I have three of these. One of course is in my notebook computer, the has a
complete duplicate of the drive in the computer and the third has a backup
of my drive plus enough room to back up the images from my current trip.
This system protects me against a hard drive crash or corruption--I can just
swap with the cloned drive--and against loss of my images--I have a spare
copy on my third drive. I use Norton Ghost to make the cloned drive and
either Ghost or Stomp Backup MyPC to make the drive backup.
Until recently this system worked perfectly. Unfortunately software
activation has made life relatively miserable for those needing backups in
the field. Say, for example, I'm in a remote location and my hard drive
fails. Great, I swap in the clone. Since Photoshop was already installed on
the drive before I left for the trip, it says it has been more than 15 days
since installation and will refuse to run. Sure if I have good phone
connections I can call and get a number I can type in, but many of the
places I go don't have reasonable phone service of any kind. Windows XP has
some similar issues but it is inexpensive enough for me to have an extra
license that I can work around them more easily.
9. Image Backups
On the road isn't the only place where you can lose images. Remember that
even your desktop computer or server can suffer from a drive crash or some
other glitch that costs you data. And your backup disk or tape may also be
bad. I always keep at least two backups of my images, one in a safe deposit
box and one at a neighbor's house. Traditionally my backups have been large
capacity tapes, but now disk drives are inexpensive enough that one of my
backups is literally a hard drive. I also keep yet a third backup copy
online with my system in case I need to copy corrupted or erased files. I
use Danz Retrospect to quickly and easily clone drives for this purpose
since it has very flexible support for ways of copying files and folders. If
you only need to copy full drive Norton Ghost also works well.
Note that these backups are more in the nature of archives and are different
from the system backups that I do each week (and incrementally update
automatically each night) using Stomp's Backup MyPC.
8. Flash Cards
Okay, so I have closer to 8 of these than 2. But I'm amazed by how many
photographers are in the field with only 1 or 2 cards and rely strictly on a
portable storage device to offload their images. Not only can the storage
device fail but a card might also fail. For that reason I highly recommend
having several digital film cards with you. If you're really paranoid, leave
a couple smaller ones back where you are staying in case something happens
to your digital wallet while you're out shooting.
I'm not talking about your flash card wallet here, but your actual wallet
with your cash, credit cards and ID. Almost nothing ruins a trip faster than
losing your wallet. I always carry an extra wallet in my suitcase--tucked
down among my clothes--with cash, a spare credit card and copies of my
Passport and Driver's License. Unless you're one of the few that has two
legitimate driver's licenses you may find it the hardest item to replace on
a trip. And I've learned the hard way that it is nearly impossible to rent a
car without one. But at least the spare wallet ensures you'll be able to
keep traveling and working while you get your other cards and documents
replaced and find a way to get some more cash.
6. Shooting Plans
Perhaps even more important than having spare equipment is having flexible
plans. Poor weather, travel problems or uncooperative subjects can ruin your
planned photography. Make sure and have a backup plan for where to go and
what to photograph. For example, if the Moose or Deer you're hoping to
photograph then maybe you can create some great fall color shots or capture
the local waterfalls or historic buildings.
5. Mice & Cables
Especially if you use a wireless mouse, make sure and take a backup wired
mouse as wireless transceivers can fail at the drop of the hat. Same for
your other cables--for connecting to phones and networks. In my case I even
carry a spare wireless adapter, but that may be a little extreme.
4. Power Adapters, Batteries & Chargers
Even with the incredibly long life of batteries for the D2H I still make
sure to have a third battery with me (the first two are in my two cameras).
With the D1X and D1H I carried a total of 4-5. Having a spare is protection
against an extra long shooting day, forgetting to recharge one between
outings or that infrequent malfunction where your camera drains your
batteries quickly. When I can I also carry a spare charger. With the D1/H/X
this was pretty simple since I'd have one AC charger and one DC charger with
me on all my trips. I haven't found any reasonable DC charging solution for
the D2H so I either just live dangerously with one charger or bring my extra
AC charger along just in case.
3. Internet Connections
Not everyone has a lot of options when it comes to Internet connections,
either at home or on the road, but if you can figure out a way to always
have two ways to get on the Internet you'll avoid costly downtime when your
ISP goes down or when there is some glitch in your ISP's dial-up software.
Often your home/office ISP will also give you some type of dial-up access as
a backup. Several times I've gotten to a hotel and for some reason been
unable to connect to my normal dial-up ISP (Earthlink) and have had to rely
on a backup dial-up until I got things sorted out again.
It may not be practical to have two computers with you when you travel, but
in the office you'll be a lot less stressed if you have at least two
machines. One can be your field laptop, as long as you have a way to quickly
get to your images from it. Having two machines makes it easier to do
maintenance on one or keep working when one crashes--as they all inevitably
do. In my case I have one machine for Photoshop, one which serves the images
and runs the printers and my laptop.
1. Camera Bodies
Particularly in this era of cameras chock full of sophisticated electronics
it is more important than ever to have at least two camera bodies on any
"mission critical" project. There is no way to guarantee that your primary
camera won't fail. Ideally, of course, you two cameras would be identical so
that you could continue where you left off. Or next best are two cameras
with very similar controls and image characteristics, like a Nikon D1X and
D1H or Canon 1D and 1D Mark II.
For budget and space reasons you might also want to consider a smaller, less
expensive backup like a Nikon D70 or Canon Digital Rebel, if they can do
they job for you in a pinch. The nice part about having a "prosumer" backup
is that you can use it as a casual camera when you don't feel like lugging
all your gear along.
Another good reason for two camera bodies is being able to have two lenses
mounted at once. This has always been handy for many applications. For bird
photography, for example, one body can go on the long lens on the tripod and
the other over your shoulder with a flight lens. But with the advent of
digital there is another advantage. Having two lenses mounted reduces the
number of lens swaps you need to do while you're working in the possibly
dusty field environment. That'll minimize your dust issues. I still carry a
Sensor Brush with me though!
What I don't carry two of any more
I no longer carry lots of extra lenses. I'm sure I'll regret it
someday but I carry fewer and fewer spares for my main 4 lenses (12-24,
24-120 AF-S, 70-200 AF-S and either my 200-400/f4 or 600/f4). Sometimes I'll
bring my 80-400VR and my 24-85 as backups and I often bring a fast 50mm just
to have, but I don't try to have two full sets of lenses because I've had
very good luck with most of my lenses being quite reliable for a long time
Laptops. I don't carry two computers, except on very rare occasions. This
isn't because I'm confident mine won't fail, just that it is so much hassle
that I've gotten lazy. I do have an older laptop staged back at the office
that can be sent out as needed, which is some solace, and of course I have
my backup drives & accessories. I also carry a full set of CDs for
re-installing Windows, Office and Photoshop as needed. And I'm never without Photorescue for recovering images from my cards in the event they fail.
Super-Size it: 400GB hard-drives
The rush to shoot in Raw mode and the even faster rush to mega-mega-pixel
cameras puts pressure on your CPU, memory and disk storage. Fortunately the disk
drive makers are working hard to keep up. The latest wave of 3.5" drives (the
size used for almost all desktop applications these days) is 400GB drives. We'll
give you a quick overview of your options if you want to expand your storage
using these or other large drives. For more information or questions please feel
free to visit our Hardware Forum.
Drive Types: First, these drives come in two flavors now, IDE (Parallel ATA) and SATA
(Serial ATA). Your motherboard may support one or the other or both. SATA is
newer and capable of higher speeds, but it is only available on newer machines.
For all practical purposes either variety will work just fine. We won't talk
about SCSI drives here since they are smaller & much more expensive, although
they can provide the best overall performance for high-end users with a large
budget or perhaps for smaller "work" drives.
Connection Options: Second, you need to decide how to connect to the drive. If you have a spare
internal slot and drive connector on your motherboard or disk controller the
"simplest" approach is to put the drive in your spare drive bay, connect it to
your power supply (of course you need to make sure it has enough power!) and to
your motherboard & you're ready to format it. However, if you think that sounds
more than a little scary you'll want to use either a Firewire or USB2.0 external
Initially I was a big fan of Firewire drives (they aren't really firewire
drives, just ATA drives in a firewire enclosure), but recently more and more
users seem be be plagued with device errors when using large drives on firewire,
so they are a mixed blessing. Firewire tends to be a tiny bit faster and use
less of your CPU. Firewire drives can also be daisy-chained. The downside may be
dealing with "delayed write" errors in Windows. As long as you buy enclosures
which support both Firewire & USB2.0 you can always switch technologies without
needing to reformat your drive. I've had great success with Venus DS3 enclosures by AMS. They are not cheap (about $70 for one with both Firewire & USB and $38 for one with just USB) but have a nice internal and very
quiet fan and are easy to assemble and disassemble. They also have an aluminum
chassis for better reliability and cooling and a cable-free internal connector.
Formerly I had been a proponent of ADS cases which are big, expensive and had a
good reputation, but it seems like recently they have given me nothing but
trouble with noisy fans and flakey interconnects.
External Bundles: The most turnkey option is to buy an external drive
complete with enclosure from the drive manufacturer. Seagate & Maxtor both have a line of these, but both receive lots of complaints on many forums
for their plastic drive enclosures. In addition, while the bare drives from both
vendors have 3-5 year warranties the bundle with the enclosure only has a 1-year
warranty. For me that is a good reason to think about building your own version
or perhaps buying from a high quality vendor like LaCie who assembles
drives + enclosures and sells the bundle. I do have a Maxtor One Touch which has
worked great as an archive drive. As an archive drive it doesn't get used
continuously so heat is not as much of an issue. And the new version, the One
Touch II, has received an excellent review from PC Magazine.
Getting Files on the Drive: If the drive will be used as your primary storage device then of course
you'll just save files onto it as you would any other drive. But if you want
your new monster drive (or one of them) to be a backup you'll either want to run
backup software or copy one of your existing drives to it. A couple excellent
tools for doing that are Norton Ghost 9 (unlike Version 8, version 9 runs fully
within Windows) or Retrospect backup software which comes with a handy Drive
Duplicate function (I wish my normal backup software, Backup MyPC came with
one!). The great thing about duplicating the drive is that it is simple to grab
files off it when you need to.
Backing up your Backups: Remember, your 400GB drive will be nearly impossible to back up to tape or
DVD. It is 20 $8 DD3 20 GB tape cartridges for example, or 40 dual-layer DVDs.
So as the cost of these drives comes down under $200 over the next year, you may
want to duplicate your drive and keep the duplicate as part of your archive.
Using your "old" drives to beef up your system: Of course as you
upgrade drives you'll start to find yourself with an increasing set of perfectly
good older and smaller drives. One fairly clever use for them is to construct a
RAID array. In my case, for example, I've taken 3 of my "old" 200GB drives and
made them a RAID 5 array on my server, using a Promise IDE RAID
controller (I was running into serious performance issues with my Adaptec IDE
RAID controller so I switched). For those not familiar with RAID, the idea is to
use some combination of inexpensive drive (it stands for Redundant Array of
Inexpensive Drives) to provide increased performance and/or reliability. RAID 5
uses 3 drives to do a little of both. I get 400GB of useable storage and if any
of the 3 drives crashes I can replace it without losing any data. Conveniently I
can back this array up onto my new 400GB drive. Now I've got double redundancy
and the extra performance of a RAID array.
If you don't want to get that fancy you can set your drives up so that
several drives look like one, using our DigitalPro tip of the week:
All of us have struggled with the problem of having multiple drives worth of
photos and having to remember what drive letter to use to refer to which. Having
your file cabinet in DigitalPro spread across multiple drives that way is no
fun. Now there is a clever solution. If you have formatted your volumes using
NTFS and are running Windows XP you can use the Disk Management function of the
Computer Management utility to "mount" your drives in empty folders on other
drives. In other words you can have a second drive appear to be a folder
under an existing drive, instead of or in addition to having it appear as a
drive letter. This is incredibly handy to be able to do as your drive