Musings – 365

Today is Day 204 of my 365-2018 project and the 267th since I started creating an image a day and posting it to Flickr.  I’ve noted before that the 63-2017 set me up nicely and indeed as I sit here this afternoon pondering which of this morning’s images to use for 365-2018-204 I’ve realised that it has indeed become “just” a part of my daily life.

© Dave Whenham

365-2018-198.

I did try a picture a day project a few years back and whilst I did manage to take a picture a day it was a struggle, many of the images were of mundane things, snapped just to get an image, any image. I photographed the suitcase in the boot of my car at 11pm one night with my phone. So what am I doing differently in 2018?

Well, first off is state of mind I think. I am relaxed about the project and despite publicly proclaiming the project by joining a Flickr 365 Group I have not put myself under any pressure to “perform”.  At the start of the project it was my first, waking thought – I woke up thinking about getting my picture of the day. Until I captured that day’s image it was in the back of my mind constantly. Now though, whilst I am still mindful of the project I am less consciously thinking about it and if I do think about it then it is only in the context of deciding what I may want to photograph.

On those days when I don’t expect to go out anywhere I’ve taken to making  an image early doors; having an image as a form of insurance removes the pressure at a stroke and I don’t think I’ve fallen back on this insurance more than once or twice in the last nine months.

I take a lot more notice of what’s under my feet as it were. I’ve always made photographs in the back yard especially when the flowers are blooming and insects are buzzing. But just recently I’ve “seen” rather than just “looked” and have found interest in the otherwise mundane. This conscious act of freeing my mind has extended beyond the borders of my back yard though and I “see” so much more around me now, especially in the localities with which I am most familiar. In this sense I am a better photographer than I was last year.

© Dave Whenham

365-2018-203. How many times have I walked past this and not “seen” it?

Whereas in the past photography was a specific activity that I planned in advance I now find that photography is just something that I include in my daily routine. I often take my wife to work at 7am and rather than turning around and coming straight home I have taken to spending ten or fifteen minutes taking photographs before going home. I don’t miss the fifteen minutes in the context of my daily chores and I exercise my photographic muscles in the process. Some days I drive in, noting the light and by the time I drop the wife off I know exactly what I am going to photograph and from which vantage point. I created a very pleasing series of blue-hour images in this way none of which would have been taken in the past when photography was a specific something that I did. I now photograph as part of my routine daily functions such as breathing, eating and sneezing.

On days when I have chores at home I regularly take a short walk early afternoon, partly to stretch my legs and get some fresh air but mainly to give me the opportunity to look for images. I always carry a camera and whilst I may not come back with that day’s image every time it has proven a very fruitful activity and greatly increased my knowledge of my local patch and it’s possibilities.

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365-2018-196

The picture above of the former Elland Town Hall building and its Grade II listed telephone boxes is a case in point. Wandering that way the previous day I realised that if I returned on a bright sunny morning with blue skies and bringing with me the fisheye lens I could make a very pleasing image contrasting the brickwork warmed by the morning sun from behind me with the bright blue sky.  The fisheye would be needed to get it all in and by leaving enough space around the subject I could correct the lens distortion. Sure enough, the following morning dawned with ideal conditions so I timed my daily walk to include this location whilst the sun was still in the optimum position. My daily image, taken within an hour of rising with no stress, no hassle and as it happens fitted in simply by knowing what I wanted to do and making a small detour when going to the Post Office. The 365 is genuinely part of my daily life it seems.

So much of what is needed for a successful 365 seems to come down to your state of mind I feel and how you approach or think about things:

  • I carry a camera all the time – even when walking down for the papers;
  • I look AND see, noting what might make a good image and under what circumstances – greedily storing away opportunities for the future;
  • I do not rely on photography “trips” – every time I leave the house is a photographic opportunity – it’s a state of mind;
  • I make opportunities out of my daily routines;
  • I no longer worry about what other people might think of my images – I photograph anything that takes my eye, that moves or amuses me – if others like it then that is a bonus;
  • Train yourself to look beyond the obvious – floral portraits have been a staple of my back yard photography in the past but there are also shapes, shadows and the play of light on the steps if I look and see;
  • Don’t Panic! If you are really concerned about capturing that day’s image then try to take a photograph before breakfast – it’s amazing how that frees you from worrying and sometimes it turns out to be better than you’d anticipated;
  • Embrace the location, the weather, the light – cameras work in the rain and the dark – in fact dark, rainy nights in town can make some great images – just get out there;
  • Sounds counter-intuitive but stop thinking about the daily image – free your mind from the worry and your creativity can come to the surface – sounds a bit “New Age” thinking but it does work – trust me.

We talk about muscle memory a lot in photography. Consolidating a specific motor task, in our case changing ISO, adjusting the exposure compensation or whatever, into memory through repetition builds this so-called muscle memory. It is important, so the thinking goes, because it enables us to deal with the technical aspects of photography on auto-pilot freeing the mind to think about aesthetics and creativity.  I am starting to think that beyond the technical aspects there is still an element of creative muscle building going on. Taking images, with a purpose, every day is exercising all our photographic muscles and with repetition and practice comes competency and a greater ability to “see”. To misquote a rather hackneyed phrase ” the more I practice the more I see”.

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365-2018-123

So, my five penn’orth on the subject of the photographic 365 based admittedly on just 267 days experience.  And before anyone thinks I’m implying this is easy – I am not. It can still be hard work but by approaching it with the correct mind set and incorporating it into part of your daily routine, rather than a standalone activity, it is possible to ease the burden and more importantly really enjoy the process whilst expanding your skills and competency at the same time. Win-win.

Single-shot verticals (drone)

A bit of an obscure title I know – that’s what happens whilst you type “out loud” I guess as you fumble for the right words.

The Mavic Pro’s gimbal gets a fair bit of stick for being so exposed – but it means that it can shoot natively in a vertical format which means “portrait” images using the whole sensor rather than cropping from a “landscape” or horizontal image.  I was just coming to the end of my mornings flying (battery was at 20% and I’d already used both spares) when I remembered this facility so I took a couple of test shots. It’s a facility I’ve not used before and indeed rarely seen mentioned. I wished I’d thought of it when shooting the long exposures of the lock gates a few weeks back.

© Dave Whenham

Shot from above the flood plain at Woodside Lock.  Apart from lifting the shadows slightly this is basically as-shot

I could see this being useful if shooting waterfalls or any image with a “tall” subject, for example a lighthouse. I shot a lot of panoramas today and with hindsight could have switched to portrait mode for some of those too as this would have given extra height (and is more like the way I shoot panoramas with a stills camera too).**

So, despite over 16 hours flight time I am still happily learning!

© Dave Whenham

Four hundred feet up – spot the pilot!

**POSTSCRIPT

I took the Mavic out the following morning, set to Portrait Mode, selected the Panorama 180 mode – and the camera swung back to horizontal for the sequence before returning to portrait mode at the end of the sequence. Seems I’ve not missed a trick with my panoramas!

 

A Cautionary Tale

If tales of bad luck compounded by stupidity upset you then look away now.

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I no longer have the original – but at least I have the low-res version of Sunday mornings “365” image

I had an external hard drive fail last week. Annoying but not the end of the world as it was included in my Time Machine backup routine so in theory it just needed time to restore the files to another drive.

I could have waited until the replacement drive arrived and simply restored everything to the new drive but I needed one of the files urgently for a camera club entry, the deadline for which was the following day. So, I decided to temporarily restore the files to an existing external drive. The only drive with enough space was the same one that the Time Machine backups sat on but as it was only for 48 hours I went ahead. 

Which was when problem two surfaced.

The failed drive had two partitions – one for all my processed still photographs and the other held all my video files including raw footage, music and other digital assets, completed videos and works in progress.  Upon entering the Time Machine I found that only the still photographs had been backed up, something had clearly gone wrong when I configured the system and I had not previously realised. I was gutted but at least I had the three years worth of still photographs. Two and a half hours later they were safely restored to the SeagateMedia drive along with my Time Machine back ups. 

Upon checking my amazon account I noted that the failed drive was over seven years old – all drives fail eventually and this had done better than most.  I tried various data recovery software packages but none of the half dozen I tried were able to access the files that I knew to be on the drive so I concluded it was a case for a data recovery expert. Until that is, the moment I found out the likely cost!

However, I was fortunate and found another copy of the video file I needed urgently on my laptop so I was able to meet the camera club deadline. With three years worth of stills photographs recovered and the entry deadline met I was as happy as I could be under the circumstances.  The loss of the other work was disappointing but as I get older I tend to dwell less on the disappointments and cherish the successes more. Indeed, some rooting around on a drive that I rarely plug in unearthed a folder with a few of the lost videos so all in all things could have been a lot worse.

And then they were.

The new drive arrived – a 2018 version of the SeagateMedia external drive that I already use and that has proved very reliable.  It needs to be formatted for use with a Mac, a simple enough task that takes a matter of minutes. I plugged it in, opened the Disk Utility, clicked on the SeagateMedia drive, selected Erase and click! One freshly prepared drive with a full 4GB of space awaiting my attentions. It’s one of the things I like about this particular drive, it says 4GB on the box and that’s what you get, not 3.8 nor 3.9 but a full 4GB. 

You’re ahead of me I suspect, especially if you’ve been paying attention. The clue is in the words SeagateMedia …

I had erased and reformatted the original SeagateMedia drive which held my Time Machine backups along with the recently recovered image files.

It’s almost cathartic to say it out loud.

As I type this I have yet another piece of recovery software running, this time scanning the drive I reformatted in error. It is over two hours into the initial scan  and it is already suggesting that it will be able to restore over a terabyte  of assorted files so things look positive – although it is also suggesting it will take another eight hours to complete the scan! I suspect that when its finished it will ask me to cough up the money for the “Pro” version to actually download the files but even at £90 that will be considerably less than the data recovery experts wanted – and coincidentally fractionally more than the price of the replacement drive.

It’s been a frustrating and expensive weekend.

 

UPDATE:  Yes, I did need to shell out the £90 to enable me to actually download the files. The software claims to have “recovered” almost 10TB of files … from a 4TB drive. On looking at the folders it has created there are around 1TB in a folder called “labelled” and around 9TB in one called “reconstructed”.  I’ve been through the “labelled” folder and saved over 10,000 files to a fresh drive taking around 630GB of space on the drive. I can already see that many are duplicated but it’s a relief to know that at least some of my work has been recovered.  Most of the files have unintelligible file names although some appear to have a file name that included the information from the EXIF data.  It will take weeks to sort them all out but I shall take my time!  I’m currently recovering the image (TIFF) files from the “reconstructed” folder although the first of these has not opened so I’m not holding my breath on this part of the process.

BONUS: On looking at the recovered files I have also recovered some of the raw video footage that was missing from the original recovery from Time Machine. I am guessing that these were in old back-up files that had been deleted earlier in the year.  The “reconstructed” folder claims to have video files too so I’m recovering those too although given that the reconstructed TIFF files appear to be corrupted I’m not expecting much from these.