House fully engilfed in flames

Are Your Photos Ready to Survive Wildfires and Severe Weather?

I read a newspaper article in the Denver Post about the wildfire in BoulderHouse fully engulfed in flames Canyon, Colorado and the tragic losses the families there are suffering. The primary focus of this article concerns a couple, Barry and Kate, who lost their home once before to wildfires and may have just lost it for a second time to this fire. Kate is quoted as saying that as they fled this time they packed their ski gear, bikes and photographs. “The main thing is we got our photographs, because those can never be replaced” says Kate.

On their way out of the burning canyon, they stopped to help an elderly neighbor; Erna Means. What do you think Erna grabbed as she abandoned her house to possible total destruction? You got it, a box of photographs! Isn’t that what you hear all the time when someone asks what you would rescue as you’re running out of a house that is burning, flooding or being blown away? Photographs are always on the top of the list right after pets. That’s wonderful that people are so protective of their memories, that they feel photographs are irreplaceable, while everything else can be replaced.

If only people would be that concerned when a tragedy isn’t about to strike. You don’t hear about all the important images and memories that are lost forever, every day throughout the world when hard drives fail or CDs and thumb-drives become unreadable or cell phones and computers are lost or stolen. Anguished screams happen all the time. But it’s just not news worthy or important enough, until it happens to you or me. Backing up or archiving your memories is so easy to do but also so easy to forget and maybe a little time consuming, but oh so important. Check out my previous blogs titled “Digital Image Archiving – The Lost Generation parts 1 and 2” for ways you can protect yourself from the most probable cause of image loss, computer failure and advancements in technology.

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Digital Image Archiving – The Lost Generation Part 2

So far, all the digital archiving solutions we discussed in part 1 have their pro’s and con’s. Mostly con’s. What’s left? How about a good old fashioned print! If you make a good quality print, note I said ‘quality’ print, not a cheapo inkjet that will fade faster than American Idol winners, you can be good to go with just a simple shoe box to hold all your precious memories. OK, so maybe not a real shoe box although I’m willing to bet my New Balance sneaker box full of prints will outlast any of the digital storage solutions currently available. Did you know you can buy, cheaply I might add, photo storage boxes in all variety of sizes? Most are made of archival acid free paper, have dividers and give you (or your decendants) access to actually see them whenever you want with no batteries required. How about an album? There’s nothing like a good photo album to thumb through. That tactile quality can never be replaced.

I was recently at a family reunion being held in a local park. One of the Aunt’s brought a stack of photo albums which consisted mainly of old photos of past family members and deceased pets. People were grabbing them left and right to look through the pages, laugh at their relatives and ask over and over “who this that with so and so”? It really draws a crowd and certainly helped those present feel much more connected to the family. Then I noticed a few digital cameras floating around, people taking snaps, a few videos and a lot of chimping. If you have not heard of chimping, it’s the process of looking at your photos on the camera typically right after shooting them. So called because if you really look at someone doing it they really do look like a chimpanzee all hunched over and staring with wonder at the tiny magic screen. Anyway, back to the family chimps. What I noticed is that the photo albums stopped right around when the digital age hit. There were a few awful ink jet prints made by Auntie so and so but not many. According to them, most of their recent photos were either on their computer somewhere or still in the camera. Hmmm.

Now I am not suggesting you print every shot you take, although from a lab’s perspective that would be pretty cool. Just print the important stuff. The photo’s you want to pass on to future generations, the photo’s you want to be remembered for. I also suggest you don’t hide them in the attic or basement. Leave one or two albums laying around, see what happens when family or friends come over. Bet someone picks one up and starts going through it. Makes for great conversation and reminiscing over those good times you all shared. Sure beats having everyone huddle (think chimp) around a laptop or I-pad, if that would even happen. Whatever you do, just print it, put it in an album, in a box, even in a pile but just print it. The only true way to archive your photographs and for the future all of mankind!

You will still want to keep your digital ‘originals’ somewhere but if you only share them on Facebook, flickr, e-mail’s and what-not, understand that these are all very short term options. The sooner you start thinking about a long term archiving solution the easier it’s gong to be.

Tell us what you think and what you are doing to preserve your memories. Here is a resource for archiving digital files, mostly for professionals but really it applies to anyone who shoots digital photographs and does not want to be part of the lost generation.
http://dpbestflow.org/data-storage-hardware/storage-hardware-overview

theLostGeneration

Digital Image Archiving – The Lost Generation Part 1

Are your images a ticking time-bomb?

There has been a lot of chatter between the photo labs and digital imaging professionals the past few years. We all fully expect many digital photographers including pros, amateurs and even the family archivist who we affectionately call Digital Debbies, to completely loose a whole generation of images. Gone, Adiós, Sayonara, Bub bye! Why you ask? If not you should be. It used to be fairly simple to store and archive your film images whether you used archival pages, slide boxes or just printed them. Some people went as far as to store them off site or in fire proof safes and for the most important of images, you could have duplicates made. Either way, you could actually see them whenever you wanted. It’s easy to reproduce film, always will be. Now in the digital age we can shoot like crazy onto huge memory cards because it’s inexpensive, practically free in fact. Well, now what do you do with all of these shots? I hear of people who burn them off to CD/DVD’s, store them on external hard drives or even just use the memory cards as a storage device. Heck, many people of a certain age group don’t store or keep their photos at all, they just shoot for instant gratification and move on, but that’s another story we’ll investigate later. With the cost of storage so inexpensive all of these are viable solutions except for one detail. None of these are anywhere near as secure as film storage for several reasons. First, CD/DVD disks can and do fail, even the finest ‘gold’ disks. Hard drives fail all the time and with the mammoth size of current models you could be putting thousands of images at risk and all on one device. Now let’s assume for the moment that your CD/DVD or HD does not fail. So far so good. Imagine 10, 20 or even 50 years into the future. What’s the chance you or whoever has possession of your images will have access to a device to read any of these disks. I can promise you that CD/DVD readers will not be around that long and very possibly they will have no way to connect that external HD to a computer because USB is long gone. Will new cameras or card readers still be compatible with SD, CF and other current memory cards? There is a good chance all these images, possibly 100’s of thousands will not be accessible.

OK so maybe now you realize that you will become that Grandpa or Grandma with zillions of images in your attic and your relatives will climb up there to discover this treasure trove of personal and family history and possibly even your professional career’s cache of photos. Now what? Can’t see em, can’t read the disks, can’t reminisce over all the beautiful photos you took over your digital lifetime. Bummer, now there dumpster fodder! Maybe someone will take the time, effort and expense to find a guy who can recover these images, maybe not. So what’s a digital photographer to do? Well, you could keep copying all your images from device to device to keep them stored on current technology. Can you even imagine how exponentially labor intensive this will get, even in just a few years! No way!! No one is going to go through all that hassle. Option 2, store everything with a cloud based operation or with one of the off site storage companies that currently offer this service for a monthly fee. Some even have redundant storage for extra security. Not a bad idea, sounds easy anyway except for the horror stories we have heard when one of these guys goes out of business and with a flick of the switch your photos are gone. Yes, many people have been able to retrieve their images but your still back in the same boat as before.

We also are told many people actually use facebook, flickr and the like to store/archive all their images. How long do you really expect them to be around? They may be here for some time but free storage of all your photographs for life is not something anyone should count on. How many people realize that facebook automatically downsizes your files when uploaded? Forget any large files let alone Raw, PSD, etc. Any designer out there working in Illustrator, Quark, Corel, or CS whatever also needs to pay attention. All of your work both personal and professional is at risk. So what’s the solution? I am interested in hearing what anyone else thinks and what they are currently doing.

Next post look for part 2 of Digital Image Archiving: The Lost Generation