It seems like just yesterday that I was in Europe showing photographers how to take advantage of the Creative Cloud Photography Plan featuring Adobe Lightroom CC, Lightroom Mobile and Photoshop CC. It was a blast presenting at Fotofair in the Netherlands and special events in Paris and Milan.
If you’ve been following this blog then, you know I got an Apple Watch on day one 4/24/2015. I also bought an extra charging cable that could remain in my suitcase for travel. I take my Apple Watch off every night and put it on the charger for the night. I hate wearing any kind of jewelry when I sleep and even if Apple Watch never needed to be charged I would still take it off every night. I knew from day one that I would want a charging stand to put it on. Even before Apple Watch shipped there were companies showing their stands and I was shocked by the price of some of them. Let me explain why. An Apple Watch charging stand has NO ELECTRONICS in it. It’s simply a stand that you supply with your charging cable and it gives you place to simply lay your Apple Watch on and because of the magnetic charging cable it would simply float there on the stand. The stands are usually made of plastic, metal or wood. For something that has no electronics I couldn’t believe what some companies were charging for theirs. For example, this one goes for a whopping $99! Granted it’s made of walnut, but still that seems like a lot of money for a small piece of wood. I don’t mind spending money on engineering and R&D, but the only thing to really figure out with these is to make sure the hole is the right size to hold the Apple charging cable. The first one I got was by Spigen and it’s OK. It works. However, for just $5 more you can have the BEST one.
I ordered three different models including one that I had 3D printed from a design I downloaded from the web and I’m happy that I found the Griffin Technologies WatchStand. It’s by far the best one I’ve seen for the money. Like most of the others, there are no electronics in it and you need to supply your own Apple Watch charging cable. However, unlike most of the others the design is well thought out and provides great cable management and most importantly great weight at the base. There is no way that this one will tip over (a common problem with the plastic ones, like the one I 3D printed). I also really like the “lip” on one side that allows you to easily lean your iPhone up against it. While there are more expensive models that actually have a lightning adapter in them for your iPhone/iPad, the lip is all that I needed. Sometimes I grab my iPhone in the middle of the night to check messages and if I had to look for the dock to set it back on in the dark it would be a nuisance. With this one I can leave the lightning cable attached to the iPhone and just lean it back on the stand when I’m done.
The center column detaches so that you can wrap any excess cable inside. You can also face the center column in a different direction. For example, I wanted to lean my iPhone on the side vs. the front. I was worried about those that have Apple Watches that have bands that can’t open, how would you use this stand. Then I saw this shot on their website and it became clearer:
This side orientation is great for those Apple Watches that have metal bands that don’t open all the way. It will also be handing for Apple Watch OS 2 with the nightstand mode.
If you’re an Apple Watch owner and you want the Best Apple Watch Stand for the money, then look no further than the WatchStand by Griffin Technologies.
One thing that I’ve learned the hard way more than once is that if you travel to a beautiful location without a tripod, you’re really limiting your potential. If you want to shoot long exposures you need a tripod as they are impossible to shoot handheld. If you want to shoot HDR during the evening or early morning hours you’re going to want a tripod. If you’re going to shoot time lapse then you’re going to want a tripod. I have a GREAT Tripod for travel. I bought it years ago. While I love the fact that it’s carbon fiber and therefore light weight, I wanted to see if there was one that was shorter when folded down? My search lead me to Sirui. I had never heard of them before. However, the specs were what I was looking for:
Maximum Height of 56.9″
Load Capacity of 26.5 lb
8x Carbon Fiber Legs
Forged Aluminum Alloy Chassis
Short Center Column for Low-Angle Shots
Folds Down to Just 14.6″
Weighs Just 2.6 lbs
This one folds down to 14.6″ vs. my Gitzo which folds down to 16.7″. While 2 inches may not sound like much, it actually makes the difference of fitting in my suitcase horizontally instead of diagonally allowing me more room for my clothes and other gear. The maximum height is a little over an inch shorter than my current one, but load capacity is 50% more than my current one. This means it can hold my bigger bodies and lenses. The weight of the Sirui is only .4 lbs more than the Gitzo. Probably the biggest factor to compare is that the Sirui is less than half the price of the Gitzo.
The Sirui T-2205X 5 Section Carbon Fiber Tripod comes with:
Short Center Column
Padded Travel Bag with Shoulder Strap
6 Year Limited Warranty
The bag is really nice, but it’s really only designed to carry the tripod and the supplied accessories. Like most professional tripods this one does NOT include a ballhead. Once I added my Kirk Ballhead to it, it was a tight fit in the bag, but it did fit.
The Bottom Line
There are wide assortment of tripods out there are all different prices and capabilities. If you’re looking for one that is pro level, folds down very compactly and can hold heavy gear, this one will suit you well. This is definitely in the category of Best Tripod for Travel!
Whenever a stranger notices that I’m wearing an Apple Watch, the 1st thing they usually ask is “do you like it?” I always find this question to be a bit awkward because I guess if there was something as personal as a watch or other wearable item that I didn’t like, I probably wouldn’t be wearing it. It’s like saying, hey those shoes you’re wearing, do you like them? However, I get it. It’s a hot new tech gadget with a lot of hype that they’ve heard something about or perhaps are interested in possibly getting one and it’s probably the first question that comes to mind. To answer the question for the record, YES, I love it! Now with that said, it’s a 1st generation Apple product and as history has always shown us it will get better with each iteration. Think back to iPhone 1.0 in 2007 and iPad 1.0 in 2010. I loved those products too, but could never imagine going back to those first models now that the newer ones are in hand. I expect to have the same feeling about Apple Watch 1.0 in a few years. But for now I’m very happy with it.
The next question I get and this is another odd one for me to answer is “Is it worth it?” Again, it feels kinda personal. I usually answer with the truth “yes, it’s worth it to me!” I can’t answer if it will be worth it for you or not? I have no idea what you consider to be of value and what your limits are? Some things that you would spend money on I would probably find not to be worth it to me. However, for the record the answer is YES!, it’s worth it (to me). My #1 measure for answering this question is, if something were to happen to it or if I could go back in time knowing what I know now, would I buy it again? hmmmm, Yes! My only debate would be would I buy the Sport model again or would I step up to the stainless steel model. I chose not to go with the more expensive models knowing that this is a first generation 1.0 product and that when 2.0 comes out then I would spend more on the sure to be thinner model with all kinds of new bells and whistles. I do want a stainless steel one and I’ve had to close my browser window a couple of times when I was tempted to just go ahead and order one, but I’ll wait.
Probably the least expected moment when someone asked me about Apple Watch…
The city of Milan Italy from the roof of the Milan Cathedral
I would have to say that I was a bit frustrated when one of my viewers on Periscope (follow me @TerryLWhite) asked me about Apple Watch during a live broadcast from Milan Italy last week. I know that the viewer didn’t mean anything wrong by the question, but I was a bit taken back by the question during that particular moment because I was showing this beautiful scene from the top of the Milan Cathedral. The beauty, the history, the architecture, the wow factor and out of the blue “has the Apple Watch benefited you on this trip?” Huh? Really? You want to talk Apple Watch now? Right now? Are you seeing this? So I was a bit snippy with my response and for that I apologize. He didn’t deserve that and his curiosity was genuine. There was nothing wrong with the question. I actually felt bad afterwards. For that reason, I thought why not answer the question in detail with this blog post?
Using Apple Watch on my trip to Europe
Although I had traveled with Apple Watch from day one, this was my first trip abroad with it. I would say that the first thing I like about traveling with Apple Watch is that it changes the time based on where you are just like your iPhone. So I never ever have to set it. Last week I went to the Netherlands, Paris and Milan. The first thing I thought about was what information would I want to see at a glance every time I looked at my Watch? Apple calls the 4 customizable corners of Apple Watch “Complications”, not sure I would have used that term, but that’s what they are called. Also my buddy Jack just pointed out to me that Complications is the common term used for describing features of clocks beyond the time display. Learn something new everyday. My daily 4 complications were Weather, Battery Status, Activity (like a fitness band) and the Central Europe Time Zone (Paris time). I customized it by replacing Battery Status with Pacific Time and changed Paris time to Eastern Time (my home time zone – Atlanta). I also set the default to 24 hour (military time) since that’s what the rest of the world uses.
Speaking of Battery Life…I no longer display the battery status on my watch because since day one battery has NEVER been a problem for me. Not one time in 45 days have I run out of juice. I think the lowest the battery has been when I put it on the charger at night was 30% left. It actually averages between 40%-60% left each day. Since battery life has never been an issue for me, I figured why waste the space displaying the status at all times? I can always use the battery “glance” if I’m ever curious to how much juice I have left. While Apple states that you’ll get 18 hours of battery I have actually gone over that for the 1st time on this trip. I put my watch on at 8:00 am the day I left and didn’t take it off till the next afternoon in the Netherlands at 1PM, 23 hours later! I also kept it active on the 7.5 hour flight because the Delta 747 that I was on had WiFi. No need to go into Airplane mode. Apple Watch battery life is much better than expected!
After setting up the perfect watch face display above, the next thing was the Apps themselves. Some were very useful on this trip. I’ll start with the ones that are built-in. I love that Apple Watch shows me incoming calls. This is even more important when traveling abroad as calls can be costly. At a glance I could see who was calling and even better, if it was a call that I didn’t want to take I could just cup my hand naturally over the Watch to silence the incoming call and send it . This is a pretty sweet feature. The next one that was extremely nice was the Activity monitor. I did a LOT of walking around on this trip and it was great hitting/exceeding my daily Move and Stand goals. I used to wear a Nike+ Fuelband on one arm and sometimes a nice Marc Jacobs watch on the other. Now I have Apple Watch that gives me both a nice watch and fitness tracker in one. Speaking of it being a watch, people seem to be really impressed when I raise my arm to see what time it is and the Watch displays the time. This is what bugged me about using all other digital watches (including the Nike+ Fuelband) in the past is that you had to use your other hand to press a button to activate the display. There is no button to press thanks to the built-in accelerometer.
The Timer was awesome to use. This was a work trip and I had presentations to do in each city. Normally I’d use a presentation timer on my iPhone, but more and more I’m using my iPhone as part of the demo to show mobile Apps. This lead to my using an iPod touch for music and to run my timer apps. I didn’t take the iPod touch out of my bag one time on this trip. The watch made a great timer. At a glance I could see how much time I had left and if I got carried away the taptic feel of the timer tapping my wrist when my time was up was PERFECT. Although I didn’t have slides to present during this trip, I have also used the Keynote App on Apple Watch as a wireless remote to advance my slides from my wrist. It was great to use the timer for the flight home. This way I was able to see how many hours I had left at a glance.
Notifications are killer! Not having to pull out my iPhone for every little thing is what I hoped Apple Watch would help with and it has. Having calendar reminders, text messages, and several 3rd party app messages pop up on my Watch instead of having to pull out my iPhone each time was great.
There was one 3rd party app that stood out. If you want to see the 3rd party Apple Watch Apps that I like the most, you can see the full list here. However, the one for travel that was great to have was FlightTrack 5. All of my flights were loaded in via my iPhone 6 Plus and therefore available at a glance on my Apple Watch. I could see any flight updates, delays, times, etc.
The above color themes were captured with Adobe Color on Apple Watch from the various locations I visited and then sync’d to Creative Cloud and waiting for me on my Desktop the next time I launched Photoshop CC.
I also liked using Adobe Color CC to collect the most popular color themes from each city. I’m becoming a fan of ProCamera 8 + HDR and their iPhone app now includes an Apple Watch app that not only gives you a remote shutter release from your Watch, but also a quick review of the images that you just took so that you can stay in place and shoot again if need be.
Apple Pay via Apple Watch came in very handy
During my stay in Paris I went to lunch at the underground Mall next to the Louvre. Nice Apple Store there by the way. The food court had a variety of restaurants. I noticed that when I went to pay for my meal, the familiar touchless payment symbol appeared and I thought, why not try it. Two taps of the side button and my Apple Pay was ready. All the cashier kept saying was “wow, wow, wow”. Apparently I was his first Apple Watch paying patron. Or maybe that was all the English he spoke .
I used Apple Watch in a way that I never would have thought about before this trip. It seems that in several public places in Europe that if you want to use the restroom you actually have to pay € .50.
While that’s not the end of the world, it was frustrating the first time when I didn’t have any change. The next time, I saw one I noticed that it took Apple Pay (contactless payments via NFC in smartphones and Apple Watch). Now Europe just needs to update their train stations to take touchless payments and it would be a lot easier, faster and a more secure way to pay for tickets.
The Bottom Line
The Apple Watch is far from perfect, but for what it is right now as a 1.0 product it’s GREAT. It does the things that I bought it for and if I had it to do all over again I’d buy it again. For every day use it has been a natural fit into my lifestyle and for travel it’s been great to have the things I want to know about the most at a glance. I look forward to the 3rd party Apps gaining access to the native functions of the Watch in the upcoming Apple Watch SDK. I have a whole drawer full of traditional watches, but Apple Watch is the one I enjoy the most. Apple Watch is a great product that will only get better over time.
For years now my MacBook Pro has been my primary computer. Now my only desktop computer is my Mac OS X Server. Having a MacBook Pro doesn’t mean that I don’t have a ton of peripherals that I need to connect. The last thing I want to do when I leave or return from a trip is connect a bunch of cables. That’s where a Thunderbolt 2 dock comes in. Although I’ve used a Belkin one for years now, people are always asking for a lower priced alternative. Elgato has created one the fits the bill nicely. For a hundred dollars less than the competition you still get 2 Thunderbolt 2 ports, 3 USB 3.0 ports, 1 HDMI port, 1 Gigabit Ethernet port, and an audio in and audio out port. Really the only thing missing is more USB 3.0 ports and a legacy port like Firewire 800 or eSATA. Since I connect more than 5 USB devices anyway I would still need a USB 3.0 hub. Also most people at this point have probably replaced their older Firewire 800/eSATA devices with newer tech. If you fall into that category then I would save save the hundred bucks and use part of it to buy a USB 3.0 hub.
The design is nice and compact and it’s great having the audio ports on the front as well as the 3rd USB 3.0 port capable of charging your mobile device.
The Bottom Line
If you have a MacBook Pro then having a Thunderbolt 2 dock is a big plus. You’ll enjoy the single Thunderbolt connection and the additional ports. The one thing I wish that these devices offered are more Thunderbolt ports. You really don’t gain any because you have to connect the dock to one of your existing ports taking up a Thunderbolt port on the dock and one on your computer. That leaves you with the same number of Thunderbolt ports that you started with. I would like to see a model with 3 or 4 Thunderbolt ports for true Thunderbolt expansion.
Like you, my data is very important to me. I have several backups and offsite cloud backups too. In my home office I use a Drobo 5D connected to my Mac OS X Server as well as a second Drobo 5N to backup the Drobo 5D. The whole reason to have a Drobo is so that if one of your hard drives fail your data will be protected and you can just keep working. You’ll probably replace the failed drive with a larger one since larger drives come out every year. The one thing we don’t really think about is what happens if two drives fail at the same time? Normally this means you’re screwed and it would be time to restore from a backup (after replacing the two failed drives). The last time I had a Seagate 3TB drive die in my Drobo 5N, I not only replaced it with a WD 4TB NAS drive, but I also enabled Drobo’s dual redundancy feature in the settings.
With this feature enabled now two drives could fail at the same time and I’d still be protected.
C’mon how likely is it that two drives would fail at the same time?
I hear ya! However, before I tell you what happened on my other Drobo (5N), think about it. When you setup your Drobo (RAID), chances are you bought multiple drives at the same time. So if one fails (especially as they get older), then it’s likely that another one bought around the same time could fail shortly thereafter. As a matter of fact I now know this can happen. Although I had turned on Dual Redundancy on my Drobo 5D, I had not yet turned it on my Drobo 5N. While traveling on business I received an email alert that one of my drives had failed (an older 2TB Seagate). No big deal as my data was protected. However, by the time I got home several days later a second 2TB Seagate drive had failed. That’s it. Game over. It wasn’t a huge deal since this Drobo served as a backup to my main Drobo. I didn’t lose anything other than Time Machine history.
I replaced both drives with new 4TB WD NAS drives and during the setup process I enabled Dual Redundancy. My Drobo 5N still has two of the 2TB Seagates and a 3TB Seagate (which have been failing on my pretty regularly and it’s why I’m kinda done with Seagate) in it. Now I’m a little less worried if two of the older drives bite the dust at the same time. Keep in mind that I just put two 4TB drives in my Drobo 5N at the same time. Chances are if they die in a few years (no premature failures) under normal wear and tear, they’ll probably die around the same time.
What’s the downside to enabling Dual Redundancy?
There is a downside otherwise this option would be on by default. By enabling Dual Redundancy your Drobo will have less usable space. You can figure out how much storage space you’ll have by using the Drobo Capacity Calculator on their website.
The Bottom Line
Yes two drives can fail at the same time or back to back. While enabling Dual Redundancy does give you less storage space, drives are relatively cheap and it’s better safe than sorry.
It’s always fun to get out and shoot on my free time. Now with the Periscope App it’s easier than ever to invite people to watch live. This past weekend I did a live broadcast from my sunset shoot at Piedmont Park in Atlanta Georgia. I had over 100 people watching my short broadcast. With Periscope the broadcasts can be uploaded for replay for a 24 hour period. After that they are pretty much history. Sure Periscope allows you to save the video to your camera roll, but that video doesn’t include any of the comments or interactions (hearts) you received during your broadcast. Not to mention the fact that it’s in vertical orientation which really tends to tick people off on YouTube. I figured out a way to keep the video, comments, hearts and reshare it in a landscape view:
1. Within 24 hours of your broadcast you can plug your iPhone into your Mac running Yosemite (Mac OS X 10.10.x) and launch the QuickTime Player. From there you can choose your iPhone as the camera and audio source (see the details how to do this here). Now just press the record button in QuickTime and playback your Periscope broadcast from the Periscope App. This will effectively screen record your iPhone so that you’ll have a movie of all your Periscope interactions.
2. This still doesn’t solve the portrait vs. landscape issue. As of this writing the developers of Periscope are working on “landscape mode” but it’s not here yet. Therefore embrace it, don’t fight it. With Adobe Premiere Pro CC I was able to import my Periscope screen recording and then add other elements to fill up the space. Elements like still photos that I captured during the shoot and other videos such as drone footage.
Here are my results:
While it will be absolutely phenomenal when Periscope offers landscape mode, you can make due in the meantime.
I love home automation products. My first X10 remote controlled lights date back to the early 1980’s. Long before smartphones and bluetooth wireless. I always thought it was cool to be able to remote control several lights, appliances, etc. all from one control pad or timer module. I haven’t looked that the advancements that closely over the years, but when the Elgato Avea came across my review desk I was excited. The Avea Dynamic Mood Light is a 7W bluetooth controlled LED lightbulb. Unlike other products on the market this one doesn’t require a network connection or any other hardware to drive it other than your iPhone or iPad. Once you take it out of the box you merely screw it in to any standard light socket and set it up with the App on your iPhone. Rather than go into more detail via text, check out this video of how it works:
I was so happy with the review unit that I immediately ordered another one for another room. I was also pleasantly surprised to see and use the Apple Watch support. Being able to turn lights on and off as you walk around from your wrist adds another level of convenience and cool factor. I was also pleased to see that the lights can be controlled from either device at any time. When it comes to the iPhone vs. iPad vs. other iPhone, whoever opens the App first has control. This eliminates the pain of having to constantly unpair and pair differing mobile devices. My only two complaints are that I wish they offered a higher watt (brighter) version and that they made the app easier to control different lights than it is now. While the bulbs are plenty bright when using the “white” color setting, they colored settings/moods can be a bit dim. The App does allow you to turn on a mood for one or more lights at the same time, it seems like that control is buried another level deeper in the mood presets. I would like to see this setting moved up in the UI. My gripes are very minor. I’m very pleased with this product and will probably order more of them.
You can never have too much storage and fast external storage is even better. A few years back I bought the first Elgato External SSD and my only complaint with it was the fact that it only had a single Thunderbolt port. That pretty much killed the use that I thought I would have for it which was to boot from it during certain presentations. Since the MacBook Pros back then only had one Thunderbolt port I couldn’t connect the drive and an external display/projector at the same time. Fast forward to today and the NEW Elgato Thunderbolt Drive + and while we still get a single Thunderbolt port, we get the addition of a USB 3 port as well as great performance in an external portable hard drive.
I ran the above speed test on the 512GB model connected and the results were respectable!
What’s in the Box?
You can choose between the 512GB model or the 256GB model. Both come with a USB 3 cable and Thunderbolt cable. The metal enclosure is very solid and sleek unlike many of the plastic USB 3 cases.
The Bottom Line
While it’s great having a FAST portable SSD that can be connected via USB 3 or Thunderbolt, the only issue with this drive is the cost. If you want quality vs. cheap, then this is the one for you.
You can get the 256GB model here or the 512GB model here.