As digital photographs have increased in file size, they have posed a problem for those of us with limited storage space. As my hard drive is bumping up against its maximum capacity, I’m faced with some difficulties in how to address this problem. I’m not a huge fan of cloud services, but that option is off the table for the time being due to my budget. My computer is not going to accommodate a hard drive upgrade, and frankly sinking money into a soon to be obsolete device seems inadvisable. Instead I am going for an external hard drive. It’s a bit limited in its own rights, and probably more susceptible to critical failure, but I need to figure out something before I bump up into zero storage space.
My other tactic to address this problem is to weed out “unusable” or “valueless” photos. My problem is defining those terms. In arthropod photography, there tend to be a lot of near hits, as it were; and I tend to be conservative in what I toss into the virtual trash bin. I like to have a record of the subjects shot on any given day, so I will usually keep at least one blurry, aesthetically devoid shot just to know what I saw (and tried to shoot). But I’ve decided, especially for common subjects, the value in this is exceeded by the value of opening up hard drive space. The other main consideration holding up the trash-impulse for me, is that some of my out of focus shots have a certain aesthetic appeal that captures my imagination and chokes my conviction to free up space for more perfected shots. The above mud dauber shot is one that has only a single leg in any kind of focus, but the bokeh effect of the sun shining off its metallic blue body put it over the top for me to save and make use of.
Sometimes I feel a little twisted in my gut throwing a photo away. Sometimes I feel that liberating buoyancy that comes with tossing out old things that have surpassed any actual or imagined usefulness. Going back further in my archives, I noticed many shots I had taken with the idea of focus stacking at a later date (presumably when I had acquired some stacking software; still waiting on that one). The problem was the sets of shots were not complete enough (and worse, were often at much too misaligned angles) to make a usable stack; too many interspersed unfocused slices of the would-be image. Shots like these were easy to dispose of, as they had no real value in comparison to the single frames I had taken to stand on their own. With my gigabytes in danger of running out, I am developing a better sense, a more intuitive sense, of what has value to me and what doesn’t. The funny thing is valuations change as we change, but there’s no predicting how a life will go. I’ll only know what I’ve lost when it’s lost, and sometimes that isn’t until time passes. Sometimes the thing lost is the memory of something else, and there’s no loss without memory. In the meanwhile, considerations of losses and gains (in hard drive space) aside, the purge will continue.