Before I get into today's topics, I thought I'd take a moment to name-drop. Why not, right?
During the day, I ran into my friend, Rick Sammon. He was running between appearances, but Rick always seems to make time to stop for a chat. We talked about a shared favorite photo spot, and a little bit about our projects in the hopper.
I also had the opportunity to meet Zack Arias, whose story is very inspiring to me. You can hear it by listening to the interview that Ibarionex did with him on episode 197 of The Candid Frame podcast. Zack was also on the run, but did stop to talk for a few minutes and offer a few encouraging words.
A Place for Everything -- Storage
Picking up from my last post, my next target was storage systems. We had a drive fail last week. There was nothing on the drive that I didn't have a copy of elsewhere, but that may not always be the case. So, I wanted to look specifically at network attached storage solutions, and several players were present. I visited Drobo, LaCie and QNAP, among others. Of course, storage is boring, so let's cut to the chase and talk about the interesting bits (no pun intended) and skip the mundane.
Most of the storage systems at the show were run-of-the-mill RAID boxes. QNAP offered an interesting remote access/cloud component, but nobody in the booth understood enough English to hold a real conversation, and they have no presence in the United States. No wonder their booth was pretty much empty every time I passed. LaCie have a similar device, but it's rather expensive. I do have one LaCie RAID enclosure now, an old 2big Quadra model that's starting to make a lot of noise. It's served well, but I'm looking to get something a bit more expandable.
Drobo offers an interesting twist on RAID -- something they call "BeyondRAID." Unlike conventional RAID boxes, you can pretty much stuff any SATA drives (3 or more) into the box, and it will automatically configure the best storage configuration, generally without any wasted space. Conventional RAID requires that all the drives be the same size and type, and if they do allow for different sized drives, any "extra" space on larger drives is simply ignored. Drobo also allow for dynamic resizing of the array. If you start with five 1TB drives, for example, you'll get about 4.5TB of usable storage. If you later swap out two of the 1TB drives and insert 4TB drives in their place, the array will magically rebuild, and the result will be 10TB of usable storage. Of course, like most RAIDs, only one drive can be swapped at a time if you expect the rebuild to work. I know from friends' experiences that Drobo support is good, and that they're very attentive, with lots of follow-up. And the ability to start with a small array and grow without a lot of geekery required is a definite plus.
Some Thoughts on Tripods
While we're on some less than thrilling topics, I want to take a few moments to talk about tripods. For much of what I shoot as a landscape photographer, I should be using one. But I don't. I have a couple of very nice Manfrotto tripods and a monopod as well. I've got quick-release plates on my camera body to make it convenient to get the camera on and off, and I still don't use the tripod nearly as often as I should. It's basically a sturdy spot to store a camera when I'm not actively taking a picture.
Aside from the general inconvenience of using a tripod, the reasons I rarely use one are bulk and weight. I can't afford a carbon fiber tripod, and frankly, I don't really want one anyway. They tend to flex more, and the attachment points and locking mechanisms on carbon fiber tripods tend to be weak links. So, I've restricted my search to tripods with metal legs.
Two brands really caught my eye -- Vanguard and MeFOTO. Both brands offer sturdy, lightweight, affordable tripods made out of metal. Both get excellent reviews. My favorites were the MeFOTO "Roadtrip" and the Vanguard Alta Pro 264AB 100 kit. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. For instance, the Vanguard center column can be tilted to move the camera off center, which is useful for floral work. But, it only collapses to 24" and it weighs over 5 lbs. The MeFOTO is nearly two pounds lighter and collapses to just under 16". It doesn't have the tilting center column, but it does convert easily to a monopod. And, it comes in pretty colors. The pricing after the show specials is within a couple of dollars -- and both are well under $200. I'm planning on grabbing the MeFOTO Road Trip in green, to match my Tenba messenger-style camera bag.
So that's all for this post. Tomorrow's topic is a real ball of tangled twine: fine-art printing.