Sunday, July 30, 2006

To go digi or not

A couple of weeks ago, I was on Mt. Rainier (not at the summit, I wish that was the case though) and I was dearly missing my trusted Elan film camera. The mountain visibility was 100%. There was not a cloud in sight. This was the first time I had seen Rainier unobstructed. It was spectacular. There was lots of snow all over the trails, and the scene, whichever direction you looked, was incredible. Even though I was shooting lots of pics with my brand new digital Rebel XT, I missed my film camera.

I started wondering why I missed my good old slide film...

Projecting a crisp slide onto a screen has its own appeal. The sharpness, color saturation (I love to shoot sceneries with Velvia), and the immense nature of the projection that brings the subject to life. Of course, you can do the same with a digital image using an advanced digital projector. Still, I am partial to slides. For some reason slides feel immortal to me. I do know that they have limited longevity, especially if you project them often. But shooting them all these years, I have developed a great relationship with them.

Now that I have the digital SLR, and for some reason, I didn't feel like carrying two bodies (I already had three lenses in the bag) on this trip. And, I missed the opportunity of shooting slides of Rainier in its full glory.

That is when I started thinking about what I was doing all these years. Some fundamental questions popped in my mind.
- Why do I shoot all these pics?
- Why do I shoot slides (purpose)?
- Why do I shoot digital?
- What do I do with the pics I shoot? How do I use them?
- How do I store them?
- How should I store them?

Answering these questions would lead me to what I want to do, short as well as long term.

Why do I shoot?
I love creating things, art specifically. Photography is art, and I love creating it. I love capturing moods so I can re-experience it at my whim. I shot a tonne of pics when we visited Europe, and looking at the pictures, I can see all the intricate details in the art and architecture that I missed, live.

Why do I shoot slides?
Ever since I laid my hands on the first roll of chrome film, I haven't shot much print film. There is something magical about slides. Be it their crispness, ability to capture what you intended (WYShootIWYG), challenges due to its narrow range, its presentation or its coolness factor ("I shoot Chrome"), it has captivated me all these years.

Why do I shoot digital?
With the advent of digital photography with the ability to instantly see the results, it was insane not to jump onto the train. It offers great opportunities for proofing and improvisation on the spot. Ease of transmitting the images to others make this a great media.

What do I do with them?
Hmm, good question. It is a way of capturing memories and moods. I capture them and freeze the moment in time so I can relive it at a later time. I share them with friends/family in a variety of ways (slide shows, internet, etc.). Use them for artwork (by themselves, or as input).

How do I store them?
I store photos in albums as well as shoe boxes. Negatives go into archival quality storage sleeves. Slides go into archival slide storage sleeves. Digital pics are stored in CD-RW media.

Now that I have answered the questions, I need to make a decision on how much each of the media is going to be used, and when. I also need to decide on post-processing, storage and archival process.

Negatives and slides will last a lifetime if stored appropriately in archival storage sleeves in the right atmosphere. Until now, I have not seen any degradation in any of the images. So, I am satisfied with this storage mechanism.

As for digital pics, I am currently storing them on a hard disk as well as CD-RW media. Looking at the vulnerability of both hard disks and RW disks, I need to cook up another robust strategy. Hard drives can crash wiping out all the data. CDs can be easily scratched or destroyed by high temperatures. So, here is what I am planning on doing:
Burn pics into DVD-RWs and label them with the following-
- Name
- Description
- Creation date
- ReBurn date (creation date + 3 years)
- Master/Copy
I will burn my pics into two DVDs, master and copy. The master stays in a safe place. The copy is used for all other post-processing. Upon the arrival of reBurn date, the data in the master will be transferred (after thorough verification) into the media of choice on that date. If needed, the data is also converted into an appropriate format on the reBurn date. The same process is repeated after 3 years. I came up with 3 years assuming in that time, we would have seen a rebirth of storage technology.

I will tweak this process as and when necessary. Let us see how this is going to work.