Regular readers of this blog may be wondering when I am going to stop writing about my “philosophy” and return to talking about cameras and photographing. I will right now. In this post, I am going to highlight one of the most important pieces of gear in my camera bag.
Flash card wallets are a grossly under-appreciated piece of digital photography technology. I have owned a variety and most have been quite unsatisfactory. Many were too bulky. Others did not hold enough cards. Most had a bad tendency to get left behind when I changed cards in a hurry.
We all know how that happens. You take the card wallet out of wherever you keep it. You lay it on a flat surface, pop it open and change the flash card. Then you go back to work. If you are at all focused on whatever you were photographing, you may leave the card wallet behind as you hurry to get back to what it was you were doing.
As a historical note, I had many of the same issues when I was working with film. Over the decades I worked with film, I experimented with many different strategies for efficiently carrying and rapidly changing rolls of film. One issue that was unique to film was that I once used many different types of film so I had to have multiple film boxes marked in such a way as to quickly differentiate the film types.
For many years I used the plastic boxes that came back from the film processing labs with 35mm slides in them. The best boxes held slides in three slots in a row as compared to the shorter boxes that only had two slots. The three-across boxes meant I could carry six, rather than four rolls of film. I used to cover them in duct tape and use them until they were destroyed.
Awhile back I started using what I consider the perfect flash card wallet. The company also has a smaller version of the card wallet. They have some useful images of those card wallets in use. Below are some of my own images. These card wallets work with all kinds of flash cards, though I use the larger Compact Flash cards, which are especially rugged.
For me, the fact that the card wallet is actually clipped to my belt is enormously important. It prevents me from doing something stupid, like leaving the card wallet behind.
I strongly encourage you to put your name, address and especially your cell phone number right on the cards, on a preprinted label. Affix the label as far away from the opening for the pins as possible. Use your cell number because if someone does find you card you want that person to reach you on location, right then, to return the errant CF card(s.)
The card wallet that I prefer holds ten CF cards. I also have one card in each camera that I carry, so I have a total of twelve cards with me. I use cards that hold 1 GB. Yes, there are many cards available that hold more, but I want to spread my various “shoots” out over many cards, in case, I lose or “crash” a card. Losing or “crashing” a card is more common than you think. If my images (or in the case of an assignment, my client’s images) are spread among many cards, no matter what happens, something will be there for me to use.
What is “crashing” a card? That is when you get an error message that says something is wrong with or has happened to the CF card in question. 90% of the time that is a sign of operator failure, as in I opened the CF card door on the camera too quickly, before the camera was finished writing data to the card.
I “ crash” a card every year or so and it has always been my fault. I have TWO card recovery programs on my laptop for the express purpose of undoing these mistakes. I encourage you to get a card recovery program (or two) now when things are calm. The last thing you want to do in the panic of having a crashed card is try to analyze the various card recovery programs.
I have two card recovery programs because I discovered (the hard way) that some crashed cards respond better to one program while other crashed cards respond better to another program. There are many programs out there and it takes some research to decide what work for you.
Also, I use my own system to tell me which cards are used and which are empty. I like this system because it eliminates any room for confusion, a good thing when you are changing a flash card in a hurry. I have taken card stock from file folders, covered it in clear tape and made up little sliding cardholders. Thus, when you can see the CF card, as in the picture, the card is empty. When the card stock covers the CF card, that card has been used.