A Confrontation with Honesty

I suppose being 71 and having had to clear up the ‘past’ after both my Parents died, has a lot to do with it as I contemplate my sons having to do the same on my death, I find that I am quite consciously “tidying up after myself” these days. Part of this has been a journey into my relatively recent past as I am reviewing and largely deleting, thousands of photographs I have taken since I moved from London to Somerset some 13 years ago.

What I am Doing

I will start by making the point that I am not deleting pictures on a random basis, there are many duplicates but more importantly pictures that were taken as part of my photographic ‘experiments’ as I evolved as a photographer. However, as they run into the tens of thousands most of which I have only looked at once when I transferred them to a computer, it raises the question as to what my sons would do with them anyway so really it is my job to ‘prune’ them back to a smaller collection of relevant images.

Amusingly it is a mirror of an exercise I undertook about 4 years ago, I decided to “put my life” in pictures to be hung on the wall, I thought about 30 should cover it but some months later and after over 200 prints, I ran out of viable wall space ! I have subsequently revised individual pictures as I have decided that one image was better than another already hung on the wall however, back to my current task.

I was a keen photographer in the days of ‘wet film’ back in the 1970s and 80s but in the mid 80s went through a divorce so a combination of financial and time pressures led to photography being left behind. It was 2000 before my interest was revived and this in the early days of digital photography. I had a contract that meant I lived and worked in the USA for some time and bought a small Fujifilm digital camera primarily so that I could include 640×480 pixel pictures in the regular emails I sent to family and friends back home.

However by the time I came home for the holidays at Christmas 2000, I had caught the ‘photo bug’ again and wanted something better in the way of a camera. Coincidently this was exactly the moment that both Canon and Nikon released their first DSLR cameras and as I was earning good money, having decided between the two I bought the Canon D30 with a lens which came in at around £2,400 if I remember rightly. I was subsequently to buy a couple more lenses, spare batteries, battery grip etc but if I am honest and with hindsight, I really didn’t know what I was doing back then and there would be many things I would have to learn on the road ahead.

The Background

My first Canon DSLR managed only about 3.4 mega pixels compared to today’s 24-50 mpx monsters but it was ‘saved’ in terms of end quality by using high quality Canon lenses which was a factor lost on me then but today is obvious as I look back on the pictures I took then. I certainly used my camera frequently but was oblivious to the benefits of RAW and therefore shot exclusively in JPEG something I rarely do these days. Around late 2003 I added a Canon G5 camera which gave me a whole 5mpx in an advanced compact body and by 2005 I had graduated to a Canon DSLR with 8 mpx but I was only then beginning to realise the potential and started using RAW later that year.

The above is really just background but it is important because the technology has a bearing on the journey I followed but is not the only factor.

I came back from the States and as a portent of my future I guess, as I was flying back over the Atlantic at 36,000 ft on my way home, my Father was rushed into hospital for an emergency operation. The real significance of this was that my Mother was an invalid and my Father who had been very fit for most of his life, was her carer so this was pretty major. With the help of my son Sean and his wife, this ‘crisis’ was managed and Pops recovered his health but it was clear to me that this was a sign of things to come. I had contracts to finish but in the Summer of 2004 I moved down to Somerset to live with my Parents and relieve the pressure on my Father.

One of the duties I took over was the twice a day walking of their dog Jack with whom I reached an agreement, I would wait for him as he sniffed everything we passed, he would wait for me whilst I took photographs, it worked out fine for both of us. Because of the relatively slow progress, deep down sniffing does not make for a rapid pace, I took hundreds of pictures and often of the same thing but it was invaluable in many ways because constant practice of any activity matters in trying to master it.

Images Are Powerful

So now as to what I am doing today. Coming from an IT background, backing up data ( images are data ), then archiving them to DVDs comes as second nature. Of course with the explosion in the amount of data generated, the DVD has been replaced by multiple copies stored on fault tolerant hard drives but let’s not get too complicated, my current aim is to so reduce my image libraries that they can be reasonably be stored on static media like DVDs or BluRay disks as ‘near line’ copies to hard disk storage.

Going back to my earlier days, I seemed to have kept pretty much every photograph I took and then burned them to DVDs which sit in a rather thick purpose designed folder. My process is to copy those DVDs to a hard drive, delete those images not required with the ‘survivors’ being archived by month and year. A second ‘pass’ will be to then edit each image and save it in a suitable file format for long term storage so overall, an incredibly long process which will stretch right through this year which is amusing as there are also recently unearthed DV video tapes that have come to light which require a similar though different treatment so I guess that is my 2017/18 sorted then !

However having started this process the delightful thing has not just been taking a scythe through this back catalogue but also the memories of time, place and circumstances that it is throwing up as I do it. There is also another aspect, because many of these pictures were taken in the same geographical area, the changes that have taken place are recorded as are the things that remain the same and that is interesting. However perhaps the most significant thing for me and this is very personal, I can recall my own thoughts and expectations from those days as I browse these images which in itself, not just as a photographer but also as a person, is an amazing measure for me of my distance travelled.

Perhaps my most intense photographic period came after the death of my Father at Easter 2007 because my time became more constrained due to my Mother’s needs. For the following three years until she too passed, I allowed myself just one hour a day after I had got her up dressed and settled, for a bike ride that included photography. This habit I still keep to this day some six years now since she died and I still take photographs often staying out for long periods if the wind, light and wildlife give me great photographic possibilities.

In the past when possible and it is now, I have always mixed my photography with different events be they air shows or places of interest where something may be happening and obviously as long as I can, I will do more of this in my years ahead which means generating more images. It therefore makes sense to use my current “archiving” activities to also ensure I keep any new material I make is kept down to some kind of “core goodness” !

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