The Lean Year of Photography

250 – that's the approximate number of photos I took and kept from April of 2020 until the end of the year. Normally, I could easily take that many or more at a concert. Once the pandemic set in, those stopped happening. With my primary photographic passion abruptly taken away, I was left wondering what to do with my camera.

There are other things I like to photograph. Cars and bikes...oh yeah, we don't have those events right now either. Urban wandering used to be fun too. The joy just wasn't there anymore and I failed to find it. Anything I tried with the camera felt forced.

While I didn't take many photos in 2020, I did do a lot of cleanup of my library. I've deleted over 10,000 photos so far and I'm still not done. Why the big purge? Well, photos tend to accumulate like emails and you don't think about how many you have until your drive or cloud account starts filling up. I know plenty of photographers who have arrays of drives with multiple terabytes of data. That's not for me. Pre-pandemic I was at about 750GB in my main photo library that lives in the Adobe cloud. Today I'm at 430GB and expect to be even less as I find time to declutter further.

I'm not deleting anything I value, just the clutter that has built up. Things like HDR brackets that I don't want any more, pairs of raw and JPG files (I keep one or the other, not both, preferring the JPG unless I have a compelling reason to keep the raw), things that don't have any significance any longer – those sorts of things. I'm either “hell yeah” about an image or it gets ditched. No “meh” or maybes.

Just because I wasn't taking many photos didn't mean I wasn't creating. I actually created quite a few photo books. Going through my library with a critical eye helped me identify the images that I truly feel strongly about and I committed a bunch to paper and ink. Thinking in terms of a book really helps the cleanup effort. I really prefer to view photos in print and if I'm not willing to commit an image to a spot in an inexpensive book, is it really worth keeping?

I miss being out there in the music scene with my camera. That day will come again. Nothing else really does it for me like capturing the energy of performers on stage. I've got plenty of work to do until the shows return. I needed to get my library cleaned up for a long time and it was always a “one of these days” sort of thing. Due to the pandemic, one of these days is now.