Lessons in technology and wasted hours

I write this as a note to myself not to repeat the same errors in a few years time and to sign some potential hazards for anyone about to undertake a similar exercise.

I finally resolved to upgrade the IT technology that supports my photography; or rather is fundamental to digital photography. The situation was that my old iMac’s memory would soon begin to creak under the weight of RAW files; working on a LR catalogue based on Dropbox between two computers (MacBook Pro for travelling) has proven not to be without complications or confusion; and there was a general shortage of backup capacity for my household of four people.

The solution was simple but the implementation not so simple, mostly due to pit falls of the ignorant. For the photo workstation – a MacBook docking station (CalDigit Thunderbolt Station), a 27inch matte hi-resolution screen (BenQ BL2711U), and repurposing of the 2TB WD hard drive (previously used for TimeMachine backups) as a larger drive for photo files, attached to the new docking station. For photo and general household backup a Network Attached Storage device (Synology Disk Station with 2 bays, plus two 3TB drives).

Cutting out the gory details, here are the snakes and ladders:

  1. Never, ever delete TimeMachine back up files from an external drives manually. You could end up with 2 million plus files in your trash that your computer will try for hours to count up and delete and then give up – apparently this is just not the done thing (how was I to know!) and OS cannot cope with empty the trash for a long list of good reasons. It seems the best way is to simply reformat the drive to clear all the old backup files and then start again. Not quite so simple when you’ve already moved your photo files to that drive!
  2. When moving photo files between drives, always do it within Lightroom or the indexing in the catalogue is completely screwed and needs to be rebuilt (thank fully I was already aware of this) – just press the ‘+’ next to folders in the library to add your new drive/folder, then drag/drop within LR.
  3. TimeMachine can also backup external drives attached to a Mac to another external drive. I discovered this after making a manual backup of photos on the WD hard drive. Just go into options and delete the external hard drive to be back up from the excluded items (TimeMachine excludes these by default). This is a neat solution that allows my working folder of imports on my Macbook Pro (plus other files) and the photo archive on the WD drive to all be backed up to the NAS, while using the excellent version control in TimeMachine.

This post has killed a little time as I wait for 10,000 photos to transfer back to my iMac so I can reformat the WD hard drive, empty the trash, and move the photos back again to the cleaned drive. We live and hopefully learn. The only remaining step is then looking into cloud backup of the NAS (Backblaze B2 is looking like the way to go).

Digital contact sheets, Mac

A recent visit to see Sid Shelton’s Rock Against Racism (see here) with his original contact sheets in a display cabinet, again left me looking for a way to achieve something similarly organic (with the coloured scribbles indicating selects) with digital files.

After some research and experiment, I came up with the following approach that makes use of Lightroom and Preview on the Mac.

    1. Screen Shot 2016-08-06 at 06.50.37Create a contact sheet layout in LR’s print module (there are many online resources showing how to do this if needed) and export it as a pdf. It is the second step that is a little hidden – the dialogue box shows how this functionality is in the ‘printer’ menu at the bottom-right of the screen.
    2. The pdf can now be opened with Preview on the Mac. Preview also acts as the Mac’s built-in file editor and has a few tricks including annotation of pdfs, exporting files as different types, and resizing files. To put highlight markers around selects, use tools/annotate/line – this then brings up options for line thickness and colour. Save the file when done.
    3. At this stage, the file size is likely to be large and not suitable for sharing online, but useful for printing if that is something wanted. To reduce the Screen Shot 2016-08-06 at 07.07.15file size, make a duplicate (if the full size file is to be retained) and use Preview’s export function to export the file. Select export, then choose pdf, and select ‘quartize’ and reduce file size. In the case of my file it reduced its size from 10MB to 500KB. Perhaps re-applying the routine would reduce the file size further, but also result in a deterioration of image quality.
    4. Finally, upload the pdf to a blog as a media file and link into the post, setting it to open in a new window. This then brings up a readable copy of the contacts in a separate screen to the main blog post.

See pdf for contact sheets: Leeds decay contacts