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!

Update / Stuff / Still Alive

It’s now full-on hot-as-hell season (mid-August) and my head is spinning at the quick passage of time. Where did it go?

I’ve been busy with a number of different things, one of those just happens to be photography. Although I can’t seem to find much time to update my blog or my website.

The honest truth is that I spend 9 – 10 hours every work day staring at a computer monitor doing engineering-type stuff (gotta pay the bills, you know), and the last thing I feel like doing when I’m at home is to stare at a computer monitor.

My phone has become my main communicator simply because it’s easily accessible and fast. I did have things set up where I could make blog posts from my phone, but it’s continually crapped out on me. It doesn’t seem to like it when there are a lot of apps installed and I actually try to use it like a computer.

So much for buying a top of the line phone. All that memory and processor speed works great at first, but over time and a few dozen apps later, it makes me want to dump it in a wood chipper. I wonder if my ancient Nokia, aka “the brick”, would still work?

If you really want to keep up with my current work, please check me out on Instagram. I’m also on Facebook, but that’s a personal account. I’ve thought about starting a photography page on Facebook, but then I really don’t want to have one more thing to update and keep track of.

I just bought a cheap 14mm lens for my Canon DSLR. It’s a Rokinon branded lens, which apparently is the same, or nearly the same, as many other brands (eg Rokinon/Samyang/Bower).

I debated long and hard, and then debated a lot more, and then debated until I was just sick and tired of thinking about it, but I finally decided to ditch my 16-35mm zoom and sold it.

At the end of it all, I hardly ever shoot wider than 24mm. When I want to lighten my camera kit (which is often because most of my outings involve hiking and I just don’t want to haul a lens that I may use for only one shot), the 16-35mm was always the first to be eliminated from the bag.

I almost got a Voightlander 20mm. It’s a nifty pancake-style lens. Very light and very small. I could easily stuff it away in my bag for the few times when I want to shoot wider than 24mm. But after all my debating and thinking, I’d much rather prefer a 18 or 19mm prime lens, and right now, there aren’t any out there that are relatively small. (and I’m looking at YOU, Samyang… please make a good 18 or 19mm!! :-) )

So, as sort of an “in the meantime” fix, I bought the 14mm. It’s not all that small. And it’s definitely heavy. But it’s fun to play with, and for $300 for a 14mm…. why not? But I still won’t be taking it on long hikes in the desert.

I took a series of test shots last night with the 14mm.

crops from test shots – click to see larger

The crops are 100% from different parts of the frame. I’m fairly impressed with the performance. At f/2.8 it’s noticeably soft and there is heavy vignetting. But stopping down to f/4 makes a huge difference. And by f/5.6 and f/8, I honestly can say that it’s just as sharp as the 16-35mm f/2.8L II Canon lens that I used to own.

Eat THAT Canon!

Shooting the Moon

Earlier this week we were treated to very clear weather and a full lunar eclipse. Even from Houston, aka light pollution central, the moon was highly visible and quite beautiful.

I shot the moon with a borrowed 400mm lens (f/5.6 max. aperture) and a cheap Tamron 1.4x converter. The combination made for a slow f/8, and I also stopped down one (f/11 effective) in attempts to sharpen things up a bit.

click for larger image

I used to own a 400mm lens many years ago, and I’d forgotten how difficult it can be to shoot long. Every bit of disturbance around the camera caused a visible vibration in the viewfinder. Using live view at 10x made the issue very apparent. A cold front had blown through, and the winds were making it impossible to get the camera and lens completely stable.

The other issue with eclipses, and I’d experienced this before when shooting one many years ago, is that the moon gets very dark towards totality. A normal full moon in clear skies is nearly as bright as full daylight. But a moon mostly covered in the Earth’s shadow is 5 – 6 stops of light less. That’s really challenging when shooting at f/11 :-)

Random Pics, Random Thoughts

I’ve been posting quite a bit to my Instagram account lately. Below is a sample of the recent photos along with a few random thoughts and info.

Shadows in the Grass, Mar-11

The collection of apps and the workflow I had on my mobile phone that enabled me to post to my blog is out of commission. I’ve had so many issues with my phone over the months and have had to reset it a few times. I’m not sure if all the apps are the reason that the phone keeps bogging down and having a glitch-fest that renders it practially useless, but I’m hesitant to set everything back up as it was before.

Mule Ears, Big Bend N.P., Mar-15

I’m still using the Olympus OM-D E-M5 more than any other camera. I feel that I’m starting to learn what it can do well vs. the areas where it absolutly sucks. The small size and light weight of the Oly kit trumps everything else, so it’s been the right tool for the job lately.

Ladybug on Prairie Buttercup, Mar-21

Of course the other tools that I carry (Sony RX100 and also the camera on my phone) come in handy when needed!

Sandpile Silhouette, Mar-25

One impressive thing about the Micro Four-Thirds (M43 or M4/3 or whatever you want to call it) is the reach you can get with relatively small telephoto lenses. Combined with the EXCELLENT in-body image stabilization of the E-M5, it’s a great tool for wildlife shooting.

Cormorants, Lake Fork, Mar-28

My current longest focal length is 150mm, which translates to about 300mm (35mm “full-frame” equivalent field of view).

I’m looking into getting a longer lens for my kit, perhaps the Oly 75-300mm or the Panasonic 100-300mm. The long end of those lenses works out to about 600mm equivalent.

Sunrise, Lake Fork, Mar-30

The flowers are NOT as good as anticipated. I had high hopes over a month ago when I noticed flowers blooming in mass very early in the season. I think the ice storm we had in early March really hurt things.

Golden Groundsel, George Bush Park, Apr-1

I’ve been exploring through the local parks: Bear Creek Park (Addicks Reservoir) and George Bush Park (Barker Reservoir), visiting my usual spots for wildflowers. They are thin in coverage as compared to previous years. Also, many of the easy-access areas have been mowed by the park services. That doesn’t help at all!

Please consider following my Instagram account! And if you don’t have Instagram, then consider getting an account. It’s free and easy. It’s a fun app to have on your phone and really helps you to engage in and play with photography.

Ice Storm

The strange winter weather just gave us an interesting event. In the early AM hours of last Tuesday, the temps dropped to freezing and it rained all night.

The ground stayed warm enough not to freeze, but everything knee-high and up was coated in ice.

We don’t often have ice like this. The last time we had a similar ice event was nearly 20 years ago.

If only the sun had come out in the morning. Warm light catching on the ice-covered trees would have been pretty amazing. Regardless, the sights were still interesting and memorable.

I hope this does not ruin our wildflower season. The flowers have just started blooming, and now we’ve had freezing weather for two nights in a row as well as quite a bit of rain.