Here is (Part of) the “To Find A Muse” exhibition, yesterday prior to its daily opening.

The exhibit is open until the end of August; Daily, Noon-5pm, at the Kodiak Gallery in Toronto’s Historic Distillery District.

All prints are for sale, framed or unframed: here’s your chance to make one of them – a unique original! – your own. See you there?


My Backup Strategy

As you make more and more photos, backups become more and more important. And of course you make them. Right?

This is what I do:


  1. My photos live on a 3 TB external drive. When I add photos from a camera, they go there immediately, not to my Mac. Straight onto the external drive!
  2. My Lightroom catalog also lives on that external drive – that way, I can take that drive to anyone with Lightroom installed and I have all my work right there!
  3. When I am happy that the pictures and catalog are good, and ONLY then, I “intelligently” copy the new stuff to a second 3TB drive. I do that only once I am convinced it is good – no sense writing bad data. The script for that intelligent copy is here (link). Intelligent means the script checks all files on both disks, and copies over the differences (anything new gets added to the backup disk; anything deleted gets deleted from the backup disk also).
  4. I do not reformat the memory card until after this is done and verified!
  5. I also back up my regular Mac, using standard backup software – but since I keep little data on that mac, it’s not critical.

OK, so I am pretty well backed  up.

Except I am not. All my data lives on the two drives attached to my iMac. That is very dangerous – many things can go wrong. Things like:

  • Lightning
  • Flooding
  • Fires
  • Burglary (you think the burglar would take only external disk 1 and leave the backup drive behind?)
  • …and more, too much to imagine.

To solve this, there’s a few things not to do:

  • I could back up to DVD drives, but that is very expensive, very slow, and very unreliable. Ditto for CDs.
  • Cloud backup – too early to be practical (making a full backup at today’s Internet network speeds would take months – literally).
  • Keep memory cards – way too expensive.
  • Drobo – this is a possibility (RADI drive), but the Drobo uses its own proprietary encryption.

So here’s the solution:

  1. Instead of more local backup, I use a third 3TB drive, and once a week everything gets copied to that third drive (again, using an “intelligent” script).
  2. And the key: this third drive lives off-site, not at my home studio! So come earthquakes, lightning, or floods, I’m OK.
  3. Finally, I have one more set of off-site drives, per year, which I make a full copy to at the end of each year.

A lot of work. But worth it, because I can sleep. Are your memories (or your business) worth less? I didn’t think so – so come up with an off-site storage strategy today!


GR, a reader, asks:

Hi Michael,

a few weeks ago I attended one of your Nikon Workshops in Oakville. It was a great workshop and I took a lot of info home from it.

Now I’m in the market for my first Telephoto Lense and thought you could give me some help what to look for – just keep in mind I can’t afford a 2000$ lens like you prefer. I’m already looking around for a while and found 3 lenses, I would like your oppinion when you find a moment.

The two main reasons I’m looking for a tele lens are:  my boys play soccer, and we are going on vacation to Nova Scotia on August 9th.

First lense
Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm VR 4.5-5.6G ED

In the online reviews I could find they say it’s a great beginner lens but it looses focus after the 200mm range. same goes for the next one

NIKON AF-S VR 70-300mm 4.5-5.6G IF-ED

Third lense
NIKON DX VR 55-200 F4.5-5.6G IF-ED

Can you give me some information what’s the difference between those lenses, which one you would recommend and why I should choose one over the other.

If you know off a lense in the same price range that would work better for my purposes, let me know.

Thank you for your help and see you at the NIKON 201 hopefully this fall


My reply:

I teach and coach privately – – and at Vistek Mississauga, and at Sheridan College.

In a word or two:

- The more a lens does, the more it is a compromise.
- The VR feature is important.

So the third lens looks like an option. Not too ambitious; good for outside where you do not necessarily need f/2.8…did you read the recent article on A few days ago? This will help you make the decision, and only you can make it!

(All that said… For travel, I would usually prefer a very wide angle lens.)


Snap to shot

Some more “post-production technique” for you here today, again using Lightroom – but if you are a Mac user, you can also use Aperture if you so prefer.

Let’s say that for some reason (you are testing a lens perhaps), you want a picture of your bathroom and hallway, using a very wide-angle lens. Like this:

But no – first, let’s retake that to get some of the foreground mess out of the picture. Remember: simple is good… simplify, simplify, simplify. Pretty much everything you can take out of a picture improves it.

So take this shot again after you aim up a little:

Better. But it’s too dark, the colours are wrong, it’s all distorted.. waah.

Can we save this, and how long will it take?

Let’s attend to the white balance first. Go to Lightroom’s DEVELOP module, enter the Basic pane, and use the dropper on a white area to set an OK white balance. You can adjust more later, but at least get it close. You shoot RAW, so white balance can be set after you take the picture (if you shoot JPG, you have to get it very close in camera).

OK, here we go.. click:

Better. Now go to Lens Corrections, and apply the Profile correction, if Lightroom knows your lens/camera combination. This fixes the dark edges and the curved lines (I was using a 16mm lens here on a full-frame camera):

The curved door is now straight!

Now, still in Lens Correction, go to MANUAL, and fix the converging lines that you got because you aimed the camera up. Dragging ”Vertical” to -27, and then cropping off the excess picture, gives me this:


Now, finally, let’s fix brightness and colour properly.

Brighter; adjust the colours again, highlights down to fix the window… a last White Balance fine tuning, and hey presto:

That entire fix took about 30 seconds. Doing this in Photoshop would take much longer. It’s still a silly “I’m just playing around” snapshot, but at least it is a technically proficient snapshot, in mere seconds.

You can see how Lightroom (or Aoerture) change your life as a photographer. Again, as in yesterday’s article, I am not advocating taking bad pictures and fixing them later, but you will sometimes want to adjust your images, and with modern software and RAW images, this is very simple.


Why you shoot RAW

One reason to shoot RAW is that it enables you to handle difficult situations, like those with too much difference between bright and dark areas, like this one, today at The Distillery, where I was attending my exhibit:

The shadow area is dark, the sunny area is way too bright.

Normally, when shooting a close-by object, I would use a flash for this. But with a wide angle like this, you would need a lot of flashes to light up the dark area. So, RAW to the rescue!

The original image look like this in Lightroom. The histogram shows that the bright areas are stuck right up against the edge:

And the original settings in the BASIC pane:

Fortunately, we have enough room in the RAW image to fix this: the bright areas have detail in them still. They may be overexposed, but they are still present in the data. So now we drag the bright areas down, thus changing the Basic settings to something more like this:

Which when you check gives you a histogram like this, much more like it – from dark to light without anything getting too close to the edge:

Which gives you a picture like this:

Simple, takes a second or two. This is a little like creating a HDR image from one file – which in fact is exactly what we have done here. The dynamic range in the original was too difficult for our camera to handle, but since it was only a few stops out of range, we were able to fix it in post-production.

I am not advocating doing this all the time – but sometimes, you have little choice. In those cases, expose to the right – overexpose the brights a little, because as long as it is just a little, you can fix the issue later.

How much is a little? I find that if I get some blinking (in the “blinkies”-view), I am good. Blinking is supposed to mean “no detail”, but on most cameras, blinking means something rather more like “watch out, you are getting close to losing detail here”. If the entire area is one solid black/white blink, then I have done too much to save. Stay clear of that and you can rescue the image. And Lightroom makes this very easy and quick.

One more image:

Incidentally, one reason to visit my exhibit (, apart from the obvious one (to see my work and to buy an original framed print for your wall!), is that it is held in the Distillery District, one of Toronto’s most photogenic areas – it cries out to be photographed.

So bring your camera. I shall be there again tomorrow afternoon (Monday) – 1-5pm, come say hi. (Sssshhhh, don’t say anything: if I am at the gallery, and you mention reading this post to me, I’ll even give you a 10% discount on a print).