Saturday, November 19, 2011

Digital Asset Management - Moving Images from Camera to PC

The most critical time in digital asset management occurs immediately after the photo is taken.  The camera transfers it from its internal memory to my compact flash card.  If anything interrupts the transfer the image can be corrupted and lost.  

I format the card at the time I get my equipment ready.  I want the camera I'm using to prepare the card.  If the card formats, I have additional assurance that the card is working properly.

I carry my extra cards in container that holds four and has a hard plastic shell.  Formatted cards are placed with the Logo on top.  As I switch cards, the used cards are placed with the logo down.  

Compact flash cards are very sturdy.  I've heard of cases where they were laundered and dried and still worked.  Their biggest vulnerability is the double row of little holes the bottom edge.  These holes need to mate with a matching set of little wires in the camera.  If you are careless and get a piece of dirt in  one of these holes, you can bend the wire as the card is inserted.  None of your cards will work then until the camera is repaired.  This is why I'm careful to use a case that provides protection and keeps the cards clean.

Have you noticed that your camera doesn't know precisely how may photos remain.  This is because the space a image uses varies.  I seldom delete a photo in the camera. When you delete you free up space for another image.  When the camera tries to put a new image in the space, it often has to put parts of the picture in more than one place.  It handles this task very well but the chances for failure have increased and it takes a little longer to read and write the image.

My Canon cameras can store images in a second directory when certain numbers are reached.  If you use a manual download process, it is easy not to notice a few photos in a second directory.  You may even reuse the card without realizing images are missing.

I use Downloader Pro for my downloads. It removes human error.  It finds all the images.  It renames the photos. It builds a folder and places the images into it.  If I have a .gpx file, it uses it to add GPS information to each photo.  I can even set it up to build a duplicate set of images on a second drive.   I have to admit that I thought this program would be a waste of money before I bought it.  It wasn't.  I'm often pretty tired when I download and Downloader Pro takes human error out of the process.

 I realize that Lightroom has similar functionality.  The problem with using Lightroom is that my images end up in Lightroom.  I want to some sorting and culling before this happens.  I'm used to being able to do this rapidly.  Lightroom does many things well, but if I put a thousand images in, it takes a long time to remove the 900 that I want taken out. 

If you ever have problem downloading images, I've found that the problem is usually in the card reader or the wire that attaches to the PC.  If you can see the image in the camera you have some assurance that the image is actually there.  Try a different reader and even another PC.  If you can't see the image in the camera you have a bigger problem.  Verify that you are looking at the correct card.  It's possible that the camera malfunctioned and never saved the images.  If you, you are out of luck  If the images are on the card, you can download some good software that will attempt to recover the images.  You can usually verify that it will recover your images before you pay for it.  This software also works if you accidently format a card before the images are downloaded.

When my images are downloaded, I leave them on the card until I have two copies of the most important images.  The card is my backup until then.

Finally, what size card do you need. I usually buy the second largest card made.  The biggest card is more expensive.  Some photographers only use smaller card so they don't put too many eggs in one basket. If I'm too concerned about the single basket, I'll use a camera that has a second slot.  Most of the things that cause a card to fail happen when cards are changed.  You can drop the card, lose it or have it stolen.  You can remove the card while the camera is still writing.  You can miss something important when you make the change.  Small cards slow down when they are nearly full. When all is said and done, I think that I have less risk with the larger card.

Friday, November 18, 2011

What Am I Looking At?

Fontenelle Forest has a useful tool for you called   Nature Search.  It is an internet site that shows every living thing that has been identified and photographed in Fontenelle Forest.  It allows a hiker to use their iPhone to look up and identify everything they see in the forest.

 I like it because it doesn't contain life that hasn't been seen in Fontenelle Forest.  You don't have to search through page after page of similar plants and birds.    Nature Search is also useful in most other places in the MidWest region of the United States. 

I have contributed many photos to Nature Search.  There are still many birds and insects that need to be photographed and added.  You can contribute any thing new that you find.

Nature Search is is found at:  Nature Search

Winter Wildlife

White Breasted Nuthatch


My Digital Asset Management- The DAM PC

Three regions of the DAM PC are used for different aspects of image management?

1.       The first area is used for the downloading, naming, and storing Raw image files.  This area preserves the time, gas and money invested in making the images and initial quality control.  It contains about 90% of the original images.  I name this location SRAW because it contains Raw images stored sequentially.

2.       The second area is used for the cataloging, key wording and enhancement of Raw image files.  Ths area preserves the decisions made in image selection and enhancement.  Unlike the SRAW area, this area only retains quality images that are unique in the context of my entire body of work.   Less than 10% of original images end up here and they may still be reevaluated and deleted later.  I name this area ALLPIX.

3.       The third area is used to turn Raw image files into a product.  It stores copies of Raw image files that are enhanced , refined and enhanced with a specific purpose in mind.  HDR images are assembled here.  Panoramas are merged here.  Photo books are assembled here.  Time lapse video is generated here.  JPEGs are loaded to the internet from here.  I call this location PROJECT

On my PC these locations are on separate hard drives.  Images are never moved from one location to another - they are only copied.   I don't want to ever accidently delete the only copy I have of an important image.

A single raw file can reside in all three locations.  If I lose the ALLPIX drive, I still have every image on the SRAW drive.  If I lose the SRAW drive, I still have the most valuable images on the ALLPIX drive.  If I lose the PROJECT drive,  I still have the raw images on the SRAW drive.   

This redundancy is a form of backup but it is no substitute for actual backup of each drive.  My backup strategy will be discussed in another blog entry.

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Digital Asset Management - DAM Filenames

DAM Film
When I used film, I never had two identical negatives with the same name.  I stored the negatives grouped by the roll and by the session.  I put a date and title on the outside envelope and stuck them in a box.  When the box was full, I got another box.  I haven't looked at them for at least 10 years.  I have thousands of negatives in boxes.  I have stacks of negatives.
The problem with boxes of negatives was that you had to depend on memory to find specific images.  Contact sheets were good in theory, I have even more negatives that were never printed.    I had prints made of many negatives.  All of these prints are in other groups of boxes.  I have stacks of prints.
When I purchased my first PC - an Apple II+ - I created a database of negatives.  It included descriptions and the location of negatives.  This system worked as long as every negative was filed properly.  If a negative was misfiled it was nearly impossible to locate.

My first digital images were JPEGs.  They were numbered in the camera.  I put them in digital folders.  The PC showed thumbnails.  I thought this was the perfect solution until the numbers started to repeat.  Image 928.jpg was easy to find.  Three different Image 928.jpgs were a problem. 
When I used image processing software, I ended up with more Image 928s.  I changed some to Tiff, I made versions of various sizes and quality.  I could end up with dozens of Image 928.
My Inner Hoarder was another problem.  I made backups of images and stored them in other locations.  I couldn't  discard an image until I verified that it was saved somewhere else.  I had a bigger problem than ever.  An image could be stored in multiple places, with multiple names and other images could have the very same name.

DAM Names
I needed file name to be unique to an image.
I needed to be able to change a  renamed file back to the original name.
I needed to keep files in the correct sequence.
The DAM names that I use now work pretty well.  With few exceptions, I shoot everything in RAW.  This means that any JPEGs on my system are copies - not originals and can be discarded if needed.
I let the files name themselves using information that is internal.  The name begins with YYMMDD.  The date is followed by the time in a HHMMSS format.  I have multiple cameras.  As long as the cameras are all set to the correct time, these names will sort themselves into the correct sequence in a directory.

DAM Problems
This system worked at first but a problem developed when I purchased a camera that could take multiple shots in a second.  I needed to assign a sequence to these - like 110604_082333_01.CR2  If the file was ever renamed, I could rebuild the name up to the sequence but I could not automatically determine if it was the second or third shot within a single second.
A second problem was that the names were not friendly.   110604_082333_01.CR2 wasn't a name that people wanted to use when asking for a copy of a photo.

DAM Solutions
I ended up making a compromise.    I used the sequential number given by the camera in the file name.  IMG_0928 was renamed to 110604_082333_0928.CR2.  If someone wanted a print of the images I took on June 4 2011, they could ask for the last 4 digits (0928).  Even if I used multiple cameras, the numbers are not likely to overlap.
I store my images in folders in year month and date order.  110604_082333_0928.CR2 in the 110604 folder.  That folder in the 06-June folder.  The 06-June folder is in the 2011 folder.  This is a consistent and repeatable way to name images and a consistent way to store them. 
The end result is similar to my 2002 negative filing system - all the images are stored in sequential order.  I had trouble finding anything in my negative files but it works for digital.  The reason is LIGHTROOM.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

11/11/11 A Special Walk in the Woods

When you haven't seen an old friend for months, you may be shocked to see how much they have changed.  I've photographed Fontenelle Forest hundreds of times.  Today I visited without my camera.  I was shocked to see how my old friend has aged.

My favorite places to photograph had been under water and off-limits  for over 6 months.  The water is now gone and work has begun to rebuild the trails.

Some animals have returned.  I saw raccoon and deer tracks in the mud.  I saw a couple of birds but the plants that would normally have provided their food were killed by the flood. The ground is littered with fallen trees.   I don't know how many of the standing trees are still alive. The smaller forest and marsh land plants are gone - mud is everywhere.

Fall is nearly over and the winter will be severe.  Any plants and animals that survived the flooding will be tested by the worst weather that Nebraska is capable of sending their way.

Today was especially symbolic because it is Veterans Day and soon will be the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  A navy without battleships was unthinkable.  A forest without trees and plants is heartbreaking.  When you look over the devastation, you remember what was and it is hard to visualize a happy future.  

I love to photograph this area because it is a transition between wetlands and forest.  It is an area that has experienced change before.  It was visited by Lewis and Clark.  It was home to the first trading post in Nebraska.  It was on the route of Mormons traveling west.   I will have my camera the next time I visit.  It will be exciting to record the return of plant and animal life.

Has My Photography Improved After Ten Years of Digital?

  1. Digital has raised the bar - I'm no longer as good as I thought I was.  Most of my pre-digital images would be mediocre today.  I expect more from myself and my equipment. 
  2.  Digital has changed my peer group.  I have world wide access to the best photographers and their ideas.  I can share knowledge, research locations  and learn new techniques without leaving my house. 
  3. Digital has redistributed my costs.  They used to claim that film was the cheapest photography purchase.   It  wasn't true than, but it is now.  I spend much more on equipment and much less on individual sessions.
  4.  Digital has redistributed my time.  Post Processing now takes a significant amount of time. I spend more time processing than I do shooting.  The results are better than anything I was able to accomplish in the darkroom. 
  5.  Digital has improved my exposures.  Under and over exposure was a challenge in the pre-digital world.  It was possible to ruin an entire days work with a simple exposure problem and not find out about it until it was processed.  Today I can use the histogram, blinkies, and the on camera screen to verify exposures in real time.
  6.   Digital has opened up the night.  I can change ISO to take shots that were impossible before.  In addition,  auto focus, image stabilization  and fast lenses are now available.
  7.  Digital has built-in documentation that allows me to remember ISO, shutter speed, aperture, time of day and even location.
  8.  Digital has expanded my photographic horizons with multiple image techniques.  I can make panoramas.  I can increase the dynamic range.  I can create time lapse video.
  9.  Digital has decimated the percentage of shots I actually use.  I may take  240 images today on a job that I could have put on a 24 exposure roll in the film days.  But, the spectacular shot that I would have had on film may  now be surrounded by several shots with subtle but improved differences.   
  10.  Digital has allowed me to share my memories with my family and friends.  I have over 30,000 images online.  I have created slide shows set to music and published dozens of photo  books.