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Clearing Blizzard, Tunnel View, Yosemite

Posted by
Gary Hart (California, United States) on 24 June 2010 in Landscape & Rural and Portfolio.

I've been trying to catch up on processing my recent images, but a hard disk crash earlier this week forced me to reach back into the archives for today's image. I stood for two hours in a white-out blizzard (with no guarantee of anything) waiting for the storm to clear. And clear it did, just 30 minutes before sunset. Next to me for that entire wait was another pro photographer I'd never met--we started chatting and really hit it off, so when the show was over we exchanged contact information and promises to stay in touch. Aminus3 members know this photographer as Don Smith, a great friend, great photographer, and great workshop partner who assists many of my workshops, and I assist most of his.


A few words about backups

On Sunday I'll post another image from this evening, an almost identical composition taken about 15 minutes later, to show you how much things can change in a very short period. I'll return my discussion to photography then, but this disk failure is a great reminder that a regular, redundant, and automatic back-up scheme is an essential component of a successful photography business or hobby.

Here's a fact: Every hard disk will eventually fail. Disk failures usually happen without warning, and never at a convenient time. When a crash happens, the difference between inconvenience and catastrophe is largely a function of your backup system. At the risk of dating myself, let me just say that I've been a computer owner since before computers came equipped with hard disks (Let's have a show of hands--how many remember Kaypro and CP/M?). While I've been fortunate to avoid a crash until this week, before professional photography I spent many years in the computer industry and witnessed firsthand the tragedies (and I don't use that word lightly) of a hard disk crash. The failure I remember most is the guy who lost every word of a novel he'd been working on for years. For him, a simple daily backup would have made all the difference in the world.

But merely having a single backup on an external hard drive sitting next to your desktop, no matter how current, is no cause for comfort. Thieves, fire, flood--there are many reasons to have at least one offsite backup in addition to your primary backup. A few years ago Francis Ford Coppola lost 15 years worth of data (including a script for a movie that was about to start shooting, and countless family photos) when thieves broke into his home and stole his computer and all his external hard disks which were (quite conveniently) sitting right next to the computer.

Fortunately, my own story has a much happier ending. Monday evening I walked into my office and found that my computer had unexpectedly shut down. When repeated attempts to restart it failed, I made a service appointment at the Apple Store for Tuesday morning and enjoyed a quiet evening free of Internet and e-mail. My appointment was for 11 a.m., and by 11:05 the problem had been diagnosed as a failed hard drive. Even though I was nearly a full year beyond my warranty, the technician told me there would be no charge to replace the disk. Because my most important data synchs to my laptop, I was able to accomplish essential tasks until the technician called Tuesday night to say my computer was ready. I picked it up Wednesday morning, reconnected everything at home, fired it up, and answered "Yes" when asked whether I wanted to recover my data from my Time Machine (an auto backup program that's part of Mac OS X) backup. I walked to Starbucks with my laptop and returned two hours later to find my computer exactly as it was before the failure: same programs, same data, same settings--if I hadn't experienced the failure myself, I'd have never known anything happened.

I don't want to get into the whole Apple/Windows debate (both are fine systems, and they use the same hardware, so the likelihood of failure is identical), but my Apple service desk and Time Machine recovery experience sure made me feel good about my switch to Apple.

Regardless of your computing platform, do yourself a favor and right now make sure at the very least that your data backup is current and automatic. If you're on a Mac there's no excuse for not using Time Machine (unless you have something else automatically backing up your system)--it backs up everything--data, programs, system settings--and is so easy to set up that you don't need to be technical to do it. And if you're on Windows, take advantage of one of the many automatic, easy, and inexpensive backup programs (most external hard disks come with decent backup software) available (unless Windows 7 offers something).

As soon as you have your primary backup in place, come up with a plan for regular offsite backups. If you're disciplined, you can backup to DVDs or external hard disks and transport them to another location (office, friend's house, safe deposit box, etc.) yourself. I use an Internet backup service called Backblaze (there are others). It's easy, automatic, inexpensive ($5/month), secure, and (like all online backup solutions) really slow. It took four months to backup my terabyte of data, but it happened entirely in the background without affecting my Internet or system performance. And with the initial backup complete, Backblaze continues backing up any change automatically and pretty much instantly. Backblaze is my backup of last resort; unless I have a theft, fire, or flood I'll probably never use it. But $60/year is a small price to pay for the peace of mind it buys.

The moral of this story isn't to suggest that you duplicate my approach; it's to suggest that you implement a backup plan that works for you. Whatever you end up with, just remember: regular, redundant (including offsite), and automatic. Okay, I return you now to your regular programming....

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Thanks for visiting. Even if I don't respond, your comments are always read and appreciated.

KriKridesign from Cully, Switzerland

Brrr...stunning place...stuinning light!

24 Jun 2010 6:41am

Tamara from Aarschot, Belgium

You're completely right Gary... we will never be careful enough concerning backups. I'm also a Mac user (but I don't have Time-machine atm). I'm using an external hard disk, and I'm doing backups as much as I can. So I hope both hard disk won't crash at the same time ! Glad to hear you were able to recuperate everything in a safe way !
Beautiful tones again in this capture ! A very nice composition too ! Have a great day :)

24 Jun 2010 8:19am

Vaido from Võrumaa, Estonia

Excellent contrast between front and back, great moment in nature.

24 Jun 2010 10:36am

Philip from South Wales, United Kingdom

The scene is a wonderful landscape but even more remarkable is your control of light that ensures shadow/highlight is consistent from foreground to background. Oh and yes, I'm off to ack up my photos taken over the last few months!!

24 Jun 2010 11:52am

Daniel from Kenmare, United States

dramatic light.

24 Jun 2010 12:50pm

Doug Otto from Carmichael, United States

Great light Gary. Clearly, someone gave you some great advice regarding your backup strategy.


24 Jun 2010 2:15pm

@Doug Otto: Doing 15 years of tech support and spending 5 years at Intel, you'd figure I'd learn something. And thanks for the Backblaze tip (I just hope I never need it).

Dulcie from Danville, CA, United States

This is an extraordinary image, to my view. The contrast and harmony of the warmth of the sun and the cold cold snow-covered trees is a delicious combination, captured, as always, with your skillful hands.

24 Jun 2010 4:52pm

john4jack from Corvallis, Oregon, United States

Exquisite light. Love the dark sky.

24 Jun 2010 5:09pm

Don Smith from California, United States

OK Gary and Doug, you have convinced me to get going with Backblaze - $60 per year and great piece of mind - can't beat it. BTW - can't believe that this image was captured five years ago. That was one of those meetings that was just meant to be!

24 Jun 2010 5:43pm

alex centrella from California, United States

stunning catch !

24 Jun 2010 6:04pm

Tracy from La Selva Beach, United States

Beautiful image, and great story about meeting Don! Thanks for the reminder of how important it is to do back-ups....I need to be better about it !! (I do remember the old computer days! I spent a few years at Seagate, when the drives weighed about 25lbs and were the size of a breadbox!)

24 Jun 2010 7:24pm

PD from Overland Park, Kansas, United States

Great stories (both the photo story and the disk crash story). I'm glad your crash had a happy ending.
Nice photo by the way with interesting light.

24 Jun 2010 9:29pm

Dianne Poinski from Sacramento, United States

Beautiful image Gary and a great reminder about backing up. In addition to an external hard drive, I just signed up with an online backup service as well. My crises came last year when my external crashed and I found out my Quicken was actually being run through the external, not my C drive. I lost 6 months of financial records. While I thought I was backing it up - all the information was on the same drive. I now back up my Quicken online (I did this before I decided to have a complete backup off site and online).
Thanks again.

24 Jun 2010 11:05pm

Wild Mustang Photography from Carlisle, United States

Stunning! 5*****!

25 Jun 2010 1:21am

DarkElf from Perth, Australia

wonderful photo with an amazing transition of light and colours - from greys below, to warm illuminated mountains to dark clouds above! you have done really well to control such varied lighting in this frame! i agree about backing up your data - i keep about three separate copies of all my photos at different location each!

25 Jun 2010 3:42am

steve loos from hollister, United States

Backup, backup, backup; I have been using on-line backup for mission critical data for several years. Runs at night or in the background. $50 per year gets you 150gb at many places.
Thanks for sharing the story of you and Don meeting Gary, and beautiful photograph!

25 Jun 2010 6:17am

KriKridesign from Cully, Switzerland

Thank you, Gary, for sharing this story...I Know this is a good idea...and my backup is now going on line....

25 Jun 2010 6:46am

Vitor Martins from Lisboa, Portugal

For me tis a superb image. I like everithing on it.

25 Jun 2010 4:15pm

Julie Brown from Indianapolis, United States

This image almost looks black and white, until you get to the light on the rocks and sky. How fortunate for us workshop participants that you and Don became friends!

Thanks for that story and reminder to back up. I have been taking too much for granted!

25 Jun 2010 4:47pm

Shelle from Washington State, United States

Thank you for the info on your crash...Yikes. I too use time machine and with my Aperture 3 I have two external drives for back up of my images (I use the vault system). Your timing of the article is perfect in that I have been thinking of taking one of the externals to work. Bringing it home once a week to back up.

Oh..the image is absolutely wonderful. Thanks.

25 Jun 2010 5:25pm

Sharon E. Norris from United States

Beautiful photograph truely love your work

27 Jun 2010 1:23am

Didier DE ZAN from somewhere, France

Wondeful , with this partial lighting on the mountains

11 Jul 2010 9:55am

Marie from FRESNES, France

j'aime beaucoup ce paysage contrasté.

11 Jul 2010 5:51pm