3 Bestselling Portable Hard Drives

Small portable hard drives are considered essential tools for any photographer today. Combined with the slim size and high storage capacity that the latest drives feature, they fill a number of important functions for shooters of all styles.

A small USB drive that fits inside your pocket or camera bag can house your entire image library. Paired with a laptop that’s running Lightroom, you have the freedom to take your entire business on the road. This means you can edit and process images anywhere, fulfill photo requests from clients,  share any photo with anyone, anytime, send images for printing and update your catalog as you shoot new photos.

Portable drives can also be used to deliver images to clients and they make for perfect backup solutions when you’re on location. For many assignment photographers, it’s standard procedure to backup each day’s work to a pair of drives.

Finally, external drives offer a great solution for off-site backup. Having an extra drive allows you to keep an extra safe copy of your image archive, just in case there’s a fire, flood, tornado, hurricane or break-in at your home or studio. Think about it: a hundred dollar hard drive is pretty cheap insurance. The idea is that you keep an current backup at home and swap it out each week with the off-site drive.

With these examples, it’s easy to see why you should probably have at least a couple of external drives, if not more. Here are three of the most popular slim style USB drives on the market today, I’d recommend any one of these models. They all run on Macs and PCs and are Apple Time Machine compatible.

1. Western Digital My Passport Ultra USB 3.0


The #1 best selling slim external hard drive is the Western Digital My Passport Ultra. It’s is a rock solid storage unit that comes in three sizes (500GB, 1TB and 2TB) and four colors (black, blue, red and gray), which lets you differentiate your drives way better than labeling them with masking tape and a sharpie.

I’ve used multiple incarnations of this drive for years for and they’ve never let me down. It’s small, reliable and reasonably priced. I’ve got three of them sitting on my desk right now.

2. Seagate Backup Plus Slim USB 3.0



The Seagate Backup Plus Slim is another very reliable and versatile drive, and they’re the thinnest portable drives on the market for the size. I just used a pair of these on my last big assignment for master storage, backup and delivery of image to the client and I loved how small and sleek they were. The Backup Plus Slim come in four sizes (500GB, 1TB, 2TB and 4TB) and four colors, just like the WD Ultra.


3. LaCie Rugged Mini Disk USB 3.0


The LaCie Rugged Mini Disk has become a very popular hard drive with outdoor photographers because it’s built with a shock absorbing rubberized housing that protects your data if you drop your hard drive or get it wet. It’s rated to withstand being driven over with a one ton car, and it offers reasonable weather resistance in the rain and snow.

The LaCie Rugged comes in 500GB, 1TB and now there’s even a 2TB version as well as Thunderbolt compatible drives for the newer Macs. Here’s a complete list of all the different configurations and sizes. They cost a little more, but that’s a small tradeoff for the how much more durable it is compared to other non-rugged external drives.

My Early Years: Curt Lyons Rock Climbing at Vedauwoo


Life was good in the summer of 1996. I had a pretty cush day job scanning photos at a Kodak PhotoCD lab, and I spent just about every afternoon and weekend rock climbing around Colorado and Wyoming. Still a few months away from being fired from my job… ahem, I mean turning pro, my photography passion was in full swing and I ran countless rolls of Fuji Velvia slide film through my Nikon N90 trying to build up my skills and my portfolio.

At the time I was pretty focused on rock climbing photography, and as luck would have it, I had a few built in models with my fellow dirtbag climbing buddies. One of these cats was my good friend and co-worker Curt Lyons, who sat across from me at the photo scanning station. (My other climbing co-worker was Juston Ledoux, seen bouldering in this photo.)

Tall and lanky, Curt was a southern California boy who had honed his skills at places like Joshua Tree, Tahquitz and Suicide Rocks before moving to Colorado. He was a solid climber and a lot of fun to hang out with. I learned a lot from him during those years we climbed together, and we still love to reminisce about those early days. One of my favorite memories of Curt was watching him make cowboy coffee during our trip to Devil’s Tower.

We had driven his little brown Toyota truck with the white topper up from Fort Collins the night before, and were camped in this open field within sight of the tower. The next morning, I crawled out of the back of the topper and saw Curt swinging the coffee pot around in a circle by the handle in a crazy windmill motion. He looked just like Pete Townshend.

His method was to boil a camp kettle full of water and loose coffee, then take it off the stove and use centrifugal force to make the grounds settle to the bottom of the pot. Brilliant. Pure genius, and wildly entertaining to boot.

Horn’s Mother

Anyway, during the summer of ’96, we climbed quite a bit at this funky place near Laramie called Vedauwoo. “Vee da voo,” as it’s pronounced, is like a mini Joshua Tree, full of rounded granite boulders, great crack climbing and relentless wind. The routes at Vedauwoo aren’t very long, but most of them are hard. Hard enough to make you cry. In addition to the sandbag factor of the routes themselves, the feldspar crystals that make up the surface of the rock at Vedauwoo make for great friction, but they tear your skin apart if you’re not careful. Most people tape their hands.

Of course, Curt, being a California purist, refused to ever tape up. He had good enough technique that he could get away with no tape. Me? No way. I always taped. I wasn’t nearly as confident in my skills. Plus, taping was part of the whole experience. A technique in itself. It was part of the uniform.

Sometimes during the week, Curt and I would even race up to Vedawoo to get a couple of routes in after work. Usually, we had a route in mind, and on a particular July day, we drove so that Curt could try a route called “Horn’s Mother.”


One of the classic hard routes at Vedawoo, Horn’s Mother is the highly visible 100′ overhanging, leaning, flaring fist and off width crack right on the front of the Coke Bottle formation. You can see it right from the parking lot. It’s rated at 5.11a, but that’s Vedawoo 5.11a, which means really freaking hard. I’ve led quite a few 5.11 routes in my time, but I was always way too intimidated to try Horn’s Mother.

The crux of the route is pulling through a short overhang pretty close to the start of the route. After that, you climb 25′ up to a pod, and then it’s just 50 or so feet of strenuous and sustained 5.10 hand and fists jamming up the left leaning crack. If you have small hands, it’s even harder.

Curt brought another friend to belay him so that I could shoot photos of him climbing the route. (I don’t even remember who that was, but I’m sure that Curt sill does.) We climbed an easier way up the formation so that I could fix a rappel line down the face and be right there next to him while he was on the route.

He sent the crux like is was no problem. If course, I was way above him coming down my line, so I didn’t actually see him on that part of the route. When I did meet up with Curt about halfway up the final crack, he was tired. Arms about to die tired, but he kept chugging up the crack with solid technique, a bit of brute force and the benefit of a long reach.

About two thirds of the way up, he was was getting really gassed and desperately needed a rest. Determined to do the entire route without falling or hanging on the rope, Curt knew that he had to take a break and shake his arms out, and as luck would have it, he found a way to get out of the crack and stand on these little granite pods that stuck out there on the face.

Throwing in a #4 Friend, he clipped the rope, stepped out of the crack and actually found a no-hands rest right there win the middle of one of the hardest routes that he’d ever climbed. This odd, precarious feat of balance allowed him to regain the strength necessary to power up the last section to the top.

Watching Curt climb Horn’s Mother up close was an awesome experience and I’ve always loved the photos I shot of him on the route. I’ll never forget that day and I’ll never forget the look of pain, suffering and thankful relief when he found that tiny rest spot that gave him brief reprieve from the unrelenting crack. I’ll never forget the close, intimate view that I had of him while he pushed his limits and onsighted the route on his very first try. During those brief minutes, and for the next few days, Curt was my hero.

I shot this photo on Fuji Velvia 50 slide film with my Nikon N90 and 24mm f/2.8D lens. I still have this lens, and in fact, it’s probably seen more use shooting rock climbing than any one of my other lenses.

Thanks for the memories Curt. I hope the route didn’t leave you with too many emotional scars.


My Early Years

This series called My Early Years, profiles some of my images and experiences as a budding young photographer back in the mid and late 90s. My goal to show you that photography is a progression and that we all have a long road of unique experiences that make up our photography life/career. And to tell some fun stories.

Most of the images in this series were shot on film and are thus derived from either Nikon Coolscan files or from early Kodak Photo CDs, which are still readable on Apple iPhoto.

I hope that you enjoy this look back at the much younger and much less experienced Dan Bailey. If you’d like to read more articles like this and be notified whenever I post similar features, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which also includes regular news, exclusive content, photography tips, industry isight and special deals.

The Art of Bikepacking Presentation, July 16 in Anchorage

Learn Photography Online with the Pros


Tomorrow evening, Wednesday July 16 at 7PM, I’ll be taking part in a presentation called The Art of Bikepacking. The event will be hosted at the Bicycle Shop on Dimond Blvd., here in Anchorage, Alaska, and it will feature a diverse range of stories, displays, and expertise on bike routes, how to plan and pack for a trip and of course, lots of adventure bike photography.

This is where I come in. I’ll be giving a short presentation during the event about my own history of bikepacking and cycle touring, specifically regarding the camera gear I currently use, how it’s evolved over the years and what I recommend to other bike touring photography enthusiasts.

In addition, Revelate Designs founder Eric Parsons will share his own stories and expertise about bike trips and about the bikepacking gear that he’s developed over the the years. (Longtime readers might remember that Eric and I did our first “real” bike tour in 2001 in Ladakh India.)

The event is being planned by Nicholas Carman, an accomplished cyclist and all around good guy, whose site Gypsy By Trade is a renowned resource for bike touring info. Nicholas is days away from heading over to explore new riding routes in the Carpathian Mountains and he’ll be giving a talk about bikepacking in Europe.

This is a free event and it’s sponsored by Salsa Cycles, Surly, Adventure Cycling, Revelate Designs, Velo Orange and Bunyan Velo, which means that there will be a number of great prizes to give away. So far, the pile includes touring racks, cycling caps, lightweight bike bags, water bottles, socks, shirts, route maps and a complete Adventure Cycling Great Divide Map set.

If you’re in town, ride your bike down to the Bicycle Shop and enjoy an evening of food, beer, photography, gifts, bikes, fellow bike enthusiasts and fun! You can even see my new Salsa Fargo, all packed and ready for adventure! 

Click here for more info.

Eric Parsons experiences Himalayan “Road Construction.” Ladakh, India.




5 Of My Recent Favorite Images

Gnarled pine trees at sunset

With summer in full swing here in Alaska, I’ve been shooting a wide variety of subject matter, including landscapes, outdoor adventure, aviation and even some wildlife. Here are a few of my recent favorite shots and notes on how I … Continue reading

First Look at the Fuji XF 18-135mm Weather Sealed Lens


Last month, Fujifilm introduced the brand new Weather Sealed XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS WR lens. It’s the first of their lenses to feature weather resistant construction, which is designed to keep out rain, dust, and water splashes when you’re shooting … Continue reading