Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The sorting gene

I like sorting. I can't really say why. I remember when I was little having great fun sorting my Halloween candy. I wasn't allowed to eat more than a piece or two (sugar problems), but Mom always let me play with it for a while. Certain activities seem to appeal to that part of my brain--"It's like sorting!" is something Doug has often heard me say when trying out a new computer game.

My sister Betsey also has the sorting gene. We were discussing this once, and she said, "Yeah, if somebody took a thirty-pound bag of beans and dumped them out and told me to sort them, I'd be perfectly happy." (At first I thought she'd said beads but later clarified that it was beans. Thirty pounds would be a lot of beads. Especially if they were those little seed beads.) Betsey has worked in jobs where she sorts and catalogs bees, and is apparently very good at it. I'm not really sure about the rest of my family (well, there's my dad, who is an engineer, as I have mentioned). I suspect most of them have sorting tendencies as well.

I don't know if the sorting gene and the do-it-the-hard-way gene are generally found together, but here's what can happen when they combine.

I take a lot of pictures. Quite a lot. The phrase "too many" has occasionally been uttered in connection with my picture-taking habits. I knew I was going to need a way to store and keep track of all these photos. I decided that I was not only going to burn my files onto CDs, but also make a contact sheet for each disk. It's a rather complicated process.

The first thing I have to do is get my photos into a group less than 700MB in size, for burning onto a CD. I'll take a quick run through and delete any obviously bad shots, like the ones that are really blurry, or the ones where I have my eyes half-closed and look like a doofus. I don't usually spend a lot of time picking out photos to delete, but it depends on what kind of mood I'm in. If time is money, I figure it's cheaper to just store them all than spend five minutes agonizing over which of the two microscopically-different pictures of Kate is cuter. If I have a bunch of pictures from one event and I'm just a few over 700MB, I'll often take the time to pick out a few to discard, but otherwise I don't worry about one event spilling over onto the next CD. I do all this in Digital Photo Professional, which came with my camera.

I shoot in RAW, so in order to make a contact sheet I have to convert the pictures to jpgs. A CD of RAW files tends to run between 85 and 95 pictures (it varies, I think, depending on the complexity of information captured in the image) and it takes a while to convert them all. I like to start a set converting while I go eat, or take a shower, or something. Then after I have all the jpgs in a folder, I go to Photoshop (under File > Automate) and make a contact sheet. This also takes a couple of minutes.

This is what the finished contact sheet looks like. Each sheet gets named according to the date of the first photo (Asian style, year-month-day). If I have more than one set from the same day, I'll use letters after the date. All the contact sheets are saved in a folder on my hard drive. Eventually I'd like to have a year's worth of sheets bound together in a book (probably somewhere like blurb.com), but I haven't gotten that far yet.

When I burn the RAW files onto CD (this can be done before or after making the contact sheet), the CD also gets named with the date of the first photo, so it matches the contact sheet. On the disk I write the beginning and ending date, and the first and last image file numbers, and a brief description of the photos. I burn two copies, on two different brands of CD. (The backups should be stored at somebody else's house, but at the moment they are still here.)

This may seem like a cool system. It's also very time-consuming and you may notice that I'm a year and a half behind. I got a bit more done over the weekend, so I'm feeling like a good little photo-historian again. (Yay!)

None of this means that I'm an organized person, which you would know if you saw my house.


MOM said...

I used to go bonkers over sorting my grandmothers buttons into muffin tins, so I guess I've got the sorting gene too. Come to think of it I do a lot of sorting now, only I do it with information. I guess you could say I've become a synthesizer. Over the years I've been building an index of topics that interest me and as I find information I want to save I plug it into it's appropriate place. It's really great fun, and has often provided good resources for talks. Some topics have pages and pages of stuff.

I've also got 4 small spiral-bound notebooks in which I've been collecting quotes and scriptures that interest me--kind of my own little "Topical Guide." It's really quite fun to read down the page and see how often they really do fit well together even though they are from different sources.

One of my favorites has been scriptures that contain the word "all." The only one I remember right now is "What I say unto one, I say unto all…"

This is getting really long, so I will stop.

Love, Mom

MOM said...

Oops. Sorry about the "it's." I know stuff like that bugs an English major. That's what I get for going too fast. :-) OH well.

Helena said...

LOL! *I* wasn't going to say anything!

Amy Sorensen said...

I think my kids enjoy sorting their candy post trick-or-treating more than they like the actual trick-or-treating itself! I'm fascinated by your process. I back up on DVDs and on the external hard drive, and as I am stuck in the dark ages with an ancient laserjet (no color), I don't do the contact sheet. But I have had those five-minute decisions of which picture to keep. Drives me bonkers sometimes!

evitangel said...

great blog!

RedMolly said...

Hey, I might be contacting you about possibly stealing some of this for a potential article about digital photography workflow. Well, I guess this counts as contacting you. Anyway... what do you think?

(Ditto on the bean sorting. That sounds relaxing as heck.)