How To Format Your Photo Backup Drive

As my NAS (network attached storage) drives are getting full from RAW photos, I need to offload the files onto multiple external drives for safe storage. I purchased a few Seagate Expansion drives in 2TB and 4TB variants for different backups, making two copies each for redundancy. The first decision when getting the new drives was how to format them. I decided to use exFAT table for maximum compatibility for read and write on Windows and Mac systems. The default NTFS table is read-only for Macs. The second decision was harder, what file allocation unit size? Most searches on Google just recommended the default size, which would be 4096kb on the 4TB drive. That was a bad idea and a waste of valuable disk space. I was able to recover a lot more with a simple calculation.

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Test Driving the BMW i8

While not the fastest car on paper, the BMW i8 is one of the most futuristic production cars in my opinion. Perhaps it’s more of a proof of concept in production, and is only the first generation from BMW. I didn’t think I would get a chance to actually test drive one anytime soon, but luckily we found one to play with for an hour so we made a run to Starbucks. Olya and I took turns on each leg of the trip, she being the fearless one pushed it harder while I did more inspection on the build of the electric hybrid sports car.

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Partial Solar Eclipse

When we found out that the Solar Eclipse was going to be partially visible in NJ/NY area, I thought it would be a great excuse to have a picnic and check out the first eclipse in my life! Even a partial one would be good enough for starters. I brought three tripods, four camera bodies and one telescope. A bit overkill but better prepared than not. I decided not to use the telescope for my DSLR at the fear that my stacked ND filters weren’t strong enough to prevent my sensor from burning up. I opted to just use my handheld Canon 70-200mm L at f16 with three stacked ND filters. It was definitely cool to see this for the first time in person. We might go chase the next total eclipse the next time around!

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Our Battlestation

The most exciting home project for me is dedicating a room for our home office and our battlestation. My computer used to occupy my dining space at the old apartment. Now all our gear and gadgets can reside in a neat little home. While it’s still a work in progress, it’s an efficient and incredibly enjoyable space that we can spend all day in. All of the furniture is IKEA, half of it being installed per instructions, and the other half were hacks thanks to my wife’s incredible talent for sniffing out good deals.

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Ukraine Round Two

We went to Ukraine for the second time to celebrate the 80th birthday of my grandfather-in-law, or “dido” (dee-doh) in Ukraine. I was even more excited this time because of my high anticipation for cheap delicious food, and experiencing the Summer weather instead of Winter. It was a very special trip, being Olya’s husband, I am also family now. We had a full house of everyone from the States visiting and staying together, there was never a dull moment.

This time we would arrive in the capital Kiev, over 8 hours away from Olya’s home village. The highway was fast and easy, perfectly paved surfaces that looked like any other European highway with English translation of city names. However once you got closer to the village, the local roads start looking like swiss cheese, pot hole filled craters that slow downed the driving to a crawl. Once we got to settle in the house, it was family visits, enjoying food from family or eating out for dirt cheap, shopping, and oh… rescuing a puppy too.

Don’t you wish your home far away from home is just a drive away behind an imaginary border that you can visit whenever you miss it? I would replace New York State with Taiwan, and Pennsylvania with Ukraine.

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France Honeymoon

Is there a rule where one shouldn’t share their honeymoon photos? Well what do you expect from two photographers who just got married and both want their own cameras? We planned our trip to France pretty much last minute after our wedding since it was a convenient stop on the way to Ukraine to celebrate Olya’s grandfather’s 80th birthday. We booked one week in France with a car and was excited to drive outside of Paris. Perhaps France is overhyped by those who are already biased to their culture or food, or the perception that it’s the most romantic place to be, I’d have to say it was by far our least favorite country to visit. I will admit that we didn’t know a lick of French, but this is just my opinion coming from an American tourist. We usually prefer the smaller towns and countryside far away from major cities to visit, but surprisingly in Europe, the closer in the city with tourists, the easier it is. Yes, we need English to help us get around. We did our best to enjoy what France had to offer and took photos of things we loved, and even some things we didn’t. In the end, I am happy we can say as a married couple that we went to Paris together. My favorite part of Paris was taking photos of my wife in her wedding dress. Yes, we lugged that thing in a dedicated suitcase.

One important advice when visiting France, they are extremely strict with their eating schedule. If you are not the type to follow such schedule, you may find yourself going hungry as most restaurants close in between meals and you’ll have to find a brasserie for a light meal or snack.

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Mount Washington

One of my favorite annual traditions is to organize a seasonal drive, either Spring or Fall (Summer is too hot for convertibles, and winter does not cater to summer tires). The drives have always been a short 2 hour drive at most, take some photos, grab a meal, and head home. We took a gamble this past Fall with a 6 hour drive to Mount Washington in New Hampshire, along with our puppies! The Mount Washington Auto Road is famous for its beautiful drive up 4,600 feet in elevation. Our group planned for the best foliage time, booked a beautiful cabin from Airbnb, and planned to bring some of our own food for sandwiches, among planning to eat some lobsters. This was the first time our group made a weekend trip together and it was nice to know that we could hang out all weekend and not want to kill each other. The advantage of going on a road trip in our group is the amount of time we cut from our trip with our spirited, maybe competitive driving. Our initial planned day to drive up the mountain was met with ice cold rain and overcast, so the tour was closed. We had one day left and we got really lucky with clear blue skies. As you ascend up the mountain the climate changes into a winter frost, and eventually snow. I had a fear that my summer tires would slide us off the cliff, but we made it to the top to a breathtaking view. This was my favorite group drive ever, I’m not sure how we’re going to top it this year!

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Eureka! Our Second West Coast Trip

Our first trip to California was a long drive from San Francisco down to San Diego. This second time around we decided to go north, with no itinerary, no spreadsheet, just drive. As we learned in previous trips, we like to see where the day takes us, and find a hotel last minute. This time our photos are taken with Canon DSLRs since we brought them for the wedding. I don’t think you’ll notice any difference from the other travel photos taken with a micro four third.

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Iceland

Iceland is one of those destinations that everyone wants to and should go at least once, even if you’ve been to other wintery locations around the world, this one is unique in many ways, from the culture to the livestock, to the gorgeous scenery. We decided to go on a whim with our long time friends James and Frances, who are also┬átalented wedding videographers. Thanks to the internet, we were able to do our research in a short amount of time on places we wanted to see, cheapest car to rent, and best place to stay. I love creating Google Sheets so we can be prepared with some expectations of what we will experience on our trip.

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Bring Back The Summer

From creating a playlist for our trip, to listening to our soundtrack while driving 1,700 miles, to coming home and editing the videos, I always have a vision already seared into my mind as to what the final story will look like. I am full of visual stories when I listen to good music, and thankfully I have photography or video to help me express them. I produce videos for myself simply because I want to express what I feel when I am driving spirited through amazing roads with my wife and always looking for new adventures. Listening to these songs again will always remind us of our past experiences.

This was shot handheld with the Olympus OMD mirrorless camera. Please turn up your speakers, or put on your best headphones, and enjoy!

Music credits:
Phoebe Ryan – Mine
Rain Man – Bring Back The Summer
Gareth Emery & Alastor – Hands

1,700 Miles Through California

It was almost a year ago when I took my (then) girlfriend, Olya, to the West Coast for the first time. Wanting to make it special, I didn’t want to spare any expenses, time, or experience to make it one of the most memorable trips we will both ever have together. Our relationship was already serious and discussions about eloping wasn’t unusual. She had no idea that I would use this opportunity to propose to her, and she wouldn’t suspect a thing when the camera comes out to record our whole trip because that’s what we do anyways. More details on the proposal in the story.

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Chai Latte’s First Halloween

Our puppy had her first Halloween costume photo shoot, it didn’t take much work since we’ve been training her since day one to pose for the camera, basically sitting still and looking at the person with the treat. We took her out to the park covered in fall leaves and let her run around until she calmed down, which allowed her to sit more patiently while we tortured her with the outfits from PetSmart. The portraits were shot with a telephoto lens on the Olympus mirrorless body. Having a smaller body with pop-out LCD really helps with the low angles without having to get down and dirty on the ground. The fun part was the Photoshopping, even though selecting the hair was a challenge. We hope you enjoy our little Chai Latte’s dress up!

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M.2 SSD Drive Review

I have always loved building custom PC rigs since I was young. My need for performance changed from gaming to photo processing over the years. Getting a CPU, GPU, and RAM that makes the rig game worthy is somewhat of a simple task, just look at a bunch of benchmarks and pick the right balance between budget and performance I would be happy with. However, when building a rig that would satisfy photo editing specs, that becomes much harder. There are plenty of gaming benchmark softwares out there, as well as office suite benchmarks, but none really for intensive Photoshop or Lightroom benchmarks. Each graphics software utilize different parts of the PC. Of course if I had an unlimited budget, I would just get the newest and fastest hardware, but that is not reasonable.

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Eating at Jiro’s

The biggest moment of our trip to Japan was to eat at the three-star Michelin restaurant Jiro. Thanks to Gregg, we got lucky and got a last minute reservation for four. While it wasn’t Jiro himself serving us, it was his eldest son, the next best thing. Just like the documentary, he serves us one at a time with great care, quality, and attention to detail. It was both amusing and awkward to watch the chef scold and even kick his apprentices if they made any mistakes. It was a great experience not only for the sushi, but the hospitality of the chef towards us as international guests.

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Japan

Japan was always on our list of places to visit, since we love technology, cute things, anime, food, and scenery, it has it all. We went as a group of four on this two week adventure, with a detailed Google Sheet itinerary and pre-purchased Japan Rail Pass, ready to travel across the big island during the Spring seasons when Cherry Blossoms are at full bloom.

Our layover was in Shanghai. The cuteness starts. The snacks were adorable and delicious, and pretty cheap too, especially being inside an airport. This begins the journey of Asians putting eyes on everything they can. Honestly, it makes us want it more too.

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Our First Ukraine Trip

Being married to a Ukrainian woman, I’ve always heard many stories she’s had growing up there in a village. I grew up in the city so the images of being in a village was foreign to me, with only images from movies in my head. I’ve at least had some preparation for Ukrainian cuisine thanks to her family’s wonderful cooking, I was ready for even more in Ukraine.

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WizGear Phone Mount Review

If you travel as often or more like me, and always rent a car abroad, you’ll know how invaluable a GPS and music is. Luckily you have both of those and more in one device, your smartphone. As I’m sure you have a phone holder in your vehicle at home for safety, and more so convenience reasons, why wouldn’t you have the same for a rental car if it’s more than a day? Back in the day when suction cup phone mounts were the only option, it was a cumbersome solution. The suction cup would get dirty or dusty while packed in your travel bag, the universal mount was also large and bulky.

Magnetic mount are here to rescue all of us! The solution is very simple but very effective, a small device that fits in your pocket. The magnetic vent mount clips to almost all car vents, I’ve had pretty good luck from Chevys, to Hyundais, to Mercedes (although Mercedes’ circular vents are really annoying). It doesn’t block your view with extra arms or brackets, it’s just a few strong neodymium magnets under a soft touch surface. With a metal plate hidden inside your phone case, the phone snaps easily and securely to the mount. It easily rotates to any orientation you want and holds in place even while driving aggressively.

I don’t think there are any better solutions to how you place your phone on and off the mount. It’s just a simple grab and go. The only disadvantage to the vent mount is, you do block half of a vent and lose the ability to direct where the air goes. On the plus side, the vent can cool off your phone when you have the AC on. A small price to pay for ultra convenience especially when renting a car.

The prices of these mounts range from $10 at Walmart, to $35+ for the name brands. I’ve owned both and both work well. I would recommend the $10 version for travel, in case you lose it.

Prime and Beyond

The little butcher shop and restaurant down Main Street in Fort Lee has a tiny parking lot and a minuscule sign that most passerby would miss completely unless they were trying to look for this hole in the wall. Prime and Beyond has been here since 2003, and easily rated one of the best steak houses in the area. With all the new commercial and residential development in town the past year, Fort Lee started their own little Restaurant Week to promote old and new restaurants. My wife and I made a reservation for a prix fixe dinner for two, at $30 each. My first worry about a low cost prix fixe from such a high end restaurant would be the small portions they would provide. Some of the best places serve an 8oz or less steak for over $45. Considering what we got on the menu, this was an incredible bargain.

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