Image Backup Strategy of a Photographer

As a professional photographer, the most important things for me are my images. They pay my bills. In this blogpost I want to talk a little bit about how my backup workflow works and how I prevent myself from dataloss.

Data Backup On Assignments:
On every multiple Day assignment I carry two LaCie rugged Mini 1TB hardrives with me.
Not only that they are durable and shock resistant, they are damn fast trough USB 3.0 which is amazing.

You probably ask yourself the question why two? Redundancy. On the first HD I save all my data including images, videos and the Lightroom catalogue.
After i copied all my images on HD 1, I make a 1:1 copy from HD1 to HD2 viaCarbon Copy Cloner which is an amazing and cheap tool.

Once this is done I go to sleep and only after this is done. I stay awake until the last file is copied and verified. While traveling, I carry one HD in my normal luggage and one HD in my Hand luggage to make sure I can`t loose both at the same time. When I travel with an Assistant I give one of the Hard drives to him or her.

Don`t forget: 
Having Images just on one HD is stupid and you risk everything. Having two HDs at the same place is like having one.

 

Data Backup In the Office:
Back in my office, I have to deal with much higher amounts of data to be backed up. At the moment I store 1,5 TB of Data.


First, I tried to use a NAS which worked quite well with loads of limitations on the other hand. This NAS is located in your office. When your office burns down or someone breaks trough, all your data is lost.

I found a solution that works perfectly for me: 
3TB Harddrive with USB 3.0 which stores all my data including videos, photos, documents and my Lightroom catalogue.
I backup these huge amount of data with Backblaze which is a cloud storage system.

I use backblaze for several reasons:

  • I pay 3,49$ per Month and get unlimited data to backup
  • It backs up external hard drives as well
  • The Data is encrypted on your HD and protected with AES 128
  • The Data is transferred via SSL
  • You can type in a personal encryption key. Not even Backblaze can read the data.
  • It runs in the background and saves automatically
  • File Restore is easy and convenient. (via download, usb stick or hard drive)

With having One HD in my Office and all the Data protected and encrypted in the Cloud, I can sleep quite well.
If you come up with any questions or comments let me know  I am happy to hear them and maybe improve my workflow.

Yes, this post contains affiliate links for amazon.

Day 8 - Back to London

9:30 – Aleppo – Syria
You know that it is time to go when  the Building next to you gets hit by a Mortar Grenade.

It kicked me out of sleep in less than a second.

Ok, time to go NOW!

I grabbed my backpack and moved as fast as I can because where one mortar shell is, there will come others soon.

11:00 – Countryside – Syria
I am sitting in a Taxi to Azaz on the syrian/turkish border. Listening to Ludovico Einaudi. Thinking about the last days. I have seen so much I can not really tell with words.

I was close to die more than one time . By Sniper Fire, By Mortar Shells, you name it.
In the same time I was the Guest of the Al Nusra Front which scared the shit out of me every day.
I lived 7 Days with one of the most radical islamistic jihadist groups on this planet and nothing happened to me. They treated me as one of theirs and they were all very nice to me.

Nevertheless I am more than happy to be safe again.
Thank you for all of you who supported me with your taughts. Meant a lot to me. Especially one person held contact with me every day. Thank you so much.
I hope I was able to give you a good view on my work as photojournalist in a conflict zone.

I am back save. 

Day 7 - Aleppo

09:00 – Media Center – Aleppo

Woke up as usual and prepared my Equipment. Today we wanted to meet some FSA Brigades and see the Places where Aleppo was shelled by Scud Missiles. But hey, sometimes stuff works in a different way as you thought it would.

While we had our daily coffee, I heard a very familiar sound. 2 Jets flew over our building with an insane speed. Everyone jumped on the ground but surprisingly we were not the target…

 

10:30 – Taxi – Aleppo
“yalla yalla” I said these words like 20 times to our taxi driver while he drove to the area where the 2 jets delivered their deadly parcels.

 

10:45 – Bombing Site – Aleppo
We arrive at the bombing site and I jumped out of my car with my Camera in my Hand. Chaos. Screaming. Injured people. 2 Buildings were completely destroyed and the scenery reminded me a little bit of pictures from my hometown in second world war.

I totally forgot about time and just took pictures. People started shouting at me grabbed me and pointed me to Locations where they wanted me to take a picture. I continued taking pictures. More pictures. Click Click Click Click Click. Then I hear jets again. People start running.

Nothing happened.

My Heart is beating like a machine gun and I continue my work. Charging close range to the people who work as hard as they could to rescue spilled people. This smell, the sounds, this suffering. It is probably impossible to show even 10% of what I have witnessed trough my images.

The houses start burning. No Firebrigade.
I need to get away from here. I will leave tomorrow. 

This feels like taking the express elevator to hell…

Day 6 - Aleppo

9:00 – Aleppo – Syria

Today is Saturday and the other photographer who shared the room with me is leaving. We didn’t talk much but he seems to be one of the guys who doesnt care about the people and is only after money. He always wanted to go to the frontline to show fighting. But do we need to see more fighting? I don’t think so. What about the people? What about their stories? Spoken from a business perspective I am not keen he will sell his pictures anyway…

 

11:30 – Aleppo – Syria

Another Fieldhospital where only women work. Something very unusal in this country. 3 Sisters run this small Hospital where mainly citizens with their children are threatened. Again a Situation where I was amazed how the people face these situations. We were invited to tea and cake and we talked about the general Situation.
As you can see on the pictures they have almost nothing in there.

 

16:30 – Salahedin – Aleppo

We visit the District of Salahedin in Aleppo. This District is one of the heaviest shelled Districts in whole Aleppo and still not 100% safe. Mahmoud told me there are snipers everywhere on bigger streets and we ran a lot.

Tomorrow is my last Day in Aleppo. Time to go and let everything heal. My Body and my Mind.

Day 5 - Aleppo

9:30 Aleppo – Syria
That was a short night. Mortar and artillery shelling very close to our position made it almost impossible to sleep… “you get used to it” is all my Fixer Mahmoud said.

I also learned, that everything goes a little bit slower here in the arabian world as we stopped 4 times on our way to talk with random people and drink tea.

 

11:00 Aleppo – Syria

Today is Friday. Every Friday the people in Aleppo start a demonstration after they prayed in the mosque. After Arriving at the scene I met some familiar faces. Yussuf the photographer from Turkey i met yesterday and Achmed my Driver from Azaz to Aleppo. A couple kisses left and right and hugs and the demonstration started. They were around 10 journalists including me. Almost all of them were wearing flak jackets and helmets because they were afraid of Mortar Fire. Good point but how can a Flak Jacket protect you from a 120mm Mortar Grenade?!

The Demonstration started move and a lot of people joined the singing and shouting with paroles and songs against bashar al assad. We started to hear jets flying over us and the people began to shout allaaaaah akbah which means allah is big and will protect us.

A deep breath and I said to myself “focus on working”. I continued taking pictures for another 30 minutes, then Mahmoud told me we have to leave as it becomes to dangerous now. People start to turn against journalists after a certain time as they don`t understand why they don`t get help from Europe.
I trust Mahmoud. He became a Friend and a person I trust to 100%.

it is remarkable how convinced the people are about this revolution and how much heart they put into it. for these people its all or nothing…

 

14:30 - Aleppo – Syria

Ok enough of war today, Machmud deceided that I look to arabic and need a good shave. 20 minutes later,
we sat in a nice and small barber shop. Forget all the pain and suffering for a short time became a  reachable goal for a second.

The rest of the day is spent with relaxing and treating my little scratches and injuries I got from jumping behind cover the last days.

my super reliable macbook pro stopped working. beautiful. I have to reinstall the whole OS when I’m back in London…

my shoulder still hurts like hell but someone special said I am a hero so I will deal with it accordingly 

While I write these words, I am sitting in my “office” which is the rest of a Flat people lived in before the revolution started. Now it works as accomodation for FSA Soldiers, Nurses and Journalists.

Day 4 - Aleppo

8:00 – Aleppo – Syria
I begin to get used to coffee as this seems to be the national drink here. A Mocca in the morning and everything is good. Today we plan to visit some Field Hospitals.

 

9:30 – Field Hospital – Aleppo
We arrived at the first Field Hospital in the City of Aleppo. The Old Shopping Mall was converted into a Field Hospital with very basic equipment. Muhammed the Doctor told me that they treat between 90 – 120 Patients a day, mainly because of general health problems.

 

11:00 – Second Field Hospital – Aleppo
In the next minutes I will find out that i wasn’t prepared for that… crying children everywhere. They all suffered from skin problems and had big exzems. After we had the allowance for taking pictures I started to work very fast and quickly. During the Treatments the Children were crying and screaming and I felt horrible. After 10 minutes I had to take a deep breath to not start to cry too. So much suffering and pain for these children who are between 2 and 10 years old was just terrible. i was thankful to leave after 30 minutes of working. Seems like I am not as hard as I thought I was. I just asked myself the same question again and again… “Why?”

 

13:45 – Secret Location – Aleppo
After we stepped out of the Hospital Machmud met one of the Brigade Leaders we met the days before.  ”they want to show us how they figut against assad army” hmm ok fine, my flakjacket is in the office. lets go… In the next Minutes we arrived in a secret location not more than 500 Meters away from the Assad Soldiers.   Missile one got fired and I got some very nice material out of it. Something seemed like the Ramp for the Missiles had been damaged but who cares? Of course only the journalist…  The second missile was fired and exploded on the ground. Thousands of little metalparts flew around and allah must be very big and mighty that we all survived that as we were like 20 metres away… (Did I mention that we didn’t have a flak jacket?)   On our way back to the car it made baaaammm and one of the soldiers shouted “kalnas!” which means sniper.

What happened the next 20 minutes reminded me more on a movie then on something real. everyone started shouting and fire their weapons in random directions. I realized how my heart began to beat so fast and so hard like I never felt before. Then it made boom (mortar) and everything was dark. No i wasnt dead, there was just dust all around me.  Everything hurted and my ears just had this crazy beeeeeeepppppppp.

I grabbed my camera and jumped into another cover. Everything hurted but everyone was fine. Then we arrived the car and went out of this place.

Now its kind of surreal to me, that I almost died in this Situation. Afterwards I realized that my shoulder and my rips were in a bad condition. My hearing came back after one hour.

 

17:30 – Media Office – Aleppo
Taking photos is one part of my job, talking to the citizens and the guys who work in the Media Office is another.  I wanted to gain a understanding in the Situations people have to deal with and I wanted to learn as much as possible about the culture, so we had long chats about religion, cultural differences and the reasons for this war. I dont think that the media can give us a full overview over this situation and the problems people suffering from.

Day 3 - Aleppo

8:00 – Aleppo – Syria
An early wake up after a noisy night. With noisy I mean continuos mortar and artillery shelling all over the city.
Even if the grenades detonate 10km away it is still unbelievably loud. For breakfast we had sweet cakes which
were really really good and I enjoyed a shower. Ok, a cold shower but at least we had rinsing water.

 

09:00 – Car in Aleppo – Syria
We are invited by a General of a famous Brigade in Aleppo. After 40 Minutes of driving we arrived in the old city of Aleppo.
The streets are so tiny that only one car in one direction can drive trough it.
Now it seems to get really serious as my fixer Mahmoud said “now you see the frontline”. I thought I was at the Frontline yesterday?! Wonderful…

 

10:30 – Souks in Aleppo – Syria
We are running trough an alley while the the FSA Soldiers are giving us force protection. I hear the fire of AK 47 Machine guns firing bullets over our heads to give us protection from the snipers on the other side of the Alley. I run as fast as I was able to with my 15kg Flak Jacket, Helmet, 2 Kameras, 3 Lenses and Backpack… No one got wounded.

 

13:30 – Newly Liberated part of Aleppo – Syria
We are sitting on a Pickup. With we, I mean Mahmoud, William (a French photographer), 3 Soldiers of the FSA and me. Between our legs, we have a mobile rocket launcher (self-made) and around 15 mobile rockets (self-made as well). I asked one of the FSA Soldiers in my bad arabic “are the street bumps bad for the rockets?” He just started laughing and said “allah akbah”. I looked over to William and our sights said “oh fuck, hopefully there comes no car accident.”
After a short ride, we arrived at the front line where the rebels wanted to show us how their self made rocket launcher works.
The FSA shot 3 rockets on a sniper position of the Dictator Army of Bashar al Assad. The answer came fast with Mortar Fire.
In the meantime they showed us one of their prisoners which was slaughtered 1 day before. The Prisoner was a member of the dangerous Al Shabiha Unit of the Dictators army.

 

16:30 – Sniper Streets – Aleppo
Time to get the hell out of here. We sat on the back of the van again and our driver driver really fast as there were snipers in every cross street.
That meant for us, heads down and full speed to pass every cross street. After a quick tea with the General of the Brigade, we moved back to the Media Center to have food and work on our images.

Day 2 - Aleppo

6:00 Gaziantep – Turkey

I decided that I am too young to sleep and looked for a taxi.

After 10 Minutes of hard bargaining (paid 30€ for a Distance of 70km) I sat in a Taxi with my Taxidriver Machmet.

I thought I could fall asleep but his style of driving made that impossible as I didn`t want to die while sleeping.

07:00 Kilis Border – Turkey

We arrived more or less safe at the turkish border, where several syrian refugees waited to go back to syria.

After a quick try of communication we just looked at each other and started laughing. That was the time where I became so tired that the guys offered me an espresso which I almost choked! Not so bad and did what it was supposed to do. Keep me awake.

8:20 – nowhere land between Turkey and Syria

After I crossed the turkish border I walked along 2km of nowhere land between turkey and syria. Every couple minutes one or two refugees and a friendly “a salaam maleikum” and that`s it. Except of the Mine Field Signs all over the place.

8:40 – Azaz – Syria. 

After crossing into Syria 2 Gentlemen with impressive weapons headed torwards me and wanted to see my ID. No Problem, as I had everything prepared. My Press ID in my Left hand, my Travel ID in my right hand. They had a quite professional look on it, were quite happy and let me pass where Machmud from the Azaz Press Office waited for me on the next corner.

9:20 – Azaz – Syria

Time for a little tour trough the refugee camp and the city of Azaz. The funny thing about it was, that my guide was a Syrian Engineer born in Germany so that his german was very good. The supply situation with medicine seems to be very good. The Hospital has an own roentgen machine and a own laboratory for blood tests. I didn`t expect that.

11:30 – Azaz – Syria

Now we try to find a driver for me. My Guide suggested to drive with a local bus. I looked in the bus filled with women and children and 2 very angry looking guys and I said “maybe it`s better to find a driver for me?” After driving to several friends and colleagues of him we finally found a driver who wanted to drive me for 150$. After hard bargaining we ended at 100$. 10 minues later, we sat in his car and made our way to Aleppo.

12:30 – Aleppo – Syria

I arrived at the Aleppo Media Center and met my Guide for the next days who will become a good friend in the next days. We will learn to trust each other and give our live in each others hands.

14:30 – Aleppo – Syria

We are on our way to the Front Line. After 20 Minutes drive trough a very busy Aleppo the streets are getting more and more empty. Mahmoud says “when there are no people, you know there is war.” Out of the car and into a sneaky street. “Now you must run very fast, Snipers everywhere!” After I runned faster as I ever did in my entire life, we entered a big building where we met Snipers of the Free Syrian Army.

They showed me their different positions and shot at the Dictator Army of Bashar al Assad. Then they said “we must go, too dangerous now!”

After a lot of running we were back at the safe car and I got rid of my 15kg Flak Jacket.

17:00 – Aleppo Syria

Back at the Media Center I spent some time with Children and took some very nice pictures. I have never seen children who have been so happy when you show them their picture on the screen. Tonight it will be an early night as I am awake for more than 36 hours now.

Day 1 - Travel to Syria

15:35 – London Gatwick, UK

My plane is taking off from london gatwick airport and I started to realize what I am doing.

I travel to one of the most dangerous countries in the world. So much changed in the last 12 months…

My camera equipment stuffed into one of these lovely ICU`s of F-Stop is just above me in the compartment.

Did I pack everything? Did i forget something?

16:30 – Airborne over Germany

After my second Gin&Tonic and 40 minutes of Batman – The Dark Knight Rises my nervousness came to a level where I can handle it.

A Family sits right next to me. They are talking about their holiday and how amazing the beach must be. The children are damn excited and

playing some kind of ego shooter on their phones.

“Lovely game” goes trough my mind. I will have that in reality the next days just that there is no respawn…

 

21:30 local time – Istanbul, Turkey

Landed in one of the probably nicest cities in the world without seeing too much from it. A “short” walk (15 minutes) to the domestic terminal and again trough the security check where I had a nice conversation with one of the security girls. She was quite amazed by my piercing and we started chatting for a couple minutes. 24 years old. Her parents are working in Istanbul and have a own hotel. She loves her job. She wishes me goodbye and “inshallah you will come back”. Just a quick conversation of 5 minutes and we both said goodbye with a smile. Can`t imagine a conversation like that with a european security officer…

 

01:00 local time – Istanbul, Turkey 

Boarding a small machine to Gaziantep. Against my expectations I seem to be the only journalist who is traveling to Gaziantep…

Against my expectations as well, the machine is fully booked. Mainly business travelers. Still no journalists except of me.

I start to get tired…

 

3:50 local time – Gaziantep, Turkey

I am freakin tired but sleeping isn`t really an option anymore as it is way to loud and busy in here. Finally found a place where i can rest for a while. “Bag Pub” feels almost I`m in London. No one is here, not even the owner but I have to say the seats are more or less comfortable. In 3 hours I will continue my journey to Aleppo over Kilis and Azaz.

My Equipment as a Documentary and Travel Photographer

 

As I always get asked, what Equipment i carry on my travels I thought it`s a good idea to show you my packing list of stuff i carry with me on assignments. If you come up with Questions regarding single pieces of the Equipment, don`t hesitate to drop me a comment. Some of the not so well known Parts have a direct affiliate links to Amazon for your pleasure.

Camera Equipment

  • Canon 5D Mark III with Battery Grip
  • Canon 5D Mark II (Backup)
  • Battery Charger for Canon original
  • Batter Charger for Canon 3rd Party (Backup)
  • 6 Batteries for 5D
  • Canon 17 – 40 4.0 L + UV Filter
  • Canon 24 – 70 2.8 L + UV Filter
  • Canon 50mm 1.4 + UV Filter
  • Canon 85mm 1.8 + UV Filter
  • Canon 70 – 200 4.0 L + UV Filter
  • Canon 430 EX II Flashgun
  •  3 16GB Sandisk Extreme SD Cards
  • 4 8GB Sandisk Extreme CF Cards
  • Giottos Vitruvian Tripod
  • GoPro Hero 3 Silver Edition + Accessoires
  • Peakdesign Capture

Okay, listing your equipment is always a little pretentious but I wanted to let you know what i carry with me and why. If I am under a tight weight restriction i let the prime lenses at home. The Tripod from Giottos is a good compromise between weight and stability and the Gear from Peakdesign is just amazing and fun to use. A Gopro is my standard accessory while I am traveling. Can`t go without anymore.

General Electronic Equipment

  •  Battery Charger for AA and AAA
  • 12 Eneloop AA Batteries
  • 4 Eneloop AAA Batteries
  • Led Lenser P5R with USB
  • Petzl Tikka Plus 2 Headlamp
  • Macbook Pro 13″ + Charger
  • Apple iPad + Charger
  • Bose Quiet Comfort 15 Earphones
  • 2 Old Nokia 3310 Mobile Phones + Charger

Sounds like a lot, but for me it is necessary. Why I take old phones with me? Have  you ever tried to get a nano sim for your Iphone 5 in countries like syria or bhutan or Nepal? Not possible. And another good point is, that I need to recharge them every 3 weeks. I would love to say the same about my Iphone.

Personal Equipment

  • 2 Passports
  • 10 matching photos
  • International Press ID
  • cheap but good looking Wristwatch
  • 500$ in reserve

I basically have 2 passports. One for USA and Israel, and one for the rest of the world as most countries deny to let you in when you have a US or Israel Visa Stamp in your passport. The Matching Photos are always useful regardless if it is a diving license or a visa on arrival, you need them always. A cheap but good looking watch is sometimes a good way to get you out of a dicey situation when you are able to offer the person in front of you something shiny.

Clothing

  • Hardshell Jacket
  • Fleece Jacket for inside the Hardshell

I find it quite important to have something warm with you regardless where you are going. Temperatures drop even in the desert close to 0° Degrees at night. I think it is not necessary to write mandatory stuff like underwear, t-shirts, pants, etc down is it?

Medical Equipment

  • Tourniquet
  • 4 Israeli Bandages
  • Quick Clot
  • Imodium Akut
  • Bandages
  • Paracetamol

Thats the absolute minimum I carry when i go into a conflict zone.
Depending on the countries I carry stuff like Malaria Tablets or other medications with me.

All this Stuff is packed into an f-stop satori backpack which is the best backpack on the market. My experiences with the customer and sales team can be found here. I only recommend buying these backpacks because they are the best on the market. But be prepared to experience poor customer service and long waiting times up to 6 months. I ordered in January and my Backpack arrived end of June. 

Yes in this post are affiliate links from Amazon. Hope you are ok with that ;)