Back from Binna Burra

From Monday 24th July to Friday 28th July, a group of seven of us from the Canberra Photographic Society journeyed to Binna Burra, Lamington National Park, Southern Queensland:  Ulrike and Hugh, Alan, Luminita, Greg and Murray and Jools.

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Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Gold Coast and Hinze Dam from Beechmont Rd by Greg Wei.

On our way to Binna Burra and the wilderness of Lamington National Park, we caught a glimpse of the distant Surface Paradise, spare and bizarre, like a distant giant petrified forest.

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Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

View from Alcheringa, Monday evening by Murray Foote.

We stayed at the wonderful accommodation of Alcheringa, a house and associated cottage easy walking distance form the Binna Burra Lodge but not part of that complex.

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Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

View from Alcheringa, early Thursday morning by Greg Wei.

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Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

View from near Alcheringa, early Friday morning, by Luminita Quraishi.

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Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Tree ferns and tree stump, Daves Creek Circuit by Alan Pomeroy.

On our first full day, we set off on the Dave’s Creek Circuit.  This is a 12km round trip but we made the mistake of walking to the car park, which added about another kilometre to the journey.  This passed though rainforest, eucalyptus forest and open heathland.  We all found that our fitness levels were not as good as we might have hoped, especially Hugh, whose bad back played up on him on the return journey.

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Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Curious red flower (Drosera rotundifolia) beside track near Molongolee Cave, Daves Creek Circuit by Luminita Quraishi.

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Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Xanthorrhea flower stalk and hakea branches, Daves Creek Circuit by Murray Foote.

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Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Natural Bridge by Greg Wei.

After the exertions of the first full day, we decided on a quiet day for the second.  Ulrike and Hugh just relaxed at Alcheringa.  The rest of us went for a short walk on the Tallawallal Circuit (no images to show you here) and then for an afternoon drive to Natural Bridge at the edge of Springwood National Park.  We experienced subdued late afternoon light, which was fortunate for photographing the waterfall.

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Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Natural Bridge and River by Murray Foote.

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Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Huge tree left from river flood by Alan Pomeroy.

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Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

On the Coomera Track by Luminita Quraishi.

On our last full day, Ulrike and Hugh went for a drive to Natural Bridge and Springwood National Park.  The rest of us undertook the 17.5km Coomera Circuit, with rainforest and many waterfalls along the Coomera River.  This was to be our most productive day.

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Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Bahnamboola Falls, Coomera Circuit by Greg Wei.

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Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Bahnamboola Falls, Coomera Circuit by Alan Pomeroy.

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Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Below Bahnamboola Falls, Coomera Circuit by Luminita Quraishi.

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Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Bahnamboola Falls, Coomera Circuit by Luminita Quraishi.

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Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

At Moolgoolong Cascades by Greg Wei.

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Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Below Moolgoolong Cascades by Alan Pomeroy.

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Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Forest on the return track by Murray Foote.

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Binna Burra, Canberra Photographic Society, Landscape, Photography, Travel

Paragliders, North Tambourine, by Murray Foote.

On the last day we had to leave by 10am.  Ulrike and Hugh were driving their own car.  The rest of us were driving back to the airport in a hire car.  We had some extra time so we took some back roads and were fortunate enough to see these paragliders who had just taken off.

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Lightroom Previews – and getting Lightroom to fly

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(Pipeline, Hawaii, 2015).

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Introduction

In this article I will talk about Lightroom Previews and their effects on freeing disk space, restoring missing files and enhancing performance.  This might seem an obscure and esoteric topic but there are items in here of interest to everyone using Lightroom, even including people on old and slow PCs.  We will discuss:

  • What are previews?
  • Saving disk space by trimming your Lightroom catalogue
  • Missing and excluded images
  • Regenerating missing images
  • Speeding processing with smart previews
  • Optimising performance in Lightroom and Photoshop

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What are Previews?

Lightroom creates a variety of previews to speed up display and processing of images.

Standard previews are by default the number of pixels your screen is wide so you can quickly see an image filling up the screen.  This only applies to the Library module (except briefly in the Develop Module while the RAW file renders).

1:1 previews allow you to zoom in to 1:1 in images displayed in the Library Module (i.e. not in Develop).

There are also smart previews but we will discuss them separately later.

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You can see the settings defined for your previews in the Edit/Catalog Settings/File Handling dialogue.

  • Standard previews default to your monitor resolution.
  • The setting “Preview Quality:  High” relates to thumbnails.
  • You can set to discard your 1:1 previews after a day, a week, a month or never.

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You can define previews when you import files, by specifying a value for “Build Previews” under File Handling in the top right corner of the Import dialogue.

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Alternatively, you can select files in Lightroom and use the command Library/Previews/Build Standard Previews or Library/Previews/Build 1:1 Previews.

If you don’t have a problem with disk space you might as well retain 1:1 previews indefinitely and create them while importing files.  This slows down import but makes Lightroom run faster.  If you don’t define 1:1 previews, Lightroom will create them on the fly with a significant impact on performance in the Library module.

 

Saving disk space by trimming your Lightroom Catalogue

One of the ways you can improve the performance of Lightroom is to use an SSD as the hard disk for your catalogue.  Since the storage capacity may be small, the size of your Lightroom Catalogue may become a problem.   For example, when I put my catalogue on my new 500GB hard drive (an M.2 SSD), I found I was left with less than 10% free space, too little for reliable performance.  So I had to find a way to reduce it.

There are four elements associated with the catalogue

  • The Catalogue itself. Mine was 3.6GB.  I have seen people advocate clearing Develop versions in Lightroom but that seems to me a waste of time.  You lose functionality and only save a couple of gigabytes, which does not solve the problem.
  • Catalogue backups.  I had 22.7GB here and you can save some space by deleting old backups but this wasn’t enough to solve this problem.
  • The Cache. Many versions ago, Lightroom benefited from a huge cache but this is no longer required.  The default is 1GB and you can have more than that but 10GB will be plenty for most people.  Stored cache files may build up to a few GB and you can clear them with Edit/ Preferences/ File Handling/ [Purge Cache].
  • The Previews. This is where all the files were, 391.3GB in my case.  Reducing this is not as easy as one might think.

 

Catalogue backups offer some scope for space saving by changing the drive where you store the backups.  You can’t set this from inside Lightroom but you can change it in the dialogue that appears when Lightroom is about to make a backup.  It also makes sense from a security point of view to have the backups on a separate drive to the catalogue.

Previews is where all the action is though for saving space.  We saw above that you can discard 1:1 previews after a day, a week, a month or never.   I had mine set to Never but you’re supposed to be able to remove them with the command Library/Previews/Discard 1:1 Previews.  I decided to remove all 1:1 previews for images rated at less than 3 stars (85% of my images) but it only reduced the stored previews by 0.4%.  I then read on an Adobe performance guide that this only works where the standard preview size (2560px in my case) is less than half the resolution of images from your camera (4193px for the Nikon D3s).  So I reduced the standard preview size to a low number, reopened Lightroom and tried again.  That was better but not much.  I only reduced the stored previews by 5%.

So that left only one option – to delete the Previews file and start again.  In other words, I deleted the folder Lightroom Catalog Previews.lrdata under the folder for the Lightroom catalogue.

Whoompa!  Previews to zero!  Lightroom still works!

So what do I need previews for again?

  • Standard previews let you quickly see the image full screen in the Library module.
  • 1:1 previews let you zoom into 100% in the Library module, for example to compare the sharpness of one image against another to determine what to delete or what to retain.  This doesn’t apply to viewing images in the Develop module or zooming in one-to-one because there you are accessing the actual RAW file.

My next step was to create new 1:1 previews using the Lightroom command Library/Previews/Build 1:1 Previews (see previous image).  I decided to create them for all my images with 3 stars or more, plus current working folders.  That took a long time.  More than a day and a half for 23,000 images.  After that I had a previews folder 141.4GB in size, 64% smaller than it was.  That solved my disk space problem.  Lightroom also seemed to create standard previews for all images automatically, which I wasn’t expecting.

 

Missing and excluded images

Do you have missing images or images unintentionally excluded from your catalogue?
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On the left-hand side on the library module, right click on a folder and select “Synchronise folder…” .

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The Synchronise Folder dialogue appears.  It may show you have photos in that directory that have not been imported into Lightroom, or photos in the catalogue that are missing on your hard drive.

If [Import New Photos] shows images in that folder that are not in Lightroom, you can click [Synchronize] to import them and see what they are.  After the import, you can select them all under “Previous Import” at top left of the Library Module and then click on their folder (left pane in Lightroom) to compare the new selected images with the ones already there.  They may be images you want to have in your catalogue or they may be images you meant to delete from the disk but instead just removed from Lightroom.

Missing photos may simply have been moved in Windows Explorer (so Lightroom doesn’t know where they are).  If you have some, you can click [Show Missing Photos] to see what they are.  You can then click on the little exclamation mark that appears at the top right corner of an image to locate them.  Alternatively, the missing images may have been deleted or lost.

However, before you remove any previews, especially 1:1 previews, you should check that you don’t really need them.  As we shall soon see, you may soon be able to use the previews to recreate missing images.

 

 

Regenerating missing images

A few years ago, I had three hard drives fail within a week, two in my main data drive (a RAID array) and one in my Drobo backup (essentially another RAID array). When the smoke cleared (metaphorically), I realised I had holes in my backups.  Whole directories of files now showed in my Lightroom catalogue as missing.  Fortunately, I left them there and did not delete the previews.  Quite recently, I realised I could regenerate those missing images which were still in my catalogue, using Jeffery Friedel’s Preview Extraction Tool.  Because they were 1:1 previews I was able to recover them as full-sized jpegs, good enough to print from.

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You can have to copy the regenerated images to a different location, but you can copy them all into a single folder or preserve a whole folder structure.  You can also retain image metadata and Lightroom’s metadata including star ratings and colour labels.

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Speeding processing with smart previews

Normal previews and  1:1 previews speed operations in the Library Module; smart previews speed processing in the Develop module.  They are actually miniature RAW files and save in a folder under your catalogue taking about 2% to 5% of the space of the photos themselves. They were introduced some years ago as a means to let you keep processing while disconnected from your data when travelling.  However, they are just as useful to greatly improve response time in normal editing.

First you need to generate the smart previews, which you can do on import or by the command Library/ Previews/ Build Smart Previews (see third screen shot above).

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In current versions of Lightroom (from CC2015.7 and 6.7), you can select a checkbox to use smart previews instead of originals for image editing.  (Edit/ Preferences/Performance).

Changes transfer instantly to the original RAW files, and stay there even if you discard the smart previews.  The only limitation is for sharpening and noise reduction; custom sharpening done on a smart preview will not transfer well to the original file.  However, if you zoom to 1:1, Lightroom is showing you the original file so it is safe to use smart previews with custom sharpening, as long as you do that at 1:1.

If you are using an earlier version of Lightroom, you need to trick it that your folder is offline.  If you close Lightroom, rename the folder say by adding ” xxx” at the end, then reopen Lightroom, you are working with your smart previews.  To transfer the changes to your RAW files, you will need to close Lightroom and rename the folder back.

You might retain smart previews indefinitely if you’re not short of disk space.  Still, you only use smart previews when you’re processing in Develop module so you may not need to keep them for long.  Unlike the 1:1 previews, discarding smart previews works OK.

 

 

Optimising performance in Lightroom and Photoshop

The specification of your PC is one of the main factors affecting the performance of Lightroom and Photoshop.  I wrote an article about that a while ago.  A new generation of chipsets and motherboards has come out but everything else should be pretty much unchanged:

Adobe also provides useful guides to optimising performance in Lightroom and Photoshop:

 

Summary

  • To increase Lightroom performance by running it on a small fast SSD, you may need to reduce the size of your Previews file
  • You may be able to recover deleted or lost images by regenerating files from the 1:1 previews
  • Standard and 1:1 previews speed Library module operations; smart previews speed Develop module operations

Cloud Backup for Photographers

 

Update:  This article is now out of date in that I recommend CrashPlan Home which is now no longer offered.  That leaves BackBlaze as the most likely choice, except that Carbonite also now offers unlimited storage so that is an option too.

The new Lightroom CC also offers cloud storage but this is only for images.  (Note: the new Lightroom CC is not to be confused with the old Lightroom CC, now Lightroom Classic CC).

I will update this article in due course.

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(Cloud over Iceland farmhouse)

Why Backup?

All hard disks die, it’s only a matter of time.  And then, when you need it, you may find your backup is corrupted.  So you should have at least two backups and one of these should be offsite in case your house is hit by a meteor or falls into a sinkhole.

When you travel with a laptop, you should also have at least two backups and should carry one on you.  However, here I’m primarily considering your home computer.  Cloud backup doesn’t usually apply to travelling.

You should also have a system image backup as well as a file backup.  A system image backup backs up your C Drive including your applications and hidden system files.  You restore your files from a file backup; you restore your C Drive from a system image backup so that if it dies or becomes disabled by a virus, you don’t have to to rebuild it from scratch.

Windows allows you to make free file and system image backups.  There are also third party programs that you may have to pay for or may be free.  For example, I use Acronis, which you pay for (It’s fast, highly customisable and allows disk cloning and restoring an image to a different PC).  I still use Windows as my most reliable method of system image backup though I also have incremental system image backups in Acronis.

Why cloud backup?

The advantage of cloud backup is it provides current offsite backup.  If your offsite backup method is taking hard drives to store in someone else’s house, then those backups are not likely to be very up to date.  Most Cloud backup services do not include system image backup, though, so you probably need to do that locally.

I had assumed cloud backup was not suitable for large data requirements and reassessed this presumption after reading Martin Bailey’s recent blog post on his workflow.

So, the questions we will need to address are:  How much does it cost?; How reliable is it?; how flexible is it?; how fast is it?; and how easy is it to use?

Why you still need local backup

It’s very slow to transfer large amounts of data to the cloud.  Getting back a few files should not be a problem but retrieval of large amounts of files is also slow, though not as slow as the upload.

Also, as with any media choice, local or Cloud, there is some risk your file may be missing or corrupt when you come to recover it.  Cloud companies have also been known to fold in the past (though hopefully not the ones we will mention).

Cloud storage vs cloud backup

Cloud backup is not to be confused with cloud storage.  Companies like Dropbox offer cloud storage and you can copy files in and extract them or share them, but there is no interface for file backup.  There are many options for free cloud storage but most of them don’t offer much space.  The largest I have found is Mega (founded by the infamous Kim DotCom) which offers 50GB free.

The cheapest cloud storage for larger amounts appears to be Amazon Glacier or Backblaze B2 which cost 0.5 US cents per Gigabyte per month.  That corresponds to $A8 per annum for 100GB, $40pa for 1TB and $200pa for 5TB.  Glacier costs from 0.3 US cents per GB for a slow download (wait 5 to 12 hours before anything happens) to 3.6 cents/GB for a download with little delay.   Backblaze B2 costs 2 cents/GB for a download with little delay.

Cloud backup options

For backup to the cloud you need backup software as well as a cloud storage repository.  These are usually integrated but can come separately.  There are many alternatives out there.  Here are a few that I see as the most likely options.

If you have small amounts of data to back up – up to around 1TB, the cheapest option is Cloudberry.  This is an interface for backing up to the cloud but does not include storage.  There is a free version of Cloudberry, or one with encryption for a one-time cost of $A40.  Then you need to add storage from Amazon Glacier or BackBlaze B2 at the costs outlined just above, or any number of more expensive alternatives.  This may be a cheap option but is not an easy one.  You need to negotiate the complexities of setting up both Cloudberry and the storage choice.

If you are already using Acronis for your local backups, extending to Cloud backups may be a viable option.  Acronis is fast, easy to use and extremely configurable.  Additional cost per annum of backup to the Cloud is $A3 (50GB), $A14 (250GB), $A30 (500GB) and $A60 (1TB).  Beyond that, other options are more cost-effective.

This leaves the last two candidates and the most likely to be of use to photographers at a reasonable price.  I have eliminated IDrive, SpiderOakOne and SugarSynch (too expensive and too little storage), Carbonite (limited space per computer and no external drives) and SOS (too expensive).  That leaves BackBlaze and CrashPlan.  Both of these offer unlimited storage at $A67pa and $A80pa respectively for a single user.  In effect, the vast majority of users who have little data are subsidising us photographers, who may have vast amounts of data.

Why Unlimited Storage

Photographers are likely to have large amounts of files and unlimited storage is likely to work out cheaper, especially when including future requirements.

Also, you could be backing up specific directories using multiple backups with different criteria.  This creates the possibility you may forget to define some backups for new projects so you end up with holes in your safety net.  Having an unlimited Cloud backup means you can back up everything and solves that problem.

BackBlaze

Backblaze is cheap and simple.  Basically you just set it going and it backs everything up.  On the main screen you simply have options for [Backup Now], [Restore Options] and [Settings].  There is also a Help button at top right.

All you really have to do is click [Settings…] to select which drives to backup and let it do its thing.  However, you might want to specify a drive other than C:\ as temporary data drive because Backblaze temporarily stores copies of large files there while uploading.

On the Performance tab you can let Backblaze automatically adjust the upload overhead, or adjust it manually in various ways.  Here, I have unchecked [Automatic Throttle].  You can use the slider to increase backup times but if you take it too far, you may slow down your whole home network.  You can also increase the number of backup threads and you should do it slowly, one day per increment, and observe results.

On the Schedule tab, scheduled upload is usually continuous but you can make it daily or on demand.
Backblaze does not back up system files and has a number of folders and file types it excludes by default.  You can specify additional folders to exclude but you can’t do it the other way and define folders or files to include.
Restoring files is more complex than backing them up.  You login to the web site to request the restored files. Then you can download your files as a zip file.  Next you have to work out what to do with them.  They come inside the zip archive in a folder structure corresponding to the directory structure.  You have to manually work out where to copy them to from there – and you need enough space to have two sets of those files until you’re finished.

Alternatively, you can ask BackBlaze to send you a hard disk (up to 3.5TB; US178).  You can get a full refund on the hard drive if you return it within 30 days and pay return postage, making it almost free.  After you make the request, it takes them 2 to 4 days per terabyte for them to post it plus 3 to 4 days in the post.  So probably: 4 to 6 days for 500GB; 5 to 8 days for 1TB and 14 to 24 days for 5TB.

I read a review that said that if you tweak the Settings/ performance values, BackBlaze should run about the same speed as CrashPlan.  If this is the case, and based on my download test for Crashplan (though my PC and network speed may be quite different from yours), direct download may be quicker than a disk for up to somewhere between 1TB and 2TB download.  However, without tweaking those settings,  my current download test is running 25 times slower than my last CrashPlan download test(!).  In any case, a disk may be more practical if you’re short of disk space.  If you do go for a disk, you can still be recovering your most important directories while waiting for it.  Bear in mind that your whole download choice has to complete before you can access and copy any files.

Backblaze is cheap and simple but there are a few drawbacks that Crashplan does not have.

  • That restore process is a handicap for me though the hard disk option could be useful for large data restores.
    • You have to copy the files manually from the zip file to your final destination
    • You can’t access any files until the zip file has finished downloading
    • Restore seems extremely slow with default settings.
  • BackBlaze does not support backing up files from a NAS (i.e. an external array of disks working together, such as a Drobo).
  • It allows backing up from external drives but deletes the files if the external disk is not connected for a month.
  • Though it claims continuous backups, it may take two or more hours to notice a new or changed file.
  • It lacks a History screen to allow you to accurately determine backup durations and speeds.
  • It allows only 6 versions of files and removes versions after 30 days.

CrashPlan

So that brings us to CrashPlan, which is my preferred option and I’m currently on the 30-day free trial.  You can see on the main screen that I have a backup running.  It shows details of how that is progressing.  You can also see the folders or directories involved in that backup.

How did I do that?  Very simple.  First time I opened the screen, there were no files defined.  I clicked on [Change…] to define some files and away it went, backing up to the default location of CrashPlan Australia (i.e. the Cloud).

This is the Settings Tab for the backup.

  • Default is for backup to run always, but you can make it on specific days and between specific times
  • Verify selection is set by default to 3am every morning.  This assumes your PC is left on and set never to sleep (Control Panel/ Power Options).  Otherwise, you should change the time to when your computer will be on.
    • Increase the number of days before verifying to 30  during your initial upload will help it run faster.
  • [Frequency and versions]: See the next screen and comments….
  • [Filename exclusions] allows you to exclude file types as in BackBlaze.  There is nothing specified by default here but your system files are excluded from backup anyway.
  • Leave [Advanced settings] alone.  They’ll only decrease functionality.
  • [Enable] backup sets lets you define backup sets which are for different destinations.  Apart from the Cloud, this can be other locations on your computer’s drives, other computers in your home network or friends’ computers.

On the Backup Frequency and Versioning Settings subscreen, the first slider sets the frequency of backups, varying from every minute, to every 15 minutes (the default), to every week.

The next four sliders determine how many versions of files to keep and how much to whittle them down as they age, ranging from keeping all versions to jettisoning them after a week.

The last slider is how often you remove deleted files.  The default setting is never and alternatives range from every day to every year.

CrashPlan determines whether the computer is in use according to keyboard/ mouse activity.  On the General Tab of the settings screen, you can define how long before CrashPlan thinks the computer is inactive, and what percent of CPU to use if you’re away and if you’re using it.   You can see it defaults to 80%/ 20%.  You could conceivably change that to 90%/ 10% if performance were an issue. Alternatively, you might try 100%/ 90% and then wind the in use setting back if the PC slows.  Setting CPU% to zero though is not what you would think; it actually tells CrashPlan to use whatever it wants.  Its default upload speeds are good, so there may not be any need to modify anything here.

You can define other computers to backup files to you (as we will see later).  The [Configure…] button allows you to change their destination.  (The default destination is a subdirectory of C:\ProgramData\).

Setup tips

What to back up?  Not system files because they keep changing endlessly, so even though CrashPlan excludes many file types automatically, not your whole C Drive.  On your C Drive, perhaps just your Users directory plus any directories you have created for your files.  Most user settings are stored under C:\Users but one I can think of that isn’t is:

  • Printer profiles:  C:\Windows\System32\spool\drivers\color

Also exclude Lightroom previews and cache files from the backup.  Lightroom rebuilds them anyway and it slows the backup.  You may have the Lightroom catalogue stored somewhere else but by default on Windows 10 and for Lightroom CC these are located at:

  • Lightroom previews cache: C:\Users\username\Pictures\Lightroom\Lightroom Catalog Previews.lrdata
  • Smart previews cache: C:\Users\username\Pictures\Lightroom\Lightroom Catalog Smart Previews.lrdata
  • Adobe Camera Raw cache: C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\CameraRaw\Database

When setting a huge initial backup, you can define it in sections with your most important directories and folders first.

Restoring files

Restoring files is easy.  You can select drives, folders or files and then restore them to their original location or another place such as the default of Desktop.  It’s just going to take a long while if you have a huge mass of files, but you can restore your most important files first.

Here are some locations of important settings in C:\Users:

  • Lightroom User Print Presets:  C:\Users\[user name]\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Lightroom\Print Templates\User Templates
  • Lightroom User Export Presets:  C:\Users\[user name]\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Lightroom\Export Presets\User Presets
  • Lightroom User Develop Presets:  C:\Users\[user name]\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Lightroom\Develop Presets\User Presets
  • Photoshop Actions (if you’ve saved them): C:\Users\[user name]\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop 2017\Presets\Actions
  • Photoshop Actions (otherwise): C:\Users\[user name]\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop 2017\Adobe Photoshop 2017 Settings\Actions Palette.psp

History

The history screen is very useful.  It tells you when your tasks started and finished, and the speed that they run at.

Help and support

There is no Help button to click in the interface but there are help screens available online.  Just search for the screen or the issue.  Alternatively, here is the support site.  You can send emails and there is a Chat Line.  Both are quick and informative;  only catch is that office hours are 12 midnight to 8am Canberra time.

Additional free capabilities

A very interesting feature of CrashPlan is that you can download it and use it for free to make backups to your computer drives, to and from other computers in your home network, and to and from the computers of friends.  You only have to pay for it if you use it to back up to the cloud, although with the free version you can only back up automatically once a day.

You might remember there was a [Backup Sets] Button at the bottom of the Settings/ Backup tab as it initially appeared.

  • If you click on that you can create additional backups to locations other than the Cloud.
  • Next, go to the Destinations screen and set up destinations as a folder on your computer, as another computer on your home network, or as the computer of a friend
  • Then, go to The Settings/ Backup tab again to define new backups.

Here I have two backup sets defined.  “Computer to Cloud” is unsurprisingly my backup to the Cloud.  “Computer to External Drive” is a local backup to a directory (Travel 16) that I have defined as a destination.

Here, the main backup screen shows that as well as the backup to the Cloud at the top, I have defined the backup to a local drive we saw above and also there are two inbound backups from other computers in my home network.  So you can also use CrashPlan free for local backup and if you have a NAS with spare capacity, other members of the household can use CrashPlan to back up to it.

You can also have two destinations to one backup set, say one locally and one to the cloud.  In this case, the local, fastest destination has priority in the backup.

Currently, when I come back from travelling, I create a Lightroom catalogue of the new files on an external hard drive and then import it into the Lightroom catalogue on my PC.  Instead I could first highlight the images in Lightroom, save all changes to sidecar files ([Ctrl][S] or Metadata/ Save Metadata to File) and then use CrashPlan to send them overnight to a folder on my PC via my home network.  When all the files are in, I would need to use Crashplan to restore the incoming backup, and then I can specify which drive the files go to.

You can even use CrashPlan free for offsite (non-Cloud) storage.  Create a backup on an external drive (fast transfer).  Have a friend do the same on his PC.  Configure your computers as CrashPlan friends. Swap hard drives.  Now you can continue the backup you have set up on your friend’s computer and they can do the same from theirs.  Cost then depends on whether you need to buy disk drives or disk caddies.

Options while travelling

From your laptop, you can log into your CrashPlan account, view the status of downloads, and download files you need from your Cloud backup (up to 250MB per selection and 500MB per session).  You receive a zip file of the files you selected.

You can also download an iOS, Android or Windows app to your phone to see and download files you have backed up to the cloud from your home computer.

Most places I travel to I’m lucky to have an internet connection at all. However, Cloud backup while travelling might be possible if you travel in Europe or North America and especially if you stay in one place for a while.  Even if you don’t get everything backed up, whatever you do is better than nothing. In that case, unless you already have a CrashPlan Family subscription, you could purchase a monthly one for your laptop ($A8.16 per month) and terminate it when you return and have all your files on your PC and backed up.

Backup and Restore Times

Upload to the Cloud depends mainly on your network speed (which can vary) and also on the specification of your PC and what else you are running or doing on it. So the speed I get on my PC may or may not be relevant to what you get on yours and a test I make at one time may give different results at another. Here is a link to test your upload and download speed.

I made a test to see how long it would take to backup a 54.1GB upload with speedup setting implemented (as below). That took 12 hours 37 minutes, corresponding to 23 hours for 100GB, 10 days for 1TB and 14 weeks for 5TB. Download is usually faster so I set a restore going. That took 5 hours 20 minutes, corresponding to 10 hours for 100GB, 4 days for 1TB and 6 weeks for 5TB.

Speeding up the backup

There are a number of things you can do to speed up the backup, especially for a large initial backup.

  • I have already mentioned leaving the computer on and setting sleep to never (Control Panel/ Power options)
  • In Settings/ General, increase CPU% to 90% both for when user is away and for when user is present.
    • Then reduce CPU% for when user is present if it noticeably slows computer down.
  • In Settings/ Backup/ Frequency and versions: [Configure…], reduce backup frequency from default every 15 minutes to say every 8 hours
    • This reduces the time the CrashPlan spends checking for new versions.
    • You could also verify selection of your backup less often.
  • You can return CPU % and Frequency settings to default values (or whatever you prefer) when your initial backup is finished.
    • However, CPU % when user is present should be at least 10%.  If you reduce it to 0%, CrashPlan actually takes that to mean “Do whatever you want!”.
  • If you have two different backup programs operating simultaneously and you notice performance issues, it may help to schedule them to run at different times.

Managing Memory

CrashPlan recommends allocating 1GB of RAM for each 1TB of files stored in the Cloud.  Default is 1GB.  (Actually, it’s really 600MB per TB storage but they allow for expansion).

So far I haven’t encountered any performance problems, though I have only uploaded 380GB of a potential 5.7TB and my computer has 32GB of RAM.  CrashPlan is in any case designed to run quietly in the background and not compete for resources.  Presumably though, people with old slow PCs and lots of data to backup are more likely to encounter issues.

If you do encounter problems, here are a couple of further things that could help:

  • The most resource-intensive activity is file verification scans. Normal backup gets file change information from the operating system and it doesn’t need to scan.  So make sure the verification scan only operates when you are not using the computer (Settings/ Backup/ Verify Selection)
  • You could set your backups to only run overnight (Settings/ Backup/ Backup will run…)
  • You could reduce the amount of data you store on the cloud.  For example, you could create “3+” subfolders and move images with 3 or more stars to them in Lightroom, then back up only images in those folders.
  • You could have different backup sets for older files and current files with different settings.  Different backup sets are usually for different destinations but you could have two for backing up to the cloud.
    • On the Settings/ Backup tab, you can set different [Frequency and Versions] settings for each backup set, but if you have two sets backing up to the cloud, only the settings from the highest priority set will apply.  So that’s of no use here.
    • However, you can set Backup times and Verify times for two sets backing up to the cloud and they will apply.
      • So one set with your old files that change very infrequently would seldom backup while the set with your current files would backup often.
      • At the extreme, you could set your old backup set to back up for one minute on Sundays (i.e. not at all) and verify it very infrequently.
      • When you finish a project and want to transfer files from the current to the old backup set, define that folder in the new backup set, click Verify [Now] for that set, and delete them from the current backup set.
  • If necessary, you can also pause all backups for a specified period by right-clicking on the CrashPlan Tray at the right of you Menu Bar and choosing [Sleep…]

Recovering from a Ransomware Attack

Cloud backup can be a valuable way to protect against ransomware attacks. Typically you introduce the ransomware to your PC through clicking on an email attachment or a link. All your files may become encrypted and a message appear on your computer demanding a ransom. We have recently seen the explosion of the WannaCry ransomware. According to Wikipedia, over 230,000 computers in over 150 countries were infected within the first day.

Norton now protects against WannaCry and other known ransomware. Acronis’s expensive Premium subscription option also does this by preventing malicious changes to your Master Boot Record and to your backup files. Probably nothing can be 100% successful against new ransomware algorithms. Received wisdom says it is not a good idea to have two competing antivirus solutions so running Acronis Premium as well as Norton (or Kaspersky or whatever) may not be a good idea. It is also important to have your operating system up to date.

If you get hit by something like WannaCry, you’re probably going to need to reimage your PC. If it has spread to your home network, you may need to reimage all the PCs on your home network that were turned on since the attack began. Then you need to restore files from backup.
If you have an online local backup, your backups are probably encrypted too (not merely the files they contain). Offline backups to hard disks may be OK but are are more likely to be out of date than your Cloud backup.

The standard approach to Cloud backup with CrashPlan is that you back up data files (images, video, music, Word files, Excel files etc.) and not system files. So when you restore files from the Cloud after reimaging, the danger is not reintroducing the ransomware Trojan, it is reinstalling encrypted files. If you find this happens, you just need to restore files from a date earlier than when the attack started. CrashPlan will show you the files you have available to restore at a certain date in a directory structure, including the file names. So if you see encrypted file names, you need to go to an earlier backup and if you don’t, they should be all right.

If the ransomware attack means you have lost your CrashPlan password and you have the standard security level, then CrashPlan support can help you reset it and you can access your backups. However, if you are using the higher security archive key or custom key settings, you will need to know that password or you won’t get your files back. In any case, it may be as well to have your passwords on a USB stick, a disconnected hard drive or a piece of paper.

ISP Issues?

Backing up or restoring large amounts of data to the Cloud could have a hidden cost if you have a fixed-data plan with your ISP.  I have just switched to one of the new unlimited iiNet plans so that is not an issue for me.  For some, Cloud backup might require changing your plan or changing your ISP.

Options for families

CrashPlan is $A80pa for a single PC to backup to the Cloud, or $A199 for a Family plan for from 2 to 10 computers.

BackBlaze doesn’t have a Family Plan; you just have to buy more single licenses.

Another alternative is IDrive, a well-featured program including file synch, file sharing and also free offline backup with unlimited computers for $A93pa, but for only up to 1TB of data, which is probably not very much, especially including future expansion.

Cloudberry plus storage on Amazon Glacier or BackBlaze B2 would be cheaper up to about 4TB but the hassle factor would be much greater and the functionality more limited.  If you happen to have a subscription to Microsoft Office 365 Home ($A120pa), that comes with 1TB Cloud storage in OneDrive per computer for up to 5 computers.  Cloudberry supports OneDrive so I presume you could connect from Cloudberry to your Office 365 OneDrive online storage.

There is also the option of off-site backup to a friend’s computer using CrashPlan, free if you have the hard drives, but for many, the CrashPlan Family Plan might be the most appealing option.

(Sunset near Flinders Ranges, South Australia)

Summary

Photographers inevitably end up with lots of images and backups are essential. You should have at least two and one should be off-site.

These days it makes a lot of sense for your off-site backup to be the cloud.  Your initial backup will be very slow but this is not a problem because it will run in background and you should have two local backups before you start this process anyway.

I have covered some other options above but for most people, Cloud backup will be a choice between BackBlaze and CrashPlan, both of which offer unlimited storage space.  Backblaze will suit people who want a very simple choice, don’t mind slow performance if they don’t tweak the settings, and don’t mind a complex restore process.  CrashPlan will be a better choice for most people, though somewhat more expensive.  It is much better specified and more customisable with several unique features, including free backup to a friend’s computer.

Links to more information

Free free to comment, and to offer or to request information….

News from the Ether Feb 17

Some recent articles that may be of interest…

 

Excursion to Binna Burra

The Canberra Photographic  Society is planning an excursion to Binna Burra, in Lamington National Park in Queensland, for three full days and four nights, arriving Monday 24th July and leaving in the morning of Friday 28th July.

This is a rainforest destination with Gondwanaland flora, wildlife, creeks and waterfalls and some great vistas.  There are lots of walks available ranging from short ones to long ones.  Here’s a PDF map of the walks.   Here’s a summary of the walks from the BinnaBurra Lodge site and here’s some more detailed information from Queensland National Parks.  Binna Burra means “where the Antarctic Beech trees grow” in the local Aboriginal language and the Lodge opened in 1933.

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155-unknown-waterfall-10-1-81-lamington-np-3

Waterfall near Binna Burra, Infrared Colour Film, 10 Jan 1981.

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The main reason for the timing is that rainfall is low at this period.  It is also fairly cool, with mean temperatures ranging from 10°C to 23°C.  This also means there are no ticks or leeches.

The excursion is for financial members of the Canberra Photographic Society only (and their spouses).

There is a variety of accommodation available.

  • There are rooms in the lodge.  Casuarina rooms can be double or twin share and have shared bathroom facilities.  Acacia rooms can be queen, double or twin share and have ensuites and mountain or rainforest views.
  • There are sky lodges which are 1, 2 or 3 room apartments with king beds or twin share.  They are more modern and a better standard of accommodation and have impressive views.
    • The Photographic Society of Queensland recently booked a stay at Binna Burra and particularly wanted to be able to take advantage of the evening view from the Sky Lodges.
    • There is also the possibility of an extra person on a sofa bed in rooms and sky lodges.
  • Then there is camping.  You can have powered or unpowered sites or a Safari Tent for from 2 to 6 people which is provided with beds, vinyl floors, a fire pit and lighting but no power.  You can also hire linen for the safari tent.

There is also the possibility of hiring a conference room for a few hours to have a showing and discussion of photographs.

Camping costs are straightforward.  $28 per night for an unpowered site, $35 for powered and $105 for a safari tent, irrespective of the number of persons.

Room costs are more nebulous because we can book as a group and get a group discount and may all pay the same rate.  When I can tell them how many will be turning up, they will offer us some options and rates.  Ostensibly, a Casuarina room with two persons and breakfast and dinner included costs $130 per person per night, an Acacia room with two persons $185 and a 3-room sky lodge with 6 people $147.  It depends how many people we have and what we may receive as a group discount.  See update below.

There are two main ways to get there.  You can drive or you can fly.

  • Ride sharing might be a possibility for the drive option though it’s too long to do in one hit – probably around 12 hours.
  • Perhaps the most likely option is flying, to Brisbane or Gold Coast airports and Binna Burra Lodge will pick people up from those airports.  Canberra to Brisbane direct takes 1 hr 40 to 50 each way and costs from $321 return.   Canberra to Gold Coast takes 1 hr 30 to 40 each way if direct flights are available on that day and costs from $311 return.
    • Binna Burra Lodge will pick people up from either airport for a cost per person each way of between $175 (1 person) and $44 (4 persons), $49 (5 persons) or $41 (6 persons).
  • Going by train is a third option for pensioners, who can go free (though $10 for first class and maybe $100 for a sleeper).  Perhaps combined with a rental car.
    • The Lodge also picks people up from Nerang Station but the logistics of getting there from Canberra may be more trouble than it’s worth.  (Perhaps they’ll pick up from Brisbane Station too).

So the cost per person probably works out to between $900 and $1,230 for rooms and flying, less whatever discount we get.  (Of course, camping could be much cheaper).

In order to get the group discount, we need to have a group.  So please indicate if you are interested.  People can join later but may or may not get the group discount and the fewer who initially commit the less the discount will be.  Also, group rooms may be together which may not be possible for people joining later.

 

To reserve a place you will need to record the following details in a comment below or send me an email at zenophon@velocitynet.com.au .  Places are still available.  See update below.

  1. Name (singles) or Names (couples)
  2. Definite commitment or expression of interest
  3. Preference and availability for dates, whether that affects commitment and whether you prefer to include weekend dates
  4. Whether you prefer a room or intend to be camping and any preferences you have in either respect.

Even if you send an email, please record your name(s) in a comment below.  This will facilitate group discussions later on.

Update (28 March)

A group of us are going and most of us are staying in a four-bedroom house near the Binna Burra Lodge, Alcheringa.  This appears to offer more spacious and better quality accommodation than the sky lodges and at better value.

Currently we still have space for up to an additional two singles or a couple.  Cost will be $105 per person per night for one single or $200 for two singles or a couple.

The Rationale behind the Revised Constitution – your approval needed

Apologies to all those members who find this stuff dry and boring. Please read on for just a little bit…

Your society is working towards creating a vibrant, creative and collaborative space for Canberra photographers of all shapes and sizes. Do do this we need some underpinnings – one of which is a constitution that reflects who we are and what we aspire to. Hence this post. You will be asked to vote on this proposed new constitution at the upcoming AGM.

 Explanatory Notes re Proposed New Constitution for the Canberra Photographic Society
History:
The existing constitution is based on the model rules provided by the ACT government under the Associations Incorporation Act 1991. The Canberra Photographic Society has to comply with this act and other relevant acts and regulations governing community groups in the ACT. Our compliance is overseen by our Public Officer, Ian Marshall.
In order to have our governance mechanisms aligned with the goals of the society, the committee is seeking to update the Constitution. This task has been undertaken by
the Strategic Planning Subcommittee with legal input provided by Tony Burslem.
Rationale for change:
The most important proposed changes are around the Objects of the Society. These have been clarified and simplified with the intent to reflect who we are and what our goals are as a society (See clause 2)
We have clarified the definition of members (see clause 3 and 7) to allow honorary members and honorary life members (clause 16) to vote at general meetings. Our definition of honorary member (clause 15) has been expanded so it no longer refers to particular affiliations (such as the Australian Photographic Society) but is more generally inclusive.
Changes have also been made to clarify and facilitate administration of the
society, such as moving the closing date for payment of membership dues from 1 July to 1 March (clause 11) and making provision for electronic meetings (clause 28). We have also updated language to reflect the current use of electronic communications for membership applications (clause 8 and removal of the old Appendix 1) and the serving of notices (clause 50).
Changes are proposed that clarify the roles and responsibilities of members (clause 9)
and the committee (clause 19). Clauses around conflicts of interest (clause 29) and the declaration and recording of potential conflicts of interest (clauses 30, 31 and 32) have been added.
We have improved the definition of quorums for the committee meetings (clause 27(5)), for annual general meetings (clause 35(3)) and general meetings (clause 38(2)) so that they are more flexible and allow the society to dissolve itself if the membership dwindles to almost nothing. The calling of general meetings at the request (not requisition) of members now requires notice in writing of ten (not five) percent of members (clause 36). Only members may vote at general meetings (clause 42).
We have improved the procedures for the election of committee members (clause
22). We have introduced a requirement for nomination of members for election to the committee to be made in writing at least 24 hours ahead of the meeting and the requirement for all nominees to indicate their consent to being nominated.
The proxy form that was previously Appendix 2 now becomes Appendix 1.
What happens now?
Before the Proposed New Constitution can be adopted it must be accepted at a general meeting of members. In order to change the constitution we have to lodge with Access Canberra either a list of proposed changes or the amended constitution in its entirety. Because of the extent and complexity of the changes, we propose using the latter method. Thus we are putting the proposed amended constitution in its entirety to members.
The committee proposes that members vote regarding their acceptance or otherwise of the
Proposed New Constitution at the upcoming AGM on March 14th 2017.
Prior to this date, all members are encouraged to read the proposed document and
are welcome to make suggestions and comments to the committee so that any concerns can be addressed before the AGM.
The Proposed New Constitution is available (with additions highlighted) for comparison with our Existing Constitution on our website http://canberraphotosoc.weebly.com/cps-constitution.html.
Comments should be sent to committee@cpsaus.org.

The future of the Aggregate Competitions

At the recent workshop held to discuss the program for the CPS for next year, the question was raised as to whether we want to continue with the Annual Aggregate Competitions. Currently there is an A Grade Aggregate competition and a B Grade Aggregate competition with trophies and modest cash prizes for winners and runners-up.

Advantages of the removal of the Aggregate Competitions that were raised are that it could remove any feeling of disadvantage or disincentive for members who join part-way through the year or who miss a competition for whatever reason. It could also give us the freedom to be more flexible with the competition formats. Some see that Aggregate Competitions promote a competitive culture that is at odds with the sharing and learning culture to which we apsire and does not encourage creativity and risk-taking in image making. On the other hand, the Aggregate Competitions could be seen as providing a valuable incentive for sustained and ongoing participation over the year.

One suggested change, which has already been agreed to by the committee, is to rename the event our Exhibition Night, rather than the Competition night.

Members said they feel that having an external judge who provides comments and a score on submitted images is helpful and motivating and they wish to retain these. Thus the model being proposed is that we continue with the (renamed) Exhibition Nights where we retain A and B grade, scoring out of 5 and Image(s) of the Night. We plan to continue with the Comment Only category. Images scoring 4.5 and 5 would continue to be eligible for Gallery 9 and Images of the Night would continue to have a free entry into the Image of the Year competitions. We would also publish the scores for each image each month. The only change would be that we would not publish cumulative Aggregate Scores and not make awards to the photographers who achieve the highest aggregate scores each year. High achievement in all CPS Competitions would continue to be taken into consideration when deciding on the award of the Photographer of the Year.

In deciding this issue we need to consider the type of society we wish to be and if the Aggregate Competitions are consistent with our current goal to “help members achieve their photographic potential” through “sharing and learning.”

We wish to recognise and reward photographic excellence and achievements within the society. We will continue with the Photographer of the Year, the Russell Hunt Award for service to the Society, the Annual Photochallenge awards as well as the Image of the Year awards. We would like to consider some new awards and seek member input as to what these could be. For example, we could have awards for Student Photographer of the Year, Most Improved Photographer and so on.

The committee has agreed that the proposal to remove the Aggregate competitions while retaining other elements of the scoring system be discussed at upcoming Workshops (September 20th and October 18th) so that both supporters and opponents of the idea have a chance to have a say to other members. We will then run a poll from October 19th to 28th (responses to a dedicated email address monitored by a Returning Officer) where every financial member of the society will have a vote. The committee will then make a decision based on the results of the poll and the results will be announced at the November Competition Night on November 1st. This will give all Members an opportunity to have a voice and ample notice of the procedures for the Exhibition Nights for 2017.