Monday, January 28, 2013

Proud (sort of) ... but my ramble goes on farther... how do our photos live on?

Well, I finally entered bird observations from my deck for this year into eBird. I record them daily - at least once in the morning while having coffee and working Sudoku.Whee! I am up to date, and proud!

Well, sort of ... I have a stack of records from last year to enter. They go back to August! Not so proud about this. The good thing is I have records.

OK, "stuff happens" and I kinda dropped out of posting records, and blogging, and so on ... for months. It is a new year, and I am hopeful I can do better.

I know I will post the past sightings to eBird over time - say a couple weeks every day or so? That will do it. It is easy when the weather is lousy in winter. I think I can handle this! Come Spring with new birds arriving - well, I can't promise anything. Gotta do it now.

But what of the thousands of pics taken during the same time period last year? They are all backed up on an external hard drive, and also to DVDs, but never "worked up"!

Funny thing this digital age! I can shoot hundreds of pics on one outing (free!!!), but then the time is needed to delete, process, post, share - it is too much!

In the "old days" of film, I could not afford it. On a week outing to amazing places in the West, I would take perhaps four rolls of  36 pics at a maximum - if that. Oh! I SO wish I had digital back then!!! I long to revisit the memories only captured in my mind! Yes, then I tried harder for a good shot. I think I was a better photographer before multiple pics and computer tools to crop and fix! I only took one from any vantage point. Now with birds (that I never tried to shoot then), I know they only give me fleeting glimpses, so I hold down the button and hope to get one decent one! Shoot, shoot! Amazing technology.

I traveled the entire West Coast - from Mexico to Canada - stopping at almost all ocean access sites in pursuit of seaweeds. In addition, as Associate Director of Biology Semester (a 16-unit non-biology-major course) at USC, I led week-long trips each year to at least five different habitats in California each year for three years. Oceans, deserts, mountains! We always took a cadre of experts with us. Everyone wanted to participate in an adventure that offered free food and great times outdoors! We normally had a botanist (me), a herpetologist, a mammalogist, an entomologist and a geologist. For deserts we added an astronomer (what clear skies in the desert! Oh the rings of Saturn!) and often several more biology grad students. And, we always had our staff psychologist with us. When a class spends the entire semester together, the psychologist really helped! The class was a "full load" - i.e., no other courses - and we met for lectures in a "shack" (really an older building on campus) with couches, beanbags, etc. Very informal.

Amazing times! Oh, what I would give for more photos!!!

I do have many Kodachrome slides (Geez! Anyone remember that word other than from a Simon and Garfunkle song?), but they also now need "processing". I need to scan them - one at a time - into my computer to fix them.

Yes - those pics and the thousands of ones from last year and years before await attention. Is it too much to think about? Definitely!!!

Forget it! I think I will just go birding instead! I know I will take more pics and be overwhelmed again. Maybe this year I will be better about doing at least something for sharing my pics. I intend to. I hope so!

And, just maybe, I will share some stuff from last year. At least I will try.

I think I will get caught up with eBird fairly soon. I feel strongly that this is a contribution I can make to birding to give back at least in a small way. Sure, the records of special birds (new for area, new at certain times of year) are important, but I think what really will count over many years is consistent reporting of birds from the same place throughout the year. It is called "data". Data means lots of records - not just special birds - but more importantly, volumes of records that can then be analyzed statisically to see what patterns emerge. Hey! Over many, many years, maybe my deck will give some data about global warming?!  

Oh, since I mentioned photos, one more thought. What happens to all of our pics when we pass to our new adventure? Even if we post them, who will maintain the sites in perpetuity? And, what will kids do with the photographic legacy on hard drives and DVDs? I am sure the answer is nothing. Not being harsh about the kids, but how would they even know what was good enough to save except maybe family pics? And, if I cannot find the time to process pics, how would they ever do it?

In "the old days", the Smithsonian Institution had a national charter to preserve all collections for perpetuity. Collections then meant actual specimens. Now, "collections" takes on an entirely new meaning! Birds are "collected" as records in eBay (hopefully accurate!) and/or as photos. I know many great birders who are also photographers (with great lenses!) who have amazing collections of photos! What will happen to these photos as they join me birding in the New Adventure? I doubt any organization has the charter, and certainly never the funding (!), to conserve/preserve a national photographic legacy! Case in  point, local bird photographer Richard Sleeman passed within the last couple of years. He had the most amazing collections of photos and was shooting with maybe $15,000 worth of stuff on a tripod. Where did his legacy go?

It is too much to consider at length!

No, my photos are mostly not national archive quality. I take them for myself to enjoy and share. And as a record from which I can ask experienced birders for a confirming ID (thank you all so much!). And to offer to eBird for the very rarely requested confirmation of a good record. (I love it when they do that! It means it might be interesting - or that I missed the ID...)

With this, I just offered a thought imbedded in a "ramble".

OK. Done. I started out patting myself on the back for getting my eBird up-to-date this year, then launched into a ramble  ... as I am wont to do. Well, that is just another glimpse into the wandering mind of "Dr. Bob". I hope it gave y'all some birdy fodder for your own rambling thoughts.

Go bird! Shoot pics! Share with me on Facebook and the Birder's List. Post on eBird. Do as I say, and not as I sometimes do not do! :) And, please try to not "get wrapped around the axle" of overwhelming possibilities as I seem to have done last year...

New year! New possibilities! Let us experience it together!


Kim S. said...

I share your concerns about what will happen to our online photos and data when we're gone, Dr. Bob. Have you ever heard of the Wayback Machine? It's a project of the Internet Archive, a 501(c)(3) organization working to preserve digital data for future generations. I first learned of it when I was working toward my Master of Library and Information Science degree, but haven't paid too much attention to it recently though. Here's the link to the Wayback Machine ( and make sure to click the "About" tab and explore the site a bit. It might give you a little peace of mind about your stuff.

dAwN said...

If you doing ebird regularly you should be proud! That's great..I try to, but have been slacking lately

"Dr. Bob" said...

Kim - I really think more about what will happen with my physical objects (including digital files! but also old pics, family heirlooms, etc.) when I pass. But, with the insight from you, I need to consider what I can put digitally on the internet. Of course I tend to worry - here about sharing too much and easy access from others of hacking talent - but this was a wonderful reference!!! Thanks SO much! I will definitely explore more, and pass along to others!

"Dr. Bob" said...

Dawn - Geez! Get it together! Like what do you have to do besides traveling, enjoying life to the fullest, and sharing the best of the internet with us all? :) (We will see how it lasts for me this year - like it is winter now and we are not "out and about" much ...)