animals, bird, gear, nature, photography, review, technic, travel, wildlife, world

A special head for wildlife photographer

In the past I wrote about tripods. A tripod always has a head to mount your camera on. There are many discussions, what kind of head is the best: ball-head, one-way tilt head, two-way tilt head, and three-way tilt head.

Some tripods came with a certain head attached to the middle-column which is not replaceable while other come with replaceable heads or even without a head, where you have to buy one on your own choice.

The head of my old tripod wasn’t replaceable while my new one came with a replaceable ball head. My monopod came with a replaceable 1-way tilt head.

For wildlife photography these heads are not really helpful. The tilt heads are not fast enough to follow the animals and the ball head can’t be fixed fast enough to be a stable ground. Therefore I have a gimbal. I simply dismount the head from either my tripod or my monopod and attach the gimbal instead. Because of the design, the gimbal is quite stable but I can move it around very fast, if needed.

When sitting in a hide where I have enough room to set-up a tripod, I mount the gimbal on top instead of the ball head. When I want to move around in the field or wait in a tiny hide, the gimbal will be mounted on the of the monopod. Both work very well.

My gimbal is made of aluminum and weighs about 1 kg. It’s 19.5 * 7.5 * 21 cm ( 7.7 * 3.0 * 8.3in). It has the correct screw thread (3/8 “) to attach it directly on most of the tripods and monopod with detachable heads. The plate to mount the camera follows the arca-swiss standard.  So, if you already have such a plate, it will fit here too, if not, never mind, the gimbal brings one. There are also some long tele lenses around where the lens mount flange is also fitting in an arca-swiss mount without a separate plate. According to the manufacturer’s specifications, the gimbal should be able to carry gear up to 18 kg (39.7lbs).

The heaviest lens I used a couple of times weighed about 5 kg. When adding my camera there was about 6,2 kg attached to the gimbal, resulting in about 7.3 kg to carry for my tripod. 

To mount such heavy gear to the gimbal needs some fine adjustment to distribute the weight equally. That’s why the lens mount flange is below the lens and the flange is that long. Even when the screw on the top left side is loosened the camera and lens have to be in balance. Now, you tighten the screw a little bit, that you can still move the camera easily up and down but it does not have to swing back automatically. The same for the horizontal turning.


I own this gimbal for about 3 years and I’m very happy with it. Compared to the standard heads, this is really a game-changer, also for the monopod. In my other post, you can read about me first struggling a bit when using the monopod. The gimbal helped me out a lot.

 

When I got the gimbal, it was quite hard to move the swing, but after a short time, the oil inside became softer and the swing was easier to swing up and down.

Take care!

 

 

Computer, macOS, review, software

Gemini 2 by MacPaw (review and ad)

Recently, I reviewed another software: Gemini 2. You know, as a sign of the zodiac Gemini is the sign for twin and that seems to be the reason for the name.

Each owner of a computer knows the problem of constantly shrinking free space on the internal disk. Not only new files occupy the precious disk space, but also duplicate files are consuming space. Gemini 2 should help one to reclaim the space occupied by unnecessary doublets.

After starting the program it asks for permission to your user folder and then starts scanning for doublets

When finished it presents a summary slide showing how much space probably could be reclaimed.

But, don’t trust this! Check the found doublets very carefully which one of the doublets could be deleted without causing problems. It scans the folders as well as your iTunes-library and the photo-mediathek. So, it finds i.e. photos exported from your photo-mediathek to the disk, when they are still in the mediathek as well.

Just in case, you want to try it on your own computer, there’s a free trial version available.

Take care!

Computer, gear, Linux, macOS, photography, review, software, technical, Windows

How to recover lost files – a software review (ad because of naming a product)

Photographers nowadays need solid IT skills for their job. How to run a computer. How to install, update and uninstall software. How to do backups. Know your operating system (Windows, MacOS, Linux) and the relevant file-systems. Each photographer hoards huge piles of valuable data (the images) on his or her computer disks. They need a strategy to recover the images after a disaster i.e. computer theft, hard disk failures or SSD corruptions (you know, each cell in flash storage has a limited lifetime because the cells die after a certain number of write cycles).  Sometimes one is faced with an empty storage card because of an unintentional re-formatting. So, what can you do?

 

The basics

First of all, be prepared! Here you can find information on how to recover such lost files. Get the necessary software now and practice with test data to know the steps when it comes to such a disaster.

In the past, Microsoft brought us FAT as the filesystem. In 1977 it appeared first in MS-DOS. Since then it was developed further and got more features. Because of the ease of organizing data (especially when it comes to sequential writes), it’s still popular for storage cards used by smartphones and cameras.

The computers itself use usually more sophisticated filesystems like NTFS, HPFS, HFS, HFS+, APFS, ext2, ext3, ext4, xfs, btrfs and more. Unfortunately, these modern filesystems are organizing data very differently to FAT and its ascendants like vFAT, exFAT or FAT32. So, recovery data from disks using one of the modern filesystems looks like a game of hazard or spinning a huge wheel of fortune where only one winning chance is set randomly. When using data recovery software you might have luck recovering recently deleted files. On FAT the chance is much higher because of the different principles the data is organized.

Now you might remember having read some reports of found data on thrown-away disks. Yes, that’s true. Forensics are able to recover the blocks of destroyed disks and scratch tiny pieces of data from the disk and reassemble it. Data is organized in blocks. The size of each block is about 512 or 2048 byte, depending on the used filesystem. For getting information like names, account data, credit card information or so, that’s enough. But, look at your images. Each image uses several MB on the disk. To recover your image, it’s a necessity to have ALL blocks and they must be in the right order. A single corrupt byte is tolerable but a couple of bytes can result in a complete loss.

In more than 20 years of handling digital photos, I never lost a complete card. But, 2 or 3 times I deleted a couple of files from the cards unintentionally. In the past, photorec was the tool of my choice. It’s an open-source tool. You can download and use it for free. But, you have to understand, how it works.

First, you have to avoid any further writings on the disk from where you want to recover data. That’s essential for successfully recover files.

 

Photorec (part of the open-source product testdisk)

The installation of photorec is easy. Linux users can install it usually by using their packet manager, while Windows users need to download it from the developer’s homepage and unpack the zip-file. MacOS users can install it via brew

$ brew install testdisk

Now you open a console (Terminal on Mac or Linux, and CMD on Windows). Next, you start photorec by telling it, where to search

MacOS / OS X

$ photorec /Volume/SD-card (or whatever name the card has)

Linux

# photorec /media/SD-card (or whatever name the card has; mountpoint also might vary i.e. /mnt/)

Windows

C:\> photorec d: (or whatever drivename the device has, where you want to recover files. Check it with the Windows Exporer)

If photorec recognizes an already started recovery, it asks you if you want to continue the session or start a new one. Next, it tries to read the directory and offers you to browse where the lost data was stored. Photorec can recover several types of data, not only jpg images. It can also recover lost partitions, if necessary. But that’s beyond the subject of this post.

When you’re fine with the position, photorec needs a location on a different disk to copy the recovered data to. After that, it only needs time.

FAT filesystems don’t delete the data on the disk when files are deleted. Instead, only the first letter of the filename in the directory is replaced by a ‘?’ which makes the file invisible and marks the occupied space as reusable. So, the magic is, photorec reads the directory and scans for filenames starting with ‘?’. Then it looks up each filename and checks based on the location information (block numbers) stored along with the filename if the relevant file is completely available (all blocks from the chain of blocks ’til the end-of-file mark). If so, the blocks are copied to the chosen target destination. But, the filename is lost. Instead, the name of the first data block, where the file was stored, is used to keep filenames unique.

As photorec runs in the console, not everyone feels skilled enough to use it.

 

Disk Drill by Cleverfiles

Recently, I got a review version of a newer data recovery software: Disk Drill by CleverFiles. It’s available for Windows and for MacOS and has a visual GUI to be handled with the mouse. On MacOS the current version needs at least the latest version of Mavericks. But older versions are also available for download, in case your MacOS is still running an older version of OS X for whatever reason. Disk Drill comes as an app to be pulled in the Applications folder only, to get installed.

I installed Disk Drill on my Macbook, which I’m also using for developing my images.

So, I have a lot of images on my disk (raw data), which I process and delete after processing them. Thus, I should have a lot of files potentially being recoverable on my disk. It’s a 512 GB SSD formated with APFS. The deep scan has run for about 40 minutes. But, as expected, Disk Drill found nearly nothing! No raw-file, no jpgs, no text documents or spreadsheets. The only files Disk Drill found were a couple of files I have had in my trash bin, which was emptied just before installing Disk Drill.

My other tests were on a disk formatted with Windows NTFS and an SDcard from my camera formatted with FAT.

Recovering files (raw data written by my digital camera) from the SDcard was very successful, just like expected. A 256 GB drive was scanned in a couple of minutes and offered tons of recoverable files.

I also run Disk Drill on a 1 TB NTFS hard disc formatted by Windows. The scan lasted nearly 3 hours while the well-equipped computer got a lot of stress and the fans run at a high level for certain times. But, I was able to work with it as usual for the whole time. In the end, the so-called deep scan found a reasonable number of recoverable files of different types. Unfortunately, all of them lost their names and were offered to me for recovery grouped by file type. Hard to find the file you accidentally deleted 😦

So, the result is not much different from the outcome of photorec.

Similar to photorec, Disk Drill also works with sessions. But, differently to photorec I was unable to make Disk Drill forget the saved session and do a re-scan after i.e. running a cleanup (I tried to wipe out some files I don’t want to be able to get recovered and check if they are unable to be recovered)

Further functions:

Disk Drill has a couple of further functions.

You can open a backup of an iOS device (as long as you know the recovery passcode) stored on your computer and recover files from iOS backup (iTunes). Works great. You can get contacts, appointments, reminders, photos, and even files.

There’s also a cleanup function. It seems it is to wipe out unused space. But, in fact, I was unable to find any result. So, I can’t say, what this function is doing.

Next, there is a function suggesting it could duplicate the boot disk, but instead it only creates a boot media similar to the recovery boot mechanism you always have on your mac. So, I have to stay with Carbon Copy Cloner for this feature.

After finishing my tests I uninstalled Disk Drill. Unfortunately, a not-quitable tool survived in the menubar. I had to dig through my applications folder and my Library folders to find where this tool resides to delete the files. After a reboot, it was finally gone!

Resume

Now it’s up to you to decide, how often you have to recover lost files and on which filesystems they are stored. I was very interested if a professional tool is better than the open-source tool. The lack of a GUI is a point against photorec. But, in my opinion (as an IT pro for more than 30 years), that’s not so dramatic. I even found the text interface much more straight forward and clearer than the GUI of Disk Drill. On the other hand, I guess, Disk Drill is even more complicated than photorec.

Nevertheless, I repeat my statement from above: be prepared for the disaster because the disaster situation isn’t a good time for such a complicated topic. Get a tool and make yourself familiar with it to avoid making a disaster situation worse.

 

 

art, culture, flowers, food, macro, nature, photography, review, still life

hard time for photographers!?

You know, each first Saturday of a month I meet with some other photographers for our monthly roundtable. We’re not only sitting somewhere and talking. But, we meet somewhere to walk around and take some photos. Later we’re visiting a restaurant for having dinner.

Currently, this isn’t possible because of the governmental restrictions because of the Covid19 pandemic. Although the restrictions here in Germany are not so hard as they are in France, Spain or Italy, where you’re not allowed to leave your home for other topics than going to work, doing your groceries or walk your dog (only very short distances are allowed). Here in Germany, we’re still allowed to go out, but we need to keep a distance of at least 1,5m (~5 ft.). Only the essential stores are allowed to open: supermarkets, gas stations, pharmacies, doctors, hospitals. Everyone else should work from home, wherever it is possible. Even doing your groceries is quite hard under these circumstances. Some products are rare in the supermarkets and out for weeks now like flour, toilet paper, pasta or yeast. But, most products are available even though not in every supermarket.

Back to our monthly photographer’s roundtable. We met yesterday as usual, but not at about 14:00h as we usually do. Instead, we met at 19:00h. And we did not meet in person somewhere, but we set up a video conference to see each other and talk a bit. To have a specific topic to start with, I organized a theme for us. As I have some inspiring cards for photographers, I drew one card for each participant and transmitted a photo of the card via messenger last weekend. So everyone had one week to prepare some images to show during our video conference. As everyone had a different topic to work on, it was very interesting to see the results. 8 of us 10 regular participants were there. The two missings were prevented for private reasons on short-notice. Nevertheless, it was a nice evening (considering the circumstances).

My topic was “backlit”. All images are taken with my DSLR camera and were not a result of post-processing or some other graphical works. All images are taken last week. The images are looking way better in a bigger size. So you can resize them by clicking on then.

 

 

So, being not allowed to leave your home must not hinder you to take your camera and take some photos. In case you don’t have an idea, drop me a line and I’ll give you an assignment for the next week 😀

Take care and stay healthy

 

composing, photography, review

creator vs. taker (ad)

Isn’t this a quite funny headline? You know, I’m a photographer. As a photographer, I show you the world the way it is and how I see it. To bring my images to your vision, I need to develop them. For developing the raw data recorded by my camera, I need some software known as raw developer. It’s just like in the old days where the photographer took the exposed film out of his camera and put it in some chemicals to magically get colorful images out of a grey stripe of plastic.

In 1988, the first version of Photoshop was introduced. This was initially an image manipulation program and became later quite popular not only for advertisers but also for photographers. I personally don’t need these functions for my images. Beside working on deeps and highlights, vibrance, cropping, and sharpening I do nothing to my images. Thus, I only need a raw developer and nothing else.

One raw developer I work with is Luminar by Skylum. This product appeared first in 2016 for MacOS only. Now, it’s available for Windows also. When Syklum started integrating artificial intelligence for some reason, these features became more and more powerful and made life easier for people photographers as well as for landscape photographers.

The current version, Luminar 4, replaces all previous versions of Luminar, including Luminar Flex. So, saving edits as editable separate files isn’t possible anymore and I suspect, this won’t come back anymore. Even the option, to export an edit as a PSD file for Photoshop only saves it as a flattened file.

This past week, a new version of Luminar was released: Luminar 4.2

Although, this is a new minor version, the changes are remarkable! This version brings new tools to your hands. These tools are powered by artificial intelligence to enhance your images in a very natural way. I guess, most of the skills were taken over from Photolemur, a company Skylum took over after 2018. With Luminar 3 AI skills were introduced for the first time and enhanced with Luminar 4. Now, Luminar steps up quite further and brings some additional creative tools to your hand. To show you a bit about what’s possible, I attached one of my Images.

Here we are in Tromsø, standing at the edge of the harbor and looking over the fjord to the part of the city located on the other side of the fjord with the famous Arctic Cathedral. I included the clouds from an image taken about an hour earlier from the same place looking in the same direction while waiting for the blue hour. The other two objects (aurora and planet) are taken from the standard library supplied by Skylum with the installation package.

Despite, I don’t like these make-offs, it demonstrates what’s possible and how realistic it looks like. I have to admit, the software does a great job. Although, I focused here on the tools for landscape photographers,  I also encourage people photographers to have a look at Luminar 4.2, as it also includes some great AI-supported tools for them (AI Skin & Portrait enhancer and shine removal)

To test it on your own with your own images, there’s a test version available to download for free to check all features out. It’s available for Windows and for MacOS. A license is good for two computers.

When using the code “SOLANER” during checkout, you can save a few bucks.

Take care!