Monday, January 24, 2011

New Technology

As this course has a stronger emphasis on the technology and process of photography than the more art based courses, I intend to spend some time in my blog discussing my technical development and devices that I have added to my photographic arsenal.  In some of my earlier posts I have detailed my Digital Darkroom setup, over Christmas I have added a device that slightly alters my existing workflow and another that will evolve a brand new workflow

The first is the rather awkwardly named LaCie 4big Quadra 4TB RAID-System.  This is an external disk array containing 4 x 1TB drives organized into a RAID5 array.  What this essentially does is to stripe data across all 4 disks in such a way that if one disk fails the data is not lost.  What I end up with is a single 3TB volume.  The advantage of such a device is that I no longer need to manually maintain a dual disk backup.  This does not remove the need for occasional copy and removal of data to another location (fire will kill the drives), however, it should mean that there is little or no risk of data loss due to hardware failure.  This is quite a bit more expensive than buying separate disks, however, the convenience of the box coupled with the security was worth the 500 Euro investment.  It is also quite a bit faster than single external USB drives, especially when reading, which is 90% of what I do.  Not a cheap option, but when I think back to the mid-90's when I was a pre-sales computer engineer working for Compaq, a 7 drive array with 7 x 4GB drives, providing 24GB of total storage was over $50,000, this is quite amazing value.  The device also detects the presence of the computer starting up and shutting down automatically. It is also quite odd looking:

The other device that has found its way into my home is an Epson V700 Photo Scanner.  My mother recently moved from a large family home into a comfortable but small apartment, resulting in much sorting of old stuff.  Whilst helping her with this we went through some of the old family photos, currently stored in boxes and not labeled in any meaningful way.  I quickly realized that the only person now alive who could say who these people were or when the images were taken was Mum.  I now have the photos and am committed to scanning them and creating a series of books that document our early family history.  I realize the unique value of these "documents" to the future generations of my family, however, without context they are simply old black and white photographs  of no interest.  With context they become small parcels of family history.  I recently read that a key result of photography was that around 100 years ago ordinary people were starting to see pictures of their forebears for the first time - this only became possible with the development of affordable photography.  My brother has two sons who one day might look back and wonder where they came from - the books I plan to create will answer some of those questions.

The scanner also has the ability to handle pretty much any film format, a useful tool if I ever go down the medium format or view camera route.  However, it is the ability of such a device to capture old images and enable them through the medium of digital book publishing to gain new currency and import, even if only to a small number of people, but people I deeply care for.

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