Danny’s Angels photo shoots are some of the most fun events you can ever attend. They are typically all-day shoots with multiple models shot in rotation, and are take place all around the world. This fun shoot was held at Nazareth Studios in Johannesburg South Africa, and I was blessed to shoot twelve gorgeous models over the full two day shoot.
I was fortunate to be assisted by my good friend Gawie van der Walt who has helped me on several of my Playboy Playmate shoots, and for this shoot I used two lovely makeup artists Janine Korvessis and Tash Grifo Roberto. But this shoot was even more special as my new friend and pro shooter Tiago Nazareth joined the shoot on Sunday and generously took these superb behind-the-scenes shots and convey some of the excitement and fun that happens at our shoots. Makes you want to be there doesn’t it!
Danny’s Angels Photo Shoot at Nazareth Studios, Westdene, Benoni – 25 March 2018
(Photo by Tiago Nazareth 2018)
How to backup your photos to prevent loss of your precious photos
Over the years I have seen so many photographers post in forums and on social media, looking for help on how to retrieve their valuable images from their failed hard drives, that it still STUNS me that they are NOT using a simple and automated backup system that ensures their images are safe.
For those of you that think that automatic backup of your images is unnecessary, then you obviously do not understand that every single hard drive WILL FAIL. That’s right, 100% of all hard drives and SSD’s will fail. HDD’s and SSD’ all have a finite life, some shorter than others, and unless you are a clairvoyant, they will fail before you can take action.
So you have NO OPTION but to employ a redundant backup system.
At our photography studio, we have been backing up our images automatically since 2002, and we have never lost a single image so I thought I would show you a simple backup protocol that has never let us down.
Please note that since we shoot several Terabytes of images for our studio each year, and since cloud storage services are priced based on the size of storage needed, and since uploading large quantities of huge image files uses significant bandwidth, we currently do NOT use cloud storage for our image backup. As prices for both storage and bandwidth continue to drop, this is something that we might consider in the future
But before we start, here are a few terms that you need to understand
NAS – network attached storage
RAID – random array of independent drives
NAS Enterprise Drive – a more durable hard drive certified for NAS enclosures
SYNCTOY – simple Free Microsoft Backup utility that creates the backups
Scheduled Task – something that happens automatically at a given time
So this is our Simple Photo Backup Protocol
All of our data, photographic images, and video are stored on NAS’s.
We use three NAS devices. Our primary NAS storage device is called “STORAGE”.
As you can see from the image above, we have tried many different brands and models of NAS devices, but we have now standardized on the Synology DS15+ and more recent Synology DS17+. These are 5 bay NAS enclosures and they can take any size of hard drive, but they all need to be the same size.
We currently populate the bays with 8TB WD Enterprise NAS Hard drives, and then in the Synology Control Manager, we stripe them in a RAID 5 configuration (a very simple procedure).
Note that hard drives certified for NAS usage are significantly more durable than the standard consumer hard drives and most of them have last us several years of continuous usage. Remember that ALL hard drives will fail over time. You should read this paper discussing Enterprise vs Consumer drives
Striping the NAS in RAID 5 means that even though we have 5 x 8TB drives with 40TB of overall storage, we only end up with around 30TB of usable storage as part of the drives are used as the parity portion of the RAID. This means that when one drive fails you do NOT LOSE ANY DATA, you simple pull out the failed drive and replace it with a new identical drive and the RAID will automatically rebuild the RAID and all data will be saved and accessible.
So now you understand what our primary STORAGE NAS looks like.
Now we have two more identical Synology NAS’s, all populated with the same 5 x 8TB NAS hard drives and also striped in RAID 5.
These additional NAS’s are called “BACKUP” and “OFFSITE”
The STORAGE and BACKUP NAS’s live at our studio. Our OFFSITE NAS lives at our home. If you keep all your images in one place, you are still totally exposed and vulnerable to a break in and theft or a total loss due to a fire / flood. By having an entire backup offsite at another location, you are ensuring that you are not exposed to this vulnerability.
For our automatic backup, we use the free Microsoft SYNCTOY software that comes with Windows. This is a powerful backup utility that can easily be configured in many ways. It is way easier to use than its predecessor ROBOCOPY.
We set up SYNCTOY to write one-way only. That is we only write from STORAGE to BACKUP, never the other way. It examines the data on our STORAGE drive and compares it to what is on our BACKUP drive and if there are images on our STORAGE drive that are not on our BACKUP drive, it copies from STORAGE to BACKUP. That way we are only adding images to BACKUP. We are never syncing both ways.
In the Windows Task Scheduler we set SyncToy to run every evening at 5pm. We are always at the studio at this time but we typically wrapping up the day. So we are there to confirm the backup is running automatically, but it is not slowing our system down when we are doing the bulk of our editing work.
And then once a week we physically take in our OFFSITE NAS to the studio, backup from STORAGE to OFFSITE and bring it home the same day.
We also make note, on a form taped to the OFFSITE NAS, of the day that we backed the data, as sometimes you forget when last you backed it up.
This way if our studio was a total loss in a fire, at the worst case scenario we would potentially only lose the images for the week that we did not back up to the OFFSITE drive.
There are also some tremendous benefits to using the Synology drives. They have so many cool apps, and offer so many functions that I will only discuss a few below.
You can set up your NAS to give you access to your entire image library from anywhere in the world so that if you are traveling and you need to access a specific image for a client or magazine, you just log into a secure portal, provided by Synology, that then allows you to access your NAS and you can download, or upload, any image you need.
I also use a SYnology NAS at home as my media server for our TV’s and blue tooth speakers, so that every TV in our house can stream the movies and music that I have saved on the NAS.
And there are many more useful APPS
As I mentioned before we have learned a lot of things regarding image backup
All hard drives fail, even the NAS certified drives and especially consumer hard drives. We have lost close to 30 drives in 16 years but we are spinning about 72 drives across all our NAS’s continuously 24 hours a day
When we buy a new Synology NAS enclosure and the 5-drives we need for the NAS, we always buy at least another 2-3 spare identical drives. This is to ensure that when we inevitably have to replace a drive, we have the exact same size and type of drive.
NAS devices can also fail, just like PC’s. When we lost NAS’s before Synology, the hard drives still had the data, but the replacement NAS enclosures would not rebuild the data. But we had redundant backups so we were OK. We have only had one Synology NAS fail to date, and when we installed the drives in the NAS, the drives automatically rebuilt and were functioning perfectly within a day.
Multiple NAS’s will add additional noise and heat to your environment, so we created our NAS area just outside our offices in the studio to reduce the noise Make sure you have enough A/C as multiple 5-drive enclosures will generate heat. We routed an additional cooling duct from our A/C system to vent directly above the NAS enclosure shelves, and this ensures the cool operation of the NAS’s.
And remember, if you do not have your backup scheduled AUTOMATICALLY, you will forget to do it and you will end up losing data. Trust me on this, I have seen this happen with one of my hired photographers that was backing up his personal images manually and he thought he was up to date, and yet he was almost 4 months behind when his drive crashed, losing 4 months’ worth of own images.
Anyway, this simple set-it-and-forget-it approach has helped us avoid the inevitable drama that comes from losing precious and irreplaceable images, and the potential lawsuits from angry customers.
I have been trying to perfect High Speed Sync on my Nikon Cameras for over 5 years. For me the ability to shoot in full sunlight at wide open apertures (f2.8 or faster) with strobe illuminating the model, has been the Holy Grail.
Shooting a model outdoors at wide open apertures in full sunlight has always been possible with a reflector, but as any photographer will tell you, you have to factor in the model’s eye sensitivity to the reflected light as often she would have a frown cross her brow as she tried to deal with the bright light reflected into her face, even if you had her close her eyes and only open them for a milli-second. And of course trying to get the right rhythm and flow with a model opening a closing her eyes on command leaves a lot to be desired.
But the problem with all DSLR camera’s is their maximum flash sync speed is limited to around 1/250th of a second, which means that if you are shooting outdoors in bright sunlight at ISO 100, and 1/250th of a second, you are typically shooting at and aperture of around f5.6 to f8, which increases depth of field, and diminishes attractive bokeh highlights. Models then merge into the background unless you are using very long focal length lenses. Shooting with flash at shutterspeed above the camera’s synch speed yields the dreaded black band across the image.
I first became aware of High Speed Sync, or rather Hyper Sync, with sports photographers freezing skiers, skateboarders and motocrossers in midflight, illuminated by flash, and so I set about my journey to figure it all out.
Hyper Sync relied on timing the maximum burst of a larger studio strobe to coincide with the shutter slit opening, and this provided more illuminating power than High Speed Sync (HSS) which relied on the strobe firing thousands of consecutive low power flashes to provide essentially continuous light.
With a lot of trial and error I was able to develop a workflow using Pocket Wizards transmitters triggering either Nikon Speedlights or Alienbees Monolights. However the consistency of results was never repeatable.
With Hyper Sync I would get stunning, clean un-banded exposures at 1/2000th of a second using my approach, but if you click on the image above and view full size you will see the dreaded banding start to make its presence felt at shutter speeds over 1/2,000ths of a second. But at 1/2,000th of a second it would yield stunning shots, just like in the image of Emily below, but the consistency of exposure was not perfect.
Even keeping, ISO, shutterspeed and aperture constant, and with NO changes to power levels or light-to-model distance, consecutive images could have more than a stop of exposure variance and I could never trust Hyper Sync for my commercial client shoots, so it was relegated to my personal work and experimentation, which I love.
A few years ago I bought Profoto B1’s, B2’s, D1’s, and more recently D2’s. Even with the built in High Speed Sync (HSS) capability, image to image exposure variances were not consistent enough to trust. But with the latest Profoto software update released in January of 2017, things have really improved.
The HSS shots of Jisel in this article were taken around 10 am in FULL bright sunlight hitting the back of the model. There are no shade cloth’s, no scrims keeping the direct sunlight off her. The sunlight is falling on the model’s back. And because the sunlight is hitting her back, and because she has no reflected light shining in her face, her eyes are relaxed, there is no frown, and her pupils are normally dilated.
These images were shot with my Nikon D5 set at 100ISO, using the wonderful new Nikon 105mm F1.4 lens, shooting fully wide open. To get the right ambient light exposure in the background at F1.4, I varied the shutter speed between 1/2,000th and 1/5,000th of a second, and of course without strobe the model is a complete silhouette as you can see in the image below.
Then I added two Profoto B1’s equipped with 5ft Octobox’s to provide the fill light and balanced it in manual mode (almost at full power) with the lights mounted less than 8ft from the model (any distance greater than that and the reduced power obtained in High Speed Sync mode will not provide enough illumination). Once I found the satisfactory power and distance-to-model settings, I was able to shoot around 70 images, all with perfect consecutive image to image exposure, with no discernible variation.
One further note:- Since the Profoto flash units will need to be near their maximum power output in manual mode to support HSS, you will burn through batteries very quickly, so make sure you have adequate batteries being charged as you are shooting. Also make sure that the flash capacitors have fully recharged before taking the next shot. I highly recommend setting your Profoto lights to give the audible ready-beep, because when shooting in bright light, your in-camera flash-ready light might not be adequately visible.
I hope you enjoy the images, as well as the new frontier in glamour photography that this ushers in.
TETHERED PREVIEWING IN THE STUDIO USING CAPTURE ONE
In our studio we shoot what I consider the current traditional way, tethered by USB 3 cable to a Microsoft Surface Pro running Windows 10 and Capture ONE software, displaying the preview image on a 60” monitor. This scenario is perfect for static shooting that takes place in a studio, and makes a wonderful training tool for our photographic workshops, but since you are physically tethered to the laptop via a cable, it is not ideal for location, where you might need to be more mobile.
LOCATION SHOOTING – WIRELESSLY PREVIEWING ON TABLETS
For the past 4 years, on location, I have shot with the Nikon D3x wirelessly “tethered” to various tablets via a CamRanger. The flexibility and freedom to effortlessly move around a location while wirelessly tethered to a tablet is the main reason, plus the ability to show the model or client large size images during the shoot is a significant advantage.
Having recently moved to the Nikon D5’s and the WT-6A transmitters, we are still shooting wirelessly direct to various mobile devices, and currently viewing images in the Chrome Browser.
There are several pros and cons of each setup and I thought I would share my experiences with the photographic community, and of course would like to hear of other’s experience and approach
Very intuitive. Setup/configurations is simple and fast
Fast upload of preview image
I love that I can save the images to both the tablet and to the memory card. This provides image redundancy in the event of a corrupted card, and also allows us to continue to view the images, even when the camera is switched off during wardrobe / set changes
The CamRanger battery lasts an entire 8 hour day of shooting.
Wireless connection to CamRanger drains the camera battery really fast. In a typical 8 hour shoot we will go through at least 4 D3-x camera batteries. I attach a small 3000mAh external USB battery pack with Velcro to allow our tablet to give us a full day of image viewing
Cannot pinch-zoom. You can double tap to view the full size image, but you cannot zoom to a specific area (say eyes to check catchlights)
You always have to think about the additional pack and USB wire. I hook the CamRanger to my belt / Monopod / tripod, but you have to remember to unhook when you put your camera down.
The CamRanger software isn’t as stable as it could be.
Overall I highly recommend CamRanger for simple inexpensive wireless tethering.
Here is a couple of shots from some recent shoots including my Playboy Playmate shoot with Nikki DuPlessis shot with my typical CamRanger Setup using a Manfrotto magic arm with the K&M Ipad Mount mounted to the side of my tripod.
WT-6A (so far only using it direct to HTTP connection, and viewing in a browser)
The adapter is tiny, attached to the camera, and it becomes part of the camera. There are no additional devices or wires that you have to consider, so it is way more convenient. I leave it attached to the camera even when I am not using it
Very fast, almost instantaneous upload of preview image (less than 2 seconds)
Interestingly, the wireless connection does not drain the camera battery. In a full day of continuous shooting, over 9 hours, we only changed the D5 battery once at around the 6 hour mark
Setup/configurations is simple and fast
Ability to pinch and zoom the image to a desired magnification is great
Really Expensive for what it is – just a wireless transmitter
The Nikon HTTP browser software approach is really clunky – will look into alternative viewing platforms
The inability in the browser to swipe left/right to load the previous/next images is SO unintuitive. Right now you have to hit a minute forward arrow key to view the next image. Cannot believe that Nikon would not resolve this ASAP.
South Florida local Kim King is a stunning all-natural Playmate, and graces the pages of Playboy South Africa as their Playboy Playmate, January 2016. She epitomizes the Playboy girl-next-door. Sweet, polite, cute, fun, and just the nicest person you will ever meet. The kind of girl you want to take home to meet your mom!
I had the privilege of working with Kim several times over the past few years, and every shoot has been pure joy. I cannot say enough about what a lovely person she is, both inside and out. I wish Kim all success in her adventures and I am sure her Playmate Pictorial is just the first of many steps along a very interesting journey.
South African beauty Angel Kriel is a real firecracker. Super intelligent, quirky with a razor sharp sense of humor, and on top of that all, stunning to boot. Angel had always dreamed of being a Playmate, and I am thrilled to be the photographer that made that dream come true for her.
We were fortunate to shoot over two days on location at a luxury home in Johannesburg, at a private airfield with some unique ultralight planes, and at a park near Hartebeesport Dam. Great locations that brought out the best in this lovely lady.
Take a look at a few of the images from our fun shoot together. Some of these appeared in her Angel Kriel’s Playboy Playmate pictorial, some are revealed here for the first time. ENJOY!