Redundancy and Failure

We’ve all encountered failure at some point in our lives. I write this thinking about failure in the equipment that we use to take our images. In particular I’m looking at the aspect of redundant storage cards in a camera vs the system as a whole – and providing some thoughts for you to take away.

Many of the higher end mirrorless and DSLR cameras are providing two slots for either SD or CF cards and the option to write out to both cards at once. This is seen quite rightly as the classic case of good redundancy to guard against card failure… and here is where we get to some detail.

Firstly the lifespan in number of writes that one leading manufacturer quotes is around 100,000 – that is writing once a day to the whole card for 270 something years will eventually wear the card out. So let’s assume at the outside they only last 10% of that – that still 27 years of daily work. So we hear the stories of photographers that experienced card failure in a year or two of writes a few times a week. The summary of these failures tends to be like: a statistical significance of failure of several cards at 200 writes into 100,000 write lifetime. Compare this failure scenario with the multitude of mobile phones, IOT, network, PC’s and servers that write to the same SSD technology for years on end with extremely low failure rates.

This is where we see a logical failing – why should one application of the same storage inside a camera result in grossly poor reliability? Why when we see this reliability issue are we blaming the storage technology rather than another aspect unique to digital photography?…  We shouldn’t rush to blame the card against all logic because it’s at the mercy of unique external forces – batteries going flat, cards being ejected while being written to, salty sweaty pockets and a lot more.

But some say a redundant card will fix this. Two cards at the same time equally are at the mercy of flat batteries, card doors opening and being ejected while being written to, salty sweaty pockets. From the analysis above, they still are inside a device with demonstrable history of making cards fail early in life. Here’s where we start to discover the difference the difference between redundancy and the risk of failure.

The easiest way to see this is with an analogy – very few multiple engine planes crashes happen due to both engines failing. Think about that…carefully. A lot of crashes are bad judgement, bad weather, bad engineering and so on. The moment the plane crashes one or two of the engines are usually perfectly fine and running reliably – but still all is lost.

By all means I’ll allow you to be suspicious of the reliability of one solid state encapsulated microchip – add a second different model as a redundancy if you wish. But the risk here is focussing on those two cards rather than the dozens of switches, electro mechanical mechanisms, connectors, apertures, focus motors, cables, batteries, displays, shutters, humans… that make up the entire single camera system.

Keep your mind open to the risk of only having a single body with you. Think about thieves, drops, one bag with all your kit next to the water, single lenses with no alternative, no insurance. If you understand the risks and mitigate all key things – that will be your true redundancy and reliability.

Posted in Photographic IT, software Tagged , , , , , |


One of the most iconic images of the 20th Century has to bee Dorothea Lange’s image, Migrant Mother…


She took this as part of her work for the US Farm Security Administration – who were tasked amongst other things of documenting the effects of the great depression on the poor – a task generally considered as a platform to provide political support for the social reform of the rural poor in America in the 1930’s.

Believe it or not a vast number of images of this era from the FSA have been digitised but like all things a large collection of 170,000 images is nothing without some way of finding your way around. At Yale University they have created Photogrammar which for the meta-nerd in us does a spectacular job of bringing a decade of photographic  history to us in a wonderfully time-spacial way. Enjoy.


Posted in history, people, software Tagged |

The Unobtainable

The limits of photography are always being move forward. In the days of film these advances were very small – today digital technology moves forwards faster and this can be seen in the story below.

Late one evening our hound wandered up the backyard and by chance my eye was drawn to a bird flying to a rest in a tree nearby – illuminated from the indirect light of a flood lamp 20 meters away. Around here a bird flying at night can only be an owl and with a quick trip inside I grabbed the first torch I could see – a cheap LED unit – and went back out. There it was perched in a tree – surely it would be gone by the time I’d gone back in and got a camera and lens…

So armed with a 5Dmk3 and a 400mm f2.8 IS I had the best chance technology could just about give me…

ISO:           25000
Aperture:  f/2.8
Shutter:     1/6 sec
Lighting:   cheap LED torch

…and to add a bit more of a degree of difficulty didn’t have time for a tripod or any other support…


Now I can’t say technology is perfect since the image below shows the difficulty the camera and I had in focussing in such low light – about 20 missed shots. But the one at the end is something that 30 years ago would have been utterly unobtainable.



Posted in Uncategorized

Packing List


All the best for your trip to Europe. I hope you enjoy all the 6 or so months you have there. You asked for my packing list so here are my thoughts. They may not be the best of thoughts but a useful collection of things to keep in mind.

I’d start with the basics….

  • your 5D (I think yours is the mk2)
  • a good collection of CF cards – each one labelled with e-mail and numbered so as not to cause confusion
  • 24-105 f/4 or 24-70 f/2.8
  • a fixed big aperture lens – 50 f/1.4 would be good – for shooting at night, in galleries and isolating parts of a scene.
  • if you have something wide then take it as well something like the 17-40 can be good
  • a small telephoto (you are not going to use it much but it can come in handy when walking the streets of a city
That’s 4 lenses above. Carrying all would be a chore but after a week or so you’ll have an idea what 2 you are going to pack into your bag for any particular day.
  • A small discrete camera bag. For security something you can put at waist level rather than on your back. Think of something that will take your body and two lenses (one fitted). It can also be used to carry souvenirs and other nick knacks.
  • A polariser for getting those deep blue Grecian Skies.
  • An ND400 filter to have some fun.
  • A cable release (the ND 400 will need to be used with one).
  • A “bag” for support – perhaps find a small zippered cloth bag – I’m thinking a small clothes delicates bag that you can fill with foam packing peanuts when you are over there – you can use a Velcro strap to attach it to your camera bag strap when walking around – total weight a few grams.
  • Steal a hotel shower cap – it makes a good impromptu rain cover.
  • A spare battery.
  • Your battery charger – don’t forget to pack it when you are moving between hotels.
“Maintenance” things:
  • Rocket blower stored inside a clean plastic bag.
  • A small microfibre cloth.
  • Something to transfer photos to and cloud storage to keep them safe.

Other tips

  • Leave the battery grip at home.
  • If your camera bag gets wet let it dry thoroughly over a heater – any foam in it will retain moisture.
  • If something happens you have a credit card and places to shop.
I think that’s about it. Have fun and I look forward to seeing the results.
Posted in travel


There is some biological versus climate thing in the hills that delays the onset of the winter for just a few weeks more than places down in the city. This gives the photographer a quick last chance to spend a few hours roaming the places near home, with camera in hand, to observe the passing of the season.





At some point the last leaf will fall and winter will arrive but it won’t be a time for hibernation just a time to refresh and think of other different things. I look forward to that time.





Posted in Uncategorized

The South of France

I think it would be a common assumption, that as you go towards the equator, the weather will get a little more comfortable in a French February.  The more accurate observation is that the Pyrenees range and its high peaks with villages and snow capped mountains will surprise.










Posted in architectural, travel, Uncategorized Tagged |

Get Closer

Some things in this world can be done in strangely different ways – macro work is one such thing. There are various ways to get more subject magnification with macro photography these include:- different lenses, extension tubes and macro filters.

A macro filter is a simple convex lens that, like spectacles for those with long vision, allows you to move the lens closer to the subject. The problem is that these types of screw on lenses tend to be of a simple design which keeps cost low but provides less than optimal image quality. What we really need is a good quality macro filter with coated optics and kick ass quality – this is where the unnatural stuff happens.

Some years ago someone realised that a second camera lens could do a great job of getting that extra magnification. The easiest way to mount the lenses to each other is to reverse the second lens and use an adaptor to go front to front or stacked (not to be confused with the macro technique of focus stacking) as it’s known.

The adaptor rings fit the filter threads on each lens usually of lenses of similar size. In the shot below you can see a 50mm f/1.4 attached via the adaptor ring onto the front of the 100mm f/2.8 macro.


The trick is finding an adaptor ring here in Australia – perhaps they exist but they are rare as hens’ teeth. Some people use two cheap filters and remove the glass and then glue them together. This works but I somehow wouldn’t trust glue to keep a delicate 50mm lens from falling off. I found using two Cokin P-series adaptor rings you can make a flexible adaptor ring.


As can be seen the adaptors are joined back to with three small screws drilled in the metal towards the edge. If I decide to use a different lens then all I do is unscrew the halves and fit the appropriately sized adaptor ring. The cost of the generic adaptors used were around $8 each – approx $20 for some serious macro fun – bargain!

The adaptor rings fit the filter threads on each lens usually of lenses of similar size. In the shot below you can see a 50mm f/1.4 attached via the adaptor ring onto the front of the 100mm f/2.8 macro.

To give you an idea of what you can get, the two images below show a 100mm macro alone at maximum magnification (on a Canon 5D both shot at f/11) and using the stacked 50 f/1.4 at maximum magnification. As can bee seen from the first image above the focus distance is very close – this results in half of the battery below being in shadow. As you see at f/11 depth of field is razor thin.


The shorter the focal length of the front lens the greater the magnification and the closer you have to put your object of choice. A 28mm for example approximately doubles magnification over using a 50mm. Some combinations of lenses may vignette – especially on a full frame body. Given the huge magnification it’s a method best used indoors on a tripod.

Un-natural stuff like stacking lenses isn’t for everyone but for about $20 it could be worth giving it a go just for the fun of doing something new and different.

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged |

Train Coming

I’ve seen a lot of images taken with a ND400 (10 stop neutral density) filter, I’ve taken several with my own. A common theme amongst them is slowing water and other natural movement in landscapes. As a different aspect for this filter, I decided to take an iconic photograph of the Puffing Billy steam train that runs near home.

Getting closer…..


Getting Closer

The challenges are several fold in shooting this scene – trains run every 90 mins or so in this direction, deciding the shutter speed, focus and exposure on a moving target that will only appear for a few fleeting seconds are decidedly tricky.


Just past….

In the end it’s not a perfect image. The front of the train is just past the apex of the bend – a point where the motion of the front of the train would have been frozen. The other little gripe is it was just a bit too nice of a day next to the bridge – the normally wet weather gives a deep colour to the forest and a darkness to the wooden bridge.

It’s a promising use of an ND400 filter so I’ll be back at some stage in the future when I hope I’ll be able to catch the train.

Posted in travel Tagged , , |

The times they are…


One of the small damnations in digital photography is that when you travel you sometimes forget to adjust the time on your digital camera when you travel. Thankfully Lightroom has a solution in hand to keep the image libraries organised.

In the Library module select all the images you want to adjust. Go to the metadata menu > choose edit capture time


from here you get the adjust capture time dialog box


I used the shift by a set number of hours option. The head hurts bit is finding out the correct number of hours to adjust by. In this case it wasn’t too bad since Europe is GMT and I could add an hour for daylight savings time to get me to -11.

After this is done you can then filter your library to confirm that you can tell sunset from sunrise in Paris.


One of the small issues remaining, as the name implies, is that only the metedata of the file is changed – file operations are not performed so you have to move the files to the correct dated folder yourself.


Posted in software Tagged , |

The Band

There is a band – its name is Shanty Town.

It’s the kind of band that plays the perfect accompaniment to dancing, a little bit of drinking and having a very good time.


Matt contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in getting some promotional images of the band together before one of their performances. I think for a second… I think about a great location for a second… and jump at the chance.


The location was a laneway out of the back of the club that they were playing that night. It was a little bit of a challenge shooting such a large group in the dark with the occasional car passing through. One or two shots were sacrificed to the occasional blinking eye.


Afterwards a drink of a nice pear cider allowed me the chance to sit down toward the edge of the stage and shoot a few more.


Find Shanty Town on the web here – but I do urge you to find them in reality, wherever they are playing, and have a very good time.

Posted in music, people