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Backup and Recovery

Megan Snider

The latest meeting of the Calvert Photography Club was all about backing up one of our most precious assets: our photos.

To kick off the gathering on April 20, President Jeff Smallwood reminded members about the seasonal display at the Solomons Island Visitor Center. If you’re interested in submitting images for possible inclusion, please email your images directly to Jeff. The focus should be on spring and summer in Calvert County. If selected, you’ll be asked to pay $15 for the print and will receive it to keep when the exhibit is changed.

Our last photo trip to Georgetown was a hit! More than a dozen members attended to walk the C&O Canal and enjoy downtown. Though the cherry blossoms weren’t out yet, many intrepid photographers joined Jeff on a sunrise shoot before heading to Georgetown. Our next trip will be to Piney Point Lighthouse Museum & Park on May 4.

For those interested in contributing framed images to the College of Southern Maryland’s fundraiser, there has been a change of timeline for donations; the fundraiser will now be held this fall.

If you’re up for a little adventure, Daniel passed along information on Patuxent Adventure Center’s Mallows Bay guided paddle trip, slated for May 11. Though not an official CPC event, the trip will guide visitors by kayak through the “largest shipwreck fleet in the Western Hemisphere,” a veritable ship graveyard.

Treasurer Bonnie Bryant gave a club account update and thanked Glenn and Ursula Lawrence for providing snacks this meeting. If anyone is interested in bringing goodies to future gatherings, please drop Bonnie a line! A sign-up sheet is available.

Spencer Johnson, our librarian, gave an update on the club’s burgeoning book collection. Spencer will now bring titles to each meeting that are free to be “rented” by members for a month. Titles can be returned at the following meeting, or the rental period extended by talking to Spencer (on the honor system). Also, if you have photography-related books or magazines you’d like to offer “free to a good home,” they may be brought to meetings and labeled for giveaway.

Jeff gave an update on the fun in months to come: planned trips include jaunts to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.; sunset on the Chesapeake Bay; and an evening/night photo walk in Washington. Scheduled guest speakers include Jennifer Casey, Zolt Levay, Brian Flynn, Brandon Kopp and Joe Rossbach. Topics will cover long exposure, wildlife, lenses, DIY and much more.

Jeff at meetingOur main presentation covered a crucial step for all photographers: backing up and restoring our photos. Jeff spoke on “Avoiding Murphy” through regular back-ups. “It’s not a matter of ‘if,’ but a matter of ‘when,’” Jeff said, concerning when our systems will fail. Scary, yes – but not as terrifying if you’re prepared.

Technology doesn’t last forever, and we can’t trust the longevity of SD cards, external hard drives or CDs. Even warranties don’t guarantee our work will be salvaged should the worst happen. Drives can be replaced, but they’ll be blank; it’s up to us to secure the information saved on them. Jeff highlighted that, in most cases, “bad” drives that are doomed to fail will probably fail immediately. Most external hard drives last three or more years.

The life of your memory cards depends on how many times it has been written on and erased. Each should be good for a year or more, Jeff said. The longevity of CDs/DVDs is very dependent on environmental factors – but in average conditions, they should last two to five years. So don’t assume you can burn CDs and open them a decade from now . . . if they still work, technology may have changed too much to read them. Beyond being time- and space-consuming, CDs and DVDs are not the best system for back-up.

So what’s the best way to secure your pictures? Get photos onto your computer right away, Jeff advised. The longer your images are in your camera and on a card, the likelier they are to get accidentally erased, corrupted or forgotten.

After you’ve uploaded your images, decide what you want to back up. Your entire PC, including programs, or just your photos? Restoring your whole PC is more complicated; an entire PC back-up creates a clone. If you just want to back up your data—music, documents, photos, etc.—then you’ll be selecting certain data and programs to back-up, not your entire system. Tools for backing up your computer include Time Machine, Acronis and SyncBack, among others.

Another big decision when choosing how to back up your work? Whether you want your back-up to be local (i.e., in your house), or off-site (like on a company’s server). “Off-site is the only way to mitigate big disasters,” Jeff said, like theft of the drive or home damage. The best way to securely save your photos is to make multiple copies: local for yourself, and off-site for big disasters.

External hard drives are sturdy and transportable. You don’t have to worry about moving them or causing damage in transit – as long as they’re not dropped. For off-site back-up, photographers must decide if they want to perform the regular syncs themselves or use a commercial service. “If you’re disciplined, you can do it yourself,” Jeff said, but entreated members to be honest with themselves. Will you make the time to regularly back up your images? Will you sit down at the computer every Monday, for example, to ensure your photos are loaded onto drives or other storage devices? If not, a commercial service may be worth the investment.

When performing a local back-up, Jeff advised using a dedicated external hard drive for your data; they are the cheapest for the speed and can be easily moved for off-site use and protection. A second computer, perhaps an older model, can also be used for back-up. Manually syncing your data with a hard drive is going to be fastest, Jeff explained; off-site depends on your Internet speed, etc.

If you prefer off-site back-up, cloud storage is an option. Services like Google Drive, Amazon and Dropbox offer cloud storage – but consider factors like privacy (your data stored elsewhere on a server) and bandwidth (thresholds and throttling, depending your Internet speed/subscription, meaning your Internet provider could purposely slow down your connection due to the large amount of data you are transferring). On the bright side, cloud storage can typically be accessed from anywhere and live synced, which can be powerful . . . though risky. If live sync is enabled, photos that have been accidentally deleted on your PC could also be deleted from your cloud, for example.

So what’s a photographer to do? It’s good to have both, Jeff recommended: a local back-up so you can easily access your images, and off-site back-up for more permanent storage and protection. Off-site services vary in terms of storage and pricing, but a few include Google (400 GB for $20 a month); Dropbox (500 GB for $50 a month); and Amazon (500 GB for $250 a year).

If despite your best intentions you still wind up losing images, Jeff next spoke on the restoration process. If you have a back-up of your data and/or your operating system, you should be able to restore your images to vital health. But if you have no back-up? Well, it gets a little trickier.

Recovery services can cost $2,700 or more—with no guarantees if your equipment is physically defected or broken. If your system just crashed, many tools are available inexpensively or for free. Pandora Recovery, Recuva and CardRecovery are a few options—and the latter allows for a free trial to see if the software can actually “find” your lost images before you pay.

Jeff’s best practices:

• Don’t fill your SD card all the way.
• Don’t let the battery fail in the middle of writing to a card.
• Make consistent back-ups a priority.
• Don’t use problematic cards. If an SD or flash card is giving you trouble, don’t use it again.
• Reformat your cards regularly and keep spares.
• Keep your computer clean, well ventilated and scanned regularly for viruses. Don’t eat or drink around it. Have a battery back-up.
• Consider investing in an uninterruptable power source (UPS).

Thanks for an informative presentation, Jeff!

After our main meeting, we enjoyed images from Jim Rogers’ travels: “Faces From Around the World.” Known for his stellar portrait photography, members asked Jim about his process for capturing smiling (and non-smiling!) strangers. “If you treat them nicely, they’ll usually respond,” Jim said, noting that he doesn’t pose people; he simply captures them in their element.

Allen Barth continued his series on composition, talking about perspective and challenging ourselves to look at scenes differently. Lines in an image are our focus: we look at them, we follow them. When you’re snapping a picture, think about implied lines forming visual paths; they’re something our brain follows automatically to make connections. The mind will see shapes and triangles before we consciously notice them.

Leading lines, used correctly, will lead us to points of interest—but we must have something there. To have a leading line heading off to something vacant will “zoom” us right out of the image. A few of Allen’s line “don’ts” include tilting the horizon; putting lines directly in the middle of the photo; using lines corner to corner; and allowing unsuccessful leading lines to send viewers out of your photo.

Think about lines in May, and send Allen or Jeff your images for examples next meeting. Our featured assignment for next month will also focus on “silhouettes,” interpreted to your liking.

Before we dismissed for the day, we participated in a photo critique of our April assignment: self-portraits. Megan Snider, Brenda Schillaci and Teddie Watts shared images.

When we meet again May 18, photographer Jennifer Casey will be our special guest! She is the moderator of the Maryland Beauty Facebook page. See you then!


Georgetown Photo Walk

Karl Barth

The 4th photo trip for the Calvert Photography Club in 2013 was another photo walk through the popular streets of Georgetown.  Georgetown is located in Northwest Washington and is right next to the Potomac River.  It’s one of the popular regions in Washington DC with its various bars, restaurants, and shops.

Karl Barth PhotographyThe trip took place on Saturday, April 6 and was put together really well by club president Jeff Smallwood.  He planned out the trip using Google Maps along with the scheduled meeting times.  The link to the map was sent out to the group and was very helpful.  I also sent out some tips and suggestions for the trip to the group.  Hopefully these tips have been helpful.

The photo trip started at 5:45 in the morning at the Tidal Basin to catch the sunrise and hopefully the cherry blossoms which were expected to bloom.  Unfortunately they hadn’t fully bloomed.  Still the sunrise was beautiful and offered some wonderful colors.  There was a great turnout of club members for the sunrise shoot.  There were also a lot of other photographers lined up along the Tidal Basin capturing the sunrise.  It was quite a sight.

Karl Barth PhotographyAfter capturing the sunrise along with the few trees that had bloomed, the rest of the club met at the Rosslyn Metro station to walk across the Francis Scott Key Bridge then to Georgetown.  In walking across the bridge you got spectacular views of Georgetown, the Potomac River, and the Kennedy Center.  Once of the landmarks that stand out was Healy Hall on the campus of Georgetown University.  The building looked like a church to me.

After crossing the bridge, the walk continued along the scenic C&O Canal which was beautiful.  There were lots to shoot along the canal.  I took some great shots of the canal from the pedestrian bridges.  After the canal we headed to the shores of the Potomac River.  Then we headed back to downtown Georgetown where we enjoyed lunch at Serendipity. 

Overall this was a great trip.  The weather was perfect.  This was my first time to Georgetown and there were lots to see.  I was happy to see a great turnout for this trip and it was a lot of fun.  There was a lot of walking involved but it was well worth it.