It’s been a while since my last update…I’ve been busy with lots of things related to the NewsWorks site, but also with a side project of producing science content for QUEST, a science and environmental program produced by by KQED in San Francisco that’s now a multi-station content collaborative which includes WHYY. I’ve finally got some firstfruits to show – a video and text piece I produce for the series. Here it is for your viewing pleasure:
Sorry, I’ve been holding out on you. Too many irons in the fire. Here’s some images from the spring issue of Delaware Bride Magazine, shot on location at Longwood Gardens last fall (when magazines could still afford to hire photographers).
This one came together pretty easily, a softbox to fill the shadows from camera right and multiple takes of flying cards so I had something to work with in post.
Shot toward the end of the day and time was running short. Kids being kids, you only have a short amount of time to work with them before you lose their interest, especially later in the day. So in the interest of expediency, this is a composite of several photos. The secret is to concentrate on one child at a time, like multiple takes in a film scene, and then to stitch together the best images. Sorry this is a small version, I’ll try to get a larger one up on the portfolio pages so you can see how great their expressions came out…
This double-page spread was shot at the worst possible time of day. If it were up to me, I would have split the shoot over 2 days so I could have shot with better light in the morning and evening, but you know, budgets and all. So time to make lemonade.
Longwood is gorgeous of course, and a great place to shoot – especially when the art director has the foresight to shoot their spring issue in the fall when there are still leaves on the trees. The weather really cooperated with us in that it hadn’t gotten too cold (even though we shot in November) so the leaves hadn’t changed color too much. I did have to tweak some minor color out of the background in a couple of shots, but nothing too major. We also had a perfect day to shoot, with temps in the upper 60′s thankfully – I feel for models who have to stand out in the winter freeze in spring fashions and pretend they’re not freezing…
Here’s some behind-the-scenes stuff:
I find it important to stay balanced and connected with real people and sometimes that can be a challenge in this business. One client that I work with every year that really helps with that is Rebuilding Together Philadelphia. If you don’t know, RT organizes volunteers to make repairs and accessibility improvements to the homes of elderly, disabled and low-income households that they wouldn’t be able to do themselves. Many times they do this for an entire neighborhood at once. Witnessing the homeowners reactions and the general atmosphere of goodwill during one of their builds leaves you feeling better about life. It’s different than my normal type of work, but I enjoy it nonetheless.
Recently, I got treated to a thank you video that the Philadelphia chapter put together for their vendors/sponsors. [Note: Though I get a credit at the end and most of the images are mine, there are a few in there (especially in the beginning) that I didn't take. Not sure where they came from.] I think this slideshow does a good job of showing how much the volunteers enjoy their work. I enjoyed documenting it too.
This past January, I got an assignment to shoot 3 eco-activists for a magazine feature story. As is usually the case, we were shooting for an issue that would appear on newsstands several months later, in this case April. The portraits needed to be environmental to tell the story, but since the issue would appear in the spring, the art director’s concern was that they couldn’t look as if they were shot in the winter. On top of this were the usual challenges; one subject never answered the phone when I called and had no answering machine, one was on vacation until the day before my deadline and the last was in his 90′s and his failing health limited his ability to travel.
The first shoot I was able to schedule was Russell Peterson, former governor of Delaware, now in his 90′s. After speaking with Russ, we decided to shoot on his property which was a couple of acres and included a pond. His age restricted his ability to travel, and I decided that to ask him to hike out to a wildlife preserve was out of the question. While scouting his property I found an old adirondack chair near his pond and worked out an angle that would give me some evergreen trees and warm sunlight in the background. I used a wall to conceal most of the leaf covered foreground and and depth of field to disguise the bare branches that I couldn’t crop out. It took some effort for him to get to the location, and even to get into the chair because of it’s low profile, but he was a good sport and we got a great shot. The ultimate compliment came after the shot ran when Russell’s wife June contacted me to ask for a copy of the image for their home.
Next was Joan Deaver, a resident and protector of Rehoboth Beach. After trying the original contact number to no avail, I was able to get a secondary number from the magazine. Once I managed to get in touch with her we worked out a time to meet at the beach near her home. We did some safe shots at the entrance to the beach as a warm up, and then I asked her if she would be willing to take a walk out to the surf. She was game, so we did another series of shots at the water’s edge that blew the safe shots away. We were fortunate to get a blue sky that day, and along with Joan’s willingness to go without an overcoat in the 40 degree weather we were able to get a shot that really conveyed a sense of her strength and dedication to protecting the natural assets in the area, and one that felt like April as well.
Finally came Alan Muller. Alan was a quiet guy with an outlook of realistic pessimism that comes from years of tilting at windmills over environmental issues. You get the impression on meeting him that he cares deeply about his causes and maybe not enough about himself. We were down to the wire on our deadline and he had just spent 2 days driving home from the midwest. We ended up with cloudy skies that day, but the final image matches my impression of Alan perfectly.
One of the things I try to do on any assignment is to understand my subject, both from the standpoint of who they are and, if possible, how they are being portrayed in the accompanying article. I’ve known photographers who will just show up and take a shot, using the same basic ideas no matter who the subject is – but that’s not my way. I try to conduct a mini-interview while setting up and taking the pictures so I can get to know them as a person and convey a sense of their personality in the final image. Most of the people I photograph editorially aren’t used to being in front of a camera, and I like the challenge of gaining their trust and helping them feel comfortable. Listening is key. People will only open up if they sense you are really listening to them. I find that getting people to talk about something they are passionate about puts them at ease and that passion comes through in the final shot.
See an online version of the article here.
One question I don’t get asked very often is, “How do I safely back up my data?” You know you need to do it, but like doing your taxes, you’re putting it off until the last minute. Unfortunately, with a disk failure you don’t exactly know when the last minute is. In this post, I’ll boil it all down so you can quickly understand the issues and tell you how I back up my digital files and why I do it the way I do.
There are three possible situations you may need to recover from that require you to back up the data on your computer:
1. Disk Failure
You can lose data on a disk when the disk stops physically working for some reason.
2. Disk Corruption
This is the more common but often overlooked way a disk can fail. I’ve seen this happen to a photographer shooting tethered (directly connected to the computer) when the cable became disconnected from the camera while writing the file to disk. The result was a corrupted directory tree (that’s the file that keeps track of the physical location of all files on the disk). His files started spontaneously disappearing off the disk, which as you might imagine, caused him a fair amount of distress.
3. Physical Loss
A fire that destroys your office, home etc., theft of your equipment, you get the idea.
The simplest way to back up is to burn crucial files to a CD or DVD, or better to write it to a thumb drive. The drawback of this method is that if a loss does occur you have to find a computer running the software you need, and even if you can get your work done, you’ll need to get your system fixed/replaced, and then spend the better part of a day re-loading and re-configuring software. Don’t discount the amount of time and aggravation (and loss of business) this will cause you.
A better way to back up is to make a complete bootable backup to an external firewire hard drive. The benefit of this is that if your disk fails, you can connect the external drive, start up holding the option key, choose to boot from your backup drive and your will be right back where you were on your last backup within minutes. Minutes! Not hours or days. If your computer fails altogether, take your backup drive to another mac you have access to and boot up with it (keep in mind it needs to run the same processor that your machine had: Intel or PPC) and you will be looking at your system, just the way you like it, but on another machine.
The bootable backup method has a huge advantage in that it let’s you keep working if you are on a tight deadline, rather than shifting gears and spending the rest of the day looking for someone who has a computer that will open your files.
My solution: Shirt Pocket’s SuperDuper! ($30). Allows you to make a BOOTABLE backup on an external drive. After the initial backup, use it’s ‘Smart Update’ feature to just update the changes you made to your system since the last backup, which is much faster. It’s easy and non-technical and you can even schedule regular backups so it will do them automatically. You can even use SuperDuper! to clone your backup drive back to your computer’s internal drive if a software update screws up your system. [I am not in any way affiliated with the company that makes SuperDuper!, just a big fan of things that make my life easier.]
A Step Further: If you have a drive big enough to hold 2 complete backups, use Disk Utility to partition it into 2 equal partitions (it will appear as two separate disks in the finder) and alternate backing up from one to the other. This gives you two levels of undo should you discover a problem with your system. Of course you could use two separate externals to do this too.
Why don’t I use Time Machine? Time Machine is great when you have lots of small files that change frequently and you only need to retrieve a file or two at a time. I can still do this with my alternating 2 drive backup (though it’s lacks a pretty interface) but a bootable backup also protects me against a catastrophic disk failure and lost work time while Time Machine does not. I also tend to work on large image files which can fill up a Time Machine drive pretty quickly.
Files already on an external drive: If you store files solely on an external drive like I do with my images, you’ll need a backup of that too. I use an identical external drive and SuperDuper! to periodically keep it in sync. Why not use a RAID array ? I have 2 problems with RAID. First, non-technical users don’t always understand that in some configurations RAID arrays provide no redundancy at all. Second, as mentioned before if a write error corrupts the directory tree, a RAID array that does provide redundancy will automatically propagate that error to the backup drive, causing the backup to fail as well. The same would be the case with maliciously crafted code. Manually updating your backup gives you another layer of safety.
I currently use the Lacie 2Big Triple, a drive housing with 2 separate removable drives inside. It can be configured as a RAID array, but I set it up as two separate drives. The triple interface (Firewire 800, FW400, USB2) insures I can connect to whatever I might need to and the single housing means the 2 drives share a power adaptor and cord, cutting down on the mess under my desk. Lacie uses reliable brand-name disks inside as well, Seagate in my case. The Drobo storage system has become popular with some high visibility photogs, but I have some serious reservations about it, and the 2Big Triple comes in at about half the price for the same amount of storage.
While having two copies protects against disk failure and disk corruption, remember that if you suffer a physical loss like fire or theft and both copies were in the same place, you’ll be up a creek without a paddle. To insulate yourself from this issue, you’ll need a third backup in a separate location. I know you’ll never do it, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!