Deer Creek Tribute Trail

In Nevada City, you can find a unique suspension bridge that hangs over Deer Creek. It's a pretty easy and short walk from downtown Nevada City.

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The creek that runs under the bridge is always changing, and today seemed like a good day to get some updated long exposures.  Because of fallen trees and giant rocks, it is a little tricky reaching the ideal shooting spot, but I did manage a location I am happy with. 

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Nikon vs Fujifilm

Yesterday I returned to the Empire Mine State Park in Grass Valley, California to test out my new Fuji 18-55mm lens. I wanted to see what a Nikon D810 image (shot last year) looks like vs a Fuji X-T2 image from the same location. 

Shot with a Fuji X-T2 with the Fujifilm 18-55mm lens. Handheld with a high ISO.  Edited in Silver Efex Pro. f2.8, ISO 5000, 1/60th. (testing the OIS). 

Shot with a Fuji X-T2 with the Fujifilm 18-55mm lens. Handheld with a high ISO.  Edited in Silver Efex Pro. f2.8, ISO 5000, 1/60th. (testing the OIS). 

Shot with the Nikon D810 with the Nikon 24-70mm lens. Tripod.  Edited with Silver Efex Pro. f18, ISO 400. 15 second exposure. 

Shot with the Nikon D810 with the Nikon 24-70mm lens. Tripod.  Edited with Silver Efex Pro. f18, ISO 400. 15 second exposure. 

While the composition and editing are a little different, I think this is an interesting comparison of these systems. I prefer the high contrast found in the Fuji image.  Which image do you prefer? 

Buttermilk Bend

When shooting landscapes, I usually prefer moody weather. Clouds, mist, fog and even rain. Winter is trying to end early and we have been experiencing bright cloudless sun for weeks.  When we finally had an overcast day, I decided to return to Buttermilk Bend trail in the South Yuba River State Park to capture the green hillsides along the South Yuba River. 

This trail is really great for a light hike. Mostly flat and you don't need to do any climbing. 

This trail is really great for a light hike. Mostly flat and you don't need to do any climbing. 

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One of my favorite parts of the trail is this set of stairs that take you to the main trail.

One of my favorite parts of the trail is this set of stairs that take you to the main trail.

I have been on this trail three times now, and I only found these cool bridges by accident.

The bridge crosses some really nice streams, but they are totally dry because of the short winter. 

The bridge crosses some really nice streams, but they are totally dry because of the short winter. 

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As spring reaches the peak, the trails should be filled with wildflowers.  Something to make a return worth while. 

Independence Trail

After moving to Grass Valley in 2016, I soon discovered a really special hiking trail about 10 minutes outside of downtown Nevada City called Independence trail.  This happens to be the nation’s first identified handicapped-accessible wilderness trail. The trail is broken down into two different trails, East and West

This boardwalk is found in the East trail (Go Left from main entrance). If you walk far enough, you will reach the South Yuba River.

This boardwalk is found in the East trail (Go Left from main entrance). If you walk far enough, you will reach the South Yuba River.

The trails are a combination of wooden boardwalks like the one above and dirt trails. All of the trails are mostly flat, although they can get muddy during the winter.  The trail also has an ok sized parking lot and bathrooms. I have heard of cars being broken into, so hide your stuff. 

This tunnel under a giant rock can be found along the east trail. 

This tunnel under a giant rock can be found along the east trail. 

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If you go West (right turn from entrance), you can walk just over a mile to one of the coolest boardwalks I have crossed.

A waterfall runs under this section of boardwalk

A waterfall runs under this section of boardwalk

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The real prize on this hike is the not just the handful of small waterfalls, but the impressive switchback ramp designed to allow wheelchairs to reach the water below.  Unfortunately age has damaged the ramps and it is closed.  The current plan is to get an engineering study completed and make major repairs. The restoration costs are around $750,000.

At the far side of the ramp is a really cool looking waterfall that I have been unable to visit because of the closure. 

At the far side of the ramp is a really cool looking waterfall that I have been unable to visit because of the closure. 

A unique closed sign. Probably true, although I have seen people cross into the closed area. 

A unique closed sign. Probably true, although I have seen people cross into the closed area. 

Prime Lens Action Challenge

This weekend I attended an indoor action photography workshop featuring martial arts, acrobats and aerial artists.  The workshop was attended by about 20 other photographers, shooting with Canon, Nikon and even a few Sony systems.  I was the only photographer with a Fuji and the only one using just prime lenses. 

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Going into this workshop, I knew I had a few challenges to overcome. First, I had never been to this location, so I didn't know anything about the lighting or layout.  The second big challenge was my available glass.  I wanted to stick with my Fuji system, and that would mean I would basically have a choice between my 23mm and 35mm lenses. Not ideal when you are photographing people who are 20 feet above your head. 

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I also brought a Godex speedlight with a huge umbrella. Other photographers brought full size strobes and big softboxes. In the end, with the mixture of natural light and the unusual locations of the models, I decided against trying to use the flash.  It's hard to position a bulky umbrella when someone is spinning above your head and I am constantly moving around the subject.  

The skylights brought in great natural light, but shooting into them isn't ideal. 

The skylights brought in great natural light, but shooting into them isn't ideal. 

Overall, I was really impressed with how the Fuji X-T2 performed.  For the first time, I had a chance to try some of the focus tracking modes in the camera, but in the end, I really prefer just using a single focus point. I found the focus tracking just kept missing the face and head.  Maybe with more practice, I can find a focus mode that works best for moving subject, that I can be happy with. Either way, I found the camera focused really fast in this mixed natural light environment. 

I did most of my shooting between continuous high and low burst rates.  It is pretty amazing how fast the shutter is, making it super easy to freeze a subject and pick the exposure I liked the most.

Fog machine was used and filled the warehouse with a little too much smoke. Shutter speed was 1/1000th.

Fog machine was used and filled the warehouse with a little too much smoke. Shutter speed was 1/1000th.

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Overall I am pretty happy with the images I captured, but for future events with unpredictable movements of the subjects, I would prefer a zoom lens like the 18-55mm (or 16-55mm) offered by Fuji. The prime lenses are great for street work and portraits, but maybe not so much for action work.  I probably would have been happy with a 56mm f1.2 lens to help capture details and blow out the background. 

Even shooting at f2.0 and 2.8, it was almost impossible to blow out the background when using these wide angle prime lenses. 

Even shooting at f2.0 and 2.8, it was almost impossible to blow out the background when using these wide angle prime lenses. 

A video of the workshop highlights can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUWJuwGIrOY

Small Town Street Photography

When you think about street photography, most people think about New York, London or maybe even India.  You think about the busy big city.  I don't really have access to the big city, I have access to small California towns with only 3,000 to 12,000 people. That is small. But I have been able to find an endless supply of photo subjects. 

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What we do have in this small community is festivals and tourists.  With tourists, the populations can grow by 10,000 or 20,000 people in a single weekend. This has helped me to develop my skills in an area of photography that is totally different from my traditional landscape photos.

Everyone dresses up for the Christmas festivals. 

Everyone dresses up for the Christmas festivals. 

I have been doing street photography for about a year and during that time, I have started to develop my own style, that involves wide lenses and in many cases close up candid captures. 

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I have found some of my inspiration has come from London Photographer Craig Whitehead who is a master at finding unique angles, shadows and reflections. These are harder to come by in a small town, but I am always looking for something new on these tiny streets. I have also been inspired by the high contrast documentary style of Kevin Mullins.

Father and Son Time

Father and Son Time

It's the unique moments that you can capture with street photography that i like the most.  Being able to capture something that no one else can duplicate later keeps street photography interesting.  

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If you want to see more of my street work, follow me on Instagram

I have BAS

Most of you have heard of GAS (Gear acquisition syndrome). I have a lot of that, but I also have BAS (Bag Acquisition Syndrome).  When it comes to camera bags, I am always on the hunt for something new. This is my current collection

These are all empty

These are all empty

Most of the bags in this picture are full of gear. Film cameras, speedlights, lenses, bodies, etc. 

Most of the bags in this picture are full of gear. Film cameras, speedlights, lenses, bodies, etc. 

For a long time, I wanted to have a single bag that could carry everything. All my lenses, filters, bodies, etc.  Over time I just got sick of dragging around all that weight.  For sure, it was just too much for a hike and impossible for street photography. 

Most recently I have switched from a full frame DSLR to a smaller Fuji X-T2 mirrorless camera with small prime lenses.  In my current bag search, I have found myself looking for the perfect messenger bag. My criteria:

  1. Not too deep. Not too wide. Just deep enough for 3-4 prime lenses, mirrorless body with lens attached.
  2. It needs to have a zipper top and allow for fast access. Bags like the PeakDesign bag and the ThinkTank Photo bags are designed well, but they don't zip closed. I also saw a video showing the PeakDesign bag flopping over on a table. I really want to like what PeakDesign created. I just haven't seen the perfect fit for me.  
  3. Weather proof. 
  4. I want exterior zipper pockets for batteries and other accessories
  5. I would love some interior pockets, but I also want those to have zippers.
  6. Thick shoulder strap for walking around.

I haven't picked my bag yet, but these are the ones I like the most:

I also love these leather bags from the UK.  http://www.gillislondon.com/trafalgar-camera-bags

Now I just need a single location with these bags so I can hold them and see which one I like the most.  What bag is your favorite? I am leaning toward the Tenba bag, it seems to have the best features. 

Update:

I went ahead and purchased the Tenba DNA 13 bag.  I have to say, it is pretty great.  Tons of pockets.  More then enough room for the Fuji X-T2 with 23mm lens attached, 35mm, 16mm and probably 2 or 3 additional lenses without any trouble. Lots of pickets for memory cards, filters and other accessories.  The bag hangs perfectly on the shoulder and is balanced well.  The bag also keeps its shape when loaded and in use, unlike my ThinkTank and LowePro shoulder bags. 

Expert Backup Advice

When I am not out shooting photos, you will find me as the Director of Support at a backup software company. I have over 20 years of experience helping photographers, film makers, musicians and people in every other industry protect data from dataloss. 

So in this post I want to offer a few tips and thoughts about how to protect your photos from total dataloss in the event of a computer crash, house fire or theft.  Trust me. It happens. I have talked to people who have walked into the office to find every single computer GONE overnight.
 
What would you do if the computer you use for all of your photo editing just walked out the door? Do you back up? Do you take your backups out of the building?

My tips:

1) Backup EVERY DAY, even if you only made a small change to a single photo. Just opening Lightroom on your computer changes the photo library. You really should get those changes backed up.

2)  Back up all files. The item you exclude from your backup today will be the item you need tomorrow. You would be shocked how much work it takes to remember all of your old settings after buying a replacement computer.  A good backup will protect ALL of the settings for Photoshop or Lightroom, and your operating system. Do you know how to find all of the preference files for photoshop on your hard disk?  What about your presets and plugins? But if you back up all files, you can restore all files and all settings.

3) Backup to multiple backup devices. Have a Backup A and a Backup B and swap between them on a regular basis. Once a week, once a month. That is up to you. You can never have enough backup or enough redundancy. 

If your only backup is plugged into the computer when everything gets hit with ransomeware, you will be stuck. Having an offsite backup would protect you. 

4) Take a copy of your data “offsite”. If you back up onto a hard disk, store a copy of your backup data at a friends house or at the bank. This protects you against theft or fire.

5) Schedule the backup. I am someone who never turns off my computers. This allows me to schedule the backup to run at night when I am sleeping.  It is automatic and I don’t need to think about it. I get an email from the backup telling me if the backup was successful or not. 

6) Test the restores. Check the backup logs to make sure you are not getting any errors. Do a test restore of selected files every few months just to make sure it is doing what you think it should be doing.

7) Drag and Drop is not backup. It does not perform a byte for byte verification of your data. A backup program can identify all of the changed files. You will miss data with a drag and drop. Trust me.

8) Flickr is not a “backup” either. Just because you have uploaded your data to Flickr does not mean you will have access to all those RAW files if your computer crashes.

Backup Hardware:

Disk:
You have a lot of options.  The most common backup device is an external USB hard disk. They are not expensive and it doesn’t take a lot of technical skills to plug them into your computer.  Because the sizes keep getting smaller, they take up a limited amount of desk space.

You can now get 8TB hard disks in the $200 range. If you purchase 2 of them, you still are not breaking the bank.

What should you buy? I look for the longest warranty with the best price. I will avoid suggesting any specific brands. You can buy USB hard disks at Best Buy, Amazon.com and pretty much any computer store. I like Other World Computing. 

Buy a disk that is much larger then you need. Give yourself room to expand over time. Give yourself room for incremental backups of your data. Customers call for tech support all the time because the backup failed due to low disk space. If you invest in a big drive to start with, you will reduce a lot of pain later. Consider 2 or 3 times the size of the size of the disk containing all of your photos.  

Along with size, look at speed. A slow RPM drive will take a lot longer to copy TB's of data. Look for something in the 7200 RPM Range.


Tape:
Tape is a LOT faster then you might think and it is very reliable. The problem is the hardware is much more expensive then a hard disk. Also tape drives tend to require more hardware troubleshooting for initial setup and troubleshooting later.  If you have an IT guy to help, tape might be a great solution for you if your data needs are really high.

Optical:
I am not a fan of optical disks. You might think “DVD’s last forever”. That is not really true. They can warp, they can crack. They can delaminate even.  You might be able to read your DVD+R media today, but 5 years from now it is possible that the disk will be blank when you attempt to use it.  Also optical drives are becoming less common. Apple doesn’t include them MacBooks and in a few years you might have a hard time locating a DVD drive.

USB Flash disks:
As the size gets bigger and bigger while prices go down, these might be a great option. Today they are too small.

NAS:
Network attached storage is really good if you are comfortable with a more complex setup. You need to be prepared to re-connect to this device in the event of a computer crash. Would you know how to re-connect to it over your network?  A USB hard disk directly attached is a faster backup device compared to a NAS.

Cloud:
Most of us have internet connections with a very slow upload speed. This makes the backup of your entire computer pretty hard to finish in a short amount of time. Services like Backblaze, Dropbox and Amazon are pretty popular. Amazon Prime users get some free cloud storage. 

Backup Software:
I am pretty biased in this area because I have worked for the same backup software company for 20 years, so I trust our products and I think they are the perfect option for most people.  For other people, TimeMachine is a great product. I actually use my own backup software twice a day on a schedule (Macintosh and Windows), but I also use TimeMachine too. Some hard disks come with backup software, but you should look at that software carefully and make sure it has all the options you need and can automatically perform your backups safely. 

Keep your data safe!