365 Project

I have been toying with a web site called 365project.  It is a place for photographers to post a single photo for every day of the year. The challenge for me has not been to take the photos as much as it is to keep up to date and remember to select an image and upload it.  I decided to give it another run and try to be better about it this year. I have a few gaps in January that I need to go back and fill in, but so far it has gone well.

Corner Lamp
 My focus the past few days has been on high contrast B&W and including texture in the images.

I am still shooting the majority of my personal images with my old iPhone 6s.  I keep looking at the newer iPhone models but the cost versus benefit ratio is hard to overcome.

I considered switching to a Google Pixel 3 phone as the camera is reportedly slightly better. Everything is trade-offs though. I have spent a lot of time and money with the various iPhone apps, and to switch to an Android platform would mean giving up the Hipstamatic App.   That alone is a huge issue.

I will still keep looking. If I had not lost the lenses for my iPro Lens system and the case had not begun to crack there would be no question about keeping the current phone.  As the phone models have moved on, so have the lens options, To replace the add-on lenses means switching to a new set of lenses by Moment.  They do not make anything that works with the iPhone 6s that is still available. Instead, I would need a 6s Plus or newer.

Wooden Railing
Class Dismissed


Droning on and on - fun and concern

Look... up in the sky!
It's a bird!
It's a plane!
It's a drone.

The Cloudrider drone is lightweight enough that it does not need to be
registered with the FAA.
Last Christmas my wife bought me a small drone, called the Cloudrider by Propel. It has a fixed 720p video camera in it, so it is tough to get any images from it, but it was the perfect drone to get to learn on.  I have crashed it a multitude of times. Because it is so small and lightweight it never sustained any damage, and I was able to keep on learning with it.

After a few months of playing with it and not being able to fly outside if there was any wind and not being able to aim the camera for the shot I wanted I started looking to upgrade.  The school has a DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ for the broadcasting class, but it was returned from a student with damage to the camera assembly and I spent a lot of hours trying to see if it could be repaired.  I was set to buy myself the newest version - a Phantom 4 - when I saw the Mavic series.  The resolution is nearly the same as the big Phantoms, but this could fold up to about the size of an external desktop hard drive.

In May I took the plunge and bought the Mavic Air. It is small and fast. The video stabilization and gimbal systems are amazing, and in decent lighting, the images look good. It features a 12mp camera that can shoot in RAW (DNG) format. It can handle winds over 20 MPH, and in the right conditions, it can top 40 MPH.  It has a satellite navigation system so that I can set it to return home (where I launched from) if I lose sight of it, and it has obstacle avoidance technology so I don't smash it into anything. It can see in front and behind itself to stop from hitting things.

Best of all it is easy to fly.
Drones are fun, but they are also serious pieces of equipment, and thanks to companies like Amazon the already heavy restrictions in the United States are now getting worse.

First of all, any drone that is over 0.55 lbs must be registered with the FAA. It only costs $5 for now so it is not a major issue.

There are also other considerations about when and where you can fly, and what you can use the photos for.

If there is ANY money involved it is considered to be a commercial flight and you must have a Part 107 license to fly the drone. That means that landscape photos or other things I photograph or make videos of cannot be sold in any way without my obtaining the special license.

Also, any flights within 5 miles of an airport require that you contact the airport and inform them of your flight.  In North Dakota and Wisconsin last summer this was an easy process. Call the airport with my coordinates, give them my name and FAA registration number for the drone and they would tell me if there were any concerns - like one day there was crop dusting going on in the area so I had to keep my altitude low and I decided not to fly. In Gallup, the airport personnel are not willing to give permission for me to fly. One person there even told me that the entire city (not just the 5-mile zone from the FAA rules) was a 100 percent no-fly zone.

This shot of Lake Havasu City, AZ was done with a Mavic Air drone, just
outside of the 5-mile airport restricted space and just before the end of the
30 minute after sunset restriction. 

In October of 2018, Congress passed new legislation for the FAA, and it included all UAV (Unmanned Aeriel Vehicles - also called drones). They are rolling out new rules, even for hobby flyers. This will include having to take some type of test and proving that we have passed it to fly. This also now puts all model aircraft into the category of drones.  I might be mistaken, but the wording on it sounds like even flying kites or paper airplanes will be restricted.

In the US flights cannot be over stadiums, cannot be after dark or before sunrise (30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset are the official rules), and must be done within the line of sight of the operator. You also cannot fly at scenes of police and fire emergencies (there have been issues with people flying drones in the middle of wildfires and putting the helicopter and tanker planes at risk).

Before you decide to dish out hundreds or even thousands of dollars for one of these contraptions make sure you know what you are getting into. There are some great apps that you can get on your phone which will help you find the legal and the restricted places.  Do your research, consider getting a Part 107 license so you can monetize your hobby, and be aware that there will be new requirements coming out very soon.  My hope is that DJI will make the test part of the flight control app and we can take the test through the app and use it to show our certification all at the same time.


Updating Sports

Now that the yearbook is being printed and things are settling down, I have recovered my crashed hard drive images and managed to sort and edit some of the sports shots from this past fall.  Now I am in the process of  putting them up on my website.  Today I added some of the girls soccer images from Miyamura vs. Gallup.

I was shooting the game with two cameras - the Nikon D7100 and the Nikon D5500.  Because of the small buffer on both cameras I was limited in shooting RAW.  The buffer was so small and slow in the D5500 that I abandoned the RAW format and went to straight JPG files.  This meant a bit more work on the images afterwards to deal with some of the harsh shadows.

For more of the soccer pictures stop by my website and take a look.


Student News - Christmas Broadcast

The students in my beginning broadcasting class put together their Christmas time program.  We have been having issues with missing files and the TriCaster being flakey at times, but we are getting things figured out.

Here's the link to see their finished product.


Backup (It is not the same as going in reverse)

I heard a long time ago that there are two types of photographers.  Those who have lost thousands of images when a hard drive fails, and those who are going to lose thousands of images when their hard drive fails.  Hard drives fail. They have moving parts. Even Solid state drives fail eventually.  Your photos are your legacy. Don't throw them away.

In 2000 the newspaper I worked for made the switch to digital. That meant hundreds or even thousands of photos a week being placed on electronic media. I kept copies of my images for my portfolio and just to have a backup. The newspaper did not have an archiving system in place at that time to handle the volume of images we shot, so I kept a copy myself.  That went from floppy disks to CDs to 100 and 250MB Zip disks to DVDs and then to large capacity external Hard drives.  Over the years I have accumulated a library of more than 750,000 images.  And it was chaos.

I bought a 5TB Seagate external hard drive and spent a considerable amount of time transferring everything from other media onto that large drive.  I also was putting new images onto it. I would occasionally get time to sort a few weeks worth of images, deleting a lot of old mug shorts and car ad photos, bad sports images and more.  The plan was to clean up the entire drive, delete the duplicates (because of the move from small media to larger I had lots of duplicate images to get rid of) and when I had the catalog cleaned up copy the cleaned archive to another 2TB drive I have.

It was taking me a long time.  But still I stuck with that idea. Clean up the catalog, then make the copy.

The week before Thanksgiving I had the drive on my desk in my classroom so I could find some file photos on it to show to students during class.  The drive was on a stack of papers.  You already know where this is going....  A students asked for an old assignment sheet, which was in that stack.  I dug through the stack and in the middle of digging the drive slid off the back of my desk and onto the floor.  I still had not made the cleaned up copy.

I unplugged the drive, placed it inside the desk and let it sit for a few hours. I finally got the courage to plug it back in.  There was power, and Windows saw the drive - but as an unformatted local drive. All of my approximately 750k images were now missing.  I tried to run data recovery software. No luck. I tried chkdsk.exe and the computer saw the partition and format, but couldn't restore it.  I tried to reformat the drive so I could then do a photo recovery. The reformat wouldn't work.

I have a lot of the old images still on the smaller drives and even on DVDs.  But from mid-2014 to early 2017 the only place I had the original files was on that drive.  Some images are stored on Flickr, but they are smaller sized. Some are on my web site for clients to order and view, but they are also generally under 2400 pixels.  The missing originals included two weddings and three years of graduation ceremonies for my high school.  I could live without some of the personal images, landscapes and so on, but the wedding photos I need back.

I did some hunting and decided to send the drive to Seagate for data recovery.  For $50 they were willing to analyze the drive (part of that cost included prepaid shipping from them - so not horribly expensive).  If they could not retrieve data from the drive there was no further cost.

If they can recover the data they have flat fees. Plug in the drive information, serial number and they generate a no-haggle price.  My drive was 5TB so the fee was pretty high: $600 for the data to be made available for cloud download, or $700 to have the data transferred onto a new drive and shipped back.  

The email I got on Tuesday was bittersweet.  They recovered my data (though there is probably some loss due to physical damage to the drive, so I am not sure how much I will get back). They also are billing me for the remainder of the fee. Ouch.

I have been cheap about my images. I'll admit it.  Not being a full time shooter and being a high school teacher I have limited funds and did not want to cough up money for redundant drives and cloud storage.  I use OneDrive for 1TB of cloud storage, I use Flickr for my iPhone images, and I put medium resolution images of some of my sports images up on my personal website.  It is piecemeal and not even close to a system.

Over Thanksgiving break I bought a 6TB desktop drive and a 4TB portable drive.  Regardless of the success of the data retrieval I am going to have a minimum of two copies of my archives.  Then the new drive coming back from Seagate will be a third copy.  My cloud storage services have now been expanded to include 200gb of storage on iCloud, and I see that Shutterfly labs allows customers virtually unlimited uploads and storage.  I also am gong to be taking advantage of the Amazon Prime feature of cloud storage.  

Take the time to create a D.A.M. plan. (Digital Asset Management).

If a drive ever crashes to the floor again I want to simply be out the cost of the drive, not several hundred dollars for data recovery that may or may not be able to retrieve everything.