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Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Canon & Vimeo Film Contest

The Story Beyond the Still - Behind The Scenes from Vincent Laforet on Vimeo.

Friend and colleague Vincent Laforet has announced a fascinating and ground breaking film contest on his blog.

In a nutshell, it involves films being made which take on the story from the end frame, a still image, on the film shot by the previous person. Watch the film and visit his blog for full details.

Storage For Photographers

Your Hard Drive Will Fail;

It’s Just A Question Of When

A yawn is the typical reaction from my colleagues when the topic of digital storage, archiving and backing up is talked about. That is, until one of them loses their work, because they weren’t paying attention to the need for a reliable back-up strategy. The yawns are then replaced by much shouting of obscenities and tears.

In this day and age of digital photography, the obsession of ever increasing megapixels, the need to shoot video and record audio, one thing is for certain; we need somewhere to store it all. The lazy and stupid will leave it all on their laptop until the disk’s full and then drag it off in a hurry, onto an external drive, usually losing stuff. Sometimes they’ll even be stuck on a job with no choice but to delete older stuff just so they can download the latest job and process it. I’ve even seen colleagues work straight of a CF card when in a hurry send a low res jpeg, forget to download the card and then format it. Disaster.

Sonnet's Fusion D800 RAID box with 8 bays

Although it’s a pain, at the end of a long day, it still pays to have a system. My personal way is to never format my CF cards until I have the same work on at least two hard drives. If it’s just on my MacBook Pro, then the CFs remain in my belt pouch until this has been backed up at home. I have a ThinkTank Photo Pixel Pocket Rocket which is always full of CF cards. I make it a point to have more than enough cards with me. I always have one small external hard drive with me too, so I might back up onto this. When on foreign assignments, I carry two external drives and back up onto these (these portable drives are never stored with my laptop. I’ll leave one in my luggage and have the other with me if leaving the laptop in a hotel or car). Once home, after a typical day in town or a trip, I’ll back up the assignment onto my Mac Pro’s Aperture Library.

I’m a big fan of Aperture and have it on all my machines. Apart from RAW processing, Aperture also acts as a fully searchable image database. At the moment I have more than 385,000 images in my Aperture library, and this number is constantly growing. RAW images are stored on an internal drive, in separate Project folders which are derived from the assignment. These are titled using a date and a name. An example would be “2009-09-28 Gordon Brown”. These Projects (with consolidated masters) are then backed up onto a Sonnet Technologies external SATA RAID box (more on which later). The same Project is also backed up onto an external hard drive which is kept off-site. It’s important to have off-site storage to secure the safety of data in the event of fire or theft. Lastly, important images, documents, video and audio are backed up to “The Cloud” (more on which later).

What’s New?

The old ways to back up were CDs and then DVDs. Blu-Ray doesn’t seem to have caught on, even though a double sided disc offers 50Gb of storage. The problem with optical storage, apart from the slow speed of writing, is that they don’t seem to have the longevity needed. I’ve had top brand CDs, kept upright in their cases and stored in cool, dark and dry conditions become unreadable after a few years. There is a 500Gb optical disc that’s being talked about, but again, how long is any media stored on that going to last? I for one certainly hope that it has proper archival stability, as it really would be useful to have.

My thoughts are that using several hard drives which are swapped out every three to four years, is the best method available. This provides speed and security. It also offers value for money, as drive prices continue to fall, with speed and capacities rising.

Seagate's FreeAgent FW800 hard drive units

If you’re wondering why I seem to have an obsession with several hard drives, and a golden rule that everything is kept on three drives at least, it’s because hard drives fail. It’s an absolute given. Anyone in IT will tell you that hard drives fail, it’s just a question of when. I’ve personally had a major brand name drive fail after 3 months of use whilst sat on a desk, but had others which have worked solidly for many years. It’s always a gamble, and you should be well prepared.

At the moment, I have 12 external drives in my office and all the associated cabling and power bricks cluttering up the floor area. After some research, I recently decided to go for a Sonnet D800 Fusion RAID ( ). This is an external SATA RAID box with eight drive bays. This means that it will hold eight hard drives, connect to my MacPro (its multi platform) using eSATA cables (connecting to its own controller card which installs inside your computer) which means that it’s blisteringly fast, and has only three cables; two eSATA cables and one power cable. To say that it’s a neat and tidy solution would be an understatement. I’ve recently finished moving my archive over to this system and will do away with most of the external drives. This also makes the office more quite and power-efficient.

I have the drives in the D800 set up in pairs of RAID 1 (also known as Mirror RAID). This basically means that everything that is saved on the drive (and you will only see one of the drives on your computer), is automatically copied onto its partnered drive. This is transparent, automatic and at the same speed. This protects the data from a hardware failure. I then manually back up data from this unit onto an external drive via FW800. This ensures that if by accident I erase an image, or an image gets corrupted, I can get it back from this back-up. These back-up drives are then stored off-site.

In use the system is amazing. Accessing images or video on the unit is blisteringly fast as it’s working over SATA, which is much quicker than even FW800. I’ve had the unit running for weeks without powering down and it’s been absolutely stable on the Mac Pro running Leopard.

The other new term you may have heard is “The Cloud”. This is virtual storage that’s kept on servers, somewhere in the internet, sometimes even in different countries. The Cloud’s not such a new thing, but with faster broadband, it’s now becoming more usable. Apple has had “.Mac” (now called “Mobile Me” ) for years. Part of this service has been the iDisk which has been a virtual drive, available for use by Mac and PC users. I’ve been using this system for many years, and although a little slow, it’s been solid and stable.

The other Cloud system I’ve been using for around a year is Amazon’s S3 via Jungle Disk ( ). This mounts a virtual drive onto your desktop (it’s multi platform) and allows you to use it like any other drive. It’s a faster system than iDisk and allows you to pay for the storage you use. At the time of writing, this is $0.15 per Gb per month. Your data is then saved on Amazon’s servers either in the USA or in Europe at locations which are not disclosed.

I’ve been using the Cloud in two ways. When on assignment, if I’ve shot a particularly important image, I’ve been saving them immediately to my iDisk. This has been for back-up purposes. Also, if I’ve got documents to which I need access, as well as having copies with me, I’ve also got them on my iDisk. This also includes email and FTP account details, which means if my laptop gets stolen, I can still function by accessing this information from another machine.

Jungledisk's activity monitor shown running on a Mac Pro

As my working year continues, every few weeks, I upload the edited pictures from assignments to my Amazon S3 drive. At the end of the year, like most photographers, I look through that year’s work and select my best work for competitions. Once I have this edit sorted, and the images processed to perfection, I take the contents of this folder and also upload it to Amazon S3. This gives me an off-site back-up of the year’s de facto most important and best work.

Lastly, a word on automated back-ups. I use Apple’s Time Machine to back up everything apart from my work images. This includes emails, invoices, letters, music, family snaps and so on. It’s saved me twice so far after I accidentally deleted important information. You can get back-up software for any platform, and I urge you to also have this system in place. For me, I use a separate FW800 drive for this purpose.

One thing’s for sure; as prices tumble for memory cards and hard drives, there’s no excuse not to have a solid and dependable back-up strategy. A little time spent planning and executing this strategy will save much stress and tears; trust me, I’ve seen enough colleagues suffer.

This article was originally published in the BJP on October 07, 2009.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Season's Greetings To All

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I wanted to wish everyone a peaceful holiday season. A very merry Christmas to all who celebrate and a happy holiday season to all. I wish the new year to bring you all joy and good health; wisdom and luck too :-)
Take care and keep well :-)

Monday, 21 December 2009

Pictures Of The Decade

I'm pleased to share the news that the Press Association (PA) have named one of my pictures from the London bombings as one of the ten news pictures of the decade. My thanks go to one of our industry's top picture editors Martin Keene at PA for including my image in his selection. I'd also like to extend my thanks to Phil Coomes for featuring this on the BBC's excellent blog on photography, Viewfinder.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Cops & Togs

Gaza demo, London. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

No doubt you've all heard of the Police's "War on Photography"; not so much Axis of Evil, but f-numbers and shutter speeds. I have to say, that its becoming ridiculous. Photographers, professional and enthusiast, are being constantly bullied and their rights completely eroded by the Police's misuse of Section 44. For those not in the know, this act is all about Terrorism and not photography.
Someone I know through Twitter even commented that all of this is making him stop coming to London to take pictures! Its an absolute disgrace, and all the Police officers who are guilty of misusing this power, be it the officer on the street or those sat behind desks and throwing down these orders should be ashamed. How disappointing that in this free country that we think so much of, the act of wanting to photograph something in public is being used as a reason to hassle law abiding people; be they news gatherers or people being creative. We are supposed to have freedoms in this country and I beg all officers around the country to take a step back and see the situation they have created. I wonder how the tourist trade might suffer if visitors to our shores realise they're not allowed to take photographs outdoors?!

Now I fully understand that our country is under the threat of terrorism and I myself was on the front line in Edgware Road tube station after the bombing there. I applaud our intelligence services and the Police for all the successful operations they have carried out and for cleaning the streets of extremists who do not believe in our freedoms (the Police don't seem to believe in these either). However, I would assume that a person involved in gathering intel would probably just log onto Google's Street View (why doesn't anyone shut this down? I'm guessing Google's lawyers would be a match for anybody where as individual photographers are easy targets) from the comfort of their home. Or, I would assume that they would use small cameras and blend in with the thousands of tourists around town. Maybe they would even use spy type cameras in their ties, hand bags or hats?! Would they really used big DSRLs, sometimes on Tripods? Seriously? Is this what the intelligence tells us?

Being frisked by a security guard at Wembley Stadium. Photo: Stuart Emmerson

I've been a professional news photographer for over 20 years now, and it saddens me to see how much things have changed. Although relations with the Police haven't always been brilliant, they have been miles better than this. We spend so much time stood at the same cordons that its ridiculous not to become friendly! There is no need for hostility, misinformation or game playing. There is room for respect for each other, honesty and humanity.

I remember in the early 1990s going to a light airplane crash (which unfortunately was fatal for the pilot) in an address in Harrow, Middlesex. The light plane had crash landed into the wooded garden of a mansion in the area. It was one of those rare occasions when I was suited and booted, and naturally the woodland was thick and the rain heavy and constant. After a few officers played their games and sent me on wild goose chases, I finally came across an officer who showed me where it was. He took one look at me and said that I couldn't really get through the woodland with all my gear whilst wearing leather soled shoes. To my disbelief, he took my huge Billingham bag off my shoulder, My Canon F1n and 300mm f2.8 off the other shoulder and led the way! It was a long trek. He was kind enough to take me to the inner cordon and naturally asked me not to go inside - which is totally understandable. To this day I regret not making a note of his name and praising him to his superiors. Polite and helpful; a real gentleman.

In contrast, I was covering the Palestinian demos at the Israeli Embassy in London at the beginning of the year. As the night drew on, the Police started to kick out protesters, arresting those that they had special interest in. However, press or no press, we were thrown out of this area too. Not so much of a problem, but the TSG officer escorting me to a safe distance walked next to me, with a gentle hand on my arm. Once we got there (I need to point out that I was naturally doing as asked) the officer just drove both his arms into my chest and pushed me! Why he did this, I'm not sure. I think he was perhaps aggravated that I was doing as told. Again, I wish I'd taken a note of his number. Pointless!

* 'Togs' is a common shortening for 'photographers' *

Friday, 4 December 2009

Report-First Open Workshop, 28 November 2009

Workshop in progress at Jacob's Pro Lounge. Photo: Ghene Snowdon

Photography is alive and well, and talent and passion are in abundance. This is my conclusion after my first open workshop which took place at the end of November. It was kindly organised by Ghene Snowdon of Photosocialise and I'm forever thankful for the wonderful folks at Jacob's for letting us use the Pro Lounge in their New Oxford Street branch.

The idea behind doing a one-off workshop was to see the interest from photography enthusiasts and I have to say that I was left very enthused myself. The day went superbly with an introduction of my work, lots of Q&A, a briefing and then some street photography by the attendees of the workshop. We then had a quick edit session and a projection of the collective works.
The feedback has been so great and the suggestion of a series of workshops has been made several times, that I'm pretty sure we will get together a series for 2010; watch this space! If you'd like to see more workshops, please make a comment, adding any suggestions for what subject matter would interest you.

I'd just like to share with you my favourite top five images of the day. In the end it was between two images for the top place, and you can see them below:

First Place: Harry Engels

Runner-Up: Antje Bormann

Also in top five: Carlo Nicora

Also in top five: Johan van Eck

Also in top five: Matilda Egere-Cooper

Here are, in no particular order, some comments from Twitter on the subject of the workshop; many thanks for all the kindness :-)

"thank you for the talk. Very interesting and inspiring - look forward to the next one"

"Thanks to @terakopian for the great Workshop! "

"@terakopian well fone fella. A good workshop worth attending."

"@terakopian excellent workshop. thank you!"

"@terakopian Also re the workshop, I'd happily have paid double. Really enjoyed it and would happily do another."

"Back from an inspiring workshop with @terakopian. This is my achievement; as it turned out, runner up of the day:"

"@terakopian Hey Edmund! Enjoyed today, looking forward to the next one x"

"@terakopian it was a great workshop!! well done!! so glad I came :-)"

"@terakopian thank you very much for the useful workshop! I hope you run it again (and again)!"

"@terakopian Hi Ed, great workshop on Saturday, really enjoyed it and the chance to see other people's take on street photography."

Finally, a couple of blog posts regarding the workshop: