Backing Up you Hard Drives

It is the end of winter (we hope) and thoughts of all those pictures that you will take this summer dance in your head. Are your photos protected? You should have some backup strategy in place to protect your valuable images.

I am somewhat paranoid about losing images. So I back up all of my Hard Drives three different ways. Since Hard Drive have gotten pretty inexpensive, there is no reason not to backup at least once.


My first backup is done right at my office and every night starting at 6 PM my backup drive is updated with whatever I worked on that day. Since I use a Mac computer, I use SuperDuper by Shirt Pocket It is a pretty easy program to use, you just tell it which is the original drive and which is the backup drive. Its only drawback is that you are basically cloning the whole drive, you cannot pick just a certain set of folders. This program is also great for making a complete clone of your operating system, which is also another good thing to do.

I then schedule it to do a smart update, it just adds whatever is new since the last backup, this keeps the backup time reasonably short. This happens to all of my primary drives, and it happens daily. The cost of SuperDuper is $27.95.

My second form of backup it to cloud storage. I use Backblaze  it is $50/year with unlimited storage. It takes a while to upload your files the first time (depending on your internet upload speed), but once you have the main group of images upload, Backblaze will work in the background to keep everything up to date.

My third backup is an offsite backup. I do this about once a month, I bring the Hard Drive from my house, which is separate from my business and I back my photo files up to that set of backup Hard Drives. Now to show I am really paranoid, I also use a different Backup program for this set. I use GoodSync this backup program does work for both Mac’s and PC. It cost $39.96 for the program. It does work a lot like SuperDuper, you can schedule it to run Backups whenever you need to. So once a month a bring in this set of backups, and I get my third backup. I use a different program just in case the other program misses something or does not work right, this gives me my third set of backups. This program also lets you pick specific sets of folders and not just the whole Hard Drive.


 Now I go one more step, I also take all of my very favorite images ( the ones I mark 5 stars), and I copy those to another Hard Drive, usually in a DNG format (Adobes General Raw Format). That way I have my very best photos backup a fourth way. I also do this again, but by doing the images as high-quality JPEGs and this backup, I store on a solid state hard drive. These are a little more expensive but have no moving parts, and my best of the best are stored away for a total of 5 backups.

The reason I have so many backups is that one summer, we had a strong thunderstorm come through and lightning hit our power pole and sent a surge through to my computer and Hard Drives. I have these all on surge protectors and battery backup, but the surge when through all of my surge protectors and wiped out my Hard Drive, both my primary and my secondary. Fortunately, I had my third set of Backups to put in place, and then the fun started as I had to recreate all those other backups from my third set of backups. So you never know when you could lose some images, it just takes a freak storm or something else, and you could lose your pictures forever. So please back up your hard drives, because one day you could lose all of your data. It is not if a Hard Drive goes bad it is when.

Time For A Spring Cleaning

Even though it is middle of winter and spring is slowing coming, this is a great time to clean and check your equipment.

At this time of year, I pull my camera bag apart and reorganize it. I even go as far as pulling out the dividers and seeing if I can come up with a better way to keep my equipment. I also go through my equipment to find that certain piece of equipment that has not be used for maybe the last year, that piece then goes into a secondary bag that I bring when I think I may need that piece of equipment even if I don't use it too often. This sometimes frees up space for other equipment that I need on a regular basis. I then vacuum out the bag, trying to get all that dirt and dust that has accumulated over the past year. I then put the dividers back in, trying to optimizing the space.

After cleaning and putting the dividers back in, I start to clean the equipment itself. I start with the bodies and inspect them for damage and major dirt. I clean the sensor and the body itself. If the camera is not working correctly or maybe is 3 to 5 years old, I will send it in for a tune-up. They check the camera over, making sure it is working correctly and they will do a super cleaning of the sensor. I try to send the bodies one at a time or I try to send in one per year then the other the next year.

I then check my lens and clean the front and the rear element, plus I wipe down the body of the lens. If the lens is stiff or not as sharp as I think it should be, I will send it in for repair. I also check the front filter and if it is scratched or damaged I will replace it. After the major equipment is checked and cleaned, it is put back into the camera bag.

I will then check over all of the little miscellanies equipment, for damage and put that back into the bag.

Then the tripod is checked over and cleaned. If possible I disassemble the legs, clean and re-grease the fittings and reassemble them. The same for the ball head, it is checked and cleaned. (I do this a couple times of the year, especially if I am near the ocean and or beach). I also bring out my list of equipment and check it off and make sure I have all the serial numbers, I keep this list for the insurance company, in case something happens to my equipment. I keep a list for each bag of equipment that I have.

Finally, I check over any other equipment, clean it and put it back into its bag. I replace all replaceable batteries and check all my rechargeable to make sure they will make another year. I also replace all those snacks that did not get used with fresh ones. Now all my equipment has been cleaned and checked and good for another year of shooting.

So take a cold cloudy winter day to go through your equipment, clean and reorganize it for another year.

Happy Shooting.

Aurora HDR Comes to PC

The best Mac HDR program now comes to the PC, Aurora HDR once only available to the Mac will be available this Fall for the PC. See the press release below.


Aurora HDR 2018 comes in September

as the ultimate cross-platform HDR photo solution


Award-winning Aurora HDR, co-developed with Trey Ratcliff, brings major updates

that will be available for both Mac OS and Windows users.


San Diego, CA - August 15, 2017 — Macphun, the California-based developer known for making complex photo editing software simple and fun, today announced the release of Aurora HDR 2018, the one-stop solution for HDR photography. To sign up for pre-order announcements and more, please visit         


Aurora HDR, co-developed with the renowned HDR photographer Trey Ratcliff, made the complex task of HDR editing effortless and unintimidating. Aurora HDR became the industry standard for HDR photo editing on Mac and reached 1.7 million downloads since its launch in November 2015.


In less than 2 years over 100 million photos have been edited in Aurora HDR and 72% of current users have made Aurora HDR their primary HDR photo editor, switching from other software. Today, Aurora HDR is the go-to editing software for such well-known photographers as Trey Ratcliff, Serge Ramelli, Captain Kimo and many others.


“Since the launch of Aurora HDR, Macphun has released more than 10 updates containing tons of new features and improved performance,” commented Trey Ratcliff. “Today, I'm very excited to announce the launch of Aurora HDR 2018. It's completely new, significantly faster and has even more powerful tools. Plus the BIG news is that it's now available for Microsoft Windows as well. It's truly the best HDR software for both Mac and PCs”, concluded Ratcliff.


Aurora HDR is not just a tool for merging brackets: it brings countless options to create perfect HDR photos - from one-click presets and advanced tone-mapping, to layers, noise reduction and powerful luminosity masking controls.


A sneak peek into what’s new in Aurora HDR 2018:

●      Lens Correction Tool - The new Lens Correction filter easily fixes all kinds of lens distortion, from barrel and pincushion to chromatic aberration and vignetting.

●      New User Interface - Redesigned from scratch, the modern and responsive user interface brings a powerful, yetjoyful experience to HDR photo editing.

●      Speed improvements - Up to 4x improvement in RAW image processing, and up to 200% faster merging and masking performance means that Aurora HDR 2018 is dramatically faster than the last version.

●      Cross-platform version - Aurora HDR 2018 will be available both for Mac and PC users with interchangeable files, enabling mixed-computer households to share the same product key.

●      A complete list of new features will be announced concurrent with the pre-order.


Aurora HDR 2018 will be available for pre-­order on September 12, and released on September 28. To sign up for pre-order announcements and more, please visit         



Mixed-computer households can share the same product key for Mac and PC that can be activated on 5 devices.

●      Pre-order:

○      Current users of Aurora HDR may upgrade at a special pre­-order price of $49

○      New users can purchase Aurora HDR 2018 at a special pre­order price of $89

○      A collection of bonuses will also be included with every purchase

●      Retail price:

○      $59 for current Aurora HDR users

○      $99 for new users

About Trey Ratcliff, Co-Developer Of Aurora HDR

Photographer, Artist, Writer & Adventurer

Trey’s images and stories capture the beauty of exotic travel destinations and the humor of the bizarre situations he often finds himself in. There is always something new, unexpected and beautiful to see. Trey grew up blind in one eye, which changed the way he has come to experience and visually map the world.


About Macphun

Macphun is a California-based photo software developer with the mission to make complex photo editing simple and user-friendly. Thanks to its innovative approach and high-end proprietary technologies, Macphun photo editors have won dozens of various awards, including “Best of the year” awards by Apple for 6 straight years.


To learn more about Macphun, please visit

New Think Tank Hard Case Bags

Our friends at Think Tank Photo have just announced an exciting new partnership with hard-case manufacturer SKB.  Think Tank’s designers have created internal divider sets, organizers, and a backpack designed specifically to fit within 10 SKB hard cases.  There are times when you simply have to airline gate-check your most precious photography equipment.  At moments like these, nothing will do a better job of protection than a hard case.  But one of the downsides of hard cases is that they are basically hard shells with not a lot of other features built into them.  Think Tank’s partnership with SKB solves this problem.  The result is the best of a hard case with the best of internal organization.  Don’t forget that with our special partnership with Think Tank that you receive free gear and free shipping when you order using our special link.

Here is the special link:

Digital Dialogue: A Place to Learn Photographic Society of America By David Edwards

It’s the middle of the month. Time to view and comment on new submittals at PSA Digital Dialogue Community sites 11 and 51. The images along with descriptions on how the images were captured are now seen for the first time. Commenting has begun. Strong components of the images are pointed out. Suggestions under the category of “This may help” are included as well. It was suggested that I watch for potentially distracting components in the backgrounds. Point well taken. What an excellent opportunity to learn from others and to receive feedback on our images.


As PSA members, there are many educational opportunities available to us. We all want to learn how to improve our photographic skills. The best way to learn is from others, by obtaining feedback on our work. PSA has the platform to meet both needs. That place is the Digital Dialogue Community.


Digital Dialogue consists of small groups of roughly 5 to 10 people. The 71 groups include General, HDR, Monochrome, Phoneography, and many more. The process is simple. At the beginning of the month submit an image with description to the site administrator. Later, you will be notified when the group submittals are published and the site is ready for viewing and commenting.


As comments are posted, a discussion often begins on the details of individual images. Questions are asked within the group on where the photograph was taken, how to make technical changes to an image, what is the best software to use, etc. Toward the end of the month the discussion period ends. With that comes the anticipation and excitement of preparing that special image for the following month. This time I will pay more attention to the background.


Being a Digital Dialog Community member is easy, takes very little time, and your photography skills will improve. And best of all its free! If interested in learning more about Digital Dialogue visit the PSA DD webpage, or contact Barbara Miller at


David Edwards is a member of DD11 (Monochrome), Manager of DD51 (Phoneography), and has been a PSA member since March 2010.

Holiday Specials from Think Tank Photo

Our friends at Think Tank Photo have announced two holiday special offers on their award-winning camera bags.  The first is their Outlet Center, which is chock full of huge discounts.  And second, through December 31st whenever you buy a Think Tank rolling camera bag you will receive Road Warrior Kit for free.  The Road Warrior Kit features 10 Red Whips cable ties, a Cable Management 10 pouch, an AA Battery Holder and a Travel Pouch. That’s $54.50 worth of accessories FREE!  And don’t forget, with our special relationship with Think Tank you will also receive a free gift when you use my special URL, as well as free shipping.  So get shopping!

Organizer Storage Packing Bags

These storage bags come in a number of different sizes,

they are clear, water resistant and pretty tough. I use

them for storing small parts or groups of items to keep

them together in my camera bag. They are very handy

and keep all my equipment organized.

Here are the different sizes available they come in sets,

the one set is a medium bag (9.65" x 6.7") and three

small (6.7" x 4.7"). To check them out goto this link:

They also make a larger set of bags; a Medium (7.7" x

8" x 2.2") and a small (8.5" x 3" x 2.2"). To check them

out goto this link:

Think Tank New Video Bags

Our friends at Think Tank Photo have just released the first three in a new series of bags built specifically for professional video.  The largest of the new Video Workhorse series, the Video Workhorse 25,  holds professional camcorders or video camera rigs up to 25” (63.5cm) long and 9.1” (23cm) tall, which could include a camera body, lens, monitor, viewfinder, 4K recorder, audio recorder, medium LED lightpanel, shotgun mic, lavaliere mics, rails, follow-focus, matte-box, shoulder mount, top handle, and cables. The shoulder bag holds a Canon C-series, Sony FS700, FS5, FS7, F5 or F55, Red Epic/Scarlet, Black Magic Cinema Camera, Ursa or Ursa Mini, or a DSLR/Mirrorless rig such as the Sony a7sII, Panasonic GH4, or Canon 5DMIII.  And, as always, you receive a free gift with your order and free shipping. To order or get more information use this link:

Lee Filters

by Jeffrey Klug

I have gone to a new system of filters, it is the Lee filter system. I use these filters for increasing my exposure to get the long exposures of 5 seconds to 1 minute or more. They are glass square filters that fit into a filter holder. This is great because you only need to buy one set of filters and then get the different adapter rings to fit each of your lens. The filters I use are a polarizing filter (105mm round filter) and two different neutral density filters, one is a 6 stop filter, that they call the Little Stopper, and one that is a 10 stop filter, called the Big Stopper.

I like using these filters because they cut the light from 6 to 10 stops. When doing this it is hard to see through the viewfinder, with the square filters, you can slide them out of the way very easily, instead of the round screw-in filters which you have to unscrew which takes a lot more time to due. After doing that a couple of times in an hour, you tire of it pretty quickly. With the slide in filters, you just slide them out of the way, then when you are ready slide them back in place.

The filters work great for making water flow and turning it silky looking, or smoothing out the waves from the ocean, any place where using a long exposure will make the image look different and sometime more like what we see, the water is not frozen in time, it is moving. The filters allow you to get those long exposure times.

The polarizing filter is good for seeing into reflections and intensifying the color in the scene. You can see into the water, or deepen the blue sky or the green grass. Having one filter that is 105mm in size lets you use just this one filter with all of your lens, from the 16mm wide angle to the 200mm telephoto.

The lens are made of glass, so you do have to be careful with them. They are also very expensive. The filters are The Big Stopper $140, The Little Stopper $150, the Polarizing filter is $270 plus $65 for an adapter ring to hold it to the holder, and the holder is $90 and $65 for each adapter ring. If you compare this to buying individual filters, you will have a saving depending on the quality of the filter.

You can find more information on Lee Filters at You can purchase them at Adorama ( or B & H Photo (, or I usually get them at Unique Photo ( They all have them for the same price.

Think Tank Photo Bag New Item

Our friends at Think Tank Photo just released the largest photo lighting rolling bag ever and have added a new size and color to their popular Retrospective shoulder bag series.  The Production Manager 50 is a monster, designed to hold C-stands, multiple flash heads, power packs, monoblocks, softboxes, and light-stands.  What it used to take two people to transport, you can now do by yourself.  And, they’ve added a new color—Sandstone—to their Retrospective line, and the new Retrospective 6, which holds Mirrorless systems or a gripped DSLR.  Don’t forget, that by using these web links to order you will receive free gear and free shipping.

Production Manager 50

Modo-Pan from Cinevate

I have a new toy, or should I say a new tool. It is the Modo-Pan from Cinevate. It is a small item that attaches to your tripod and then your camera sits on top of it. It does a 360 degree pan in one hour. It is a clockwork movement, that requires no cables or batteries, you just wind it up and it slowly turns your camera.

You use it to make your time-lapse images a little more interesting. It gives movement to your time-lapse images. So no more stationary time-lapses. I have played with it, but I am waiting for nicer weather before I will show any time-lapse videos. I plan to give it a good workout when I go to the Smoky Mountains next.

To use it all you need to do is set your camera for time-lapse photography, then wind up the mechanism, start your time-lapse. I found that doing a 2 or 3 sec time-lapse, for 30 minutes, gives a nice smooth motion to the video. Watch for videos from me in the near future. It will be my new goal this year to create interesting time-lapse videos.

The Modo-Pan cost $149.95 and is on Special currently for $129.95. You can find more information at:


Keywords are a way that photographers can search for their images when working in Lightroom, in the organizer in Elements (called Tags) or in Adobe Bridge. They are descriptions of your image in usually one word. Take this image:

It is an image of a bald eagle catching a fish. The following keywords could apply; bald, eagle, water, fish, flying, hunting. There could be more info such as location which was LeClaire, Iowa, Mississippi River, Dam 14. All of this info helps when you need to locate a photo. I try to keep my keywords togeneral location and content and a majority of color. 

So for this snow image the keywords would be: snow, white, hills, volcano, Lake Michigan, shoreline, Ice, Wisconsin. 

So when using Lightroom, the Organizer in Elements or Adobe Bridge, you can search for these terms and find images that match them. The keywords are attached to the image in the metadata, so they stay with your image, it is just one way of searching for a certain type of image. So the next time you need a winter snow scene, you could look under snow or white and find a variety of images to fit your needs.

Assigning keywords is best done when importing your images. At the time I import my images, I will usually apply some generic keywords such as location and a general description of the image. For the Eagle shoot I did, I would apply: eagle, bald, Iowa, LeClaire, Mississippi River. After the import and when I have gotten rid of all my rejects, I would then go back to the individual images and apply more specific keywords such as fish, adult, juvenal, or any other word I would use to find the image. This is a lot of work, but it makes finding the images easier in the long run. I sometimes don’t get tothe fine key wording, so that is why on import I keyword the basic info that applies to most of the images and go back later to fine tune it.

One other good use of key words are when you enter competition or win awards for that image, you can add that keyword for that award to the image, that way you will be able to find the image when you need it again and it will also let you know that you used it in a competition and that you don’t want to use it again. It can be a great help in record keeping.

So think of keywords as a useful item for finding your images and keeping info in those images that will be helpful for you in the future.

Testing New Equipment

You have gotten a new camera or lens and you cannot wait to start shooting, but should you? When I get new equipment (wether if it is new or used), I don’t start shooting with it right a way. The first thing I do is test the piece of equipment to make sure that it is all working correctly. If it is a camera or lens, I check the exposure and the focus. I need to know the camera or lens is working according to the specifications for that piece of equipment.


So let’s start with a camera. I first compare the camera to a light meter that I know is correct. I also check it with a standard gray card. I use either a Whibal Card ( or a X-rite Passport card ( ). The Passport card has both a gray section and a set of color patches. To check exposure use the Whibal Card or the gray section of the Passport. Fill the frame and you should get a histogram with a center spike. If spike is far off center, then I recheck the camera with a handheld light meter. If I find it is far off, the camera would go back to the place I purchased it from. If it is off a little bit, I will mark the difference on the camera to remember that it might be off by a fraction of a stop over or under exposed, whichever amount it might be. I will further test it by shooting outdoors. Paying closer attention to my exposures till I am use to what the camera will do for me.


The next step will be to check the focusing on the camera. I want to check to see that each focus sensor is focusing the lens correctly. I first check the center focus point using a 2’ x 3’ test card, with focus patterns on it. The card is mounted to a wall and the camera is setup at about 10’ away, the camera is aligned to the target. You should take a lot of time aligning the card and camera. I then take a photo (using a lens that I know is working) and check to see that the camera focused correctly. I will do this with each focus point, making sure all points are working. This can take quite a while if you have a lot of focus points. You can do just the four corners and the center. I like to know that all the focusing sensors are working (the Nikon D800 had a focus problem on the left side sensors).

So we have the camera checked out, how about lenses? I test those out with another piece of equipment. I use Lens Align ( ). I set the camera up at a specific distance, focus on it (with the lens wide open) and it will show me if the lens is front or back focusing. Not all lenses focus dead on, they are usually either in front of the point you focus on or it could be in back of the focus point. The focusshould be less than an inch, usually 1/4 to 1/2” or it could be just a few millimeters. With some of the new camera, especiallythe higher end, you can adjust the focus point, these are micro adjustments to the focus. It is just a good thing to know where your focus point is at. Most of the time it does not matter that much since it is a small amount, but there are times when a small amount might make a difference. So it is good to know where your focus point will be.

To sum up, you should check new equipment out when you purchase it. This makes sure it is working the way it is supposed to work. Also to know what to expect when you take a photo. Another thing to remember is to check your old equipment periodically. I try to check my equipment out, during winter time. I don’t take many photos then, so during a quiet day, I will start testing out equipment, to make sure it is still working properly. It is also worth noting that every couple of years, it can be a good idea to send your camera in to be checked, cleaned and adjusted. They do need periodic adjustments to keep them working. Lenses should be check if they have been dropped or banged around a lot, so get them checked out every few years as well.

I hope this gives you an insight of what I do when I get a new piece of equipment. I like to know it is working properly and I like to know exactly how it is going work.

Converting Color Images to Monochrome

There are a lot of different ways to convert a color image to Monochrome. One of the quickest ways is to use Lightroom’s Black & White converter either in the basic section or the HSL section. It does a pretty good job at converting to monochrome and it is fast and easy, I use this when I need a quick monochrome of an image, it does OK, but there are better ways and just about as quick. You need to use plug-ins made by Nik, Macphun, On1 or Topaz (I have tried but do not own), they all do a really good job, they give you presets to help you choose from to make the best monochrome images. They all work about the same, they let you make fine adjustments to contrast and the highlights and shadows. Plus you can make adjustments by changing colors as if you were changing filters on your lens, there are green, yellow, red, blue and grey, plus you can vary using in-between colors. This works well for bring out changes in different colors to the various shades of grey. I would use it to bring out the leaves to contrast with the sky, or brighten or darken the sky itself. All to get the contrast and shading of grey to make the best monochrome image.


I started with this original color image:

Original Image

These are the different versions using the different plug-ins.

Converted using Lightroom only.

Converted using On1 Photo 10.

Converted using Nik Silver Efex 2 Pro.

Converted using MacPhun Tonality (Mac only).


They all give acceptable results, but do achieve it in different ways, so experimenting with the different plug-ins to see which you like the best. I found I like both the On1 version and the Silver Efex versions the best, but they are all very close. If you need only one set of plug-ins, I would probably go with On1 or Nik. The only worry I have is that they have not been updating the Nik software, but On1 and the rest are constantly improving their versions. All of the plug-in do have trial that you can try before you buy, so try them and see which ones does the job for you.


Here are links to video tutorials for the different plug-in companies: