Tag: photos

The Weekly Playbook #2: Curating Photos

For an overview of this series, see the debut post on my morning routine.

Background

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got too many photos in my photo library and I don’t know what to do with them all. They are all digital, of course, so they don’t take up space. But there are three problems that plague me:

  1. Duplication: because there is no limit to how many pictures I can take, I tend toward taking a lot of the same thing.
  2. Ephemera: there are pictures I take so that I can use for a specific purpose: like the brand of detergent I need to pick up at the grocery story. These could be thrown away after I use them, but they never are.
  3. Lack of curation. Almost none of my photos are tagged, labeled, or otherwise curated in any way.

Recently, I decided to tackle this problem, and I developed a playbook for curating my photos. Here is what I do.

Playbook

  1. Open the Photos app on my Mac.
  2. Select the “Weekly Photo Curation” Smart Album
  3. For each photo in the album, so one of two things:
    • Delete the photo
    • Give the photo a title, and optionally, give it keywords
  4. Repeat step 3 until all the Smart Album is empty.

Commentary

I use Apple photos for managing my photos. As of this writing I’ve got over 25,000 photos there, many of which are duplicates or ephemera, and most lack curation.

I decided to tackle this problem by stopping the bleeding first. Thus, this playbook.

Defining the Smart Album

The “Weekly Photo Curation” Smart Album is defined as follows:

I search for any photos in the last 7 days that do not yet have a title. Since a Smart Album is a “live” album of the photos that match the criteria, each time I either delete a photo, or add a title, the photo drops out of the album so that I know I am finished when the album is empty.

What goes into the decision to delete or save? Mostly experience. I usually ask myself a few questions that go beyond the usual keeping a photo out of sentimentality or personal documentation:

  • Is the photo a duplicate or close enough to be considered a duplicate?
  • Is the photo distorted (blurry, etc.)?
  • Is the photo unique enough to keep for use on the blog? (I prefer to use my own photos on the blog than ones that come from curated sources online.)
  • Do I need this photo to be available in my Photo library? (Is it available somewhere else?)
  • Have I needed to find similar photos to this one recently?

Selecting a title

If I choose to keep a photo, I try to give it a succinct title that is specific enough to be useful in future searches. For instance, this morning I took a picture of the sunrise coming up behind the 7-Eleven which marks the halfway point of my morning walk. In this case, I simply titled the photo “Sunrise over 7-Eleven.” I try to be conscious that Apple Photos, like Google Photos, uses AI to be able to identify things in photos. Sunrises are one example that Apple Photos is probably good at. But the 7-Eleven in the photo is from the back, so there is not much of a change for the AI to identify it as such so I throw it into the title.

sunrise over 7-Eleven
Sunrise over 7-Eleven

Tackling the entire album

At some point, I’d like to go back and clean up the entire album, but with more than 25,000 photos, that seems an almost impossible task. Maybe at some point, I’ll put together a playlist which would allow me to review a month of photos at a time, slowly working my way backward. But for now, I’ve got too much on my plate already so I am focusing on ensuring good meta-data quality on photos going forward.

Also, I am trying to be more present when doing things, and am less likely to take as many photos as I used to. Every little bit helps.

I try to do this on Sunday mornings, immediately after completing my morning routine. I guess you could say that this has become part of my Sunday morning routine. That allows me to get the past week’s photo’s curated just as the new week is beginning.

Did you enjoy this post?
If so, consider subscribing to the blog using the form below or clicking on the button below to follow the blog. And consider telling a friend about it. Didn’t like it so much? Let me know why, either in the comments, or by reaching out to me directly. I’m always looking for ways to improve. Already a reader or subscriber to the blog? Thanks for being a part of this community!

Follow Jamie Todd Rubin on WordPress.com

A Perfect Independence Day Hike

We had perfect weather for Independence Day, after a weekend filled mostly with rain. So we piled all of the kids into our cars yesterday and drove to a state park north of New York City in order to spend some time outdoors. There are certain landscape scenes that I find calming, and I managed to capture several yesterday while walking through the state park. Here are a few that I thought people might enjoy for the final day of this holiday weekend.

It’s funny, but each time I see a scene like these, I have the urge to settle down where I am with a book, and sit quietly reading with the sound of birds, and the buzz of insects making a kinds of white noise in the background. Hikes like these are very relaxing for me. It is also nice to get away from the crowds and be in open spaces, letting go of the usual worries of the day for a little while, and enjoying the company and scenery.

After the hike, we took the kids for ice cream. It wasn’t even lunch time yet, but it is nice to shake things up now and then.

Spring is the Best Season

A tree in bloom on my morning walk.

This time of year I can often be heard saying, “You can’t appreciate spring until you’ve been through winter.” By “you” I mean me of course. I lived in Los Angeles for nearly 20 years and I missed spring there dreadfully because winter was nothing more than pages on a calendar. On my walk this morning, there was no doubt that spring had arrived.

Spring is my favorite season. It is renewal, of course. New leaves on the trees, a kind of new beginning. The new year used to be the first day of spring. I think it still should be. At least then it would bear some relation to astronomical events. Spring means baseball and baseball means spring. My birthday falls shortly after the spring equinox. I used to begin my annual re-reading of Isaac Asimov’s autobiographies in the spring, always attempting to finish on April 6, the day he died.

Summer is nice when you are still young. Summer means a break from school and, at least until I was 16, it meant no work. Summers today are hot and humid and there is no “summer break” for me as a grownup. Retirement is now closer than the beginning of my working career, and the think I like to imagine best about it is waking up in summer and not having to do anything. The last time that happened I was fifteen.

Fall is a close second to spring in my book. But fall is less optimistic than spring. The days grow rapidly shorter. The air gets cooler and instead of being filled with the fragrance of flowers, it smells of decaying leaves.

Winter is an odd bird. It can be cold, snowy, wet, dark and long. But it is necessary to make spring the great season that it is.

I always find it difficult to imagine a cold winter day in the middle of summer, and equally difficult to imagine a warm summer day in the middle of winter.

Enjoy the spring! Here are some pictures of spring I snapped on my walk this morning.

To Snap or Not to Snap?

There are 25,766 photos in my digital photo library. On seeing that number recently, I longed for the days of film cameras with 24- and 36-roll clips of film. Back then, if you wanted to take a picture, you needed to make sure it was worth one of those 24 exposures. Now, it seems, I often have dozens of shots of the same scene, each taken milliseconds after the one before it, so similar that only a computer could detect the differences. And why bother deleting them? It’s not like they are taking up space in album somewhere, accumulating dust and wrinkling at the corners.

For the last several years, I have deliberately cut back on the pictures I take. Having a digital camera (as part of my phone) everywhere I go was a novelty at first, but I realized after the first ten or fifteen thousand photos that I could either be an observer or a participant. Others may balance these roles better than I can. I found when I took photos, I didn’t feel like a participant in the event. I didn’t remember the event as well. I wasn’t present in the moment, or to use the phrase of the day, I wasn’t mindful.

Back when photos came in batches of 24 or 36, it was was relatively easy to curate them. I took no time to flip through 24 photos and pick out the ones that were worth keeping, or sticking in a photo album. With nearly 26,000 photos that is nearly impossible. I did the math–that number averages out to about 6 photos a day, every day for the last 13 years.

The cost of the film alone would have made me much more selective about my photos. I checked and a 4-pack of 24-exposure film costs about $35. That’s about $0.36 per photo. It costs around $5 to develop a roll of that film, so call it another $0.21/photo. That’s $0.57 per photo. Looking at the 25,766 photos in my library, it would have cost me around $15,256 if those photos had been on film instead of digital. There’s no way I would have taken even a tenth of those photos if it cost me that much money.

Also, I’m not big a photo browser. I generally don’t go back and look at old photos unprompted. I’ll do it if the kids ask me to show them something, or if a specific need comes up, or if I am reminded of something. But with so many photos in such disorganized jumble of bits and bytes, it can be hard to find the specific photo I am looking for.

Thinking about all of this, I think I made the right decision to cut back on how many photos I take. I’d rather enjoy the moment and remember it (and maybe write about it later) than have a hundred photos that I won’t likely look at again. Also, there are usually half a dozen other people taking the same photo, so it’s around somewhere if I wanted it

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the snaps and flashes of outrageous snapchatters, or take pen in hand and scribble what I remember and enjoy the moment, I think I’ll enjoy the moment.

Digital Pack Rat

I wish clearing up my digital photos was as easy as clearing out the house for moving. There are a lot of things I am unsentimental about. I get rid of old clothes without a second glance. Marie Kondo would be proud. I look at something that’s been stored away for ages and dump it. If I haven’t needed it for the last six years, I’m not going to need it now. Digital photos are different. There are 23,465 digital photos in my photo library as I write this. I don’t think I’ve deleted one.

My logic is always the same: it costs nothing to keep the photo. It doesn’t occupy physical space the way 23,465 Polaroids would. So why get rid of them? They provide an unedited collage of my life for the last twenty years or so.

The problem is that I am not organized about my photos the way I am in other parts of my life. I’ve made reluctant attempts at organization now and then, but my heart was never in it. I’ve had all kinds of great ideas for photo taxonomies that would allow me to put my finger on a photo within seconds. These ideas never pan out. I just don’t have the interest. And yet the photos accrue.

Look at all of these screenshots I’ve captured! I don’t even get rid of these. I think, for some reason, that I’ll need a particular screenshot at some point in the future. This is preposterous, but the screenshots are still part of my photo library.

I must have dozens of pictures of a barn in Maine. The barn doesn’t change much. But I have my phone, so I take the picture, even though I know I already have plenty.

That barn in Maine
That barn in Maine.

Digital photography has created a crisis and turned me into a digital packrat. I find myself wishing that we still had to put film in a camera, or that there was some equivalent cost to a digital photo. I think I’d be more careful about what pictures I decided to snap, and what I chose to keep.

I’ve been taking fewer photos these last two months. Many of the photos I had taken previously were taken spontaneously with the thought, “This would make a good post on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram.” But when I gave up social media and found myself pulling out my phone to snap a photo of the two deer munching away at shrubs alongside the bike path, I made a decision. I slipped my phone back into my pocket and decided to stand there and watch the deer. No photos necessary.

Deer
The deer that I didn’t photograph When I started thinking about this post, I snapped a photo the next time I saw her. Actually, I snapped three.

The 23,465 photos in my library will only continue to grow and continue to be disorganized. Whenever I get the idea to purge and organize the photos, I break out in a cold sweat. The number alone—23,465 (and counting)—terrifies me. If I managed to look at, and make a decision on, 100 photos a day, it would take me nearly 8 months before I finished. And by then, who knows how many more photos will have appeared.

Thinking about how difficult it is to purge all of those photos make it so much easier to get rid of the physical stuff around the house. The more I can get rid of the, the less I have to move to the new house.

Which reminds me: I need to get over there next week and take pictures of all of the rooms so that I know where everything is going to go.

Sunrise in Santa Monica

I will in an all-day planning retreat today checking email, and various social media only periodically throughout the day. While I’m away from the Internets, here is a picture of the sunrise as I walked through the Santa Monica City Hall parking lot on my way into the office this morning. I remember this sunrise fondly from the days when I used to work out here. Enjoy:

photo.JPG

Rejections and short-lists

Yesterday, I got finally got a brief rejection note from Strange Horizons for “The Golden Watch”. It took 49 days from start to finish and that is nearly twice as long as any other story I’ve sent them. I’d like to think it meant I got farther along in the process, but the one-sentence message makes me think that maybe things were just backlogged.

For those keeping track, my submission log.

Strangely, however, when I woke up this morning, I had an email telling me that one of my photos from Venice, Italy was on the short-list to be included in Schmap, which is a free online travel guide. Oddly enough, I never submitted the photo. They found it on Flickr, where it is publicly viewable with all of my other photo sets from Europe. They do not pay, but they do give full credit, and since I don’t consider myself a photographer by any stretch of the imagination and never took the pictures with the thought of payment in mind, I granted them the permission to use the photo, should they choose it from the short list.

All-in-all, I’m disappointed about “The Golden Watch”, which I think is a good story, but which has made the rounds, and which even Edmund Schubert, editor of InterGalactic Medicine Show said he couldn’t tell me exactly why it didn’t work. So I think it’s time to retire it until a new market comes out.

And get to work on the next one.

Picture collection on Flickr

I have taken all of my Flickr picture sets and put them into a single collection, so all of the photos from my vacation are now available from one place. You can find them here. I still have to upload the photos from my last 3 days in London. But those are the only pictures that remain to be uploaded. At some point, I will add descriptions to these pictures but I don’t have the time or patience to do it right now.

I’m heading over to A.J. and Denisse’s in a little while and we’re catching a mid-afternoon showing of The Bourne Ultimatum, which seems to be getting good reviews all-around. I’m looking forward to it.

More photos

My flight home is at noon local time today and I wanted to get some more photos uploaded before I headed off, so here are several batches more. The individual photo are, as of yet, unlabeled, but I’ll get around to that eventually…

Korfu, Greece and Vow Renewals (37 photos)

Athens, Greece (275 photos)

Mykonos, Greece (79 photos)

That’s all I have time for now, as I have to head to the airport. I’m scheduled to leave London at noon and arrive at Washington/Dulles at 3:20 PM. If all goes well, I’m hoping to be home by 5 PM, and then immediately go and pick up Zeke from the vet and bring him home. I miss him. More pictures from Greece, Turkey, Italy and London to come. Also updates from Warwick, Stratford and Oxford yesterday.

Stay tuned…

Photos!

Okay, here are some photos from the first few days of my trip. I’ve still got tons more to post, but this should be a decent start:

Munich and Venice Day 1 (32 pictures)

Venice Day 2 (64 pictures)

Leaving Venice/The Walls of Dubrovnik (268 pictures)

First formal night and a day of rest for me (18 pictures)

I head to the airport in about half an hour, on my way to London. More pictures later.