Windows Recovery

Windows System Images

Lets face it Windows workstations are patched a lot, and some times they have issues. It could be from a download, a Microsoft patch or a malicious web site. So if your PC has an issue you want to be in a position to recover it quickly. One of the easiest free methods is to use System Restores and System Images all built into Windows 7, 8 and 10.

Restore Points let you roll back to a previous system state. So if you are going to install a new application, you could create a restore point before the install, and then if the application does not work as expected, you can remove it and revert back to the previous state. What that does is remove any new registry entries that were created during the install and restore the original ones.

To create a restore point go to Control Panel, System & then look for System protection on the left side. That will get you to System Properties and allow you to turn on and configure restore points. Normally I just do this for the C:\ drive or the system partition. I don’t do that for my data drive. I use a custom script that will backup my data drive to another disk on a regular basis.

System Images are a complete copy of your system drive. If you designed your system with a separate data volume and keep the C:\ system drive relatively small, it will make for very quick recovery of your OS. If the OS has a virus, you can recover everything on C:\. But you have to do your home work, and you will need the items below:

  • Created a system recovery drive that you use to boot the PC
  • Have a System Image backup already saved on your data or external USB 3 drive
  • Keep your C:\ system partition small, and save all your files to a separate data drive

If you already have a separate data drive, then you are a head of the game. You can simply use that to save your system images. I also recommend having and using an external USB 3 drive to save the images to as well. Both the internal or external drive should be at least 1 TB in size, to save multiple images and data. If you don’t have a drive, go over to your nearest office supply store and purchase one. If you are not familiar with installing internal drives, then you can learn on line or contact me and I would be glad to help.

Next make sure you have created a recovery disk while your system is still healthy. You will need a USB 3 drive and then run the “create a recovery drive” utility already built into Windows. From the start menu or windows button just type “create a recovery drive” and the following menu will open allowing you to do that. Just be sure to use a thumb drive that at least 16 GB, may be 32 GB if you have a lot of applications on your system.

The recovery drive allows you to boot the system without a functional system partition, and run the recovery utilities. Those include restoring your system from a previously made image backup. There will be a few options, so the key is booting from the recovery disk and becoming familiar with the options before you really need them.

I won’t go through all the recovery options here, their are a fair number of discussions found through Google on how to do that. I just want to make sure your thinking ahead, and have all the pieces that you need to recover your system. If you don’t have a bunch of other data on the system drive, the operating system alone is typically 50 – 60 GB.

A USB 3 drive with the system image backup, that is restoring to a SSD partition can be done in 15 minutes or less. If you also have all your data on the system partition, you could be looking at a few hours or more. If the System drive is not SSD, plan on doubling or tripling the recovery time.

To create a system image just go to Control Panel, then select “Backup and Restore”. Keep in mind widows will let you perform a plan backup as well, but you can’t use that to recover your system, just the data on the volume backed up. Once your in Backup and Restore, look on the left hand side and select ” Create a System Image”. That will walk you through the steps of making an image of your OS..

If you ever have to do a restore, it will be a simple procedure to get the whole OS back. That includes your applications and email, along with any data on C:\. If you have an internal data drive D:\ or E:\, none of that data will be affected by the system restore going to C:\, which restores the OS.

That’s why this is really great, because if for any reason your system starts running bad,  its easy and fast to restore it back to its previous state. Why not just use a recovery point, well mainly because recovery points restores sometimes fail for different reasons (Antivirus software can cause a glitch with restore points). If your PC is hit with a virus that damages system files, it may not boot or work well enough to allow you to try a restore point.

But with a recovery USB thumb drive, no matter what the state the OS is in, you can boot to a recovery menu and then restore a system image. Also, if you want to upgrade to a SSD drive, you can use a system image to do that. One caveat,  the SSD needs to be the same size or larger than the drive you are replacing. Even if it doesn’t have a lot of data on it, the utility looks at the total size (available space) of the volume. Some third party cloning tools let you work around that limitation, and will allow you to clone a larger HDD to smaller SSD.

Windows Utilities

System tools

In order to keep your system running well, I’ll list a few built in utilities that are worth using once in a while to keep your workstation healthy. Also use restore points and system images (see Windows Recovery), to minimize recovery time.

Windows 10 like Windows 7 has a built in Disk Cleanup tool. you can use it to empty the recycle Bin, clean up temp files. It can also clean up error and dump files if you select clean up system files.







If you are running a SSD, Windows 10 comes with an Optimize tool that helps to flush deleted files. Windows will automatically run this, which is similar to a defrag if it exceeds 4% or based on a schedule that you set. I generally choose weekly, to maintain optimum performance.

If you think that an update or software install may have caused an issue, you can run a tool called sfc /scannow which will scan all protected system files, and replace corrupted files with a cached copy that is located in a compressed folder at %WinDir%\System32\dllcache. You should run this from a command prompt with Administrator rights:

Always keep Windows Defender updated with the latest files and you system should run well. If it doesn’t please touch base and I’ll see if I can help with any issues you might have.

Windows 10 Must Do!

Windows 10 Pro Tip

Microsoft has taken a hard line with patching in Windows 10. You no longer have the ability to select some patches and omit other as easily as before in Windows 7. You do have the ability to perform a manual install with “Microsoft Update Catalog”, if you want to target a specific patch, while avoiding other bundled updates. But if you desire any control over patching here is what I suggest:

Run gpedit.msc and  go to: Administrative Templates \Windows Components \ Windows Update

Next select “Defer Windows Updates” and enable to select when you receive new Windows Features. This is important because, you want to be able to run and install the normal security updates without having to worry about prepping and doing a system backup like you would when a new feature release is available. Also you may need to test and plan when you really want the new feature release added, all of which take a good deal more time than regular patching.

Two other items that should be configured are the Automatic Updates themselves and if they should include drivers. Microsoft will sometimes bundle video and other drivers in with regular security patches. You may not see them unless you click on details, but you will get them, unless you specifically enable the setting below so they are not included. I personally don’t want Microsoft updating my video drivers, so I enable – “Do not include drivers with Windows Updates”.

Also, so you can decide when to install the normal security updates, and at times may choose to use Microsoft Update Catalog to manually target larger updates. Its best to choose option #2 to have that ability. Note that option #5 does not actually exist for Windows 10, and the maintenance schedule only applies with option #4.


Nikon D850

Nikon D850

On 08/24/2017 Nikon officially announce their new FX upgrade to the D810.

Welcome D850!

All the specs are now on Nikon’s web site:

The cool thing is that Nikon finally combined a lot of features into one camera, that historically they made you purchase at least two separate bodies to get. It’s lighter than a D700 and maybe just a few grams heavier than a D810. Nikon now seems to have higher frame rates sorted out with the both the D500 and now the D850 hitting 10 and 9 FPS respectively. Yes the D4 / D5 were up there too, but every other model was stuck in the 5-6 FPS range for about 5 years.

Good Stuff!

The D850 uses the same field-proven ultra-accurate AF system as the flagship D5. Nikon included the Advanced Multi-CAM 20K autofocus sensor module with TTL phase detection and fine-tuning, with 153 focus points, 99 cross-type sensors and a dedicated AF processor. The D850 has 45.7 MP performance and is capable of shooting in low light to -4 EV.

  • Nikon has included a new BSI CMOS sensor with no optical low pass filter. This sensor should be good for an additional stop at higher ISO’s over the D810 Body (with comparable noise).
  • Expeed 5 that processes 45.7 MP images with wider dynamic range, high-speed continuous shooting and full-frame 4K UHD movie recording. Data through put is obviously very high, along with a buffer that can handle 1.8x more 14 bit RAW and 3.6x more 12 bit RAW images before the buffer fills up.
  • Seamlessly switch between RAW sizes of Large (45.7 MP), Medium (25.6 MP), and Small (11.4 MP), whichever fits your need or workflow. The camera will average RAW data, but not compressed all the way into jpeg (8 bit). So you obtain smaller batch (12 bit) files in camera, but still retain most of the DR and the other benefits of the RAW format.
  • Focus peaking- Focus peaking works by detecting edges of highest contrast in your scene (and therefore most in focus) and highlighting them in a bright color.  The camera will use red, blue, yellow, or another color that allows photographers to recognize what is in focus and what isn’t. Also, when using manual lenses stopped down, it can also help show you how much of the scene is in focus at those apertures for checking your current depth of field.
  • Focus stacking- Is a digital image processing technique which combines multiple images taken at different focus distances to give a resulting image with a greater depth of field (DOF) than any of the individual source images.
For a more in depth look, see Nikon’s and Photographylife’s web sites:

ON1 Effects Review

Effects for LR now free!

ON1 is a very powerful tool that works with Lightroom v5 & v6, as well as Photoshop CS6 (note: The plug-ins do not work with CS5). Effects provides multiple presets and filters to help edit your photo.

The screen shots show the filter options that can be combined with presets. You can also add and edit with layers. I have not tried using layers in Effects, but I did try the mask brush, which works pretty much like the brush in LR to add or subtract an effect from a portion of the image. Below is a comparison shot with a little warming and texture, versus the original photo.

Each preset is grouped into categories, and each category has several different presets. The bottom screen shot shows the editing tool. On my link page I mention that by selecting “save as a smart photo”, you end up with a fully supported new PSD file, this is true for both LR and PS. There is also an option to stack the Effects edits with the original photo already in LR. You can turn that off, if you don’t like having stacked photos.

ON1 is a company located in Portland, Oregon – USA and the website is:


RRS Pocket Pod Review

The Mini Tripod – Pocket Pod

I had a RRS BH-25 mini ball head shown on top, and came across this Really Right Stuff Pocket Pod. It’s small about six inches high without the ball head, light and very well made. As with most of RSS products, the parts of various ball heads and clamps all inter change.

The leg positions can be adjusted independently, if the surface isn’t flat. It has a fully open, fully closed and two intermediate  leg positions. The Pod has a load rating of 15 lbs, more than the BH-25, which I believe is rated at 8 lbs. That still is pretty strong and lets you attach a normal DLSR camera body and a small to medium size lens.

The ball head (not included) has one dedicated vertical slot and can be adjusted for virtually any angle. So for table top work or self portraits, it does allow you to manipulate the camera / lens safely. I know that I often don’t carry a tripod, unless I know I am going to use one, as in I am shooting video or have something specific in mind.

The pocket Pod let’s you hedge your bets, because it takes no room in your bag, so your more likely to have it with you. Specifically for those times when you didn’t plan to use a tripod, but suddenly find yourself thinking, I wish I had a tripod!
Really Right Stuff

Material: 6061-T6 black anodized aluminum
Load Capacity: 15 lbs
Leg Positions: Vertical, plus 2 positions and also fully open
Thread: 1/4-20 with 3/8-16 adapter
Folded Lenght: 5.9″ (with stud)
Height Fully Spread: 1.5″ (without ball head)
Weight: 4.8 oz

Nikon 300F4E PF Review

Nikon 300mm F4E

My review is a brief summary of what works and what does not work for me related to VR. Nasim Mansurov from Photography Life has an extensive review, with excellent comparisons to other lenses completed in 2015 at the link below:

Unfortunately the VR issues reported two years ago in different reviews have not improved, no new firmware or design changes.  Nikon officially acknowledged the problem with only the D800 series bodies, and indicated that lenses with serial numbers below 205101 were affected (Nikon did issued a firmware fix for those lenses, but it was only slightly effective in reducing the problem).

It seems like Nikon really doesn’t want to face the reality that many other bodies are also impacted in that same shutter speed range. Hello – Nikon, it’s now 2017 and my recently purchased lens has a serial number that starts with 226XXX. I don’t own a D800 series body, so why would my D7200 and to a lesser extent on my older D700 body have the exact same VR issues with my new lens?

My bodies are only affected in a limited shutter speed range of 1/100 sec to about 1/160 of a sec. However down at 1/80 of a sec, VR works well, yielding sharp images. Also, images taken over 1/200 of a sec with VR on are very good. Note: Images with VR off at 1/160 sec are better than with VR turned on.

I happen to be shooting some test shots of a rabbit in my back yard one morning and my shutter speed fell to 1/160 of a second.  So a pretty normal use case in my opinion, not trying to find or doing anything unusual. Viewing shots in the camera at 100%, I could easily see the VR blur. Once I pushed the ISO to 3200, to get the shutter speed high enough (1/320 sec) to overcome the VR limitation, the images look nice (see the bunny below).

1.4TC, f5.6 @ 1/320 sec, ISO 3200

As an update I did a little more testing the next morning (after the bunny shots) and found a couple of interesting things at lower shutter speeds. Specifically with my system of the D7200 and 300 f4E, it seems that with VR on 1/160 of a second is the worst possible shutter speed for IQ. Going up slightly to 1/200 sec or faster solves the issue. Also, reducing shutter speed below 1/100 sec helps a good deal.

Again, a 300mm lens advertised with 4 stops of VR should do fine at 1/160 sec. In fact, VR actually works well at 1/60 – 1/80 sec, indicating the lens can provide 3 stops of stabilization from one over the 300mm focal length. In my case, I just need to avoid 1/100 sec to 1/160 of a second at all cost if VR is turned on. In the bad range it’s better to simply leaving VR turned off and the hand held images improve. So counter intuitively, if I cannot go to a higher ISO,  I should lower the shutter speed to obtain better images with good IQ at around 1/80 sec with VR on.

Outside of the VR limitation, it’s a nice lens, close in sharpness to the 300 f2.8G. It focuses fast with 1.4TC, and is generally fun to shoot with. On the D7200 with a 1.4TC, you get a very good effective crop focal length of a 600mm lens at f5.6 that you can easily carry with one hand. Just learn the VR specific limitations with your bodies.

Tamron 10-24mm VC HLD Review

Tamron 10-24mm F/3.5-4.5 VC HLD Review







   I have been shooting more with my DX camera, and was missing an ultra-wide lens, in my kit. In the past I had used a wide angle FX setup, but it’s not always convenient to take two bodies and multiple lenses with me. During a quick search online, I discovered the new Tamron 10-24 VC HDL lens had just came out and while not widely reviewed seems to be very nice.

Tamron list the optics as: “The optical design includes 16 elements in 11 groups. A new large aperture aspherical lens and LD (Low Dispersion).”

But does it work? – Well, after using it a couple of days the short answer is yes. I am impressed with this lens. I have owned the older Nikon 10-24mm f3.5-4.5G AFS and the 12-14mm f4G AFS lenses in the past. In looking at test shots from those lenses, I have two general comments. The new Tamron is sharper than the Nikon 12-24 f4G at f4, and has less distortion than the 10-24 f3.5-4.5.

Its body style is very close to the new Sigma “C” Contemporary series lenses. I also own the Sigma 17-70mm Dc f2.8-4, and it would be hard to tell them apart from the side. They both use 77mm filters, and have the same texture and sleek black poly carbon body. It does come with a lens hood, but no pouch. If anyone is interested, a Tamrac Goblin 1.4 lens pouch fits this lens with the hood attached.

The lens is impressively sharp at 10mm and very good at 24mm wide open. I do not have the TAP-IN console at this time, so I did a little AF fine tune on my D7200, and use +2, which seems to work pretty well across the zoom range, but probably not ideal at 24mm. The TAP-In would allow you to set different fine tune setting at different focal lengths, something that Nikon has yet to offer.

Note: “The optional TAP-in Console™ provides a USB connection to your personal computer, enabling you to easily update your lens’s firmware as well as customize features including fine tune adjustments to the AF.”

10-24 @ 15mm f5.6, 1/200 sec, ISO 200

10-24 @ 10mm f5.6, 1/200 sec, ISO 200

The AF motor is very fast and very quiet, basically silent, no complaints at all. Also the AF motor is equipped with a Full-time Manual Focus override mechanism that enables the user to freely select the focus point. One could ask does having VC on an UWA lenses makes sense?  If you’re trying to grab a quick shot in low light, I think it definitely helps. I was able to get an acceptable hand held shots at 24mm @ ¼ sec even though it was underexposed by one stop.

10-24 VC at 24mm F8 ¼ sec, ISO 100

The above low light photo was edited for exposure only in LR, no sharpening. I was in manual mode to force the shutter speed lower, and wasn’t paying attention to the exposure. One additional comment related to VC, is that above 1/100 sec it is simply is not needed, and by 1/125 sec, VC actually degrades the image slightly if left on. So if you’re shooting at faster shutter speeds, I would recommend leaving the VC off, until you need it at 1/30 sec or slower, where it does a good job.

In conclusion the lens seems like a very good value at $500 (USD). I plan on keeping my copy and using it on my D7200 along with my Sigma 17-70 Contemporary lens. The two make a great , very sharp and inexpensive travel kit that you can take anywhere, with minimal weight. I may eventually get the optional USB TAP-IN to try, but I am happy with the results I have seen so far.

Presets and Links:

While you can create your own presets in Lightroom, sometimes it’s nice to use plug-ins.

    • Google release the Nik collection about a year ago for free, the link to the down load site:
    • ON1 Effects 10.5 has a free version of their product that works with both Lightroom and Photoshop.  It can use smart photos, so while the side car file it self isn’t updated, it works really well. If your in Lightroom, call the ON1 plugin, it opens the effects program, you then have a large suit of excellent presets and filters that you can apply as needed.

When your happy with the result, you apply the settings (saving the edits). If you go the smart photo route with the import, you end up with a fully supported new PSD file that re-imports into Lightroom with all your original LR edits plus the new ON1 presets. ON1, Inc. is headquartered in Portland, Oregon:

Lesson Plan

What a Lesson Plan might look like:

If you are wondering what a private lesson could look like, here is an example of how I might build a lesson plan for a new student:

After responding to the initial email, I would follow-up with a phone call, and discuss the type of things you’re looking to cover in a session. Once I understand your goals, I will put together a draft plan, and have you review it to make sure I am on track. Please keep in mind that it’s important not to be rushed, and not to attempt too many new things, then leave feeling over whelmed.

Once we have an agreed upon plan, we find a time that is mutually convenient to schedule the lesson. I am able to travel to venues within Ventura County. So we could meet at the beach if its camera related, your office, home, Starbucks or a local restaurant. If we are reviewing software or work flow it would be helpful if you brought your own laptop, storage, SD cards, card reader etc. That way we are working with tools that you will be using in your digital work flow.

I can bring a laptop, if you do not currently have one available and would like private lesson on Lightroom. But, I want you to be comfortable working with your own tools. If we are reviewing importing, there is no need to start with 1000 photos, we just want to pick a few test shots and go through the process from start to finish. Beginning with a SD card containing some images and finishing with editing, then exporting your work to either the cloud or an external USB 3 drive.

The actual learning process would typically start with me reviewing you current level of comfort with the subject, and then a short demonstration of the topic. For example I could show you how to import, review files and tag them. Next, I would have you perform the same steps that I just demonstrated, while answering any questions that you may have. Lastly, I would have you describe back to me what we just covered and how the process worked. If all went well, we move on to the next item with the same process.

Say you have never used Lightroom, and want to learn the basics. That would probably take multiple lessons, and we would break down the pieces into manageable parts, based on your comfort with technology and each of the components. I would start with a summary of the tool itself and what it does well, followed by the first steps of using Lightroom. Certainly importing, viewing, editing and exporting can be covered in different sections of the lesson plan.

I hope that provides an over view of what a lesson could look like, please email me if you have any questions, and I would be happy to answer them.