Snow, Ice, and Routine Chores

Nothing like some crazy weather to throw me off my schedule! The good news is, I’m spending much more time on my photography these days, even if I’m not totally up to date on my weekly photo challenge.

The challenge for the week of February 23 was the word “Open”. I had some ideas for what I wanted to shoot that week, but you know what they say about plans–they are made to be broken. On Wednesday of that week, we got 7.3 inches of snow, the second largest snowfall ever recorded on any date here in Tupelo. Of course, I took my camera out for some shots, so even though I wasn’t sticking to the theme for the week, the important thing was that I was shooting and processing. Here are a few images I captured that week:




On this last one, I used the Topaz Clean plug-in to give it a little different effect in the details, especially on the tree branches. Kinda different, but I really like it! View it large to see what I mean.


The following weekend, we delivered my four prints to the Elvis Presley Birthplace where hubby helped our club president get all the artwork hung for our spring exhibit. We have about 66 photographs from 20 different photographers on display for the entire month of March. We opened the exhibit on Monday, March 2, and I’ve already received positive comments from friends who have visited.

So, my weekly challenge for this past week was the word “Wet”. And wouldn’t you know it? On Wednesday, we had another winter storm come through, this time dumping almost an inch of sleet and ice, making travel impossible for two days (there were several fatal car accidents, one involving a mother and two of her children, so sad). So I didn’t get out to do any shooting until yesterday (Saturday), and I tried to shoot images for both the “Open” and “Wet” themes to get back on track. I think I got some decent shots which I’ll be processing this week.

Today it was time to do some general housecleaning around my photography gear and files.

First, I had hubby reconfigure my desk so I could move my monitor further away from my face, leaving more room on my desktop to accomodate my new Wacom Intuos tablet. I’m really excited about learning to use this piece of equipment!

Next, I took the plunge and cleaned the sensor on my Nikon D700, using Sensor Swab cleaning tools and Eclipse cleaning solution. I took before-and-after shots of the sky so I could see the difference it made. I actually went over it twice, using two swabs, and I think there may still be a spot or two left, but based on the photos that I took, it was quite an improvement. I may try to clean it again in another week or so.

Next, it was time to do some archiving. After a near disaster with a computer crash and an external hard drive failure last year, I’ve become somewhat OCD about backing up my photo files now. I have backups of my computer running to Mozy, and to two external hard drives attached to my system. But I also like to actually move files off my hard drive for storage now, so I’m using a combination of Google Drive, along with two additional external hard drives which I rotate out. Today I archived all my 2014 files to Google drive and to both my hard drives, and then removed them from my computer system. That’s less for Mozy to have to backup, and I can get to my archived files from any computer where I have an internet connection, via Google Drive.

And finally, I started playing with Lightroom and Photoshop. I finally took the plunge and signed up for a one-year subscription to Adobe’s Creative Cloud solution. For $9.99/month (I went ahead and prepaid for a year), I’m able to use the latest versions of Lightroom and Photoshop on up to two computers, as well as some mobile processing. I’m still a huge fan of Paintshop Pro, but I think it’s important to try and learn the more widely used software applications. Now that I can have access to them at a reasonable price, there’s no reason not to tackle learning something new. I also completed my collection of Topaz plug-ins by adding Illustrator and Glow.

So, I have software, hardware, workspace, updated filespace, a clean sensor, and motivation. Time to get some shooting and processing done! The challenge for this week is the word “Broken”, and hopefully with the time change, I won’t have to wait until the weekend to get my shooting done–more daylight after work hours. I still need to process shots from the “Open” and “Wet” word challenge, so time to get busy!


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Biloxi Beach at Sunset and the New Workflow

I’m on Day Nine of a ten-day vacation, and it has been relaxing as well as productive.  Hubby and I traveled down to the Mississippi Gulf Coast for a four-day stay at the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi.  We’re not big gamblers at all, but we do enjoy the nice facilities that the casino/resorts offer.  We enjoyed some time at the pool, got plenty of reading done, and then spent one day on a side trip to New Orleans by way of scenic highway US 90.

Just before we left on our trip, I made one last-ditch attempt to recover some of my old photo images from a dead Western Digital external hard drive.  I Googled the error message I was getting from the hard drive, and found a forum where someone offered a suggestion to another user with the same problem.  His suggestion was to use “chkdsk /F /R /X H:” where H: is the drive letter. I did just that, and about eight hours later, I was rewarded with 81GB of recovered files which I then copied to my computer hard drive.

While we were relaxing by the pool, I put together a new plan for both backups and archives of my image files. I already have backups running daily on Mozy, and I was doing periodic backups to two external Western Digital hard drives connected to my computer (alternating them), using the WD backup software. But the glaring problem is this–when files are accidentally deleted from your hard drive, they also get deleted from Mozy and the hard drives after 30 days if you don’t catch it before then.

I wanted an archive solution that would allow me to move my old files off my hard drive, leaving less for Mozy and WD to backup each day, but also having my old files accessible if I need them.

So I bought two more 1TB external drives. I also bought 100GB of space on Google Drive for $1.99/month (I already had 25 free). Then I spent this morning cleaning up my pre-2014 files–I deleted JPG’s where I also had raw files, I deleted TIFF files that I had created in Photomatix for HDR’s which had already been converted to JPG, and I deleted photos of random stuff where I testing lenses, etc. Then I copied all this old data, over 18,000 files from 1999-2013, to Google Drive and to both external drives.

One of the external drives has been locked away in the safe in the workshop while the other is here in my office. Once a month I’ll archive new stuff to all three drives, and will check the two physical drives to make sure they’re still sound. In the meantime, my backup system will be taking care of the current stuff that’s still on my hard drive.

After I finished that task, I then set to calibrating my monitor. I purchased a Spyder4 Pro from DataColor after reading numerous online reviews. I found it pretty easy to use, and once the calibration process was complete it presented a screen where you could toggle back and forth between the pre/post calibration settings so you could see the difference in the images on the display. And the difference was amazing! I’m hoping that the images that I have printed now will more closely match what I’m seeing on the display, because in the past I’ve been sorely disappointed in my print results.

Oh, and did I mention that I also downloaded the latest version of Paintshop Pro X7? It’s awesome!


After all that, I finally got around to looking at the photos that I took while we were on the Coast last week. I’m excited to get started processing these shots. Some will be HDR’s and some are single images. I did a lot of experimenting with different settings while I was shooting, as I’m trying to learn to control some of the exposure issues that I’ve had in the past from just relying on the camera automation and dumb luck.

So here’s the first one that I processed today. This is an image from the beach in Biloxi near the Beau Rivage, taken at sunset. You can see the lighthouse in the background. I shot this hand-held at ISO 4000, something I’ve avoided in the past. I used Paintshop Pro X7 to adjust Levels and Curves, Topaz DeNoise to clean it up, and then back to PSP for some sharpening. I really like the way it came out.


Be sure to click through on the image to view it large on Flickr. Stay tuned for more!