Friday 5th December 2008

Organisation and backup
New D3X

This week we turn our attention to the backing up of our images and how we organise them so we can locate them when we want to.

Many people find backing up photos is one of the least interesting tasks, and so it often does not get done, or if it does its only partly done and often well behind. Eventually everyone has a computer that crashes and you lose the hard drive. We have had two hard drives fail in the last few years, luckily our images were backed up. At his point if you do not have your images backed up, recovering them is a very expensive process using a specialist engineering company that can recover information from damaged disks, but even they will not be able to recover all images. Most won't use these services, they will just lose all their photos.

If you look at the cost of obtaining or replacing these images, plus the inconvenience of having to do this, you can see its well worth taking a serious interest in backing up images. Ideally you should at any time have at least three copies of all images, one copy away from your home or office, perhaps with a relative or in a storage facility.

Our solution is to use plug in hard drives, we have one main set, one backup set here, and a second backup set away from here. After a scare when one make of plug in drive did not work after a routine Microsoft Windows update, we also make sure that the copies are on three different makes of hard drives. When one make stopped working it was only a short period before another update came out and they worked again.


Image taken with Nikon D2h, 80-400VR at 400mm, ISO 800, 1/90th, F5.6

You can read more on :-

Last week in Ghana (West Africa) I took over 900 photos, covering many subjects from wildlife, waterfalls, historic buildings, culture, and of course people. These are added to the very many thousands of other photos that I have, but I need to be able to find individual images out of this large collation all the time, to illustrate articles on this website, for location guides, articles elsewhere, some to become limited edition fine art prints and others for a wide range of uses. Organising, indexing and finding photographs when you want them is not as simple as you may think, and a task that very few do well.  I have not found a solution to date that is ideal, and this is an area we need to pay far more attention to, wasting a vast amount of time, from time to time searching for photographs. There are some solutions, most working perhaps better for those who either have a single interest or those who take far fewer photographs.

We store our photos, treating each card as a film, and numbering both cards and photos so that we can identify which of us took them, what camera it was on and the year and month taken, plus the card within the month, and the frame within the card. This system was originally set up so that when we started a larger picture library and included other peoples photos as well it would still function. So by looking at the name associated with any photo file we are able to immediately get back to others taken at the same date as well as know a fair bit about it. But try and find photos of waterfalls and this does not help, so we run a simple text file index as well listing each card and the main features on it, and this usually gets us to the photos, but its not an ideal solution.

We have articles covering this topic further:-

plus we have previously had articles on Keywords and Captions , and Metadata.

Nikon brings out D3X

As we have been predicting for some time, Nikon has now announced the D3X camera body, the first that is a practical FX and DX camera in a single body. With a DX lens you get a 10MP image and with FX 24.5MP. DX is the format used by the majority of Nikon cameras including all the lower models and up to the D300, D2H and D2X, FX format is the same as 35mm and used with the D3, D3X and D700. For most photographers the DX format is the better choice, as you have greeter depth of field and a 1.5x advantage on lens length, cutting down size, weight to carry and cost.

The D3X camera body is quite pricey at 5,500. You could get both a D300 (DX) and D700 (FX) for just over half of this. On past experience this is likely to drop by about 25% within about 3 months.

While the D3, has very high ISO settings, the D3X has a top ISO of only 1600 (plus up to Hi2), while the D300 goes to 3200 (plus Hi1), so in effect the same.

So as we predicted the D3 was the full frame high speed upgrade of the D2H, mostly aimed at press and sports photographers and the D3X is the full frame upgrade of the D2X, for studio and more general use, but competing with medium format with digital backs in terms of file size. Very few however really need this file size, and its only really roadside bill board sizes that may benefit. When used to produce smaller images its likely that the images from the D3X will look less sharp than the D300, in the same way that many found the D2X  images had a less sharp appearance then the D200.  Editing these large files will also require larger amounts of computer memory and be far slower.

Camera Images will have training available as soon as the D3X camera is available and have been training people on the D3 and D700, FX cameras which are very similar, and of course all the other Nikon models including the D300. They themselves will continue to use two D300's as their main cameras, as the FX format has no advantages and a number of disadvantages for them. They recommend that unless you have specific needs that can only be met by an FX format camera that you select one of the DX range, the D300 being the ideal for those wanting to undertake advanced work.

35mm or FX format is not something that was developed as an ideal, but came out of a series of accidents, movie film was originally 70mm, and had no sprocket holes. Someone wanted to be able to sprocket feed film so cut the 70mm in half and punched sprocket holes in it. When someone wanted to be able to sprocket feed film for still photography they just turned the existing movie film on its side and worked out that 8 sprocket holes moves it 38mm, so allowing a gap of 2mm, you ended up with a frame size of 36x24mm (35mm being the width across the film including the sprocket holes).

DX came about because sensors have more depth than film and record better light striking at a lower angle so the area around the outside had a poorer image quality, selecting the area of the image that produced the quality image was similar to sectioning a negative giving a 1.5x advantage with all lenses, but specifically noticeable with longer lenses, so a 400mm on a DX camera produces the same image as a 600mm on a FX camera, but has a greater depth of field, is lighter and costs a fraction of the cost of a 600mm lens.

Nikon then produced a range of DX lenses that were smaller and did not cover the image area of the FX sensor, some far wider, and some zooms with a good range like the 18-200, and the magical 10.5mm modified fisheye that can cover 180 degrees, or 120 degrees as a true wide angle when used with Capture NX or NX2. These lenses will work with FX cameras but drops into a smaller file size of around 5MP for the D3 and D700 and now with the D3X you can get a 10MP image, but you are spending 5.5 times as much as using the D300, with little advantage.

If you are employed by some government departments, agency or wealthy corporation then perhaps you might like to get a D3X and a D300, and use the D300 the majority of the time, if its your money you are spending, then unless you have a specific need that only an FX camera can do, such as throwing backgrounds out of focus in a very small studio, then the D300, is the best choice available, with other DX models if the budget will not stretch this far.

Ghana Photography Trip

I spent a week in Ghana, West Africa, taking over 900 photographs, arriving home late this Tuesday afternoon. It was good to get away from the news here for a week, and I achieved far more than I had expected.  I got to visit a wide range of places and undertake a lot of different types of photography, including wildlife, waterfalls, historic buildings, beaches, lakes, a treetop walk through the canopy of the rainforest, beautiful women, markets, the culture, and far more. I even went to a funeral with 4,000 black faces and just my 1 white one, with people in traditional costumes, drum groups, dancers and more, and was given complete freedom to move about everywhere and to photograph what I wanted. My guide had explained before the different types of dress and what was likely to happen, and just before going there I had been to a village where this clothing is woven, saw all the process and tried some on myself. I also saw Cocoa growing and the process that gets from this to the beans used to make chocolate. In fact I saw and learnt so much it would take a large book to cover it all.

Ghana tends to get overlooked as a tourist destination as it has no headline feature, although it has a very diverse and interesting range of opportunities. I would say that the major feature of the country is its friendly people, nearly all with smiles, although many are very poor. I did have the benefit of a really superb guide, who drove me everywhere in a 4WD, a normal car would really struggle with roads that in places are worse than any track you could find here.

This trip had a number of objectives, including producing information for this site and a new sister site on travel under development, but we are also putting together some training that will involve 1 to 1 training in Ghana, so you could get to learn to use your camera fully and then get taken around and take the sort of photos I did, using both the superb guide and with my help to fine tune your photography skills, plus use my lenses and filters. The actual costs in Ghana are very low, meals, hotels, entry fees all a fraction of what they are in the UK. We haven't yet got the pricing sorted but should have within the next week or two, it will be affordable and compare favourably with going elsewhere in Africa on even group events.

Ghana is the safest place in Africa, politically stable, and its official language is English, although not all can speak it, and you may struggle to understand some that do. If you have the right guide with you, then you don't get tummy upsets or pestered by people wanting money, yet can try different local food and also learn a lot about the culture. It is quite hot but not unpleasant, and I lost 3/4 stone in weight, but I think most of this was in perspiration, so fluid loss, so will probably put it back on again.

I have identified another list of places in Ghana that I want to visit, and will be definitely visiting many more times, sometimes with other photographers and on some occasions on my own to fact find on other locations.

In a few weeks time I will also get to show you some of the photos I have taken and explain more of what I did.

Summary of Articles Included this week

Backing up your photo collection

External hard drives

Organising and indexing your images

Free organising software

Flags, Tags and filters

Locations Guides Added This Week

Ingleborough Cave, Clapham, Lancashire

Ness Botanic Gardens, Nr Neston, Cheshire


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