Getting Ready for a Photo Trip

With a mid-winter photo trip to Yellowstone scheduled, I’ve been trying to get new gear ready, trying to figure out how to carry it, and making sure everything works along with backups…redundancy without getting silly. I’ve lived in the good warm south all my life, and this will be my first Winter shoot.  It’s probably not something I’ll do frequently, but I’m really looking forward to the experience, in spite of my warm blooded hate of cold weather. 

Most of my photography is landscape, or city/architectural. I do very little wildlife. You can’t go to Yellowstone in winter and not do wildlife.  Since my longest lens is a 70-200mm I bought a 2x teleconverter. I didn’t want to spring for another expensive lens that I may never use again.  I also didn’t really want a huge telephoto zoom that would be impractical for my landscape hiking. The teleconverter is small and light and fits in nicely in the backpack.  If I use that 70-200 lens with the teleconverter on a crop lens camera I figure I can get as much as 600mm (equivalent). 

Here’s a shot taken with that set up, using a monopod…essentially handheld  

My plan is to fit all this gear into my backpack, and carry a tripod separately. 

  • Nikon D810 
  • Nikon D7000 (backup)
  • Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8
  • Nikon 16-35mm f/4
  • Sigma 28-300 (my “do everything” lens), used primarily with the D7000
  • Nikon 2x teleconverter
  • two circular polorizers 
  • two 4 stop ND filters
  • a Yongnuo speed light 
  • iPad Pro – used for backup and field editing
  • WD wireless pro hard drive – backup drive
  • Two Remote shutter releases – one for each camera
  • two battery chargers, and four batteries. I’ll need to recharge several batteries each night in the cold weather. 

My wife is taking her own camera, as Sony A6000 with two lenses. Small but powerful (my wife)

Clothing is another whole story. Living in Houston I’m not used to even thinking of anything like -35f, which is what it was today.  Maybe by the time I go, it’ll be warmer..we can hope.  Well there is still time before the trip to think about this a little more. I’ve “test packed” and was able to get it all in one small roller board suitcase. Very full, but do-able.

Taking Care of my Pictures

My iMac Desktop is only about 3 years old but is showing signs of stress.  It has become very slow, and semi-unstable at times.  It has a 1TB internal drive which is 80% full, mostly with my 30k images.  I recently installed 32GB of ram memory, hoping that would help.  It did slightly, but I still get a lot of the “spinning beachball of death”, and frequent non-responsive software.  Running the Apple disk utility shows no issues with the internal hard drive.  I spent hours cleaning our garbage from the hard drive (cache, old files, etc), but the problem persists, so I concluded that it may be a bad disk, or more likely an overcrowded disk.  since the disk is over 50% full, recent software updates (OS and Photoshop/Lightroom) have probably been written on the slowest part of the disk, and/or, there is not enough scratch space for Photoshop and Lightroom to work with the large image files.  So my plan, before bailing out and taking the machine into Apple’s computer configtechnicians is to reconfigure how I handle my pictures, and in the process, how I manage the backups.

Here’s my plan.  I wrote it out to test my thinking.  A lot of it has to do with how Lightroom’s catalog works.

First step is to move all my images off my internal hard drive and create an external Pictures workdisk. The move will initially be done using “Export as Catalog” in Lightroom.  This is so LR creates a completely new catalog pointing at the folders and files on the new external drive.  The software and operating system will be the only thing remaining on the internal drive giving PS and LR all the scratch disk they could possibly want. The LR catalog file will go with the images to the external hard drive.

Note, I thought about keeping my current year images on the internal drive, but decided against splitting my images for the time being, because I like to go back frequently and use old images in composites.

Step Two is to ensure that my Time Machine backup includes the external work disk drive. I believe it will automatically.

Step Three, once I’m sure my new work disk and the Time Machine are working properly, I’ll delete all my images on the internal drive.

Step Four, Set up my Dropsync to backup my work disk to a portable external disk, that I can move off site.  I may use two portable drives so I can rotate them offsite.  I already use Dropsync  with my external portable drive, so this isn’t a new process.

Step Five, Before my trips I will run the “Export as Catalog” process from the work disk to create a travel version of my pictures that I can access on the travel laptop (Macbook Air).  When I download new images from my camera when I travel, they will be on the travel drive (as well as the SD cards, so they are  backed up),  When I return home I can do another “export as catalog” back the other direction to the work drive.  The reason I would use this process instead of just copying the new images up to the work drive, is that I frequently edit images on the trip, before I return.

The best part of this plan is that I don’t have to buy a bunch of equipment.  I can do this with only one additional external hard drive (a 4TB WD hard drive).  I have and use the other equipment, but have never really thought through my configuration, so I don’t use it consistently.


Addendum: as of Monday the 27th, I’ve started step one with a 5Tb WD My Book drive, which I reformatted to work on the iMac.

Almost all done.  iMac now only has software on its hard drive.  All documents and photos are on the external 5tb drive, and being backed up right now by Time Machine.  Final step will be to hook Dropsync back into the process to produce copies on the portable drives, and then just let the process roll.  The computer is back to running almost like it was new!  It worked.



My New Lens

I’ve been shooting a Nikon DX format camera (D7000) for a long time now, as most folks into DSLRs have…that’s what was available.  I shoot mostly landscapes and have been eying FX (full frame) cameras for a while.  I finally made the plunge with a D810 in January.  I only had one DX lens at the time (70-200), so when I went on an extended trip to Myanmar I used a DX lens on the 810 as my travel lens (Sigma 28-300).  Not by any means optimal, but one thing at a time.  I was lucky enough recently to be asked to update a commercial web site I support…lucky enough, because it isn’t updated as often as it should be (what web site is?) but it has bought me a few lenses over the years.  My latest update afforded my a wide angle zoom (Nikon 16-35 F4 vr).  I love wide angle shooting. My DX wide angle is a Tamron 10-24 that I’ve owned for a good while.  This new lens results in the same angle of view when the DX is converted to full frame equivalent.

I did some side by side comparisons between the old Tamron and new Nikon lens.  There is no comparison…obviously a much better lens, and with the 810 body compared to the 7000, there is a huge difference.  That doesn’t mean I won’t use the 7000 with the tamron.  In fact thats exactly what I used in Myanmar for month as my second camera, and it worked great.  Its just nice to have the better lens and body.

My new travel set up now will be the 810 with two lenses; the 70-200 and 16-36.  I don’t mind the “gap” in coverage as I find the middle ground sort of boring.  Some day I may fill that middle ground in with a fixed focal length 50mm 1.8….no rush.  My D7000 will still come along with whatever lens is not on the 810, since I really don’t like switching lenses when I’m shooting.  It destroys the rhythm, and creates dust problems.  I must say, I’m really happy now with the set up.

Now I just need to get out and exercise the lenses.

Tough Decisions

Plan “A” Loaded

When you enjoy traveling and travel photography as much as I do the decision as to what to take with you on a trip becomes difficult.  I get constantly torn between traveling light, and enjoying the trip, sights, and people, and taking everything I own, so I don’t miss that maybe shot.  I’ve spend several hours thinking about the next journey and have so far two “loaded” plans and one light plan.  Here is one of my “loaded” plans.  Plan A, Loaded: Two camera bodies, three lenses, a tripod, plus of course the batteries, chargers, cables, filters and memory cards…oh, and of course a laptop and hard drive for back up.  It amazingly all fits in my backpack.  A little heavy, but it fits.  The tripod is a super light Sirui.  Not very stable, but it works and fits inside this backpack.  My problem with this set up is that there is not way to carry all this except with the backpack, and I don’t want to be lugging a backpack around every day on the trip.   I guess each day when I go out I could decide what kind of shooting I’ll be doing and select the equipment I need.  Trouble with that is that I want the two camera bodies so that I can have a wide angle on one and a telephoto on the other.  Mainly to minimize the changing of lenses since where I am going is hot and dry, and probably dusty.


Plan “B” Loaded

Plan B, Loaded, it another backpack, but in this one I can insert the two camera bodies inside their own camera bags, so that each day when I go out I can carry each camera with its appropriate lens in its own bag…not too bad.  I would carry the tripod outside the bag, strapped to the site while traveling.  This is a larger tripod and a bit sturdier.  The problem with this arrangement is that this backpack doesn’t have a place for the laptop, so that would have to go in my suitcase (checked luggage)…not smart.


Plan C, Super Light, Would be simply one camera body (my D810), with one lens 28-300 zoom, with of course the requisite cables, batteries, chargers and memory cards.  this set up would fit in a small camera bag.  The lens is not great glass, but it functions and covers a tremendous range.  The problem with this is that I love my wide angle lens (10-24mm), and I just know I’ll want it.  The other problem is that the D810 is my new full frame camera and the 28-300 is a DX lens, so I won’t be taking full advantage of the full frame sensor.  I don’t want to spring for another lens right now.


Plan D, Medium Light:  two camera bodies (the D810, and D7000), two lenses, the 70-200 for the 810 and the 10-24 for the 7000.  Avoids the dust specs from changing lenses.  Gives me a full frame camera and lens (D810 plus the 70-200 2.8), and a wide angle with the combination of D7000 and 10-24 lens.  There is a gap in coverage with the lenses.  the 10-24 (cropped to 15-32), then the jump to 70-200.  that middle range of 32-70 is such a nice middle range!  ARRRGGGG!


Plan E, Light: Writing this has helped.  Maybe this is my plan.  Two cameras, each with its own lens.  The D810 with the 28-300, and the D7000 with the 10-24.  This way I’ve got the range, the avoidance of dust, and remain relatively light.  I give up my great 70-200 2.8 FX lens, but its heavy and complicates things.


iPhone apps vs Expensive stuff

Playing with iPhone apps tonight down at the Lake while listening to the funky music of the Rhythm Bandits. Never heard of them, but they were good. Especially their blues music.

I just spent $150 for a special ND filter for my Nikon camera that will allow me to take long exposure shots. I shot the same long exposure (60 seconds) tonight with my cheap iPhone app (Slowshutter). Results are great. No filter. The app calculates exposure for that 60 second shot. How??!! Makes me wonder where camera technology is going.

First image is an HDR using the HDR Pro app. The second is the long exposure using Slowshutter. The third is playing around stitching three HDR images together. All iPhone.

Testing my new ND Filter

I went out today around the neighborhood to test my new Neutral Density filter.  The subjects are not the greatest, but it is interesting to see the results.  Here are two subjects.  One seen with normal exposure/no filter and the other with the Filter on and longer exposure.

The first two (dock) are normal exposure 160th @f18, and long exposure 10 sec @f18.

the second two (fountain) are normal 100th @f18, and long exposure 27sec @f29