In September of 2007, I took my last solo trip. I went to DrupalCon Barcelona, and then spent nine days on my own, staying at hostels and wandering the streets of Barcelona.
When the battery on my point-and-shoot died, I did the most logical thing: I walked into a Spanish mall and bought a brand new Canon DSLR -- retail price, in Euros. It would be many years before I had a savings account again, but I got great photos that day, and I never regretted my extravagant purchase.
The next Christmas, I bought Jer a Canon DSLR, and -- as part of the most un-ironic gift exchange ever -- he bought me a 50mm 1.4 lens, which remains my very favorite lens to this day. Photography has been central to our lives together, along with travel, adventure, and (more recently) kids.
Photography is one of the few things I do that intrinsically brings me joy. I had begun to ask myself what it would take for me to be able to call myself a photographer, and had begun some formal training.
And that's when disaster struck. In December of 2014, I was perusing my albums to assemble a holiday card, and suddenly, all of my images began disappearing from Aperture! Mass deletion of every photo I'd taken! It was so devastating that Aperture literally reached onto the internet and began deleting my photos from Flickr, too.
My backups were inadequate, and it seemed there was nothing I could do until I found a hard disk recovery tool that was able to scan the data sectors and reassemble images. But the resulting images were nameless and unorganized; a jumble of everything from that hard drive, including previews, derivatives, browser cache files. No names, labels, or folders.
I started fresh, importing these images into Adobe Lightroom, automatically renaming them and reorganizing them based on the capture time, which was still stored in image metadata. The collection was over a terabyte. Some images had up to eight copies, in various resolutions, file formats, and edit states. Many images were corrupted.
What do you do, at this point? Do you move on, ignoring the dupes? My catalog was too unwieldy for the storage I had available. Do you archive it all and begin again? I definitely considered that, but it was heartbreaking to consider leaving these memories behind.
Delving into the broken catalog has left me with a pit in my stomach. Some of my better photos corrupted beyond repair, and with all of the dupes, it's impossible to find the image I'm looking for without emotional drain. I tried to just suck it up and move on, but I've found that I just haven't wanted to take photos much at all.
I took a swing at cleaning things up when this happened, but basically gave up. This month, I got a new laptop with enough storage to manage the work-in-process, and enough horsepower to deal with the catalog without getting too bogged down.
It took several long days, but I just now clicked 'confirm' on the last of my delete operations. The last 100GB of bad data, and a new beginning for my photo editing workflow. I may try to double down on seeking out a handful of images that didn't come through, but for the most part, my ordeal is over.
It has been one hell of an emotional journey to painstakingly review each of the 35,000 photos I've taken during the past decade. It's me; it's us - finding our way as a new couple, and then focusing on building our lives together. We used to travel often, nationally and abroad at least once per year. We were divers and adventures once, though we temporarily feel restricted to being parents and homeowners. There's all of my work and community involvement and the way I've entwined my professional/personal life and hobbies, and that leaves me with many complicated feelings.
It's my entire identity over the past ten years - how I wanted to present the world, and how I wanted to present myself.
I'm mentally and emotionally exhausted, but it's a good time in my life to go through this process. It's important to look backwards, sometimes, but now I feel just a little more free to focus on what's ahead.