Saturday, 31 March 2018

Never Underestimate The Importance Of Backing Up

A couple of years ago I did a shoot for a new client that I really wanted to win over. The shoot went really well, I got all the shots I needed and I was looking forward to editing them. I got back home and copied the images from my SD card to a portable hard drive and began working on the images straight from the hard drive. I nearly finished editing the images when disaster struck. The worst kind of disaster imaginable as a photographer working with lots of different clients. My hard drive had failed! I panicked. This had never happened to me before so I was in unchartered territory. Stupidly, I had no backups. I’d even deleted the images from SD card so I couldn’t even get them from there without going through a recovery program which I’d never tried before so wasn’t entirely sure how well they worked. What was my next step? I contacted the manufacturer of the portable hard drive to see what I could do to save my skin. They pointed me in the direction of their recovery software so I thought I’ve got nothing to lose and gave it a try. The process took a long time while I nervously looked on thinking the worst. Then after what seemed like a lifetime SUCCESS! I’d managed to recover the data and was able to finish the editing, export the files and send them to the client. From that day on I knew that I needed to change the way I copied and backed up data. I had no system in place so it was inevitable at some point that I would unfortunately be caught out.

My backup system now comprises of copying all RAW images from a shoot as soon as possible to my superb Drobo 5N2 and two portable hard drives while also keeping the images on the SD card until the finished work has been submitted. This way I have total confidence that my work is safe with Drobo at the heart of my workflow. Moral of the story, always have back ups for your back ups. I now go by the rule that if a piece of data does not exist in three or more places then it may aswell not exist at all. This advice is not only aimed at professionals. Whilst my near-miss horror story was limited to time lost and upsetting a new client, imagine if you were to lose sentimental images of loved ones. Never underestimate the importance of backing up.

I'd like to thank Drobo for sending the 5N2 out to me. I'd also like to thank Seagate for supplying the drives and Bernd at 360 Service.

For more information on Drobo products please take a look at their website

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Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Always Carry Backup Gear!!

Jinbei HD 600 Strobe

Recently I had a food shoot for a regular client Centuno in Highgate, London. I woke up at 4.40am, showered and had my breakfast by 5.00am. My pre-arranged taxi to take me to Runcorn train station collected me at 5.30am which gave me ample time to make last minute checks and get all my kit together to make it to the station (I always like to give myself more time than what I need when making long train journeys as you never know what can crop up). I also like to travel by train for long distance jobs like this to allow me time to edit during the journey home - something which I could never do if I drove to the shoot.

My train had a slight delay but nothing major. I got down to London early for my shoot so stuck around in Euston station and finished a little bit of work before making my way via the tube to Highgate. I eventually got to Centuno on time at 10am and started setting up for the food shoot. Centuno is a lovely little Italian with delicious wood-fired pizza and tasty pasta dishes situated on Hampstead Lane in Highgate. They are operated by the same guys that own Wildwood restaurants and Dim T both of which I also regurlarly shoot for.

I always carry backups of most items of my kit in the event that anything should go wrong with an item I would be able to carry on shooting. On food shoots I carry the following items:
  • Sony A7R
  • Sony A77II
  • Sony Zeiss 24-70mm f2.8 (A-mount)
  • Tamron 90mm f2.8 Macro (A-mount)
  • Samyang AF 35mm f1.4 FE
  • Samyang AF 50mm f1.4 FE
  • Sony LA-EA4 (A-mount to E-mount adapter)
  • 1x Jinbei HD600
  • 1x Pixapro Lumi200
  • 2x lightstands
  • 120cm Pixapro easy-open octobox
  • 2x Yongnuo YN560IV
  • Millions of batteries
  • Lots of SD cards
  • Laptop
  • 2x Lacie Rugged hard drives
With this selection of kit if one camera body failed then I'd have a backup, if one of the lenses stopped working then I could have a similar solution (maybe not the exact same focal length but not far off), enough spare batteries and SD cards so that if something went wrong with them then I could just swap them out. I also always carry two hard drives to backup the RAW images on my train journey home.

Broken Bowens S mount ring
Unfortunately on this shoot a backup was required. I had pretty much just finished setting up for the shoot. I had my Zeiss 24-70mm f2.8 mounted on my Sony A77II and my Samyang AF 50mm f1.4 FE mounted on my A7R with the Tamron macro, LA-EA4 adapter and Samyang AF 35mm on standby. My Jinbei HD600 was mounted on the lightstand with my huge Pixapro octobox attached and I was just awaiting the first dish to come out when I accidently knocked the light and it fell. It just seemed to happen in slow motion but I simply didn't do enough to stop it from falling over as I thought it would be cushioned by the massive octobox. I was right, the fall was cushioned by the octobox but the Bowens S mount ring was damaged so that I could no longer mount any type of light modifier. Luckily without any fuss I just switched to the spare Pixapro strobe that I also carried in my kit. The only downside with this Pixapro strobe is that it needs to be plugged in to the mains to operate whereas the Jinbei is battery powered so can be fired anywhere. Not much of an issue on this shoot though as I only needed it to add a little bit of soft light into the images and where I had set up there was a mains outlet.

The moral of this story is to definitely carry backups of your gear! I was very lucky that I didn't learn the hard way.

Here's some of my images from the shoot at Centuno

I contacted Golden Shell (the manufacturers of Jinbei products) in China, was told that they did have a replacement part and it would be free to me. I just needed to pay the $22 shipping which was fine. The part took around 7 days to arrive direct from China and I'm pleased to say that it fits perfectly. Hats off to Golden Shell for sourcing the part for me despite the strobe being a discontinued model.

Thanks for reading. Take a look at my other articles from this blog.

Check out Centuno in Highgate and take a look at their Instagram for more from this shoot.

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Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Drobo & My Experience With Drobo 5N2

Drobo 5N2 takes pride of place on my desk
I had some great news recently as my work in conjunction with Drobo seems to have paid off as they added me to their roster of ambassadors and with that made me part of their affiliate program - a program exclusively reserved for their ambassadors. Read more about it here with my profile page available here. With that I am now able to offer an exclusive 10% discount off for all products on the Drobo website. Simply enter code - DROBONIC at the checkout.


Drobo sent me a brand new Drobo 5N2 last August to test out along with 3x 8tb Seagate Ironwolf Pro drives. This unit has since featured heavily in my workflow and gives me piece of mind when it comes to storing backups of my images.


My Drobo 5N2 with current capacity usage
I’ve had a couple of basic NAS (Network Attached Storage) drives over the years including a Buffalo Linkstation and a Western Digital My World but always found these to be dreadfully slow especially when copying stuff to them. The Drobo unit by far exceeded my expectations in terms of transfer speeds and that’s without the mSATA slot filled. The 5N2 comes with 5x hot swappable bays (3 of which I have filled with the Seagate drives and 2 currently empty slots for future expansion) which means you can add or remove a hard drive while the unit is still powered on without causing any faults or malfunctions. I'm still in the process of migrating a lot of my data over to my Drobo.

As mentioned earlier I was blown away by the transfer speeds on the 5N2. I was used to getting around 12mb/s max while copying data to my old Buffalo Linkstation so when I hooked up my Drobo and sent a few gigabytes over to copy to it I couldn’t believe it when I saw 100mb/s. At some point I'll get around to filling the mSATA slot with a 128gb stick and I believe my Drobo will be capable of a lot faster write speeds as the mSATA solid state memory acts as a high speed cache between the original file’s location and the Drobo hard drives.

Drobo Dashboard desktop app
Initial setup of the unit was quick and easy. Slotting the hard drives in to place was done in a matter of seconds. Connecting the power lead and Ethernet cables to the 2x gigabit Ethernet ports was also a doddle. I was also required to download the Drobo Dashboard app so that I could configure the unit and install apps to run on the Drobo.

I have the DroboPix app on my iPhone 8 which allows me to back up photos and video from my iPhone directly to the Drobo 5N2. This gives me further peace of mind knowing that precious moments captured with my phone (that's right, I don't shoot everything with my camera) of my family and friends are backed up so in the terrifying prospect of possibly losing or damaging my phone some day I know that I have the important stuff backed up in the event that my iCloud backup didn't work. It's always good to have more than one backup. The DroboAccess app on my iPhone allows me to access my Drobo while on the move. I can pull down pretty much any content stored on my Drobo to view on my iPhone.

DroboAccess app on my iPhone

I have also recently installed Plex on the Drobo which acts as a media server. So I can now stream images, music and video stored on my Drobo to my laptop anywhere in the world, over to my Sony Android TV, PlayStation 4 Pro or even on my iPhone using the Plex app. This app is pretty cool as it catalogues media and pulls cover art and other info using the Gracenote metadata service.

Plex app on my iPhone

This is my current workflow (which I know isn’t perfect but works fine for me) and these are pretty much the same steps I go through every time I shoot commercial work.

  1. I copy all RAW files from my SD cards used on the shoot to my Drobo and a further two portable 1tb hard drives but also leave the RAW images on the SD cards. It’s always good practice to have data stored in three or more places
  2. I edit the images directly from one of the smaller 1tb drives in Lightroom
  3. Export the edited images to the same hard drive
  4. If any of the images need further editing in Photoshop then they will be edited at this point
  5. Once all images are finished I then copy to the other 1tb portable drive and my Drobo 5N2
  6. When delivering images to a client I sometimes create a Share folder on my Drobo and send the client the link

I've been extremely happy with my Drobo 5N2 thus far. It offers far more than what I'd thought and I haven't even scratched the surface with the numerous available apps that you can install. It's become an essential piece of kit in my office and I love that I can access my images anywhere at any time.

Thanks for reading.

I'd like to thank Drobo for sending the 5N2 out to me. I'd also like to thank Seagate for supplying the drives and Bernd at 360 Service.

For more information on Drobo products please take a look at their website

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Samyang AF 24mm f1.8 FE