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Vivid Light Photography, digital and film photography online

Loosing Digital Images

McGee seems to have a knack for hitting a nerve. His article on Loosing Digital Images generated an avalanche of responses that had our Internet connection smoking. 

We've included just a sampling here:

"Lost! Losing Digital Images to Neglect and Foolishness" GREAT ARTICLE!! When my computer crashed two summers ago, I had the hardest time getting my files backed up. I was using an 80GB hard drive, but I found that to be not enough either as my digital photo library grew. Anyway... I lost three or four assignments - not a significant amount - but it turned out that a client came to me only months ago in hope that she could get copies from her shoot, and hers was one of the very few that I lost in getting my computer back together. I still have to discipline myself to back up, but I have been using a 250GB external drive for storage, and in the coming months I hope to get another. For your readers, I recommend a few large internal drives for speedy downloads from their cards, but still use an external drive for storage when you're ready to make space on the internal drive. Like you, Jim, I often find an old "throwaway" picture months or even years later that fit an article I'm writing. I rarely delete... just store.

Thurman Martin

Even when stored archivally, digital images degrade. Color prints do, too, but Tri-X and Kodachormes are (almost) forever.

The more I read and understand about digital photography, the more I wonder if we embraced the technology too fast.

I lost a lot of images myself last year when my hard drive cratered. Had they been on film, I'd still have them.

I still shoot a lot of film along with digital, and just might return wholly to film until the digital longevity problem is solved. I would like my great-grandchildren to be able to see photos of their ancestors.

Jim Malm

How idiotic! Typical media panic reporting. If you're too stupid to upgrade your equipment every 18 months, and that includes copying EVERY one of your backup disks to the latest format you're simply asking for trouble. If you're serious about your computers and your photography you'll invest the money in the proper computer and not whine about it like some spoiled child if your own lack of diligence in backing up bites you.

"he said, installing a drive was beyond his abilities" Today not being able to install a CD drive is the equivalent of not being able to put gas in your car. Am I really supposed to feel pity for the clueless?


Backups - I recently bought a DVD burner, which may not solve any lack of standards, but does provide more storage than the conventional CD. 4.7G vs. 700M. Another advantage of the DVD media is that it can be used for reading by conventional TV DVDs.


Hi, your image file story this month.

The answer has o simply be that people whom shoot a lot need to look at the latest technology all the time to see what the best solution to there needs is. CD's definetely are not the only one. DVD is probably affordable for a pro now with excellent external DVD drives available. also I guess sdaly the computer netowrk needs to be looked at for example netork attached storage devices which allow for very large data storage.

on the other hand is over deletion to much of a problem for a wildlife/landscape photographer sure for the jobbing newspaper typoes it is but so what if you delete the image of the mountain with a certain type of cloud cover? its really not that much of an issue?

So I think its horses for courses if you really need to keep the images your just going to (continue) to invest in technology.

I'm an amatuer by the way but come from an IT background happily now semi retired, my personal quote is "dont you just hate computers, then when you get to know more and mnore your really understand they dont work" :-)

Steve Wyman

Hello Jim, I read with interest your article ""Lost! Losing Digital Images to Neglect and Foolishness""

I now have a Canon D30 which I enjoy very much but for years I shot Linhof 4x5 and then later 120 film on a Hasselblad. I guess I would say, 2 rolls of 220 for a weekend out looking for masterpieces while hiking taught me to ask myself "Why am I taking this shot". I know I now take twice as many shots as I would have taken in my film days. As you say, I have learned to cull or discard my shots in the field at the time of shooting. I only have 3 cards, a 250,192 and 128 meg Sandisk.

This tends to make me more careless in my approach to the decisive moment of exposure. I am fortunate to have an understanding of aperture and time from years ago. The direction of the light and ones interpretation of it are still paramount. Boy I do ramble on don't I Jim, anyway I just wanted to say Hi! and to let you know I certainly enjoy your online magazine. I think this was a very good article on backing up and keeping a clean and positive filing system.

I remain, Yours truly. 
Jim Bracegirdle.

Jim McGee's article on losing digital images highlights a nasty problem we all face, but I fear it's even worse than Jim describes. What's the likelihood that the PC you buy in a decade's time will be able to read those backup CDs you created today? Unlikely. By that time the IT industry will probably have created several new CD storage formats, plus a few new storage technologies that are nothing like CDs. Even religious regular backups on CD won't save you if there isn't a CD drive on that PC you buy in a decade. We need not only to back up our pictures, but to copy the old backups onto new media as the old formats become obsolete. Never throw away an old PC until you've checked that your new PC can read all the disks written on the old PC or you've made copies onto a new type of media.

Nick Jones

Jim McGee's article on losing digital images is so right when he says we are too hasty in deleting those which are less than great. I have a file of 35mm B&W negatives which date mainly from the 1960s. Probably 85% were never printed. Looking at them today they have a whole new significance as a historical family record, and as a record of life at that time. If those shots had been taken on a digital camera, that 85% would have been deleted, lost for ever. For the benefit of the generations to come, keep that record intact. Storage is cheap. Save your images. Do not delete.

Max Bancroft

Re: Lost! Losing Digital Images to Neglect and Foolishness.

My dad had made a backup of important documents and files to CD. About a year later, his computer crashed. Neither his computer or mine showed that there was anything on the disk. I made a copy of the CD. Both computers were able to read the copy, but not the original. I think due to the fact that during a copy, if there is a problem reading a sector on the disk, it will be re-read until all data is extracted correctly. I've also used this method to recover scratched CDs that skip while playing. As with everything, you get what you pay for when it comes to writable media. $20 for a 100 pack of CDs is fine for one time data transfers, music compilations, or temporary storage, but there's probably something to those archival quality CDRs. Hopefully, your reader didn't throw out those disks yet.


I enjoyed the article about archiving your images this month. I thought I was the only one that was religiously storing everything on CD's without even wondering whether they would be readable years down the road. There has to be a permanent answer, other than archival prints.

Chuck Abbe

Your column on the loss of digital images should have given all of us pause. I'm still working out the workflow and work habits to fully realize the benefits of shooting digital without suffering from some of the obvious problems of achievability. Until we as photographers and the photo industry sorts this problem out more fully; may I suggest that all of us would be well served by committing our best, edited images to some readable form. The least expensive would be small, glossy prints; obtainable at nearly every local photo finisher. While this is far from a high tech solution; one can safely say that having a small reflection copy of an irreplaceable image is considerably better than having nothing at all. Reflection prints can be rescanned if need be and will produce fairly accurate renditions of the originals, within certain limits. At the modest prices charged, they provide a good value back-up at a small price.

Jim Lyon

Create Great Digital Prints

Great article Gary! Working with an older Nikon 2000 scanner for the slides, Epson 1270 printer and an able to make great's all due to good technique. Only some dodging and burning and slight color or contrast adjustments needed, all due to good technique. The newest, latest and greatest equipment is some help, and as you said, "garbage in/garbage out".

John Gronwall

I was so glad to finally see someone acknowledge that you can only get great prints from great images. I've seen so many articles that deal with trying to turn a junk image into something presentable.

Thanks Gary, 
Mike D.

Photographing Moose

I really enjoyed Lennie Rue's article on photographing moose. I've been shooting them for eighteen years and know them well and they've managed to surprise me a few times.

If you want to shoot these majestic animals do so with RESPECT. Both you and the moose will be the better for it.

Butch Aaron

Great article on shooting moose! It amazes me that every year I hear about some idiot getting into a scrape with a moose around here (I live in Maine). If you've never seen one up close you can't appreciate just how big these animals are. And yet tourists think they can walk up and pet them like a dog! I've got a great shot of a big female and a calf in my backyard. But it was taken through a window. I would never have thought to go out into the yard and crowd her.


I had always thought moose were kind of big and slow, like big cows. I was surprised when I read Lennie Lee Rue's article on photographing moose. I didn't realize they could be so aggressive. 

Sharon Gulickson

Hyperfocal Charts

In your Hyperfocal article, you say : "Depending on the focal length of the lens and the closeness of the subject, setting your lens to its hyperfocal distance may leave that foreground subject soft." Is it not the role of using hyperfocal to bring everything in the scene into sharp focus? In your image of the lighthouse with the foreground boats, how would you get both the boats and the lighthouse in sharp focus. Why would not f/22 do the job as you focus on the lighthouse?

Jim Responds - Setting your lens to its hyperfocal distance gives you the greatest depth of field. But that may not include your minimum focusing distance. Let's say you're shooting up a flowing stream and you want to place a colorful rock in the foreground that is about two feet from the front of your lens. You're composing the shot with your lens at 35mm. To get the proper shutter speed for a soft effect in the water requires an f-stop of f11. The hyperfocal point for a 35mm lens at f11 is 12 feet. Using the formulas in the article you can determine that at f11 focused on the hyperfocal point of 12 feet the point of near focus, or the area closest to you that will be in focus is about 6 feet from the front of your lens. That would leave the rock in soft focus and make it a distracting element rather than a compositional anchor for the image.

In this case you'd be better off backing off your focus a bit to a point nearer your camera which would make the foreground sharp and have little noticeable effect on items in the far distance.

You Guys are Sell Outs!

I was really disgusted to see that there are now ads on every page of Vivid Light. You guys are a bunch of sellouts! I suppose I'll never see another article that actually criticizes a piece of equipment now that you're taking ads like the printed magazines.

No name included

Jim Responds - It's not that we're selling out, we just have this unrealistic aversion to going out of business. Every business needs to make money to keep the doors open. In publishing you do that through advertising. Our style isn't changing and we'll still look at gear as we always have - pointing out both the good and the bad points.

Introduction to Digital Photography

I've just now plunged into Digital photography. I don't think anybody can make the understanding of the difference between RAW & TIFF more clear. I feel so much wiser after reading this article. Thank you. S R Jayaprakash

I'm a beginner and loved your articles. In article 6, however, you gloss over how a 10% JPEG compression actually reduces file size by 72% (rather than the indicated 10%). Intuitively, doesn't compression mean the reduction in file size? If not, what on earth does the "10%" mean? Also, can a JPEG file with no compression sized at 1,306 KB capture the same info as a TIFF file of 5,633 KB? Obviously not, but it's not apparent what information is lost. Keep up the good work.

David Stewart

A more in-depth explanation of compression algorithms and how they work would have been out of the scope of an introductory article, thought this is something we'll likely revisit in another article.

Kind Words

I so enjoy your magazine that I save some of the articles to refer to when I get ready to go out in the field. I am 80-years-young and still going strong!! Keep up the excellent work it's a blessing to have access to your magazine!!

Tony Pizzano

I read the articles on hyper-focal distance and composition and found them to be extremely helpful. I am new to photography and welcome the opportunity to see the work of other photographers' and read about ways to improve my own work. Thank you for publishing this free e-mag. Sincerely, Johnny Hogan Virginia

I have only recently found your site and find the articles in your featured magazine fantastic. Thanks to Internet I can now learn more about photography with your excellent site than with the few and far between English language magazines that are for sale in the better equipped bookstalls only found in our larger cities here in the Netherlands, keep on astounding me! Keep up the good work!

Yours sincerely, 
Frank J Bartling

I think your web pages are great. I have been shooting photos for over forty years, just recently have I tried to shot like the pro's. Just maybe, with people like you {building information centers like yours}, I just might make it. Thank you for allowing me to visit your site.

Roddy German

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