1.5Terabytes of Photography Gone and Back, and How Windows 7 Installs and Fixes Itself!

Last Thursday morning, Windows 7 popped an ugly message … cannot read Drive S: and after I closed the message, I immediately opened Windows Explorer and there was no more drive S:. Suddenly, a rush of panic engulfed my senses. It was in that drive that I recently consolidated all my photos, and yeah …. 1.35TB of RAW files since I got into the digital photography madness. I load up event viewer and one item says, “The device, \Device\Harddisk1\DR1, has a bad block.”. Loaded up Disk Management and Drive S just wasn’t there. I rebooted and my PC’s BIOS telling me I had a bad disk.

After a fresh restart, I immediately opened Windows Explorer to check on drive S:. Thankfully it was there but it cannot be opened and accessed. I immediately went on recovery mode. First thing I did was to test if my chances for recovery is high. I ran an old Sandisk tool RescuePro and recovered files without subjecting the faulty hard disk of any write operation. Though very effective, RescuePro just went on and dumped every file it can recover in a single folder with the recovered files named as 00001.cr2, 00002.cr2 …. xxxxx.cr2. After a few files recovered, I realize it would be a nightmare trying to check each file for its content. I cancelled RescuePro and run TestDisk which I had used with my faulty CF and SD cards before. This tool is very advanced in terms of disk/file recovery but its UI is as old as those character based DOS apps of the 80s. Running TestDisk, I was able to peer into the folder structure of the faulty hard drive, and have each recovered to another disk 1.5TB disk. It took me almost 24 hours to have everything recovered. Yeah … ALL files were recovered.

Just as I thought my woes are over, while verifying each folder if it indeed been recovered, Windows 7 PC blue screened. If you are just a street away from me that time, you could have been deaf by the curses you have heard from me. I restarted the PC and it says something about a missing BootMgr. What the !@#$!!!!! Upon further scrutiny, I realized the problem started some couple of years ago when I had this PC freshly formatted when I added some new hard drives. I remember when I had the first HDD upgrade, I set the BIOS to boot on the new 1.5TB HD instead of the switching cables so that boot order would match corresponding disk ports. What happened was I had the following setup:

  • BIOS Boot Order on Device 1
  • Device 0, 320GB, Active Primary D:\, …
  • Device 1, 1.5TB, System, Boot, C:\, ….

Earlier this year, I replaced the old 320GB with another 1.5TB and forgot to reset what was in the BIOS all these times. So I had the following setup:

  • BIOS Boot Order on Device 1
  • Device 0, 1.5TB (new)
  • Device 1, 1.5TB (old)

Without this HDD crash incident, I could not have known that Windows 7 did the following when I had it reformatted right after installing the new 1.5TB HDD some months back.

  • BIOS Boot Order on Device 1
  • Device 0, 1.5TB (System, C:\, C:\Windows)
  • Device 1, 1.5TB (Boot)

As you can see, BIOS tells the PC to boot from Device 1. Since it has crashed, it could NOT find the necessary boot info, thus I got the “BOOTMGR is missing” message. I attempted to BCDEdit, but the app hangs as it accessed the faulty drive. I have tried Windows repair and all to no avail. Windows repair only managed to fix the partition issue but it does not repair BOOT miscue. All these until I got Hanselman’s blog on BCDBoot where he happen to be in a similar situation.

I immediately ran BCDBoot and restarted the PC, changed BOOT Order to Device 0 and it just wont boot properly.

Thinking, BCDBoot had already corrected the BOOT miscue, I thought Windows Repair could do things differently this time. I popped the Windows 7 installer and went on Repair mode and voila … the PC booted normally. Checking on Disk Management, my rig now says:

  • BIOS Boot Order on Device 0
  • Device 0, 1.5TB (System, Boot, Primary Partition, C:\, C:\Windows)
  • Device 1, 1.5TB (Active, Primary Partition)

I then physically removed the faulty hard drive for one last reboot … and everything just are back, all 1.35terabytes of RAW files and some new knowledge on how Windows 7 installs and fixes itself!

Google+ … And What It Means For Photographers Like Me

First of all, BIG thanks to my friend Rhamille for sending me a Google+ invite.

I started with Flickr, using a Canon A40 point and shoot and remained a paying customer for years to publish my photos when I realize I want more. At first I thought Flickr was all that I wanted. Hi-resolution, un-tampered photo quality, album management, peer feedback, specialized photo groups, and Explore!!. Then I realize my friends, the people that I also want my photos shown, were not there.

Then Facebook came. I am actually a late Facebook adopter as it has been quite sometime before people were able to convince me to take the social networking plunge. I resisted Facebook for some time but as soon as I experienced the power of the “Like”, I never looked back. I still have my Flickr account, which I don’t update anymore since August 2010 and it says, “Hey Toto Gamboa (Not Uploading Pics Here Anymore)! Your Flickr Pro account has expired. Don’t panic! You can only see 200 photos, but the others are safe & sound. You can see them if you renew.”. As if I care if I don’t renew! ūüėõ

I have used Facebook’s photos for my photographs since last year but there is so much to be desired from Facebook’s Photos. And there are lots of negative things a photographer can say regarding Facebook’s photos. And you will always hear from everybody that Facebook is, first and foremost, a social networking site and not to be compared with against photography centric sites such as Flickr and the likes. And, did I say that the first note I wrote in Facebook was on how I was so disgusted with its photos? Lols! I had sworn that the moment there is another social networking site that will give photos some importance, I wont hesitate to quickly adapt to it.

And voila! G+! seem to be the answer to my prayers. Not to bore you with what Google+ is, but as a photographer, it’s like Facebook and Flickr rolled into one and then some and A LOT MORE! Here is my quick experience with Google+ Photos:

  • (UPDATE As of Aug 02 2011) Hi-resolution. Great implementation I must say. Documentation says one can upload as large as a 2048 x 2048 image. Though true, you can only view “as is” this size in your browser if your monitor is large enough to contain this big of an image. But since most monitors are way smaller, you cannot. G+ adjusts the size of the display of your image to the size of your browser. The rationale is that, you must be able to view a photo in its entirety without forcing you to scroll horizontally and vertically. However, you can still get the 2048 x 2048 photo by downloading this. There is one quirk with this design though, since most monitors are orientated to landscape, vertically cropped/framed photos are re-sized on display that the result makes them really small. This is done so you can still view the photo in its entirety. Wish G+ have an option to turn resizing off on vertically framed photos.
  • (UPDATE As of July 14 2011) No compression, No Re-sizing. I uploaded a 1280 x 720,¬† 782KB photo, and Google+ retained all its gory and glory. It seems that when you upload photo that is within the limits of Google+ (as long as your browser size is capable of displaying your photo’s full resolution), no compression and resizing is done. Woooohooo!+1.
  • Image linking is HTTPS-based which assures me that my photo won’t be further degraded by any other means. You can check out my other blog on this very issue.
  • Linking with Picasaweb. This means that I can now reach another set of audience for my photos. The photography-centric ones, which I lost, when I stopped using Flickr.
  • EXIF. I don’t have any issues showing the shooting info of my photos to everybody so this can be a plus to me.
  • (UPDATE As of July 20 2011) Auto Language Translation. Ever wonder how to understand when someone post some comments in your photo in Italian or French? Google+ does the translation for you!
  • It’s FREE. No limits. You can upload as many photos as you like as long as you upload via the Google+ interface. If you upload via PicasaWeb, you are only limited to 1GB of space.
  • And my friends, other than those photography-centric folks I interact with, can see and appreciate like they are in Facebook.

Google+ is just 2 weeks old since invites were started. And a lot of things remain to be seen. However, despite being in beta, it looks very promising and most of the things I wanted from Facebook are there.

Of course, for things to get better. All my friends in Facebook need to join Google+ first! ūüôā

Now it’s for you to find out what is in store with Google+ photos! … check out my Google+ albums! ūüôā

Wild Bird Photography in the Philippines – Scaly Breasted Munia

One of the most common beautiful bird you will encounter in the Philippines is the Scaly-breasted Munia (Lonchura punctulata). It can almost be found anywhere in the Philippines. This species can also be one of the easiest to photograph considering that it is often close to human habitation. Where there are rice fields, you are guaranteed to see this bird.

Below is a photo I got in one of our sorties in San Juan, Batangas. I was patiently waiting for waders on a nearby pond when a few meters from where I hide, this fellow showed up. It probably got curious by my presence that it stayed a while and allowed me to get a bit closer and have some shots that I like.

Shooting Disclosure

  • Gears:
    Canon 50D, EF 400mm f5.6L, Manfrotto 755X + Gimbal Head
  • Settings:
    Shot @ 400mm, f5.6, 1/50″, ISO100, Spot-Metering, Auto White Balance, Aperture-Priority, Cropped 16:9 to 3.2MP, RAW
  • Others:
    Some very minimal sharpening and color vibrancy adjustments in Photoshop

On a mid-day harsh light, I usually go ISO100 to avoid getting a very fast shutter speed so more light gets captured with the sensor shutter being opened much longer. With ISO100, I also avoid some unwanted noise and it enhances the creaminess of background blur. Though it is hard to pull off and increasing the risk of getting a blurred shot, I prefer to shoot around 1/40 secs to 1/200 secs as I almost always get better color in this range (provided I am on a sturdy tripod). I just don’t know the technical reason but I suspect, the more time I allow the camera to absorb light, the better the output I got. This is why I always try to bring down ISO to as much as I can for as long as the shutter speed¬†is within my prefered range. By constant practice, blurring cause by shake and slow shutter speed can be avoided. The bird allowed me to focus on its eye as it gave me a nice glance as shown in the photo. I also got lucky that it perched on a really photogenic decaying branch with a good greeny background from the distance.

The bird gave me a few shots but the above photo is the one I like most. It flew the moment I attempted to get closer.

Check out my Philippine birds photos @ Facebook!

Wild Bird Photography in the Philippines – Part 3

This is so far a 3 part series of what wild bird photography is to me. I would probably evolve this series over time to make it current as much as possible.
Wild Bird Photography in the Philippines – Part 1
Wild Bird Photography in the Philippines – Part 2

Previously,¬† in part 1, ¬†I discussed how I came to photographing birds and detailed what you need to get a good start. In Part 2, I gave some ideas where one can usually find birds. In this article, I’ll give an idea how a bird photographer goes out there in the wilderness to look and start capturing beautiful images of birds.

A Birdnut’s Sortie

Often, when bird photographers (or birdnuts) go out, it is simply referred to as a sortie. A sortie is basically a mission to go out and photograph birds. Sorties vary from just a few hours birding away from home to weeks-long missions. Sorties can be done in singles or in groups. Sorties can be nearby, or one needs to travel for hours. Some sorties go from one country to another. Most sorties are done on foot, but there are sorties where birdnuts are in the comfort of their cars or boats. Some bird photography sorties involve laying out an elaborate plan compose of preparing the things needed for the trip, plotting destinations, identifying the risk and dangers associated with it and a lot of things go with it.

Reserva, Baler Sortie with Wild Bird Club of the Philippines

But How Do I Go About My Own Bird Photography Sorties?

I am a weekend warrior.  Though there were times when I went out on a whim, I mostly do my sorties on a weekend. I usually plan days ahead of the trip. I would typically go with a birding buddy or with a group for safety reasons. But I have gone out alone.

I usually prepare all the logistics needed and my gears a day before the trip. I’d check the vehicle for its condition and make sure it is ready to go. I’d have all the batteries recharged. I’d have the GPS properly loaded with routes and waypoints. Then I’d go to the nearby grocery or convenience store for my supply of food and drinks. Here is the usual stuff that I buy and prepare:

  • bottled water (Absolute)¬†and some flavored drinks (Gatorade’s Propel) for rehydration
  • some biscuits (Skyflakes or some other brand) just to fill my tummy when out in the field or when on a long drive
  • some sweets (chocolate bars) to give me some caloric/energy boost when things go tough in the field
  • first aid kit
  • clothing (hat, extra shirts)
  • birding gears

I’d make it a point to get enough sleep but often I do get excited that I can’t sleep properly hours before the trip. Typically, I would wake up early in the morning (e.g. 4:00am for Candaba, 3:00am for Subic, 5:30am if it is just nearby), get some quick shower, then off I go. I usually make a quick stop in the nearby 7-11 store to buy me some packed hot meals for breakfast (I love their liempo on plain rice) and some bags of ice to fill my cooler, before I hit some more roads or pick up my birding buddy.

Once¬† on the site, it is usually breakfast time for me. ūüôā Then after that .. it is mostly birding, birding, birding! Sometimes I don’t get to rest, sometimes I don’t get to eat when in the field.¬†What my day is like will¬†all depend on how many and what kinds of birds I encounter. Then I go home!

My Most Memorable Birding Sorties

For more than a couple of years now, I have been to several birding places all over the country. My most memorable was getting stranded in Subic in 2009 while Metro Manila was being flooded by a record breaking storm Ondoy (Typhoon Ketsana). My birding buddy Dennis and I were just clueless what was about to happen during that day. The next thing we knew, Metro Manila had its most catastrophic flooding while we got stuck somewhere in Subic and left no other choice but to wait out until the storm passes through. Another most memorable birding trip I had was when I had gone with by fellow birdnuts in Mindoro. We had a chance to capture in photograph the rare Scarlet-collared Flowerpecker (Dicaeum retrocinctum).

Mindoro Sortie with Bulbuleros 400

The Risks

  • The hardest part is when going home. Often, you are so tired to move and drive yourself home. When I am with a birding buddy, we usually alternate on the wheels to lessen the risk of getting so sleepy on the road while driving for home. If sleepiness is unbearable, I/we stop to take a nap.
  • Insect bites. I remember a birding buddy of mine (Dennis), got hospitalized due to insect bites, after we went to the forest of Subic.
  • Wild bee stings
  • Snake bites
  • Getting attacked by wild animals
  • Getting stranded
  • Encounters with some not so really nice people (thieves, illegal loggers, etc). I guess the worst thing that will happen to you is when you get kidnapped by known terrorist groups and you would have to save your life as what happened to a fellow bird photographer. I happen to cross paths and shoot birds with Ivan personally one weekend in La Mesa Ecopark. Such a great guy by the way.
  • Weird accidents
  • Being flown off by a giant jungle woodpecker and be brought to its hole/nest on top of a 500 meter tree

The Lows

  • Going home empty handed
  • Going home with a ruined camera or a broken lens
  • Getting to the birding site only to find out you left your birding lens

The Highs

  • Getting stranded
  • Getting a rare photo¬†lifer. In bird photography lingo, a¬†lifer means you got to photograph a bird species for the first time
  • Getting a close up of a very beautiful bird
  • Getting a good photo of a target bird
  • Bump in the field with fellow birdnuts
  • Lastly, getting attacked by a thousand sunbirds

Wild Bird Photography in the Philippines – Part 1
Wild Bird Photography in the Philippines – Part 2

Check out my album of Philippine birds!