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Digital Cameras and Storage Redundancy

My wife and I recently traveled to Ireland with friends for a week. From a photography standpoint, this sort of trip once required that we bring along a number of rolls of film and, potentially, that we buy more film during the trip. However, in this era of digital photography, our storage needs are a little different. Here's what I did during the trip, with some advice about how to handle digital photos on your own trips.

First, even though I had decided I wouldn't do any work on the trip, I brought along a laptop. I had a few reasons for this choice. First, my wife and I wanted to watch movies during the 7-hour flight, and the HP notebook I'm currently using could stay powered up for at least that long. Second, I figured I'd download pictures from the camera each day.

This second reason was crucial: Although each of the MemoryStick cards we have can store 80 photos, we knew we'd be taking a lot of pictures. By downloading photos every night, we'd have another 160 shots to take each day before having to worry about deleting anything. And since we were traveling with friends, I was able to show them a photo slideshow of the day's pictures, each night, as the trip progressed. That instant feedback proved immensely popular.

There's a problem with downloading pictures in this fashion, however. After you copy images to the hard disk and remove them from the memory card, you've only got one copy. If the notebook gets stolen, the hard disk goes south, or any other disaster occurs, you'll lose everything.

If you're visiting a place that has ready Internet connections, you might consider uploading the files to a server such as .Mac iDisk. However, in rural western Ireland, an Internet connection was nowhere to be found, so I did the next best thing: Each day, I copied the photos to rewritable CDs and a 1GB flash memory card. I then kept these more portable storage devices separate from the notebook, ensuring data redundancy. I was also able to give each of our traveling companions a copy of all the photos, on CD, before we even got home. This, too, was hugely popular.

If you don't want to bring a laptop on a trip but would like to offload pictures, you have a few options. The first is to simply purchase more memory cards. Or, you could purchase a portable storage device that's designed to attach to digital cameras. These devices let you download pictures without the need of a PC. Apple iPod owners, for example, can purchase a $30 iPod Camera Connector that interfaces your digital camera with the oodles of storage you already carry with you.

However you do it, data redundancy is as crucial on the road as it is at home. Unless, that is, you don't mind losing a few memories.

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