Sunday, May 09, 2010

Thousand pics worth how many words?

I am in the process of compiling a folder with all my travel pics for my family to get some vicarious pleasure. I started to make sub-folders for the different trips to various places. One sub-folder was marked “Yellowstone National Park, July 4th 2009”.

I went to my original Yellowstone folder with pics and videos, and realized that there were actually 9 of us on that road trip. It was a 3 day trip and 6 of us had a camera. Unsurprisingly, the folder contained at least 5,000 unsorted pics.

I still remember the chaos it created last year, when everyone wanted to share their pics and have a copy of the other person’s pics. Some of us stayed up the whole night to compile all the pics in one central folder, from which copies were made for all of us. When I got a master copy of the folder, I promised to sort them and keep a few. I must have lost patience midway. I am talking of 5,000 odd pics at least. As you can imagine, I never shared the album with anyone, never uploaded it on Picasa, because I [wrongly] thought that a day will come when I will sit and sort through the pics, get rid of the repetitive ones, and compile an album. No prizes for guessing, that day hasn’t arrived till date.

When I skimmed through the albums again, I realized that it was a lot of repetition. Excited at seeing the old faithful geyser, 6 of us had taken some 50 pics of it from 6 different directions. That made it some 300 pics of a single geyser. There were dozens of places we visited.

It reminded me of earlier days, well, not that early actually, something about 5-10 years ago when digital cameras were not in vogue and I used the good old Kodak KB 10. 36 pics were all that you were allowed, and being on the spendthrift side, I had actually made an entire trip to Chennai, Tadoba, Mangalore and Pondicherry with some 90 pics. 90 was a lot back in 2004. In 2010, it is nothing.

So while the quantity went up, the quality came down. It’s been a year almost and I haven’t found the patience to sort through the pics and delete the ones I do not need. I see myself smiling in front of another range of mountains. I skim through and find at least 6 different pics with the same pose. Pic 1 is that of a waterfall. Pic 2 is of the waterfall and me. By pic 3, there are a few more friends with me in front of the waterfall. By pic 4, we are no longer smiling at the camera but are making faces and making “V” horns behind each other’s heads. By pic 5, we look bored and are no longer standing, but sitting. It’s monotonous to skim through them and sort them. 10 minutes of editing and I am done. I am bored. I have lost patience.

On the other hand, I see online albums of some friends and go wow. The albums look so crisp and well edited, not the same mountain range taken from different angles and having different permutations and combinations of people in front of it. Compiling an album [esp an online album] is like editing a movie. You need to flip through the representative pics and see variety. You need to skim through and get an overall idea of the trip.

So while I write this, I have established a thumb rule for my future trips. If I cannot show one day’s worth of places in 100 photos, I am probably not going to do a good job of editing anyway. I skim through the Yellowstone pics again and feel this inexplicable pain, lethargy, and inertia as I start to delete pics. I do not feel like deleting them. I flip from one to the next, trying hard to decide which is the best one to keep.

So tomorrow I am going to downsize my Yellowstone album. My personal target is a total of 500 pics. That’s a lot still, but do you realize it is decimating 90% of the pictures? Yet I am going to do it. And in future, I hope I just don’t stand in front of a flower, a train, a mountain and take pics incessantly. I hope I stop to actually appreciate the beauty of things around me, smell a flower, take in some fresh air, throw a few pebbles in the stream, do anything but randomly grab my camera and go click click click. And remember my thumb rule. If you can’t show your day’s worth in 100 pics maximum, you cannot show it anyway. A picture is worth a thousand words. You don’t really want a thousand pics to tell your story.

So click on that travel folder you have ignored all this while, go through the pics, and go delete delete delete. Trust me, you don’t need most of the pics. Only a few representative ones will do.



silcador said...

Yes, deleting the unnecessary ones is kind of difficult, since the mind always wonders weather it is a mistake. So I usually use a 'soft' delete approach. I create a folder called unwanted, and move the unwanted photos to that folder. I still retain the unwanted folder, so the mind is at peace in the event of a 'mistake'.

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

I agree with you...i have stopped taking any pics now when I go visit places- in fact, most times, I don't even carry a camera- I just make sure I enjoy the moments, and am free of the guilt that goes with sitting on a pile of photos and people breathing down your neck to upload them... :)

illusionaire said...

:) wow you are a hardcore travelgrapher (ok I just made that up - traveler+photographer, but then, in today's world, everyone's making up new vocab like infotainment, webisode etc so why not me).

I've seen albums of my friends when they go hiking etc, but I don't think I've ever seen anyone post more than even 50 pics for a day's outing... so I think 100 is still a lotttt! But then, I am not the passionate hiker type so its just my simple opinion.

And just a thought... maybe it depends on the location too... supposed I go to this serene mist covered mountain for a day... I prolly shouldn't cross 100 pics for that place alone. But suppose I move all over the place in that one day, from the mist covered hills, to brooks and waterfalls by the brae, idyllic farm house below, a secluded well further down at the valley, romantic roadside landscape with sun setting in the horizon, etc etc all in one day, then I see nothing wrong in crossing 100 pics :-)

Anonymous said...

"I hope I stop to actually appreciate the beauty of things around me"

I learned this after my first trip. We actually forget to enjoy the beauty of the place while taking pictures of it.

sunshine said...

silcador- This is a great idea, something I haven't thought of before. Thanks for sharing it :)

TGFI- Agree with you, but then it does feel great to go through pics later on and share them --- striking the right balance is the challenge I face :)

illusionaire- travelgrapher indeed :) My frustration arose from the repetitive nature of the pics ... it seems every little thing I saw was replicated 10 times through pics :)

Anonymous- :)

Rakhi said...

Not any photos at all would be a little too drastic an action. Because I think we all like going through our old photos and reliving certain moments. What helps is to strike a balance. And to write a travelogue. No matter how carelessly scribbled. I have some wonderful records of a trip to Italy about 3 years back, all because I used to write my impressions at the end of the day. Or at least once in two days or so.