Back ups and sync

I am an amateur photographer that also happen to be a Linux user. I do my back ups and sync’s using a linux application called rsync. I actually use the graphic front-end called grsync.
The command I use, including all the options is:
“rsync -r -n -t -v –progress –delete -c -s /source/folder /destination/folder”

One of the things I still need to test is the need for “-c”. That option, according the man page forces the skip to be based on checksum, not mod-time & size. In other words, the transfer of the file happens not only trigger by a change in the file mod-time or size but also any change in the checksum. That means that a checksum has to be created for every file in /source/folder and in /destination/folder and then compared. Including this option increases the sync time significantly.

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Today, when doing some more maintenance of my photographies database I realized that although RAW is a far superior format for the photo enthusiast, family pictures don’t have to be preserve in that format.
It may sound silly, but when your collection is of a decent size, it matters. RAW files (at least the cr2 and DNG I use) are 3 to 4 times bigger than the JPG.

I shoot in dual mode, RAW+JPG. For now on I will add an extra step to my work flow so that I keep only the JPG of the family pictures.

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This post is about the SOP I follow to I manage my pictures. It is work in progress, particularly step #4. This SOP does not refer to what I do outside digiKam in programs like UFRaw and GIMP. That would be covered on a separate post.

1. The first step is transferring the files from the storage media to the computer.
To do that I use digiKam’s file transfer utility. As I transfer the pictures to the computer I rename the files.
The renaming scheme I use is yyyyMMdd_OA_####. This scheme allows to quickly organize the files in chronological order. It also prevents duplicates when the camera internal counter reaches its maximum and restarts back at 0000.
I dump the files in a folder called 01_landing_cr2. The cr2 part is because I use a Canon camera, the RAW file extension is cr2.

Metadata counter: 1 – filename is personalized.

2. Next step is converting the cr2 files to DNG (digital negatives).
Once the files are in the 01_landing_cr2, I use the Adobe DNG Converter.
I set up the DNG converter so that the DNG files are written to a different folder. For the conversion, for no specific reason, I choose DNG with compatibility with PS CS 5.4.
The folder containing these newly converted DNG files is called 02_surge_dng.

I make the conversion to DNG because it is an open format. If Canon ever decides to stop supporting cr2  (a proprietary format), or moves on to a new format, the DNG files will be readable by many other programs. DNG support Exif metadata, XMP metadata, IPTC metadata, CIE XYZ coordinates, ICC profiles, and JPEG.

Linux note: I run the Adobe DNG Converter under WINE. I tried digiKam’s plug-in DNG Image Converter (version 1.3.0), but I did not like it. I will keep using the Adobe free utility for the time being.

3. Copyright info.
Now that I have all the pictures as  DNG files, I can apply the copyright information to my pictures. I use digiKam to apply a pre determined template with my name and other relevant information to the pictures’ IPTC metadata. If you use digiKam, make sure the information is written to the images.

Metadata counter: 2 – IPTC metadata is personalized.

4. Backup the DNG files.
This process is still in development. I haven’t decided if I want to keep ALL the DNG files or the ones I consider worthy for posterity (the day I review them). The worthy for posterity concept is part of the next step.

5. Ranking and tagging.
The ranking is in my opinion one of the most important steps of the DAM. I take a lot of pictures, a lot. I know that I will not do much with the majority of them. But how do I decide? I use the stars-ranking system of digiKam and the Rating/Ranking technique explained in the digiKam handbook.

I am not sure yet what ratio I use, but my stars-ranking system works like this:
zero                To be thrown away – not worth for posterity
one                 Undecided, to be reviewed – default rank
two                 To be uploaded in facebook, shared with friends
three              Flickr, blogfour                Printing (never done yet)
five                 Have to work on, there is a lot of potential
This ranking system is dynamic, it could change over time.
Before permanently deleting the pictures with zero stars, I review them one more time. I use digiKam filtering feature to see “zero stars” only.

At the same time I am ranking the pictures, I apply tags. These are some of the tags I use these days: kid, animal, dog, duck, bird, red deer, edmonton, closeup, portrait, PPSOP,…..
I make use of digiKam’s hierarchical system of tags, for example I use /location/edmonton; location/red deer; /location/calgary or /element/line; element/color and so on. Another thing that I do is to never use UPPERcase or regular plural forms. I do this to avoid trouble later on when searching for pictures.

After doing the ranking and tagging I always make sure that this metadata information is written to the files.

Metadata counter: 3-4 – Rank and tags (both as keywords on the file’s EXIF metadata).

6. Captions.
I only apply captions to some pictures, normally the ones make me remember something in particular when I see it. I also apply captions to the pictures I know I will submit to either an online contest or online assignments/projects.
As for the ranking and tagging, I make sure that this metadata information is written to the files.

Metadata counter (when used): 5 – Captions (as captions on the file’s IPTC metadata).


digiKam allows you to enter geolocation of the picture (geo-tagging). I do not use this feature. I do not use the digital watermarking either.

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digiKam – learnings

digiKam is an great program, but one has to be patient when using it. Here are few things that I have learned from using it and fighting it.

  • If when you are looking at the thumbnails you are not able to see the the “Photograph Properties” (under Properties) try Album>Reread metadata for image. This issue bothered me for days. I thought that the bug was due to my cr2 to DNG conversion , but no. digiKam seems to lost track of where some entries of the file’s metadata are.

This is going to be an evergreen post, so stay tuned.

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DAM, in this context, stands for Digital Asset Management. DAM refers to everything that happens to the pictures (files) from the moment you transfer the pictures to the computer on.
In my opinion DAM never ends. Even if you print your pictures you still have to manage the files stored in the computer or external media.
Have you ever look for a pictures for minutes and minutes, hours and maybe days? If the answer is yes, you may want to keep reading.

To me, DAM is a must. With thousands of pictures in my HD the folder-based filling systems was proving to be ineffective.  I was getting particularly frustrated by the amount of pictures I was accumulating compared to the few ones I was actually uploading to Flickr/Facebook – let alone printing.

I looked around and there are many approaches to DAM, but almost all coincide on the main steps: transferring files, rating files, applying tag/captions to files, and storing the files.

However, after reading few different articles on the topic I realized that to get down to a standard operating procedure (SOP) level of detail DAM depends on the programs you use. I confirmed this after reading Paul Burwell’s article in the Outdoor Photography Canada. I use nothing but Open Source software, so Paul’s excellent explanation (based on Adobe Lightroom) was only used as high level reference.

I started to do some research into the Open Source world of Linux compatible programs, and I actually found few ones: digiKam,  RAWTherapee, blueMarine, and F-Spot.

I compared all the programs and I decided to stay with digiKam for the time being. I am still learning how to use it and it looks promising. I use digiKam as my main DAM program. I use UFRaw for RAW files handling and the GIMP for PS-like modifications. The combinations of these 3 programs is amazing. And as I always say, the best part: they are all Open Source programs.

In my next post I will go into details as to what my DAM SOP looks like.

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Bellafaccia – otra cara bonita

Well, it seems like the Bryan Peterson Workshop aftermath was not only sleepiness but also something positive. One of the students got what she needed to launch her entrepreneurial business of capturing families special moments.

Lori’s business is called Bella Faccia ( Besides all the pictures in the website (go and check it out), I know what Lori is capable of with that Canon 40D. Besides all the hardware and her technical skills, she is VERY very kind.

If you are thinking on capturing those unforgettable moments, give Lori a call or email. I am sure you will end up with some beautiful pictures, a really kind and good family photographer for years to come, and maybe with one or two tips to help you taking your own pictures.

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Wish List

After completing the Bryan Peterson Workshop in Edmonton I realized I need few other things to make my life (and photography) easier.

Filters. There is an active debate about the use of filters when taking pictures. The discussions spin around whether or not the filters are required when taking the picture versus applying some virtual filters/masks/etc during post processing. Since I do not do much post processing I tend to be on the use-the-filter-when-taking-the-picture side.
I realized how important filters are, particularly ND’s, when shooting at sunrise/sunset. The other thing I became aware of is that you do not have to get a filter for each lens diameter you have. I got first hand experience with “mounted” filter (Lee and Cokin).

LCD hood. Having problems looking at the picture you just took when it is sunny? Welcome to my club. Fortunately one of the workshop students (Ryan) had a LCD hood. Boy, that helps! This hood is actually really nice even when it is not that sunny. It has a magnifying lens that allows you to look at the picture displayed in the LCD screen in detail.

Level gauge. One disadvantage of having an entry-level type of Canon camera is the lack of grid on the camera viewfinder. To level my camera I have to rely on an external gauge. (No, my tripod is cheap too, it doesn’t have a level gauge). I had a little gauge that could be mounted on the hot shoe but I gave it to my brother (now it is gone…). I am still lokking for a replacement, but there are too many choices.

Flash. After (unsuccessfully) trying to play wedding photographer for my friends Oswaldo and Carmelita, I realized I needed an external flash. This idea got boosted during the workshop. Bryan Peterson showed us some really nice tricks using an external flash. He also explained to us why a Nikon flash is better than a Canon one – when using it in manual mode; but that is a subject for a different post.

Camera bag. My first bag, always reliable, Tamrac Expedition 3 reached its capacity limit. I cannot fit a pencil in that bag. It did okay during the workshop, but I was pushing the limit. The poor bag was about to explode.
I am not a fan of rollers, so another backpag type of bag will have to be added to my gear. I am looking at something I can use for hiking/biking too. Maybe with a compartment for a water bottle or hydration reservoir. So far I like the Pro Trekker 400 AW. I like the 600 too, but it is too big to be taken as carry-on.

Better body. I am happy with my own body, so I am obviously talking about my camera body. I currently have a Canon 450D. It is a great camera, but I am seriously thinking about an upgrade. The new body I have in mind is the Canon 7D. During the workshop Chris Hurtt told me that in his opinion one needs about 10 reasons to upgrade the camera body. Here are the reason I have been able to gather so far (thank you Janice) – in no particular order:

  1. Grid in the viewfinder. I love the rule of thirds and being able to quickly level the camera with the horizon. Additionally, the 7D has a dual axis electronic level in the viewfinder.
  2. More ISO. My 450D is limited to an ISO of 1,600. The 7D has a range of 100 – 6,400, expandable to 12,800.
  3. Weather sealed body. I am an off-track kind of guy, so I rather have a camera that is ready for tough conditions.
  4. Speed – more frames per second. The 7D goes up to 8 fps. The most I have been able to get out of my 450D is 3 fps. I really needed this when taking fast moving objects (Ryan) pictures during the workshop.
  5. Highlights alert when looking at pictures on LCD screen. My 450D only shows the blinkies when looking at the full shooting information on the LCD screen.
  6. Separate button for aperture and shutter speed when shooting in M (magnificent) mode. In the 450D you have to hold one button while moving the  wheel to change the aperture.
  7. More and more flexible AF points.
  8. LCD control panel (LCD on top of the camera). My 450D does not have one. I have to either set everything up using the viewfinder or use the big LCD screen.
  9. [Janice please insert one reason here].
  10. Wireless connection to the Canon Speedlite flash. A flash is in my wish-list. I know that a Pocket Wizard is likely to come, but in the mean time… — This is purposely the last reason. I might end up buying a non-Canon flash so the wireless feature is not really a good reason.

In summary, this is what I still need:
~Lee 4×6 ND graduated hard 0.9
~Lee 4×6 ND solid 0.9
~Lee adapter ring 77mm wide angle
~Bag – backpack — DONE
~LCD hood — DONE
~Level gauge?
~Canon 7D body(?)

These are the filters and related gear I got so far from the Wish List:
~Lee foundation kit + adapter rings
~Lee 4×6 ND graduated soft 0.9
~Lee 4×4 Circ Polarizing

Updated on 29-June-2010

Posted in Edmonton workshop, Gear | 4 Comments