My Photography Field Techniques (In Gruesome Detail)

As I may have mentioned, I take a LOT of photos. Since I haven’t yet found a good (by my definition) photo filing & tagging program, I file my photos manually, sorted into directories by year, by date, by event, and by camera used.

For example, looking at my directories for a day in Shanghai:

  1. 2012-05-17a_Shanghai_Dawn
  2. 2012-05-17b_Shanghai_Dawn
  3. 2012-05-17c_Shanghai_Hotel
  4. 2012-05-17d_Shanghai_International_High_School
  5. 2012-05-17e_Shanghai_International_High_School
  6. 2012-05-17f_Shanghai_International_High_School
  7. 2012_05_17g_Shanghai_Oldtown
  8. 2012_05_17h_Shanghai_Oldtown
  9. 2012_05_17i_Shanghai_Miscellaneous

The date (and the directories before and after it in the list, for 2012-05-16 and 2012-05-18 and so on) tell me that it was my first full day in Shanghai. For the record, I was jet lagged as hell. It was also the first day of my first trip to Asia, as well as the first time I had seen my daughter in a while. I had enough adrenaline to light the city.

I was using three cameras extensively that day. I used the two Canon DSLRs (one with a standard 18-55 mm lens, the other with a 70-300 mm zoon lens) when I got up before dawn (jet lagged! adrenaline!) and took pictures. (Directories #1 and #2.) While waiting for my daughter to come and get me, I wandered around the hotel taking pictures. (Directory #3 – it was no Holiday Inn!) While my daughter was at work (she was teaching) I wandered the grounds of the high school using the two DSLRs and my backup point-and-shoot, a rugged, waterproof Olympus Stylus. (Directories #4, #5, and #6.)

I use the Stylus because it’s got a decent image and it’s one tough little camera. I originally got it when I was going white-water rafting, but I use it everywhere.

Why take the Stylus when I’ve got two DSLRs with me? Because I’ve had cameras fail. I’ve had memory cards fail. I’ve had cameras stolen. I’ve had backpacks and briefcases stolen when they had full memory cards stashed away inside. A couple of our vacations are only half there in photos, hundreds or thousands of photos gone. As a result, I’m just a bit obsessed with multiple backup systems.

I almost always carry the two DSLRs, each with a different lens so I can quickly and easily get both wide-angle and telephoto pictures. I use the Stylus as a backup to the DSLRs. At a given location or scene I may take dozens of pictures with the DSLRs, but only one or two with the Stylus. But in a worst case scenario, with both DSLRs gone (stolen, broken in an accident, dropped into the ocean, stepped on by an elephant, eaten by alien LGMs…) I’ll still have at least one set of pictures, even if it is a truncated set.

Moving on…

After my daughter got out of work we went to Oldtown to see the sights and get dinner. Again, I was using the two DSLRs. (Directories #7 and #8.)

Finally, for somewhat completely different reasons, my fourth camera is my iPhone. The miscellaneous pictures taken from the entire day go into Directory #9.

The biggest advantage to the iPhone is the ability to use the pictures immediately. (OK, so it also serves as a backup to the backup if the Stylus gets crushed by an elephant after the two DSLRs are eaten by alien LGMs.) With the DSLRs and Olympus, I can’t really share via email / text / FaceBook / Twitter until I get back to the hotel and download the images onto my laptop. Photos on the iPhone can go out in seconds.

That’s really a big deal at events such as the NASA Socials. All of the social media photos and “snapshots” come from the iPhone because they’re instantaneous. The (generally) higher quality photos (particularly telephoto images) come out of the DSLRs and the Olympus.

The newer iPhone has a number of other great features, particularly the “panorama” feature. Again, as I’ve pointed out, panoramas created by weaving together multiple high-resolution images from a DSLR are bigger and more detailed than one from the iPhone – but again, the iPhone panorama is fast and it can get shared and go out onto social media immediately. Trade offs!

So far as security & backups go, the other step I take on a daily basis (assuming I’m not getting back to the room at 3:00 AM or something, which can happen) is to backup all of my images each day from all four cameras onto my laptop. If I’ve got a really good, high speed internet connection at the hotel (which I did NOT in Washington) and I’m really, really, REALLY paranoid (maybe I got excellent pictures of the alien LGMs eating one camera while an elephant crushed another), I’ll upload them to Dropbox or iCloud. Let’s see those little alien bastards eat the entire internet!

The observant among you might be wondering if I have a fifth camera when I’m in full sightseeing mode. Well, yes, of course I do. I generally carry a compact hi-def video camera (also a Canon), but I (at least so far) haven’t done a lot with using or sharing any of the video I’ve shot. I’m sure that day will come. And of course, being hi-def, I can do frame grabs and get decent still images if the two DSLRs, Stylus, and iPhone… Well, you know.

So, there you have it. That’s how I take a lot of pictures.


But that’s not what I wanted to post tonight. I told you that story so that I can tell you this one…


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