Technologies, necessary and otherwise (part two)

Earlier this week, I blogged about GPS technology and how one photographer, Lowell, had found a great use for that particular technology, one that does not interest me in the least. Another photographer, Michael, recently wrote me about another technological question he had issues with. I know now how he and I deal with the technology in question, but we wondered about others.

The issue that Michael was discussing is the computer itself, which has become the core of so much of photography these days. Though digital imaging has brought millions of new people to photography (a good thing) it has also brought a whole new set of challenges to the non computer literate (a bad thing.) As he wrote, “…the problem with all of this is that to do modern photography, requires knowledge and discipline in the use of computer technology.”

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He was asking the question on a higher level than in terms of his own experience, because besides being a photographer, he is a technology consultant with a major information infrastructure company. He was in the process of switching to a Mac system from a Windows based system and marveling at the different technological strategies of the two different computer platforms. He is fully fluent in the languages of computers but wondered about others less skilled than he.

The issue is that many photographers indeed do not completely have the “knowledge … in the use of computer technology.” I am continually learning about that and it often feels like a never-ending quest. Though I am not sure when it will happen but, I know the day will come when I will say “enough,” and decide not learn the next new computer technology. Right now, I say “enough” regularly, basically whenever I encounter a problem with my computer(s) that goes beyond my limited understanding of such machines.

My first source of information is the web, my second is my wife and the third is outside professionals, like the Apple store staff. In my case, there usually is an answer to be found and I am always willing to spend the time/money to get the issue resolve because I know the importance of “knowledge and discipline in the use of computer technology.”

But Michael’s real concern was for those photographers who do not have such a system for answering their escalating technological challenges. That group could be further subdivided, into those who can find the resources to get their questions answered and those who cannot (or will not.) People in that last group have a bad tendency to, in essence, punt. While some people spend the money for the information they need, many put off the question till another day. Typically that means the problem is never really resolved. For example, their storage systems may become exponentially more convoluted because they do not understand computer hierarchies, to the point where they can no longer find old images.

Which of course is a tragedy, for them, for the people who value their images such as their families, and for our collective community of photographers. For that set of photographers, computers really could be a potential detriment to their photography. That is even though computers (as in digital imaging) suddenly made the once inaccessible world of photography accessible to them.

But there is another set of photographers who lack the “…. discipline in the use of computer technology.” These are the folks who can (and often do) have a grasp of the concepts driving computers. They even understand how those machines organize information. These people are the ones who lack the discipline to use what they actually know in order to back up and organize their imagery.

The reason I am differentiating these various types of photographers is because though they may blame computers for their problems with their image organizing systems, the latter set of people would have been just as disorganized in a film-based world. In fact, some of those photographers who worked in film-based imaging have carried many of their same bad habits over to the digital world. My point is that in some ways, computers can be real hurdle, but in many cases they are little more than an excuse.

The fact is that technology has always played a big part in photography. Some people are truly befuddled by that technology and some simply use it as an excuse. My point is that such things happened before computers, and will still likely happen when photography moves through whatever inevitable technological paradigm shift lies ahead.

For those who do want to develop better “…. knowledge and discipline in the use of computer technology” there are some great resources on the web. One of my favorite sites for information on workflow for digital photography and best practices is http://www.dpbestflow.org/ They explore some of the peculiar issues that computer based digital photography brings to the table such as long term image storage, and ways to protect images. It is by no means complete but it is a great starting point. Another good one is found at: http://www.updig.org/ Neither of these are particularly stimulating “reads” but they are very important. Though the systems they offer will take time to learn and implement, a good digital imaging workflow cuts back on your computer time and reduces your frustration level with computers.

Michael ended his query with a great question. He suggested a theme for a future blog entry, but after I read his suggestion, I could not think of much more to add. He said “How about a blog about how photography is about photography not technology. It’s too easy to let the technology get front-and-center rather than the actual photography that is being used to capture/edit/create images.”

2 responses to “Technologies, necessary and otherwise (part two)”

  1. I’ll admit, that i’m a poster child for the latter category, lack the “…. discipline in the use of computer technology.”

    Sad to say I actually work as technology consultant in then enterprise data protection space but I’m not completely thorough about personal protection methodologies.

    As DHW can attest, based on previous discussion, i do have some methodology for protecting my original images with copies stored on my mac, another set on a PC and copies synched to an enterprise class storage server. That said, since moving to a Mac I hadn’t instituted any of things that wise and intelligent mac users do to protect their boot disk with all their applications and settings (e.g. time machine backups, frequent cloning of the boot drive to another drive or drives). I had only protected the data.

    So..when I managed to, in a self inflicted manner, while trying to upgrade to snow leopard, mangle my OSX boot drive and in the process made all my settings and installed applications go “poof” I was bereft of a backup or disaster recovery means to get back to where I had started.

    Don’t cry for me, because other than being not completely disciplined, I use self inflicted technological injuries to learn and make things better. I now know more about the guts of OSX which were previously hazy to me. Because I’m somewhat good at what I do I had my mac pro back up and running on snow leopard with all my applications re-installed, and with a new methodology of organizing my data to benefit lightroom catalog management in just a few days.

    The next step will be consistently automatically cloning my OSX boot disk to another disk for recovery from accidental or self inflicted disasters.

    As sadly expert on Windows I gladly lived through this experience on a Mac. It would have been a far greater disaster and slower recovery on a windows system.

  2. I think that the best summation about that theme is:

    “When you’re up to your neck in alligators, it’s easy to forget that the initial objective was to drain the swamp.”

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