Posts tagged photos

iPhone 4S + Camera + Life

The biggest improvement for me when upgrading to the new iPhone 4S is actually the camera. Yeah, I’ve a ton of apps but my core apps are frequently my communications and networking tools – messaging, email, social media, etc. The next most common app I use is the camera and Instagram.

One thing for sure is that it’s always with me so it’s always the best camera — even when I’m lugging a truck-load of photo equipment, it still allows me to document, capture and basically, photo-log my activities.

More importantly, it lets me capture events and people important to me. I’ve every photo taken since my iPhone 2G days and the count is in the five digits. Browsing through the photos is like stepping back in time.

2011 Year in Photos

The year everything changed – 2011

Here’s looking back the 12 months in photos from blog entries excerpted over the year.





Surprisingly no photos and no entries in April.









2010 – The Year on Don’t Panik in Pictures

2010 – the year that was, through whatever lens or camera I happen to have at that time.

A year filled with blessings that overflow, with experiences that push me forward and upwards, with family and friends that remind me how rich and blessed I am with them around me.













Storage & Backup again

Seems like there’s a raft of people I know who recently lost some stuff due to disk crashes or are looking at ways to store that ever growing pile/stack/stash/gigabytes/terabytes/petabytes of data that people nowadays are generating. Even non-photographer friends I have are either busy downloading TV series or accumulating lots of media here and there such as e-books, songs, photos of their children, etc. Generally, media is usually the biggest culprit. I mean how large can a collection of excel spreadsheets or word documents be?

My approach is a two-tier storage system with my QNAP NAS playing primary on-line storage and a custom-built machine serving as the full storage backup. The following is a simple sketch of my network with my QNAP and my storage server. They’re connected to my Cisco switch using Link Aggregation (802.3ad) which offers both redundancy and faster transfer speeds. The little diagram on the right is how my content is stored between the server and the NAS. In a nutshell, my main storage server contains everything but the NAS has a little sub-set of the data.

Basically, my server stores everything in 1TB & 1.5TB disks, mirrored of course. I use rsync/robocopy to mirror as I’ve mentioned much earlier about using cheaper RAID cards. The mirrored pair is exposed on the network with one disk primarily for reading and the other for writing. What basically happens is that I back up to my NAS and my Storage Server (when it’s switched on – which is like at least a few times a week), pulls the backup from the NAS. When working on photos (especially for paid clients), I usually back-up simultaneously to both my QNAP and my Storage server. You can see below where I have my disks…

In case you are wondering (which you will), my disks are all short-stroked. My two swap disks are 150Gb 10,000rpm Raptor disks. Also, if you noticed, my storage server seems rather short of space… well, that’s because all the files are using NTFS junction points since I don’t have a RAID array… there’s actually 3 sets of mirrored disks. Total capacity is 1TBx 2 and 1.5TB x 4 / 2 due to the mirror. Usable capacity is about 3.4TB. Using junction points, 2001 and 2002 directories can reside on Pair A while 2003 and 2004 can be actually on Pair B. A bit complex but cost wise, all you need is a system with more than 4 SATA ports and you’re set. Recovery is also easier. Currently, the Samsung HD154UI 5,400rpm 1.5TB disks are good value but I’ll be moving away from them considering their slow-as-snail spin-up time and generally overall poor performance. I’m testing Hitachi’s affordable (runs a little hot though) 2TB, 5-platter, 7K2000 drive and see if it’ll give me back some performance lost to the Samsungs. Green drives may consume less power but the slow speed may result in high power consumption if we end up leaving more systems on just to complete back-ups and disks synchronization.

So far, I’ve been satisfied with my Seagate 7200.12 1TBs but looking for 1.5TB and 2TB drives are tough if you’re trying to avoid the green marketing crap.

Storage strategies

A few people have asked me to elaborate on my storage strategy so here it is. Some background information is needed first. I started taking photography seriously in 1998. Buying my first SLR back then was a big thing and working through the lenses and other options. In late ’99, was basically scanning the prints on a flatbed scanner. Quality was amazing, or at least what I thought was amazing until I stumbled upon a very expensive (at that time, I wasn’t making much a month) option; the slide scanner. By skipping the printing stage and scanning directly from film, it delivered unmatched results from anything else unless you’re comparing to a drum scan. Since then, I’ve been scanning almost all my slides and negatives but most of what I shot were from my travels. Film costs a fair bit, especially if you shot transparency film such as Fuji Velvia, Kodachrome or Elitechromes, so the everyday life doesn’t often get captured on film.

So with digital scans dating all the way back to 2000 (the 2700 dpi scans tend to produce on average 14MB LZW compressed TIFF files), storage is key, along with a proper backup strategy. I went with CD-Rs and then DVD-Rs but they never were convenient (not fun, not quick, and laborious process) meant that you will almost never will do it timely enough so I decided to stick with hard drives. They get cheaper and are inherently quicker to access if they’re stuck into a spare machine that can be booted up anytime you needed to.

I upgraded scanners so the file sizes got bigger and films like Velvia and EliteChrome 100 pushed the resolution (grain?) further. Then came my first DSLR, a 300D (my shortest-lived DSLR ownership) and my 20D several months later. So came RAW files, 16-bit PSDs, and the story continues until I hit my 5D Mark II with 21-megapixels, Full HD movies. Backup is getting more important but also important is accessibility.

I needed to backup and offload my main PC but also need to access the “older” stuff occasionally. Leaving your main storage server switched on/off daily or 24×7 wasn’t something I want to do on a daily basis so I got a NAS which I quickly outgrew within a year so that too got upgraded to a 4-bay unit.

I have a storage server with 6x1TB disks. It’s all RAID 1. Mirrored. So I get a net space of 3TB. I have a “_photos” folder shared out that further breaks down by year, i.e. “2001”, “2003”, along with some odd directories. I also have a “_videos” folder where I back up my created DVDs (ISO format) and Adobe Premiere Pro project files. The problem is occasionally accessing stuff from say, 2006. My main PC only stores past 16-odd months so I ended up going to my storage server regularly. So what’s running 24×7 is my NAS box with 4x500Gb in RAID5. That gives me about 1.4TB of disk space. That way, I get that past 2-years on it; i.e. 2008 & 2009 along with my 60Gb music collection on the built-in iTunes server. My IP cameras also record to NAS and they keep the past-7 days recording. I also have imaged backups of all the machines in my home so that if the primary disk crashes, recovery is just a click away. Keeping everything in sync is the unix utility rsync (the windows equivalent is DeltaCopy).

With the growing file sizes, I’ll be moving my storage server to 1.5TB disks by Q4 this year and my NAS will grow to 4x1TB*… one can never have enough disk space!

* That’s one thing I like about my NAS. I can live swap the disks and expand it without powering down and losing my data. I can easily move from 500Gbx4 to 1TBx4 and later to 2TBx4.

CF, SD, Batteries…

A sign of the times. It used to be little kiosks selling CR123, CR5 or CR2 lithium batteries (remember those) and AA, AAA batteries alongside boxes and boxes of Kodak and Fuji film. Today, if you find your fancy-pants digital camera running low on juice or memory cards, you go look for a little stall like this one.

This little kiosk in the Yuyuan area in Shanghai was selling all sorts of media cards (CF, SD, SDHC, etc) along with 3rd party made-in-China batteries in various Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic flavors. They do say that the batteries are “charged” so you can just pop them in and use them. This particular kiosk still had some film products but they were heavily showing off their instant inkjet printing service. While Kodak may be a icon of the film era, its transition to the digital era has hit some turbulence. So while they had a couple of rolls of Kodak film, majority of their products are for digital cameras. I wonder when I might see a Sandisk branded kiosk… soon perhaps?

Run out of batteries and media? Head for the kiosks!

p.s. what “real” photographer would only have one battery and one memory card with him/her at one time?