The Fear Of Clouds

A number of recurring themes have surfaced in my photography in the last decade or so, one of them being clouds.


In my eyes they’re one of nature’s greatest wonders.

I especially love how clouds are ever shifting, ever evolving, sometimes rapidly, sometimes so slowly you can barely see.

I doubt I’ll ever tire of photographing (or just gazing at) clouds.

In recent years, the word “cloud” has taken on a different connotation.

In short, storing your data “in the cloud” means having it online, on someone else’s servers and hard drives, rather than on your own computer and/or hard drives.

Despite considering myself quite competent with technology (and owning a laptop, iPad and smartphone), until very recently I had a slight fear of the cloud.


But my doubts are lessening.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been experimenting with a couple of new ways of storing my files that so far are proving to be very simple and pleasing.

Despite being an Apple fan, I’m also pretty fond of Google. I guess I kind of trust them, unlike other online companies (Facebook, let’s not go there).

Through their innovation and services, Google in my eyes have genuinely improved people’s lives and made them simpler, quicker and more efficient. You might consider them the anti-Microsoft.

Just think about what Google are most famous for – their search engine. So famous in fact that our language has changed from “I’ll search online for that” to simply “I’ll google it…”.

Of course they are also the brains behind Android, which I would assume from recent visits to high street phone shops is by far the dominant Operating System (OS) on portable devices these days, ahead of Apple.


I’ve used Google search, maps, Gmail, Chrome, Google+, YouTube and other apps of theirs for years now. So it made sense to go to them to explore life in the cloud more.

Most specifically for photos, but also for music.

Since realising my iPhone is no longer a sustainable tool for photos or music, I started looking at other options. I don’t like that Apple disable any kind of storage expansion or the ability to use an external SD card. Then make the iPhone models that have ample storage so expensive.

Sony have worked well for me in the past on the camera phone front, plus their phones use Android (Google again), so it made sense to lay my hat at their door, so to speak. And a 32GB Micro SD card is less than £15, all the photo storage I need.

With my new Xperia, I’ve set up (or rather explored further, I think I first signed up to them years ago) two apps – Google Play Music (let’s call it GPM) and Google Photos.


I don’t want to talk too much about music, but the issue with my iPhone before was lack of storage. A collection of apps plus half a dozen albums and 100 photos and it was struggling with storage.

I was constantly deleting a couple of albums and adding new ones when I wanted a change of my playlist. A frustrating and very un-21st Century experience.

Now I’m on GPM (free, I haven’t subscribed) I simply upload music I already have (mostly on my MacBook and/or from iTunes store) to GPM. There it is available to stream from any of my devices once I have the app, or, even better, to download for listening offline.

In the end I’ve decided to use my old iPhone purely as an iPod, and so have essentially just the GPM app and a collection of albums I’ve downloaded.

Adding new music to my iPhone to play offline involves simply tapping the download button when I’m online and downloading the music from my GPM cloud to the device itself.

That’s more like it.

If/when the iPhone does get full, I’ll simply tap the same button within an album and it deletes it from the device – but of course keeps it in my GPM cloud.

At this point it seems apt to listen to this, by one of my greatest heroes and inspirations.


For photos the process is similar with Google Photos. Yet even smoother.

I have my Xperia synced to that when I am online (on WiFi) it uploads all new photos on the phone to Google Photos. Which are then available to view on any other device with the Google Photos app.

My workflow with a digital compact (let’s say the Ricoh GRD III) looks like this –

  1. Take photos.
  2. Plug camera into MacBook, copy and paste photos from SD card into a new folder.
  3. Send photos from MacBook to iPad using Photo Transfer app.
  4. Edit and process photos on iPad with Hipstamatic.
  5. Send photos back to MacBook from iPad.
  6. Delete photos from iPad.
  7. Upload best photos to Flickr.

Certainly not bad, and quicker in practice than it sounds. But with the Sony Xperia, so far it’s looking like this –

  1. Take photos.
  2. Process photos on phone via Snapseed (also Google!). Approx 20 seconds, and a couple of swipes and taps.
  3. Once home, photos upload automatically to Google Photos. Edit photos on MacBook (in Google Chrome, naturally!), delete those unwanted in Google Photos.
  4. Download remaining best photos from Google Photos to a new named folder on MacBook.
  5. Upload best photos to Flickr.

The first step and the last step are the same with both approaches above.

But what happens in between is significantly easier and quicker with the Xperia and Google Photos.

Plus I have the photos there to view on any device in the interim should I wish to see them, rather than have to keep uploading from device to device. Arguably too, I don’t need step four at all, I could just leave the best on Google Photos, plus the other copy on Flickr.


So far I’m really happy with how this Google shaped cloud is working out.

Yes, I could have done the same thing with my old iPhone and used Google Play Music and Google Photos before.

But it wouldn’t have solved the limited storage issue on the device itself and adding two further apps would have limited the storage (and no doubt the general processing speed) even more.

At this point I’m quite tempted to try a one month one camera challenge with this set up.

Especially as the last one I tried last summer crashed and burned after maybe a week. We’ll see.

The fluidity and near seamlessness of the Xperia/Snapseed/Google Photos combo is very appealing, and genuinely feels like a new frontier in how I make, store and share photographs.

I’m looking forward to playing with it more in the coming days and weeks.


Does The Cloud have a place in your photography processes? How does it work for you? Or do you hide from it with suspicion and fear?

Please let us know in the comments below (and remember to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

29 thoughts on “The Fear Of Clouds”

  1. What I really want to use The Cloud for is backup. That’s it. Unfortunately, my upload speed is so paltry that it would take about a month to upload my photos. Forget it.

    1. Jim, I wonder if you can set it to auto back up in the background when you’re asleep or doing other things? I have the Google Photos app on my Sony Xperia smartphone and iPad. I have the “back up & sync” activated so when a photo is created or edited on either device, it automatically backs up to Google Photos. If I’ve been out for a photowalk with the Xperia, I just put it down somewhere when I get home and the photos back up to Google Photos. You don’t have to be sitting watching it, just do it when you’re not using your phone/iPad/computer etc anyway.

      1. I spent some time trying to figure it out last year and didn’t find a satisfactory solution. So I gave up. When I live somewhere with good Internet service I’ll try again.

      2. That’s a shame Jim. I guess I didn’t consider this, and assumed all of us in the west would have a good enough connection to make it work. I don’t think broadband is amazing where I live as we’re fairly rural but I do know the government here is investing in the connections across the country. Anyway, yes hopefully in the future you’ll be in a better position to make this work.

  2. I am still trying to make sense of all this. I thought I was simplifying things by switching to the Apple ecosystem, but perhaps not. I was happy enough with my Android phone but it was getting old and cranky (hmmm.) and I wasn’t happy with the offerings in my price range so I jumped ship to an iPhone SE which seems to do everything I need as far as I can see… I guess time will tell.Thanks for the Kate Bush link, much appreciated.

    1. Jon I’m trying to make sense of it too, it’s an ongoing process!

      I love Apple, I just need to find what works and what’s affordable. My ten year old MacBook Pro is starting to slow and the equivalent replacement is an eye watering £2400. Even the tiny 12in MacBook is £1250 which is currently beyond me. So I’m looking at other options, other systems and whether a phone and iPad can replace the need for MacBook.

      It was similar with the phone, even an SE was considerably more than an Xperia and there’s that fixed storage issue I just don’t like.

      A major reason I feel I need a laptop is storing photos and music. So cloud solutions are a future I can see working for me.

      A Google ChromeBook is also a potential option, which again would fit in neatly with Google Photos and Music clouds…

      I’ll continue to explore and see what works.

      Ps/ re Kate Bush, you’re welcome! She’s amazing…

      1. I will add that I liked the editing tools better in google photos than the iphone.

      2. Thanks for reminding me of that point Jon, I could add that if I wanted to simplify further still I could skip the Snapseed step and purely use the filters in Google Photos. Definitely need to try this in the near future…

      3. I just found out I can still use it with my iPhone. I went to use it and the editing feature is totally different now, LOL.

      4. Jon, I think if you have a little play around with the Google Photos filters, I’m sure you’ll find a look you’re happy with. One thing I like about these processing tools – Hipstamatic, Snapseed, and I assume Google Photos – is once you figure out a few looks you like you can save them and use very easily and quickly each time in the future.

    1. Hi, thanks for the suggestion, yes I did that about three years ago. 😀

      It’s not the HD but more that it’s slowing down generally and most of the software won’t update now because the processor, RAM etc isn’t sufficient.

      The main things I enjoy about MacBook versus iPad are HD storage and keyboard. I’m getting more comfortable with typing on the iPad (mostly for this blog) and I’m looking into options to back up more stuff by connecting the iPad to my external back up HD, plus cloud storage. Which potentially eliminates my need for a laptop.

  3. I’m the same, Dan, I much prefer to use a keyboard than a screen.
    I found (find!) Apple Photos and their iCloud too limiting and, on occasion, frustrating. For example, if I was trying to add 4GB of photos to my Mac, they would not be imported if I had only 3GB storage available. That’s right, it wouldn’t import ANY of them! Eventually, I switched off the iCloud sync and cancelled my subscription. I’m now a happy Google Photos user.
    In addition to Google I use pCloud, for which I pay 5 Euros per month, for 500GB storage. Worth checking out, if you’re investigating cloud options.

    ps. I’ve been enjoying your blog for a few months. First time I’ve posted, I think? I’m what’s known as a “lurker” 🙂
    Keep up the good work!

    1. I tried to install Apple’s Photo app a couple of years ago but it wouldn’t let me as my MacBook didn’t meet the minimum system requirements. So I looked at other options.

      I love Apple but somehow I feel Google are more open, more like apps for everyone whereas Apple are becoming increasingly elitist. I mean £1000 for their flagship phone, really??!

      I need to look into Google further and what else I could back up. Really I only have writing, photos and music. I’m assuming that my Google account as a whole has a max free storage which includes GMail, Photos, Music etc. If it’s possible to back up everything for a modest monthly fee (once I use up my free allowance) I’d be happy to stick with them.

      It’s as much a paradigm shift in thinking as anything that I’m going through – instead of having my stuff in a laptop plus external HD, it can be in the cloud. For now I would like to keep a backing up to external HD too, so need to look at iPad connectivity apps and options. I’ll take a look at pCloud too, thanks for the recommendation.

      Great to talk with you, we seem to have quite a few things in common. Welcome out of the lurker shadows. 😀 I tried to click through to your blog but there doesn’t seem to be anything there except the heading?

    2. Remembered last night my wife has an old HP laptop she hasn’t used in about three years. She’s written it off, so I think I’ll try wiping it and reincarnating as a Google machine!

  4. I just don’t like the idea of keeping my work in someone else’s server, a server although they assure you it is safe, any cloud server is online and therefore can be hacked by anyone around the world!

  5. Yes absolutely. I guess it depends what you have stored on it. I do think though, to emphasise your point Martin, none of us of course have an obligation to use cloud storage or anything else online. The way some people talk about social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc you’d think it was illegal NOT to be signed up to them… We all have a choice.

  6. I set the blog (The Fatted Nyaff) up a few months ago. As you can see, I’m still waiting for the spark of inspiration. One of these days…

    I lost my love for Apple a long time ago, Dan (I won’t bore you with the details – it would quickly turn into a rant!) That said, I’m still using a 2013 iMac. I agree though, that their gear is far too expensive.

    At the moment I use Google Photos primarily for the automatic back-up my phone pictures. I find the editing tools “ok”. The dream set-up for me would be for Google to, somehow, incorporate Snapseed into Photos. That would be perfect!

    If you are interested in the possibility of a Chromebook solution, why not try Cloudready, from Neverware? It will give you a flavour of Chrome OS on your existing equipment…

    1. Re your blog, this reminds me of the famous quote (attributed in different forms to various writers) – “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.” Once we start showing up regularly, the writing just comes.

      What does the Fatted Nyaff mean? I googled Nyaff and it came with Scottish slang for “a stupid, irritating or insignificant person” and the New York Asian Film Festival. Somewhat different meanings, obviously!

      If money was no object I’d use everything Apple and probably upgrade every three years (phone, iPad, laptop). But yes the increasing expense of Apple gear (though the iPad I consider to be excellent value at around £300 when a decent iPhone is twice that) has caused me to look elsewhere. Plus they don’t quite have the magic they used to. When it was Apple vs Microsoft, the difference between the computers was vast. I haven’t even considered buying a Microsoft PC in over 15 years. But with phones and tablets, the likes of Google offering a genuine alternative that in use is actually very very similar. Not sure who copies who anymore!

      I have Snapseed as an app on my Sony Xperia and iPad. I guess the only extra step is you can’t currently edit with Snapseed in Google Photos, you need to download the image to the device first. The other end though is automated, once any Snapseed edits are saved, both devices automatically upload this to Google Photos, so it’s almost seamless…

      Thanks re Neverware, very intriguing! I’ll check them out… Thanks for all your input and knowledge, much appreciated.

  7. hiya Dan

    I’m going to stick m’old neck out again and say that all this activity around and talk about ‘The Cloud’ is a sign of how easily the consumer is dragged in the ‘must-have’ downward spiral is mass consumerism. I know that sounds a bit far-left and militant, but, all you have to do is ask yourself how has you images changed over say the say 3-5 years…

    Do we really actually most definitely need that much storage space? I challenge ANYONE (including myself) to go through my images on their smartphone (and those who have a SD card) and tell me that ALL those images NEED TO BE SAVED… I mean be REALLY honest with yourself!! It’s all about that editing process. If you really have to keep an over 100 images, you are not editing realistically. Anything around 20 would be realistic. Of course I’m not talking about work-related shooting. I’m referring to the walking-around-on-a-stroll type shots that we feel ‘might’ be interesting.. when they are looked at again in 6 months (or 6 years) time. Don’t kid yourself…

    All we are doing is being sucked into believing our photography really needs is just a tiny little TERABYTE. The online (CLOUD) storage market is said to be valued at OVER $90 BILLION by 2022. How does that make better images?

    Don’t ever get me started on the logistics of anything ‘cloud-based’… I just don’t feel comfortable storing all my pics of my family and friends with my neighbor four houses down the road! And that’s probably safer than a cloud-based storgae solution.

    #justsaying 😉

    1. Anton, as always thanks for your angle. Always makes me think!

      I generally agree with you, I can see a pro photographer needing potentially Terabytes of storage, but for the amateur then much less is needed. Especially if we don’t use ultra modern cameras with 36MP+ sensors that create gigantic files! On the whole I’m pretty immune to “must have” marketing and brainwashing.

      My main motivation for this exploration of the cloud is two fold – first my iPhone was always maxing out, even with a modest number of photos. When I used Hipstamatic it created the original file plus the processed version, in effect doubling the storage requirements. I don’t like being out in the field and keep having to edit and delete as I go, I like to take the pictures then and there and making editing decisions as a later time. This was ruining the flow of the shooting experience (with the iPhone, it doesn’t happen with my GRD III or Pentax Q, but then they need downloading physically after.)

      The second motivation is to further test the waters as to whether I can live without a MacBook, and use purely iPad. And a phone. I need to see if I can store the photos I have already on an external HD and possibly in the cloud too.

      But… You are right, aside from family photos which I look back through quite often, I don’t often revisit any others. Even if I look on my Flickr, which I generally consider to be a back up of my best photos, I am using a mere 6.11GB. Which is amusing, but reassuring that the 16MP SD card I have in each of the two digital compacts mentioned above is more than I’ll ever need!

      As discussed previously, if I went back through my Flickr archive now, I would like only keep maybe 25%, maybe a couple of GB. And that’s about seven years’ worth of shooting.

      So it’s not a vast storage capacity I need, but just a simple way to back up the photos I do keep.

      I am finding with Google Photos so far (only a few weeks in) that my phone initially backs up everything then I go through and edit (ie delete) what I don’t want. Each time I go back to Google Photos I pare away a little more, so maybe a batch of 25 photos I took three weeks ago is now down to three photos. I find this very fluid and easier than having each photowalk in a separate folder named by camera, lens, date on my MacBook’s HD. And I think it’s the way forward, sorting and saving purely by date.

      If I can get Google Photos to back up to my external HD via my iPad, this is probably the ideal set up. Which is what I’ll be exploring in the coming weeks.

      Interesting how sometimes changing one thing in your overall photography “ecosystem” (in this case my phone), it leads us to explore other options and maybe find better ways of doing things that have a wider reach.

      1. Hiya Dan
        Seems my reply to yours truly I so carefully crafted last night, has vanished into the ether… hey ho 😉

        I mentioned that it is possible to disengage the auto-save in Hipstamatic that saves the generic file, and a ‘raw’ file. I have never gone back home and re-worked the unprocessed file. I am happy with the Hipstamatic interpretation. If not, I just switch preset out in the field, as it were. Ergo, space saved by not duplicating files.

        Then there’s the Apple environment. I use Airdrop to transfer between by iPhone and iPad. It is easy for the odd upload to the iPad to use SnapSeed it’s a breeze. Now if you don’t have a recent iOS, you can drop a little app called ImageTransfer on both your devices and transfer that way. That is very easy, if a tad slow… but VERY doable.

        And storage…
        A Seagate Wireless Plus STCV2000200 cost anywhere between £120 – £180.
        And this way your storage never leaves your property, or you can even (if your nagging doubt is getting the best of you) buy 2 drives, and have one off-site!

        #justsaying 🙂

      2. Anton, so annoying when that happens! I got in the habit years ago of regularly hitting Control-A-C (ie Select All, Copy) as I write replies in case I accidentally navigate away or the do something silly. Still get caught out sometimes but usually only lose a paragraph or so rather than a crafted 500+ reply!

        Thanks re all your suggestions, much appreciated.

        Hipstamatic – yes I know you can switch off saving the original. I think I hadn’t quite got to the point where I was happy enough with just the iPhone Hipstamatic version. I noticed that when I shot a photo directly via the Hipstamatic app in my iPhone with a favourite preset, or applied the exact same save preset on my iPad to the original version of the iPhone photo, it came out a little different. And I preferred the iPad version. Which was very annoying – I thought having the favourite presets synced across both devices/versions meant it would produce an identical image. So I kind of ended up using Hipstamatic for the 3:2 ratio when shooting, but then applying the preset (and the 3:2 ratio again) once the original photo was on the iPad. Fine, and perfectly do-able, but a step more than I thought was strictly necessary.

        I’ve tried Airdrop but it doesn’t work with my MacBook (too old!) and since I save and share the final photos on/through that, I needed another option. I found an app called PhotoTransfer which works well with MacBook, iPad and iPhone, so file transfer is pretty easy. But using Google Photo is easier still. 🙂

        Because I already have a large external HD (partitioned so part is for TimeMachine back ups of my MacBook, part just direct storage of music and photos) I was looking for ways to use that with the iPad etc. I didn’t consider that there are now Wi-Fi HDs. This potentially looks like a great solution – using Google for most stuff (anything where I’m not concerned about security) and a Wi-Fi HD as another back up and for anything more personal. Then I could use my existing HD for our TV, as the smaller external HD (250GB I think) has started maxing out with films… 🙂

        I’ve also been considering a ChromeBook as a replacement for my ageing MacBook. But the Wi-Fi HD plus my iPad and phone might mean I don’t even need this. Thanks!

  8. Hi Dan, Sorry for the late response!
    I used to exchange lengthy emails with various correspondents, but have long since fallen out of the writing habit. It’s like they say: “use it or lose it”. I seem to have misplaced it, for now 🙂

    The blog title is really just a play on words: The fatted calf/nyaff. I know it is a Scottish (Glasgow, mostly) slang word I just liked the sound of it.

    1. I’ve read the same advice many times about blogging – write in a conversational tone as if you’re sitting talking with a good friend. I think that takes the pressure off having to produce some amazingly crafted piece of writing for each post. They become just an ongoing and connected thread of conversations.

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