Lets Talk About Backups

I think it's fair to say that at some point we've all experienced the cold sweat associated with realizing we've just formatted and started to write over the wrong memory card.  In this post I'm going to lay out my process for shooting and backing up while on location.

Many "prosumer" and up DSLR's have dual memory card slots with the option to simultaneously write your image to both cards.  This is hands down the most secure way to initially backup your photos.  If one card corrupts or gets physically damaged or lost, you have another one with the exact same data on it.  There are typically also options to write RAW files to one card and JPEGS to another, or fill up one card then start writing to the next one.  I have never used either of these options and I can't imagine a scenario where they would be a better option than having an initial backup.

For this explanation lets assume we have a camera with only 1 card slot.  This will be easy since my Nikon D500 has an XQD slot and a standard SD slot but I only have SD cards.

Now, I want to say that I do not erase/format ANYTHING while on location. In fact, no data gets removed from cards or hard drives until the data is verified secure on my NAS device at home.  So, this means having enough memory cards with you to fill one up and put it away until you get home.

The equipment you need to backup my photos and video:

  • Camera
  • Memory Cards
  • Hard Drive/SSD/Flash Drive (I use a LaCie Rugged Mini, the basic single disk USB 3.0 version)
  • Laptop with an applicable memory card reader, or USB reader

My typical in field backup flow goes like this:

  1. Shoot you subject.  For me this will typically consist of some mountains and stuff.
  2. Take the SD card out of you camera and plug it into you laptop/card reader.
  3. Plug in your portable hard drive.
  4. Copy all the data from your memory card to your hard drive. I will usually use Lightroom for this part as I find it easier to organize everything but just dumping everything in a folder works too.
  5. Put both the memory card and hard drive in a safe place. I recommend keeping them separate. For example store one in your backpack and one in your glove box.  The chances of you losing your vehicle and backpack simultaneously are pretty slim. At that point you probably have bigger worries.
  6. Breath a sigh of relief.
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My Gear

Cameras:

  • Nikon D500 - This is my main workhorse and I shoot the majority of my images on this camera.
  • Nikon D7100 - My backup body should the disastrous happen.
  • Hasselblad 500c - 120mm film camera with a lot of sentimental value.

Lenses:

  • Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 - My main lens which can usually be found attached to my D500.
  • Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 - Wide angle lens
  • Nikon 18-200 f/3.5-5.6G - My favorite travel/walking around lens. It's light, decently sharp, and has a huge zoom range.
  • Nikon 35mm f/1.8 - My least used lens but handy when I need something super fast.

Tripods:

  • Vanguard Alta Pro 263AGH - My main tripod for almost everything. It's very well built and stable.  I love the fact that I can articulate the center post for getting around obstacles and getting the camera super low to the ground.

Vlogging Gear:

  • Canon G5X Compact - This little powerhouse is a great vlogging and backup camera. It has excellent image quality, shoots full 1080p video at 60fps, and is almost my smallest peice of gear.
  • GoPro Hero 3+ - Good backup camera and super useful for underwater or hazardous shots.
  • Joby Gorillapod - Small, lightweight and surprisingly versatile tripod with fully articulating legs able to wrap around envoronmental features.