Thursday, April 07, 2011

Travelling with a Sleepy Computer

IMGP3484-1I’m travelling at the moment (you should have noticed by now) and on my last night in the Auckland I shut down my computer and it stayed asleep for way too many days. I didn’t discover this until I’d reach Lake Taupo and no amount of button pressing and rebooting attempts got any response. So what do you do? When you are surrounding by such natural beauty and want to take hundreds of photos each day. You personally might not want to take so many but I was still keen too. So here are my strategies to stay on top of my photostream (ok photo river in flood). I have mentioned most of this travel stuff before but lessons hard learned are good lessons.

1) Use all available SD cards (I have two 4GB cards on 2 GB and 3 single GB cards). This is a really simple solution as SD cards are getting cheaper and have larger capacity so they a lot like purchasing more film. However not all the places I visit have SD cards for sale  so I always carry a few spares.

2) Switch over to taking mainly JPEG files rather than RAW. On my camera this reduces a typical landscape shoot from 14MB to 6MB (under half the size). The trade off here is quality, or so many “internet” experts would have you believe (I’ll do seperate post on this). Both HDRI Bracketing and multi-image panoramas force me to take lots of images but my software of choice for both techniques just use JPEG file in any case.

3) Use cyber cafes, to download, review and backup/archive your photos. Cyber cafes are getting very common at all the tourist destination, but they probably aren’t as fast and reliable as you might prefer (Uploading to flickr or even just looking at your flickr stream will probably involve many tedious time outs and lost uploads.) Yet most computers will have a USB port so I can attach my cheap portable cards reader (which worked like a charm) to upload my photos to the computer (temporarily), If I have time I can also one or more of my stable of favorite post-processing software on my portable apps USB key

3.1) Autostitch is the multi-image stitcher of choice and is a big bonus that I can run it off my memory key. It only handles JPEG files and can be slow and memory intensive for big output files so I just use it to preview the stitching on the road.

3.2) Picturenaut has become my default HDRI tool the fact that I can run it off my USB is a big bonus. It only works with JPEG files

3.3) Noiseworks is a bit luxury but if I have to take photos in lowlight with Higher ASA I know I will need to do some noise cleanup.

3.4) If the cyber café computers don’t have Picasa or Microsoft Photo Gallery (many do) I find  XNView Portable, a fast and reliable photo viewer and manager that can handle RAW format images.

I always carry a little seagate free agent USB Backpack style hard dick(its getting on now but it does have a handy 120 GB of storage) and I use this routinely as my working backup/archive for my photos as I travel. Its only downfall is it need two USB cables, one just for power and some special drivers. Whilst most cyber café computers will let it load and connect a few don’t seem to set up the right drivers and was a bit flakey on some file copies (I never lost any files but….) However this mean I was able to confidently remove my photos from my SD cards every third of forth day.

The slow internet speeds here in New Zealand & bandwidth issues means I have avoided on-line storage like Sky drive, flickr or picasa web.

Don’t forget to empty the recycle bin on any public computer after you have deleted your images. This ensure that your precious photos are not “found” (aka Stolen) by other at the cyber cafe

So taking my own advice a little bit of preparation (extra SD cards, my PortableApps USB key with a few key programs, Card Reader and Backpack Drive) I was able to avoid undue stress and I could carry on taking photos just as I wanted too.

I eventually managed to “wake up” my computer with a cheap set of jeweler’s screw drivers and carefully removing both the rechargeable battery, backup battery & hard disks and equally as carefully replacing them.

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