Mar 29, 2010

2010 PhotoCamp Utah: On-location Photography. SCOUT. LIGHT. CREATE

Participating in this years PhotoCamp Utah was an absolute blast!

Photographers! - If you weren't able to attend this years PhotoCamp, I'd highly recommend getting on board for 2011. Just make sure you register early (like within the first 6 hours of registration opening). I guess there were 400+ people on the waiting list this year which doesn't surprise me given the dirt cheap price ($15) for a solid day of all things photography. It was a packed day of excellent presentations and networking opportunities as well as a final Keynote address by Zack Arias, which rocked the house. Thanks for making the trip out Zack!

Photograph: stitched pano shot during my "On-Location" presentation (minute 11:01) while showing recycle time of the Ranger.

I presented toward the beginning of the day and was stoked to see so many people interested in learning about photography on-location as well as lighting. We had 60-70 people crammed into a smallish room all anxious to share and learn. Check out the presentation below and the slides here: Photography and Lighting On-Location
 I'd love to continue the Q&A session as well.  Please chime in with any questions, comments and your experiences with location work, scouting and lighting.

A HUGE thanks to all the people behind the scenes that pulled this thing off (Jeremy, Ann and crew)! Until next year...


Advertising Photographer in Utah

Mar 20, 2010

Photographers: Add space and BACK-UP your images today! 2TB Drives and Mac Pro Optical Bay

As a professional photographer, hard drive space is a constant battle!  Of course, we hear all the time how "cheap" HD space is, so what's the problem?  Well, what most people "experts" don't acknowledge is the real cost of adding space to your working system.  I'm talking about the hours of researching reliable drives, planning for future growth, installing and reconfiguring your current system and/or paying for someone to help to do all of that for you.  Time is money and there's a lot more involved than cost per/GB when it comes to running things reliably and professionally. Second, you rarely hear talk of a serious back-up plan which should at a minimum consist of two complete copies of all your data (one being off-site).  With file sizes as large as they are as well as the addition of HD video to most cameras this can start to add up quickly, even for "cheap" space!  
If your system is getting full (say a single drive in an iMac for example), then you're stuck either upgrading that drive or adding external drives.  If adding externals, buy drives with the fastest connection your computer will handle (eSata, iScsi, Firewire 800, Firewire 400, USB), but realize this solution is simply a band-aid.   Externals are great for archiving or back-up to, and yes, I'd include the drobo in this group, but not so great when editing large photography or video files (5D Mark II or larger) (New drobo (iscsi) may be an exception, but I've heard mixed reviews on speeds).  With the exception of eSata,  Read/write and transfer speeds of externals becomes too difficult to work with.  You need your drives working FAST, especially on data you access daily.  At some point you'll need to upgrade to a box (Mac Pro).  More on the back-up plan below.
If you already own a Mac Pro, still running out of space, there's another solution for you.  The beauty of the Mac Pro is the ability to expand from 4 drives into 6 or even 8 by taking over the optical bays (Screenshot below).  A few weeks ago, I found myself in this situation and opted to add two Samsung 2TB drives in the 2nd optical bay (below the DVD drive/burner) via a Pro Caddy 2 from Transintl for roughly $450. This is awesome!  The future possibility for growth here is: 8 bays x 2TB drives = 16TB of onboard data.  

My current Mac Pro is set-up as follows:
-Early 2008 2.8Ghz 8 Core Mac Pro
-Hard Drive set-up:
   Bay 1 - 320GB Factory Drive - Holds OSX and all Applications
     [Drives 2-4 are set as a software RAID 0 (through the disk utility in your applications]
   Bay 2 - 1TB Western Digital Black 
   Bay 3 - 1TB Western Digital Black
   Bay 4 - 1TB Western Digital Black
-NEW: 4 Terabytes of space for $450
   2nd Optical Bay-   2 x 2 Terabyte Samsung Drives via Pro Caddy 2 ---[currently set as a RAID 0]

[Note: There are cheaper 2TB drives on the market.  They don't look as reliable as the Samsungs.  Saving $40 on an HD that is of questionable reliability, which 2TB still are, even the Samsung, is about the most insane thing you could do as a photographer, in my opinion.]

In summary, the "Mounted" drives sitting on my desktop are as follows (remember drives 2-4 and the optical are set-up as RAID "0's" so they appear on your desktop as 1 drive):

Mounted Drive 1 - OS/Apps
Mounted Drive 2 - 3TB in RAID 0 - Current years work with 64GB partition for Photoshop scratch disk
Mounted Drive 3 - 4TB  in RAID 0 - All data (Photos, Documents, Music, Motion/Video)

WARNING  -- ***DO NOT SET-UP ANYTHING IN RAID 0, WITHOUT A REALLY, REALLY SOLID BACK-UP AND RESTORE PLAN (In my current set-up, If my "bay 2 drive" crashes, then I lose all photography (data) across 3 drives (bays 2-4).  So in my mind, I have to ask myself - "When a drive crashes, can I get my photographs back?" AND "How long will it take to restore the data?"

Probably the most important part of your data management plan as a photographer is to have a consistent back-up plan in place.  When I say consistent, I really mean automated.  If it's not automated, something will slip through the cracks.
Mine's not foolproof, but it's solid and a good place to start...
STEP 1: Back-up all of your live data locally and continuously.

  Part A) Drive #1 (OS/APPS) backed up via Time Machine to a USB drive
  Part B)  Drives #2-6 backed up to Server via Gigabit ethernet.  My main block of live data (i.e. Photographs, video, docs, music) spans 5 hard drives within my Mac Pro, equalling 8 Terabytes of space.  My server consists of a 10 Drive, RAID 6 box which will handle all 8TB's of data.  RAID 6 just means that two drives can completely fail and the data will still be in tact within the server. A drive will fail on you at some point.  Plan on it.  If you can't afford or don't need a server, get a Drobo or even a simple external Hard drive from Costco that has enough space to completely mirror your entire data set).  Another option if your a Mac Pro user, is to simply use the remaining Bay's for back-up (remember you have up to 6 bays with the Pro Caddy 2).  This is the cheapest and cleanest method if the space is available.

STEP 2: Back-up all of your data offsite.  
You need to back-up your data to a place that will still be around if current location experiences a natural disaster such as a flood or fire.  The external HD's get backed-up and stored securely off-site at least monthly and more often if possible.

STEP3: Back-up offsite again - Online.  
I'm currently evaluating CrashPlan and Backblaze for online back-up (both around $50/year).  I'll let you know soon which I prefer.  So far I'm leaning toward CrashPlan for 2 reasons 1) You can send a 1TB upload initially via a Hard Drive  and 2) If and when you have to restore the data Crashplan is a few hundred dollars, Backblaze is several thousand.  Both programs run continuously in the background and update only the files that have changed/added on your computer.  

STEP 4: AUTOMATE everything. 
 I use Chronosync ($30) to automate my main drive back-up (Drives 2-5) to my Server. I also use chronosync for my monthly external, offsite back-ups.  The beauty of this program, is that you don't have to re-copy your entire library of photographs.  For example, let's say I go into Lightroom and tweak my Saturation on a RAW file shot way back in 2005. When I sync my hard drives with Chronosync, it will notice the change to that file (XMP) and add the saturation change to the back-up.

STEP 5: BACK-UP one more time. 
IF you're extremely paranoid (like me), hook-up an additional external drive (or box) via eSata, FW800, or Ethernet directly to your Mac Pro (iMac or PC) to acts as another back-up source to either all of your data or your most important files/folders.  A drobo would be an example of such a box.

*IF you're on a budget, take STEPS 1 and 3 at a MINIMUM.  This is the least expensive, yet viable option.
I realize this could either be completely overwhelming to you OR too basic, depending on which camp you fall into on the techy side of things.  Don't stress too much if it sounds overwhelming, just enough to decide to put a back-up plan in place!  If you have questions about your particular system or where to start, please put them in the Comments section and let's generate a good discussion.

Also, please chime in with your experience and plan for both adding more space for data and backing it up.  I would love to hear your thoughts!



Mar 15, 2010

On-Location, Big Lights Photography: Presentation Feedback Needed!

So, I was asked to present this coming weekend at PhotoCamp Utah 2010 on the topic of "on-location photography and big light techniques", which is going to be a blast!  The one day event is completely sold out (with 400 people on a waiting list...sorry ya'll).  I think Mr. Zack Arias has something to do with that.

Here's the deal. I only have 45 minutes to present before they yank me out of the room (which has been threatened).  It's just enough time to talk through some scouting ideas as well as show a few behind the scenes examples, but not nearly enough time to set-up a true demo.   If YOU were going to attend my class (or are), what would you want to get out of it??   I plan on talking about the behind the scenes from this  Kauai, Trail Running Photograph as well as the lighting set-up for some of the images from the recent Salt Lake City Shootout: Powder Skiing image 1 and Powder Skiing photograph 2.

Here's the course description :
On-location Photography: from scouting great locations to delivering results with BIG light techniques

This class will focus on what it takes to achieve stellar imagery on-location. We will review two location based "BIG light" shoots and the resulting imagery

Starting point: Please come with a basic understanding of the technical side of working with off-camera lights.  A love for the outdoors and location based work is a bonus.  Ending point: Getting past the technical stuff and finding greater vision when shooting on location including the use of BIG lights.

HIT me below with your feedback (comments).   I'm also toying with the Chase Jarvis idea of doing either a live feed from the presentation or at a minimum recording it and putting it up here in the near future.  


Mar 8, 2010

Adobe Lightroom Workflow: Single catalog or multiple catalogs?

Adobe Lightroom users, I need your help!
What is the most effecient way you've found to manage your library of images?

Please tell us if you are using a single catalog or multiple catalogs or a combination of both and what the advantages of your system are?  Also, specify the following in your response:

1) What version of LR you're running?  (For Beta 3 users, specify any differences you see in speed between the two)
2) How big your catalog (s) is (# of images)?
3) How fast the program runs for basic viewing and developing features (adjusting saturation, switching tasks - develop to library grid, etc.).  I realize this is subjective, but is the program running fast enough to actually get work done...
4) How your computer system is set-up (Type, Processor speed, RAM, HD configuration -- LR Catalog on  Drive A, Images on separate drives, and any other nuances)

In addition, do you have any feature requests for Adobe? --   My #1 feature request is to be able to open more than one catalog at once.

Looking forward to hearing your experience!

Utah Photographers

Mar 1, 2010

2010 Salt Lake City Ski Photography Shootout: Winner!

2010 Salt Lake Shootout Winning Photograph: "Best of Show" and first place in "Air" category
Equipment: Canon 7D, 10-22mm lens, beautiful morning sunlight

100% Crop of Jason just after lift-off

This last week is an absolute blur!  The annual Salt Lake Ski Photography shootout took place this past week and I was stoked to get a first time invite.  Anytime you take 10 professional photographers and mix in 20 pro skiers good things are bound to happen and this years contest was no different.  The guidelines were pretty straightforward:

A) 4 days of skiing and shooting at each of the Cottonwood canyon resorts (Alta, Snowbird, Brighton, Solitude)
B) Working with 2 different athletes per day
C) Submit 3 images per category (Air, Powder, Big Mountain, City Lifestyle, Mountain Lifestlye)
D) ALL submissions due by 10PM on Friday (4th day)! No exceptions!

I was expecting to do pretty well, get some publishable images and call it a solid week of work, but in all honesty was not necessarily expecting to win anything.   There was an extremely talented pool of photographers participating from as far away as Norway and Vancouver as well as some local talent.  So when the slide for first place rolled up during the awards ceremony with one of my images, I was pretty floored, to say the least.  The shot of Jason West (above) not only took first place in the"Air" category, but went on to win the "Best of Show", grand prize award.  What a feeling of both humility and extreme excitement!  It was awesome.  The conditions proved awesome, with each day bringing something a bit different to work with.  I've got to give a thank you to every athlete I worked with.  Thanks for hiking back up the mountain for "one more shot" assisting with lights and keeping things so positive the whole time.  You made my job easy (er).  And a course special shout-out to Jason West for his epic line off of the fantasy ridge cliff at Solitude Ski resort that won the thing.  Awesome work my friend!

We worked on some late afternoon/ early evening shots and this was one of my submissions in the Powder category.  Athlete Jason West making a turn just after dusk at Brighton Ski resort near Salt Lake City, Utah

Here's a behind the scenes look of one of our lighting set-ups: Equipment used: Elinchrom Ranger (2 packs, 3 heads), 580EX II x 1, Skyport Triggers, mixed with late ambient light.

Parting shot entered in the "Mountain Lifestyle" category.  Location: Snowbird Ski Resort - Athlete: Cody Barnhill with Leopard dude and Zebra lady

Utah Photographer