Prepare Yourself for Storage Failure in the Field

Recently I had a very expensive 128 GB SanDisk C-Fast card fail on me in the field in Iceland when I was between Winter workshops. This was the first time in well over a decade of digital photography that I have personally had a card fail in a manner that was completely unrecoverable. I have on several occasions seen other brands of card fail and have several times been able to rescue files from cards that had been accidentally erased by clients in the field (using SanDisk’s excellent Rescue Pro software).  In this case however, the card had become completely corrupt with absolutely nothing recoverable. In fact, inserting the card into the camera would actually cause the camera to refuse to even turn on (same result in different cameras).  Trying to read the card in any computer would simply show either no files, or a drive that would not mount. Trying to run Rescue Pro (or SanDisk’s other ‘clear format’ software) resulted in ‘Drive not available’ errors. In short, my expensive card had become completely corrupt.

Of course, the first thing I did when I had access to the internet was to contact SanDisk (a painful process) and lodge a ticket for a faulty card. I had to supply photographs of the card (front and back), describe the failure in excruciating detail via several emails and provide proof of purchase via a photograph of the original purchase receipt. The entire process was exceptionally painful and longwinded and had the card not been worth around $500 I probably would have just thrown my hands up, thrown the faulty card in the bin and ordered another. Given the cost however, I decided to persevere and see it through to a resolution.

What caused this card to fail so catastrophically I cannot say for certain, although I have my suspicions it was caused by turning the camera on and off very quickly (hint – don’t do this). Irrespective of the cause, what is important to note is that I was not able to recover any of the photographs on this card – zero. To SanDisk’s credit they did replace the card (although it took over a month); although they offered zero viable options to recover any files outside of sending the card at my own significant expense to a third party data recovery company. Had the images on the card been really important to me I would have proceeded down this path; but given there were just a few landscape images I shot between workshops on the card I decided to save the expense and consign any potentially recoverable files to the digital gods. It was made crystal clear by SanDisk as a matter of policy that they take no responsibility for any lost data under any circumstances (interesting policy from a storage company – what exactly do they take any responsibility for then?).

The net result of this card failure was a bunch of lost photographs and a month without a replacement card (no big deal). What the experience taught me above all is the importance of being able to shoot to dual cards simultaneously in the field to avoid this sort of potential tragedy. Shooting to dual cards was something I always did with the previous generation Canon EOS 1DX camera. However, its a practice I subsequently dropped with the release of the Canon EOS 1DX MKII since the cameras frame rate slows down too much when shooting to both the CFast and CF card (and Canon in their wisdom and effort to be backward tech friendly did not give us dual CFast slots). Now, on the eve of the Canon EOS 1DX MKIII I find myself praying that the good people at Canon will PLEASE give us dual CFast slots on the new body when it is announced later this year.

As card storage sizes have continued to increase with every generation released the chance for failure of a card that holds an entire trip or holidays work becomes greater and greater. Imagine loosing your entire next workshops work because you were shooting to one of the huge 512GB+ cards that subsequently critically failed. Cards of this size mean that you could shoot for days (or even weeks) before you had the need to download and empty onto a hard drive. Thats a huge amount of work to be stored on a card that is not backed up and that ‘might’ fail at any time. Something to think about the next time you are preparing to go out and shoot in the field. There just might be method in the madness of shooting either to dual cards where possible, or to multiple smaller cards instead of one gigantic card.

Canon Photography Equipment for Sale

Recently I upgraded some of my long lenses to MKIII versions and as such have a few lenses now for sale that need to find a good home. All have been checked and serviced by Canon here in Australia in the last few weeks. All were purchased locally from Canon Australia. Prices are all in AUD Australian Dollars. Deduct approximately thirty percent for USD based on exchange rate of 70cents AUD to the USD. Inspection and test of all lenses in Melbourne is welcome. Buyers pays shipping / courier costs. Drop me an email for interest in any of the items (Photographs of actual lenses on request).

Canon 600mm F4L IS MKII -$10,000 AUD

Lens is in excellent condition. Optics are Perfect AAA+++ Very small scratch on the metal plate on the lens barrel. And small scratch on lens hood 8/10. Lens is supplied with all original packaging including lens trunk, paperwork and original shipping box. Just serviced and checked by Canon Australia

Canon 400mm f2.8L IS MKII – $10,000 AUD

Lens is in as new Mint condition. Perfect AAA+++  10/10 (I have actually only used it once) Lens is supplied with all original packaging including lens trunk, paperwork and original shipping box. Just serviced and checked by Canon Australia

Canon 300mm f2.8L IS MKII – $5,000 AUD

Lens is in excellent condition. Optics are Perfect AAA+++ Very small scratch on the metal plate on the lens barrel. And small scratch on lens hood 8/10. Lens is supplied with original lens trunk.

Canon 85mm f1.2L MKII – *** JUST SOLD ***

Lens is supplied with all original packaging including lens pouch, paperwork and original shipping box.

Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS MKII – $1,800 AUD

Lens is in excellent condition. Optics are Perfect AAA+++ Very small scratch on lens barrel 9/10. Lens is supplied with all original packaging including lens pouch, paperwork and original shipping box. Just serviced and checked by Canon Australia

Svalbard in Winter by Snow Mobile 2019 Expedition Report

In March of 2019 I lead two back-to-back small group expeditions via snowmobile in Svalbard in search of winter landscapes, Arctic Fox, Reindeer and the mighty Polar Bear. I have been exploring Svalbard by snowmobile in winter for quite a few years now and have to come to absolutely love both the intimacy and solitude of being out in the freezing winter and at one with Nature and the incredible wildlife that survives in this hostile environment. The Arctic in winter is truly another world and for those that are willing to make the effort, and brave the elements the rewards are simply life-changing. 

 

The weather during our expeditions was generally superb with cold clear days that were on the whole predominantly wind free. Only on few occasions did we experience true white out conditions whilst crossing some of the glaciers of Svalbard. Conditions can vary wildly and quickly in the Arctic in Winter. It is almost a given that one will loose a day or two to bad weather during any winter expedition. I am pleased to say though that at no time did we loose any time to weather during either of the two expeditions. In fact, we were able on several occasions to take advantage of weather to really enhance the mood and drama of our photographs. Blowing snow is a wonderful addition to any winter wildlife photograph and we took advantage of it whenever the prevailing conditions allowed. The white on white canvas of the Arctic in winter in near white-out conditions is highly fertile material for simple, powerful and emotive photography.

During both expeditions we had fantastic encounters with Polar Bear, Reindeer and Arctic Fox. In total I counted fifteen Polar Bear sightings this year that included several photo bears that provided outstanding opportunities on the frozen sea ice. Encounters with Polar Bears are rare (even in the summer months) so it was fantastic to have such wonderful opportunities during these expeditions. Our encounters with Arctic Fox and Reindeer were no less exciting with some wonderful close up encounters that provided outstanding opportunities.

Svalbard in winter by snowmobile is not for the faint of heart. The distances required to travel are long (upwards of 200km plus per day) and the terrain (glacier crossings and sea ice) is often bumpy and challenging. Temperatures can be extremely cold with many hours of exposure in the field. The rewards for those who are willing to push themselves though can be truly exceptional. The possibility of close encounters with Polar Bears, Reindeer and Arctic Fox make this an expedition where truly unique and powerful photographs can be captured.

I will be returning to Svalbard in early March of 2021 to lead another winter snow mobile expedition for no more than two photographers.  I am not quite ready to start taking bookings as yet but expressions of interest are welcome via email. Prior snow mobile experience is preferred, but not essential. What is essential is a strong desire to spend time in Nature with a willingness to be out in the field in Winter elements. Expect long days, cold weather and best of all incredible rewards that fill the soul as well as your memory cards.

 

Finlands Frozen North 2019 Wildlife Safari Workshop Report

In early February of 2019 I lead a new winter wildlife and landscape safari to the North of Finland in search of both its amazing wildlife and spectacular snow and ice covered landscapes. Finland is well known for both its amazing winter trees and fantastic wildlife that includes Wolves, Wolverine, Eagles, Owls, Reindeer and a great many Arctic and sub-sub-arctic bird species. It should also be said that winter in Finland whilst cold, is absolutely incredible and well worth the frozen fingers and toes.

Our intention on this safari was to try and photograph winter wildlife as well as take advantage of the snow and ice  covered landscape . Northern Finland is blanketed in snow more than six months of the year which means the forests are draped in a wonderful layer of frozen snow and ice. It is truly other worldly and makes for beautiful and surreal photographs.

On our first and second day in Northern Finland we spent our time in some of the private photography hides just on the edge of no mans land on the Russian border. It was our hope to try and photograph both Wolverine and Wolves in a winter setting. Whilst conditions were ideal, the Wolverine and wolves eluded us this time, although we did have excellent opportunities to photograph Siberian Jay, Eurasian Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker and even Golden Eagles.

Our third day took us to the Kuusamo region where we spent time searching for otters whilst photographing Dippers and the frozen river landscape.

On day four and day five we headed up to one of the private hides frequented by  a pair of Golden Eagles. One of the largest eagles in the world, the Golden Eagle is splendid and magnificent; its golden feathers a stunning contrast to the white snow. We had many hours with the eagles as well as Black Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Grey headed woodpecker, Siberian Jays, Siberian and Crested Tits and more. These were highly productive days that produced some fabulous images.

On Day six we spent the majority of our time photographing playful otters during frequent snow showers on the banks of one of the many frozen lakes. Otters are fantastic critters to photograph as they play in the snow and water. We also took some time to look for both Hawk Owl and Great Gray Owls but were unsuccessful in our search. Owls can be elusive and this time we were not able to find or photograph them (despite having access to many spotters in the field).

On Day seven we photographed both the landscape area of Kuusamo including the wonderful U-bend river as well as returning for the otters.

On our final day we took snow mobiles on a 65km return journey up to the Russian border on top of one of the regions hills to photograph the incredible frozen trees. We were not blessed with great light unfortunately and the heavily overcast conditions meant contrast was extremely low. The alien like forms of the frozen trees are are extremely photogenic however and there were good opportunities despite the low cloud and lack of contrast.

Winter is simply a wonderful time to visit Northern Finland. And as such I will be returning to this region again in February of 2021 to lead another Winter safari to both the Kajaani and Kuusamo regions. If you would like to join me, or would like any more information please just drop me an email at info@jholko.com No obligation at this point.