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Tuesday, 23 July 2013


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It does feel nice, though, to make backups of photos when traveling. It might be less of an issue if you're not transferring the photos to your computer and formatting the cards, but cards can get lost or corrupted.

'...and, uh, then some, usually'
Who are you, me?

My only concern on longer trips would be backup, but I wonder if you couldn't just use one of the cloud services to backup pictures when you're on the road, then clear it out when you get home and do a proper backup?


Mac Air, great choice! Wonderful portability.
As much as the budget allows- get the largest SSD, fastest processor, max out the ram. That machine cannot be upgraded afterward.


Not that you asked, but I approve of your decision on the 11 air plus mini. You get the Air now, and with the new battery life, the 11" is fine. In February, we get to tell you what to order the mini with, such as 16 GB RAM and 256 Gig SSD.
You never process when you are on the road? You may change your mind on that with the air. So when you get the Air, get a memory card adaptor so you can read the card. The 11" has no internal reader.

Maybe I'm just grumpy this morning, but this irks me. The photographer said he didn't mean to deceive. The very act of making a photograph that shows something like this IS an act of deception. Too bad he will be rewarded for his lies, and further deteriorate true photographic storytelling.

Of course, by next Feb, the Darth Vader workstation will be available: http://www.apple.com/mac-pro/

Depending on the price, that might prove sorely tempting...

Re Air vs Pro: although it is definitely doable, do you really want to have two machines and try to keep them synchronized (bookmarks, calenders, etc.)? Why not just buy a laptop that you take on the road and attach to the large display when working at home? Works like a charm for me!

Good choices. I have a Macbook Air/MacMini combo and it works brilliantly. The mini is the newest model. I went for the i7 processor plus I upped the RAM to 16 GB. That, and the SSD drive make it a rocket.

Two notes about the Air. Try before you buy, because the monitor on the 11" one is really small and high-res, so text can be tiny. You might find it frustrating to use.

The 13" one is only a little bit bigger but the payoff of the larger screen is noticeable and worth it. plus the 13" one has an SD card slot (not available on the 11") which can come in handy when on the road and you just can't wait to post the shot of an elephant juggling a couple of ducks.

Yes, cards sizes and prices enable us to treat cards as a write-once device. However, Murphy likes me! I refuse to allow losing a (physically small) card to result in loss of images. Therefore when I travel at the end of each day I copy the files from the cards to at least one portable drive, and when flying, two. The card stays in the camera bag, and the portable drive travels separately, e.g., in a carry on and checked luggage when flying.

Re memory cards: Your method seems to be exactly what I describe as "Workflow A: Shooting Lightly" in my Best Practices: Memory Cards and Image Safety.

Taking a tip from one of these blogs (probably yours), I now view memory cards as "consumables" (like rolls of film), and when one fills, I slide the lock on, mark it with camera model and date removed, and stick it in a box. It's my archive of last resort.

Mike, My recommendation would be to go with the 13" Air with the i7 processor upgrade and just dock it when you're home. When at home just plug in an external USB or Thunderbolt drive for storage. No mini, no headache transferring documents or keeping systems synced.

The Air has the SDXC slot if you need more convenient storage on the road. The extra screen real estate is nice and there isn't much difference in weight or size.

Note that I've been using a 13" Air in an engineering office for about 2 years. I run Windows base process simulation software under Parallels without any noticeable speed penalty.

Get a cloud storage account like Dropbox and upload your photos from the field to it. If the free storage isn't enough, you can buy 100 GB of storage very inexpensively, then your files sync with all your computers and are available from anywhere. This takes awhile so it's the kind of thing to do in the evening when you have a fast wifi connection and something else to do. Or, carry a small portable Thunderbolt or USB3 drive and back them up to that. Their cheap and very light. I carry a 1TB Thunderbolt drive (Buffalo Technologies) that weighs next to nothing. One strategy is to make that drive your Lightroom Catalog, and then if you do work on the road, you just plug it into your desktop and your ready to go.

I would suggest the 13 inch MBA instead of the 11 inch if you plan to do anything besides answer email, surf the web, or write basic stuff. The 11 inch screen is kind of small. I would suggest you try updating your Blog from the 11 inch at the Apple Store to see how you like it.

I have been very pleased with my Mac Mini for photo work. They are plenty zippy enough for photo work. The new Cinema displays aren't as good as some other choices for monitor, but if you already have one that's hard to beat. I use a NEC monitor that displays 98% of the Adobe RGB space and plays well with the Mac Mini.

About that mac mini... be aware that those little machines do not use desktop cpus but rather lower power and cooler running laptop cpus. My workplace runs macs, and it's been interesting to see that even five year old imacs run circles around much more recent mac minis (and if you were wondering, we're a software development place).

Even if you don't reuse cards when travelling, it's better to have backups. I use a portable drive to store photos in addition to downloading them to the laptop. When flying, I put the portable drive in checked luggage, the laptop in carry-on, and the filled cards in my wallet. If I'm feeling paranoid, I'll burn files to DVD and leave them with a friend or post them home.

Anybody else remember shooting weddings with film rolls carefully categorized as "A" rolls and "B" rolls? Dividing the formal group shots up so that some shots of each group were on an A roll and some on a B roll? And then making sure the A rolls and B rolls went to the lab on separate days so they wouldn't be in the same batch?

Yeah, "oldthink" included making sure you had two copies of important photos -- but only in the very most crucial commercial situations, not day-to-day.

I find uploading to cloud storage (or, more usefully, to my home server) remotely isn't very feasible due to slow connectivity. Depends where you are and how you're getting your connectivity, I suppose. Works okay from friends' houses (although most broadband is fairly asymmetric, with upload being what's slighted), works very poorly from hotel and convention center wifi (probably because, at science fiction and tech conventions, they're overwhelmed with heavy users).

In a recent article about which electronic items are hardest to repair, the MacBook Pro occupies two slots, #1 for the 15" and #5 for the 13.3" models. Both with Retina displays.


Maybe the Air is a better long term choice?

Bojidar said "do you really want to have two machines and try to keep them synchronized (bookmarks, calenders, etc"

In my case I'm perfectly synced via iCloud, Dropbox, Notational Velocity, Google Chrome sync, and Evernote. And that includes an iPhone, iPad, and two Windows virtual machines. It's effortless once set up, works like a charm and (for me) it's all free (except for Parallels on the Mac Mini; I use Bootcamp for Windows on the Air).

In my case I don't use the Air for photography.

Sorry to interrupt the computer talk...

Somebody actually used a flame accelerant on themselves while on the surface of an active volcano in pursuit of a facebook joke? This ties in with nicely with yesterday's "Are You Real" post. Commenter Clay Olmstead had it right when he said: "It's not the age of subtle. It's the age of getting noticed."

Since this guy lived, I'm sure we can expect even crazier stunts from bigger dolts in the future. All that risk in pursuit of nothing really meaningful or lasting. Nice that he waited until his 15 minutes of fame had waned to tell the true story, too.


The MacAir is a super travelling companion.

Solve all travel backup issues by purchasing a HyperDrive ColorSpace UDMA2 (http://www.hypershop.com/HyperDrive/UDMA-2/HDU2-000.html) and then install an ssd drive into it.

In the field just put the card into the drive and backup the card onto the Hyperdrive. It is a one click operation. SSD means easy on battery, no moving parts, etc..

Repeat for the next card and the next et al.

You now have your cards and a second physical backup.

When I get to my hotel at night time I import from the Hyper drive to my MacAir. I cannot resist looking at my days work, so I now do a browse using Lightroom (or PhotoMechanic). When I am sure I have them on the Mac Air I format my cards (in camera).

Even when I am not travelling and need just a few shots off my camera I stick the card into the Hyperdrive and suck them from there to my PC for local processing. [This also helps me standardize my workflow.

The newer models have wireless...I have no experience of that, but can see advantages.

So MacAir plus Hyperdrive is a powerful travel combination (and useful in lots of other scenarios as well). The Hyperdrive becomes your card reader... so you do not need a card reader as well.

Re Mac Mini

Your MacMini can also become your digital music player. Install Audirvana, connect your DAC of choice and you have a platform for music into the future. Digitise your collection , explore 24 bit, HD downloads, etc.

Your solution of carry extra cards and wait until get home is how I work and reminds me of film days. Bring what I think I'll need, pick up more if I run out. Cards are available much more so today than few years ago. Might not be Ultra series, but will work. No need for card reader, just a usb to camera cable in case you do shoot too much and need to off load then clear a card.

Neither machine has a DVD drive. You can get an external USB2 Apple Superdrive for around $89. Alternatively if you have another Mac with a DVD drive you can just network them.

$49 keyboard turns an iPad into a lapdog lighter than the Air....

Mike, I am writing this on an 11 inch Air on a road trip. Trust me, unless the weight and size are critical - go for the 13 inch. I'm struggling with the small screen!

@ 'lava photographer' story:

I forwarded the photo on to a number of people as a bit of a laugh. A few wrote back and asked if it was real (!)

I might have the benefit of having studied maths and physics at University level but is common sense / practical reality missing in so many people?

I think your 11" Air now, Mac Mini later is a prudent and cost effective strategy.

There are pluses and minuses for 11" vs 13" and I'm sure you considered them.

I use a 2013 i7 Mac Mini for photography. It has the Fusion drive and 16 GB of memory. It just flies. My post-processing time has dropped significntly since I ben using the Mac Mini. I use LR, pixelmator, PSE and the NIK Collection. You will be very pleased with this combination. The great thing is you can use the same Apps on both computers and if the Mini needs repair, your Air will fill in nocely. Keeping these two computers synced is trivial with iCloud (but you already know this).

Applecare warranty for three years, have to replace it after that.

Brilliant marketing. They've really got you guys hooked.

I usually buy a top-end lightweight ex-corporate laptop (e.g. Lenovo X201) for a few hundred. They usually immaculate, been lightly used by an executive, and have a month or two of the maker's warranty left.

If it breaks, dump it, buy another the same, and swap the hard disk over. I run it with a 500GB SSD, keep the original disk as a clone in case it's stolen.

Doesn't worry me leaving a $300 laptop in the hotel room as long as the data is safe. Carry that with me on a 32GB SD card.

Travelling with a camera...

I have a 32GB SD card and a 16GB CF card in the camera (5D3).

1500 shots on Raw.

Don't carry anything else.
One less thing to remember.

When I was travelling in South America last year, without laptop, I bought and used a digital foci photo safe II (from US amazon) which was a great success. Pocket sized and bettery powered, all I did was copy each card to it when full as a backup.

Upon clicking on Adobe Camera Raw's "Open Image" button, it takes slightly less than two seconds on a Retina 15" Macbook Pro with the optional 2.8GHz quad-core i7 CPU to develop a 36MP raw file coming from a Nikon D800, and having the developed picture appear in a Photoshop window.

I've been pleasantly surprised that during these two seconds, OS X's Activity Monitor shows that the eight virtual cores of the quad-core i7 with hyperthreading enabled were all 100% busy — i.e. all the cores were performing useful work instead of sitting idle.

People who tend to manipulate lots of large raw files with Adobe Camera Raw might thus want to consider buying e.g. a Mac mini with a quad-core i7 with a moderate clock speed like 2.3GHz — instead of, say, a dual-core i5 with a seemingly faster 2.5GHz clock — as the actual performance of the nominally slower quad-core i7, when developing raw files, will be almost double that of the dual-core versions of the i7 and i5.

Quad-core i7 CPUs are available in the Mac mini and 15-inch Macbook Pro series but, unfortunately, not in the Macbook Air and 13-inch Macbook Pro series.

Cheers Mike,

Don't have an opinion on the Macs but believe "light is right" so an Air sounds like a decent travel companion.

As to cards and uploading on-the-go and such, when I do travel avec camera and laptop I typically upload my photos in the evening so I can review them and make adjustments to my shooting technique, camera settings, etc. I simply can't do this effectively reviewing shots on the camera display.

With that said, I never erase my cards until I'm home and then, only after I've uploaded them on my home PC (spot the wasted step) and run a home server backup.

Come to think of it, if shooting my DSLR I first have to copy the CF card in-camera to the SD card to upload them to the laptop, which lacks a CF port. This gives me a double backup, so I don't mind the extra step. Yeah, I could also carry a CF-to-USB adapter.

Like the proverbial unneeded umbrella, I've never had to resort to any of these backups.

I've used the 11" Air for two years now and I wish I had gone for the 13" all the time. The screen is small and it has the highest pixel density of the non-Retina Mac,s if I recall correctly. I have young eyes, too.

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