Making More Stuff

Still in the maker-mode here. Last year I bought an assortment of colored LED lights. I’ve done a few odd things with them, nothing serious. It was more to learn about them and how to make them work.

Now I’m trying to make a tool for light painting. We’ll see how it works out… :-)

LED telights have been the main tool I’ve used for light painting in my night photography. I recently found colored LED tealights and bought a pack of red ones. Waterproof, too!

BTW, the clamp repair that I made a few weeks ago…
was in vain. It does not clamp down on a RRS plate well enough to hold it firmly. Pppfffftttt….

Making Stuff

Time seems to flit by in stretches. Wasn’t new years just the other day? Somehow it’s March now.

This phenomenon gets worse as I get older. That’s scary.

I’ve been engaged in a number of non-photography projects lately and also some photography-related projects. Since I’ve had my head buried in the details, I’ve forgotten to come up for air and take notice of what’s going on in the world. The spring flowers are already starting to bloom here, for one thing.


Some friends and I helped our kids make a small cart for a competition. It’s made mostly from spare parts and junk we had laying around. It’s basically a giant pull-back car that uses large rubber bands.

Turns out the bands didn’t work so well. I bought some large diameter surgical tubing, and it was more suited to being repeatedly stretched while keeping its elasticity.

My older son and I built a PC for his birthday. I picked out the parts (just a basic-level PC with an Intel processor) and then showed him how to put it all together. He’s 11, and I’m not sure how much he learned. But he did seem to enjoy the process.

And that’s something I want my kids to learn – that making things is often well within your capability if you put your mind to it.

My younger son competed in his first cub scout Pinewood Derby contest. They had an adult category, so I also made a car of my own. Of course there I put a camera in it ;-)

Here is the video from the car:

The ongoing saga of my old Sony 5.1 receiver…

It stopped working a couple of years ago. It kept tripping into protection mode. I tore it apart and found some bad capacitors. I’ve recently replaced them, and it still doesn’t work :-(

This thing should go to the junk bin, but the geek/engineer in me cannot stand to let it go. Next on the list is to test all the power transistors.

Another interesting repair was an old set of powered computer speakers that stopped working. Turns out there was a small ball bearing rolling around inside the speaker that contained the amp. It was rolling around on the circuit board and shorting things out.

Typically, speakers don’t contain any ball bearings :-) But, living in a house with two young boys I’ve learned to accept that things end up where they don’t belong quite often.

Both of my boys deny having anything to do with this…. naturally.

I suppose this is just pay back for all the times I broke something as a kid.


Well, not quite. But photography related, yes.

The used ballhead I recently bought came with a semi-broken lever clamp. I say semi-broken because it was still somewhat functional, but not 100%.

The small pin that held the lever bolt in place (preventing it from rotating) had sheared. The lever bolt was also bent.

I engaged Really Right Stuff about fixing it. I sent them a detailed description and photos. They told me to send it to them if I wanted it repaired.

Once they had it, they then informed me that they could NOT repair it. It was a “legacy” clamp, and they had no spare parts for it. And since I’d bought it second-hand, it was not eligible for their upgrade policy.

I like RRS products. I’ve used them for many years. And I like the new products that they develop. They show great ingenuity and intelligence in developing devices and aids that can help photographers.

But, it bothers me that they couldn’t make a repair after they said to send it in and I had disclosed to them exactly what model the clamp was and what was wrong with it.

Anyway, being slightly pissed off about it, I decided to attempt to fix it myself. I “un-bent” the bolt and drilled out the broken keeper pin. I then put the bolt back in with a bit of red Loctite (permanent) and shoved a sanded-down pin into the hole.

Moving on…

I also got a used tripod. It’s an old Gitzo model that has the design flaw of a round, center plate with no secondary locking mechanism.

I’ve read about this issue many times. The round, center plate gets clamped into the spider (the central part of the tripod where the legs attach). However, if the clamp loosens during use, the center plate (along with the attached head and possibly also camera + lens) has a tendency to fall out unexpectedly.

I fixed this potential issue by drilling and tapping a hole through the spider and center plate.

A small (#10-32) stainless steel bolt goes into the hole (just snugly with a bit of blue Loctite).

Maybe it’s overkill… But I really like backup methods and secondary systems to ensure that something works and stays working as it’s abused, er… used.

And finally, I did not like the way the head attached to the tripod. There was only a stub of a 3/8″ bolt sticking out of the center plate.

Every single tripod I’ve used that employed this design has had issues with the head unscrewing itself during handling and use.

So, I drilled and tapped three holes through the center plate. Set screws go into these holes and tighten against the bottom of the ballhead.

Now I just need to get out and shoot! :-)

Having Fun

Getting back to the idea of having fun mentioned in a previous post… On our trip to Death Valley last year, I brought colored LED lights to play with.

6 Photographers on a Dune

But first, we had fun with ourselves. This was take one hundred something. Seems like it took forever to get the group just right, and then we had several shots trying to get our postures and body positions right AND keep still through a 25 second exposure.

Spinning lights on a string

Light Spheres on a Dune

That was it. Simple. Put a light on the end of a string and spin it around.

Green Light Sphere on Cow Creek

Although the lights were initially WAY too bright. Remember, these are highly sensitive exposures that pick up starlight.

For some strange reason, I had a spare white sock with me and also some tape. I cut apart the sock and taped bits of it over the light to diffuse and reduce the intensity.

The light spheres are fun, and there are probably a hundred other patterns that you can make while spinning a light on the end of a string.

Light Tornado

My favorite was the tunnel made as I spun the light in a circle in front of my body while walking towards the camera.


Storage Upgrade Complete

…for now.

This is the new black box of bytes (Mediasonic HFR2-SU3S2) sitting in a remote location (my office). In addition to a new 2TB drive, I also got a 4-bay enclosure to house it and also the other two existing 2TB drives that I have. So, now it’s three 2TB drives in one box (with an open slot for adding a fourth drive later on).

Hopefully this is enough to fulfill my storage goals for the next 3-4 years.

Death Valley

Last November I visited Death Valley with several photo-friends. It was a week to get away and see the landscape, and to focus on photography for a good, long while.

Shooting in the dunes.

This wasn’t a workshop or a group shoot or any sort of formalized event. It was just six friends getting together and having fun. And we had loads of fun.

Manly Beacon and badlands in Golden Canyon

Editing and processing the images has taken forever. There were thousands of photos to sort through, and I’m finally finishing up.

Scouting in the valley.

I’ll post more about this trip later. We visited and explored some great places. I’ve only been to Death Valley once before, and my knowledge is fairly limited. But we did get to see a lot of new stuff (for me) on this recent trip.

And we got to experience some very interesting weather. High winds, heat, cold, snow…. and a rocket launch. More about that later.

Hard Drive Math

The real purpose of the post yesterday was for me to think about my storage plan. The numbers I generated yesterday, aside from curiosity, can help me figure out a plan… or at least make me panic about it.

Real quick disclaimer: everyone has different methods and practices when it comes to storage of their files. My way is just that. My way. It isn’t wrong or right.

My goal for storage and archiving of my files is to have four independent copies. I.e. four independent devices that contain the files, with the devices being in physically different places (in my case – split between two locations: home and work).

I’m currently not there yet. I have three independent copies. Two at home and one at work. And that’s okay. It’s better than two (total) and certainly better than one.

So, in deciding how much more storage (hard drives) to buy, I can put some thought into the size of the drives and timing, i.e. how much longer until they fill up, and then compare that to whether or not I want to start buying larger hard drives.

Right now I’m on a 2 TB system. My trio of independent storage devices is three 2 TB drives.

From the post yesterday, my current collection of photos sits right at 1 TB. note that I’m leaving out all the OTHER files (edited images, music, personal stuff, etc); all of that sits on yet another set of hard drives

How long until it’s full? ESTIMATE 1

Based on generating an average of 154 GB worth of images over each of the last 5 years, I have until about 2020 until the drive fills up.

YEAR Total Size
2015 1.00 TB
2016 1.15 TB
2017 1.31 TB
2018 1.46 TB
2019 1.61 TB
2020 1.77 TB
(note that a 2TB drive has about 1.81 TB actual capacity)

How long until it’s full? ESTIMATE 2

Let’s guess that I upgrade my camera to a higher MP model. I’m probably NOT going to do this, but let’s just say I got the new 50 MP Canon 5Ds.

My raw files would go from an average of 30 MB (5D mark 3) each to 68 MB (5Ds). Based on shooting an average of 3500 raw files per year, I can estimate that my yearly photo yield will increase to about 287 GB.

Keep in mind this is just a rough estimate, and there are too many variables to make an accurate prediction.

The result is that I won’t make it through 2018.

YEAR Total Size
2015 1.00 TB
2016 1.29 TB
2017 1.57 TB
2018 1.86 TB
(note that a 2 TB drive has about 1.8 TB actual capacity)

What Now?

I think the easiest thing right now would be to get another 2 TB drive. That would fulfill my goal of having 4 independent copies of my photo collection, and it will serve me for another 2 – 5 years depending on the camera bodies that I use.

Once I reach capacity on that system, then I could double-up drives and add new ones with 2x capacity. I.e. existing 2 TB drives combine to form one independent 4 TB unit of storage, and then I’d have to buy four 4 TB (or higher) drives at once.

Ouch. Hopefully by then memory will be much cheaper.

Looking back a few years, my upgrade path was from 250 GB drives to mostly 2 TB drives. I suppose in 2 – 3 years we’ll have 4 TB drives that are well under $100, and I’ll be going from 2 TB up to 4, 5, or 6′s.


Nope to optical storage as one form of backup. Been there, done that. Hate it. Pain in the ass.

Nope to the cloud. Too much trouble and expense at this point plus security issues.

Buy an enterprise-grade drive and put it in a Faraday cage? I like the idea, but it’s beyond my budget.

Not a big fan of RAID. I’ve used drive arrays controlled by some level of RAID, and I’d much rather keep my system as simple as possible.

15 years, 1TB

After 15 years of making images from digital cameras, I’m finally reaching the 1 TB mark. It’s kind of weird… I expected my total collection of files to be much more than 1 TB. Most of my peers have collections that are 4, 5, 6 or more TB.

Looking at the size of the folders (organized by year), it’s interesting to see the increase in size. There is not necessarily an increase in number of images in each folder from year to year, but there’s definitely an increase in size. And it’s mostly due to the upgrade path of the cameras that I’ve owned.

I started with a 1.3 MP camera (shooting JPG), and now it’s 22 MP shooting mostly raw images.

2001 0.1 GB
2002 0.3 GB
2003 2 GB
2004 12 (a) GB
2005 8 GB
2006 15 (b) GB
2007 34 (c) GB
2008 41 GB
2009 63 (d) GB
2010 53 GB
2011 112 GB
2012 126 (e) GB
2013 152 GB
2014 229 (f) GB
2015 151 GB

a) Canon Digital Rebel (6 MP)
b) Canon 20D (8 MP)
c) Canon 5D (12 MP)
d) Canon 5D2 (21 MP)
e) Canon 5D3 (22 MP)
f) new toy: Sony action cam (lots of video and time lapse)

Having Fun

This poor, neglected blog has been nagging me for attention. Can a blog have feelings? Well, probably not. But I feel bad for not adding content to it :-)

For the past few months I’ve been editing new work and making prints. This new stuff is scattered and a bit unorganized at the moment, and I’m trying to tidy things up and put new content here on my website.

THIS is camping :-)

Two trips to Big Bend in about two weeks time have provided some extraordinary opportunities and events. It was definitely great to take my mind off the stress of the current state of the oil and gas industry (low prices at the pump means little or no work).

In the middle of working new images and all the required editing and processing, I’ve learned some new stuff! Good stuff. Stuff worth sharing. I have a lot of good things to say about Canon’s DPP 4.x. It’s changing the way I process my images. But more later…

Old image; new processing techniques

The best thing to happen lately is some nice, quality time in the far west parts of Texas in the desert. Snow, canyons, amazing sunsets. And getting to spend some of it with my family.

Good times in the desert

I’ve finally remembered how to have fun with photography, which is the reason I became interested in it so many years ago. How do you have fun again? It’s a complicated answer. I’ll work on writing about it…

New Photos

I’ve been pretty neglectful of my “other photos” blog this year. I’ve not added anything since January.

Over the Christmas break, while I’m not elbows-deep in replacing carpet in my house, I’ll be posting photos to the other blog. Check it out here.

Also, don’t forget I’m on Instagram: thomasjavery I do post there frequently.

What’s Next?
I spent 10 days in the Big Bend of Texas in late October this year. I have a ton of photos from that trip.

But a report is forthcoming…. I rented a Sony A7S for that trip. I shot the Sony along with my Canon 5D3 at night (Milky Way photos), and I have a detailed comparison to make between the two cameras. I’m still working on the details, but that comparison is coming soon. Stay tuned…

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!