Attention to detail is everything. You see this in almost every one of Ken Kaminesky's sumptuous high dynamic range travel photos or his impeccably blurred images of people. HDR and blur are two of many tools wielded by master photographers, and you can tell an amateur's work when either is applied too sparingly or excessively. Masters of the craft know just how to handle their photographs consistently. From workshops in Jordan to the cover of National Geographic, Kaminesky shows an intuitive care for detail in his work that few can match.
Caring for details also applies to protecting his images. Unfortunately, this is more easily said than done. Sometimes, protection is beyond a photographer's control, as when Getty Images acquired Jupiterimages in early 2009 and promptly lost a large, lucrative body of Kaminesky's work. While the collection was eventually restored, the experience drove home the link between professional livelihood and data loss: no images, no income.
It's no surprise, then, that Kaminesky now handles his photos with almost obsessive-compulsive paranoia. He notes that he's never completely lost information, but, as with Getty, there may have been some close calls. Kaminesky has endured several hard drive failures over the years.
"I try to be as diligent as possible at backing up," he says. "But I've had backup drives, some even less than a year old, fail on me. These were drives I had sitting in a cupboard or a closet or whatever. I'd just pull it out to do a regularly scheduled backup and - it's unreadable. It makes no sense to me that this should happen on enterprise-class drives in custom enclosures. I paid a lot of money for people to build these things for me, and I've had several fail!"
To understand why such failures are critical, consider Kaminesky's workflow when it comes to image storage. From his Canon camera, images initially store onto CompactFlash cards. During shooting, as one card fills and must be replaced, the loaded CF cards get stored in watertight containers. At the end of the day, Kaminesky downloads the CF cards' contents onto his computer for viewing and editing, then onto multiple external drives as backups, and only then will he erase his CF media. When shooting during travel, one of these external drives will stay with him while the other stays in his hotel room's safe. If available, he may even place a third drive in the hotel safe "just to be totally sure."
There have been many times when large numbers of critical files were trusted entirely to Kaminesky's backup drives. Especially when dealing with drives that may not even last a year before failure, the odds of having two drives fail simultaneously is too high for comfort. Such a double loss could be catastrophic.
Over five years ago, Kaminesky started using G-Technology™ hard drives, along with other brands, as part of his professional gear. Over time, as he has seen one drive brand fail after another, a pattern emerged: his G-Technology drives never failed. In over five years, Kaminesky has never seen a ?G-Technology product be anything but flawless, which is why he now relies on G-Technology G-DRIVE® slims in the field. Certainly, there are ways to spend less on lightweight external storage, but Kaminesky never balks at the minor cost.
"To spend a few hundred dollars for a couple dependable drives to make sure that all the information I shoot on a two-week trip is safe? That's peanuts, "he says. "I've had mobile drives fail on me back in a hotel room at the end of a shooting day. They're working and then—uh oh. Unreadable. You just have to be smarter than that. If I'm shooting for a client, I'd look like a fool without a working backup."
At the time of our interview, Kaminesky had just unpacked a new G-Technology G-SPEED™ Q 12TB appliance. He sounded like a kid stepping into a candy store, teeming with anticipation. This will complete the final step in his data storage process since, once back in his office, Kaminesky habitually copies all of his work—now approaching eight terabytes—onto a RAID storage appliance.
Previously, Kaminesky used a lower capacity RAID box from another vendor, but the device has been giving him sporadic problems. After reading of similar or worse problems from other owners, particularly his respected colleague Scott Kelby, Kaminesky decided to switch into G-Technology before it was too late.
Why It Matters
Today, Ken Kaminesky has over 100,000 admirers following him across various social media outlets, including his famous blog. He is considered an expert on digital photography and editing, and his plentiful, freely given advice is often taken by followers as gospel. In the end, though, Kaminesky's hardware, discipline, and relentless study of craft are all devoted to one mission: seeing the world and inspiring others to share in its beauty. And the time to do this, he feels, is now—right now.
Kaminesky believes we are in a "golden age" of photography, with unprecedented tools at our disposal and incredible liberty to travel the world and use those tools for good. However, with tightening national security, shifting political climates, the threat of peak oil, and other factors, Kaminesky fears that future generations may not share our opportunity.
"There's a big beautiful world out there to be seen," says Kaminesky." It's a cultural education to be able to get out there and see it all and understand the perspectives of other people. When you do, you realize that we all pretty much have the same core values."
For Ken Kaminesky, there is always the balance between safeguarding what he has captured and anticipating the striking visions to come. He says that he is often asked to name his favorite place to photograph. There is only ever one answer: "The next place."