Sometimes the best strategies don’t cover every contingency.
I consider myself a data backup freak. Maybe it would be nicer to say that I am overly cautious when it comes to data backup. Case in point-my recent trip to Costa Rica.
I expect a certain amount of damage, wear and tear, minor blemishes and other annoyances when dealing with expensive camera gear in hostile environments. It is inevitable I will lose, break, have broken, scratch or otherwise damage a piece of gear.
Examples: The above filter is the casualty of an inattentive German Tourist’s misplaced walking stick while I was photographing hummingbirds at Arenal Volcano.
I had lost the lens hood for this particular lens earlier in the week and I might have saved the filter had it still been on but alas, I am out thirty dollars for each.
I also lost the tip of my monopod in 12 inches of river muck. I couldn’t dig it out between the two boulders. In addition, somewhere on the flight back, my Ipod charging cable jumped out of my projector bag and left me with no way to charge and sync the Ipod.
The digital age has ushered in an era where a Laptop or similar device is an essential piece of gear. To that end I purchased a camera backpack with a laptop slot. It made it to the overhead storage compartment before the seams on the zipper pulled out. It is in now for warranty repair.
The reason of course for the laptop is to backup data, edit in the field and project nightly shows for the participants. My backup regime goes like this. Shoot pictures all day. At night backup the cards to the hard drive on the computer. Load into Lightroom. Backup folder to Passport Drive A. I now have two independent copies so I reformat my memory cards. Then I backup laptop to Passport Drive B. Drive B is variable as I rotate those ever other day so that by the end of my trip I have three passport drives to distribute amongst the baggage as well as my laptop. Do you see the flaw in my plan? I have to get the cards into the laptop.
While shooting the sunset at Arenal, I was 125 km from my laptop. I left it in the cabin’s safe for the overnight destination safe in the knowledge that I have enough memory card capacity to last 24 hours. I changed out cards about 5:00 PM on Monday night and put the spare card in my vest for integration into the data stream when I returned to my cabin the following day.
Each day I fastidiously backed up all cards before clearing them of data. As the week wore on, I became aware that I seemed to be short one 2 GB memory card. I couldn’t quite figure it out. I remembered trying to loan a card to one of my tour participants but couldn’t remember if she took it. Frantic searches through pants, bags, vehicles, and pathways yielded no clues.
When I got back to the states, I disassembled my gear and counted and double checked. Sure enough- the image sequences showed 8 hours of time gap on one camera and about 150 images were missing. I was one card short.
I didn’t even get a chance to back it up. The flaw in my overzealous backup strategy was in securing the card from camera to laptop.
A series of phone calls to Arenal yielded little but sympathy. A check of my fellow photographers was futile. Then, my tour director, hearing my plight said, “Did you check with the rental company?” I emailed Miguel and told him my sad story. In an hour, I received an email “I found your San Disk!” Now, this morning it is in an Air Mail Envelope speeding its way to my door. Are the pictures intact? I hope so. Was I lucky? So it would seem.
So here’s the final tally:
Lens hood – lost by me
Filter – broken by tourist
Monopod tip – sunk in mud too deep to retrieve between the boulders
Ipod Cable – disappeared mysteriously
Backpack – defective -off for repair
Memory card – lost by me – found by Miguel – Data intact?
The card is inconsequential. The images are not. I wait with eager anticipation for the arrival to see if there is treasure or trash waiting for me in sequestered photons.
All in all, the damage wasn’t irrevocable.
Rikk Flohr © 2008