Back up your Mac

It’s not often things go wrong, but this information could save your important data and settings should the worst happen.

Time machine: for years the Mac operating system has included Time Machine (TM) as its backup program. Simply format a separate disc OS Extended (Journaled) or use a Time Capsule. Then load TM (System Preferences > Time Machine) and point it at your disc. It dutifully starts the backup and will run incremental backups as files change. There are plenty of ‘How to’ such as the Apple page on line which explain in detail if needed.

TM can soon fill up disc space so it makes sense to buy a reasonably large disc, a WD 1 Tb 2.5″ laptop disc makes a good choice, easily mounted in a caddy with no external power supply required. Don’t bother with SSDs as the interfaces cannot exploit their R/W speed.

If speed is essential and you have the new Thunderbolt USB ports then an SSD or an NVME blade is an option. However, NVMe drives will get hot during sustained high speed R/W transfers with Thunderbolt making a high quality NVMe enclosure with sufficient cooling absolutely essential. A cheap case with poor cooling may result in drive failure or the disk may slow to a crawl to await temperature drop during use.

If you have a QNAP NAS then the OS allows for the installation of a Time Machine target partition so that makes a good choice as you can increase the partition size as desired.

Time machine is very good at what it does, but there are a few limitations:

  1. Your first backup will be large so allow plenty of time to complete as it’s usually several gigabytes of data.
  2. The TM disc needs to be connected to your Mac, if you have a wireless connection this can be overcome in conjunction a Time Capsule as your target TM storage.
  3. It omits the hidden boot partition. Although you might be able to opt for ‘Internet boot’ it’s a really good idea to have a copy of the boot files to recover such as a bootable pen drive with an install copy of your OS.

Another excellent back up solution is Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) This is afirst class utility which can ‘clone’ any selected disc including the boot disc to your designated backup disc. CCC will also clone the hidden boot partition which is something Time Machine does not do. Theres nothing like the additional security of an independant backup, particularly if it’s disconnected from your Mac.

More information on CCC and download of 30 day trial here

Create a bootable USB pen drive of your operating system on an 8 or 16Gb drive. This is really easy with the right tools, exteremly handy if you have to update more than one Mac, but very useful anyway:

  1. First download and install the appropriate version of DiskMaker X for your operating system.
  2. Download the version of OS or OSx in use, if you don’t already have it.
  3. Connect up your pen drive then start up diskmakerX and follow the instructions. Be aware all data on the target pen drive will be erased during the process.

There are plenty of ‘How to’ on line.

All information provided ‘as is’ with no liability see our terms

Reflections at Nieul Sur l’Autise

Nieul Sur l’Autise is the birthplace of Eleanor of Aquitane around 1122 in the Abbey. Our recent visit took us along the river on one of the better days in late November where reflections and autumn colours were captured with the D750 & Tamron 24-70 zoom .

Click to enlarge – if clicked twice, each full sized image is 8-10Mb so may take a little while to load depending on your internet connection speed.
F9 50mm 1/125. Autumn colours from trees lining the river bank.

F9 62mm 1/60. A crop for detail on water falling from the wier. A slow shutter speed provided the foamy effect, a tripod would have allowed longer exposure.

F9 31mm 1/160. Tree reflections

F22 24mm 1/400. Straight into the sun from a bridge gave an almost monochrome effect with some nice cloud. F22 provided some star burst and few artefacts, which doesn’t detract too much.

F11 29mm 1/40. Amazing weeping willow.

F9 24mm 1/160. Amazing foliage in the upper canopy of this grand old oak.

F11 24mm 1/15. Exposure was difficult here, as the top is over and the bottom slightly under to resolve reflections in the black inky apearance of the water.

And no, the foreground leaves were not placed!

My understanding of camera noise

Noise in digital photgraphs is generally insignificant until you start shooting at higher ISO values with longer exposures or make very short exposures. Increasing ISO to provide an accpetable shutter speed in low light can result in ‘noisy’ images, caused by chromatic, luminous or shot noise.

Sources of noise:

Doubling ISO say from 800 to 1600 doubles the sensitivy to light by increasing the sensor voltage. The downside is that individual pixels are prone to influence from their neighbours and the sensor temperature increases hence the expression ‘hot pixels’.
Very long exposures will contribute to noise as a charcteristic of sensor design and unfortunately this can only be improved by changing to a later camera with less noise.

Later camera designs generally produce less noisy images, although as pixel density increases it can result in sensor noise from interference. The D810 with its 36Mp sensor produces excellent extremely detailed images and highly sought after by landscape photographers. However, the higher density pixeled D810 produces fractionally more noise than the D750 24Mp sensor, but is easily removed in post processing.

Noise is also generated by the random nature of light photons, it increases as the signal increases, but not by the same amount. More signal – longer shutter speed, should overcome to some degree the unwanted noise.

Examples: click to enlarge.

Bath abbey at night F9, a 5 second exposure ensures very little noise visible even at 200%

Jard Sur Mer, shooting at a high shutter speed F11 1/2000th resulted in a noisy image

Reducing noise:

Clearly you cannot just rack up the ISO without considering shutter speed, it’s important to optimise the signal to noise ratio. Slower shutter = more signal = less noise, however there is a point where the sensor heats up which introduces noise. Selecting the correct ISO to provide a reasonable shutter speed and ‘ETTR’ exposing to the right will help reduce noise. It’s a matter of experimenting with a bit of guesswork.

Keep your camera cool: a warm camera means a warmer sensor which induces more noise. Even on a cool night a camera can get warm from repeated long exposures.

Use a tripod: A tripod will allow slower speeds at lower ISOs.

Stacking: I’m no great fan of extensive post processing but multiple images stacked will produce an image with reduced noise.

Post Processing: Photoshop, Aperture and other post processing programs have noise reduction, also plug-ins such as Noise Ninja can be added to reduce or remove noise.

In camera noise reduction: I’ve found these (Nikon) seldom work correctly. The camera makes a guess at the noise reduction at the expense of fine detail and in doing so destroys the image. Turn it off and remove noise in post processing. There are two types & this is my understanding:

Long exposure noise reduction (LENR): A second exposure is taken after the first, this potentially captures the worst noise and subtracts it from the first. However if you are taking a series of images, turn this off to avoid excessive sensor heating.

High ISO noise reduction: This type of noise reduction just softens your image, this is best corrected in post processing.

Any comments welcome


Land of fire and ice. Just one visit confirms it.
Vast waterfalls, glaciers, volcanoes, lava flows, geysers and hot sulphurous steam emitting from the ground. The air and light being almost pollution free is amazing, making it perfect for photography but it can be wild and changeable too.
Iceland gets over 90% of its electricity from thermal sources and at one point just about everywhere we looked there were clouds of vapour emitting from deep below. The earths crust is thin and fragile here, much of south west Iceland is newly formed.

All images best viewed if enlarged – click twice.

The blue lagoon was our first stop and although it was blowing a gale at 3 degrees, the water heated naturally to 38C was wonderful.

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Just before sunrise from our hotel

The white river which is actually green and 60 metres deep, lined with huge lumps of lava it had a dark and moody feeling, no swimming here!






Hundreds of fish wait to swim upstream to spawn

We visited the Geyser park with the active Strokkur Geyser. This is the worlds largest naturally functioning geyser erupting every 7 minutes.

Just before it blows a huge bubble of water rises:

I took some sequence shots as the geyser erupted which are here.

This glacier: Mýrdalsjökull is 600 metres deep, with the volcano Katla underneath, it was 100 years to the day we visited since it erupted!

The blue face to the right or last shot to the left is where some has recently broken off – about the size of a house.

The Black beach
All Icelands beaches have black sand, this one is notorious because of its huge waves, the two basalt columns and wild wind make for dramatic shots.

Lake Laugarvatn
The people on the right 2nd shot give some idea of the scale of the lake, it was just after mid-day and the sun was already quite low.


The Aurora

Firstly, my sincere thanks to our expert Astronomer:
Mr Andrew R Green BSc (Hons) FRAS, FBIS for his excellent presentation on the Aurora and extensive knowledge. His website is here

How I photographed the Aurora:

I used:

A Nikon D750 which is an Fx DSLR, a Dx is fine so long as it has MUP – mirror lock up
A Manfrotto C/F tripod
A 488 ball head – I modded mine to Swiss Arca clamps
A 20mm wide angle lens – the wider the better to get enough sky and a wide aperture to let in plenty of light
A remote trigger – Nikons ML-L3 was also useful

Camera set-up:
Turn off in camera noise reduction & high ISO noise reduction
Set a low f stop on your lens to let in most light
Switch to manual focus & focus to infinity
If your lens has vibration reduction switch it off – as always when using with a tripod
I started at ISO 1600 but 3200 or more may be neccessary
Exposure start at 10 seconds and adjust but more than 25 seconds gives star trails.
Switch to MUP
In menu settings, select the remote (if available), on most Nikons it’s:
Photo shooting menu, Remote Control Mode (ML3), 2s delayed remote (the shutter will fire after 2 seconds)
It’s difficult to operate a camera in the dark so practise or use the U1 / U2 settings to pre-load most of the settings.
Check your camera mount plate is secure and tripod solidly located

Try and choose a spot with minimal light pollution
When cold don’t change your lens outside! removing your lens risks internal condensation

Courtesy: Make sure flash is off, be aware night vision takes a while and people are easily blinded.

Unfortunately the tripod was mounted on wooden decking which may have been responsible for the slight blurring of stars but here are my shots, all look better enlarged 1 or 2 clicks.

Ile de Re

Some pictures of the salt marshes at the northern end of the Ile de Re one morning. Images taken with D750 & 24-70mm lens, double click to enlarge.

The area is quite flat with many small canals for drainage and salt pans some of which remain productive.

A dis-used salt lake, with the church at Le Gillieux in the back ground.

Snails cling to a post.

The area is a haven for wild birds D750 with 70-200mm lens.

Some salt pans remain in use and produce sought after Ile de Re salt.

Vente Direct, one of several salt producteurs.

Snail encrusted teazels.

Old winding gear on a sluice gate.

Archery – My first steps…

For several years I have wanted to take up archery, probably as rifle shooting has become far too controlled. I used to enjoy a variety of shooting upto full bore .308 Winchester magnum at 1000 metres which takes great discipline and control so perhaps there’s some transferable skills to archery?

After a bit of research I eventually decided on a Mandarin Duck Black Hunter bow with a 30 lbs pull back. I decided on this for a number of reasons being:

1. The company representative was very helpful in answering pre-sale questions
2. Sponsored You Tubers provide a lot of helpful, practical information
3. A ‘take down’ bow is easy to dismantle for transport and re-assemble for use.
4. Stronger limbs are available if/when I need a bit more power for longer range shooting
5. The price was pretty good value, this is for recreational shooting in our lower field & no need for an expensive ILF target bow .

It’s desirable to begin with a lower weight bow and around 25-30 lbs is a start point for adult males. An easier draw weight enables more control and thus better accuracy. Archery is a technique sport so brute force isn’t necessarily the right approach.

A 30 lbs bow will still shoot about 60 metres so you might need additional material in your backstop with a more powerful bow and a lot more space.

Next, some arrows…
I chose carbon arrows with feathered fletchings as I shoot ‘off the shelf’ of the bow and found some at a reasonable price on Amazon. There is a bewildering choice of carbon, fibre glass, alloy or wood and your arrow must match the draw length of the bow and be stiff enough so it doesn’t flex excessively when fired, mine are 31″ and rated 500 flex wise.
I also added a three fingered glove and an arm protector.

The bow was easy to assemble as there’s just one fair sized allen bolt and washer to hold each limb which slots into a peg on the riser for location. The correct size Allen key is provided and the limbs are handed so you can’t go wrong. Stringing the bow is a bit of a fiddle so I have a bow stringer on order but once again there are plenty of ‘how to’ on You tube.

So here it is:

All pictures double click to enlarge

In use:

The bow shoots really very well. I’m impressed, theres a surprising amount of power for it’s rating and it’s going to take practise to get reasonable but I find shooting with a bow an enjoyable challenge. Below is one of my better targets shot from 18 metres. My objective is to gain confidence and technique at a reasonably close range then start moving back as I progress and improve.

The 2018 Tour de France

Some 7 years on and Le Tour returns to the Vendee with the Grand Depart from Noirmoutier so we were waiting at Sainte Radegonde des Noyers some 47.5 Kms from the finish armed with the D750 & the excellent Tamron 70-200 f2.8 lens along with D7100 with 70-300 to avoid lens swapping.
All pics click to enlarge for better quality.

Here we go, first the parade led by the Gendarmerie

Three breakaway riders lead the field

Closely followed by the peloton

Some of team Sky line up

Hundreds follow

Finally more support vehicles

A grand day out

Very few things will get me up early, but the prospect of visiting two chateaux in Graves with lunch is one of them. So there we were at 06.45 waiting for our coach to transport our party to Cérons then Cadillac which lies just to the north of the Sauternes/Barsac region. An opportunity to sample the regions wines lay ahead, I’m a great fan of Graves and Sauternes and the weather looked very promising.

Our first stop was Clos Bourgelat in Cérons where we tasted a selection of Graves rouge and blancs under the enthusiastic guidance of Dominique Lafosse whose family have produced wine on the estate for generations since 1889. All the wines were very good, with some varied opinions on which white was the better of three offered.
Production of Sauternes styled wine is a tricky and expensive affair. The autumn mists from the river, encourage the growth of a mushroom which in turn create the conditions for Botyritis which in turn, infects the grapes with the fungus which starts noble rot. This delicate process reduces the acidity of the grape whilst increasing sweetness and aroma. To me, it’s0 just pure alchemy along with the skill of the producteur who must pick four times the amount of grapes than what goes into an ordinary bottle of wine, making your 20 euro bottle of Sauternes a real wine bargain!

So, our next wine – Clos Bourgelat AOC Cérons was a complete surprise. First taste I considered it a good Sauternes around the 18 euro mark which is entry level. A truly excellent wine at a very reasonable 11.90 euros (2019) and what a find. The Cérons AOC is an appellation for sweet white wines produced in a similar style to Sauternes, picking late to encourage noble rot. As there are no classified estates this makes it well priced and highly reccomended.

Next up was their Vignobeles de Sanches Sauternes, which really was something special, a kaleidoscope of flavour in every sip and what’s more it displayed all the attributes of a wine that should age beautifully – in my opinion that is which proved correct when next tasted in 2020 showing very promising development.

Clos Bourgelat: 4, Caulet Sud, 33720 Cérons
Tel: 05 56 27 01 73

Following that we crossed the Garonne to Cadillac for lunch on the terrace at the Château de la Tour hotel and restaurant for an exceptional meal accompanied by Dominique with a further opportunity to enjoy the excellent selection his wines with our meal, he even had one that went well with the chocolate desert.

After lunch we had an extremely nice walk along the cliffs with stunning views of Sauternes and the very prestigious estate, Château d’Yquem champion of Sauternes stood out with its majestic buildings.

It’s worthy to note that Château d’Yquem is the only estate ranked Premier Cru Supérieur by the 1855 classification a level above that of the first growths of the Medoc.

So, next stop was Château Bardins in Pessac-Léognan formerly Graves with another tasting following an interesting explanation on the difficulties of cultivating vines under the biologique certification. They are currently five years in to the seven year process but their wine didn’t convince me. However a fair few others thought otherwise buying several cases and before too long we were on a way back accompanied by the satisfying chink of bottles from the back.

Château BARDINS – Chemin de la Matole – 33140 Cadaujac
GPS : 44°44.O.N.– 0°34.72.

Tél: 05 56 30 78 01

Finally, thank you for the invitation, a fantastic day and very much appreciated.