I mentioned before that my internal hard drive was just about filled up and my one external hard drive had filled up a long time ago. When I realized last week that I had less than 5GB left I knew that I didn't have enough room left to process one more shoot. For each shoot I have the original RAW file (and the .xmp sidecar), the layered .psd file for the shots I choose to process, and the full res .jpg for uploading to my site. So even the little bit of shooting I did last weekend resulted in right around 8GB of data. Geez, I gotta tell you, that's pretty scary when I'm old enough to remember upgrading to a 20MB hard drive and wishing I could afford the 40MB.
So some quick googling of the holiday sales at the local electronics stores showed me that Best Buy was selling the Seagate FreeAgent 500MB USB 2.0 external drives for $99. The price sounded too good to be true so I did a little more research on customer reviews and I couldn't find anything negative about them. Now I'll be honest, my biggest concern was about transfer speed. Seagate also sells the FreeAgent with Firewire and eSata for twice the price, and I was really afraid that I was going to be disappointed with the speed of the USB 2.0 model. But since the drive normally sells for between $120 - $150, it was too good of a bargain to pass up (Best Buy's price is actually back to $159 now - so I got it for $60 off their regular price). I bought two of them - one for additional photo storage and one for backing up all of my photos - 1TB of data storage for less than $200. Figured I'd hook one up and if I was really disappointed with it I could return the second one.
I'm happy to report that they are both up and running and I am extremely pleased with them. I installed the backup software that comes with the drives so I could use one as my backup and have it set up to back up the photos on both drive C: and the new drive G: (my backup is drive I: if you can believe it) and the new drive G: is now additional storage for my photos. The backup software is basic and adequate. I found it easier to use than Retrospect (which used to aggravate me to no end), but it only allows backup of data files. If you want to back up anything else you will need to use Windows Explorer or other software.
- They are half the size of my older Maxtor One Touch 160GB external drive. The Seagate FreeAgents are 7.5" tall, 6.4" deep and 1.6" across.
- They are a very light 2 pounds - good if you need something portable.
- The transfer speeds have been very satisfying; I backed up the 250GB of photos from drive C: in significantly less time than I had expected and transfer speeds from my card reader directly to Drive G: are lightening fast. I know, I should've timed the backup, but to be honest after the same amount of data took three months to upload to Mozy I honestly expected this backup to take several hours. So I ran the backup and left my office. When I happened to pop in there a short while later I noticed the backup was complete. I want to say it was less than an hour. I was skeptical, so I double-checked to make sure everything was included and yep, it's all good!
- The drives are very quiet. They are much quieter than my internal drive.
- They come with a 5 year warranty. Most competitors only offer a 1 year warranty.
- I actually like the glowing orange light (see photo above)! A lot of people comment negatively about the looks of this product, but come on people, it's data storage, not artwork. I don't care what it looks like as long as it performs. And I certainly think they look a lot better than my old Maxtor OneTouch.
- The base is not detachable so the drive must stand up. You cannot lay it on its side or stack several together.
- The drive is not powered through the USB cable. I had to get yet another surge protector and further increase my fear of setting the house on fire because of all the power cords hooked up in my office.
All in all I think these drives are definitely worth the current selling price, and if you get lucky and find them on sale for under $100 like I did, you're crazy if you don't buy at least two. 1TB of reliable data storage for under $200 is a steal.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
The Gold Mountain trail is short, just 3.5 miles or so, and even though we did both the talus slope and the bypass and took a few short hikes to check things out and grab a few geocaches, we finished by lunch time and decided to head into town to grab something to eat. That's the neat thing about wheeling in Big Bear, you're never too far from civilization so you don't have to pack for the worst case scenario. As much as I love heading out to the middle of nowhere, sometimes the packing (and unpacking) can be a real pain.
After lunch we decided to do some exploring on the fire trails. Our first stop was the campsite that FunN4Lo had set up Thursday before the storm came in. Everything had been covered in snow and still needed to be broken down and packed up. When we reached the site I was so glad that we had wimped out on the camping plans; the weather was still absolutely brutal at that elevation. We were literally in the clouds and the temperature was just above freezing. There was still a good amount of snow on the ground and everything inside the tent was wet. Despite how miserable the weather was, I was excited to have the opportunity to shoot in those conditions. It was a big change from all of the desert photography I've been doing lately, and definitely a change from the beaches at home. So I wandered around shooting until everyone decided they were too cold and we ran back to the jeeps and put the heaters on full blast.
Here's a shot of our campsite:
Bill was ready to head back down the mountain after that, but I wanted to explore some more and NotMySonsJK, FunN4Lo and Bobby were more than ready to lead the tour, so we took off down another trail. There were some fun puddles and mud from the snow melt to get the jeep good and dirty, and with hardly anyone else up there we had a blast. We took another short (and cold) hike to check out a spot than NotMySonsJK thought I would like to photograph. He was right (how did he know I have a thing for dead trees?), although I'm sure he didn't envision it in the clouds and fog. I've only processed one of those images so far, but I really like it. It's one of those shots that you really need to click the image and go into the gallery, then choose to view it at a larger size, to really appreciate it.
It was a slippery hike over snow covered rocks back down to the jeeps hiding in the fog and clouds down below.
A turn down another random trail brought us to this really neat ramshackle cottage at the edge of a lake. I've only processed one of these shots so far, also, but this is probably my favorite shot of the day.
We played around the trails some more until I got hit with a really bad case of altitude sickness and I felt like I was going to die. This was the worst time ever - from the pounding headache I went right into severe nausea and then dizziness. When I started to feel like I was going to black out I knew it was time to descend. Unfortunately I've always had a problem with altitude (I used to have problems every time I went to Denver at 5,280 feet!), but I've been getting better each time. I'm fine at just over 7,000 feet, and if I give myself time to acclimate at that elevation I've been fine with exertion at 10,500 feet, but I'm a slow acclimatizer. It's a real pain to deal with when we have so many beautiful mountains here in California, and I've been struggling with conquering it without having to resort to drugs. So despite making sure I stayed well-hydrated and doing the breathing exercises, hiking around 8,000 feet eventually did me in and I had to descend a little ways. As soon as we hit 7,400 feet and stopped to air up our tires and reconnect I immediately started feeling better, and when we hit town and an elevation of around 6,800 feet I felt 100% fine, as if nothing had ever happened. I could probably have gone back up without a problem at that point, but it was almost 5:00pm, so we decided to head for home. The roads were dry and there was a surprising lack of traffic for a holiday weekend, so we made it home in record time.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
After last weekend's heatwave, I think the last thing anyone was expecting for the holiday weekend was a freak cold wave that brought lots of rain (and snow at higher elevations ) as well as hail, tornadoes and a mudslide at Cook's Corner. Last Friday it became pretty apparent that our plans of camping and wheeling up in the Big Bear mountains over the weekend required some last minute changes.
Bill and I spent a quiet Saturday at home while we kept an eye on the weather in the mountains, and when it looked like the worst of it was over we made plans to head up first thing Sunday morning and meet up with FunN4Lo and NotMySonsJK at the trailhead for Gold Mountain, another Big Bear trail with a Forest Service rating of Most Difficult. After seeing what John Bull was all about two weeks ago and realizing that Big Bear has exactly the kind of trails I like (rocky!), I was really looking forward to my first time on Gold Mountain.
The Gold Mountain trail is a beautifully scenic trail that winds up the side of Gold Mountain with a series of switchbacks to an elevation of 8200 feet. I'm sure the views are even more spectacular when the skies are clear, but you can clearly see from the photos in the gallery that the higher we went, the worse the weather got. The boulders on Gold Mountain aren't nearly as big as they are on John Bull, but the trail has some good rock crawling obstacles with loose rocks and a few ledges to climb, as well as the well-known talus slope.
I promised myself that I was going to stay behind the wheel and forget about the camera on this trail, but you know me better than that - I have a hard time resisting a photo op. I did stay behind the wheel 95% of the time, only asking Bill to take the wheel so I could shoot at two obstacles. No photos of the talus slope or anything after that, because there was no way I was going to miss out on that fun. And to Bill's credit he didn't whine once about wanting his turn at the wheel! Guess that means I have to let him wheel on the next trail... Luckily, when I was shooting the guys at one obstacle a group from Gear Grinders 4WD Club came up behind us, so we decided to wave them through and I figured I'd shoot them too. That ended up being most of my photos from this trail, although we did go exploring later in the day and I found quite a few subjects that caught my eye.
The weather was in the mid-40's for most of the trail and the views were fantastic for the first half:
But as we went higher, we got closer to the cloud layer and the temperature steadily dropped.
Later in the day we went up even higher until we were literally in the clouds. I'm saving those photos for my next post.
Here's a few more of the trail photos. In the later ones you can see that we lost our blue skies...so I have photos with boring gray skies and flat light. I had my light kit in the jeep, but I figured the guys would kill me if I attempted to set them up!
Wonder what this guy did to win the cowbell? ;)
You can see the rest of the photos in the gallery here.
Most people head over to John Bull after running Gold Mountain, but since we had just done John Bull we decided to go do some exploring at higher elevations. That was a lot of fun and I got some great shots. That will be covered in my next post.
Oh yeah, and if you were one of the people who subscribe to this blog by e-mail, I'm sorry that I have to ask you to re-enter your e-mail address if you want to continue receiving the e-mails. I was having problems with the feed and e-mails weren't being sent, so I needed to change the code. The new code seems to be working fine, but you won't receive any e-mails unless you subscribe to the new e-mail feed. Sorry about that!
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Just nod if you can hear me.
Is there anyone at home?
There is a very obscure reference in there.
My apologies to the person who actually tried clicking on my chat button last night and received no reply from me; I think either my virus scan or my on-line backup activated my "Available" status while I was soundly sleeping and dreaming of new ideas. I'm really disappointed that someone finally clicked the link and I didn't get to test it out.
But that gives me a reason to beg and plead for people to post some comments. I know that I have subscribers, and many of you tell me that you read my blog, but hardly anyone is leaving any comments. I think a lot of it is because most people in my generation didn't grow up in this on-line world, but this whole Web 2.0 thing is all about user participation. I had to laugh when I received an e-mail from a friend and he said that he was too old and left all the techie stuff to the kids. The irony was that he was actually the person who got me hooked on computers in the first place way back in the early 80's. Anyway, tell me my photos suck, tell me I'm boring, ask me a question, send me a link to your blog or website, tell me what you want to hear and see more or less of, or just say hello; let's start a dialogue.
Hit the jump if you want to know how I made the photo.
This is the second image I made for dGrin Assignment #74 Catching the Rainbow, in which Nikolai challenged us to create a rainbow by either refraction or reflection (I posted the first image I created for this assignment here. The first one is my favorite of all so far.) I used a fairly complicated (although homemade) setup for this one. I created a "shadow tent" using black fleece (think light tent/macro studio, but in reverse - it keeps light out rather than letting it in) and used white posterboard for the sweep. This was set up in the backyard where it would catch full sun. I set up using my Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens on a tripod and then positioned a blank optical disk right at the very front edge of the box where it would catch the sun. The tricky part was keeping the optical disk in the sun, but keeping the front of my lens in the shade and it took a bit of maneuvering before I got it just right. As I changed the angle of the optical disk the shape and intensity of the reflected rainbow changed; my favorites were a rainbow in the shape of a flame and this one, which reminds me of a vase with liquid light pouring in. The reflected light was extremely intense, and by properly exposing for the rainbow (f/22 @ 1/60) the white sweep was rendered almost black. Yes almost, and for this final version I did have to do a little cleanup in PS to further darken the background and clean up some stray light.
I had so much fun thinking of creative ways to make rainbows that I'm thinking about continuing the series.
We're heading to the mountains this weekend, and although we will spend some time on the trails, this trip I plan to spend a lot of time photographing things other than jeeps on rocks! I have a friend with a brand new Canon G9 (I'm so jealous that I warned him he'd better sleep with it) who is looking forward to seeing what that baby can do. And I'm bringing my light kit and plan to be in camp early enough every day to try out some really cool stuff. I have so many ideas! Read more!
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
American Life in Poetry: Column 164
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006
How often have you wondered what might be going on inside a child's head? They can be so much more free and playful with their imaginations than adults, and are so good at keeping those flights of fancy secret and mysterious, that even if we were told what they were thinking we might not be able to make much sense of it. Here Ellen Bass, of Santa Cruz, California, tells us of one such experience.
For months my daughter carried
a dead monarch in a quart mason jar.
To and from school in her backpack,
to her only friend's house. At the dinner table
it sat like a guest alongside the pot roast.
She took it to bed, propped by her pillow.
Was it the year her brother was born?
Was this her own too-fragile baby
that had lived—so briefly—in its glassed world?
Or the year she refused to go to her father's house?
Was this the holding-her-breath girl she became there?
This plump child in her rolled-down socks
I sometimes wanted to haul back inside me
and carry safe again. What was her fierce
commitment? I never understood.
We just lived with the dead winged thing
as part of her, as part of us,
weightless in its heavy jar.
American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Copyright © 2007 by Ellen Bass and reprinted from "The Human Line," 2007, by permission of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org. Introduction copyright © 2006 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.
Nothing after the jump. Read more!
Monday, May 19, 2008
The Neverending Ultimate Frozen Margarita Volleyball Championship season kicked off early this year with a few new teams for added fun and competition.
As our friend Ed said, sometimes things happen for a reason. Traditionally we would have been spending this weekend at the Doheny Blues Festival on the beach in Dana Point with Ed and Mary, a really cool way to celebrate Bill's birthday without celebrating a birthday. But this year the Gold Level tickets sold out early (and g.a. just wasn't an option with the crowds and portapotties) and Bill was pretty bummed about it. As it turned out, an early heatwave hit this weekend and we would've been miserable sitting out in the sun all day partying at the festival, the lineup wasn't that great this year anyway, and Omega Events rudely refused to answer my many requests for information concerning what lenses they would allow me to bring this year (I blame it all on B.B. King). Instead we spent the weekend at home in Bill's favorite way - with good friends, beer on ice, the blender going, plenty of food (of course) and non-stop volleyball in the pool. Even with lots of team switching Bill won every match he played Saturday, but I think Marina and Natalia wore him out (all of that young energy!) because by Sunday he didn't have much game left! The Willis' soundly kicked our butts every time! Haha, just a good excuse for a rematch.
Nothing after the jump.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
FunN4Lo had been inviting me up to Big Bear to run the Most Difficult rated John Bull trail since I first met him last October. John Bull has a solid reputation as the toughest and most challenging trail in the Big Bear mountains, so the intimidation factor was high and I kept putting him off. To be honest, I hadn't ever really been interested in hard core technical rockcrawling; I got the jeep so I could venture out into the wilds for my photography and only wanted to be able to handle moderate trails. And FunN4Lo and his usual companion on the trail, RockRash, are young, adventurous and fearless...
But after wheeling together in Last Chance Canyon and being comfortable with FunN4Lo's excellent spotting in some situations I had never faced before (such as the ledge climb), I caved in and agreed to give it a shot. Actually, it was FunN4Lo's phone call after that trip telling me, "Lori, you're ready for John Bull." Bill always gripes about not wanting to risk body damage (to the jeep, hehe), but I saw the look on his face when I let him take the wheel over some of the obstacles in Last Chance Canyon and I knew he was getting hooked.
So FunN4Lo put together a weekend trip for us, joined by Rockrash with j-sack riding shotgun. Rockrash insisted that I drive behind him because he was determined to tackle some obstacles that were bigger than his 33's should be able to handle and he fully planned to get stuck. By staying behind him I could winch him down the rocks rather than up. As we turned onto the trail and I saw the sign with the triple black diamonds, I was wondering what I had gotten myself into.
Well I've got to admit that John Bull turned out to be my favorite trail so far. I may hate steep climbs and descents, but I like rocks and John Bull is practically one long rock garden. You definitely need high clearance and big tires for this trail (FunN4Lo and Rockrash have 33s, but 35s allowed us to handle some bigger obstacles without high centering), but although lockers are highly recommended none of us have them (and one of us has open difs) and we didn't have any problems. Lockers are no replacement for good driving skills.
When we came to some big boulders in the center of the trail, Rockrash told us that he was determined to beat them one day but that he always high centers on them with his 33s. Bill didn't waste any time kicking me out of the driver's seat to give it a try! Now I want to point out that if I had tried going over those rocks, high centered and did any damage to the undercarriage, I never would have heard the end of it. But you should've seen the glint in his eyes when he said "I'll try it!" and shoved me aside. He made it over easily with just a little scrape on the rear bumper as he came off the rocks.
I did manage to wrest control of the jeep back a few minutes later and I was having a great time midway into the trail when Bill started commenting about how I always get to have all of the fun and do all of the cool stuff. Well, I can't take photos when I'm behind the wheel and even though I was having fun I could tell how badly he wanted to be behind the wheel, so we switched off again. I was happy because I got to photograph the jeeps on some really cool obstacles and because he's the one who scraped up my rails on a rock squeezing through a narrow off camber spot, not me. FunN4Lo was ahead of the group so he could check out the trail and then spot us through the obstacles, so almost all of my shots were of Rockrash and Bill driving my jeep. I wish Bill would learn to use my camera so I could get ONE photo of me behind the wheel.
Here's Bill with one tire up in the air (such a showoff):
Rockrash negotiating a rocky climb:
j-sack watching (or not?) Bill in a rocky section:
It wasn't easy, but I did manage to get control of my jeep back, although I think Bill was sulking about it. I guess it's tough having a tomboy wife and we're either going to have to become a 2 jeep family or learn to play nice together! It would be a lot cheaper to learn to play nice together, and I don't think I could handle the work involved in maintaining two modded jeeps.
So we survived on first time on John Bull without getting stuck and only minor damage; a few scrapes and gouges on the bumper and rails, and one of us blew the steering stablizer. The steering stabilizer needed to be upgraded and relocated anyway, so no biggie.
While we were airing up we found a couple of these rambunctious Western Fence Lizards. I think it's mating season because the two of them were having a great time chasing each other over the rocks, but the one took time out to pose for me.
After a relaxing lunch at a local Mexican restaurant, Rockrash and j-sack returned home while Bill and I spent the night with FunN4Lo so we could do more exploring on Sunday and check out some of the Yellow Post campsites for future trail runs.
It was a beautiful crisp day and FunN4Lo took us on a great tour of some beautifully scenic fire roads leading to the campsites. We even found a little water crossing to play in.
Lots more photos from our trip in the gallery on my website here.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Act fast if you don't want to see your family photos advertising products you don't like (or even ones you do)
Okay, maybe the headline is a bit of scare tactic, but it's not at all off base and it was meant to make you look. An example used by The Illustrator's Partnership is that a photo of your child waving to their grandmother could be used in a brochure by the Aryan nation to promote hatred of Jews. And I'm betting that unless you are a professional photographer (or very serious amateur) you don't even know about this currently proposed legislation.
I had been taking my time reading all I could about the proposed Orphan Works Act of 2008 and listening to both sides when APE posted an urgent notice this morning that the House called a markup meeting at 2:00pm Eastern. I realized that I had no doubt about my position and immediately wrote to my representatives to make my voice heard before the session. Only a few hours left...
Why should you care? Well you know those photos you've been uploading to flickr, shutterfly, Picasa Web Albums, etc? I'm going to guess that many of you do not embed your copyright information in the EXIF (and even if you do it's fairly easy to remove), and I'd also guess that you don't register your family photos with the copyright office. The proposed Orphan Works legislation will allow someone (such as a large corporation) to perform a reasonable search to identify the owner of an image, and if the owner is not found the image will be deemed an Orphan. That will allow anyone to do as they please with the image, including sell it for a profit or use it for advertising purposes. To be fair, the legislation was originally proposed for the benefit of museums and libraries, but as it is currently worded it has drastic implications for both professional and amateur photographers.
There is a lot of information available on the web for further research, but if you are reading this before 2pm Eastern time and you want to voice your opposition, there are several editable form letters set up at The Illustrators Partnership that will automatically e-mail your representatives for you. When you click on the link, scroll down the page to "For the Image Making Public". There is a well-worded letter there for amateur photographers. There are several other letters available for professional photographers concerning the business ramifications.Even if you're not the type to write to your representatives, I'd urge you to click the link and read the concerns.
Don't lose the rights to your photos. No one should be allowed to make money from your images without your permission. And you should have the right to control the privacy of the people in the images. If this legislation is passed as it is currently worded, we foresee a feeding frenzy of people harvesting online images from unsuspecting ordinary citizens. Google has already announced plans to take advantage of the legislation if it is passed as currently worded.
What really steams me about this is that it does have serious implications for amateur photographers, but I'll bet that only the pro's even know about the proposed legislation.
And do yourself a favor - watermark your on-line images.
Nothing after the jump - it's all front page today.
Monday, May 5, 2008
Every time I configure a backup set with Mozy I see a message that says "reticulating splines." It kept nagging on something way back in the dusty and cobwebbed recesses of my mind, and finally I just had to google it.
Hehe, someone at Mozy has a good sense of humor - Sim City, of course, whenever it was generating new terrain. Sim City didn't really reticulate splines, and neither does Mozy. Guess it's just a little geek humor.
What does this have to do with the photo above?
Absolutely nothing other than the fact that, like "reticulating splines" it is semi-nonsense. It was the result of an experiment, a "what if I were to...?", and I love the combination of light, motion, color and lines. My adoring husband looks at it and says "but it isn't a photo of anything". It's not always easy to explain when a photo captures something I felt, rather than something I saw.
Well it certainly is of something, I just leave it to your imagination to decide what that is. That's the whole point. I guess some people like to have all of the answers up front, and some prefer to use their imagination and contemplate alternatives. Me, I can get lost just staring at the subtle gradations of color. I guess the big question is, does it have meaning only to me?
If anyone wants to take guess at what it really is, I'd be happy to confirm or deny. The only hint I'll give is that it was taken at twilight on the beach in San Clemente, California. If you're not familiar with the area that won't help you at all, and if you are familiar with the area it may completely throw you off track.