Wednesday, August 30, 2023

QNAP NAS update: Moving 1.5 MILLION images from the old Drobo!

I am interrupting my Costa Rica blog posts to bring to you a long awaited post about my data storage transition. Way back in February of this year I wrote a blog post telling you all that I was making a huge transition from the Drobo NAS system (now out of business) to the newer and far superior QNAP system. Back then I had just installed the two new NAS systems, but had not moved any data. 

I had many people (most of whom were using Drobo) write to me and ask how the QNAP transition was going. I told them that it was too early to tell, and that I had a lot of work to do before I could give them a fair and honest answer. 

Here I am about 6 months later and I have been using the system non-stop. I apologize for taking so long to write this follow-up review, but there was a lot to do in between then and now. Some had to do with the data transition and some was just the back-to-back photo tours. No more excuses! Let me tell you what I have found, both the good and the bad.  

Initial Setup

Let me start with the install of the boxes. I had two NAS systems to set up, one of which would be my main storage and one which would be my offsite destination. I had a whole bunch of the Seagate IronWolf 20TB hard drives to install, and I also purchased a couple of M2 SSD drives to increase the overall speed of the drive access.  Installing the drives was simple enough, and powering up the QNAP boxes was a piece of cake. I did have to make some phone calls to the support team when I got stuck, and they were very helpful getting me up and running. 

My goal was to transition all 1.5 million photos (and other data) from the Drobo NAS to the new QNAP TVS-h874 NAS. This process took a REALLY long time. I would transfer one year of data at a time and I think it took me the better part of two weeks to complete the process. 

An Issue

Once I got everything moved over, everything appeared to be perfect, with one hiccup. When I attempted to search for a folder on the drive (using my Mac Studio), the folders could not be found. It turns out that the NAS was not indexed. The crazy thing is...there is no easy way to re-index a drive from a Mac, so I had to research a way to make that happen. Once I figured out how to make that happen, it took another 5 days! And this problem has not been completely resolved. There are still times when the indexing goes haywire (where I search for a folder, it shows the folder, I click on it, and it opens a completely different folder) and I have to force a re-index. This process generally takes a couple of days (in the background), which is a real nuisance since it slows the drive to a crawl. I have searched the Internet for answers and this seems to be an issue with the Mac and many NAS drives. I am hoping that someone at Apple can help me resolve this.

How I Work On My Files

Originally I had thought that I would use the QNAP NAS as my main working drive, but I have decided to use the new 4TB Crucial x10 SSD drive as my main drive. I chose to make this change for two reasons:

* The Crucial SSD is incredibly fast, much faster than accessing the QNAP drive over Ethernet.

* In case the indexing problem happens again, I can still work with the SSD without any delays while I re-index the NAS.

Setting Up Remote Synchronization

In the previous blog post, I showed the two QNAP units side by side. My next step was to copy all of the data from the QNAP TVS-h874 NAS (primary drive) to the QNAP TS-832PX NAS drive (which would be my offsite drive). The QNAP support people helped me connect the two boxes together and start the synchronization. I knew that the synchronization had to first be done locally (on the same network), because trying to sync up 1.5 million images to a remote location over the Internet would take forever. 

That process took another 3 or 4 days, but I did not have to do anything. We started the sync and I let it run.

At that point I needed to drive the second box to my remote location, which is a couple of hundred miles away at my brother's home. Once I got the second box powered up at my brothers, I once again leaned on the QNAP support people to help me with the remote sync settings. This process was so simple and painless. I was amazed! With the old Drobo unit (using their Drobo DR software), the user interface was terrible, the process was painstaking and it failed all the time. I have been dying for a reliable system for keeping my data safe in more than one location. Now I have it.  

The User Interface and Features

The user interface for the QNAP is all browser based and is very straight-forward. I have not used most of the icons you see above, mostly using the HBS 3 Hybrid Backup Sync app for the remote synchronization. I do use the File Station application at times, but mainly use the Mac Finder to find what I am looking for.

This is what the File Station interface looks like. A simple interface for viewing the files and folders stored on the NAS drive.

There are numerous applications which can be installed on the QNAP NAS drive. I have installed a couple of apps (for the backup and remote access). I have been tempted to install the media streaming app (just for fun), but have not done so at this time.

The Control Panel is where I set all my settings for the NAS unit, with me generally using the "General Settings" more than anything else. 

Within the General Settings, I can check the status of all the drives. In this screen shot, you can see the status of the two internal SSDs and all the Seagate IronWolf 20TB hard drives

As I mentioned earlier, I am using the the HBS 3 Hybrid Backup Sync app (no additional charge for this) for my remote synchronization. I have this application running on both boxes and performing a synchronization every morning at 1am. It has been running for the last 6 months without any issues or failures. This means that I have all 1.5 million images in both places for extra security, and it stays up-to-date constantly. This is a huge peace of mind for me (and my clients).
When I was using the Drobo DR software, I would constantly bug the development team at Drobo to give me some sort of interface to show the progress of the synchronization. With the Drobo, there was almost no way to see if the synchronization was successful or how much data was transferred. They never fixed that issue, creating times when the sync process was broken for months without my knowledge. With the QNAP Sync log, I have an easy way to check the status of my sync to make sure they are happening.

If I click on one of the items in the Sync log, I can see more details of that particular process. In the example above, I can see that on Aug 28th, 54GB of data was sent from my TVS-h874 NAS drive to the TS-832PX NAS drive hundreds of miles away. It took about an hour to synchronize the 4914 files.

Since we are on the subject of remote data, I have to talk about one of my favorite things about the QNAP NAS drives, and one of the biggest differences between the old Drobo system and these new units. I am talking about the ability to easily access ANY of my files from ANYWHERE in the world. Drobo did have the ability to access their NAS drive from a remote location using a web browser, but it was painfully slow. There are many times when I am traveling and need to access images for a client. When searching for a file on the old Drobo NAS, it would literally take me 15 to 20 minutes to locate a file since the interface was brutally slow. With the QNAP drives, I can now find that same file in less than a minute and I LOVE that! Not only can I check files on my local drive, but I can access the remote drive as well. 

Oh, one more thing. There is another feature of the QNAP NAS that is not critical but which I really love.  That is the auto backup of my camera roll from my phone any time I get in range of my WiFi network. This means that I do not have to do this manually, and I don't have to rely on iCloud or other services to backup my photos and videos from my iPhone. 


When Drobo started showing signs of their pending demise, I was in a panic. I had ALL my data on their boxes and both the company and the units were failing. I literally lost sleep worrying about this problem. I pride myself on having every digital image I have ever taken (the keepers), and having them in two locations. I even tell my clients about this setup so that they know I will have their images safe for years to come. 

I can tell you now that the panic is gone and I am really happy with the new QNAP solution. I have not only replicated what I was doing with the Drobo units, I have surpassed the functionality and usability by far! It is not an inexpensive solution, but it is something that is vital to my business. As a professional photographer, our data is everything, and keeping those images safe is critical. I am now sleeping better at night.


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If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa Costa Rica and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours. 


Thursday, August 17, 2023

The first time doing a dolphin excursion in Costa Rica!

I have been leading photo tours to the same area of Costa Rica for many years now, and the itinerary has stayed very much the same with a couple of small changes. Some of the changes were conscious changes made by me (based on my guests feedback) and others were made out of necessity.  One of the excursions that my guests enjoyed was a visit to an animal rehab area. Unfortunately that sanctuary has been shut down and so I needed to come up with a different excursion for my photo tour. One of the best parts of the sanctuary visit was the boat ride across the bay. I really wanted to keep that as part of my tour, to share this awesome experience with my guests. Working along with my contacts at the resort, we decided to replace the sanctuary trip with a whale and dolphin watching trip. And it turned out to be awesome!

Let me share the images and story of our amazing morning on the water.

The first question I always get from my guests when I tell them that we are going to be on the water is "How rough will the water be?" Because we stay within the bay and don't venture out into the open ocean waters, it is almost always very calm.  We boarded a boat around 8am and headed out looking for whales. I saw this guy fishing from a kayak and loved the calm scene and all the blue colors working together. As you can see, we had nice overcast skies which really helped to avoid harsh sunlight and shadows.

After 20 minutes or so, our captain and guide spotted a mother whale and her young calf. We cruised along with them for while, capturing photos of their backs, but never got a good shot of their heads or tails.

Getting a nice shot of their dorsal fins is fine, but gets old fast. It was time to move on to see if we could find some dolphins.

We headed back into the smoother waters of the bay and same across this sea turtle who made an appearance for a quick photo.

We also tracked a couple of white-footed booby, but were determined to find dolphins!

After 30 minutes of searching, we saw spotted dolphins out in the distance. I was VERY excited to see the dolphins for 4 reasons:

1. They have been my favorite animal since I was a young child.
2. It was a large pod with a lot of activity.
3. They were not just swimming, but jumping high into the air.
4. I wanted my guests to have great photo opportunities.

I was shooting with the Canon R5 camera and Canon RF 100-500mm lens. Because the high resolution of the Canon R5, I could crop in on the previous shot to get this image. It is less than 1MB in size, but still decent. I liked the "S curve" of the body but really wanted to see more of the face.

As we got closer to the pod, we were able to grab images like this without having to do heavy crops. 

This one dolphin jumped so high, facing us and leaving a trail of water off of it's body! This is one of my favorite photos from the trip. I was excited to see that numerous of my guests captured the same jump. It was just AWESOME!  

Here is a tighter crop of the same image. This one is going on the wall at my home (and I will be offering this and many other images for sale soon).

They just kept performing for us. 

We estimated that there were more than 100 spotted dolphins in this pod.

The more mature spotted dolphins show spots on their under belly. you can see that in this image.

Here is another favorite image from that morning and the photo tour. Actually, there are numerous images from this excursion that are in my all-time favorite image collection.

After spending over an hour with the spotted dolphins, we started to make our way back to the resort, when we came across a small pod of bottlenose dolphins. They came over and rode the bow wave of the boat. At this point, many of my guests had stopped taking photos and were just sitting on the bow, enjoying the show. As soon as I saw them right in front of us, I switched to my Canon R6II which had the Canon RF 24-105mm lens on it. I also happened to have my Tiffen Circular Polarizing filter on the lens, which helped to cut the glare and get better images of the dolphins in the water. I stood up and shot images over the heads of my guests. 

Then I decided to put the camera down and enjoy this for myself. I did take my iPhone out and grabbed a short video to remember the moment. You can see that HERE.

As you can imagine, this excursion is staying on my Costa Rica photo tours from now on! I hope you can join me on an upcoming trip to see this for yourself.


Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa Costa Rica and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours. 


Thursday, August 10, 2023

Capturing images of Scarlet Macaw in the rain forest of Costa Rica

I know this is crazy, but I have made 3 trips to the rain forest of Costa rica in the last 9 months and have not blogged any of the images. Heck, it is one of my favorite places to take photos, so I need to share these with all of you. 

For today, I am going to focus (pun intended) on the Scarlet Macaw. I personally think that this is one of the most beautiful birds to photograph. We see them every day on my photo tours to the Osa Peninsula, but getting them low and in an unobstructed view is a little more of a challenge. Getting great shots of them in flight is even more of a challenge. Every time I head down to the Osa I challenge myself to get better photos of these amazing birds.

I teach my guests to try and get photos of the animals without harsh light in the background. In this case, we had a couple of macaw hanging out in outer part of a tree, and the light was perfect. We had overcast skies which acted like a giant soft box in the sky. As nice as this image is, I have always wanted to get good shots of these birds in flight.

I captured this photo of this macaw with a nut in his mouth (which I really like), but the challenge with scarlet macaw is that photographing them from below means that we do not see all the great colors on their backs. 

On my most recent photo tour we came across 6 macaw that were taking turns grabbing nuts from this one tree. Once again, the light was perfect. 

We found a nearby slope which gave us a higher vantage point, and all we had to do was set our cameras properly and wait for them to grab a nut and fly off.  

I was using my Canon R5 with the Canon RF100-500mm lens. Since most of my guests were using similar gear (on free loan from Canon) I recommended that everyone set their cameras to a fast burst mode, animal detection for focus, ISO 3200, at f/7.1, and a shutter speed of 1/2000 sec. For those of you wondering why we were at f/7.1, this is the best aperture the Canon RF100-500mm lens will do at 500mm. Once set, we waited for the jump.

We all had a great time capturing images as they grabbed their food and then departed. It was so predictable. 

There was one spot where the birds would fly and the background was all far away, and dark. This gave us great separation between the bird and the foliage in the background.

Like an air traffic controller, I would call out to my photo tour guests just as the birds were about to take off.

Just as the macaw would push away from the tree, we would all fire our cameras in high speed, hoping to get great color and action. I think I took more than 500 images during this time, but I know one of my guests (you know who you are Jason 😀), took many thousands!

These last two photos and some of my favorites. I love that we were able to get a high enough position to be at eye level with the birds, and really see the colors in their feathers. As always, I look forward to the next trip to see if we get even better photos of these colorful beauties.

As I mentioned in the last blog post, my trips to Costa Rica are sold out for 2023, but I just added new photo tours for 2024. You can find those on the tour page.

Tease - My next blog post with images from Costa Rica will feature something new and really exciting!


Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa Costa Rica and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours. 


Friday, August 4, 2023

Come join me on new exciting Photo Tours!

I have just returned from yet another amazing photo tour in Costa Rica. We had an awesome group and captured countless breath taking photos worthy of printing and sharing. I will be sharing many of those images in upcoming blog posts.

In the mean time, I wanted to let you all know about upcoming photo tours for this year all the way out to 2025.

First and foremost, I have a photo tour in San Francisco that is happening in a couple of months and I have openings for this 3 day trip. We will be shooting both day and night photos, in all of my favorite locations in my home town. You can find more information on this trip HERE.

In Feb of next year we are heading back to one of my favorite places in the world, Tanzania! If you have not been to Africa, you owe it to yourself to get there! We have this trip on the schedule along with a 2025 trip. You can find more information on these trips HERE.

Last March we traveled to Japan to photograph this incredible country surrounded by the cherry blossoms. We will be doing this trip once again in 2024. You can find more information on this trip HERE.

As I mentioned, we just got back from the rain forest of Costa Rica and had a blast. The second trip of 2023 is already sold out, but I have now added two new trips for 2024. You can find more information on these trips HERE.

Last October we went Indochina to visit Vietnam and Cambodia. At that time, we could not get into Laos (still closed due to Covid), but now we can go there and we look forward to seeing all these places again in 2024.  You can find more information on this trip HERE.

For the first time ever, I am doing a photo tour to Greece. I am partnering with M&M Photo Tours on this tour (and many others), and they have been there many times.  This trip is on my bucket list and I look forward to photographing this amazing area with all of you.  You can find more information on this trip HERE.

We are heading back to Botswana in 2025. This is another favorite area for me. Not only are we doing land safaris, but we spend a lot of time on the Chobe River, which gives us the chance to photograph elephants, hippo, fish eagle and so much more from a low angle.  You can find more information on this trip HERE.

Last, but definitely not least, we are making our first ever trip to Peru in 2024. This trip is already sold out for 2024, but I will be adding another trip to see Machu Picchu and all the other great locations in this country for 2025. The dates are not set yet, but please let me know if you are interested in going on a future trip to Peru.


Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa Costa Rica and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.