Tag Archives: photography

My photo loss nightmare

As if 2021 wasn’t bad enough, the external hard drive that holds approximately 100,000 of my photographs died. And my backup drive turned out to be no help at all. I’ve detailed the whole catastrophe in case it might help others avoid the mistakes I made. Mistakes were definitely made.

The disaster started in November when I decided to put my entire library online in case my external drives ever failed or were destroyed (say, in a fire). I have a SmugMug account with unlimited storage, so all I had to do was set up a Publish Service with yearly Smart Albums, then hit Publish. This is all very easy to set up and allows one-click syncing of physical and virtual copies.

The only pain was that the process of uploading each album (~5,000 pics each) can take days and ties up Lightroom. So I would just set multiple years up on the Publish task and leave my computer to do its thing. And while Lightroom hummed away I did yard work, cooked, and cleaned the chicken coop. I’d check back every few hours just in case Lightroom stopped uploading, which happened a lot. But that’s normal with Publishing actions so I’d just restart the publish process on the remaining, unpublished photographs in each album and walk away. Days went by like this, and I was slowly getting my collection online, with perhaps 30,000 photographs to go. The remaining photographs were large RAW files (50-60 MB each), so I wasn’t too alarmed by the glacial upload speeds and the frequent need to restart the publishing process.

Failure of primary external hard drive

At some point in this process the hard drive simply unmounted. Disk Utility deemed it unfixable.

The failed drive (bottom): G-Technology 4T USB 3.0 / FireWire 800.

Backup drive to the rescue?

With the primary drive out of commission (oh, well, that happens) I simply pointed Lightroom to my backup photographs on the other 4T drive. It was a slower, cheaper drive but it was a clone of other drive thanks to nightly updating I did with SuperDuper! software ($27.95). Lightroom made this switch flawlessly — the number of photographs in my catalog was exactly the same as it was when using the dead drive. Phew. So I ordered a new backup drive and then continued the uploading to SmugMug, now even more convinced that I needed virtual copies of all my photographs.

But the uploading process still kept hanging, and I eventually discovered that the Publishing process was choking on missing files. But this new drive was just fine, so I was perplexed. After a bit of poking around I discovered that approximately 30,000 originals were missing. The Preview files were there, just no originals. My guess is that the original drive failed over a week or so, and SuperDuper! faithfully copied all the errors onto the backup drive. And because those missing originals were never uploaded to the cloud, I had truly just lost 30,000 photographs. Family pics, nature pics, etc. All gone, forever. I was horrified. I don’t deal with loss well.

Data Rescue 3 to the rescue?

But because the working drive used to have those files, I hoped I might be able to get them back using Data Rescue 3, which I own. It worked, but the files had to be manually placed in the correct Lightroom folder and then rematched to the catalog. This process took weeks and was extremely unpleasant. And to my dismay, I soon realized that a large percentage of the files were damaged. I was seriously considering just aborting the entire process, or perhaps dedicating a third hard drive for housing the tens of thousands of unhomed, potentially damaged files that I’d recovered. The process of fixing the mess could easily take me thousands of hours, all unpleasant.

Disk Warrior to the rescue?

I decided to buy Disk Warrior ($120), which many people said worked wonders on drives that Disk Utility couldn’t repair. Maybe, I hoped, the files were OK on the original drive and only became corrupted during the cloning process. I know that’s delusional thinking, but I was desperate. And Disk Warrior couldn’t repair it. But for some reason it tricked the Finder into allowing the disk to be mounted. And when I tunneled into the drive to see whether the original files were there, they were there — and undamaged.

I then tried to use the clone feature on Data Rescue 3 to make a copy of the damaged drive. That process was slow but appeared to be working. E.g., at one point in the process it needed another 56 hours to complete step 2 of 3.

But the after four days the estimate kept growing, eventually suggesting it might take several years. I decided to abort because the drive was likely to fully die before the clone ever completed. Or I would die of old age, waiting. Both seemed likely.

It was agonizing. I knew the files were there … but the drive was so slow for some sectors that I couldn’t get them. E.g., if I used the finder to drag a file from the damaged drive to a new location, it choked. Sometimes it worked but there were thousands of files that simply couldn’t be copied.

FreeFileSync to the rescue

After some searching online, I discovered several programs that were capable of slowly copying directories of files. FreeFileSync turned out to be just the ticket. I used it to copy whole months of photographs from the damaged drive to the new one. Each copy process might take days but it would plug away even though read speeds would go to near zero for hours. Identifying the missing files and getting them all copied took weeks, but it worked. I ended up giving money to the brilliant folks at FreeFileSync.

Lessons I’ve learned

After approximately two months of near constant work I have recovered every single photograph. In case helpful, here are some tips to avoid a similar mess.

  1. Regularly check Lightroom for missing originals and for originals that are missing Previews. The reason for the latter is that Lightroom cannot make previews from present but damaged originals.
  2. Only after I am convinced that files are present and healthy do I invoke a synchronization action to update my backup drive. I use FreeFileSync.
  3. A single backup drive is insufficient. I purchased an additional, portable drive (LaCie Rugged) that I now update every week but unplug and keep in a fireproof lockbox. I’ll probably get a fourth drive that I can keep at a friend’s house.
  4. Online backups are critical. But I already knew that.
  5. Don’t unduly stress a drive with massive Lightroom tasks. I decided to buy a LaCie SSD drive for this reason (because no moving parts).
  6. Check drives occasionally to see whether they are going bad. Disk Utility is OK for this but I might also invest in DriveDx.

Now I can get back to taking and posting nature pics. I’ve missed it.

Mohonk in June

Photographs from a June visit to Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York. As always, I’m grateful for ID corrections. If you want to see more pics from Mohonk, here’s the album.

Trapps in Shawangunk Mountains, New Paltz, NY

View of bedrock in nearby Shawangunk ridge (the Trapps) popular with rock climbers.

Sky Top at Mohonk Mountain House

Sky Top folly on a gloomy afternoon. The rock was formed during the Silurian (430 million years ago). Sedimentary conglomerate, sandstone, and shale, all bound together by quartz. It’s mainly quartz and thus super hard.

North American porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) in a tree

North American porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) in a tree. At night they travel higher into the canopy to nibble on tender shoots, but apparently fall with some regularity when the small branches snap. This one seems to have a tooth issue that will likely end badly. But seems plump enough for now.

Eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus) eating conifer seeds

Eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus) eating conifer seeds.

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) at the lily pond

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) at the lily pond, one of perhaps several dozen that I encountered on walks and trail runs. It’s hard to imagine that the species nearly went extinct in the late 1800s. During that period Mohonk Mountain House used to stock them in a paddock near the current location of the Garden, then later at a larger site near Copes Lookout Road. Meat was used to feed employees, plus the guests enjoyed feeding the deer. It was taken down in 1947 when “the entertainment value of the deer had decreased” (i.e., when wild deer became common).

Common (northern) watersnake (Nerodia sipedon) sunning on a rock

Common (northern) watersnake (Nerodia sipedon) sunning on a rock near Lake Mohonk. Not venomous but apparently known for their “eagerness” to bite. And if that happens you apparently bleed profusely due to the anticoagulant in their saliva.

Green frog (Lithobates clamitans)

Green frog (Lithobates clamitans) attempting to hide under a leaf. In 2018 somebody found a blue morph at the Duck Pond. The word on the street is that maybe 1-2% (seems high) of green frogs are blue and that it’s genetic. Keep your eyes peeled.

Analeptura lineola eating a mountain laurel flower

Analeptura lineola eating a mountain laurel flower. Or at least I think it is. Per this page the species is hard to distinguish from flower longhorns (Lepturinae) in other genera. A beautiful insect.

Arthromacra aenea on a leaf

Arthromacra aenea, yet another gorgeous insect that inexplicably has no common name. It’s a darkling beetle (Tenebrionidae), which surprised me, but apparently the subfamily (Lagriinae) used to be a family (Lagriidae). Very odd.

Multicolored Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis) larva eating a flower

Multicolored Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis) larva eating a flower. They can also bore into fruit on peaches, apples, and such. And they bite. This species was first introduced into the United States in 1916 to control aphids and scale insects and is now so common it’s a health problem for humans — adults overwinter in houses in such large numbers that people develop allergies.

Larva of an Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis) preparing to pupate

Larva of an Asian lady beetle gearing up to pupate. It’s stuck on the leaf but still has the ability to bob back and forth. Which it did, so getting this pic was hard.

Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis) pupa on leaf

Asian lady beetle pupa. Note the pile of legs that’s dropped off just like clothing.

Fly eating a chipmunk scat

Unidentified fly enjoying some unidentified scat. Don’t judge. If you can help me ID the fly (thanks), here’s the iNaturalist observation.

Dioctria hyalipennis perched on a leaf

Dioctria hyalipennis. This introduced robberfly is reportedly fond of small wasps and bees.

Common snipe fly (Rhagio mystaceus)

Common snipe fly (Rhagio mystaceus). Also called the down-looker fly because they usually face down when parked on a tree trunk. Maybe I should just rotate the photograph 180 degrees.

Fall webworm moth (Hyphantria cunea) on a leaf

On iNaturalist somebody ID’d this as a fall webworm moth (Hyphantria cunea). It very well could be but the agreeable tiger moth (Spilosoma congrua) is in the area, too, and I don’t know how to tell them apart. The coloration of the forelegs seem more of the latter but I’m likely missing other field marks. In an ideal world I’d have a view of the ventral side. But, alas, this world is not ideal.

Orange-patched smoky moth (Pyromorpha dimidiata) on a leaf

Orange-patched smoky moth (Pyromorpha dimidiata). Per BugGuide these moths have a chemical defenses but also seem to be mimicking Lycid beetles such as Calopteron terminale. More good information on Ted MacRae’s blog.

Dark brown Scoparia moth (Scoparia penumbralis)

Dark brown Scoparia moth (Scoparia penumbralis). There were hundreds of these around Mohonk and they are super hard to get photographs of due to their small size. The Scopariinae (moss-eating crambid snout moths) are so hard to ID to species that “many people new to moth trapping will often deliberately avoid recording them“.

Hemlock angle (Macaria fissinotata)

Hemlock angle (Macaria fissinotata) on lichen-covered rock. This also took me hours to identify but hopefully made me a better person. Larvae eat hemlock, balsam fir, and spruce.

Shaler's Fabiola moth (Fabiola shaleriella)

Shaler’s Fabiola moth (Fabiola shaleriella). Another tiny moth that should be much larger so people can better appreciate it. For a great photograph, please see this one by David L. Wagner. Thanks to Jason Dombroskie for ID on iNaturalist.

Common bagworm moth (Psyche casta) larva inside case

Common bagworm moth (Psyche casta) with case constructed of conifer needles. Larvae are known to eat lichens and mosses, so this individual was well situated. But they can also eat grasses and other plants. Someday when I’m bored I’d like to take apart some of the cases to find a female, which are wingless. Here’s a great site that shows a photograph. Eggs get deposited inside the case. When they hatch, larvae eat mom and then make mini cases out of her original case material. That’s probably TMI.

Possibly a sulphur angle (Macaria sulphurea) caterpillar

This looks very similar to Itame sulphurea (now Macaria sulphurea?) on page 196 of Wager’s Caterpillars of Eastern North America. But this group is impossible to ID. But I’m also wondering whether it might be a hemlock angle (see pic above of adult); here’s the caterpillar. If you’re on iNaturalist and would care to weigh in, here’s my observation.

Striped hairstreak (Satyrium liparops) caterpillar

Striped hairstreak (Satyrium liparops) eating a mountain laurel flower. But this is another guess, also based on matching a photograph (page 99 of Wagner’s book). Known to feed on heaths, especially their flowers, so there’s that. More details on BugGuide.

Bumble bee (Bombus sp.) visiting mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

Bumble bee (Bombus sp.) visiting mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia). The anthers are held under tension and snap onto pollinators. I was initially trying to capture that process but gave up almost immediately.

Bumble bee (Bombus sp.) collecting aphid honeydew on a spruce tree

Bumble bee (Bombus sp.) collecting aphid honeydew on a spruce tree. This tree was mobbed with bees that I assumed were collecting pollen, which should not have been happening (not enough protein). But when viewed large on my computer I saw the aphids and I realized what was going on.

Macrophya larva eating elderberry

Sawfly larva (Macrophya sp., perhaps) on elderberry. It still amazes me that these are hymenopterans not lepidopterans.

Green sawfly larva

Another sawfly (Tenthredinoidea) but I don’t even have a guess as to genus.

Wooly catkin gall wasp (Callirhytis quercusoperator)

Wooly catkin gall wasp (Callirhytis quercusoperator). These were super abundant but I’d never noticed them before. But that’s true of so many galls — they just blend in. The agamic generation makes a completely different gall that is even better at blending in.

Neolygus sp. on mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

Neolygus sp. on mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia). ID not confirmed and I know nothing about its natural history. But I take photographs just in case I stumble onto something interesting years later. There’s always hope.

Pine spittlebug (Aphrophora cribrata) nymphs

Pine spittlebug (Aphrophora cribrata). Or at least that’s one possibility based on the spittle and the host. If ID is correct, the spittle is repellent to ants.

Harvestman (Leiobunum sp.) molting

Harvestman (Leiobunum sp.) molting. I posted a video on Twitter:

Dark fishing spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus) on rock

Dark fishing spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus) with regrown R-II leg. This was easily the largest fishing spider I’ve ever seen in my life.

Funnel web of Ariadna bicolor

This tunnel is likely made by Ariadna bicolor. Thanks to user @chuuuuung on iNaturalist for identification.

Common pill woodlouse (Armadillidium vulgare) with yellow (pteridine) markings

Common pill woodlouse (Armadillidium vulgare) with yellow (pteridine) markings that seem to be common on females.

Changeable mantleslug (Megapallifera mutabilis)

Changeable mantleslug (Megapallifera mutabilis) eating lichen, fungus, or algae. I’m assuming the “changeable” refers to the variable pattern (chevrons on mantle sometimes present, sometimes absent).

Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) in flower

Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) in flower. Because deer will only eat this plant when close to death, it’s a big part of the understory around Lake Mohonk. And thus a big reason why I love to visit in June.

Underside of mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) flower

Underside of mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) flower. This view shows the little pockets into which the filaments are loaded. They get released when the flower is jostled and launch the anthers onto the pollinator.

Haircap moss (Polytrichaceae)

Haircap moss (Polytrichaceae), ferns, and lichens on a boulder.

Orange jelly spot (Dacrymyces chrysospermus)

Orange jelly spot (Dacrymyces chrysospermus) at base of conifer tree.

Blistered navel lichen (Lasallia papulosa)

Blistered navel lichen (Lasallia papulosa). ID not confirmed, and might be impossible to confirm without looking at underside. If it’s brown then I’m right. But if black (“necrotic”) it means it’s Lasallia pensylvanica. If by chance you want to read about the lichens on this wall, there’s a paper documenting lichen declines at Mohonk: Smiley, D., and C.J. George. 1974. Photographic documentation of lichen decline in the Shawangunk Mountains of New York. The Bryologist 77:179–187. It’s on JSTOR.

Umbilicaria mammulata

Umbilicaria mammulata. Immature thallus so hard to ID, but the wall is covered with this species (I think).

I’m @colinpurrington on iNaturalist if you’d like to see more nature pics.

Nature pics from Lake Mohonk

Below are some recent photographs I took near Mohonk Mountain House near New Paltz, New York. All pics are linked to iNaturalist observations if you have a comment or would like to correct my identification (thanks in advance).

I think this is Dermatocarpon luridum (brook stippleback lichen). Apparently subaquatic, so one only finds it in locations that are always wet. This clump was growing on the vertical face of Shawangunk conglomerate. It’s sometimes called “brook stickleback lichen” but shouldn’t be (that’s just a typo). More details here.

Another lichen (species TBA) peeking though ice.

I liked the diversity of bryophytes in this clump so thought I’d try my hand at identifying them. The central puff is, perhaps, Leucobryum albidum. There’s another species in the genus, L. glaucum, but I think that has longer leaves. The ferny-looking one is possibly Hypnum imponens (brocade moss). And, finally, that wispy moss could be either Dicranum fuscescens (dusky fork-moss) or D. scoparium. Mosses are hard, and there are apparently 177 in the Shawagunk Mountains (Tessler et al. 2016).

Some sort of conifer that had been hit by lightning. I looked around for the bark that had been blown off but couldn’t find it. It’s interesting there are no scorch marks. I gather that the explosion can launch bark at bystanders, which is another good reason not to hide under trees during an electrical storm. Fun fact: I’ve been hit by lightning. Actually, that wasn’t fun.

I think the white areas on this Kalmia latifolia (mountain laurel) are where the waxy layers of the leaf have separated. Which doesn’t seem like a good idea so I’m curious why this was so common — every plant had dozens of leaves with similar spots. Frost damage, perhaps?

Just a fruit from Liquidambar styraciflua (American sweetgum). Very common, this one was more photogenic than usual because of the ice.

I’m pretty sure this is Dacrymyces chrysospermus (orange jelly spot) because it was growing on a dead conifer that had no bark. This saprobic species is often confused with the parasites Tremella aurantia and Tremella mesenterica, both equally colorful and gooey but which grow on (=eat) Stereum hirsutum and Peniophora spp., respectively (see Overall 2017). Identification of Tremella species can be tricky because their hosts are not always visible. And, sometimes, a jelly can be found near both Stereum hirsutum and Peniophora, in which case you’d need to examine spores to figure out which Tremella you have. If you want to read more, Thomas Roehl has a great post.

I think this is Trichaptum biforme (violet-toothed polypore) but I’m not confident because it’s the first time I’ve encountered the species. I’m fairly confident of the genus because of the toothy underside, but I guess it could be Trichaptum abietinum, instead, if the host is a conifer. I don’t think it’s Trametes versicolor (turkey-tail; has pores) or Stereum hirsutum (false turkey-tail; smooth underside) but those two were my first guesses.

I’ve eyed this sad-looking Salix matsudana (Chinese willow) for years and wondered what disease it might have. My current guess is Agrobacterium tumefaciens (crown gall) but fungi can cause cankers, too.

This took me forever to identify so I’ll be sad if I’m wrong:
Zapatella quercusphellos
(formerly Callirhytis quercussimilis). Here’s the BugGuide page. I know it’s not an amazing photograph but I just love Cynipidae. There were thousands in the area.

I think this is a wolf spider (Lycosidae), perhaps something in the genus Pardosa. That ID is based on overall look but especially on the eyes (I rely on this page heavily). In years of walking on the snow looking for something to photograph, spiders are far more common than insects so I tend to adjust my search image to look for spiders, not insects. There’s even a large literature that explores how spiders survive (e.g., Murphy et al. 2008).

This is an American black bear (Ursus americanus), the only bear species in the area and thus easy to identify. I used a 70-200 mm lens with an attached 1.4x extender, then heavily cropped the image. So not as close as it appears, which is really just as well. It didn’t look amused.

More photographs from Mohonk Mountain House are here.