Weeding isn’t just for gardening

So I’m thinking about making the switch to a Mac. Yeah, finally, right? But that’s not what this post is about. As part of the decision I have to take a look at my Lightroom catalog and how big it is. The reason is because it’s on an external hard drive and that drive will need to be reformatted for Mac. It has to be moved somewhere for that to happen and so it has to be small enough for that transfer. While I could just probably squeak it by, I decided to do a major purge.

These days hard drives are dirt cheap relatively speaking. I spent most of my career working for computer VARS selling servers, laptops and desktops. Many of the servers I configured had less drive and memory totals than the laptop I’m typing on. Next to me is an 8 terabyte drive. It cost a few hundred bucks and is roughly 8 by 6 by 1 inch. Eight terabytes! Back in the 90s it was practically inconceivable in terms of both capacity, size and most importantly; dollars per gigabyte. Dirt. Cheap. And it fits in my purse. OMG.

That’s partly what led to my catalog bloat. I could afford to keep everything. It didn’t really matter how big the catalog got so long as I could find and afford a new hard drive. I think my first one was 500gb, then I got a 2tb and now the 8 with a 5gb as a back up/portable drive. But enough is enough. So I’ve been going through years and years worth of photos that I’ve never looked at again and never will.

At first it was hard. I dithered. I agonized. I proposed outlandish what-if scenarios in my head where I’d need that EXACT image and it would be gone.

The brook at Pulpit Rock, Bedford, NH

What crap. 90% of what’s in my vast assemblage of RAW files should be deleted and should have been years ago. Sentimentalizing bad photography is just silly. Why did I have 52 pictures of the exact same violet in my NH front yard? The flower isn’t rare, it isn’t special and once I had my shot, why did I keep all the ones I didn’t use? If I want a more perfect photo of a violet, there are plenty in my WI front yard that I can work with. So into the great void where all 1s and 0s go.

Senter Falls brook, Wilton, NH

In addition to being kind of an emotional wrench at first, it was also overwhelming in just a sheer numbers respect. I had approximately 105,000 files in my catalog. Looking at all of it was like trying to drink from the firehose. At first I selected unflagged photos and that worked ok, but still a lot to go through. There had to be a way to filter things for better efficiency. Then I decided to use a combination of unflagged and unedited. Those would get the X of shame; a reject and be deleted. The rest could stay in the collection. When I was unsure about a picture, I’d hit it with the Auto button in the Quick Develop panel. Even if it isn’t perfect, it improves a photo to the point where I can decide if it stays or goes.

And a few got my attention enough to process. I didn’t do a lot of it on the spot, but created a Collection called Review to hold these for later.

After a while, if I don’t get to what’s in the Review Collection, I’ll delete them, too.

Indian pipe
Rough around the edges

But here are a few worthies that made it. Some just fell through the cracks, but others had aspects that needed to be fixed, but I either didn’t know how or didn’t have the right software to do it. With the addition of Topaz Denoise & Sharpen, Zerene and Photoshop to my workflow, they can be finished the way they need in order to look their best.

Atlantic White Cedar swamp at Loverens Mill, Antrim, NH

And it’s been fun going through my photos to remember the places I’ve been and how I think I’ve grown as a photographer. So as I pull stuff out of the archives, I’ll either do a dedicated post like this or put them up in the Wordless Wednesday rotation. Some from this post have featured already.

2 thoughts on “Weeding isn’t just for gardening

Add yours

  1. Ha-ha! I can SO relate to what you said about having ridiculous numbers of photos of the same thing. Aaaargh! It certainly can be daunting to go thru all those old photos. Not sure when I’ll ever get to it.

    And thanks for the reminder about the Cedar Swamp. I’ve still never gone there, so I just printed out their brochure and will try to go this spring. It’s not so far away!

    1. Loveren’s Mill is a great place to explore. There’s a river that runs through it, I forget which one, but you can access it at different points including where the mill was. The cedar swamp is to one side and is really lovely. Hopefully the boardwalk has been upgraded or repaired since I was last there.

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