More to the Picture
PERIPHERALS: IN THE FIELD & AT HOME
Last month, we discussed the basics of digital workflow. With the digital-photography revolution came a slew of peripheral devices and accessories, ranging from necessities to niceties from the basic requirements to the most frivolous bells and whistles. Depending on your perspective, of course, this can be either a major benefit or an omnipresent annoyance. To best prepare you, we've compiled a short list of the essentials for your gear bags and workstations.
IN THE FIELD LAPTOP
Whether PC or Mac, this is a primary requirement in your gear bag. With the ability to review and adjust your approach daily, don't cut yourself short by leaving the laptop (with appropriate photo-editing software) at home. It's also a good idea to manually check for software updates right before you leave, ensuring you have all the latest drivers and RAW converters, particularly if using a new camera.
Digital files are getting larger and larger, and prices on portable hard drives are dropping daily. Some are even small enough to fit in your shirt pocket (although we don't recommend carrying them there). Portable drives can be used as primary or backup drives. If using an external drive as your primary drive, be sure to bring a second drive to back up your images periodically, preferably daily. A large-capacity iPod can also be used as a backup and doubles as an entertainment center, which can quickly make you the hit of the après-dive gatherings.
These days, USB or FireWire power most portable drives meaning one less plug and adapter to carry.
MEMORY CARDS & CARD READERS
Always travel with several memory cards, preferably the highest speed and capacity that your camera and budget can handle. Card readers can be connected via USB, PCI slot or Express Card slot. It is recommended that you bring at least two card readers, otherwise if one fails or gets lost you have no means to transfer images to your laptop and will quickly fill up memory cards.
When the inevitable need arises to eliminate the pesky dust that lands on your sensor and every subsequent image, a digital-sensor cleaning kit can come in very handy. Save yourself from positioning the dust behind trees or mountains, or the clone-stamping session in Photoshop later! Thumb drives are useful when the local Internet café or dive-center computer is your only option to send e-mail, and you need to send attachments. A simple wireless router can turn your tethered in-room Internet access into convenient beachfront access.
Remember that all electronics are useless without electricity, so be sure to check which power adapters are required at each destination. Gadget aficionados take note: Portable solar chargers have become quite compact and affordable. You can even buy a backpack with integrated solar panels to charge your laptop or other mobile devices while not in use.
Of course, in-the-field portable workflow and gadgetry can also lead to antisocial behavior. It's important to strike a balance, as you can make some lifelong friends on a dive trip but only if you avoid hunkering down in front of your laptop at every waking moment.
Visit sportdiver.com/peripherals for more information on going wide.
Additional Peripherals for Your At-Home Workstation
Desktop Hard Drive(s)
Consider your home network the "mothership" for all image files. Ideally you should use a RAID drive, which creates multiple copies of each file and provides a solid base for your image depository. In addition, redundant backup drives and backup software will close the loop on a fairly foolproof level of protection from otherwise inevitable drive failure. Once your images are stored in main drives, you can free up portable drives for the next trip.
For those who wish to precisely control the color accuracy and detail of prints, you might opt to print at home. Inkjet printers have greatly improved recently. However, the printer is the last step in the loop, which begins with a monitor calibration device that helps properly adjust your monitor. Lastly, ensure that you download the specific printer and paper profile, and voilà a perfect "what you see is what you get" print.