My Doctor Prescribed a Sabbatical from Photography

Yep, it’s true. I am still trying to sort out what it means. Actually, I know what it means. I just don’t want to admit it. I have been having some medical issues for several months now, and I have been attributing them to getting older. I tried changing my diet, but it wasn’t helping. I finally went in to have some tests done as it got worse. After talking to the Doc, he said he would still do the due diligence and do all the tests to be sure, but he didn’t think he would find a medical condition or have a pill that would help. That is what I was afraid of. Stress and lack of sleep. That’s it. I need more sleep and less stress. After listening to what was going on in my life he suggested I take a sabbatical from one of my two jobs. Programming (I own my own company), or Photography (I own my own company). Since I can’t even cover the ridiculous monthly payment of the cost of health care for my family (yes that’s commentary) with my photography income, that would be what I should take a sabbatical from.

By the way, I am not sure how the photo is supposed to connect to the post. It’s a yoga pose. Yoga is for relaxation? Something I am not doing?

I’ve been trying very hard to balance a full time job, time with my wife, raising two kids, and everything else that everyone deals with along with trying to get my photography business going. To do so, I have been trying to squeeze in the time at night and on weekends at the expense of my health. It sucks. I am confused, frustrated, and unsure what to do next. The doctor was talking about my business, and not eliminating photography all together. I am still crushed. I was trying to work toward a change of careers. Even if I take a few months off, then what? Back to the same schedule? That’s not going to work.

I know that what’s in the back of the minds of most people reading this, is that this is the opportunity to make the switch. If I need to give up one job, and the one I want to do is photography, then the one to give up is clear. Wish it was so easy.

I am going to spend the next few weeks trying to finish the work that I owe to clients from this fall. Then take a break from actively perusing clients for a couple months and try to figure out what this is going to look like in the new year.











New Mobile Photo Blog


I have another blog. Because I don’t have enough places to post material already. Well, that’s not quite true. I now have a tumblr blog, but it’s about trying to get focus. I want one place to put my mobile shots. They were getting spread out. Hipstamatic, Instamatic, BestCam, twitter, google+, or stuck on my phone. They will now go here.

Part two of the reasoning is the inspiration from Sabrina Henry and her new mini-me photo blog. I am going to make another renewed effort to look for and take photographs daily. We get so busy, it’s easy to forget to shoot. More importantly, for me anyway, I forget to look. Training yourself to look, and see things that others pass by is part of the challenge and the fun of photography. I need to keep at it. The new tumblr blog is part of that effort.

Totally Revamped Family Photo Gallery

My family photo gallery has been sorely neglected for quite some time. I have been at a loss of what to do. I was using zenphoto, and I do like it, but was in dire need of a new theme. Well, today I went looking to see if there were any new themes, and low and behold, I found one, zpGalleriffic. The one thing I don’t like is that it appears that there is no room for comments, and they have been turned off. I might need to figure a way to enable them. I also found out that zenphoto has a content management piece built in now. By turning that on I can have little news snippets and additional pages at the top. So far I added an about page, and some links back to Christopher Ward Photography for posts that I used my kids or family as models.

I managed to upload some new photos too. I still have a backlog of family photos to go through, but it’s a good start.

Anyway, if anyone wants to check it out, you can find it at Annie and

Best Camera Contest

I entered the Best Camera contest today. This is a contest of pictures all taken on a mobile phone. For me, these were all taken on an iPhone.

I have really like having a camera with me all the time. Sometimes I use it more than other days. Occasionally I forget that I have a camera with me. I find myself saying, “If only I had a camera…” But then, there are other times I remember that I have one, and take a picture I am glad to have.

You can vote on my images if you  would like. Just keep in mind that you can only vote for one image per email address. Here the rest of the images that I submitted.

Some of these images are not as sharp as I would usually like, but holding a phone out away from your face so you can see the back while shooting in low light is not the best way to get images. But, the idea is to at least get the image.

10×20 Prints of Eli

I wanted to show a client a 3 image print in a 10×20 size
frame. I have been really liking this size. I have been creating
quite a few of these. I especially like a black background with a
black and white photo. It looks even better in a white frame.

I put the image above on my iPad to show the image, but how to show a
frame. I decided to take a picture of a frame I have hanging in my
house, and then insert the image into it digitally. The result is
below. I think it is a good way to show what the print would
look like.

I am now offering a nicer version of the frame above as an option to clients. It is a solid wood frame lacquered white (black and other wood types available).

Does your Backup System Protect your A$$

My backup system was put to the test this last week. I had my main photography desktop, an Apple iMac, it’s time machine backup drive, and two other hard drives containing pictures of family, clients, and my recent trip to India. I also had a laptop, an Apple MacBookPro with client info, documents, and some miscellaneous pictures. So, was this a disaster, or an inconvenience? How well did my backup system work? Was I prepared?

The answer isn’t quite so clear cut. It wasn’t a disaster, but I found out I didn’t have a perfect system. Lets look at what happened, and what could be done differently.

So what backups do I still have? Didn’t they take my hard drives? Well, they did take a drive that was my time machine backup for that machine. I have no backup for that. I have lost several documents. I had PDF’s of client contracts, bank statements, time sheets from my computer coding jobs, eBooks, and other things. Many of these things I didn’t have a backup for. Some of these I can re download, but some like the client contracts, I only have a paper backup. Good job I have that, but for something that important, I really needed an off site backup.

As a side note: I do have a password on my login, but none of the data was in an encrypted volume. I hadn’t anticipated that I would lose my desktop. I figured a laptop, sure, but how would I lose my desktop? This ostrich head in the sand plan isn’t a plan.

So, did I have any off site backup? Yes. But my system needs work. The hard drives that were taken consist of my RAW files, and I had off site backup of those. They are manually mirrored drives. Every week or so (I have to admit that the time could grow) I would bring the drive home from a remote location and use RSYNC to mirror the data, and then bring the drive back. I have family pictures in one off site location, and client RAW images in another. Problems with this: it relies on my getting the drives to and from home manually. I was also only syncing RAW files. That was all that was on those drives. I didn’t have off site backup for my other documents.

The laptop I got lucky on. I have a wireless backup through time machine to a Apple Time Capsule. It is not in the open, and wasn’t taken. I just got a new laptop, and was able to pull in the data from that time machine backup. I don’t keep as much on the laptop however, partly as a way to minimize loss if stolen. But at least it was up an running quickly.

I was also somewhat lucky in that I have a NAS. It was not taken, as it was not out in the open. This should be a spot that I keep much of my documents, but I still haven’t set something up to get data here easily, or automatically. It is really there so that other computers on my home network can share data. If I don’t need to share it, I haven’t been putting it there. Also, this set of drives is raided, but not remotely backed up.

So, do I have all my photography data? Sort of. There are three types of images in my system. The RAW files, the lightroom ‘developed’ files, and photoshop adjusted files. There is also other data in lightroom catalogs, and things like presets, and export and print presets are not saved in regular lightroom catalog backups.

I did have backups of my catalogs. There were also on my external drives, and I had a fairly recent version on my off site backup, so we were good there. But was it good enough? I had to postpone two client meetings where they wanted to order images, but I didn’t know what I had, and couldn’t show them the images on a computer. I didn’t have them with out my RAW images, and a Lightroom catalog, and LR3 to process them. What would have helped? Having jpeg copies of all my ‘finished’ client images. I will get back to that.

The last bit of my system is finished PDF files. Well, some of them are with my Lightroom RAW files. When I head to photoshop from Lightroom, the PSD (or TIFF) gets stored in the same folder. But, I have (had) some photoshop files that are composites, or HDR’s, or other images that didn’t start with Lightroom. Because they were not getting saved with my RAW files, they were only on my desktop (and the time machine backup that disappeared) and not synced to an off site backup drive.

As well, the presets that I had developed my self, and others that I had downloaded are gone. Same as the PDF files, no off site backups. I had recently read on the lightroom blog about syncing those to dropbox, but didn’t get around to doing that.

Ok, so what have I learned, and what can I do different? First of all, nothing at home (or an office/studio) should be considered safe. You need to have an offsite backup of everything. Just having a backup at the same location is not enough. It protects you from drive failure, but it will not protect you from theft, or a worse disaster like a fire. So how do we get all this data protected off site?

Well, lets look at where we can put our data. First would be a service like Mozy, or Carbonite (PC mag review). There are issues with using these for lots and lots of RAW files. First, they take a long long time to sync up. Second, they can get expensive. Mozy home might be free for 2gig, but move to the pro package or get 500gig of photos, and it starts to add up. I don’t think that it is a cost effective solution for a working pro and their RAW files. These systems are set up for home users with a few gig, not someone with lots and lots of gigs.

How about what ever web site you use? For example, I have a service with a web host and run my own blog, I could just put my RAW files there right? Well, look into the TOS. Most say that you can only put files there that are in support of the web site. Backups are not allowed. Hmmm… Well, how about Photoshelter? I have a Photoshelter account. How about putting full size RAW files there. Looked at their prices for add on data storage? Yikes. (Plans) I started putting full size images up there at first. Sounded like a good backup, but I was filling up my space too quickly. So, I have another idea. First, I am not sold on Photoshelter. It doesn’t work perfectly for selling events and weddings anyway. I am thinking of switching to Smugmug. One of the things they offer is unlimited storage of jpegs. So, what I am thinking is that I will export full size images of everything that I put up there, and I would put up images for every client, even if I didn’t intend to send them there. That way I always have a full size finished image backed up on the internet somewhere. I wouldn’t have been stuck like I was this week needing both my raw files and a light room catalog. I would always have images I can review with clients.

Ok, so having client images readily available is a good thing, but I don’t want to lose my raw images. I think that I will still need to follow my manual sync, off site strategy for these images. It is just too much data, and too expensive to save RAW files to the cloud. I just need to be more diligent about the backups.

Ok, what about the other documents? That is what I think I will use something like Mozy home for. I won’t have multi hundreds of gigs for regular documents. This will be an affordable use of these cloud services. This is where the presets and things should be synced. The other photoshop files need to get saved to the same drive I have my RAW files on so that they will get synced to an off site backup. Ok, so how about my NAS? It provides a great way to share documents on my network, store video, music, and provide local backup of files, but to get it backed up would be a lot of data. It will need to be a combination of manual off site hard drives for video and music, and then making sure that everything stored on the network is also on backed up into the cloud service from the computer I was using. The NAS can’t be the only location I have those files.

So, the biggest thing I learned was that I need to have off site backup for everything. That can get expensive. The solution is to figure out how to use hard drives manually, home cloud services, and a better thought out plan to make sure that everything is getting backed up.

What do you think? Are you backing everything up off site? What’s your strategy? What do you think of mine?

The Smoke has Cleared

The smoke has cleared, so to speak. I have my images and a working computer back and functioning. I had taken a bit of a break to let my images from Nepal breathe a little, but then got a bit longer of a forced break while I got my digital darkroom back together again.

Anyway, this was taken in Kathmandu, Boudha Stupa.  This man would walk around the Stupa several times a day, waving his incense around as he walked. He is facing the front right now, where on each revolution he would stop, and recite something.

I took quite a few pictures of him. So much so, that he would recognize me, and laugh when he saw me as if to say, “Not again, why do you keep taking my picture silly man?” I have no idea what he was thinking, but he seemed good natured about it. This is one of my favorites.

New Version of bgStretcher2

Yea, we have a new version of the bgStretcher2 script. The version has been bumped from 2.0 to 2.1 and it is available for download right now. See the bgStretcher page.

What is bgStretcher?

Well, check out the official page, but simply, it is a way to have a javascript based photo gallery and slideshow that appears full screen in your browser.

So, what’s new?

  • First, there was a general rewrite to clean up and remove duplicate code.
  • The code was documented, so it should be easier to follow.
  • Fixed the issues people were having when clicking on albums quickly. (The slideshow would appear to stop working)
  • Moved some setup code from the html page to the bgStretcher2.js script.

You should be able to just drop the new bgStretcher2.js file in. I would advise cleaning up the html page that you are using to avoid conflicts. I have moved a lot of the setup code that was here into the main script file, which makes the html look much cleaner and simpler.

Thickbox content over flash movie.

I have been using the ThickBox plugin for WordPress on my site for a while now. When you click on a link, the images are shown in their own window with a darkened background. This worked great until I put together something on another of my photography sites here. At the top is a flash movie (yes, I know I don’t like having a flash movie, I will move on to HTML5 video when I can) and at the bottom are images. When you click on the images you get the same lightbox effect as the plugin. The only trouble was, it was pointed out to me that in IE, the video stayed on top. Oops.

A little searching the internet found the solution. Check out here for the fix, and here for some background on how it works and for other options you have. It is now working as expected. Thanks Steve for pointing that out to me.