Saturday, November 02, 2013

Surreal Night

A picture is worth 1000 words...

...and I wish I had one to show you.

I find myself in the odd position tonight to be writing about something that isn't directly photographic, but has to do with artistic expression or at least artistic experience.

As you may know (if you've been reading my blog), I am presently camera-less. At least DSLR-less, because I do have a point-and-shoot and an iPhone which are indeed cameras. I also found myself driving home from Toronto after dark, an unusual experience for me because I try to avoid that situation. Oddly, because I actually do enjoy driving in the evening when it's not raining or snowing or otherwise difficult.

There I was, though. Floating along at my interpretation of the speed limit (let's not go there...). At the beginning of the drive, the full moon, just above the horizon directly in front of me, was huge and golden, and dressed in wisps of cloud*. It was hard not to stare at it instead of the road, markedly more difficult when a passing airplane seemed to be on a course to intersect the orb, and in fact it did, but too far away to present a classic silhouette. Two thoughts went through my head: (1) I wish I had a camera so I could capture that, and (2) even if I did, there's no way.
* I only found out 4 days later that there was a penumbral lunar eclipse (the moon was in the earth's shadow). That's why it appeared so different from normal! And no camera, of course...
It gets better, though. Now I'm driving on a deserted road, still into the moon, which is now silver and higher in the sky. With the evening drop in temperature came mist and fog, sporadically across the road. If you looked off to the side, you could see areas of fields blanketed in fog, maybe 2 or 3 meters deep, brilliant and clear above, wispy tendrils that followed the contour of the land. The same across my path, sometimes dense, sometimes thin, certainly not contiguous. Its presence related to altitude, so when the road dipped, you dropped into the clouds, as you peaked a hill, you came out. All the while, the moon glared balefully down from its position straight ahead.

I'm listening to music, stored on my iPhone and played back through the multi-speaker sound system in the car. I'm surrounded by Rhoda Scott's interpretation of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" (Link) (which you may recognize as the theme from Arthur Clarke's "2001, A Space Odyssey" or if you're more classically educated, as Richard Strauss's 1896 tone poem), a maestro performance on the Hammond B3 organ. Her nuances probe your mind like alien tentacles. Surreal. It ends, to be followed by Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", (Link) and Neil Larsen's inspired B3 solo* where he expresses and shares his soul.
* Writing this note after the fact, of course. You should know that I was up until almost 4am, sitting at the keyboard (piano, not computer), trying to emulate this solo without measurable success. I wish (a) I had a B3 and (b) that I could play. OK, I wish (b) before (a). I got some of the emotion into it, but the playback sounds horrible because I don't have the talent. If I could come back in another life it would be as a musician. Just sayin...
PS: if you're into virtuoso music, you have to watch (or listen to at least) Barbara Dennerlein playing "Georgia" (here). When she switches the lower keyboard to piano mode she especially shows off her talent. I get lost in her music.
Now you turn into a narrower back road and suddenly you pass under arched trees, whose branches meet overhead like the crossed swords of an honour guard, like dancers holding hands, and the fog is back. You can't really see the road surface, you are soaring through the misty clouds, tunnelling through the ghostly sentinels of nearly naked trees in the surreal light of the moon.

The road opens up. Trees have been cleared away from the verges so your view ahead is wide and unimpeded. With the brights on, your headlights brush the evergreens, painting them with light so they stand out against the dark sky. Now there's an oncoming car, still below the horizon. His lights illuminate the fog or low cloud, reminiscent of a movie scene where they're trying to imply a distant explosion, just below your sightline. Then he crests the hill and his headlights explode upon your vision. Still shrouded in cloud, you think of alien spacecraft approaching through the mist.

Two thoughts went through my head: (1) I wish I had a camera and (2) even if I did, there's no way I could capture this.

Surreal, to say the least. I wish I had had a camera but then there was no way I could have captured the moment. I wish I had a paintbrush and the creativity to know how to use it. But for now that moment has to remain locked into my memory and maybe some day in another life, I'll be able to bring it out and share it with you.

This looks like a great deal

Normally I'm not a fan of off-brand lenses but the Tokina 11-16mm DX f/2.8 looks like a winner, especially at less than $500, which is what B&H is selling it for now. Links here: Nikon Mount       Canon Mount

Ken Rockwell rates it very high, better than the OEM lenses and it's actually wider and faster. Doesn't work on full frame sensors, though, too bad. It's not a brand new lens, it's been around for a few years, but the price reduction makes it attractive!

Backup Strategy and Tactics

I've outgrown my backup drives. It was inevitable. Like the old saw about hard drive failures, it's not if, it's when. and my time has come. I have over 80,000 images in my archive, all by the way, in a single Lightroom catalog. The pictures are mostly RAW files and they add up to almost 2Tb, and that's the capacity of my largest external drive. I actually have two of those, plus one 1Tb drive, plus a total of about 3Tb inside the two computers themselves. Oh yeah, and a 500Gb drive in the drawer I just remembered.

So what to do? I could split things up, say everything up to 2012 in one place and all the newer stuff somewhere else, but I don't want to. So I decided on a strategy, and I want to share it with my readers in case they need to decide what to do as well.

I just finished going through the 83,000 image Lightroom database. I selected every picture that I had ever given a rating to, whether it's 1-5 stars, or a colour code for status (to be edited, in process, finished, exported, etc) and I marked them all with the "Pick"flag. That means there are some picks that don't have any ratings, but that's OK, I want to err on the side of choosing more rather than less. The sum total is 24,449 images.

I reformatted the 1Tb external drive, and as I'm typing this on one computer, I'm exporting these Keepers (and a new Lightroom 5 catalog) to that drive. All my keepers will be there. It's too big for the 500Gb drive, unfortunately.

Next, I'm going to copy the whole shebang: all 83,000 images to a brand new 3Tb drive I just bought at Costco. Theoretically, the 60,000 images NOT in the Keepers are garbage that I will never ever need. But I can't bring myself to throw them away just yet, at least not in bulk. For instance, there are images from trips I've made which I didn't select, but which contain memories. It will be a slow task to go through those and throw out the real trash, but I'll have the luxury of having them all in one place. I am going to the place where I will only have one copy, not multiple copies of those images.

Now I'm going to bring the "Keepers" back to the 2Tb drive I use as my main storage. So I'll have 3 copies of those, at least. One of the smaller drives will go off-site and the other will get updated with new Keepers every month.

So in summary:
  • Grand archive of everything on a 3Tb drive
  • Two backups of Keepers on 1Tb and a second 2Tb
  • The 1Tb drive is stored offsite, at my mother's apartment in Thornhill
  • Working files on a 2Tb external, with the keepers
  • The working (Passport) 2Tb drive goes with me in the car whenever I go away for a day or so
  • Newly imported files are also in the internal drive in the laptop.
That should keep me going for a while. But given Moore's Law (it applies here too!), watch this space a year from now for my NEXT new strategy! By then, there will probably be 5Tb or 6Tb affordable drives on the market.

Sounds complicated, right? It isn't really, my working files are on the 2Tb Passport with a regular backup to the internal drive in the laptop. I have to harden my heart and be more diligent about throwing away the trash. The 3Tb is a grand backup, the 1Tb is my offsite emergency backup and the second 2Tb is a spare. Of course there's always the second computer and the cloud...

Nice Nikon

As I write this (Tuesday the 29th) I have received my cheque from Nikon and I'm going into Toronto on Thursday or Friday for my D610. A shout out to Mike Krupat at Henry's in Thornhill who puts up with my nonsense. He's a good guy. Call him at 905 886 1020 or email him, he'll be happy to help you out. Tell him you saw it here...

Update: November 2
I got the D610 yesterday. Good news and bad news.
 Good news: I wish I had my D600 in front of me for comparison. I think they ruggedized the camera. My impression is that the finish is different. Also I'm not sure but I think way an AC Adapter gets attached is different. I have to RTFM...
 Bad news:
  • Lightroom 5.2 and Photoshop CC DO NOT RECOGNIZE RAW FILES FROM THE D610. For now, I've set up the camera for RAW + JPEG (Fine), and I put RAW on card 1 and JPEG on card 2 –  necessary because if there are raw files in a folder, LR won't recognize the existence of the JPEGs for some reason, so I have to separate them. There's a "Nikon View NX2" DVD in the box but I remember it's a real pain in the butt and hope I don't have to use it. Otherwise, I can't see the RAW files (I wonder if it can batch convert to DNG. I doubt it, but I'll install and have a look)
I hope Adobé comes through with an update soon.
  • I diligently saved my camera settings from the D600 on an SD card. You guessed it. The D610 won't import them. I spent almost an hour going through the menus and setting stuff up the way I had it before. Annoying, but I guess it was good to use the opportunity to run through all the menu items and refresh my memory about where stuff is.

FP Flash Sync on Nikons

Ever wonder how the high speed flash sync works on Nikons (you can actually sync your flash at speeds like 1/4000 second, not limited to the 1/250 sec mechanical shutter speed)?

I wondered too, and Google took me to this excellent explanation:
http://nikonclspracticalguide.blogspot.ca/2008/03/10-auto-fp-high-speed-sync-explained.html

Pictures

Without a camera, I don't have anything new. But I do have some older shots for you to enjoy. I call these, Day, Night and Dawn.


After visiting the Ansel Adams exhibit in Kleinburg, I shot this, reminiscent of one of his images called "Birches".  


I put a flashlight in the car but it was way too bright, so I buried it under a yellow rainjacket. Still too bright, but the Milky Way was just right! 


Whenever you get up before dawn, you don't go away empty handed! Horseshoe Lake Road, just before sunrise.  I never get tired of this spot. This makes a superb large format print, available on my gallery at www.faczen.smugmug.com

Next week: pictures from the new D610! TTFN

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