Category Archives: Uncategorized

Travel Tip: Medusa Extension Cord

I got this tip from the great Bruce Dale when we went on Mikkel Aaland’s Lightroom Adventure book project in Tasmania. Bruce worked for more than 30 years as a National Geographic staff photographer.  He is known for pulling off really difficult technical feats as well great road and travel stories.

If you are headed to a place with a different electrical plug shape than your home country you can make a cord like this to add convenience and save a considerable amount of weight and bulk. Basically, it’s a couple of standard power cords cut and soldiered to a standard extension cord. This configuration can power up to 6 devices, which can be essential for battery charging.

It’s particularly valuable in a country where the plug adapters are as bulky as the ones in South Africa.

Here is the multi cord at work in Richmond,  South Africa. It is charging my US phone, my International phone, Lumix, D7000 and D700 camera battery chargers and AA battery chargers, as well as my laptop. (You can also see DJ Clark’s phone in the photo, but I have obviously not mastered the art of light travel the way he has).

These chargers are all low-power-draw devices, so there’s no issue about overloading a circuit by having all these plugged in at the same time.

One note of caution – make sure that the chargers and other devices you use overseas are all rated for the voltage and Hz of the local power.  It will be written somewhere on the charger – often in very tiny type. Most modern power supplies are auto-switching dual-voltage, and handle this without any intervention on your part.  If they don’t, however, you will be pretty unhappy.

A second caution: I have worn out the solder joints on this cord once already as it has made its way around the world. In particular, a lot of stress is placed on the wires just past the end of the solder as I curl it up. It pays to inspect the cord under the electrical tape every now and then so it does not fail in the field.

SPE Lecture tomorrow

I’ll be at the annual Society for Photographic Education conference for the next few days. Tomorrow afternoon, I’ll be doing a new lecure – Media Management and the Creative Process. This is a fun one for me because it’s less about technical details than the it is about understanding the digital photo ecosystem and how it relates to your own creative process.

Unfortunately, the entire conference is sold out, but if you happen to be here, please feel free to find me an say hello.

Hard Drive Shortage?

Due to flooding in Thailand, we’re seeing hard drive prices rise steeply in a matter of days. Large drives (3 TB particularly) seem to be in short supply, and they’re getting expensive.

I would not suggest hoarding, but if you know you need a new drive really soon, it *might* be time to act quickly.  I did a quick survey of the places I buy drives, and it seems like prices have indeed gone up, and availability is more scarce.

This seems to be particularly true of mail order retailers. One bright spot – for some people at least – is that Best Buy seems to be prioritizing local stores over mail order.  A 2TB Western Digital Green drive is listed as being in stock at my local store for $79. Since it’s an advertised special, I think they are obligated to sell it for that price for the time being. I would not expect that sale to be repeated anytime soon. (Note that they now refuse to ship this item – you have to pick up in person).

One reality check here.  Hard drive prices may be going up, but that’s probably up to what the price per terabyte was 6 or 12 or 18 months ago. An extra $100 feels like a lot, but it’s probably not a reason to panic. My expectation would be that we’ll still be able to get drives, they will just cost a bit more.  Not a happy prospect if you are just about to trick out an 8-bay RAID with 3TB enterprise drives, but not too bad for someone who needs to buy one extra drive.

Also keep in mind that hoarding does not help the situation, so don’t go overboard.

Capture 1 – Media Pro Workshops

I’m very excited to present some new material for Phase One, outlining how Media Pro can be used together with Capture One. If you’re a Capture One user, this will really help your workflow and your overall collection management. (For those who don’t know, Media Pro is the latest version of iView/Expression Media.)

We’ll explore the capabilities of Media Pro to help with short and long-term workflow.  And we’ll outline how the two programs can work together, integrating metadata and renderings.  You’l see how to get the most out of your image collection, and how to keep it safe and accessible.

We have two programs in each location. There is an evening lecture-style seminar that lasts 2 hours.  The following day, I’ll be conducting a day-long hands-on workshop for a much smaller group.

Here’s the Current Schedule.
Click below for more information:

Atlanta, November 9 and 10 – Sponsored by Capture Integration

New York, November 16 and 17 – Sponsored by Digital Transitions

Chicago, December 7 and 8 – Sponsored by ProGear


FotoCare Presentations, New York 10/10 and 10/11

I’ll be back at Fotocare in lower Manhattan next week on Monday and Tuesday, with 2 programs I’ve never done in New York.

On Monday, I’ll be presenting Hope in South Africa, A Lightroom Case study. This 3 hour program examines the use of Lightroom as a tool to manage a large photo shoot. In this presentation, I outline how to use the tools in Lightroom to construct a workflow that serves multiple needs for a single project.  This includes efficient import, effective organizing, stylized development as well as output and publishing. This program costs $20.

Here’s a link to more information and sign-up.

On Tuesday October 11, I’ll be doing a day-long program on Lightroom from a DAM context. Learn how to more effectively use the program safely and efficiently in a smaller hands-on setting. This one is $200.

Here’s a link for more information.

Help Wanted: Online Backup Experiences

I’m writing some new content for dpBestflow, and I’m looking for people with real-world experience with online backup services. While online backup is generally not going to be feasible for an entire media archive, it can present a good solution for parts of an archive, or for other digital files such as correspondence or financial records. (To be very clear, by online services, I mean something like Backblaze, CrashPlan, or Carbonite, rather than a local backup solution like Time Machine).

1. I’m interested in talking to people who have  successfully used an online backup service to actually restore lost data. I’d like to know what services were used, what the costs and time frames were, and what the general user experience was.

2. I’m also very interested in finding people who thought they were backed up with an online service, but had the restoration fail for one reason or another.

3. I’d also be interested in speaking to anyone who has performed a real validation of their online backup.

4. Let’s also add anyone who is using a do-it-yourself online backup, such as the Drobo Sync.

5. I’m also interested in talking to anyone who has uploaded large amounts of data to one of the “all you can eat” services such as Backblaze, in order to find out how long it took to upload, and what the test recovery experience is like.  I’m less interested in speaking to people who have uploaded, but who have not yet tested for recoverability.

If any of this describes you, please contact me at peter at

Adding 3 Terabyte drives

I recently upgraded one of my storage drives from 2 to 3 TB, and wanted to report some of what I found.  Upgrading drives beyond 2.2TB can lead to some complications, including either hardware or OS compatibility.  I found that most of my firewire drive enclosures don’t support the larger drives, and none of my USB enclosures do. All of the eSATA configurations handled it with no problem. (Tested on Mac only).

We’ve run into a limit like this before. Many years ago, IDE connections would only support volumes up to 137 GB in size (shown as 128 GB in older Mac OS). If you connected a drive that was larger, you had to format the drive into partitions if you wanted to take advantage of the drive’s full capacity.  ATA-6, which was introduced in 2002 lifted that limit to an astronomical 144 petabytes.

Serial ATA (SATA) shares the ability to support very large volumes, but the hard drive controller or bridge board (the thing that lets the hard drive talk to your computer’s logic board) may be limited to 2.2TB. Since Operating Systems like Windows XP don’t support volumes larger than 2.2 TB, manufacturers limited the capacity of the controller to make such large volumes.  Windows Vista and 7 don’t have the limitation, as long as the drive is formatted as GUID.  Mac OS 10.4 and later also don’t have that problem.

So what happens if you put a drive in an enclosure that does not support the volume size?  First, you’ll be asked to format the drive, since it won’t be readable to the computer. This can cause a heart attack if you have a bunch of data on the drive and don’t want to reformat it.

Testing my Hardware
I took this opportunity to test some o fmy hardware to see which devices supported 3TB drives.  Here’s what I found.

SATA – All of my SATA connections supported the large drive.  This included the internal connections on my Mac Pro tower, as well as the add-on eSATA cards I’m using (one for the desktop and one for the laptop). Note that most of these cards have upgradable firmware, and you might need to do that to allow the large drives, if you have an older eSATA card.  I upgraded the firmware of my cards to be compatible with 10.6 a while ago, so I’m already running the latest firmware.

Firewire – I have quite a variety of firewire enclosures in use, and nearly all of them don’t support the large drives.  Note that many of these are 4-6 years old, so it’s not particularly surprising that they were designed to top out at 2.2 TB.

The Wiebetech (CRU Dataport) devices that I have did not originally support the large drives, but have upgradable firmware that solved the problem.  This is one reason that you pay a bit more for Wiebetech, but you get some real value for your money.

The cheaper Cooldrives enclosures that I have don’t support a firmware upgrade. I’m looking at replacing the Bridgeboards in these units with something like this.  It has a current Oxford 934 Firewire controller, and should be easy to swap into my multi-bay enclosures.

The older OWC enclosure I had was not upgradable, but the current ones seem to support large drives. One great thing about OWC is that you can get a smart person on the phone to answer these kinds of questions easily.

USB –  None of the USB devices I own seem to support the large drives. That’s not particularly surprising, since most of my USB enclosures are older.

Drobo – Did not test, but the company website shows support for 3TB drives. I’d make sure my firmware was up to date before installing one of these.

The Bottom Line
Because of the configuration of my system, and my data needs, I eventually decided not to use the 3TB drive for archive data storage. My photo archive lives in older firewire enclosures that it connected to an iMac server, and none of these devices currently support 3TB. I decided to let these drives remain as 2TB for a while, since I have plenty of space left on them.

I have put the 3TB drives into service as Working File backups that protect the current files on my Mac Pro tower. I’ll use these as swapper drives that let me take current work off-site. Since my works-in-progress data is edging toward 2 TB, the extra capacity will be useful here right away, since I can allow Chronosync to save additional copies of changed and deleted files.  These drives connect by eSATA, so there is not problem with the large volumes.

Adobe Pop-up Store Monday

I’ll be presenting at Adobe’s two week “Pop-up” store near Union Square in San Francisco on Monday, from 4-5:30 pm. I’ll be showing the work I did in South Africa earlier this year for the organization Hope in South Africa.

In this presentation, I start by showing one of the finished products of the shoot – an image-based narrative that tells the story of this small NGO and the community it operates in.  The balance of the presentation is a deconstruction of the editing process – showing how I use the tools in Lightroom to help make sense of a 5000 image shoot. Along the way, you’ll see techniques for organizing, developing and editing a story, along with discussions about how the tools can be used specifically to advance the narrative.

The presentation is free, as are all the events at the store.

Optimizing Photoshop performance

My friend Philip Andrews of the excellent Better Photoshop Techniques magazine has just authored a white paper on optimizing Photoshop speed and performance. If you are putting new system together (or thinking about upgrading a current system with new RAM or hard drive), this paper can help you understand what will be most helpful.

Even if you aren’t looking for new hardware, Philip outlines preferences and other settings that can improve performance for the way you use the program.

But, wait, there’s more. Philip and his colleagues at DI magazine have also released one of the coolest iPad magazine applications I’ve seen. The app integrates the ability to control Photoshop with the magazine articles, so you can have an article literally lead you through the steps in Photoshop as it describes the workflow. This is built on the Configurator capabilities that John Nack dreamed up when he was the Photoshop product manager.  Thanks to both of you for pushing the envelope.

ASMP Strictly Business 3

The Strictly Business seminar ASMP created in 1994 changed my career. It helped me understand that my business was a business.  It helped me see the established photographers in Washington as my colleagues, and not just my competitors.

Strictly Business returns this year in its third incarnation. It’s coming to 3 cities, and I’m happy to say that I’ll be at each one of these.  My official duties include a presentation on choosing and using catalog software. I’ll be outlining best practices for catalog software, and comparing the various offerings, such as Lightroom, Aperture, Expression Media, and Extensis Portfolio.

There is a really terrific faculty, including Blake Discher, Tom Kennedy, Rich Harrington, Shannon Fagan, Gail Mooney, Jeff Sedlik, Rosh Sillars, Thomas Werner and more.

In Philly, I’ll also be offering one-on-one consulting on the Friday.  (I’m not scheduled to do this in LA, due to a noon arrival at LAX, but that’s subject to change. If you are interested in a consulting session, let me know, and we’ll try to schedule it.)

Our industry is in a state of great change, and it’s more important than ever to keep a nimble and up-to-date business strategy. SB3 is a great opportunity to think about your business as a business, and to focus on the future, while you engage with your peers who are going through the same thing.

Here are the dates: Los Angeles January 21-23, Philadelphia February 25-27, Chicago April 1-3. I hope to see you there.

Sign up here.