Best Practices for the Photography Workflow Backup

In the modern world of photography, presenting photographs digitally is a necessity. This is true for me even though I am a film based photographer. In order to present photographs digitally I make use of high-resolution film scans, in the range of 325 MB each. The high resolutions scans I use are all produced by West Coast Imaging, on their Heidelberg Tango drum scanner. These scans are both expensive and time consuming to produce, so as a result, I seek to protect my investment in them as much as possible.

Almost every photographer has their own backup strategy. Their backup strategy should be based upon their individual needs and consideration. However, there are certain best practices that should be considered when defining a strategy.

Successful Backup Strategy Considerations

A successful backup strategy should take the following into consideration:

Decide what you need to back up. Start with your answer to the question “What can I afford to lose?” As photographers we are interested in our image files first, however, our general business related files are also important to the well being of the photography business.

First, separate data files from operating system files, and place them on either a separate partition or a separate drive. This will make finding, backing up, and restoring the desired files much easier. 

Secondly, set aside your installation disks for all your software and your operating system. I like to set aside the CD or DVDs they come on, as well as copy the disks to an external drive (where re-installation is much faster).

Define the backup techniques and technologies. Not every photographer has the same needs. A large studio or photography business may need an enterprise level solution, while the freelancer can get by with much cheaper solutions. Remember, the more extensive the backup, the more difficult it will be to use, and the less likely it will be carried out successfully.

Consider keeping a backup log. Keep the listing in a book or a file listing on an external drive. This can make it easier to find a specific file if you happen to overwrite or destroy it in some manner. A general listing is sufficient.

Backups should be automatic. Whatever technique or technology you select, it should be automatic; you shouldn’t need to be present to initiate a backup.

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Oregon Moonrise

A few years ago, on a trip to photograph the Oregon coast with Per Volquartz and a small group of large format  photographers, we camped for the night not far from Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area. Being the only photographer in the group specializing exclusively in color, I got up before sunrise to photograph from the nearby park.

Being on the US West Coast, with a small mountain range to the east, I knew that conditions weren’t ideal for a sunrise photograph. However, when I arrived at the park, I found the tidal flats were empty, the tide out, with a full moon in the sky. I knew that I couldn’t ask for better circumstances.


Oregon Moonrise. Devils Punch Bowl State Natural Area, Oregon. Toyo 45AII camera, Nikkor SW 90mm f8 lens on Fuji Velvia 50.

I’ve always found the Nikkor 90mm SW to be a difficult lens to work with, the small F8 aperture makes focusing on the ground glass difficult. As a result, while the foreground is sharp, the horizon isn’t as sharp as I would like. Since this time, I’ve upgraded to a Schneider Super-Symmar XL 80mm f4.5, which is an absolutely, beautiful lens to work with.

Later during this trip, we were able to meet with noted landscape photographer Christopher Burkett, in his home/workshop in Portland.

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Angry Sea at Makua Beach

Many photographers get wrapped up in the technical aspects of photography. But, it’s not about the number of pixels or the toe and shoulder curve on the tonal range of a film base, it’s about vision. It’s vision that transforms a mundane scene to one that is memorable; one that sticks in our minds.

One Sunday afternoon I drove to Makua Beach on the Waianae coast of the island of Oahu. I had vision of a photograph taken at particular rock formation near the end of the beach. In the late afternoon, during the winter months, it isn’t unusual to get a bit of overcast skies, with a smattering of rain. So, I knew from experience that it was possible to get a bit of cloudiness and a sun lit sky, close to sunset.

The problem was, the rock was teeming with fishermen and children playing in the surf. With a slight sprinkle, everyone soon decided it was time to move on, and I was left with the location to myself. I hurriedly waded out into the sand, camera mounted on the tripod, Nikon F5 slung around my shoulder to use as a light meter.


Angry Sea. Toyo 45AII Camera, Schneider Symmar-S 135mm f5/6 lens, on Fuji Velvia 50.

Watching the movement of the sea, I timed my exposure for a point in time when the surf was receding from the shore, which I knew would leave the sea wet. I also knew that a slow shutter speed would leave “fingers” of water.

Since, I’ve taken this photograph, I’ve learned a bit more about how others perceive a photograph. The photograph that appears above isn’t my favorite of the session, but it’s the one most popular with others. My favorite was taken just after the first, from a different point of view.

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Field Tips: Being Aware of Your Surroundings

They say that Australia is home to some of the deadliest snakes in the world. But, in all my trips there, I’ve never seriously considered the possibility of encountering one in the wild. I guess that after living in in Hawaii for several years, I’ve become somewhat complacent about the possibility. After all, there are no snakes in Hawaii. 

A few years ago on a visit Western MacDonnell National Park in Australia’s Northern Territory,  a situation arose that made me aware of the need to consider such possibilities. I’ve visited Australia on numerous occasions, and have photographed in the Outback several times, but I’ve never actually seen a snake in the wild. One morning at Ormiston Gorge, I arose well before dawn, to make the 2 km walk up the White Gum Lookout Walk. With the help of a full moon, and excellent night vision, I was able to make the walk in the dark. I arrived at the lookout well before sunrise, spent an hour or so photographing, then made my way back to camp for breakfast. A nice morning shoot.

Sunrise, Ormiston Gorge

Sunrise, Ormiston Gorge. Toyo 45AII, Schneider Symmar-S 135mm f5.6 lens on Fuji Velvia 50.

However, that evening a situation at the campground that reminded me of the need to be more careful, and how that pre-dawn walk was probably not the wisest decision I had made.

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Twitter as a Tool for Photographers

I’ve been on Twitter for about a year now, and I’ve found it an absolutely wonderful tool to keep my finger on what is going on in photography, to learn about other photographers, and just to have a bit of fun. When I tell people about Twitter, often they think Twitter is about people detailing their coffee drinking, lunch habits or worse. Instead, by controlling who you “follow” it’s possible to have a good experience.

Through the reach of Twitter, I was recently able to meet up with an Australian photographer, Ilya Genkin (@igenkin) on a recent photo shoot in the Blue Mountains of Australia. I had a great afternoon picking his brains over a cup of coffee about the photography scene in Australia, as well as information and tips on photographing in the Blue Mountains. His friendship and time was well appreciated, and make that portion of my trip even more memorable and enjoyable.

Choose Who to Follow

I make a general practice to only follow those photographers who actively tweet about photographic subjects, either their latest work, or links to blog sites about photography, links about equipment, or any other link that is photographically oriented. Photographers who tweet political topics, or some other controversial topic generally find themselves “un-followed” very quickly. Keep in mind, photographers are human and will occasionally tweet about other subjects, even sensitive subjects; what I’m referring to is the general tone of their tweets. By controlling who to follow, I can more easily keep my Twitter timeline pared down to productive subjects.

When following another photographer, be sure to check who they follow. This will often lead to new photographers to follow.

Make Sure to Participate

The secret behind Twitter is sharing what other photographers are tweeting about. Make sure to retweet liberally, whenever they post a photograph, blog entry or web article that is of interest. Likewise, make sure to tweet about your photographic efforts that others may find of interest.


Pay attention to those who follow you. While you don’t need to be obligated to return follow everyone who follows you, many people don’t like to follow people who don’t return follow them in return. The more you followed, and are followed, the more your tweets will be of benefit towards others.

Like most people you will have people you follow who aren’t photographers. I’ve found that by creating a list of photographer, I can quickly get a timeline that shows tweets from only those I have identified as photographers (see figure).


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Surfing Pleasures

One Sunday afternoon, I had traveled to one of my favorite locations on the island of Oahu, Hawaii; Kaena Point State Park. Unfortunately, the light wasn’t working for me that afternoon (or I just wasn’t perceptive enough to see it), so I left early. Generally, I never leave until at least 30 minutes after sunset, but this day I left about 45 minutes before. As I was leaving the seaside town of Wai’anae, I saw that the sky was starting to turn a blazing red. Finally, the color was so incredible that I pulled into the first park that I came across.


Hurriedly parking the car, I jumped out, grabbed my 4×5, and proceeded to setup for a shot. Not having time to properly meter, I used my Nikon F5 to take a quick meter reading. As I was setting up the camera, and metering the scene, I noticed several surfers in the water, waiting for a wave. Finally, they lined up in the water, and I snapped the shutter. While it seemed like I waited a long time for the different elements to come together, in reality it was perhaps no more than 5 or 10 seconds that I waited.

I learned one lesson out of this incident; stay put wherever I am, regardless how bad the light seems; it may change quickly. Fortunately, in this instance the situation worked out for the best.

Who says you can’t take surf photos with a large format field camera, and a wide angle lens?

Photo Details: Kahe Point Beach Park (Electric Beach), Oahu, Hawaii. Toyo 45AII camera, Schneider Symmar-S 135mm f5.6 lens, on Fuji Velvia 50. No filters used.

Urban Landscapes

Most of the time I am drawn to the wild landscape, although, on occasion I find myself behind the lens in an urban environment. Photographing in this type of environment is just a little out of my comfort zone, normally. So when I find myself in this situation, I look for the same type of aids that I would look for in a natural landscape. These aids include locating areas of interest such as cloud cover, surface reflections, and the color of the light itself as it strikes objects in the field of view, as well as identifying the natural patterns in the landscape.

Ala Wai Boats

There are natural patterns that most experienced photographers recognize in any composition. Most widely known is the “Rule of Thirds”. However, less known, but equally valid is the “Golden Mean” (or Golden Section). The Golden Mean is a ratio of numbers in the Fibonacci sequence. Based upon a mathematical sequence of numbers, the Golden Mean manifests itself in various forms, including the Golden Spiral, Golden Triangle and Golden Proportion. These manifestations have been known, and used since ancient times, because their simplicity leads to pleasing patterns.

Learning about these various forms of compositional patterns can be valuable in choosing compositions that are more pleasing to the eye. Many photographers, who flaunt the breaking of the Rule of Thirds are unknowingly following one of the forms of the Golden Mean, without realizing it. These patterns are all around us, and become natural to our eyes, even when we can’t identify them.

To learn more about the Golden Mean, there are some excellent articles at the following links:

For those photographers using Adobe Lightroom, you can view how your photographs fit these forms of the Golden Mean. See the following article on how to set this up:

Photo Details: Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii. Toyo 45AII camera, Schneider Symmar-S 13mm f5.6 lens, on Fuji Velvia 50. No filtration.

Those in Toronto, Canada can see this as a 20×24 print at the Elevator Gallery.