Wednesday, November 20, 2019

On the Importance of Digital Workflow and Backing Up

This blog was not intended to be what it is titled, but it is, and you're stuck with it because I am an idiot. It is worth noting that we are coming up on the 10th anniversary of the Ivory Gull's appearance at Cape May Harbor, which is what this blog was supposed to be about, complete with some of the 200 or so photos of it and the birders watching it I kept, out of the 2,000 or so photos I pulled the trigger on (keeping 10% is a high estimate of what I typically retain, the rest are sent back to the pixel ether.)

About those photos:

"Okay, Lightroom, search all searchable fields for gull." Lightroom pounds on the door of my 3 terabyte external drive (one of two) and comes back with a bazillion gull photos.

"The hell with scrolling through that. Give me the same search on gull, ivory."

"No photos found."


When I start talking to an electronic device that way, it is never the device that is being stupid.

You could not come up with a photo set more important for me NOT to lose than this one. I knew I had taken them. Why the hell aren't they on this drive, and since they are not, where the hell are they?

Like many digital photographers, I've had my share of mishaps with computers. Ever spill a full glass of orange juice onto a high end laptop? I have . . .twice. Let me know if you need someone to do it to yours. The first time my genius son Don J. was able to fix it, the second time he texted me in all caps UNPLUG IT! And all he could save was the giant hard drive. And then there are the hard drive crashes. . .

All of which leads us to the importance of digital workflow and backing up. You can do it however you want, but here's what I do.

First, all my photos live on an external hard drive, and with varying frequency I back that one up to a second, switch them out, and put the original in a fireproof lock box. When I was not working from home, I would bring the lock box with the back-up to work and leave it there, because if you back up but keep your back-up drive with your working drive, you are not backed up. Right now the fireproof box will have to do.

Why not the cloud? Because I don't trust the bastards, that's why.

Now, about digital workflow. Workflow starts before you take the picture. Are you going to shoot RAW or JPEG? If JPEG, are you going to get your camera to do any post-shot processing for you? Are you going to get your camera to name or number the files a particular way/ Are you going to get your camera to put anything in the metadata attached to the image file? My answers are JPEG, yes, yes, and yes. Maybe I'll dive into these things another time.

Than you take a picture, or 2000 pictures of an Ivory Gull. Now what?

0. Get them the hek off your camera's memory card and onto a hard drive. Reformat the card after you confirm they are on the hard drive.
1. Delete most of them. I used to do this in-camera, but now I view them in Adobe lightroom and select the ones I want for import to the hard drive. I am ruthless about this.
2. Figure out how you want to organize and rename the photos and tell Lightroom to do it. There are many different ways you could decide to do this, with folders and subfolders and Lightroom collections and collection sets, but the one thing I do, the most important thing I always do, is rename the file in a way that allows you to find it again. You owe me a solid for this piece of advice. It's a little bit of work on the frontload which saves a whole lot of pain later.

Thus, the filename of the photo above is, was, and will ever be:

gull, ivory leaving 12 2 09 DPF_8600

Or, generically speaking: subject location/action/details date (which is in the metadata too) extension (my camera puts this in, automatically putting in my initials and numbering files upward.) So if someone contacts me for a photo of this doing that in this place at this time, I'm a couple clicks from finding what I have.

So yeah, I'm an idiot, but I am a thorough one, and in a file cabinet drawer containing several terabytes worth of old hard drives I found the one I had not imported to my new one, found my Ivory Gull pics and about 10,000 others. which, according to Lightroom, brings my photo collection to 64,966, which means I have pressed the shutter at least 649,660 times since I went to a digital SLR in 2007. Which does not include a s--tton of pre-2007 slides and prints, which are in a shambles of disorganization.

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