always a good reminder - we rely on our eyes, but treat them poorly.  Keep 'em in good shape...

Which reminds me ... there are blind photographers out there making great images.  What would it mean to you if you could never appreciate the art you created.  Would you keep doing it? More to check out here.  here. and here.   And the flickr group.

Stock photography rarely gets to be artsy.  And it can be, of course, pretty bad. (via @jdblundell)

I have several friends in law enforcement, and they know all to well how easy it is to make them look bad with a camera.  So, for them, it is good to see this image of an NYPD officer go viral.
*** Update ... And to show that the problems of homelessness and poverty require a much larger solution than simple provisions, the homeless man is shoeless again.  Would it have made a difference to buy $20 shoes instead of nice boots?  Hard to say.

Have a great week, everybody!

Dec 1, 2012

Parade faces

We had a fun family outing to the Dallas Christmas parade.  Of course, the primary goal was to have fun with the family, but as a photographer, it was a fun exercise to catch expressions, try to use clean backgrounds and just have some fun with it.

As it turns out, the lovely wife does a pretty good job of that.  I handed her the camera while I held the 19-month-old, and she got this.
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About the only clean background (using 24-70mm on a 40D) was catching folks against segments of the building across the street...
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Lots of waving going on, of course.
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Lots of girls with red dots on their cheeks...
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Some bands only march, some go much further.
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The youngest folks seemed to have the best time
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And if you wonder what happened to Santa... well, he's stuck in the chimney.
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