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13 April 2010 @ 11:16 am
Musings on Photos  
Well, here's some depressing reading about the ephemeral nature of our society, datawise that is. And so we ran a backup this morning and I'm thinking half-seriously again about getting a better printer and printing out some of our photos to put in albums like real old-fashioned people ;) Which doesn't answer any of the larger concerns of the article - in the event of catastrophe the knowledge our civilisation has gained is pretty much gone in 50 years (time-to-dying-off of the people who might know how to get it out of the old systems even if power to them was regained) even if the data physically survived on the storage media. But it does help one feel better about the smaller concerns, one's own personal data issues, I guess. For instance all our "recent" photos are digital - I think the last time we used our film camera was our US trip back in 2002, possibly a few occasions afterwards, but not many. I don't think the camera even works any more, and we never replaced it because digital is just so much easier/more convenient/cheaper.

And going off on a tangent here, it has lead to different data issues. The convenience of digital means we have thousands upon thousands of photos. And while we have a hierarchy of directories by date it's still a great mass of unwieldy data. So in the end, each photo is ephemeral - for a few months we remember it, look at it occasionally, but after that it's hard to find. I remember when I was a kid whenever Dad finished a film in the camera it'd go off and get processed, then he'd bring the photos home and we'd spread them out on the dining table (all 36 of them, if it was after a holiday or somewhere when he'd taken more than a film's worth we'd do them a film at a time). Then we'd pick out the best 4 or 5, maybe more if there were several events recorded, and they'd go in the album. Labelled up with date & occasion. And I'd look through the albums every so often, it was a much more permanent record. We'd send a little album every year to my grandparents, too - sometimes the pictures for that would be done photoshoot style with a few changes of outfit (so there're pics of me in my guide uniform or Dave in his scout one, or me in my ballet stuff from way way back when I did that (briefly) all in front of the dark red velvet curtain in the dining room). And a selection of snaps from through the year. After Grandma and Grandad died (3 years ago now) J & I had a box or two full of their photo albums in the house for a few months (car space issues for my parents getting stuff back from Scotland meant we took them). And it was great going through them all - not just the old stuff from when they were young, and my Dad & his brothers were kids or young men but also all the little albums we'd sent them over the years. (And as a teenager (when I had my hair short) I didn't half look like my Dad did when he was a teen - moving between the two sets of photos it was striking).

I kinda want to do albums for us - not necessarily physical ones, although the article that sparked this train of thought (this time) makes me think printed photos might be a good idea too. It's such a daunting prospect though. We have so many photographs. I think we got our first digital camera in 2001 - our first pictures on the fileserver are Christmas Day 2001 (which looks in some ways very similar to Christmas Day 2009, compare here and here). So that's 8 full years of photos, plus a few days of 2001 and a few months of 2010. And that includes our Egypt trip where I know we took approximately 2000 photos, and have another 1500 or so from Derrick & Christine's cameras. The Egypt trip is the place I have to start though - because I've got that half-finished website about the trip already. (Progress report on that - I've typed up and edited all my diary, and I've typed up 2 days of J's diary for him to edit. So 10 days of diary typing, plus choosing and organising the photos.)

Of course the Egypt trip stuff is a different project really - it has the diaries, and is a self-contained finite event. For the bulk of the photos there are two different "problems". First is data organisation - yes, we have our dated directories, but we have no further organisation than that. I can't pull out "photos of me" or "photos in Oxford" or anything at all. So they need tagged. A daunting prospect in itself (how many thousand pictures??) but made more difficult because I haven't liked any of the existing solutions I've tried. For three different reasons, two philosophical and one practical. 1) I don't want to get tied into using someone's program forever, when it may or may not continue to exist in a form I like or even can use. 2) I don't want it to alter my photos to add the tags in or copy the photos to add the tags into a copy. 3) The ones I've tried have felt clunky to use if you're retrospectively tagging a large set of photos. And we want to do it in linux as that's our day-to-day OS which counts out some options from the start. So we're likely to end up wanting to write our own (me do the bulk of writing it, I guess, J's not got the time on his hands); which just adds another layer to the already daunting task. (In essence it would be a script or collection of scripts that read a text file in each directory which contained filenames and associated tags and piped the list of "photos of subject[s] X [and others] [between dates A & B]" into the photo viewer in gnome or similar.)

The second "problem" is that once you've organised the data, and can find things in it, how many and which photos do you choose? For the Egypt trip project I've arbitarily decided that I should end up with about 10% of the total pictures. Spread over 12 different day-pages 350ish photos sounds like an amount people might want to look at. Of course, I've not done it yet, so I don't know how that'll work out. Once I've done that I can probably use it to formulate a rule of thumb for other interesting events, but with the random pictures of the cat, or the garden etc, it's harder. And then if I were to do physical albums too I'd want to cut it down even further I think - the cost of printing (and placing in albums) even 10% of our photos would likely be prohibitive.

But it'll be a while before any such project could get that far - first order of business needs to be the Egypt trip photos/website. Next, tagging (if anyone has programs they love for this purpose that run on linux do suggest them, there may be one I've missed after all :) ). Then worry about albums.
 
 
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Hapi vace! Hapi vace!keirf on April 13th, 2010 10:26 am (UTC)
I have a website for sharing photos with my family, and upload between 5 and 20 photos every month (after working over them with photoshop to crop them correctly and adjust the light and colour balance)=. This seems to work well for filtering out significant pictures. Kind of an electronic version of what your family did for your grandparents, I guess.

Of course the previous generation probably thought they had the same problem - our grandparents had a family portrait every few years, and some snaps from visits to the sea side, and that was it, and then all of a sudden you could take your own photos and have a massive 36 pictures from each holiday!
Margaretpling on April 13th, 2010 10:32 am (UTC)
Yeah, going forward is less daunting - what I've started doing with putting photos on flickr and being more obsessive about updating LJ means I have a selection of "photos others might like to see" with text about them, often (although I'd have to go back to the originals and re-do my crops etc as I've also re-sized the flickr ones down to 1600x1200, and get everything somewhere under my control not rely on webservices).

I'd not thought about the comparison with the previous generation like that before. Makes you wonder what's next, doesn't it? (I know there's not necessarily a next but even so ... )
Hapi vace! Hapi vace!keirf on April 13th, 2010 11:08 am (UTC)
Next is video, I guess. Why have stationary pictures? Or, Nyarlathotep forbid, it might be MSN messenger transcripts.
Margaretpling on April 13th, 2010 11:55 am (UTC)
I guess we're getting there with video already - if you've been to a gig recently, you see a fair portion of the audience watching it through their camera or phone videoing big chunks of it. And even low-end cameras do reasonable video too (and ours, which is mid-range I guess, does fairly decent quality stuff - 720p, seems to stabilise reasonably well for hand shake etc).

I'm a bit of a luddite about all that, tho - rarely watch any video people upload to the net, don't like videos of myself much (tho I generally like still photos of me, I just don't move like I think I do or sound like I think I do and find the difference disturbing) ... but I'm weird about video in general as I'm not fond of TV or film as a story telling medium either and that's definitely not a mainstream opinion ;)

Of course, it'll probably be something we haven't thought of - it reminds me of being in uni in the mid-90s thinking about how the "houses of the future" would have cat-5 sockets as standard in rooms, just like electricity sockets ... but instead we have wireless networking.
Ceci n'est pas une vie: sweet penguinmarble on April 13th, 2010 12:23 pm (UTC)
kphotoalbum
I recommend kphotoalbum. It's very good for tagging large numbers of images, and stores its info in an xml file, which makes it easy to write a script to pull it out into another format, should you decide you want to use something else later.
Margaretpling on April 13th, 2010 12:43 pm (UTC)
Re: kphotoalbum
Ooh, thanks, I shall look into that. The name rings a bell, and I think I may've tried it a few years ago and not got on with it, but it will have moved on significantly since then, I expect. Googled for their website, and (like they say) there's no recent docs so I shall have to just try it to find out how it handles dealing with our setup/requirements :)
Ceci n'est pas une viemarble on April 13th, 2010 12:51 pm (UTC)
Re: kphotoalbum
It certainly has docs, including very useful video tutorials for showing how the author intended certain features to be used. I found those helpful. (They may be a few years old now, but since they were covering the concepts rather than what each icon looked like, I expect them to stay relevant.)
Margaretpling on April 13th, 2010 01:00 pm (UTC)
Re: kphotoalbum
Oh, that sort of thing I can probably figure out as I go along or yeah, go look at the 3 min overview or video whatnot. I was more meaning about things like how your photos have to be organised on disk in the first place - I found a FAQ that included a question about multiple directories that said in a future (very old now) version you might be able to have multiple root directories but for now it needs a common root so use symlinks. And I think that's the only thing I saw about how the photos need to be on disk - so I've no idea in advance if it can deal with directories of photos not owned by me and mounted over nfs. And even if it told me, then it'd be for such an out-of-date version that I still wouldn't know about the current one. Ditto for where it stores its meta info - in my .kde dir only? choosable? I'd prefer it to be on the backed-up fileserver for obvious reasons but that's a non-standard way of working.

I'll just have to try it and see (which it would boil down to anyway, as there's always things you don't know you want till you don't have them ;) ).
contents under pressure / handle with care: design - pencil sharpenergraphxgrrl on April 13th, 2010 04:20 pm (UTC)
I was thinking about something similar when chatting with my mother recently. For the first 10 years of my brothers life and the first 5 or so of mine, my mother kept albums of photos, carefully edited and labeled. Then somewhere in there she ran out of time to continue, but we kept taking vacations and having holidays. So now in her retirement, she's going through all those boxes of photos and scanning them in or putting them into small scrapbooks she's compiling.

All of this though is part of why, when I'm on vacation, I edit and upload as I go. Though I need to dig through my pre-Flickr stuff that's on Gallery etc. and edit a bit.
Margaretpling on April 13th, 2010 05:21 pm (UTC)
Definitely the sort of thing that's easier to keep on top of if you actually DO it while you go, yeah. And the sort of thing that's easy to only think of once you've gone past that stage, as I'm discovering ;)