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Reader tips: from "cleaning" cards to diffusing flash  
Thursday, August 10, 2000 | by
I receive a steady diet of email tips from digital photojournalists who have come up with solutions to digital photography problems, or who are excited about new and future products. The messages range from the useful - where to locate FireWire extension cables - to the humourous - how one Norwegian photographer accidentally washed his Flash RAM card. Here's a sampling of some recent missives:

FireWire extension cable

Some FireWire peripherals have an integrated FireWire cable. That's great, unless the cable isn't long enough to reach from the computer to the chosen location for the device, because it's not possible to swap in a longer FireWire cable. Chuck Bennett, AME photo/graphics at the Torrance Daily Breeze, ran into this problem with the Unity Digital Image Card Reader (reviewed on this site last month). The solution was a FireWire extension cable to extend the reach of the reader's integrated 3.5 foot cable:

I recently got a bunch of the Unity digital firewire card readers for my staff here at the Daily Breeze. Only problem is that our CPU's are about 4 feet from the monitors by the time you trace back through the hole in the desk. The card readers only have little stubby cables. I searched high and low looking for a little extension. They are all male/male.

I found a place in the bay area that makes them though. 6 pin/6pin female/male. A lot of 5 cables is $78.28.

The company Chuck refers to is Newnex in Sunnyvale, CA. Contact them at +1 408-749-1480 or by email at

Labeling CompactFlash Type I cards

To make it as easy as possible for finders of lost Daily Breeze cards to return them to the paper, Chuck Bennett offers another tip, this time on card labeling:

Rob, thought I'd pass along something I did here at the Daily Breeze to help with lost compact flash cards. I had labels printed with the papers name address and phone number and postage guaranteed along with the size of the card.

Total cost was $78.00 and i got my first one back a week ago. A card had fallen out of a shooters pocket at an area restaurant. A $300 card so the way i see it i'm up about $222.00.

CompactFlash Type I cards with custom label applied

Chuck indicates that his shooters only use Type I CompactFlash cards, and peel off the existing label before applying the custom label. Note that Type II CompactFlash cards may be too thick to fit in some cameras and readers if you don't peel off the label first, and that removing the old label, and/or affixing a new label, to a microdrive, is a bad idea, as it's possible to mash the card's innards if too much elbow grease is applied in the process.


Scott Dalzell, photo editor at the Northwest Herald, is pleased so far with the Powerfile C200 CD/DVD changer:

We just purchased a PowerFile C200 disk DVD/CD jukebox that is firewire compatible. Been using it for about a month and absolutely love it.

We're going to switch over to Cumulus as our archiving software because it works in conjunction with the device. We have been using Portfolio prior to that. We will be eventually converting over to burning DVD's real soon too.

You might want to check the C200 out. It's pretty darn excellent.

"Cleaning" Flash RAM cards

Einar Engebretsen translated into English an amusing story from a Norwegian photojournalist who accidentally put a Flash RAM card through his washer and dryer. Ole C.H. Thommassen, a staffer at the Dagbladet daily in Oslo, was happy to discover that his Lexar Media CompactFlash card worked just fine after its accidental dousing, even passing a Norton Utilities scan with flying colours:

Compact Flash are small, and expensive. And they must be handled with care. I usually keep my spare CF cards in a PC-card adapter when they are not in the camera. This time I had left a card in my shirt pocket, and I forgot to remove it, and put it back in the camera. The card, a Lexar 80MB, stayed in the shirt pocket.

First, I thought that I had lost it, but I found it when I emptied my drier!!! The card had been washed at 40 degrees (Celsius), and a full session in the drier at "iron dry".

I took the card and dried it further with a hair drier for a couple of minutes, inserted it into my compact camera, - and it WORKED! ! There was two image files on the card, and they looked fine. I took a few test images, and everything worked! Removed the card from the camera, and reinserted it, contact problems, - the camera did not recognize the card.

I did some more drying with a hair drier, and left it on the heated bathroom floor over night, and did a test the next morning, - AND EVERYTHING WORKED JUST AS NORMAL!

DataPlay discs gathering steam

Photographer Alan Carroll notes that DataPlay's innovative, write-once 500MB miniature storage cards, which are expected to sell for under US$10, are moving closer to reality:

I've been following this since this winter (my friend is the inventor's niece). It is a new form of storage media that is under development, which could have a significant impact on image storage in the coming year. Basically it is a permanent 500 MB storage card, priced at around $ 5-10 each. It is some type of crystal optical storage matrix (or something equally neat sounding... this stuff makes my brain itch), and the head genius behind its development is the same guy who invented the 3.5" floppy disk, Steve Volk.

His niece just told me that the CEO of Capital Records (the guy who owns the Utah Jazz I think) just resigned his position at Capital to become the new VP in charge of Media Liaisons. This is growing very big... they got $50,000,000 in unsolicited (reportedly) funding a couple of months ago... and all of the entertainment industries are interested.

Check out the web site. It is: I think we are going to see more on this in the near future. They have the money and the right backing within several industries to see it to market (estimated... for what it is worth... to be Spring of 2001).

Diffusing your flash on the cheap

Photographers will do anything to avoid purchasing a commercial photo accessory if they can make the same thing out of items in their very own home. I use a modified mountaineering water bottle as a snoot over portable strobes. Steve Gooch, a staffer at the Daily Oklahoman, turned a plastic milk container into a flash diffuser:

Doug Hoke, said I should send you some samples showing the results I get using a half gallon white plastic milk carton as a defuser with my SB-26 on ttl for close-up photos.

Shot with a DCS 620 and custom diffuser

When not chasing down news for the paper in Oklahoma City, Gooch obviously likes to point his camera at things that slither and crawl. He has posted numerous examples of his flash work on the web site.

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