Out With the Old?

Out With the Old?

by Mark Alberhasky, July 24, 2016

Old habits die hard, but sometimes what’s needed is a cataclysmic change to make room for fresh ideas. For me, the habit in question has been processing photo files while traveling. I’m a pixel junkie and it’s embarrassing how many nights I’ve cut into needed sleep just because I can’t keep my hands off recent photos. Adding insult to injury, I know that the best processing is done back home on my retina iMac. On top of this admission add the desire to carry less and lighter equipment. I’ve chased this goal to the point of switching to a Microsoft Surface Pro 3, after having been a dyed-in-the-wool Mac guy for decades.

Last week I stepped back to reappraise the amount of effort I’ve been expending just to process on the road. Fate placed me in an Apple Store with time to kill. As I passed the iPad Pro display I paused to check out the newer 9.7″ model and had to begrudgingly admit that the touch and gesture experience on the iPads was better than on my Surface Pro. The larger scale of content, despite the smaller screen, was easier on the eyes and the reduction in weight significant. Gears began to spin…

I began to consider alternative digital workflows, investigating what was and was not possible on an iPad Pro. The major hurdles quickly became evident: insufficient storage to be the primary depository for raw files while traveling AND no access to full blown LR and PS applications, seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The keyword being seemingly… Instead of seeing a dead end I tried turning the situation on it’s ear, asking myself if there was a solution somewhere outside the box.

imageFirst came the realization that my cameras and the iPad were both SD card friendly (the latter by using the Apple SD card reader dongle). As I read articles about frustrations with the iPad I stumbled into a description of connecting to a Western Digital My Passport Wifi hard drive. This was something unique and a lightbulb went on! I had bought a 2TB model a couple of years ago, but never fully leveraged its advantages against my workflow. I remembered the drive included an SD card card slot that provided for automatic card download, independent of computer or tablet. The gears started turning faster…

In my head a sort of Rubric’s Cube took shape, with certain facts on one side and related but sometimes discordant relationships on the others. As I mentally pushed and twisted, evaluating the outcomes of numerous “what if?” combinations, a new alternative fell into place. If I shot RAW+JPG, I could easily download jpgs onto the iPad for immediate feedback and download the RAW and jpg files onto the battery powered, 2TB hard drive, all independent of a computer. I became aware of a devil and an angel sitting on opposite shoulders, arguing. The devil was saying, “Yeah, but if he does that he won’t have a computer to do any processing!” The angel countered with, “Exactly. Now he will carry a lighter load, backup all his files anywhere he might be, immediately access processed jpgs for evaluation and he’ll be getting hours more sleep on the road.” I also experimented with the quality of jpg capture and found that even the basic setting (lowest quality) still was beautiful for review on the iPad.

This past weekend I headed out of town to go white water rafting. It was a made-to-order field test so I changed my camera (D500) settings to RAW+JPG basic, something I’ve never done. To my surprise I loved easily reviewing the JPGS on an iPad. Even on basic the files easily allowed me to soon in to 100% magnification and evaluate image characteristics for choosing selects.


Backing up everything onto the hard drive was a snap and I wasn’t the least bit conflicted about getting my head onto a pillow hours earlier. I realize this strategy may not work for everyone but I’m going to extend the field test as I embark on an upcoming European river cruise. It will be enlightening to see if my enthusiasm holds from Prague to Paris and back to Atlanta. I’m not ready to embrace mobile-only processing for serious work (thought I do plenty of that for iPhone captured photos), but I don’t see leaving laptop/tablet/computer and charging implements behind as anything but a good thing. How many of you are already ahead of me on this curve?

Mark Alberhasky is a Nikon Mentor for the Mentor Series Worldwide Photo Treks,

and leads destination photo tours for PhotoZoneTours.com.

Join him as he travels and share his enthusiasm for photography and learning.

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