Events & Travel Tips » Traveling Without Worrying about Data Loss
|Here is the Digimate III with the charger. I label my chargers because I no longer can remember what goes with what. You may have a better way.|
|The bottom of the Digimate III contains the charging port and mini-usb connector. It’s nice to know that the usb cable is not proprietary and can be interchanged with other devices.|
|The top of the unit has the larger port for Compact Flash cards (CF Type 1 and CF Type 2) along with IBM Microdrive.|
|This side of the unit has the replaceable 3.7V lithium-ion battery and places for SD, MMC, MMC II, MS, MS PRO, MS MagicGate, MS-ROM, xD, SDHC, MicroSD, and other similar cards.|
|Here we have the on/off switch and transfer button along with a card slot for miniSD, MS Duo, MS PRO Duo, and MS MagicGate Duo.|
|The Digimate III comes with everything you need including a small screwdriver for the tiny screws and a faux leather case. When the unit is opened, as it is here, you can see that there is a bottom part of the case that holds the hard drive (“2.5 inches of hard disks” in fact), a top and a small rubber foam pad that helps keep the hard drive tight so it won’t rattle around. Very simple.|
|Finally, here is the complete unit with my Compact Flash card inserted and copying to the drive. I have a 60 GB 2.5” hard drive installed in this unit but as long as your hard drive is an IDE drive it should work well.|
You may want to consider this a follow up article to F-Stop Fitzgerald’s “Tips to Make Travel Photography Easier & Lighter” posted on November 15th on this website. It’s always interesting to see how others deal with the same issues you have and the decisions they make when confronted with the same situations. I’ve traveled throughout England, Scotland and Wales photographing old castles and abbeys as part of a project a few years ago. At different times I’ve also photographed in France and most recently Italy. In fact, I have made numerous trips to Italy to photograph in Florence and Venice and a colleague and I even took a group of students on a two-week tour of Italy to photograph and see (art) historical sites from Sorrento to Venice.
Quite a Workout
All that said, unless you are traveling wealthy— with assistants to carry stuff—it can become, as f-stop pointed out, rather difficult at times to carry your camera gear and other items both in transit and once you arrive. I’ve tried quite a few methods of working while traveling. When shooting film, it was easy enough to put your exposed rolls in a lead bag for transport home, to develop and print later. You had to convince airport scanners to conduct hand inspections to avoid your film being fogged. Of course, the downside was that you never knew if you had the shots you wanted until you developed them. With digital, you can pretty much confirm what you have but the question arises—what if my media fail or get lost as I travel? You can have all the cards your shooting can handle but the issue of redundancy or how to protect yourself against loss or media failure is still a serious concern.
I thought I had this beat when I first started to shoot digitally by traveling with a notebook computer. I thought “hey, they make special camera cases that will fit a notebook in the back. I can copy my files to the hard drive and then burn CD’s each night just to make sure I have everything backed up. I can even erase my cards and reuse them.” And this worked flawlessly for the first half of my trip. Then I got tired. Or lazy. Or maybe both. I continued to transfer files to the notebook but my CD burning kept getting put off. Still, I had everything on the laptop so it was safe. Right? This worked exactly as expected right up until the hard drive in the laptop fried. I lost three days of work that I didn’t burn to CD, from sites I couldn’t revisit. I had wiped the cards for reuse because I thought the work was backed up on the laptop. Ah, to be that naïve (or is that foolish?) again. I swore this would never happen to me a second time, which leads me to my major tip in writing this article. Stuff happens. So how can you stack the odds in your favor when traveling light?
My Revised Plan
I did some research and bought an independent, small, portable notebook disk drive enclosure for under $30, the Digimate III and added a notebook computer hard drive to it. What makes this enclosure so special is that it needs no notebook computer to work. I just charge its internal lithium-ion battery and I’m ready to backup whatever I wish. Imagine a portable, battery-run notebook hard-drive with a card reader built in. It takes just about every type of storage card you can imagine. Whenever and wherever I want, I can just turn it on, plug my media card into the appropriate slot, push a button and transfer all my images to the hard drive inside this little device. Whatever you have on the card, digital image files, video, etc. just copy to a separate folder each time you insert a card. If you leave your images on the cards you are shooting with, you have redundancy. Given my experience, I have two of these devices and I tend to backup individual cards to both of them. They are inexpensive and so far have been utterly reliable.
When you get home, you just plug the drive into a USB slot and transfer the individual folders to your computer. From there your regular backup procedures should come into play. The device itself is about 3” x 4.5” x 1” and is pretty lightweight. However, do some research, as there are other similar devices. Epson even makes one (Epson P-7000 Multimedia Storage Viewer® for about $800) that has a built in viewer so you can review your images right on the unit itself. However, with the in-camera LCDs getting better and better for viewing images, this may not be as important as it once was.
What Gets Packed
When I want to travel light now I take my Nikon D2Xs, a D2x backup body (as traveling with a single body leaves me in a cold sweat), a 16-85mm VR lens, an old 24mm manual focus lens Nikon that I converted to AI (just in case) and a simple Nikon flash that I rarely use but take anyway. All this goes in a simple padded knapsack. I throw in a few of the Digimate storage units and I’m ready to go. The large, expensive, roll-along camera bag that I used to stuff with film and digital bodies and lenses stays home. Unless I am going to be in one place for an extended period—and that location has Internet access—my laptop stays home. I used to carry a tripod or a monopod but found I never really use them. They stay home. However, the portable, battery-driven hard-drives with built-in card readers come with me and make it easy to backup work, and as I’ve mentioned, they are inexpensive enough to duplicate backup on two separate units for added redundancy. This is simpler and faster than burning CDs and eases my paranoid fantasies of losing all my work. At the end of a day, or sometimes partway through it, I have three copies of everything I shot—one on the original data card and one on each of the two Digimates. So don’t shoot smaller images in order to save space on your cards. After all, you bought those megapixels for a reason. Shoot jpegs at maximum size and quality, shoot RAW, shoot lots and don’t worry about data loss more than you should.