Monday, December 29, 2008

Piracy or loss - what's your greatest fear?

I've just completed the reorganization of all my digital images. After this last school session, I had several hundred images scattered all over the place across two computers and two portable hard drives. Don't ask. It's a long, ugly story. Anyhoo, it got me to thinking about data safety and storage systems. I think I've come up with a pretty good system for my photographs and I thought it would be a good idea to share it. But first, a question: what do you fear most, someone stealing your images off the net or losing your data due to a drive failure? Well, I'll tell you what I fear most: hard drive failure, no question about it. First of all, if you're really that fearful of someone stealing your images, you shouldn't have uploaded any of them in the first place. But if you don't upload any of them, how can you share them with anyone? It's a catch-22 but I don't worry about it that much. Anyone who has ever tried to get a photograph sold knows that if anyone downloads one of your images for the purpose of making money off it, well, best of luck, dude. I mean, if you're going to go to that much trouble to market a photograph, you might as well start with a photograph of your own because, hell, that's the easy part. I think the worst that could happen is if someone integrated one of your images in to their web design or a pamphlet without crediting you for it. And I think that's not very likely. Web and print designers are artists too, and plagiarism among our own kind is actually sort of rare. No, my friend, I firmly believe that your biggest fear should be catastrophic hard drive failure.

I spent 21 years as a software maintenance tech on a variety of different computer systems. When I started, we were using punch cards and paper tape. Trust me, I've seen it all. It's not a question of "Will your computer fail?" but rather "When will your computer fail?" That hard drive you have all your digital images stored on will die and take all your images with it. It will happen. It's just a matter of time. So be prepared. It's not that difficult, really. Here's what I do:

35mm - this is easy. Whether its slides or negatives, the film itself is my ultimate backup. I only have a few slides and negatives scanned. The originals are in a climate-controlled safe. If I have a system failure and lose all my digital data, the 35mm slides and negatives can simply be re-scanned. It would be a pain in the ass, but I wouldn't lose anything.

4x5 film - same deal. I shoot Velvia slide film in my 4x5 camera and all the originals are stored in the safe along with the 35mm slides. Again, I only have the choice ones scanned and if I lose a hard drive, I simply re-scan the originals.

This is one reason why a lot of people are sticking with film. Another reason: density. As scanning technology increases, you can always re-scan those slides and negatives and capture even more digital data. With digital originals, on the other hand, you only have what you have and there isn't any more.

Digital originals - I use three hard drives, but you could get by with two if you had to. Let me say this, you should be backing up to a minimum of two separate hard drives in the first place. Period. No exceptions. You could use CDs, but I find that hard drives are easier and getting less expensive all the time. Just today I found a 1TB Western Digital external hard drive for $139 at my local Best Buy. Man, I can remember a day not too long ago when that much hard drive space would have easily cost you a cool grand or more. And I'm not talking the digital stone age either, I mean just a couple of years ago. So at these prices, there's really no reason to not go with portable hard disks. Hell, 160GB can be had for less than $50. I'm not sure you could get the equivalent in CD storage for that money. So go get yourself a couple of portable hard drives and keep your precious digital negatives safe and sound. And here's a file system that works for me.

File naming conventions - This is very important. At first, it might seem logical to name your digital negatives by subject matter. But when you start to think about how you're going to keep everything straight as the years go by and the number of images add up, this concept starts to break down. For example, many photographers spend years concentrating on one subject i.e., trees, waterfalls, New York City, Yellowstone Park, fly fishing etc. For me, it makes more sense to develop a system that is primarily chronological but that allows for additional, general categorization within the file name i.e., designation of camera or film type etc. And I'm speaking now from 30 years experience in trying to keep track of thousands of photographs. So here's how my file names break down:

Where D200 = camera and/or film type. In this case, my Nikon D200.
Where 1208 = month/year. In this case, December, 2008.
Where 123 = sequence number ranging from 001 to 999.

So this file name automatically tells me that this image was shot with my D200 in December of 2008 and was the 123rd image shot that month with that camera/media.

Let's look at another. This time, a scanned film image:

Where 45 = 4x5 large-format film
Where TC = "transparency, color" (slide film)
Where 0607 = June, 2007
Where 003 = Third 4x5 color slide shot that month

Here's another one:

Where 35 = 35mm film
Where BW = black and white negative film
Where 0505 = May, 2005
Where 025 = Twenty-fifth black and white 35mm image shot that month

And finally, this example:

Where 35 = 35mm film
Where TC = "transparency, color" (slide film as opposed to print, or, color negative film)
Where 0882 = August, 1982
Where 035 = Thirty-fifth 35mm color slide image for the month of August, 1982.

So you can see that my file naming convention accounts for camera/media type as well as month/year and a unique sequential number. This makes it easy to keep digital files from different cameras and media separated and organized. The file names don't have to indicate subject matter because that's what IPTC data is for. Further, the date/sequence number concept makes it much easier in the long run to keep track of all my backups. And here's why: by using this naming system as I accumulate images throughout the year, at the end of the year, I have all the images I will every have for that year. There's no going back. I may shoot more images of the Willamette River, but I will never turn back the hands of time. So when I archive my images, I know If I've properly archived that "one special image" of the river. I may shoot more images of the Willamette River, but they will get archived with the later dated stuff. And because I have collected all the images I will ever have for that year, I can place all those images on one portable hard drive and store it in my safe. With the price of hard disk space as cheap as it is, I can afford to have a small, portable hard drive for every year. For example, for 2008, all of my digital negatives for the entire year amount to less than 50GB. So I'll only need a 50GB portable hard drive for archiving. If I used subject matter for my file names, I'd have to figure out a way to include new images to older folders that already exist on archived disks. I don't want to think about that. So, here's how I do it:

During the year, I use two portable hard drives and one network drive: an Epson P-3000 (40GB); a 1TB network hard drive; and a 20 to 50GB portable drive for archiving. After I've captured my images in-camera, I transfer them to the Epson. The Epson has a CF card reader built-in. Once I've downloaded or transferred the originals from the CF card to the Epson, I then make an immediate backup copy to the 1TB hard drive that I have installed on my home network as a shared network drive. At this point, I have two solid backups of my originals. Only then will I delete them off my CF card. Once I have them on my network hard drive I can use Adobe Bridge to rename them and update all the IPTC data and keywords.

On the hard drive, I have my file system set up thus: photos > digital negatives > year > month. As I accumulate files, I can archive once a week to a smaller (20 to 50Gb), portable hard drive which I keep in a climate-controlled safe. I can append to this smaller drive as I accumulate images throughout the year. At the end of the year, or whenever the drive fills up, that smaller drive is "closed out" so-to-speak. I can also use my laptop as a fourth drive. Plus, the Epson p-3000 is a 40Gb unit and I can store a lot on that throughout the year. So I can make sure that at any given time, I have at least three solid copies of all my digital negatives.

This system also affords me the security of "off-site" storage - specifically - the archive disks in my safe. Off-site storage is absolutely critical. It's not enough to have an image on your computer and a backup on the portable hard drive you have connected to your USB port on the back. Because the external hard drive will save you if your computer crashes, but it won't save you if your house catches on fire. Off-site storage is the only thing that will save your precious images in the case of fire, flood or natural disaster. You can get off-site storage in several ways. You can buy storage online and upload your images to a remote server. This can be expensive but has several advantages. These storage systems are maintained professionally in climate-controlled rooms with power backup systems and the whole shootin' match. For serious pros, this is often the best option. Plus, your images are available from anywhere in the world. If you're a traveling shutterbug, this may be the deal for you. Me, I happen to have the good luck of having a separate studio apart from my home and I keep my archive disks in a safe there. If I didn't have that, I would store my archives at my sister's home a few hours away. If I didn't have a relative close by, I would consider storing my archive disks in a locker somewhere at the University or my gym. Yea, a gym locker. Odds are, unless you make an issue of letting people know you have valuables stored there, it's unlikely that someone would break the lock to get to your stuff. Afterall, what do most people store in their gym locker? Gym clothes. Who'd want to steal those? And besides, suppose someone did break the lock and steal your hard drive? What would you lose? A hard drive. You still have all your images on another drive, right? The point is, you really should have an off-site storage location for your archived images.

When someone's house burns down, the things they always miss are the photographs. Just about everything else can be replaced or reproduced. Not photographs. And if those photographs are your business or passion? Well then...

Saturday, December 27, 2008 4.0!

My new and improved website is online. The content hasn't changed much, but the layout is leaner. I think it looks better.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Why do I bother?

I often wonder why I bother with this blog. Seriously, does anybody ever read this? I think this entire exercise is literary masturbation. Well, anyway Adorama is having a sale on custom printing. Through the end of the month, you can get 16x20 prints on Kodak metallic paper for $7.95 a pop. That's a smokin' deal, bub. So I'm preparing some of my 4x5 landscapes. These were created via the same method I have begun to outline in my Large Format Digital Photography For Less series. I think these will look great on 16x20 inch prints. By the way, I discovered today that Firefox is not a color-calibrated browser. I was not aware of this until now. Safari is. I don't know about any of the others such as IE or Netscape (is Netscape even around any more?) Anyhoo, this explains why my images were losing so much saturation when viewed directly in my browser.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

New Stuff!

I got my D200 back from Dotson's, having had the sensor cleaned, and I've shot a lot of stuff over the last several days. Here's a few select images.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Large format digital photography for less - post no. 1

While most people are investing heavily in the latest digital technology, I made a move in the opposite direction – more or less. For about $1000, I put together a large-format digital system that will put any DSLR to shame.

Contrary to popular belief, large format cameras are alive and well and if you're truly serious about creating the highest quality images possible – particularly landscapes – you should be using one.

There are a lot of damn good reasons to get into large format photography but I’ll give you the best one: large format photography will force you to be an artist. A large format camera demands your attention, not only to the process, but to your vision. You have to take your time and really think about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. The amount of time and trouble required to get a single image from your large format camera demands that you stop and consider the possible rewards from all that work. You can’t just go popping off shots right and left with a large format camera. You have to stop and think about what you’re going to photograph and how you’re going to photograph it.

The University of Oregon offers a large format course. I’ve never taken it. What little I know, I’ve learned from doing. Over the next several posts, I’ll share this meager knowledge with you. Let me begin with an overview of my equipment. The two primary pieces of my 100-megapixel system (that’s right, 100 megapixels) are a Crown Graphic press camera and an Epson V700 flatbed film scanner. The Crown Graphic cost me about $375 and the scanner was about $500. In addition, I have about $200 in accessories like a solid, German-made tripod, a focusing ocular, a quickloader, a good bag, etc. I’ll get to all that later. For now, let’s look at the camera. For everything Crown Graphic, visit the authorities at The Crown Graphic is a solid metal, large-format camera that was popular among journalists from the 20s until the mid 60s. has a lot of information so there’s no need for me to go into all of it here. But, let me say if you want to get started in large-format photography, the Crown Graphic is a great way to go. I bought mine off EBay but I got lucky. I got a real cherry. You might not. Beware. You really should have a look at the camera before you pay for it. Many of these cameras were well cared for (like mine). Many were not. Check at your local camera store for used stuff. You’d be surprised at what might be lurking behind the counter. Also, check online classifieds like Craig’s List. Often, people have these cameras lying around in their attic and don’t know what they’ve got. I bought mine, for example, from a guy who’d inhereted it from his grandfather. You can even find large format cameras at estate sales. Sometimes people know what they’ve got, sometimes they don’t. I’m not suggesting you take advantage of people, but I don’t see anything wrong with taking advantage of an opportunity.

Graflok back. It’s not something you absolutely need. It’s nice however, because it allows you more flexibility in accessories and film holders such as roll film holders for medium format film. My Crown Graphic was built in 1947. It has a spring back, not a graflok back. Because of this, I paid a lot less. I use a Fuji Quickload holder and the spring back works just fine for me. I don’t miss the graflok back. But, I don’t use roll film. Frankly, I don’t see the benefit of using roll film in a 4x5 camera. If I’m going to pack a 4x5 camera all the way to a location worth shooting with a large format camera, I’m going to use large format film. Otherwise, I’d use a medium format camera and save myself the headache of all that weight and bulk. But suit yourself. If you plan on using the camera for landscapes, as I do, the earlier model spring back is not a showstopper.

Lenses. Large format cameras have been around since the beginning of photography so lenses for them are widely available on the used market. The Crown Graphics often came from the factory with a standard lens of 90mm, 127mm or 135mm. My camera has a 135mm Optar lens made by Wollensak. It’s a perfectly good lens. The only other lens I’d like to have is a 90mm. You can pick these lenses up used for a couple of hundred bucks. Chances are, if you buy a Crown Graphic, it will come with a 90, 127 or 135mm lens. That lens will be just fine, trust me. For more information on large format lenses, read this:

Movements. The Graphics do not have the full range of movements you’ll find in true field (view) cameras. They were not designed to be used as view cameras. They were designed to be used hand-held. So, if you’re interests are in architecture photography, the Crown Graphic probably isn’t for you. You’ll need to go for a true field camera with full movements. Still, the Graphics are an easy and inexpensive way to get good results if you’re just getting started in large format.

Large format cameras do not have built-in light meters. There's nothing "auto" about them. They're completely manual in every respect. This means that you'll need to carry your own light meter. If you've never used a camera without a built-in meter, this can be a little intimidating. Not to worry. I looked around at several different spot meters and finally decided that for the money it would cost me to buy a a digital spot meter, I could buy a good digital camera. This is not to say that a digital camera is a total replacement for the spot meter, but it works pretty well for me. I went to my local big box electronics store and bought a Canon A570 point-and-shoot digital camera. I chose this particular model because it offers a manual exposure option. Perfect for use as a digital light meter. My Crown Graphic has a 135mm lens which is roughly equivalent to the "standard" focal length of the Canon so I simply set the Canon on fully manual mode, frame the shot as I have it framed with my Graphic, take a test with the Canon using the f-stop I plan on using with my Graphic (usually f16 or smaller) and note the shutter speed that the Canon tells me I need. I can then use the viewer on the back of the Canon to review the shot and calculate adjustments accordingly.

Of course, you can use a DSLR the same way if you want. Any digital camera will work so long as it gives you control options such as aperture priority or complete manual override. I like taking the Canon along as opposed to my D200 simply because of size and weight. If I had a little D40 or something similar, I'd probably use that. The point-and-shoot is about the same size as a hand-held light meter anyway so it fits in my pocket and unlike a spot meter, it makes photographs as well. You can't beat it. I made the photograph below using this technique.

In the next post, I'll talk about the Epson v700 scanner and post more examples.

Tucker playing in the snow

I guess the snow doesn't taste as good as he thought:Chasing snowballs:

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

We finally got some snow this morning. Winter has been taking it's time getting here. And to celebrate the first snow fall of the season, I took my car to the mechanic this morning!

Here is a photo I took last winter:

Sunday, December 14, 2008


I have two videos on my website. They're also on You Tube, but the quality on my own site is much better. You can visit the multimedia page here:


Monday, December 8, 2008

Website is online!

My website is finally online. The link is to your right. For the most recent updates, go to the home page and click on "updates" at the bottom, or copy and paste this link to your browser to go directly to the recent images page.

Cyber Success!

Okay, so I've been able to get the account snafu with the hosting company straightened out and as I write this, my website is loading! The homepage is already up and you can surf to it and check it out at

Sunday, December 7, 2008

website update - the saga continues

So I find out that even though I registered my URL through GoDaddy and purchased my hosting service through them, there is a disconnect between my hosting account and my URL. I registered the URL almost a year ago and did it under different credit card, so now they have to treat it like a transfer from a different registrar. So I wait...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Oh, the humanity!

Okay, so I spent my entire summer building this huge website with flash presentations and custom-made animated buttons and now, I can't get it to load to the host server. The host company's website is typical: extensive beyond reason. I don't even know where to begin looking. I don't know how these web companies expect anyone to troubleshoot problems when, as I am now, customers don't even know what they're looking for. It's not like looking for a needle in a haystack. It's worse. It's like rifling through a pile of parts to a machine you never even knew existed and trying to find something out of place.

We'll see...

Friday, December 5, 2008

The End of Days

Well, it's the end of the Fall Session. Today was the final day for my gallery exhibition in Krause. I will be taking down my images this weekend. I will try to post them here on the blog at some point in the near future but since they were traditional black and white prints, I'll first have to scan the negatives. That could take me some time, so don't hold your breath waiting. In the meantime, stay ready for the debut of my new website.

Deep Forest

I am in the process of getting my website online. This should take me all weekend. I hope to have it online by Christmas. In the meantime, here are some new images I captured over the past couple of days.

Shotgun Creek

Morning Glory

Deep Forest

Friday, November 28, 2008

My new video

I just finished a new video and have uploaded it to the following address:

If you're interested in a little humor.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Krause Gallery Exhibit

In case anyone is interested, I'm showing some of my black and white traditional prints in the Krause Gallery this week and next. Be sure to leave me comments in the guest book next to my exhibit.

Old Foggy Bottom nickname when I was in the service.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Through the Fog: Selected Images

Here are a few images so far:

Final Project: Through the Fog

So, for my final project, I'm going to focus on the fog. It's the season for it and most people, I think, just assume that the morning fog creates a disastrous environment for photographs. But...some of the finest photographs I've ever seen were taken in the fog. In fact, I remember a while back when I took Colleen's B/W class, there was an older gentlemen (older than me, believe it or not) who was taking the class just for fun (what a concept, eh?) and he took this wonderful photograph of a solitary tree standing in the fog. And I thought, I've been trying to take that photograph my entire life.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Some Selected Images from Project 4: Critical Mass

This is a canal in Venice, in 2001. I forget what film I was using at the time, probably some cheap stuff I bought locally. It came out pretty good, though.

This photograph was taken in Newquay, Cornwall on the west coast of the UK in 1984. By this time, I was usually shooting Fujichrome 400. As far as I know, someone actually lives in that house.

This is another ancient photograph from my feckless youth. Shot on Kodachrome and then scanned at 2400 DPI. This is a buddy of mine rowing a boat across Tillery Lake in the Idaho mountains. There was a group of us who made an annual trip to this place every 4th of July. It was just an excuse to get wasted.

This is a shot of my wife (then girlfriend) taken at dusk in the foothills outside my hometown in Idaho. This photograph is over thirty years old and was shot on 35mm Kodachrome and then scanned.

This was a raccoon in my backyard:

Here's a shot of the stairwell in Gerlinger Hall:

This is my cat (actually, my wife's cat) in full hunting mode:

Here's an image of Clear Lake taken this past summer with my D200:

Critical Mass

Contact Sheets for Critical Mass: I started with scanned images of junk mail I had in my recycling then added some images I've taken in the past - many of them were scanned 35mm slides. Todd: see if you can find Jody Branson.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What a long, strange trip it's been...Mapping Assignment 3

Well, here it is: the final product. I took the bus from the closest stop from my house, across town to the central post office to pick up my mail. You meet a lot of interesting characters on the bus - including a guy who, as soon as he saw my camera, insisted on telling me all about his buddy who shoots weddings. I'm assuming he meant "with a camera."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Mapping Contact Sheets

Here's the contact sheets for my mapping assignment. I photographed a trip from my house in Springfield to my post office box at the central post office on Willamette - via bus.