Death Valley

Last November I visited Death Valley with several photo-friends. It was a week to get away and see the landscape, and to focus on photography for a good, long while.

Shooting in the dunes.

This wasn’t a workshop or a group shoot or any sort of formalized event. It was just six friends getting together and having fun. And we had loads of fun.

Manly Beacon and badlands in Golden Canyon

Editing and processing the images has taken forever. There were thousands of photos to sort through, and I’m finally finishing up.

Scouting in the valley.

I’ll post more about this trip later. We visited and explored some great places. I’ve only been to Death Valley once before, and my knowledge is fairly limited. But we did get to see a lot of new stuff (for me) on this recent trip.

And we got to experience some very interesting weather. High winds, heat, cold, snow…. and a rocket launch. More about that later.

Hard Drive Math

The real purpose of the post yesterday was for me to think about my storage plan. The numbers I generated yesterday, aside from curiosity, can help me figure out a plan… or at least make me panic about it.

Real quick disclaimer: everyone has different methods and practices when it comes to storage of their files. My way is just that. My way. It isn’t wrong or right.

My goal for storage and archiving of my files is to have four independent copies. I.e. four independent devices that contain the files, with the devices being in physically different places (in my case – split between two locations: home and work).

I’m currently not there yet. I have three independent copies. Two at home and one at work. And that’s okay. It’s better than two (total) and certainly better than one.

So, in deciding how much more storage (hard drives) to buy, I can put some thought into the size of the drives and timing, i.e. how much longer until they fill up, and then compare that to whether or not I want to start buying larger hard drives.

Right now I’m on a 2 TB system. My trio of independent storage devices is three 2 TB drives.

From the post yesterday, my current collection of photos sits right at 1 TB. note that I’m leaving out all the OTHER files (edited images, music, personal stuff, etc); all of that sits on yet another set of hard drives

How long until it’s full? ESTIMATE 1

Based on generating an average of 154 GB worth of images over each of the last 5 years, I have until about 2020 until the drive fills up.

YEAR Total Size
2015 1.00 TB
2016 1.15 TB
2017 1.31 TB
2018 1.46 TB
2019 1.61 TB
2020 1.77 TB
(note that a 2TB drive has about 1.81 TB actual capacity)

How long until it’s full? ESTIMATE 2

Let’s guess that I upgrade my camera to a higher MP model. I’m probably NOT going to do this, but let’s just say I got the new 50 MP Canon 5Ds.

My raw files would go from an average of 30 MB (5D mark 3) each to 68 MB (5Ds). Based on shooting an average of 3500 raw files per year, I can estimate that my yearly photo yield will increase to about 287 GB.

Keep in mind this is just a rough estimate, and there are too many variables to make an accurate prediction.

The result is that I won’t make it through 2018.

YEAR Total Size
2015 1.00 TB
2016 1.29 TB
2017 1.57 TB
2018 1.86 TB
(note that a 2 TB drive has about 1.8 TB actual capacity)

What Now?

I think the easiest thing right now would be to get another 2 TB drive. That would fulfill my goal of having 4 independent copies of my photo collection, and it will serve me for another 2 – 5 years depending on the camera bodies that I use.

Once I reach capacity on that system, then I could double-up drives and add new ones with 2x capacity. I.e. existing 2 TB drives combine to form one independent 4 TB unit of storage, and then I’d have to buy four 4 TB (or higher) drives at once.

Ouch. Hopefully by then memory will be much cheaper.

Looking back a few years, my upgrade path was from 250 GB drives to mostly 2 TB drives. I suppose in 2 – 3 years we’ll have 4 TB drives that are well under $100, and I’ll be going from 2 TB up to 4, 5, or 6′s.


Nope to optical storage as one form of backup. Been there, done that. Hate it. Pain in the ass.

Nope to the cloud. Too much trouble and expense at this point plus security issues.

Buy an enterprise-grade drive and put it in a Faraday cage? I like the idea, but it’s beyond my budget.

Not a big fan of RAID. I’ve used drive arrays controlled by some level of RAID, and I’d much rather keep my system as simple as possible.

15 years, 1TB

After 15 years of making images from digital cameras, I’m finally reaching the 1 TB mark. It’s kind of weird… I expected my total collection of files to be much more than 1 TB. Most of my peers have collections that are 4, 5, 6 or more TB.

Looking at the size of the folders (organized by year), it’s interesting to see the increase in size. There is not necessarily an increase in number of images in each folder from year to year, but there’s definitely an increase in size. And it’s mostly due to the upgrade path of the cameras that I’ve owned.

I started with a 1.3 MP camera (shooting JPG), and now it’s 22 MP shooting mostly raw images.

2001 0.1 GB
2002 0.3 GB
2003 2 GB
2004 12 (a) GB
2005 8 GB
2006 15 (b) GB
2007 34 (c) GB
2008 41 GB
2009 63 (d) GB
2010 53 GB
2011 112 GB
2012 126 (e) GB
2013 152 GB
2014 229 (f) GB
2015 151 GB

a) Canon Digital Rebel (6 MP)
b) Canon 20D (8 MP)
c) Canon 5D (12 MP)
d) Canon 5D2 (21 MP)
e) Canon 5D3 (22 MP)
f) new toy: Sony action cam (lots of video and time lapse)

Having Fun

This poor, neglected blog has been nagging me for attention. Can a blog have feelings? Well, probably not. But I feel bad for not adding content to it :-)

For the past few months I’ve been editing new work and making prints. This new stuff is scattered and a bit unorganized at the moment, and I’m trying to tidy things up and put new content here on my website.

THIS is camping :-)

Two trips to Big Bend in about two weeks time have provided some extraordinary opportunities and events. It was definitely great to take my mind off the stress of the current state of the oil and gas industry (low prices at the pump means little or no work).

In the middle of working new images and all the required editing and processing, I’ve learned some new stuff! Good stuff. Stuff worth sharing. I have a lot of good things to say about Canon’s DPP 4.x. It’s changing the way I process my images. But more later…

Old image; new processing techniques

The best thing to happen lately is some nice, quality time in the far west parts of Texas in the desert. Snow, canyons, amazing sunsets. And getting to spend some of it with my family.

Good times in the desert

I’ve finally remembered how to have fun with photography, which is the reason I became interested in it so many years ago. How do you have fun again? It’s a complicated answer. I’ll work on writing about it…

Workshop News – Jan 2016


Reminder: I will hold a free (open to any visitor of Big Bend National Park) short astrophotography workshop at 9:00pm on Friday, January 15, 2016 in Big Bend National Park. It will be at the small parking lot at the north end of the Basin road (aka the cell phone lot). This workshop is being held on behalf of the Big Bend Conservancy (formerly Friends of Big Bend) and is part of the Dark Sky Weekend celebration.

Please see this post on Facebook for detailed information:


The April 2016 workshop has filled up, and I’ve begun a waiting list. If you’re interested in attending, please let me know. I’ve had 1 – 2 cancellations just before every workshop I’ve held in the past. So, there’s a decent chance a spot will open.

Short, Free Workshop – Jan. 15, 2016

I will hold a free (open to the public) short astrophotography workshop at 9:00pm on Friday, January 15, 2016 in Big Bend National Park. It will be at the small parking lot at the north end of the Basin road (aka the cell phone lot). This workshop is being held on behalf of the Big Bend Conservancy (formerly Friends of Big Bend) and is part of the Dark Sky Weekend. The Big Bend Conservancy will post more info about the events scheduled for that weekend soon.

Big Bend April Workshop 2016

Dates: April 5 – 9, 2016
Students: 12
Tuition: $650
Focus: Night and Landscape Photography

PLEASE NOTE I have changed the date from February to April for this workshop. The new date will still place us there under dark, moonless skies.

THE DATES ARE NOW CONFIRMED! I will create a detailed listing for this workshop and start accepting deposits soon! Look for an announcement here with further details and instructions.

Please contact me if you are interested or have questions!

New Workshop for Feb. 2016

NOTE: The dates have changed. See the post above.

I’m planning to hold a photography workshop in the Big Bend of Texas in February 2016. It will start on Monday, Feb. 15 and run through Saturday, Feb. 20.

The dates will place us there under dark, moonless skies when the Milky Way rises at about 4:30am each morning. We will head out very early and shoot the Milky Way and night sky, and we may stick around for sunrise if it looks good. Our days will have limited classroom time; Everyone will have several hours of free time during the day to nap and catch up on things. We will also have an afternoon outing to photograph the landscape and sunset.

The Milky Way is in a different location and orientation at this time of year as compared to the fall (when I hold my usual workshop). It will rise in the east and span over the horizon and will offer new and interesting opportunities.

Full details of this workshop are being developed, and the details will be very similar to past workshops.

Please contact me if you are interested or have questions. I’m not taking deposits at this time, but I can put you on a short list if you are seriously interested in attending.