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Dave Nelson Posts

Getting Organized

I have recently received a promotion that has left me feeling disorganized and a bit overwhelmed. I spent time with my manager discussing how I could better prioritize my time and how to get and keep a clearer understanding of what my team is working on. I noticed that my manager uses a Franklin Covey Planner and it appears to work well for her so I have decided to follow in her footsteps and do the same.

I spent some time on the web site learning about the different page sizes, formats, binders, and add-ons then drove over to the Franklin Covey store at Perimeter Mall in Dunwoody Georgia. Once in the store and getting to hold the binders in my hands and experiment with writing on the different page sizes I made my choices.

I bought the Ryder Unstructured Binder in black because of its relatively small size and I really like the feel of the leather. It holds two months of pages along with notes pages and a little more. I use the flaps and slots that are built into the binder to hold extra lined notes pages, business cards, 3×5 cards, and receipts.

The planner pages I chose are “The 7 Habits Daily Master Planner Pages “ that includes two quotes each day that pertain to living the 7 Habits from Stephen R. Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” book which I am currently reading.

I have only been using the system for 2 weeks now but I am finding it very helpful. Being able to place tasks, notes, and meetings on pages for future dates along with progressive task lists and lined notes pages has increased my confidence and helped me stay on track. I also plan on taking a course in the Franklin Covey system this year to help me get the most out of it.

I will post again this time next year to let you know how the system has worked over the year and if I am going to continue using it.


Drobo First Impressions

I purchased a Drobo from and three days later the UPS man dropped it off at my door. My previous post to the blog outlines the reasons why I chose the Drobo as a storage solution.

Setup was very easy, the top of the box full of cables shows the three steps to getting started and it really is that easy.

  1. I took the Drobo out of the box
  2. Removed the packaging material
  3. Inserted 4 Samsung 1TB hard drives
  4. Put the Drobo on my desk
  5. Plugged in the Firewire 800 cable
  6. Inserted the Drobo disc and installed the Drobo Dashboard
  7. Plugged in the power cable to the Drobo
  8. Here began my only snag, the Drobo appeared to go into a loop of restarting which it did not recover from. So unplugged the Firewire cable and then the power cable and restarted the computer. Once the computer cam back up I plugged in the Firewire cable and then the power cable and the Drobo jumped to life.
  9. The computer warned about the drive being unreadable and the Drobo began the process of walking me through partitioning and formatting the drive.
  10. I used a 16TB partition and HFS+ formatting. It was done in about 5 minutes and popped up on my desktop just like any external hard drive would.
  11. I immediately began copying my music library to the Drobo from an external USB drive

This really is an amazing device; I was able to start using it within 15 minutes of opening the box. It is almost invincible on my desk; its sleek black case and solid construction give me confidence. Not having to install rails on the individual drives is also a plus.

I have been using the Drobo for just over a week now and have copied just over a terabyte of data to the device now and am using it as my main photo and iTunes libraries.

Performance has not been an issue; the drive is plenty fast for audio, video, and working on 15 megapixel images in Photoshop and Lightroom.

Noise could be an issue for some users but not for me, my previous computer had 6 fans and sounded like a jet when fully overclocked, so the fan and drive noise from the Drobo is tame in comparison. I can hear the fan noise and I can hear each of the drives unpark, spin-up and park but it doesn’t bother me and can barely be heard over any game or music I am playing.

The lights on the front of the devise are not blindingly bright like the D-Link router and are actually dimmer than the lights on the Linksys router but are visible from a wide range of viewing angles.

So far I give the Drobo a 5 out of 5 across the board.


Feeling Drooby

I believe I first heard about the Drobo on This Week in Tech (TWiT) with Leo Laporte, but it may have been on This Week in Photography (TWiP) which is a podcast with members who are also on TWiT, but it is the photographers on TWiP that really convinced me that the Drobo is worth its price.

I have always belived in making regular backups, for years I used CDs and then DVDs to backup my photos, documents, music, and all work related files. I even went as far as making three sets of discs, 1 for the office, one at home, and one at my parents house. My parents thought it was funny that I was giving them stacks of 20 or more DVDs every couple months.

A few years ago I bought a Buffalo Terrastation Network Attached Storage (NAS) device. It is a Redundant array of Independent Disks (RAID) that contains 4 Parallel ATA Integrated Drive Electronics (IDE) drives, I have it configured as RAID 5 with 4 250 GB dives giving me around 750GB of usable storage space. The advantage of RAID 5 is that the data on the discs is redundant, any one drive can fail without actually loosing any data. But RAID has a lot of limitations.

A RAID array requires that all of the drives be the same size, same speed, and same manufacturer to work reliably. It is even recommended to use drives from the same manufacturing lot if possible. The practical result of all of these limitations is that RAID arrays are hard to upgrade, time consuming to replace failed drives, and if the drives in the array are no longer available… What are you supposed to do?

So to backup the Terrastation I bought a series of external hard drives and copied bits and pieces from the NAS to individual drives. I have had a couple of them fail and each time it really freaks me out and makes me nervous about the drives in the Terrastation failing. The drives in the NAS are IDE drives, a standard that was introduced in 1986! Amazingly these drives are still available, but they are not the same model, may not be the same speed, and I wouldn’t trust them to work reliably.

Here comes Data Robotics and the Drobo to the rescue. The Drobo version 2 is not a NAS, it is more like an external hard drive that happens to be up to 4 physical hard drives pretending to be one big redundant drive. Instead of RAID with all of its limitations Data Robotics has come up with a system that allows any combination of Serial ATA drives to be used in the array. Speed, size, and manufacturer do not matter to the Drobo, it will run as fast as it can and provide as much storage space as it can with the combination of drives you have installed.

When a drive dies and its light on the front of the Drobo turns red, you pull out that drive and replace it with one of equal or larger size. What makes this really amazing is that you can do all of this while the Drobo is still running and actively being used. One of the anecdotes on the TWiP podcast is pulling out one of the drives while someone is in the process of editing a video, and nothing happens. The Drobo keeps running and the user is able to continue to edit the video. Amazing stuff, of course the data on the drive is not protected when that drive is missing but in contrast with a RAID solution where the device cannot be used at all with a missing drive or while the drive is being rebuilt.

Yes, the Drobo is expensive at around $400 for an empty box and $800 with 4 1TB drives install for a total of 2.7 TB of usable space. But I decided that the peace of mind is worth it to me, not having to manage a bunch of external drives, having one drive with all of my files including the Mac Time Machine backups will be great.

Coming soon, the unboxing and a full report of getting started with the Drobo.


My Mac Experience So Far

In the mid 90’s I had a Mac, a Performa 600, and used System 7.5. I worked at a couple different pre-press printing jobs where the primary computers used were Mac’s. This is where I learned Photoshop, Illustrator, Quark, and a lot of little utility applications. But by 2000 I had moved on to Windows 95, 98, 98 SE, and finally Windows XP SP3.

Back in the day I did not expect much from my computers, they were pretty process specific and even though they did many different tasks, their main purpose was either printing or the creation of multimedia. But as time goes by I have begun to demand a lot from my computers and the software that runs on them. My computers get used for everything from hard-core gaming to editing 200-megabyte images, managing a music collection with tens of thousands of files to instant messaging, from building dynamic web sites to hosting multiple virtual machines. I have no less than 100 different third-party applications installed on any computer I use regardless of operating system or the computer’s main purpose.

There was a time where computer hardware was a limiting factor, but now it is the software that is holding us back. The biggest problem that the launch of Windows XP and then Windows Vista faced was that the OS was written to take advantage of hardware that didn’t exist; now that the hardware does exist they run great and in general stay out of the user’s way.

Apple has avoided that problem by building the hardware along with the software to ensure that the user experience is as smooth as possible.  It has held Apple back to some degree because the hardware they use is always at least a generation behind the PC manufacturers, but the Apple user does have as many negative experiences as the average PC user.

In Early 2008 I returned to the Mac. I had instant buyer’s remorse due to the cost of the computer. I could have built a truly awesome Windows box with every bell and whistle along with a home theatre PC for LESS than the cost of the iMac.

But I now love the iMac, even though I am still not a big fan of the MacOS, the hardware is really fantastic. The 1980×1200 screen is just brilliant, the glossy finish makes blacks appear very black and the screen is bright enough that reflections are not an issue. With 4GB of RAM, the current limit for the iMac, the software is responsive and I rarely experience any real slowdowns.

The beauty of the current Apple hardware is that you can have one computer that runs Windows XP, Windows Vista, Linux, and the MacOS all simultaneously using VMware Fusion or Parallels.  This is the Killer Feature of the Apple Macintosh.

In any given day I will use Lightroom (Mac), iTunes (Mac), UltraEdit (Win), Firefox (Mac & Win), Internet Explorer 6 & 7 (Win), Photoshop (Mac), Games using the Valve Steam Client (Win), Google Earth (Mac & Win), (Mac & Win), Microsoft Office (Mac & Win), and a lot of other small utilities. At home I use VMware and at work I use Parallels and find that both are good solid products that let me get my work done.

Games are usually played using Bootcamp and booting into Windows XP. I recently finished Bioshock, which I was able to play at 1980×1200 with the frame rate rarely dropping, it was truly a beautiful thing. Next up is probably Crysis just to push the limits and see how good of a gaming machine it really is.

I am now over my buyer’s remorse, but I am still not sure that buying the Mac was the best “bang-for-the-buck” available.


SmugMug Sponsoring Vincent Laforet’s Next Big Project

I have been using SmugMug to host and sell my photography and seeing their participation in the photography community is one of the reasons I continue to use them.

Vincent was one of the first people chosen to test and stretch the limits of the Canon EOS 5D Mk III which he did wonderfully with “Reverie.”  SmugMug hosts the video of “The Making of Reverie”  along with other content from Vincent, here is his SmugMug home page.


2008 Wings over Marietta Open House & Airshow

Had a great time at the 2008 Wings over Marietta Open House & Airshow. This was my first opportunity to see the USAF Thunderbirds.  It was a beautiful day with a wide variety of aircraft to see.

Photos of the 2008 Wings over Marietta Open House & Airshow Gallery or you can view the photos as a slideshow.


Using Lightroom for the First Time

For DragonCon this year I decided to give Lightroom 2 a try. I have changed a lot of things in my photo processing procedures, not the least of which has been the change from Windows to Macintosh OS X, and Lightroom sounded like a good fit.

On Thursday evening I installed the Lightroom 2 30-day trial on the Apple PowerBook G4 laptop that I would be using for the weekend. Chris [insert last name] helped me get started with Lightroom showing me some of the basics. The biggest thing that got me excited about Lightroom is the ease that metadata could be added to images and the ability to easily search for and filter images making it really easy to find images that have been tagged.

During DragonCon I would be out shooting from about 9:30 AM until around midnight at which time I would go to the hotel room fire up the laptop and spend 3 or 4 hours process all of the images in Lightroom. I would first copy the memory cards to my image bank and then onto the laptop so that there would always be two copies of every image.

Then I would import the images into Lightroom with my default metadata, which included a basic set of keywords, copyright information, and my contact information. Once in Lightroom I flagged the images that were unacceptable and should never be seen again and when I had made my way through all of the image I deleted the rejects.

The next pass took a lot longer as I went through and rated every image using 1 through 5 stars with the idea being that all images with 3 or more stars would be turned in as keepers.

On the third pass I visited each one of the keepers and used Lightroom to color correct, rotate, and crop where necessary. Luckily the Canon EOS 40D auto white balance is very accurate for this type of photography and with the lenses in my kit I am able to get the shots I am looking for with much cropping or rotating.

The final step is to export the images from Lightroom with my custom file naming convention of “Firstname_Lastname_YYYYMMDDHHMMSS_####.jpg” and I used a thumbrive to transport the images to the show computer to copy them over to the Director of photography.

By the end of the show I shot around 3,600 images over the four days of DragonCon and turned in 717 keepers. For my personal use I had about 3,800 pictures and published 1,181 onto my SmugMug web site.

Lightroom 2 is a really amazing tool. This is the first event where I did not spend hours in Photoshop pouring over each and every image that was designated a keeper. It is also the first event where I had every keeper tagged with keywords that will allow me to search for images later. In the past I would add keywords and captions to the images in SmugMug, but that did nothing to help me find images on my hard drive.
My next goals for Lightroom are to read a good book on the subject and then spend the next year or so going through my entire image library adding keywords and other meta data.



DragonCon 2008 Photographs

I had a great time at DragonCon this year, the costume contests were fantastic, the guests told wonderful stories, and the fans were a lot of fun.

Here are some links to take you directly into the gallery:

I hope to write a post about how I processed images this year. Lightroom 2 is really fantastic, I did not use Photoshop to edit any of the 1,181 images in the gallery.


Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photo Walk

On Saturday August 23rd I spent a beautiful night participating in Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photo Walk in Atlanta Georgia around the Buckhead – Lenox area. At 7:00 pm about 45 photographers gathers in front of the Terminus 100 building at the corner of Peachtree and Piedmont eager to attack the neighborhood.

I did not really feel inspired until I got to Dante’s Down the Hatch where I stepped inside and got a couple pics of the crocodiles inside. The energy inside the restaurant and seeing the reptiles fired me up to get out there and take a lot of photos.

But even then I did not start capturing photos that made me happy until the light started to fade and the street lights turned on. Using a tripod very close to the ground along with a remote shutter release I took many photos with the lights from cars and trucks blurring across the image.

I think may favorite image is of the fire hydrant. It is an atypical image for me, just not the kind of image I think about.

After being rained on for a bit and another trip up and around a parking deck I returned to where we started and entered the restaurant Bricktops where many of the photographers were enjoying food, drinks, and conversation.

We spent about an hour talking about scanning services ( Microsoft Pro Photo Tools ( and one of us spent the night taking photos of the food and drink.

I would like to thank Judith Pishnery for leading our band of photographers. She can be found at and her blog is at

It was a great experience and I hope to participate in another photowalk soon.



DragonCon is Coming

It is almost that time again, DragonCon is less than a month away. I am a staff photographer for DragonCon and have 7 years of DragonCon photographs on my web site.

This year I am most excited about meeting Hayden Panettiere, James Kyson Lee, and George Takei of Heroes, Sean Astin and Brad Dourif from The Lord of the Rings, Gareth David Lloyd and James Marsters from Torchwood, Beau Bridges from the upcoming Max Payne movie, Joel Hodgson the creator and host of MST3K, James Callis, Aaron Douglas, Michael Hogan, Tahmoh Penikett, and Katee Sackhoff, from Battlestar Galactica, Jewel Staite and Morena Baccarin from Firefly and Serenity, Randal L. Schwartz computer geek extroidinaire, and my favorite science fiction author Mike Resnick.

Come back after September 2nd to see pictures of the guests listed above along with costumes, fans, and events from DragonCon 2008.

Below are some of my favorite pics from previous years.


2004 2004

2004 Jewel Staite 2004 Nathan Fillion

2004 Fairy 2006 Joker

2006 Thom and Barry

2006 Anthony Daniels 2006 Kari Byron and a slice of cheese

2006 Summer Glau 2007 Robert Asprin


Photoshop and Meta Data

I have had my suspicions for a couple of years that Photoshop had been stripping out the EXIF data that I inserted into my images with Exifer, and now after a bit of testing I have discovered that Photoshop CS3 does indeed remove EXIF data when saving JPG files.

Here is the workflow that I have been trying out lately.

  1. Take pictures in JPG format
  2. Use Exifer to add EXIF and select IPTC data
  3. Use Microsoft Pro Photo Tools to add GPS and address information (geotagging)
  4. Copy all images into an “Originals” folder
  5. Edit the images being very selective as to what pictures are to be Photoshopped and shared with the public
  6. Publish to SmugMug, Facebook, Flickr, and/or my blog.
  7. Copy images to the Storage Area Network device

Meta data in the form of EXIF and IPTC information makes it much easier to search for files years later and web sites like SmugMug will take the EXIF data and use them for descriptions, locations, and more on their web site.

But I now have proof that during step 5 Photoshop is replacing the EXIF description with the IPTC description and if there is not an IPTC description then the EXIF description is now blank. If the IPTC Description and Author Name are filled out they will be copied to the EXIF fields when the file is saved in Photoshop.

I originally thought that this issue also affected the geotagging location set using Microsoft Pro Photo Tools, but after testing it on a couple images that does not appear to be the case.

EXIF data is very important to me and is used to search through thousands of files using web based and software based tools. I find it very disappointing that Photoshop would manipulate the EXIF data without the user explicitly requesting to make a change. From now on I will be adding both EXIF and IPTC data in Step 2.

Related Reading


Photogrpahy Blogs

Almost every day I use Google Reader to read RSS feeds from many different web sites, 44 of them today, and I would like to share the photography feeds.

The Big Picture

The Big Picture is a blog over at where they post some of the most amazing pictures of the week. These picture regularly inspire me to get out there and do that thing that I do.

Blue Pixel Musings

Blue pixel is a site billed as “Inspiring and Educating Photographers Worldwide” and I learn something from them every post.


Hyperphocal posts tend to be pretty basic stuff, but I like the subjects they choose and I find something interesting in every post.

News: Digital Photography Review

DPReview covers everything that is new in photography. It is a great place to learn about new and upcoming cameras.

Photo Attorney

Photo Attorney is written by Carolyn E. Wright is an attorney who works for photographers. The posts are always relevant to photographers and photography. This is a great source of information on the war against photography.

Photo-Resources is full of posts similar to this one, bringing attention to other web sites and resources with every post.

Photo Permit

Photo Permit is a great blog to keep you on top of what is happening in the war on photography.

Photoshop Insider

This is Scott Kelby’s blog about Photoshop and photography. It is also where you can keep track of the worldwide photo walk (

Rob Galbraith DPI

This blog is usually very short posts about anything that may be happening in the world of photography from photo slideshows to new equipment reviews and announcements.


Jason Lee is a great wedding photographer who has made a project out of taking and manipulating photos of his two daughters. The results are amazing an fantastic!


The Strobist has a cult-like following for the great posts about lighting and photography. There is a lot to learn as it is not just a blog but also includes tutorials about off-camera lighting.

Studio lighting dot net contains a lot of tutorials and the blog feed contains new camera and accessory announcements.


I have written about This Week In Photography as a podcast before, but it is also a great blog with tutorials, product reviews, and more.

Zack Arias

Zack is an Atlanta based editorial and music photographer who also produces DVD tutorials. I like the photos that Zack shares via his blog and the local Atlanta flair appeals to me.

Vincent Laforet’s Blog

Vincent is in China shooting the Olympics and is planning to blog about it all along the way. Including an awesome post about what he has packed to capture the event.

Sports Shooter

I do not look at Sports Shooter every day and do not subscribe to a feed from them, but I do recommend checking the site out on a regular basis for lots of great information about being a professional photographer.


Hollywood Stock Exchange

The Hollywood Stock Exchange (HSX) is a web based stock trading game that trades in the success and failure of movies. The game is free to play and can provide some real insight into how a stock exchange works and what makes for a successful movie.

By creating an account you receive $2 million HSX dollars to buy and sell stocks, bonds, and funds with.  It is plenty of money to jump right in and create a portfolio that can take off but not so much money that you cannot lose most of it in one bad weekend.

On HSX you can trade in stocks, bonds, and funds. Stocks are holdings in specific movies, bonds are holdings in credited actors, and funds are managed groups of stocks and bonds that have been brought together to create a single investment.

The most powerful feature of HSX is the community forums, here you can learn about what movies are in development, who’s career is taking off, what the next big movie is going to be, and more about movies than anywhere else.

I really enjoy playing the Hollywood Stock Exchange game. It keeps me informed about upcoming movies and how well the HSX community thinks they will do at the box office.

My Username is Phrop, look me up and let me know what you think about the game.


Stone Mountain Park Fantastic Fourth Celebration

Fireworks at Stone MountainWe really enjoyed ourselves at Stone Mountain Park Thursday night with the laser light show and fireworks display. I get excited about any opportunity to take pictures of fireworks and this night proved to be exceptional. I didn’t get a lot of pictures, but having the carving at Stone Mountain as a backdrop to the fireworks makes for some wonderful pictures.