Focus on Imaging, NEC, March 2011

Focus on Imaging
…Is running from 6th-10th March 2010 at the National Exhibition Centre near Birmingham. Mrs ND and I visited on the vastly overcrowded opening Sunday and spent several hours trying to casually look around or home in on something of interest whilst feeling like sardines packed into a tin. Well, sardines that want to play with camera gear that is.

Apart from the overwhelming headcount, the most noticeable thing about this years’ show was the lack of Canon who pulled out earlier on. This wasn’t a great problem for us as on the day we finally entered the DSLR market a few years ago our 50:50 coin toss landed on Nikon and we’ve expanded our hardware base there ever since. However, I hope Canon’s reticence is not a portent of things to come, as the show is an otherwise great opportunity to see a large range of products from the industry in a single place in a way that our local camera shops, some of whom were represented here, cannot normally manage in expensive and limited high street retail space.

We arrived at the show with interests in studio lighting, 120 film developing and picture framing to focus on, but we left uneducated in some areas and poorer in others!

I would like to publicly apologise to my credit card here and now. Mrs ND is trying to ignore hers 😉

Since I received my Lomography Diana F+
…I have received a second and somewhat more serious medium format film camera that uses the same 120 film, and after some enthusiastic amateur shooting with both devices (updated stories to come), it came time to look into getting some rolls processed.

At this point I discovered two things. The first is that trying to marry a quick turnaround time for process/scan in the high street with an economical (for a digital photographer) practicality was tricky. I could live with the lack of immediate gratification I get from the screen on the back of a digital camera, and even cope with not being able to take three hundred shots on a sunny afternoon because Compact Flash card storage has no ongoing costs. However, constantly paying for my horrendous amateur mistakes committed to celluloid, and knowing that someone else would have the chance to “critique” them before I had weeded out the bad ones was not appealing.

The second thing is that 120 film is much worse for these things than 35mm.

So there I stood, Birmingham City Centre on a Saturday afternoon…
…having pulled out some finished rolls of 120 film from the Diana and the Twin Lens Reflex (TLR) metal box that I will write about later, enthusiastic to finally see some results. It was a beautiful sunny day, I had been for a nice stroll along the canals near ND towers, and had finished my film on the construction work for the new Library of Birmingham. The TLR in particular had caught the attention of various passers-by, one of whom told me that his father had collected these in Europe back during the 1960’s, and he remembered playing with one just like mine as a child.

Happy and fulfilled I ran down to the central shopping area only to discover that several places would not look at 120 film at all, and the one that would (Jessops), wanted £10 per roll (I had five of them) and couldn’t get anything back to me for at least 2 weeks.

I needed an alternative.

In the weeks since then I’ve been scouring the WWW for processing kits and chemicals. I could get some tubs from a local DIY store, but for just a few tens of pounds I could buy a proper home developing kit that can take two rolls of 120 film at once to speed the process along, and I’ll probably have broken even on the deal just to get my first batch of films processed.

I concede that I’m only talking about film processing here, and to avoid comparing apples with oranges Jessops would have printed and scanned my images too, but first I wanted to see what the results were on the negatives, choose which ones may have been worth pursuing and then get those scanned so that I could play with them further on the computer, or at the very least store them digitally.

Nevertheless, home processing would get me some of what I needed, when I needed it and fairly quickly at a lower cost, so I was curious to have a look at the options at Focus on Imaging.

Nothing, Tumbleweed rolled through my mental corridor of interest…
…and at no point did we find a single stand anywhere in the NEC’s halls 9 and 10 to offer us any mechanism whatsoever to process film. Full Stop!

I’ll return to this subject in a future post.

Picture Framing is something that I had been doing for a while…
…I’m not a qualified expert, but know what acid free or PH neutral card is, how to cut a mount and understood that you want to seal the final product to prevent dust getting in. However, it was a chore and I’m not a picture framer. Initial exuberance here has slid into an apathy at best for the task every time it presents itself after Mrs ND or I return from our local printers.

I had a plan to see what the framing options and costs were at the show, and we did find some interesting bespoke items, though they were pricey. However I had finally found an adequate solution after a visit to a local framers just a short walk from my local printers the day before the show, and when I discovered that his very reasonable prices not only included a full turnkey mounting service, but also some anti-reflection glass then I was completely sold. Look out for another post on this in the future.

This just left Studio Lighting, or so I thought…
…I had already been scouring the WWW, including that wonderful bazar of anything you can think of, eBay. There are lots of kits out there for pretty reasonable money, and I had homed in on one from a UK seller that seemed to offer enough power, for an acceptable price. I really wanted to see some such kits for real at the show though so that I could gauge the quality of what I might purchase online first.

Sadly, there wasn’t much in this area. Yes, there were plenty of lighting solutions, but most of them were professional with matching pricing, and some of the options just didn’t appeal at all.

The many companies that were offering brackets for you to attach three or four battery-powered Speedlights to amazed me and having fumbled with the complexity of a single Nikon SB600, constantly having to refer to the manual to work out how to program it, I was clear on the fact that Speedlights were not my solution here. Especially as some Speedlights cost more for a single unit than I was looking at spending on a whole kit of three strobes, stands, umbrellas and soft boxes.

I was clear that this kit would be used at home, simple to use and tethered to a real power supply!

There were a few really low-budget kits, but none of them serviced my needs as I had set my mind on a three light setup maxing out at 900WS between them. The nearest I could find on display to my eBay target had a pair of 300WS strobes called the Proline 300. The strobes looked like they were in the ballpark of what I was after, but the telescopic stands looked a little wobbly, and other potential customers queried that as well.

It was back to eBay when I got home.

With all of my main interests exhausted, there was only one thing left to do…
…so Mrs ND and I went back to the Jacobs stand so that I could finally stop mucking about and just get that new lens I was after.

I’ve been covering more and more events around Birmingham over the last couple of years including Artsfest, the EDF Birmingham Half Marathon, Protest Demonstration Marches, St Patrick’s Day Parades through Digbeth and the Chinese New Year Celebrations at the Arcadian.

Whilst the Nikon 70-300mm VR that I generally use is a great medium-sized lens, it’s also not desperately bright, though it remains pretty sharp, running F4.5-5.6 throughout its zoom range. In particular I had struggled with that during the nighttime events as this favourite though dubious quality image of Young Guns’ lead singer Gustav Wood in action during Artsfest 2010 attests.

Whilst the extra reach it provides at 300mm isn’t always enough for me, particularly during the half marathons, it was clear that I kept bumping into situations where I wished for something faster.

I previously discussed picking up a good used example of Nikon’s 80-200mm F2.8 on eBay, but couldn’t bring myself to do it, something held me back, and auction after auction went by without any action on my part.

I even considered the newer 70-200mm VR which Nikon replaced with the mildly improved VRII model in 2009, but again I held back, though to be fair there was only about £200-£300 on average between that used lens and the latest VRII model brand new.

Which is exactly what I realised at the show staring at the price on Jacob’s stand. It was the best price I had seen for this lens, and my credit card came out to play.

The funny thing was…
…Mrs ND asked me to see if they had any Nikon D7000 bodies in stock as the pile in their cabinet had vanished in the half an hour or so since we had last walked past. Jacob’s did have some and the sticker price in the now empty shelf read £849 which was a couple of hundred pounds less than the D7000 debuted at a little before Christmas, and £50 less than their own website claimed.

I asked if they would do a deal for the lens (that I was buying anyway) and a D7000 body, but the assistant laughed and said that the D7000 price was already ludicrous.

We wandered off in indecision, but Mrs ND’s resolve faltered, and we returned to swap a D7000 for one of her credit cards’ nine lives. The purchase turned out to be more pleasant than expected though because we only then discovered that the sticker price was wrong, and Jacob’s were actually asking £699 for a body. Mrs ND was well chuffed.

It’s a really good job that Nikon didn’t release the D800.

We have played with our toys…
…a little bit in the twenty-four hours since purchase, and will write more here soon on them.

Have fun,
ND

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Apple iPad 2 – March 2011


Apple iPad 2, Image (c) Apple Inc.

I have previously written about the Apple iPad
Here and Here, and with the announcement of its successor I wondered how much I would have benefited by waiting a few months to get my first tablet computer.

There’s no doubt that some future revision of iOS will deprecate my lovely tablet a year or so before the newer model, and in the meantime some of the new apps that I may like will take full advantage of the iPad 2’s upgraded A5 processor and seem a little more recalcitrant on my now-ancient 😉 single-core A4 machine. However, for the primary things I do with my iPad, I’m not wholly convinced that the new model is a large enough upgrade.

So what do I like about iPad 1?
…The instant-on capability, “it is always ready when I need it”, is a key functional element that no other “bootable” computer I have ever used can match. The battery really does last all day, and the “coffee table computer” aspect of it means I really don’t have to get off my sofa to quickly look something up, do some banking, check emails etc.

These three aspects are core to my tablet computing experience and have changed the way I access my data profoundly.

Yes, I have an iPhone 3Gs, but the iPad’s screen size offers that sweet spot of easy ergonomic access and a clear, bright and comfortable view that its junior siblings cannot match. Which is just as well, because it makes a great tool to display photos on and I can use it to show my portfolio of images.

The iPad 2…
…Is undoubtably a great device, and even more compelling if you don’t already have an iPad, however, for me, it’s not really offering me much more than I need right now. It has twice as many processor cores, it’s unclear if they’re individually faster than the A4 as Apple does not disclose that information, but all the same it’s an obvious processing upgrade in a multitasking environment. The graphics capability is upgraded with a much more powerful GPU core too. iPad 2 sports twice the RAM (up from 256MB to 512MB), a Gyroscope from the iPhone/iTouch and a pair of cameras for Facetime and other apps. iPad 2 is also thinner and lighter, though to be honest I’m not struggling with iPad 1 in those respects.

However, the key areas of use to me haven’t changed. The screen resolution is unchanged (one of the things I would really liked to have had upgraded to show my images in more detail), the excellent battery life is also unchanged. I don’t play high-end games, just do some web browsing, blog work and emailing, so the extra GPU/CPU power would be lost on me (until some brilliant photographic app arrives and proves this claim wrong).

The cameras and gyro are also not essential to my tablet experience, and overall, I’ve come to the conclusion that the only thing I need in the near future is for a proper connection app to appear to allow real-time viewing of images directly transferred from my Nikons while I’m shooting. I’m hoping that such a thing is not too far away, and will be fully compatible with an iPad 1 running iOS 4.3. Yes, that’s right, some of the magic of the new device will be available to me anyway with a simple software update in a week’s time when 4.3 goes live for download.

I’m looking forward also to installing 4.3 on my iPhone as well, because it will become a WiFi hotspot for my iPad when I’m away from home.

If you don’t currently own an iPad…
…then go and get one, you won’t be disappointed, but if you do then you’ve got a great gadget right there. So enjoy! 🙂

Have fun,
ND

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Nikon D800 and Photography

I have been using a Nikon D700 in anger now…
…for about a year. I had previously sported a D80, which Mrs ND and I still use, and a D200 which died an unfortunate death at an inopportune moment on the other side of this pretty planet.

I deliberated for ages what I should replace the D200 with, as Mrs ND and I couldn’t survive with just one camera between us, and after dithering between the D300/D300s line and the D700 I finally plumped for the slightly bigger device for various minor reasons that seemed worth it at the time.

I have subsequently not been disappointed in my choice.

Now we have rumours
…that the D700 is out of date, along with the D3s and that both will be replaced by D800 and D4 models this summer. What a surprise! Next there’ll be rumours that Apple will release another iPad. Oh, hang on…

I like gadgets, grew up programming computers and writing games, built things out of Meccano before that, and subsequently became a pilot in my spare time, owning my own aircraft. Yes, I like my toys 😉

However it’s really what you do with them that counts, not just collecting gadgets to “potter around with”. If money’s no object and you don’t have a need to feel achievement then go ahead and potter to the content of your favourite camera manufacturer’s bank balance, but that’s not photography, it’s collecting, daydreaming or merely passing the time.

I’m not a professional photographer, but enjoy trying to improve at what I do. My output is disparate, fleeting between subjective, compositional and post-artistic whims, fuelled by a sense of adventure to find new things in life, and in doing so randomly happening on the opportunities to record some of them.

Serendipity echoes stronger through my photography than a deliberate attempt to create, I concede that, but I think that I do enough to feel satisfied when I have an image that “came together well”.

My point here is…
…liking or otherwise for gadgets, I try to use them to achieve something else, and not necessarily for the sake of having them.

Will a D800 make me more satisfied than my D700? I will get an itch to have the better camera, but I’m old and ugly enough to approach that in a level-headed manner and enjoy the expensive purchase that I have already made, in creating more pictures that please me.

I admit that the 12MP resolution of my camera is a bit limiting as I tend to blow images up and print them at much larger scales than 12MP can natively achieve. I have gotten away with it so far, but I am also choosy about which images I treat in this way.

No doubt the D800 will sport a higher resolution whose itch I’ll be tempted to scratch, but the estimates rumoured go no higher that 20MP at best, and that’s short of only double the pixel count I currently enjoy. For the print sizes I’m after I need a much higher native resolution than that to truly satiate my needs, and whilst it means I can do less in post-processing to appease my friendly local printing firm, it’s not a big enough jump really.

Though yes, as the D7000 has shown over the D90/D300s, the detail will be generally a little sharper for such a resolution boost.

I concede also that one minor reason for my D700 choice was the usable ISO ability that it offered, and indeed I have been pretty impressed more by its ability to run a higher shutter speed at fast-moving events in broad daylight than it’s ability to salvage a dark blob from the mirk and gloom of a cold winter night.

The D800 may sport a higher ISO, and the release of the D7000 and its jump over previous generation DX cameras, even the excellent D90, portents that. However, my photography has gone in strange directions over this last year, and I have made pleasing images from an iPhone 3Gs where I deliberately wanted grain and lack of focus to, ahem, “enhance” the image.

The D700 WILL get a successor this year…
…because technology marches on relentlessly. In fact, if you listen to Ray Kurzweil as I had the pleasure to do in San Francisco a couple of years ago, then you’ll hear that progress in many areas of our lives (technological, biological etc) is not only growing but exponentially so, or just about on the verge of becoming exponential.

I’m not interested in “All the gear, no idea”, I want to get better as a photographer and the equipment I use is ultimately irrelevant to that goal, however much its seeming relevancy may weigh on me at times in the field, or on the computer afterwards.

Mrs ND will be pleased to hear that I will not be jumping on a D800 when it arrives, and that I’ll be perfectly happy with my D700 for a bit longer.

Though, she is making noises about a D7000 replacing our D80!

Have fun,
ND

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ND Update…Done :-)

I’ve been busy updating the ND Blog recently by adding full camera, exposure and shooting information to many images here.

The job’s not complete, but all the most recent posts now sport full shooting info, and I’ll endeavor to go back through the earliest ones to add this info later. If you’re new here then I hope you like the blog, and if you’ve been here before then please have a look through some of the older posts as some of the extra details may be of interest. Most posts have been updated.

Enjoy

Have fun,
ND

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Birmingham Anti-Cuts Protest March – Saturday 26th February 2011

ND – Hello 🙂

On Saturday 26th February…
…In Birmingham City Centre, we witnessed another Anti-Cuts Protest March against the government and local Birmingham City Council, the largest council in the UK.

I previously covered an earlier rally (Here) that took place in October 2010 during the Conservative Party Conference here in the city centre. That march reportedly numbered about 6000-7000 people, probably ten times the size of this latest gathering on a wet February afternoon.

The crowd gathered in St Philips Square for 12 noon, heard several speeches, and then marched for about thirty minutes around the city centre, peacefully protesting, banners waving, to reconvene back at St Philips Square for the final speeches.

Mrs ND and I, along with many other photographers, were there for the whole event, and here are some of the pictures that I took. All pictures were shot with a Nikon D700 and the Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G VR AF-S, and post-processed in Apple’s Aperture 3 on an iMac. My resolve to look more seriously at purchasing a Nikkor 70-200mm F2.8 VRII for such occasions has grown!

Here are some of my images:

‘Fight the Cuts’

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 140mm, Exposure 1/320 @ F4.8, ISO 400, This is what the march was about - Normal people, Simple message.


Masked

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 250mm, Exposure 1/250 @ F5.6, ISO 400, The usual 'Masked Bandits' were evident, however they were massively outnumbered by those who had come in peace, and apart from some minor swearing and suspect rhetoric early on, were subsequently invisible and invalid. Thankfully.


Hold Up

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 95mm, Exposure 1/320 @ F6.3, ISO 400. The march unapologetically crossed Corporation Street during a busy Saturday lunchtime. The traffic was held up completely for probably a quarter of an hour.


Protest Outside Barclay’s Bank

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 70mm, Exposure 1/40 @ F20, ISO 400, The march stopped at each of all the major high street banks that it passed, shouting and taunting those inside. There was a noticeable police presence at this first bank, but it tailed off pretty quickly as the marchers reached the string of banks on New Street. There were many shots that I was fighting with getting enough Depth of Field and also keeping the shutter speed up to catch the rapidly moving situation. The Heavy F2.8 lens that I would like would not have solved that, but as I don't do this sort of photography every day I wasn't thinking on my feet fast enough to push the ISO up to mitigate my sometimes sluggish shutter. Of course, if I had been a pro photographer then I would have been carrying two cameras, one with that F2.8 monster, and the other with a nice wide-angle zoom like the Nikkor 14-24. Both cameras would have been preset to the types of photography I would have grabbed them for relative to those lenses.


Barclays Protester BW

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 70mm, Exposure 1/30 @ F20, ISO 400, I didn't need to be as wide as F20, and could easily have pushed the ISO up to 640 or 800, but things were happening quickly and I just didn't have time to re-jig the camera settings to ensure the shutter speed was high enough. This photo is a bit more blurry than this small JPG admits.


Two Faces of Capitalism 1

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 200mm, Exposure 1/30 @ F20, ISO 400, This is a Nikon D700 operating in broad (though overcast) daylight. Why didn't I just set it to ISO 800 to give me a faster shutter speed to cope with these sorts of images? Somehow I think I'll have more opportunity this year to get it right!


Leader Marching 1

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 170mm, Exposure 1/320 @ F5, ISO 640, I struggled to isolate this guy from some of the distractingly bright jackets around him in this tight crowd. I must admit it was fun running backwards, sideways up New Street, chasing the marchers, trying not to lose Mrs ND who was doing the same thing around me, trying to capture the shots that I wanted. It was a very dynamic, but safe, situation.


Community and Youth Workers

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 70mm, Exposure 1/320 @ F9, ISO 640, I don't remember boosting the ISO but it happened and I guess the resultant faster shutter speeds helped freeze moments a bit more successfully.


Coloured Banners

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 185mm, Exposure 1/400 @ F8, ISO 640, Uphill on the return leg to St Philips Square.


Banners

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 140mm, Exposure 1/400 @ F9, ISO 640


Two Faces of Capitalism 2 – Bentley with Parking Ticket

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 70mm, Exposure 1/400 @ F9, ISO 640, How much did I luck-out with this shot? I couldn't have set it up better 🙂 The marchers, chanting slogans and waving banners to persuade that the cuts should not happen, jobs should be saved and the ordinary people are paying for the fat-cats' mistakes, walked right past a £100,000+ Bentley parked illegally and booked with a parking ticket that the owner will no doubt brush off without caring. I did notice the Bentley got a lot of envious looks from many marchers.


Two Faces of Capitalism 3 BW

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 70mm, Exposure 1/400 @ F8, ISO 640


Two Faces of Capitalism 4

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 82mm, Exposure 1/80 @ F20, ISO 640, I've cropped the number plate out of these images to avoid the owner embarrassment.


Two Faces of Capitalism 5

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 102mm, Exposure 1/60 @ F20, ISO 640


Final Speeches 1 BW

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 300mm, Exposure 1/400 @ F5.6, ISO 640, I might want that big Nikkor 70-200mm F2.8 lens, but the extra reach of this 70-300mm VR is sometimes the better tool in broad daylight when you can't reduce the distance to your subject as you're already standing on the nearest park bench to get a view over the crowd.


Final Speeches 2

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 300mm, Exposure 1/400 @ F5.6, ISO 640


Laughing at Cameron

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 300mm, Exposure 1/400 @ F8, ISO 640, This is a fun shot with a serious underlying point!

I want to end on John…
…John is a great character and we spoke for about 10-15 minutes. He’s been around the block a few times, and was a fun and very interesting guy to chat to. In amongst the many things of interest he had to say he did point out that the protesters and those others that they protested for had it lucky, because there was a time, not that many decades ago, when there was no welfare state to fall back on, where it was harder to get jobs just as a general course of life, that we individually and collectively have never been so well off on the whole. Some people struggle in sheltered housing with provided amenities at what we may consider a base level for humane living today, but people have lived much worse than this for sizeable chunks of the previous century let alone before.

I would like to add to that as well that on this day of peaceful protest in an otherwise rich democracy, the news was reporting the death total during the protests in Libya had passed 1000.

I think we are very lucky really.

John

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 70mm, Exposure 1/250 @ F6.3, ISO 400, This was just a quick snap that I quickly flipped the flash out for - clearly evidenced by the sparkle in his glasses.

Have fun,
ND

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Posted in Birmingham, Birmingham UK, Event, Faces, Nakedigit, Nikon, People, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anti-Cuts Protest march in Birmingham right now

More later…

Sent from…
…anywhere!

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Apple / Intel Thunderbolt on New MacBook Pros

ND – Cold, Blue

Apple has just updated their MacBook Pro range…
…with welcome, though expected, bumps to the processors, RAM and storage capacities. However, the update that I’m welcoming most is the adoption of Intel’s bourgeoning LightPeak technology, rechristened yesterday as ThunderBolt.


Apple MacBook Pro (early) 2011, Image (c) Apple Inc.

I have worked with computers for 29 years now, from a bedroom hobbyist in the early 1980’s to a video game industry veteran in 2011 and (hopefully) beyond. When I say I worked with computers, I don’t just mean I could create a simple spreadsheet, but I was a programmer, and subsequently an Engineer (sounds posher, would have pleased my father). We used to call the language we wrote in “Machine Code”. It too got a posher name in “Assembly Language”, but the knowledge of writing code at very low level, even in Hex in the very early days, is a rapidly dying art today with everyone jumping on the C++ or C# bandwagons.

I digress…
…There are two fundamental things I learned the best part of three decades ago that still hold true today:
1) Nothing is unhackable!
2) If you don’t backup your data, you WILL lose it.

I still find it amazing that so many people don’t actually backup, but then again I’ve learned the lesson in a harder way than the myriad of casual “computer users” today will when they lose a cellphone JPG of their cat with a funny stare.

I remember the double sided 3” disks that Amstrad used to use in the 1980’s on their CPC and PCW machines, and that on one occasion I turned a disk over to find the directory of the files from Side A had been written over the directory of even more important files on Side B. That was a long day I can tell you. It was a project I had mostly completed after months of work, and yes, you guessed it, this stupid low quality weird format plastic disc from China was my only copy. Dumb or what?

Luckily, projects were much smaller then, the 180Kbyte capacity was divided up into 512Byte sectors, so I only had a jigsaw puzzle of slightly under 360 sectors to stitch back together by examining the text contents and then “poking” (a magical art in the 1980’s) the sector numbers by hand back into the directory structure until I had rebuilt it.

Voila, my data had returned, but you’d be hard pressed to get away with that on a Terabyte Hard Drive today.

I digressed again…
…We constantly hear the stories of computers, accounts, lives being hacked today, and that’s not going away in the near future, however careful we all try to be. However, backing up your data, or rather NOT backing up your data is a stupid fault that most people are oblivious to until that data is lost.

Now I admit that losing your LoLCat collection may not be the end of the world for some, but as a (primarily) digital photographer, who is building up a lifetime of memories and work, the more time and effort I put into my collection, the more of my life I will lose if it vaporises overnight.

So I Backup!

I think I’m quite good at backing up too, though I’m not perfect and there’s certainly room for improvement. Mrs ND thinks I’m mad, and won’t buy me another “Terabyte Box” for Valentine’s Day anymore. However, being the long-experienced computing, ahem, “expert” that I believe I am, I don’t think I’ve quite reached total backup security Nirvana yet.

10 Terabytes just isn’t enough…
…in 2011 in my opinion. Here’s how that works…

Firstly, modern digital SLR cameras are pumping out RAW files at 10-15MB in size. With Image sensors going to higher resolutions as I type, those files will get larger. If Nikon pumps up the pixels for their D700 and D3S/X replacements over the next year or so by the same proportions that they did jumping from the D90 to the D7000, then we’ll be seeing RAW files in the 18-30MB bracket before long.

I have a folder that contains many folders on my iMac. Each time I import RAW files from my Nikon DSLR’s I divide them into batches depending on subject matter and create appropriate folders, 1 per subject. I import these into iPhoto which I use as my one-stop-shop for “holding everything”, however iPhoto has its own database, and is set not to reference my original photos, but to import and effectively duplicate my original data.

I like this duality as my folders hold the data in a place that my 1980’s brain can understand it and get at it when all else fails, yet my iPhoto database not only allows me to keyword up all my images, and find them in virtual groups depending on common subjects, but also offers a backup (of sorts) from the prime risk of being a numpty and accidentally deleting or corrupting my original files.

I say “of sorts” because originally both the folders and my iPhoto Library lived on the same physical hard disc drive in the same partition, so not a safe backup at all really.

However, then something happened, well, two things really. Firstly I realised that having everything on just that one disc was stupid as the iMac could get stolen, burned, flooded, or nuked by someone who doesn’t like the country I live in. Secondly, I ran out of space on that disc. I used to write entire releasable video games in 32Kbytes on a ZX Spectrum, yet now a 1 Terabyte monster was too constrictive for my doubled up photo collection, amongst other things.

So, I got another 1 terabyte drive, a Western Digital MyBook Essential with a USB2.0 port and a bargain basement (at the time) price because my local electrical retailer had not only priced this top of the range model lower than the otherwise identical 500GB device next to it on the shelf, but had confirmed that this was “correct” twice after I kept questioning it and pointing out that they must have got the price wrong.

“No Sir, the older model uses shinier plastic than the new one Sir, that is why the price is more”. Hmmmm, I briefly thought for a microsecond before whipping out my Visa card.

My 1TB MyBook was quickly attached via USB2.0 to my iMac and I triumphantly moved my iPhoto database across to it, leaving my original folders intact on the iMac.

Two drives (1 internal), two terabytes, my data was safe, Yeah!

Ah, actually, not quite. Because I realised that:
1) I held my original folder solution in higher regard than I had previously thought (because if I lost it then I surely wouldn’t be able to retrieve all of my data from this magical iPhoto Library file),
2) I had now put so much time into importing and keywording my photos into this iPhoto Library file that I didn’t want to lose that either.

Yes, you guessed it, whilst my data was now split across two storage solutions in two different pieces of hardware, I felt a compelling urge to back them both up.

Whilst this was all going on, I was still generating new data, lots of new data. A five-week jaunt around Hong Kong and New Zealand (not the least photogenic place on this wonderful planet), culminated in Mrs ND and I producing over 11,500 RAW files from a Nikon D80 and D200. That’s all got to go somewhere, and was more valuable than most of our data as it was our honeymoon.

I’d picked up a second 1 Terabyte MyBook at some point, just to split some of the folders and other data across multiple drives because it was all getting too big, but my storage Nirvana was still out of sight. The truth was 1 Terabyte in a single device was just not cutting it anymore. I needed more storage.

Thankfully Western Digital helped to alleviate this problem by releasing 2 terabyte MyBooks. So I got one. Then, a few months later, I got another!

These one’s were cool because they had little permanent e-ink displays on them to tell me how bad my storage capacity was even when they were off. It felt like Chinese Water Torture.

Then it hit me, or at least my house – English Water Torture. Whilst away one winter, a very cold winter, a pipe burst in my loft and poured water through the house for 2 days until a neighbour managed to get it shut off.

Through complicated life circumstances my data was safe, as it was elsewhere, however it was now clear to me that a hard drive failing or simple human error with file management was not my only fear. Fire, Flood and Pestilence (probably) were now my new worst enemies. I needed an off-site backup.

If you have followed me this far then indulge me a little more. I promise, I’ll get to the point.

If you recall, I had a folder system with all my photos, this system is split across 2 external USB drives because of its size and is then backed-up onto a 3rd USB drive with twice the capacity of either of the first two. Then, I have all of this data sucked into a mystical iPhoto Library that currently stands at almost 700GBs. Yes, I know, it’s a lot. This file is a main working file for me and sits on an external USB drive, with, yes you guessed it, a copy of it on another external USB drive.

BTW, I’d like to stress at this point, that the numbers are mind-boggling sometimes, but on three occasions now due to a dodgy USB hub, and some other random instance, the file system on an external drive has been corrupted forcing me to completely reformat them and (because I backup) copy everything back on that was there before.

I have already saved my data 3 times!

Having all of my drives sitting next to my iMac though was now the weak link, and a burglary, fire or flood could wipe the lot out. So I got another 2 Terabyte MyBook, made a 3rd backup of (almost) everything onto it, and then took it to the office 27 miles away and further inland (so I’m hopeful it’s Tsunami-proof), where it now lives. Once every six weeks or so I bring it home, update it with all of my latest data and then immediately take it back to the office again.

I’ve been told that if I was truly serious about backing things up then I would have 1 more store in a 3rd location some distance away from ground zero and my secondary nuclear bunker…

Apple ThunderBolt Logo, Image (c) Apple Inc.

So what’s this all got to do with Apple/Intel’s ThunderBolt?
Two things:
1) Copying 700GBs, let alone 2 Terabytes, of data at odd intervals is a pain. It takes a day over USB2.0 and I mean a Day; about 24 full hours to truly fill a 2 Terabyte drive before taking it offsite again.
2) The primary databases that iPhoto and Aperture use on my iMac are NOT held internally but externally and are accessed over USB 2.0 which makes photo editing a little more sluggish than I’d like.

ThunderBolt will be my saviour. To be fair, the MyBook that my primary working databases reside on is actually hooked up to my iMac over Firewire 800 which is a little quicker than USB2.0, however I need a fundamental shift in transfer speeds to make dealing with such data a more pleasant experience.

USB3.0 was starting to look like my future needs would be solved. It runs up to 10 times faster than USB2.0 and about 8 times faster than Firewire 800. USB3.0 is also backwards compatible so that all of my old MyBooks would still be accessible from a new USB3.0 laden computer, albeit at the lower speed, but usable all the same.

Certainly, when my iMac gets renewed in a couple of years, USB3.0 may have been my option if Apple have adopted it by then, and I could have bought a 4-6 Terabyte USB3.0 MyBook for my primary working storage relegating the other 10 Terabytes of cumulative USB2.0 and Firewire800 disc space to backing up only.

At this point, the increases in connection speed and drive capacities would be heavily outstripping my actual digital needs, but now it seems like it’s not stopping there.

ThunderBolt is apparently twice as fast as USB3.0 in its first incarnation, with promises that it could go 10 times higher still in coming years. Thunderbolt is also out there now, with Apple having just adopted it for the MacBook Pro (all flavours) and iMac and Mac Pro upgrades incorporating it can’t be far behind.

The external storage manufacturers will be chasing this market, and I believe Lacie have already bitten with some RAIDed solid state magic now available with Thunderbolt connectivity.

It’s going to be a while before I upgrade my iMac, but if (well, WHEN actually) I buy another MyBook before then, It will come with USB for sure, but also with Thunderbolt alongside it. I’ll enjoy the extra capacity on my current computer for now, but when I replace it then the external drive(s) I’ve subsequently purchased will accommodate this new speed.

Though in 3 years’ time the latest Nikons may be pumping out 60-80MB Raw files, so maybe I’ll need to think again.

Now, where can I use as a third storage site after my home and office?


Apple ThunderBolt Cable, Image (c) Apple Inc.

Have fun,
ND

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Posted in Apple, iMac, MacBook Pro, Nakedigit, Nikon, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Buildings at Funny Angles – Citrus Regularity, London

ND – Gorgeous Hot Sunny, Blue

In the second in my irregular series of…
Buildings at Funny Angles I’ve moved to London and some rather brightly coloured offices at the junction of Shaftesbury Avenue and High Holborn.

I came across these accidentally, and from the shadowed side, rounding a corner to see the brilliant bright sunshine attempting to wash out the retina-burning orange and green of sibling buildings in this development.

A quick walk around the block found the sunny side, and only then did the citric gaudiness exploding from the architects mind become fully apparent, with identical grid like faces at disparate angles offering up the piercing yellows, oranges and lime greens in light and shade along the main road and down the intervening alleyways.

I can’t describe any of this as beautiful, but it certainly earns some award for being so striking and very much out-of-place, bursting from the more traditional stone buildings that much of central London is defined by.

I did however like these buildings as photographic subjects, the lines, angles and colours, against the lucky deep blue sky worked for me.

I’ve done some post-processing here which dropped out the sky to Grey to accentuate the strength of the citrus colours of my subject, however most of the post-processing was to correct barrel distortion, rotate and crop to get the views that I wanted. Barrel distortion correction was particularly important as a key feature of all of these images are the razor-sharp lines, so a slight bow in them all from the otherwise excellent lens I was using simply was not acceptable.

Orange Lime 1

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 80mm, Exposure 1/200 @ F8, ISO 400, F8 to improve the Depth of Field


Yellow 2

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 70mm, Exposure 1/400 @ F8, ISO 400


Citrus Tone

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 70mm, Exposure 1/320 @ F8, ISO 400


Orange Lime 2

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 75mm, Exposure 1/160 @ F8, ISO 400


Yellow 1

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 100mm, Exposure 1/320 @ F8, ISO 400

I suddenly feel like a cool fruit punch 🙂

Part 3 can be found Here.

Have fun,
ND

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Posted in Architecture, Buildings, Colours, London, Nakedigit, Nikon, orange, Photography, yellow | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Remembrance Day Parade 2010

ND – Grey, Blue

On Sunday 14th November 2010…
…At 11am the gathered crowds and various representative groups of the armed forces fell silent for 2 minutes in respect of those that had died to defend us.

In 2010 the annual Remembrance Day Parade in Birmingham was centered on Centenary Square and I took a camera along to see if I could record something.

I have photographed events in Birmingham on a number of occasions, from the EDF Half Marathon to Rock Bands or Opera at Artsfest. I’ve covered Protest Marches to Single Individuals in Art Galleries, yet I felt less comfortable about covering the Remembrance Sunday Parade because it was a solemn and respectful occasion.

There were others around me, sporting a pair of high-end DSLRs around their necks, one with the standard pro’s 70-200mm F2.8 and the other with a large wide-angle pro lens. These people were roughly pushing past everyone or climbing all over every bit of street furniture in order to get the shots that they wanted. Sometimes I wish I was that pushy, but in this particular instance I didn’t feel it was right. So many of the shots that I would like to have made never happened.

However, with some care, I tried to approach some of the people involved in a way that they had a chance to turn away if they saw me, or nod a disapproving glance in my direction before I had hit the shutter button.

Salvation and Reflection

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 300mm, Exposure 1/250 @ F5.6, ISO 400, I wanted to depict just one Salvation Army Instrumentalist, but show him as part of the wider group. The reduced depth of field keeps this gentlemen as the main focus of the picture, with others around him blurred, however I really like the sharp reflection within his instrument itself showing his colleagues playing nearby.

I really like ‘Salvation and Reflection’. I was at the back of a crowd, trying to get a view through the swaying heads in front of me of the Salvation Army Brass Band that was quite close by. The Nikkor 70-300mm lens I was using gave me the reach that I needed for this candid shot, and I used all of it to finally grab this one image when the view was wide enough for me to take it. I really like how just this one instrumentalist has been isolated, yet you can clearly see a reflection of some of his colleagues in the shiny brass of his instrument. In post-processing I fully de-saturated it as I felt a monochrome approach was more solemn and in keeping with this occasion, and I pushed the contrast up a little, but otherwise kept the image a little ‘soft’ in sympathy.

Hussars

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 155mm, Exposure 1/250 @ F4.8, ISO 500, I love the varied looks of Pride, Adventure and Humility on the faces of this group. You'll have noticed from my other posts that I don't normally point a camera at someone who sees me do it, to be honest I feel that I'm invading their space and it's something that I'm quite sensitive to. I was especially sensitive at this event given that it was a dignified marking of those that have paid the ultimate price to protect others. I hope these gentlemen were not offended by me running in front of them and pointing a big lens at them.

This is another favourite shot, and became more so when I started to read about the Hussars. In this case we see The Queen’s Royal Hussars. For me the thing that makes this shot, and I believe sums up this group, are the looks (in order, L-R) of Pride, Adventure and Humility on the faces of the three gentlemen at the front.

Poppies

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 220mm, Exposure 1/320 @ F5.3, ISO 640, Post Processed so that Red was the dominant colour for obvious reasons.

People of course were leaving individual mementos to those that had been lost outside the Hall of Memory in Centenary Square.

Brass and Red

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G AF-S VR @ 112mm, Exposure 1/250 @ F6.3, ISO 500, A simple shot outside Baskerville House near the end of the march.

I hope pointing a camera lens at various people didn’t offend, and I’ll try to keep it low-key when I attend this event again in 2011.

Have fun,
ND

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Posted in Birmingham, Birmingham UK, Event, Faces, Nakedigit, Nikon, People, Photography, red | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sitting in a Pub Again

ND – Dark, Blue

I virtually always carry a camera…
…because I never know when an opportunity may come up. Some Sundays, Mrs ND and I walk to our favourite local pub in Edgbaston, sit in a bay window and drink Aspalls Suffolk Cider on tap. During an idle moment whilst Mrs ND was busy elsewhere (probably getting the cider) I realised that I liked the strong contrasting light and shade on the wall in front of me, the table, the picture, the hanging lamp etc. It was largely dim in here, but the general brown hue of everything was pleasing and I pulled my D700 out and took a couple of shots. Some people then came to the table and hogged my muse for a time.

A little later, during another idle moment, Mrs ND gets a lot of cider ;-), the table was clear again, some details in the scene had changed, and the sun was lower in the sky allowing it to flood a little more widely through the windows. So I casually picked up the D700 and tried again.

Whilst I rather liked the muted browns of everything in the original images, I post-processed both of them back to monochrome, giving one a minor sepia tint to warm it a little.

Table in Time 1

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 50mm F1.4G AF-S, Exposure 1/800 @ F1.4, ISO 200, Despite the shards of light that cut across the scene, it was pretty dim in here. However, that was not the main reason I used F1.4. The glass in the picture frame on the wall was highly reflective and it showed quite clearly some parked cars across the street through the window directly behind me. F1.4 was used to reduce the DoF enough that the cars were not visible. 1/800 is what the D700 metered to with no exposure offset from me.


Table in Time 2

Nikon D700 'FX', Nikkor 50mm F1.4G AF-S, Exposure 1/500 @ F1.4, ISO 200, Similar situation to the previous shot, however the table had been used and vacated in the intervening time, glasses and chairs had moved and the sun had gone around a little further towards dusk, and it's slightly lower position in the sky illuminated the wall more widely through the small windows. Definitely no cars reflected in the picture glass here 🙂

In hindsight I should have also tried to take a shot with my iPhone, but forgot!

Have fun,
ND

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Posted in Birmingham, Birmingham UK, iPhone, Nakedigit, Nikon, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments