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Shooting on the road, whether it's on vacation or on assignment, introduces a variety of considerations for photographers of all levels. How do you store the shots, back them up, edit and enhance images in the field, and then merge those images with your master library at home? In this course, Ben Long addresses these topics and more from the perspective of several field-shooting scenarios, including city vacationing and backcountry hiking.
The course takes a look at the hardware and software issues behind field shooting: assessing storage and backup needs, evaluating GPS geotagging options, surveying power and charging issues, and more. After discussing each of the components, Ben shows how they fit together in different field setups, ranging from an extravagant laptop-based system to a no-computer setup that backs up photos to a compact digital wallet device. The course also spotlights some workflow strategies to consider when you get home, from transferring photos to merging them with a larger photo library.
I remember seeing this picture when I was a kid. He was a National Geographic photographer and he was getting ready to go on an assignment down the Amazon. So he had this big metal canoe and he was filling it with all the stuff that he needed, so he had his tent and his sleeping bag and he had his off and he had his on and he had his camera, but mostly the canoe was just filled from one side to the other with film, lots and lots of films, because he was going to be on the river for ever. We have it so much easier now. Our storage is small. It can hold tons and tons of pictures.
Nevertheless, if you are going to be on the road for a while, you need to think about a storage strategy. Where are you going to put all of your pictures as you take them, how much is it going to cost you, and are you worried about redundancy? Now one of the simplest ways to handle your storage concerns when you travel is simply to take a lot of storage cards. If you have a camera that uses SD cards, take a bunch of SDs; if you use compact flash, take a bunch of compact flashes. If you are carrying maybe an SLR that uses compact flash and a point-and-shoot that uses SD, that's fine; take some of both.
This is possibly the smallest, most efficient way to manage your images. It's also probably the least cost- effective in terms of price per megabyte. There are a lot of different strategies about what size cards you should use. Some people think that you should use lots of smaller cards so that you don't have all of your eggs in one basket. If a card fails, you don't lose that much. Other people think that you should just carry larger cards because chance of failure is very small, and then you don't have to carry as many cards, and you can carry lots of storage that way.
I'm starting to err on that side more and more. I rarely if ever have card failure, and so I'm starting to carry larger cards with me with the idea that I can simply not worry about any other storage solutions and just pack a whole bunch of the appropriate kind of cards. I really like these little Lowepro card carriers, both because they're sturdy and they are impact resistant. They are not waterproof or anything, but you can carry them in a dry bag if you are going to be in that kind of situation. And they hold a lot, and as I shoot a card and fill it up, I can just turn it over in here and know which cards are used and which are still available.
So this is one way to go: just buy yourself a bunch of storage and take it with you. Now as I said this--there is a question of redundancy when you're traveling. We're going to talk about that a little bit later. This is not a real redundant solution. If you're taking a computer with you, you can just be dumping your cards to your computer. Now, depending on how much storage you have on your computer you may want to take an external hard drive with you. That gives you more storage or the possibility of making an extra copy. This is just a simple USB drive. It's a USB2 drive. You can also get USB3 drives which are backwards compatible with the USB2.
What's nice about these is they are bus-powered, meaning they are actually powered by the computer. I don't need to carry an extra power supply, an extra power brick, or anything like that. All I need is the appropriate cable to get from here into my computer, and that's just a USB cable. Now USB cables come in lots of different shapes and sizes. You want to be sure you get the kind that's got the computer end on one end and the right small USB connection on the other. At this point now you're going to be finding drives with three possible connections: one that looks like this, one that is the small USB and then one that's the smaller USB. You've just got to be sure you have the right ones.
And before you go, you want to see if you're taking multiple hard drives, if they need separate cables, in which case you are going to have to carry a mess of cables. I really like these little zip retractable cables. You can get these in a lot of formats. This is actually a USB extension cord, which can be handy if you need to get your drives or other USB gear further from your computer. So, this is another option. A variant of this, if you're going to be in a really rough situation, maybe backcountry, maybe you are backpacking, maybe you are going on Safari and you know you are going to be in a rough vehicle, would be to buy your own enclosure, your own external hard drive enclosure and put a solid-state drive in it.
Solid-state drives are expensive. They don't hold as much, but they're really durable. You are not going to have a drive crash from impact with a solid-state drive. Another option if you're not taking a computer, or even if you are, is to simply take optical media. Blank DVDs, blank CDs, you can take your images, burn them off to DVD and either carry the discs or go ahead and mail them home so that they're out of your hands. This can be a way of offloading things or shipping things offsite if you do fear that you're may be going on that trip down the Amazon and you could lose all your stuff in the river or something.
This would be a way of getting some images out for safekeeping. Discs are cheap. They are a good solution if you don't have a computer with you and you are going to be staying in a hotel where there might be a computer lab. And nowadays, around the world in my experience, most hotels have a computer setting in the lobby that is free for you to use, and these days most computers have burners. You might want to check ahead before you rely on this as your sole way of offloading your images. I would not say that this is a great primary storage medium; it's a good backup, again, if you want to get things off site or just have another place to put some images while you are on the road.
Another option if you don't want to take a computer and you don't want to take lots of cards, because you think you're going to shoot so much that carrying lots of cards just isn't cost effective, is to go with these little digital wallet-type devices. These are both hard drives. They are just the same type of hard drive that we saw in this drive earlier. The difference is that these have card readers built into them. On this one you can see there's a CF Reader right here and there is a slot over here that can do SD or Sony Memory Sticks and some other formats.
And I can put a card in here, press a button, and the card will actually just transfer right onto the drive. You can get these in various capacities. I think this is a 500 GB drive right now, so that's a lot of storage of the lot of cards that I can shove in here. This is a variant but that has the extra feature of a screen on it, an actual little color LCD that lets me view my images after they go on here. It knows how to read a lot of raw formats; it can certainly read JPEGs and TIFFs and so on. So I can put my images and actually review them on here. A lot of people prefer a device like this with a screen because on a device like this you put your card in, you have to transfer a button, it goes, and when it's done you just have to take your word for it that it actually copied your images.
I have never had a failure with one of these. One way around your concern about effectiveness of this device is to carry two of them; then you've got redundancy. Put the same card in both, the odds of both of these drives failing is very small. The odds of a failure--of a file being bad on both drives is very small. A nice thing about these HyperDrive gizmos is that they also work with the iPad. I can transfer images into this and later plug this into an iPad and get images off of it. I can also store movies and things like that that I might want to watch on my iPad later.
So if you are going to use an iPad-based workflow on your trip, which we'll talk about later, this can be a good solution. These devices, like this other drive that I was looking at earlier, come in a kind of kit form, where you can get just the enclosure and put your own drive in it. So if you've already got a drive lying around, that can be very cost effective. If you want to use a solid-state drive, you can. These are very good options for times when you don't want to take a computer with you. They are powered by just regular AC power.
And this is probably not something that you want to take with you, but it's something you should really have at home, and that's a good label maker. This is just a basic digital label maker. I keep all of my little power things labeled, because I have often enough plugged them into the wrong device and blown it up. This makes packing faster. It makes it easier to get the right thing, when you need it. They are cheap. It's a really easy way to go. Now getting back to that question of redundancy, so I've maybe decided to go with a card-only solution. I've shopped these cards up and I put them here and now these are my only copies.
If something happens to them it's over. A lot of people panic over that and they think well no, no, no, I am supposed to have another copy somewhere. The National Geographic guy in the canoe only ever had one copy of his film and film's a pretty volatile medium. The only reason we worry about redundancy nowadays is because we have the option. And certainly it's a good option to have, and if you're shooting for money, it's great to be able to make things redundant. I'm not always so picky about that. I very often will have a computer with me. I'll back things up as I go. I'll try and keep two copies. But if you're trying to travel really, really, really light, don't get so hung up on that that you carry extra pounds of gear just trying to get redundancy.
You can try to be careful with your media. Make sure it doesn't suffer a static shock, make sure that it stays in a waterproof bag when you're traveling, and so on so forth, and you can minimize some of that redundant risk. So, those are just a few strategies for what to do with all of those images that you are shooting. Next, we need to figure out what you want in the way of computer and how you are going to power all this stuff.
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