Tuesday, 26 February 2008


Just to let you know this site is moving!

Now gone to


Sunday, 24 February 2008

One for the Bloggers

Treve form 'Sharing Experience' and a G9 User has some tips on setting up Lightroom for Blogging

Using Lightroom to produce image files for blog postings

I have been using Lightroom for a couple of months now and blogging for a few weeks. Being a photographer I want to include images in many of my posts. Before buying Lightroom I would have had to convert the RAW file and process it in Photoshop, but I thought it ought to be easier in Lightroom. So is Lightroom any good for this?

The short answer is - Yes.
Since I use RAW for nearly all my photography Lightroom allows me to take an unconverted RAW file, adjust it quite well enough for web viewing, then simply export it to a jpeg for uploading. It is quick and easy to do.
I make the adjustments I want to in the Develop module; then from the File drop down menu click on Export (see screen shot below).

Below are my Export settings, saved as a preset for producing blog images.

Most of the options are self-explanatory - My choices that I feel that may need some explanation are:
  • jpeg is the obvious format to save the image in and I have found a quality setting of 50% works well enough
  • I chose sRGB as the colour space as that is usually the recommended one for web viewing
  • I resize the image so that it is quite small, but not tiny with 500 pixels along the short edge
  • I set a resolution of 100 pixels per inch - 72 is often recommended, but screens vary and I have seen 100 recommended in preference to 72 by quite a lot of "experts" recently
  • I add in a © notice for my pictures - You can set up pretty much whatever you want to say in Lightroom and it puts it in white inside the image, in the bottom left hand corner
  • I chose to minimize embedded metadata at I don't see any benefit to including it

That's it - No need to convert to a TIF, or whatever your choice is, process it etc. Even using actions in Photoshop it would take me much longer and the © notice is an extra bonus, which again I can do in Photoshop but it would be a much more involved process.
All-in-all I am pretty happy to use Lightroom to produce images for blog postings from RAW files.

Sharing Experience: Using Lightroom to produce image files for blog postings

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Setting up snap shooting mode on the G9

How to Set up snap shooting mode

Last week during my post on the ‘Bomb threat in Derby’ I mentioned about having my G9 set at hyperfocal distance in a “Custom Control so it is always available to me.” I have given the details on how to set it up and a whole range of options for you to choose bellow, to set the G9 up for your style of shooting using custom colours etc.

Bomb threat in Derby, UK causes travel disruption and confusion for passengers

This makes the Canon PowerShot G9 very fast from power up to pressing the shutter; (about a second) reaching for my G9 and powering it on at the same time means as soon as it is at my eye, its ready to shoot as it does not need to focus, and yet the pictures appear very sharp and in focus, this is how street photography, reportage, war, documentary and landscapes were often done with manual focus, film rangefinders, like the Leica.

Note I say ‘appear’ very sharp and in focus, and that is because there is actually only one plane of actual focus! The rest is down to depth of field from the given aperture and its relation to the point in focus

In the days of film, most interchangeable lenses had hyperfocal distance scales and Infra Red marker (IR light focuses at a different plane to daylight, so a set mark was often found on the lens to re adjust the distance, I will be doing a separate article on this for the G9) to aid in this matter and was often used a lot more than it is now, mainly because digital lenses seem to have this scale missing from their lenses. This is even rarer in a point and shoot, but the G9 can be set up for hyperfocal shooting and IR shooting too thanks to the people behind DOF Master.com and I suggest you have a good read of their website page if you want a better understanding of what hyperfocal is and does

The actual distance you set on the G9 varies depending on the sort of shooting you do. You might want it shorter if you do Landscapes and want more detail in the foreground for example or shoot candid’s from across the table but around 10 feet seems to be good for most people/subjects. The aperture you use also makes a difference; a higher f number will give more depth of apparent sharpness than a low f number.

Another factor to consider is the lens length, the longer the lens the shorter the hyperfocal range will be. Setting the G9 at its widest zoom gives the biggest scope for a given aperture and widest hyperfocal distance but you could zoom out the lens and set it as a custom option if that is what you need.

The distance you set and F number combination gives you the hyperfocal ability, which means you can set the G9 how you want for the style of shooting you do most and save it as a custom setting (C1 or C2) for a better understanding of how the focus and aperture affects the nearest point in apparent focus to the furthest go to DOF MASTER.com  and select the G9 from the drop down menu. (The focal length for the G9 is 7.4mm at its widest setting)

As an example my set up is 9 feet and set at f4.5 which gives me 3.84 feet to infinity. In practice this works out as a simple guide that anything more than arms length (and a bit) is in apparent focus, it is also easy to estimate! At f2.8 this is under 5 feet to infinity. I can alter the Aperture to adjust exposure using the Control dial on the back with my thumb

Setting it up

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

How To Back Up Your Personal Computer



January 30, 2008

(Updated 31-Jan-2008, 7-Feb-2008, and 8-Feb-2008; updates in red)

I've read countless articles about backup over the years, but not one of them approached the problem properly. They all focus too much on hardware and software, and not enough on what I call independence—getting the copies and the originals separated so they're not subjected to the same threats. And, too often they deal with just one or two threats, most commonly a disk crash, and ignore the others. In fact, not one article even bothered to enumerate the threats to help check that the backup plan deals with each one of them.

I've been thinking for nearly a year about writing my own article that would set matters straight, and now it's time. I blogged a bit about backup last August and promised more; what you'll find here is much more.

I'll cover the principles of backup, list the threats to your data (there are six of them), describe the specific hardware, software, and online facilities available for Windows and OS X, and then outline some specific backup plans. My focus is on personal-computer backup rather than servers or mainframes, although the principles apply universally. Also, I only briefly touch on data privacy (preventing unauthorized use of data); unfortunately, backup usually reduces data privacy, since the more copies there are the more opportunity for someone to gain access to one.

Here's a detailed outline:

What is Backup?
Threats to Your Data
The Perfect Backup Solution
Protecting Against Threats
Planning for Backup and Restoring
     Convenience vs. Independence
     You Need a Backup Plan
     You Need a Restore Plan
Backup Hardware
     FireWire and USB External Drives
     Network Attached Storage (NAS)
Backup Software
     Minimum Requirements for Backup Software
     OS X: In-the-Box Backup Software
     OS X: Add-On Backup Software
     Windows Vista: In-the-Box Backup Software
     Vista and XP: Add-On Backup Software
Online Backup Services
Dealing With the Threats
     Backup for User Error, Computer Failure, and Disappearance
     Backup for Surge
     Backup for Office Destruction and Regional Disaster
My Backup Plan
Evaluating Your Backup Plan

There are some links below to Amazon. If you click on one to buy anything, it won't cost you extra, but I get a fee from Amazon.

Disclosure: I have done some consulting work for Microsoft, and some of that work had to do with storage systems, although not with backup directly. As you will see as you read below, I don't think that association biased my conclusions.

What is Backup?
A backup is a copy of data that is sufficiently independent of the original so that destructive events can't affect both at the same time. Backup doesn't prevent destruction of data; it only allows you to recover the data once the destruction has occurred.

A simple example of backup is copying files from a laptop to a CD (the act of copying), putting the CD in your desk at home (independence of location), and having the laptop stolen (the destructive event). Since the CD wasn't stolen, you still have the data that was copied to it. Sure, your laptop is gone and maybe sensitive information has fallen into the wrong hands, but at least you still have the data you saved to the CD. (You cover loss of the laptop with insurance, and you protect sensitive data with encryption, but those subjects are outside the scope of this article.)

To design and implement a backup plan one has to consider the possible threats to data (e.g., theft, electrical surge, fire), the various ways to copy data (e.g., using the Mac Finder or Windows Explorer, using a backup utility, using CD/DVD-burning software), and ways of achieving independence (e.g., online storage, placing media in a safe-deposit box).

Unfortunately, nearly all articles about backup focus on the copying, and ignore the other two (threats and independence). But without evaluating all the threats, there's no way to be sure that the backup will allow you to recover from them, and insufficient independence means that both the data and the backup can be destroyed by the same event. An obvious example is a fire that destroys everything in an office, including any backups kept there.

Additionally, if backup isn't convenient—automatic, ideally—it won't get done often enough to be effective. (It's common after a data loss for someone to regret that their most recent backup is months old.) Restore has to be convenient, too, or else the damage will be compounded. An electrical surge is bad enough, but if your data is unavailable for a week while you restore it from an online service, you still lose a week of productivity.

Since backup is potentially expensive and time-consuming, you also have to consider the importance of your data. Backing up irreplaceable photographs is more important that backing up application preferences, and backing up browser caches or temporary files isn't important at all.

Threats to Your Data
There are only six types of threats that can destroy data:
  1. User Error. A user mistake that accidentally deletes or overwrites one or more files. I recently overwrote an image file with a cropped version of the image, but was able to get the original back in a few minutes from the ongoing backup kept by OS X's new Time Machine.
  2. Computer Failure. This includes any failure of hardware or software that results in data loss. I put the two together because it's often difficult to tell whether the problem was caused by software or hardware and because the effect on the data is usually the same. The most talked-about failure, a disk crash, is in this category, but so is an OS upgrade that causes a file system to be corrupted or an application install that deletes data files. (Apple once accidentally released a version of iTunes that could delete all files on a hard drive.)
  3. Surge. Electrical surge is in its own category because it can affect every plugged-in device in a home or office, so it makes independence especially difficult. Copying data to an external drive won't protect you from a surge if the drive is plugged in, but if it's not plugged in you can't access it. A good surge protector can prevent damage from some surges, but there's no device that's guaranteed to prevent them all.
  4. Disappearance. This includes burglary, robbery, theft, and accidental loss (leaving a laptop in a taxi). The good thing about theft and loss is that even the slightest amount of independence is effective: Thieves might take the computer on the desk, but probably won't notice the hard drive on a shelf under the desk, and someone who snatches your laptop in a train station probably won't take the USB flash drive in your pocket.
  5. Office Destruction. This includes anything that destroys the location containing the computers and includes fire, explosion, structural collapse, collision, water damage, and vandalism. Everything in the office might be destroyed, including external drives and CDs/DVDs.
  6. Regional Disaster. Anything that damages an entire neighborhood or city, such as radiation, flood, earthquake, tornado, and various acts of war or terrorism. Here even a copy in a bank safe-deposit box may not be safe.
The Perfect Backup Solution
The almost-perfect solution is to back up your entire computer every hour to an ultra-reliable, redundant, online storage service such as Amazon's S3. I say "almost" because the backup software you use might have defects. To make it perfect, you need two or more completely independent copying utilities and services.

Unfortunately, there's too much data. For example, if a photographer comes back from a shoot with 20GB of photos (not unusual) and has a T1 line (1.544 megabits per second) operating at 100% efficiency (extremely unusual), it would take 29 hours to copy the photos to an online service. Every 1GB of image data modified (50 photos at 20MB each) would take an additional 1.5 hours or so to upload. That's assuming that there is a T1 line, that it operates as 100% efficiency, that the line isn't being used for anything else, and that the online services can receive and store the data that fast. At a more realistic upload speed, say 500 kilobits per second, it would take more than 3 days to upload the 20GB, by which time the photographer might have shot another 60GB. The backup would never finish.

Oh, I forgot... the photographer needs 2 T1 lines, because we were going to use two independent services.

So, the problem with the perfect backup scheme is that it won't work. We need to back up to hard drives and/or optical disks, and that gets very complicated, as you already know.

Protecting Against Threats
The purpose of backup is to recover from damage, not prevent it. Still, it makes sense to reduce the likelihood of damage occurring; restoring is always a chore, and you still have to replace the damaged or stolen equipment. Think of protection as reducing the probability of a restore, rather than reducing the need for backup.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Connect your computers and external drives to a surge protector. The good ones cost a few hundred dollars. I suppose cheap ones are better than nothing, but it makes no sense to protect $5,000 worth of equipment with a $29 power strip.
  • When you're traveling, never let go of your laptop. I take mine into restaurants and while I'm eating I sit on the shoulder strap. If you have to leave it in an office, use a cable to attach it to the desk. This will at least delay a thief for a minute or two, and maybe he or she will decide that's too long.
  • Build a shelf under your desk and put external drives there rather than on the desk. (If you put them directly on the floor they'll be knocked about by the cleaning staff.) If you put them in a drawer, make sure there's enough ventilation. Network-Attached Storage (NAS) devices are especially useful here because you can put them far away from your desk.
  • Don't work in an apartment or condo, especially if it's not sprinklered. In my town there's a fire in a condo about once a year. The last one was started by a cigar left in a planter on a deck, with some firewood and four 20-pound propane tanks nearby (lots of barbecues, I guess). It destroyed 36 units. The newspaper didn't report how many computers, external drives, optical disks, and USB drives were melted, burned, or soaked from fire hoses.
  • If your home or office is sprinklered, make sure your computer, or at least your external drives, are covered so they don't get wet.
  • Keep any offline media or devices in a fireproof media safe. These aren't ordinary office safes, not even ordinary fireproof safes, but special safes designed for tapes and CDs/DVDs. I use them for hard drives, too. I have have both a Sentry Model 1710 and a 6720. One is in the basement and one is right next to my computer so it's easy to access. It doesn't replace off-site storage, but it's better than keeping media and devices loose on your desk.

As I said, even if you do any of the above, it doesn't allow you to get away without backups. It just lessens the chance that you'll need them.

Planning for Backup and Restoring
Convenience vs. Independence
Generally, the more convenient a back up method is, the less independence you get. So, you'll need a combination of methods: One or two that are convenient but provide just enough independence to protect against the most common threats, and one or two that are inconvenient but which provide complete independence.

For example, using a background backup utility like Apple's new Time Machine, available with OS X 10.5 (Leopard), is convenient, but since the backup drive has to be within WiFi range and plugged in to power, it doesn't provide enough independence to protect against Surge, Office Destruction, or Regional Disaster. But, since those attacks are so much less common than User Error, Computer Failure, and Disappearance, running Time Machine is a great idea. It's just not the only idea.

For protection against surge, all you need to do is back up to an external disk (probably not with Time Machine) that you can unplug and, for good measure, put into a fireproof media safe. Store that drive in a neighbor's house and you'll protect against Office Destuction as well. Take to your mother's house 25 miles away and you're protected against most Regional Disasters. Copy your irreplaceable files, such as photos, to Amazon's S3 and you're even more completely protected.

You Need a Backup Plan

The way we arrived at the combination of methods in the previous section was to list the six types of threats, list the available backup methods, and then pair them up to ensure that we were covered. The more backup methods available and the more you know about them, the more effectively you can come up with something you can live with. If your plan is too inconvenient, you'll find you're not using it, and then you won't be protected.

As I'll explain below, neither Windows (even Vista) nor OS X comes with sufficient backup software, so you'll need to buy a third-party utility.

You'll have to spend some money, mostly for software and external drives. The software will cost less than $100, a couple of 120GB drives for your most important data will cost about $100 each, and each 500GB drive will cost less than $200. Amazon's S3 service is really cheap, only a few dollars a month. So, for about $500, a little planning work on your part, and a slight change to your work habits you can get almost 100% protection from the six types of threats.

You Need a Restore Plan
It's a safe bet that very few people who do backup have ever tried a restore to see if it works. And, it's not hard to see why: Restoring a complete system is pretty disruptive, and if it doesn't work you will have just wiped out a perfectly good system. You have to put another hard drive in the system so you can safely overwrite it, or wait until you have a new computer. (I have a Windows desktop with six drive bays with handy slide-out trays, so it's very easy to pop in a new drive to test a restore while the primary drive is safely out of the the computer. But my desktop is very unusual, and it's more common today to see computers getting smaller and even more closed up.)

Even without actually doing a complete restore, you should spot-check the backup to ensure that your files are really there. Backup software that won't let you do this, such as Vista's Complete PC Backup, should be avoided.

Your restore plan also has to include a way to replace damaged hardware. If you live near computer stores and they're open when you need them, you might be able to just go out buy what you need when you need it. But if not, and time-to-restore is important, you'll have to have replacement equipment on hand. The equipment really has to be available—if the replacement hard drive has data on it, you won't be able to use it without destroying that data.

After a restore, make sure you don't start running without a backup. For example, suppose you keep a complete, bootable copy of your primary drive on an external drive. If the primary drive fails, you can boot from the external drive, which gets you up and running immediately, losing only a few hours of work. But, if you run that way, you no longer have your backup, since the backup drive has become the primary and the old primary is dead. Instead, you should immediately clone the backup to a replacement primary drive or, if that's not feasible, clone the backup to a second external drive.

Backup Hardware
While you'll sometimes back up to CDs/DVDs, flash drives, or to an online service, because of the amount of data to be backed up you'll more often use a hard drive. The main choices are a single external drive, a network-attached drive, or a RAID drive (which could also be network-attached). Internal drives aren't good choices because they're not sufficiently independent of the computer being backed up. They're gone if the computer is stolen, and they share the same drive controller, so a controller failure could destroy the data on all the internal drives.
FireWire and USB External Drives
These drives are great choices for backup. They're available in sizes from about 100GB to 2TB, and some of them are even entirely powered from the USB cable, which makes connecting them and transporting them especially convenient.

If the drive is going to be running all the time, put it out of sight, such as on a shelf under your desk, or on a bookshelf with some books or a family photo in front of it. Figure that a thief won't know your drive is even there and, even if he or she does, nobody wants to heist a $200 drive when there are computers, CDs, and jewelry to take instead, all much easier to fence.

Network Attached Storage (NAS)
This is a fancy name for a drive connected to your local network instead of directly to a computer. NAS has been around for years, but only recently have devices been created for home and small-office users that are cheap and easy to set up.

The best-known new NAS device is Apple's new Time Capsule, which is a 500GB or 1TB drive combined with a wireless base station. It allows you to back up, with or without Time Machine (OS X Leopard's built-in backup software), to the drive wirelessly. This means it can be farther from your computers than a directly-connected drive, such as in a closet, on a high bookshelf, or in another room. (Friendly neighbors might even be able to put their Time Capsules in each others' houses, although I haven't tested that arrangement.)

One popular form of NAS is another computer on the network, connected with WiFi (like Time Capsule) or wired. But another computer is much more expensive than just an attached drive, requires much more power and space, and introduces another machine to be set up, booted, maintained, and possibly even backed up. A little box you can just attach and forget about is what's really needed.

To find NAS boxes, go to Amazon and search for "nas drive", "nas disk", "ethernet drive", or "ethernet disk". You'll drives with network attachments, drive cases with network attachments (you have to add the drive), cases with WiFi and with and without drives, and even cheap ($85) devices to which you can attach a USB drive. Here are some examples, none of which I'm recommending, as I haven't tried them:

Some things to watch out for when you buy an NAS device:

  • Other than Time Capsule (which also works with Windows), even the easy-to-set-up devices can be complicated to set up. If you're used to setting up networks, downloading drivers, and dealing with strange preference dialogs, you'll be OK.
  • Some backup software organizes the entire backup as a series of giant files (>4GB), and some NAS drives don't allow files greater than 4GB, so you may have a problem.
  • According to reviews on Amazon, some of these devices are very slow.
  • Some devices won't work with a Mac and those that do might not work with OS X 10.5 (Leopard).
  • Even if they will work with a Mac, they won't work with Time Machine because it doesn't support networked drives (other than Time Capsule).
  • Apple's AirPort wireless base station has a USB port for an external drive, so you might be able to use that instead of getting a Time Capsule.
RAID stands for Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks. The problems with RAID are that it costs extra for the same amount of storage (at least one extra disk and some fancy electronics) and that the disks aren't nearly independent enough.

There are various RAID arrangements, the two most popular of which are RAID-1 (mirroring) and RAID-5 (striping with parity). The idea is that, if a disk fails, it can be removed from the running system and replaced without the system going down or any data being lost. When you replace the defective disk, the RAID system automatically restores, over a period of hours, the data that was on it. (So-called RAID-0, also called striping, isn't really RAID at all because there's no redundancy. The loss of either disk destroys all the data on both disks. RAID-0 is for performance, not for reliability, which is actually reduced.)

RAID is OK is you're using it to replace what otherwise would be a single drive (primary or backup), but it doesn't substitute for backup. Moreover, if your budget is limited, the extra money you spend on RAID might mean that you have less to spend on backup.

To see why RAID doesn't diminish the need for backup, we can do a quick threat analysis, as we do for all other backup methods:

  1. User Error: No help; with RAID there's still just one copy of the data.
  2. Computer Failure: RAID protects only against disk failure. That's probably the most common hardware failure, but as RAID doesn't protect against other hardware failures, such as the RAID controller itself and the rest of the computer, nor against software failures, the need for backup hasn't changed.
  3. Surge: No help, as all RAID hardware has to be plugged in.
  4. Disappearance: No different than a single disk. An external RAID cabinet can be hidden below the desk, but so can a single-disk cabinet.
  5. Office Destruction: No help.
  6. Regional Disaster: No help.

Anyone who thinks RAID provides sufficient protection is focused too narrowly on a single kind of failure, the disk itself, and is ignoring the other threats.

Backup Software
OS X and Windows come with backup software, but it's insufficient because either it's inconvenient and error prone (on OS X, without third-party software, the only way to copy files to an removable drive is with the Finder) or because it doesn't meet what I consider the essential requirements for backup software. I'll review those requirements and then briefly review both the backup software that comes with OS X and Windows ("in-the-box") and what you can buy from a third party.
Minimum Requirements for Backup Software
The following requirements must be met by any backup system:
  1. There must be a way to determine what will be backed up. Systems that tell you they're backing up "other files" without telling you what those are, like Vista's Back Up Files, are unacceptable.
  2. There must be a way to tell if a specific file was backed up, so you can spot-check the backup. Systems that keep the backup in a mysterious form (e.g., some giant compressed file) don't meet this requirement unless they also have a user-interface for showing you a list of files. Vista's Complete PC Backup fails in this regard (more later).
  3. There must be a way of verifying the integrity of the backup, short of doing a restore and running the system for a month or two to see if any hidden problems show up. A system that uses the ordinary file system meets this requirement, because you can run a utility or script to compare to two folder hierarchies, file-by-file if you want. Systems that use their own format have to provide a separate verification option.
  4. For a complete backup, there must be a way to restore individual files. (This may not be a requirement for you, but it is for me.)
As I said at the start, I'm not going to say much about data privacy (e.g, preventing identity theft), except to note that backup makes the problem worse.

However, many backup programs provide a way to encrypt the backup data, and that's what you should do. If your backup utility doesn't provide encryption, you may be able to encrypt the data anyway by encrypting the volume the data is written to. On a Mac, you can use Disk Utility to create an encrypted disk image, as I explain here. (8-Feb-2008 update) I'm not sure the method in that article is practical. I've updated the article to explain why.

OS X: In-the-Box Backup Software
OS X 10.5 (Leopard) comes with only one backup program, Time Machine, and it's a great one that everyone should use. The previous OSes didn't come with anything, although there was always a way to burn CDs and DVDs and to copy files with the Finder.
OS X: Add-On Backup Software
If you subscribe to Apple's .Mac online service you can download a backup utility called Backup. It's primary purpose is to back up online, but you're supposed to be able to use it to back up to external drives and CDs/DVDs. The one time recently when I used Backup to back up to DVDs, it failed.

A much better choice is Super Duper. I've used Super Duper to make both bootable disk images and partial backups for carrying offsite, but haven't been able to for a few months because it doesn't work with Leopard yet. (It does now.)

I also used iBackup before I got Super Duper, and it seemed to work fine, although it won't back up a complete system like Super Duper will.

I've tried Retrospect for the Mac, which interested me because it's one of the few backup program that can write CDs/DVDs, but it repeatedly hung trying to write a DVD.

I've just written my own utility to copy folders and files to multiple CDs and DVDs, SpanBurner ($10).

Windows Vista: In-the-Box Backup Software
I'm not going to discuss the backup software that comes with XP because (1) with one-exception, noted below, Vista's software is much better, and it's unacceptable, and (2) Vista has been Microsoft's current OS for over a year.

Vista comes with four backup systems:

  1. Vista Business, Ultimate, and Enterprise include Complete PC Backup which, near as I can tell, works perfectly. The unfortunate thing about it is that it writes everything to a VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) file, so you can't directly examine it to reassure yourself that it worked. You're supposed to be able to open a VHD file with Microsoft's Virtual PC (a free download), but I couldn't get that to work (weird error messages). Some people have reported success in taking the VHDmount command from Virtual Server (separate download and install) and running it on Vista (or maybe XP), but I didn't try that.

    (31-Jan-2008 update) I don't think I was right about Virtual PC; mounting a VHD isn't something it's supposed to do, near as I can tell. But, I did install VHDmount by downloading Virtual Server (free), choosing to custom-install it, selecting only VHDmount to be installed, and then running VHDmount on the VHD file written by Complete PC Backup. Worked perfectly. So, if you're willing to install and use VHDmount (you don't have to use Virtual Server, or even install the whole thing), there is a way to verify that your backup was written and to restore individual files.

    Complete PC Backup doesn't have a built-in scheduler, but you can schedule it from the Task Scheduler, which is on the Administrative Tools menu. Choose Create Basic Task, enter a name and set the time, enter "wbadmin" for program, and "start backup -backupTarget:F: -include:C: -quiet" in the arguments field, assuming you want to back up drive C to drive F. On the next panel check "Open the Properties dialog for this task when I click Finish" and, when it opens, check "Run with highest privileges".

    To my way of thinking, even though Complete PC Backup seemed to work (I never tried a restore), that ordinary users (who don't install VHDmount) have no way to check its output is a serious defect. Also, and probably for the same reason, you can't restore individual files; you can only use the VHD file, all of it, during a fresh install. So, it fails my Minimum Requirements for Backup Software (see above), unless you install VHDmount.

  2. All versions (I think) of Vista come with Back Up Files, which allows you to back up various categories of files (e.g., pictures, music, e-mail) to drives, CDs/DVDs, and across a network. There's no information about what actually gets backed up, but there is a statement that if you check "Additional files" you get more. You have no idea whether your Wiggly Write or Dipsey Doodler application files are going to get backed up. When someone complained on an online forum to Microsoft, the response was that they could ZIP the questionable files first, since ZIP files are backed up. They rightly responded that this was beneath stupid.

    So, Back Up Files fails my Minimum Requirements for Backup Software. (I still use it because my computer happens to have four mostly unused drives inside it, but I don't count it as part of my backup plan.)

    With the more advanced versions of Vista, you can run Back Up Files automatically according to a schedule you set.

  3. System Restore can prevent against some User Errors and Computer Failures. It takes a snapshot so your system can be rolled back to a previous point. Only system files are backed up—no user data. It's nice to have, but doesn't address the real problem, which is loss of your own data.
  4. Previous Versions uses a part of each drive to keep past versions of files that are changed, as many as will fit. There's no way to expand the allocated space or to keep the versions on an external drive. Also, you get versions only as far back as the most recent Back Up Files backup, which is listed among the versions. I'm not sure what happens if you've sent your Back Up Files drive elsewhere.

    Previous Versions provides substantial protection against User Error if the good stuff was from yesterday, since you only get one version per day. If it was last week, you may not have it. Contrast this with Time Machine, which keeps hourly backups for a day, daily backups for a month, and weekly backups forever, space allowing. All on an external drive. And, it's the entire system, not just user files that have changed. And, you can restore an entire system from the Time Machine backup.

So, while Vista has four backup systems, even all of them used together don't provide protection from the six threats. Each of them has serious flaws:

  1. Complete PC Backup provides no way to verify its output or to restore individual files, unless you install VHDmount.
  2. Back Up Files doesn't back up all files, and won't tell you which it will back up.
  3. System Restore doesn't do anything with user files.
  4. Previous Versions is only once a day, is limited in how far back it goes, and can't write to an external drive, which means there's no independence from the main drive.

All of the Vista back up systems use the Virtual Storage System (VSS) to ensure that only internally-consistent files are backed up, even if an application has them open. OS X doesn't have anything like that; their thinking is that Time Machine will get the file next time. None of my disparaging remarks are intended to disparage VSS, which is an excellent piece of work.

I have heard that XP lacks most of the four backup systems in Vista, but that there is a backup program, not installed by default, that works better than Back Up Files, in that you can at least tell it what you want backed up.

Vista and XP: Add-On Backup Software
This field is so vast and rich that I wouldn't know where to start, so I'll just make two general comments:
  • You can get anything you want from a third-party, including bootable complete backups, incremental file backups, online backups, whatever.
  • What you can't get is anything wired deeply into XP or Vista that works as reliably and as smoothly as Time Machine.

For years I used Retrospect on Windows, and it ran reliably. I can't say for sure that it would have restored my entire system, because I never tried it. When I spot-checked for files on the backup, they were always there.

Online Backup Services
I dismissed online backup earlier because it wasn't perfect, but that doesn't mean it's not a good idea, especially for your most important data, such as irreplaceable digital images.

A widely-used Apple online backup service comes with .Mac. You use the Backup utility, which I mentioned above.

Unfortunately, in two years of trying I have never gotten Backup to work reliably with .Mac, so I don't recommend it. The problem is that when I set it up it runs OK for a few days, then quits with absolutely no notice whatsoever (other than an obscure log entry in a place I never look), and I have no idea how to get it started again. Most recently, with over 20GB free on my .Mac account, it quit claiming it was out of space. As I mentioned above, I haven't gotten it to back up to DVDs, either.

.Mac also comes with a virtual online disk, called iDisk, which you can read and write like an ordinary disk, only much slower. I have had some success dragging things to iDisk with the Finder. I've also used Transmit to create a droplet that sits on my dock. Any files or folders I drag from the Finder to the droplet go off to iDisk, which is something I do every hour or so when I'm working on an important document.

The online backup service I like the best is Amazon S3. Amazon has designed it to be extremely reliable and available, it's widely supported, and it's very cheap. For example, .Mac costs about $6 per GB per month, but S3 is only 15 cents per GB per month, or 13 times cheaper. S3 also charges a transfer fee of 10 cents per GB in, and a bit more coming out; transfer in is what you'd use for backup. If you transfer 50 GB a month, which is a huge amount to transfer online, that's still only $60 per year. (At DSL speeds it would take about a week to transfer 50GB, assuming the line is doing nothing else and your computer stays up for a week.)

Also, as far as I know, .Mac works only with OS X, whereas S3 works with any system, so you can use it to share files across platforms.

I use S3 in three ways:

  • I use Jungle Disk (available for Windows, OS X, and Linux) to create an S3 virtual drive, and then use the Mac Finder to copy files to that drive.
  • I use Jungle Disk's built-in backup program. I just started this, so don't have any results to report yet.
  • I use a Transmit droplet to copy files to S3 while I work.

There are numerous online backup systems for Windows, but probably none are as cheap as S3.

As I've said, S3, or any online storage, is really convenient for small files. For large amounts of data, it's still a good long-term solution, but it takes a lot of time to upload the data. It's worth it, however, for important data that doesn't change. I have thousands of photos on S3 that are now backed up by Amazon in addition to the backup I keep myself (hard drives and DVDs). But it was very troublesome to get them uploaded. Uploads I start generally freeze or quit after about a day. Then I have to see what got transferred and start another upload. It's taken weeks, with many stops and starts, to get the photos uploaded, and I have many gigabytes of new photos that aren't yet uploaded. An ongoing project. It's possible that Jungle Disk's built-in backup utility would do a better job, but I haven't tested it yet for my photo data.

Dealing With the Threats
So far I've discussed backup principles (independence being the most important), the six threats, and described hardware and software choices. Now I'll discuss more specifically how each of the threats can be dealt with. To make things a bit simpler, I'll group the six threats into three major categories, because several backup methods deal with more than one threat:
  1. User Error, Computer Failure, and Disappearance
  2. Surge
  3. Office Destruction and Regional Disaster
Backup for User Error, Computer Failure, and Disappearance
For desktops that stay connected to lots of things anyway (network, speakers, keyboard, mouse, external drives, iPods), you should attach a large external drive, via FireWire or USB 2.0, and keep it running all the time. If you turn it off you'll forget to turn it on again and you'll miss backups. You don't have to worry about surge or fire, because they're in a different threat category (see below).

One of the best things about keeping an external drive permanently connected and switched on is that backup to it can be completely automatic. For that to work, the backup software has to run automatically as well. Of course, your computer has to be on for the automatic backup to run, which generally means leaving it on all the time.

For a laptop, you'll have to connect it when you want to back it up and then disconnect it. Backups won't be entirely automatic.

If all your data is on your computer's internal disk, it's best to get an external drive that's the same size or bigger and just copy your entire disk to it each night, or, if your have a Mac running OS X 10.5 (Leopard), use Time Machine, which does copy all the data to the drive, but in the form of versions. (It's straightforward but slow to recreate a crashed internal disk from Time Machine. You boot from the Leopard DVD. Here's an article about how to do it.)

If you have several active disks, there are two cases:

  • You can back them up individually with separate backup jobs. This means one backup drive for each active drive, or, perhaps you can fit more than one active drive on a large drive, assuming the backup software allows you to do that.
  • Sometimes one or more external drives contains data that changes rarely, such as an image archive. In this case you might back up such drives only occasionally, or even keep several generations of DVDs instead. Peter Krogh recommends in The DAM Book (DAM stands for Digital Asset Management) that you organize your photos into DVD-sized folders he calls buckets, starting a new bucket when the previous one fills up, and then you can easily copy a bucket to a DVD.

On a Mac, if you don't have Leopard you should use Super Duper to clone the internal disk.

On Windows, there are lots of choices for cloning the internal disks, including Complete PC Backup, which comes with Business, Ultimate, and Enterprise editions of Vista. (But see above for its limitations.)

Other choices for backing up your entire Windows system are Norton Ghost, Retrospect, and Acronis True Image none of which I have tested. (I did use Retrospect for years, but never had to do a restore.)

(31-Jan-2008 update) I've now tried Acronis True Image Home ($37 or so from Amazon), and it seems like a fine program that works well. It can image your main drive, so you can boot directly from the backup, and also back up just the folders you want. It's a much better choice than the backups built into Vista (Complete PC Backup and Back Up Files) because it allows you to verify the backup and restore individual files (without installing VHDmount, which is a pain), and, unlike Back Up Files, it allows you to control exactly what's backed up. It can even send you an email when its finished. There's a 15-day free trial.

Most complete system utilities refresh the backup by only replacing files that have changed. But you don't get to keep previous versions; all you have is the most current complete backup. Also, if the backup fails, you may have nothing, which might mean that you are not backed up at all, which is an unacceptable situation, even for a minute. A practical solution to backup failure, since it's pretty rare, is to put in into the Office Destruction category, which I will discuss shortly. In other words, if the backup fails and the primary disk also fails, you will suffer the pain of recovering from Office Destruction. If that's too much, then take the external backup drive offline once a week (or every other day, or whatever) and replace it with a fresh one, perhaps rotating the drives so you don't have to keep buying new ones.

Backup for Surge
A surge protector is a good idea, but you still have to protect against surge, and that requires that the backup device be completely unplugged. The drive you're using for automatic backup (protection against User Error, Computer Failure, and Disappearance) can't be unplugged, so it doesn't qualify.

If surge is very common in your area (either from power-utility problems or from lightning), you may want to keep a weekly complete backup drive offline, just as you would to protect against both the nightly automatic backup and the main computer failing simultaneously. But, if surge is rare, and especially if you're using a surge protector, you can simply consider surge to be Office Destruction and deal with it that way (next section).

Backup for Office Destruction and Regional Disaster
To protect against these attacks you have to get the backup media offsite, and there are only two ways to do that:
  1. Physically move it offsite, by walking it, driving it, or sending it somewhere else. (Walking it probably won't get it far enough away to protect against Regional Disaster.)
  2. Store the backup online, making sure the online site is very far away. (If you live in a large city you might find out it's in your building. Check that out!)
Both options have severe disadvantages, which is why you can't use them for your nightly automatic backup. Fortunately, both of these severe forms of attack are very rare, so you may be able to afford much longer restore times than you would when recovering from, say, Computer Failure, which is very common. You're going to need the longer time anyway, because you might have to drive across town (in flood waters maybe) to retrieve your backup drive.

The actual backup hardware and software for offsite backup isn't any different from what you use to protect against User Error, Computer Failure, and Disappearance (see above). The difference is the independence you gain by moving the media or device offsite. The problem is that this requires extra work and isn't automated, so it may not happen. It doesn't do any good if an office fire destroys the drive that's been next to the door waiting for somebody to take it away.

I use two drives: One is offsite (at a friend's house, about 20 miles away), and the other is in my office. About once a week I write a new backup to the drive that's at hand, and then I take it with me when I see my friend and swap drives. That way I have at worst a one-week-old backup 20 miles away. (Of course, a one-hour-old backup is online, hidden underneath my desk, but that's to deal with a different group of threats, as I explained above.)

I'm the least qualified person in the world to give anyone advice on how to develop good organizational habits, but here's some advice anyway. These are things I actually manage to do.

  • Designate special drives, at least two, for offsite storage. Don't just use whatever other drives might be available.
  • LaCie makes drives that are bright orange, which I like because if I see them on my desk I know they're not where they belong.
  • Set up easy-to-use computer procedures, possibly even scripts, to populate the drives so you won't have to hassle with various dialog boxes each time. Most backup utilities let you set up a script.
  • Keep the drives in special boxes so you'll know that they have to go. A bare drive is too likely to be mistaken for ordinary office clutter. (My article about this is here.)
  • As soon as you've written the drive, put it in its case and then carry it to your car. That way, even if you forget to take the drive anywhere, it's driving around with you instead of sitting in the same room as the computer. (The data on the drive is, of course, encrypted; see above. (8-Feb-2008 update) I'm not encrypting it now. See the blog article for why. )
  • After you exchange drives, keep the old one near to the computer so it will be handy when it's time to write it, but in a media safe (see above).
Since you're protecting against very rare events, it's not necessary for the offsite drives to contain a complete system backup. I only backup my own folder tree, skipping the OS, application programs, and general preferences and settings. If my office is destroyed or there's a regional disaster, I'm willing to spend a week rebuilding my system. But I am not willing to lose any irreplaceable data.

For active work, I don't want to risk losing a week of data. I keep a USB flash drive near my computer (even in the PC Card slot on my laptop), and write to it as I work. I burn CDs and DVDs and put them in my media safe, or take them to my friend's house. Remember, as long as the media or device is small and not plugged in, you're protected against User Error, Computer Failure, Disappearance, and Surge.

My Backup Plan
I've mentioned various parts of my own backup plan already, but here's the whole plan organized by form of attack. You should organize your own plan that way, too, to ensure that you're covered.
  1. User Error. Occasionally the Windows Recycle Bin or Mac Trash, but mostly by Time Machine, since I do nearly all of my work on OS X. My Vista machine keeps Previous Versions, but so far I've never used them.
  2. Computer Failure. I have Time Machine and a bootable complete backup written every night by Super Duper (temporarily suspended until they get Super Duper working on Leopard). In addition, I write files I'm working on frequently to an external hard drive, to a flash drive, to my web hosting site, and to a Transmit droplet that copies them to online S3 backup.

    Various application programs I use, such as BBEdit and Lightroom, also keep their own backups, which they write to an external drive.

  3. Surge. My computers and external drives are plugged into a Brick Wall surge protector. Other than that, I consider surge a form of Office Destruction.
  4. Disappearance. Loose backup media are kept in several media safes in obscure parts of the house (e.g., a basement shelf hidden by the usual basement junk). My external drives are on a shelf under my desk. (I'm assuming burglars don't read my blog.) I also have a home alarm system, leave the lights and radio on when I'm away, and so on, but I doubt that helps much.

    As I mentioned, when I travel my laptop usually stays connected to my arm or shoulder.

  5. Office Destruction and Regional Disaster. I treat these the same, as Regional Disaster. A copy of all my own files (not OS or applications) is written once a week and exchanged with last week's copy which is kept at a friend's house. I sometimes take DVDs there as well.

    Also, my photographs (most of which are on the hard drives also) are backed up onto Amazon S3 and onto DVDs.

Evaluating Your Backup Plan
Maybe you don't have an explicit plan, but let's call whatever you're doing now your plan. You should consider each of the six threats one-by-one and ask yourself two questions about each:
  1. If the destructive event occurs to your primary computer, will your backup be destroyed?
  2. What would you have to do to restore? Don't forget to consider hardware replacement, too.
If you're currently unprepared for any threats, add backup hardware, software, and procedures to ensure that the threat is covered. You probably can't afford to back up all your data to protect it against the more unusual threats (e.g., regional disaster), but at least the irreplaceable data should be completely protected.

Basepath Main Page

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

The Digital Story: "How I Did It" 3 - Las Vegas Night Traffic

A really good tip on how to use your canon G9 at night by Derrick Story


"How I Did It" 3 - Las Vegas Night Traffic

When I'm in big cities, I try to travel by foot as much as possible. That's when I see the good shots, and if I'm lucky, I come home with one or two.

I was walking back from a dinner meeting in Las Vegas with a Canon G9 and a small Gorillapod tucked away in my jacket pocket. I felt like shooting something, but nothing caught my eye until I climbed a set of stairs for a street overpass and noticed this scene. I wanted the streaming lights of traffic driving by, but I thought they would look best in context with the Las Vegas cityscape.


I mounted the Canon G9 to the Gorillapod and wrapped its legs around the edge of the overpass so I could compose the scene. I made sure the flash was turned off and set the ISO to 80 to control noise. I then went to manual exposure mode, which is very easy to use on the G9, and played with the settings until I saw what I liked on the LCD screen. The exposure was 1.3 seconds at f-2.8. I set the self-timer to anticipate when traffic would begin to move, then pressed the shutter button.

Some of the frames didn't have the right look. But this image has a nice combination of moving lights and stationary objects. So it became my "keeper" for the night.

Photo of Las Vegas traffic by Derrick Story using Canon G9, 1.3 seconds at f-2.8, ISO 80, using manual exposure mode.

The Digital Story: "How I Did It" 3 - Las Vegas Night Traffic

Write your own Guardian News

Brand Republic is reporting that Guardian Unlimited, the most visited UK newspaper online, is set to jump on the social networking bandwagon after striking a deal with Pluck, a provider of social networking platforms. The deal will see Guardian News and Media, which publishes The Guardian and The Observer, roll out tools on its Web properties, enabling users to interact with one another and add content to existing articles.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Lens correction for the G9

Well it would be hard to imagine a camera lens that is free from all optical flaws and cramming lenses into small cameras like the G9 means there is going to be some distortion, chromatic aberration and perspective etc.

If this really bothers you, or you want the best quality why not try a software correction such as PT Lens which supports the G9 which has a ten image trial or buy a licensed version at a bargain price of $15 PTLens also plugs in to Adobe Photoshop

EPaper Press also have very good helpful articles on Monitor Calibration, Actions for Photoshop, Panorama Tools Tutorial and a host more

Friday, 1 February 2008

Bomb threat in Derby

Originally uploaded by Radical_Images

Yesterday there was a bomb threat in Derby and I had my Canon G9 with me. This one was taken with the lens set at Hyperfocal distance set in C2 (custom control) which means it is instantly available to me.

The benefit of this is it means that the lens does not have to auto focus which allows for almost instant shooting. Setting the lens to Hyperfocal distance equates to everything being from about 4 feet to infinity will appear to be sharp, depending on what aperture you use.

This is obviously very useful for street photography, parties, or any other quick focus applications

Friday, 25 January 2008

Reducing Noise with ACR (and Lightroom)

For the G9 at ISO 800, Thomas Niemann (of PTLens fame) has suggested the following settings in ACR Details page: (ACR = Adobe Camera Raw as found in Photoshop CS/Elements and Lightroom)

radius = 0.8
detail = 30
masking = 0

Clarity -25

Noise reduction
luminance = 80
colour = 100

Source: Luminous Landscape forums

These settings can be saved as a preset in ACR and Adobe Lightroom

Canon G9 Vs Leica M8

Canon Powershot G9 Review

Well there is a fun and fascinating non-tech article on Luminous Landscape of one user's experience comparing the G9 ($500) with a Leica M8 ($5,495)

The camera makes, link to DP Review for an in depth look but you do need to read the user's experience

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Banned from owning a camera

A paedophile who took pictures of a boy being abused and distributed them round the world has been banned from owning anything capable of taking photographs.

More information on the BBC

Police seize photographers film

An amateur photographer has told how police seized his film as he was out taking snaps in a Hull shopping centre.

Steve Carroll, of Kent, was visiting relatives in Hull in December when he decided to do some "street photography" in the city's Prospect Centre.

Shoppers reported him to the police, who took his film because he seemed to be operating in "a covert manner".

Mr Carroll lodged a complaint against Humberside Police but an investigation concluded its officers acted correctly.

Officers have common law powers of seizure, a force spokeswoman said.

More on BBC

Monday, 21 January 2008

Street Photography (quick tip)

Did you know that in the old days of using film and a rangefinder, street photographers used to set the lens to a set distance (10 feet for example).

Then when there subject got in range i.e. 10 feet they would click the shutter. sharp and in focus (well almost)

So how do you do that on the G9...

Quite easy; pick a spot where the subject will be the same distance, half press the shutter button and let the auto focus 'lock on' Press the MF (manual focus) button while half pressing the shutter down, the focus is now locked to that distance.

Every time you press the shutter half way down you will see the distance scale with the focus set.

To undo: press the MF button again

(note: this dose not work in the full Auto setting

Quick tips Canon Powershot G9 - PhotoAficionado

tips canon g9Quick tips for the G9
Follow this guide to unleash the Canon G9 full power with more than 20 tips.

I. Neck strap, cards and batteries...

Canon G9 tips wrist strapDon't use the neck strap. Canon provides you with the ultimate "hey-look-at-me-I'm-a-tourist" anti-accessory: the neck strap. Consider using a wrist strap, instead. Attach it to the right (seeing the camera from the back) . You will feel your camera more secure. Bonus tip. Use a wrist strap that may be adjusted so you can safely use the camera without fear of dropping it.

4Gb cards. The 12.1 resolution of the G9 is great, but you will need more space. Use a 4Gb card. Check the writing speed and buy the fastest card you can afford. You'll notice an improvement when shooting, but also when you use a card reader to download your pic's to a computer. If you don't like to put all the eggs on the same basket, buy a couple of 2Gb cards.

Batteries. You'll need all the power you can, specially with the big display on the G9. Buy at least one spare battery; if you plan to travel it won't hurt to have a couple of extra batteries or you'll have to use the tiny optical viewfinder.

polarizerPimp your cam with an adapter

The wide and tele converters are expensive and its usefulness is questionable, at best. But what about the adapter alone? You can Pimp Your Cam with a couple of nice accessories. If you buy the LA-DC58H adapter (or any other compatible adapter for the matter) you can use filters. Using a circular hoodpolarized would be a good move to improve contrast, reduce reflections and your G9 will look extra cool with polarized shades.

If you want a hood for your camera you may buy the LAH-DC20 adapter for the S3/S5 that includes a 58mm hood. Attach it to the G9 with the adapter+polarizer filter and it will match perfectly.

II. Garçon! The Menu, please...

Canon G9 tips shortcut buttonShortcut button. Having a shortcut button is good indeed, since we rarely use the direct print function. We've found that setting the tele converter is quite useful in the shortcut button. In the Camera Menu, press up the 4 ways dial (this way you won't need to scroll down the whole menu items). The "Set shortcut button..." item will appear right up to the "Save setting...". Bonus tip> Two Custom White Balance settings. The G9 has the unique feature of having two custom white balance settings to save in the shortcut button.

The heretic advice: leave it in full auto mode. The G9 is a pure Photo Aficionado dream: a highly customizable camera and that's great, but sometimes you need to take a really quick snapshot of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie joining your neighbor's BBQ (well, maybe not, but...) In such a hurry, you turn on the camera, press the shutter button, and just when you want to share with your friends (or sell the photo to your favorite tabloid) such precious memory (well, almost), you find that your mode dial was set on "M" mode and you have nothing. So, the moral is: always leave your camera in the auto mode... Just in case. You can always choose any other mode later.

Custom timer: always too fast or too slow. Although the Image Stabilization is great, sometimes you need to get extra steady with a tripod. It's really annoying to wait 10 seconds for the auto-timer and even the 2 seconds option may seem too long. Set the auto-timer to 1 second. And, on the contrary, if you're posing for the classic family photo, 10 seconds may seem too fast. You may prefer 20 seconds. To set the self-timer use the camera menu, scroll down to "Custom Timer" and press "set". You can set it up to 30 seconds. Bonus tip. If you are photographing a group of people set the "Shots" setting to 3, so you'll have more shots just in case that aunt Emma wasn't in her finest hour.

Safety Manual Focus. Turn on this option, it is great when shooting with manual focus. Once you set your desired focus, the camera will fine-tune the focus automatically providing you the best of both worlds: you chose where to focus, and the camera provides enhanced precision. Press MENU, scroll down and on "Safety MF" choose ON.

Review Info. Set it to "Focus check" in the MENU to check if the scene is clearly focused. It is great when shooting in low light conditions to verify if even with the image stabilizer everything is sharply focused.

Auto ISO shift. We don't recommend using Auto ISO, but if you like it you can choose Auto ISO shift that is an intelligent ISO changer. It won't crank up the ISO unless the scene really needs it. Since any compact camera will suffer at high ISO sensitivities, this is a great option to maintain the noise under control. Use the Camera Menu and set "Auto ISO Shift" to "button". If the camera detects that a higher ISO level may be better for the scene the shortcut button will light up. Press it and the ISO setting will be automatically set in a higher sensitivity.

Custom display. The G9 has an huge LCD screen. The "Custom Display" item on the Camera Menu will let you choose two different sets of information. You may want an uncluttered display and, on the other you may choose the whole enchilada; in this second case we've found that having the shooting info, grid lines and histogram is a very useful setting.

Protect your LCD monitor. The LCD screen is one of the most important tools in your camera, and it's very prone to scratches and even major accidents. A transparent film made for PDAs will do the trick. It's an inexpensive way to protect your monitor and, if torn, you can replace it immediately.

RAW files are better. One of the reasons there is a G9 in the first place is the ability to capture RAW files. Take advantage of the and use them instead of JPGs, unless you need to print directly from the camera or the memory card, in such cases you may want to use the RAW+JPEG setting.

Canon G9 ISO settings tipsISO Settings. The G9 handles noise a little better than most compact digicams and using RAW files is a must to clean your image in post production. You can leave your camera in ISO 200 confidently instead of being held a prisoner of ISO80 and ISO100 levels. Use ISO 400 with caution and leave ISO 800 for emergencies. ISO 1600 is just in case you want to photograph Elvis descending from an alien spaceship in the middle of the night.

III. Modes

P Mode. It's like driving a car with Tiptronic: don't touch it and everything works automatically, but you can override it any time. The P mode is the Auto mode on steroids. Want to manual focus without worrying for aperture or shutter speed? Need a little bracketing? The P mode is a great starting point to get creative and for quick shots.

Look ma! I'm on Tv! Do you want to capture a waterfall as a silky dream? Set this mode and use 1/15 sec. shutter speed. Want to freeze the action in Junior's softball game? Set it at 1/500 and up; the camera will choose the aperture automatically.

Av and depth of field control. The G9 as any other compact camera captures most scenes with a wide depth of field sharply focused, even at high apertures such as f/2.8. The effect is not as dramatic as with a dSLR but you may choose a high aperture for blurring the background a little or you can use smaller apertures for sharper images. The Av mode is the way to go; just don't expect miracles.

M mode. You are in full command of your cameras capabilities: fear not. The G9 is pretty accurate regarding exposure setting, so just follow the "analog like" indicator of exposure and check your live histogram to have the desired look for your scene.

Canon G9 tipsNot one but two custom modes. Not everyone uses the C mode, and it's a shame. You can save all your settings such as ISO, shutter speed, aperture and you can even save the zoom or manual focus settings. The G9 has two Custom Settings spaces to save your presets. Just adjust your camera to your taste and then choose the list item in the Camera Menu "Save settings..." The next time you want to recall that setting just turn your dial mode to "C1" or "C2".

IV. The FUNC.SET button is magical!

Flash. If you want more natural looking flash photos, then you may reduce a little the flash power. From the FUNC.SET menu choose +/- (Flash) and reduce it. If you want a fill flash when shooting at noon, you may pump up the flash power a little.

Evaluative metering.Most of the time the evaluative metering is the best way to go, yet if you are shooting a contrasty scene the "Spot metering" option is better.

ND Filter. The neutral density filter is pretty good if you want to use slow shutter speeds with high light scenes. If you want the get some motion blur at noon with direct sunlight, chose "ND filter on"

My Colours. If you are using JPG, there is a very useful setting buried in the FUNC.SET button, select "custom colour". When you see the "My Colours Off" option press the left button on the 4-way selector, then press "DISPLAY" (odd, isn't it?) and you'll find the El Dorado: contrast, sharpness, saturation and even red, green, blue and skin tone to be adjusted at your pleasure. These settings are so good that it should be illegal to give them for free (just kidding!) :
- Leica style setting: Contrast +2, Sharpness+2
- Sharp and saturated: Sharpness+2, Saturation +1
- Portraits in gardens: sometimes the foliage gets too much attention, set Green-1
- Landscapes: You may want more saturated skies and foliage: Green+1, Blue+1 (you can even set Blue+2 if the scene is too contrasty).

IV. Derge's Tips

Benjamin Derge shares these extra tips with us (check his photostream >>here)

Auto-White Balance is sometimes wrong. Let the camera know if you're out on a sunny day. Your greens will be greener. If you're taking pictures indoors, set the white balance to tungsten. If all else fails, use the custom white balance by pointing the camera at something white and pressing the Menu button.

Shoot the moon. If you'd like a picture of the moon, set the light metering to Spot and keep your subject between the white bars. You may need to underexpose the picture by a few steps to get full detail. Spot metering also works when you're trying to capture a silhouette. Keep the white bars on the light source behind the subject.

You can use the G9 as an audio recorder. And it has a pretty good mic, too. You can get to the audio recorder in the play mode pressing the "MIC/ASTERISK" button top right. Then start recording with the FUNC./SET You can use a wind filter in the PLAY MENU in "Audio..."

You can upload your own sound effects to the Camera. Link the camera with your computer, then select the 'Set to Camera' tab in CameraWindow and click on 'Set My Camera'. You'll be able to upload (and download) sound clips and menu pictures, which you can select between later when you're using the camera.

Source: Quick tips Canon Powershot G9 - PhotoAficionado

Digital Lo-Fi

digital low fidelityDigital Lo-Fi
A basic guide for Low Fidelity Photography

Cameras are more sophisticated every day: better sensors, improved auto-white balance systems, optical image stabilizers... the list goes on an on. What's the reason for such improvements? To obtain the best possible image quality. But, what happens when some guys with a brilliant idea discover that cheap toy-cameras with awful plastic lenses and light leaks may produce incredibly beautiful photos? The result is a fever for Low-Fidelity Photography.

What's Lo-Fi?

holgaOf course you can buy a Holga camera an start taking low fidelity photos. Although the idea is very nice, there are some disadvantages: first, the Holga is a medium format camera, meaning that you can't use 35mm films but medium format films, second, you'll need a trip to a professional laboratory (the average laboratory won't handle medium format film); third, it is a film camera, so you will need to return from the lab to see the results. Since many photographers prefer the digital approach a new question arises: "how can you achieve Lo-Fi look in the digital realm"? To answer that question the net is flooded with this Lo-Fi trend: from forums to photo sharing sites (and now even PhotoAficionado.com) there is a quest to obtain this images that are both magical and beautiful.

There are many ways to achieve the Lo-Fi look, and this article is to give you some ideas to shoot some gorgeous lo-fi photos. But before that, there is an important question that needs an answer: Why are this images beautiful? How can a cheap plastic camera produce such results?

If you have visited PhotoAficionado.com you already know our Physics expert Dr. Otto A. Fishonado. Let us introduce to you doctor's brother, Arthur. Art is a bohemian, bongo extraordinaire (unemployed, obviously) and visual arts expert. Meet Mr. Arthur A. Fishonado, or simply "Art".

Those Austrian guys...

art a fishonado

"I want to tell you some facts about Lo-Fi to answer most of the questions to understand this trend. Everything began with some guys at Austria that realized the magic of Lomo, some cheap plastic soviet-made cameras. They created a concept they called Lomography that "emphasizes casual, snapshot photography. Characteristics such as over-saturated colors, off-kilter exposure, blurring, "happy accidents," and alternative film processing are often considered part of the "Lomographic Technique."*

The "Lomography" concept was pretty successful. Some critics raised an eyebrow and said that the "Lomography" concept was a cheap trick to make money. Well, maybe it was a trick, but not a cheap one since these guys made a lot of money. We prefer to use the term "lo-fi-" from Low-Fidelity instead of Lomography because in theory a Lomography should only be a photograph made with a Lomo brand camera, and it is possible to have this distinctive look with other legendary plastic-toy-cheap-cameras such as the Holga or the Diana and even with digital cameras. So we call it "Lo-Fi".

Art A. Fishonado. Bongo extraordinaire; the black sheep of the Fishonado family. His brother, the scientist Dr. Otto A. Fishonado is particularly ashamed of this eccentric character.

But the rage of the critics is right about bad photos: a bad photo is a bad photo anywhere, even if it was done with a professional camera and with a breath-taking lens. If it has poor framing, if it is vulgar in any sense, it will be a bad photo.

The second criticism is that Lo-Fi is nothing new, but good old expressionism.

In case you were asleep in your Visual Arts class at high-school (as you did in the Physics class -hey! what class did you actually attend?), let's remember a little about Realism and Expressionism.

Realism vs. Expressionism

In Realism, the artist is concerned to depict or describe accurately and objectively the subject at hand. Before the camera arrived, painters tried to copy reality with their paintings. That was solved when the photographic camera arrived. But even before the arrival of photography, some painters such as El Greco rejected traditional ideas of beauty or harmony and use distortion, exaggeration, and other non naturalistic devices in order to emphasize and express the inner world of emotion. Painters such as Edvard Munch insisted on the primacy of the artist's feelings and mood, often incorporating violence and the grotesque.

Jean August Dominique Ingres was a french neo-classical painter. He painted the Princess De Broglie portrait in 1853; it is a good example of painting in a realist way. There were some hyper-realist painters that created a technique called tromp d'oeil (cheat the eye) to recreated a subject exactly as it is.

On the other hand there is Expressionism. At the right you can see the famous painting "The Scream" by Edvard Munch (1893).

The Ingres' painting is a copy of the reality: the fabric, light, the princess' skin... It looks just like the subject (even more, it is -in fact- an idealization of reality).

Princesse Joséphine-Eléonore-Marie-Pauline de Galard de Brassac de Béarn, by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1853)
The Scream by Edvard Munch (1893)

But Munch's subject didn't have a beautiful skin or an impressive technique to copy the exact likeness of the subject's clothes: "The Scream" is focused on the texture that transmits a message of desperation and despair.

With "The Scream" Munch didn't want to depict reality in an objective approach, but rather the subjective emotions and responses that objects and events arouse in him. He accomplishes his aim through distortion, exaggeration, primitivism, and fantasy and through the vivid, jarring, violent, or dynamic application of formal elements.** Nazis forbid expressionism; they branded the work of almost all Expressionists as degenerate and forbade them to exhibit or publish and eventually even to work. Many Expressionists went into exile in the US and other countries.

Now, back to photography: if you are a coin collector and you need your collection to be photographed, you won't allow the photographer to use violent, primitive or exaggerate techniques; the size, color and design must look exactly as the subject. But think in this: what if you want to photograph a coin to show the degradation of society because of money? What if you want to show how much you hate materialism and a symbol of it such as a coin? Then you may want to use violent, primitive or exaggerate techniques. On the other hand, you don't need to be angry with money or a coin; you may just use the little coin as a subject seen with a different eye and you may want to emphasize the color, shape, etcetera.

An expressionist painting or photograph may be beautiful because it is organic, full of feelings and movement. Realistic images are nice, but tedious for some people. And that's why the Lo-Fi techniques are so appealing to a wide audience. The Ingres' painting may be beautiful but it also a little boring, yet the Munch's painting communicates many messages and you can see it over and over and over. Wich one is better? Realism or expressionism? In art there is no such thing as good or wrong.

It is like a font: you may have Comic Sans and it is not better than Edwardian. But maybe you won't choose Comic Sans for a presidential campaign or Edwardian for a Kindergarten.

So, there's no such thing as a good or bad font, it all depends on the function of each font."

That's it for Art A. Fishonado. Thanks, pal!

Digital Lo-Fi

Maybe you don't want to be an Expressionist photographer and also very probably these photos above do not seek to communicate an emotion. You may like the Lo-Fi look just because it changes everyday subject in extraordinary forms, lights and shadows. These photos were taken with a G9, a S5 IS and a SD 800 IS cameras, not with a Lomo, Diana or Holga cameras, yet these shots have all the classic lo-fi look: vignetting, strong contrast, very vivid colors. Although many photographers try to achieve the Lo-Fi look with PhotoShop, we tried a different approach.

4 steps for lo-fi photography

Choosing the camera

We used three different cameras for this article: a Canon G9 and a Canon S5 because both are fully manual cameras. We chose the Canon SD800 IS because our camera has an optical defect and images tend to be softer. Our new SD870 IS overcomes such problem but, hey! Lo-Fi is not about perfect optics! So we chose the SD800.

Using filters

Here you can buy the filters we used in this article. Check also our Lo-Fi Department at the PhotoAficionado Store.

To achieve this look we used a set of filters for a Holga camera. They are cheap in every sense, both in price and quality and that's exactly what we needed.

The set of filters that we employed has blue, orange, green and red plastic filters. There is a yellow filter with a round transparent hole in the center. The set has transparent prism-like split-image lenses that are great to achieve the multi-image look and, finally, we used a Tunnel Vision adapter for an ultra-wide angle look.

If you want to save forty bucks, instead of the filters, you may also try a cellophane for candy wrapping as a filter or any other way to filter light and to achieve a texture, although you won't have the split-images.


s5 and sd800

These filters distort the image and the optical quality is subpar: just what we were looking for.

It's not the most scientific approach but it works: just hold with your left hand a couple of color filters plus a split-image lens and put it on the front of the camera. The Tunnel Vision adapter works great in a smaller lens such as the one on the SD800.

The G9 with split image lens set and an orange filter.
The S5IS with perforated split-image lens set and filters.
Ultra compact cameras are great to use the Tunnel Vision adapter.


This filters work well with compact cameras but not that well with dSLRs.

The advantage of using filters instead of just PhotoShop is that the final look is way better since the original image has true analogic defects and variations. But you can also use PhotoShop in post production.

Setting the camera

Putting a filter between the lens and the subject is just half of the trick. Since new cameras have so many ways to correct the image it is just exactly the opposite of what we need.


White Balance

The in-camera auto white balance is a pain on the neck for Lo-Fi photo, because the camera will compensate the color of the filter. To achieve a Lo-Fi look you'll have to change the white balance settings. Choose a different white balance setting depending on the kind of look and the particular filter that you intend to use. Shooting RAW with G9 helps. E.g. if you are using a yellow filter, set the white balance to "Cloudy", if you use a blue filter set it to "Tungsten".

is off

No image stabilization

Well, we always say that it is great to have IS technology, but this time you'll have to turn it off. We don't want perfectly sharp images, so the camera shake will provide an extra sense of movement.


It's great to have high ISO sensitivities

We always say that compact cameras are awful at high ISO numbers, and it is true in the realistic realm, but with Lo-Fi you can crank up the ISO sensitivity and take advantage of the grainy luminance noise. At ISO 1600 you'll have a lot of grain, and you may want to use something less extreme but already distorted, such as ISO 800.


Exposure compensation

Having manual control is great for this kind of shooting. Lo-Fi images may be under or over exposed and it is an essential part of the look. You can control exposure in a full manual camera. Check our article on using the manual mode >> here. If you are using a fully automatic camera such as the SD800, then you should change with exposure compensation. It is better to under expose because once you over expose the details are lost forever, and under exposing is better because there is more information retained. You can always change the exposure on post production.

Framing and designing

We are right in the middle of the road. You have your super filters in one hand, the camera on the other and everything is ready to begin the Low Fidelity Safari. And now, what?

As we said at the beginning, a bad photo is a bad photo anywhere. You must pay extra attention to your Lo-Fi photos because they may end being bad photos badly exposed and awfully looking. What should you look for?

-Strong contrast. It looks great in Lo-Fi, look for silhouettes in back light conditions.

- A clear point of interest. Although those Austrian guys will tell you that leave everything to surprise don't do it. Yes, feel free to experiment, but also try to have a clear point of interest in your frame and don't hesitate to use basic framing techniques such as the rule of thirds.

- Over exposure. Lo-Fi photos may be over exposed or with light leaks. If you have a defective A650 IS that has a light leak don't take your camera to Canon, instead make it a Lo-Fi device ;-)

- Nothing is ordinary. Look around and check the local scene. Even your feet may be a good subject.

- Bold shapes. If the image has a lot of noise and it is under exposed, a simple and bold shape will be more efficient than a crowded scene.

- Dynamic compositions. If you use a split-image lens try to make dynamic composition with diagonals. Check our feature >>Night at the Museum to learn many different ways to frame your photos.

- Experiment! Try different combinations of filter and lenses, some will work great, some won't. It depends on you.

adobe lightroomPost production

Everything is Lo-Fi in our set of photos. Now, it's time to enhance our images a little. You can use any image editing software. We used LightZone and LightRoom. Change the following settings:
-White balance. Decide what color will be dominant at the photo and choose a white balance setting to enhance it.

-Noise. It's OK to have luminance noise, but chroma noise looks bad even in Lo-Fi photos. Unless you want to use image's chromatic noise creatively, try to eliminate chroma noise. Leave luminance noise untouched.
-Saturation. Most Lo-Fi photos will look even more lo-fi if you crank up a bit the color. You can go extreme, but also images tend to lose their original look, so experiment and check what suits you best.
-Contrast. Lo-Fi cameras tend to produce highly contrasted images. Change curves and go really low on blacks and really high on highlights
-Vignetting. This setting will provide you with darker corners, a signature of Lo-Fi cameras. Don't be shy with this slider.
-Too much of anything is too much. You can be extreme with the sliders, but we prefer to go easy on them. A little touch in post production is spicy; too much post production and your images will look fake and plasticky. If you want a fake and plasticky look don't be shy with those sliders then.

4 steps for lo-fi photography

And... violá!

Check out our >> Lo-Fi gallery. Check the cameras we used and also try to figure out how we achieved each particular look.


>> Lo-Fi gallery here

Source: Digital Lo-Fi on PhotoAficonado