Saturday, 14 April 2018

Oyen Digital USB3.0 to 2.5inch HDD Connection Cable Review

Oyen Digital cable out of the packet ready to be connected to the HDD
Like many frustrated computer users, I find that hard drives, plugs, ports and software are in a constant state of flux.
Improvements spurred on by the marketing department might say these changes benefit the users, but a lot of the time changes are mostly driven by the desire for a constant turnover. 

The improvements, if there are any, often don't necessarily improve in the same direction that we are travelling in - often they just put us in a position where we are obliged to buy more stuff to keep our old stuff running.... 

I have two reliable Western Digital Firewire 800 portable hard drives for my Mac. These have accompanied me all over the globe on my travels. However,  since I upgraded my Apple MacBook Pro, those drives have become obsolete, going the way of the Dodo - every port on the Mac is now USB-C - which is a good design but frustrating if you have legacy equipment (read a previous post about the cost of keeping up with a new computer).

Although it is possible to convert USB 3.0 ports to USB-C, it's expensive to convert Firewire to the same - this would involve buying another $80 USB-C hub with Firewire ports - so I'd have to plug my hub into another hub. 

Ironically I bought this Firewire drive from B and H Photo Video store in NYC when it was on special - and to get it back operating with my new Mac, I found the Oyen connection cable - on B and H's website while surfing for something else...
Why not just get online and buy a cheap HDD case - there are about a million online... 

I tried researching this but the hard drives in the Firewire units are fractionally thicker than regular drives, and considerably thicker than an SSD. There are a few cases about that can take 'fatter' drives but they start at around $80+.  

I might buy one of these if I need to take the Firewire drive travelling, but for the moment it's staying on my desktop.

One answer appeared as I was surfing the 'net in this brilliant little gizmo - essentially the Oyen Digital USB3.0 to 2.5-inch HDD connection cable enables me to plug any 2.5-inch drive directly into a USB 3.0 port (I'd already removed the drives from their aluminium casings).

I was nervous about doing this but actually it couldn't have been easier. Actually finding a TORX screwdriver small enough to open the casing proved more of a hassle and involved a lot of internet searching, plus a trip to Bunnings (never a bad thing to do on a wet afternoon).

With the casing unscrewed, all that's needed is to carefully slide the drive out of its interface, and pop the Oyen cable into the same position over the terminals. You can't get it wrong because the connector will only go on one way. Plug it into a USB port and it immediately reads the drive - although I had to format the original drive using Apple's Disk Utility first, which took three minutes, then it was ready to go.

For a cost of $11, I thought this was a great buy - the main disadvantage is that you have a 'naked' hard drive that is not suitable for travel but until I can find a drive case that will hold the thicker form factor, it'll work fine on my desktop. At least it has been saved from becoming yet more technological landfill.

Now that I understand what it is I'm looking at, I have seen several models of similar connection cables on offer through Aussie companies - but as I was ordering other stuff from the USA, it made sense to not have to pay another delivery fee...

Friday, 13 April 2018

USB Camera Battery Charger Review

This gives you a pretty good idea how how much space and weight you might save by using a USB charger over a pair of traditional single battery chargers.
Having just come back from a very successful photo tour to Sri Lanka my attention, as always turns to the next photo tour - and luckily my next trip will be to the island of Madagascar in May. 

One feature that all travelling photographers get seriously obsessed with is the weight of their gear. My stuff probably weighs around 10 kilos, more if I carry a tripod, and yet more if I take my trusty EF300mm f2.8 lens which weighs 2.35kg out of its case.

As photographers we are forced to pack chargers: for batteries, cameras (where the battery is internal), smartphones, flash, and more. Then there's the power cables needed to connect everything together, plus the adapters and power boards. It all adds up. 

I recently read a blog by a US photographer in the same position - he'd decided the answer was to travel with only USB chargers. I thought this was a great idea and went in search of a local supplier.

Eventually I went to Photo Shop Studio, two mins from Bunnings in Ashfield, and bought a dual LP-E6 USB battery charger for a whopping $20.  I bought this a month ahead of the trip so I could test it thoroughly before heading to a country with little in terms of technology.

I drained an original Canon LP-E6 battery - to 3% charge - and set this up to charge using my Macbook Pro. With a single battery in the cradle, it went from 3% to 99% in 3.5 hours, not a bad result for a battery that has a red bar in its recharge performance indicator (i.e. three green bars indicates it's in tip top condition, two bars is 'OK' , and a red bar indicates that the battery is on its last legs...

Mine are probably 10 years old and have been worked hard so it's not surprising it was on its last legs.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Apple Mac Class on

I have just posted a brand new class at called Apple Mac for Absolute Beginners aimed, obviously at those who have just bought a Mac who need to pick up as much as possible about the Apple system.

This class has been a long time coming and is basically the result of more than 20 years experience of using Apple products and more than five years of teaching the subject at the Centre for Continuing Education in Newtown.

This online class can be completed at your leisure. It consists of more than 76 lectures extending to more than five hours viewing time and is priced at $25 - but UDEMY often offer its classes at reduced rates - at the time of writing this class was selling for only $16. A bargain. 
Apple Mac for Absolute Beginners joins my five other online classes: Adobe CC Projects, Mastering the Art of Creative Bookmaking, Learn Adobe InDesign from Scratch, Mastering HDR Picture making and Mastering Adobe Photoshop Elements, all of which are approximately the same length and cost.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Elephant Holds up Cars for Food

It's not quite as dramatic as the title might sound but this little fella was standing in the middle of the Yala National Park approach road - effectively blocking most of the road. He has learned to beg for food from passing traffic - we saw several small trucks pull up and the drivers passing over a banana or two - clearly he'd done this before. By the time we got close he was sort of shuffling back and forth into the shrubbery, all the while keeping an eye on the people in the bus. As you'll see in this very short clip, he was almost touching the vehicle - we saw a couple of other elephants doing the same during the drive into the park. Interestingly the guide reckoned this fella had been shot sometime ago because you can see the circular wounds from shotgun pellets that seems to have healed over nicely. Elephants can flatten an entire field or rice in one night and destroy a lot of crops like maize and fruit so unfortunately, even though it's entirely illegal, farmers still take pot shots at their invaders. Luckily for this guy, he lived to tell the tale.
  Yala Elephant from Robin Nichols on Vimeo.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Shooting Tip: Lighting Problems in Galle's Fishmarket

We have all visited a fish market at one time or another - our plan in Sri Lanka was to get to the early morning markets in Negombo after arriving the night before.

That plan failed because most of the fishermen in that part of Sri Lanka are Christian so, it being a Sunday, nothing was open.

We eventually found a much smaller local fish market in Galle, two hour's drive south of the capital. It was much smaller (than Negombo) and a bit late in the day (after 8:30) so half the stalls had already packed up - and by the smell pervading the beach along which the market was assembled, things were already going off.

Still, it was a great experience - photographically tough because: it's a busy place, the light was coming from behind the stall holders and of course, they were more interested in us buying fish, rather than posing for photos with fish.

Here's a small selection of snaps taken along the beach and some suggestions on how to deal with extreme back lighting...

Fishermen's nets litter the beaches up and down the coastal areas of Sri Lanka often making for a great shot, with and without the rubbish...
Angry Birds!
Shooting Tip: Lighting in a place such as this works against the photographer - you have to effectively shoot into the sun and, as it wasn't appropriate to start using flash (because it draws attention to what you are doing) the order of the day was to slightly over expose the file (shoot using an exposure compensation setting of around +1 stop) to try and retain a bit of detail in the darker tonal areas. Because of the extreme contrast this is never going to work very well - because you end up losing a lot of detail in the brighter areas of the sky. The banana prawns were going for $5 a kilo...
I usually bracket scenes like this (+/- 1.3 or 1.7 stops), because the light is very tricky and I might want a range of exposures to choose from later - or indeed, process a multi-file HDR picture.  On it's own, this two-stop underexposure frame is useless...
But then, if this dark underexposed frame is processed in either Camera RAW or, better still, an HDR app like Photomatix Pro or Aurora HDR Pro, you can reveal an astounding amount of detail in the shadows while holding the tones in the highlights - you can even get a blue-ish sky. 
I use Canon lenses and all of its (expensive) wide angle products seem to suffer really badly from Chromatic Aberration - a very noticeable colour fringing along areas of contrast in the frame - here it''s particularly noticeable between sky and the fish stall roof (previous version). Drop it into Lightroom or Adobe Camera RAW to remove this and you get a significantly better, sharper-looking result.