Surface 3 on Vacation

I’ve had my Surface 3 (4GB of RAM model) since the day it was released, use it heavily daily for both work and home, and love it.  This past week it has taken its first road trip, vacation, and I couldn’t be happier with it.

Devices, Devices, Devices

Replacing my laptop on a trip isn’t an easy task for a tablet.  I take lots of photos and lots of video, which means I need to be able to pull this data off of a few different sources (Canon 7D, GoPro, and Sony camcorder).  Then there’s the sheer bulk of data to deal with, over 100GB on this trip the last I looked.  Rather than trying to fit everything in the 45GB free on the Surface (by shooting less, deleting more, etc.), I decided from the start to store everything on my USB 3 2TB Western Digital My Passport external hard drive.

The Surface 3 has a single USB 3 port and a USB On-the-Go port.  Unfortunately, I didn’t put much thinking into how I was going to hook everything up until the day before we left and I was unable to purchase an On-the-Go adapter.  So, in order to get everything attached (CF card reader, external hard drive, second external hard drive for Lightroom import backups, and possibly simultaneously the camcorder), I ran to the store and picked up a small USB 3 hub by J5Create.  I’ve had terrible experiences with USB hubs, but so far this one has worked admirably.

Surface 3 and Devices Attached
A typical import setup, minus the camcorder.

The Surface 3 was handled simultaneous photo import, copying to an external hard drive, with import backups going to second hard drive.  Many times, I was also copying video off both the microSD slot on the Surface to the external hard drive and the camcorder via USB to the external hard drive.  The Surface 3 handled it all incredibly well.

Lightroom and Smart Previews

My setup has the Lightroom catalog residing on the Surface 3, but the photos on the external hard drive for capacity reasons.  I initially thought I would just have to edit photos with the external hard drive attached, until I remembered a feature I’ve never used introduced in Lightroom 5 called Smart Previews.  Once configured, after import and while the external hard drive is still attached, Lightroom generates smaller versions of the full-sized photos you can view/edit/export when the originals are offline (the hard drive detached).

Generating the Smart Previews takes a while, so I usually kicked off the import as we were unloading at the cabin after a day out swimming or sight seeing.

Once the import and preview generation was complete, I put away all of the devices and was able to edit photos as time allowed.  Lightroom 6 has an excellent Tablet Mode for editing which I took extensive use of while laying in bed at the end of the day.

Wrap Up

The combination of the Surface 3’s ability to handle many devices at once and Lightroom’s Smart Previews and Tablet Mode make the Surface 3 an excellent travel companion.

If you’re contemplating a Surface 3 but the Atom processor name worries you, like it did me, fear not.



How I Use Lightroom: Collect and Share

This post is part of an ongoing series related to how I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.  If you haven’t read them yet, check out How I use Lightroom: Getting Photos In, How I use Lightroom: Taking Out the Trash, and How I use Lightroom: Getting Photos Out.

Collections, Quick Collections and Smart Collections

In the first post in this series I discussed importing your photos into Lightroom and explained how I have Lightroom configured to import into a nicely organized, folder structure based on the import date.  So you’d think I’d use this all the time, right?

Not as much as you may think.   And the reason is becuase the primary organizational unit in Lightroom is the Collection.

Continue reading “How I Use Lightroom: Collect and Share”

How I Use Lightroom: Getting Photos Out

This post is part of an ongoing series related to how I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.  If you haven’t read them yet, check out How I use Lightroom: Getting Photos In and How I use Lightroom: Taking Out the Trash.

First Some Background

One of the first hurdles users new to Lightroom run into is how to get to the images they have edited.  It’s common to think I imported them to the My Pictures folder, so I’ll just use Windows Explorer to grab a copy.


Continue reading “How I Use Lightroom: Getting Photos Out”

How I Use Lightroom: Taking Out the Trash

This post is part of an ongoing series related to how I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.  If you haven’t read it yet, check out How I use Lightroom: Getting Photos In

In the previous post I described how I use the Import window.  As I mentioned, I don’t exclude any photos at that stage.  I bring everything in and then quickly make a pass where I figure out which need to be deleted.

Continue reading “How I Use Lightroom: Taking Out the Trash”

How I Use Lightroom: Getting Photos In

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is an excellent piece of software I’ve recommended to many of my friends who have been bitten by the photography bug.  It catalogs and organizes all of my photos, allows me to quickly and efficiently edit them, and assists in pushing the end results for others to see. While on the surface it is targeted to professionals, I’m no professional and wouldn’t enjoy photography nearly as much without it.

Because it is so configurable, it is often very helpful to get a look at how others use its many features.  So that’s what I’m going to do with this series of posts titled How I Use Lightroom.  I won’t go to mind-numbing depth into every feature it has to offer, but instead will show you what I think is a very approachable and practical method for getting your money’s worth out of it.

So let’s get started with the first thing you need to do with it – get photos INTO lightroom.

Continue reading “How I Use Lightroom: Getting Photos In”

Lightroom 3, the iPhone, and Crashing on Import

A few weeks ago I imported photos from my iPhone into Lightroom 3.  Ever since, I’ve had Lightroom crash on several occasions when I’ve gone to import photos off of a Compact Flash card.  I’m running Windows 7, 64-bit. I was resorting to a reboot to clear it up, but tonight I had too much other stuff running that I didn’t want to stop for a reboot.  So I started looking around.

I noticed that in Windows Explorer, there was a “phantom” iPhone appearing when my phone was definitely not plugged in.  Here’s how it looked:


My theory is that Lightroom was trying to enumerate devices and was getting to this one and failing.  Unfortunately there isn’t an option to Eject the device from here, so I turned to Devices and Printers in the Control Panel.  In the list of devices, sitting down in the Unspecified section was one called Apple Mobile Device USB Driver.  If you right-click and select Troubleshoot, Windows does a decent job at figuring out that there is no longer a device attached and removes it from the system.  No more phantom iPhone.

I opened Lightroom back up, clicked Import… and Voila!  Fixed!

Lightroom 2: Output Sharpening

Since installing version 2.0 of Lightroom, I’ve been ignoring the new export option for Output Sharpening.  It has been sitting there on the screen but I’ve always been in too much of a hurry to try it out and see the results.

Over the weekend I decided to change that.  What it does is allow you to select how your photo will be displayed/printed and the level of sharpening you want applied when the photo is saved out to disk.  Ana and I were going to be getting the family portrait I took printed, so I thought it would be a good time for a side-by-side comparison.  I quickly exported two copies of the same photo, one without sharpening and one with Matte Paper, Standard as the sharpening options:

I print our photos with Shutterfly, and by default they’ll print the filename on the back of the photo.  So I named one ForMatte and the other NoSharpening; now I can compare side-by-side without bias once I receive the prints (8×10, btw).

Here are a pair of 100% crops from the two images.  As you can see, the ForMatte version looks less than desirable so I didn’t get my hopes up.


The prints arrived yesterday, and I was able to tell a very distinct difference between the tho photographs.  One looked a little fuzzy, something I had come to expect from matte prints and one of the reasons I have started leaning toward glossies.  The other looked very nice and sharp.

Flip them over, and sure enough, the one with the Matte sharpening applied is the one that looked better.  Lesson learned. I’ll be applying that on all of my prints from now on.