Let me just say straight away that I am 100% at fault. I heard what people said and dismissed it. I heard the horror stories of people who didn’t heed the advice of “professionals” and discounted them. I’d harboured a mistrust of those handling that mysterious “cloud” data so didn’t investigate it. All that complacency and mistrust of “The Man” did was lead me into losing thousands upon thousands of photos I’d taken since around 2005 when I got my first digital camera.
To make a long story short, last week I plugged an external terabyte storage device into my laptop, the device with all my photos on it, and it failed to connect. That was the exact moment panic swept across my entire being. To make matters even more unsettling, we were leaving for a weekend trip so I’d have to wait until we got back to figure it out. I tried all weekend not to think about the “worst case scenario”, but it was hard not to.
Once we got home, I took it to some experts to see what the problem was and see if the data could be retrieved. The ugly verdict was the drive was fatally corrupted and there was less than a 5% chance they could extract any of the that data, even a little bit…at a cost between $500 and $1,500…with no guarantee. Ouch.
As I drove home from the data recovery place, it felt as though someone had kicked me right in the crotch with one of those fancy pointy-toed cowboy boots. The thing that made it doubly worse is I knew it was my own fault. I owned this one 100%, period.
But before I was home, I sort of came to terms with the loss. There was no more wondering if I could get those photos back because I couldn’t. I’m not saying it didn’t sting, but there was nothing I could do and the pain from that initial gut punch subsided. The unknown was now known, as ugly as it was.
I knew I had to let it go, and I did.
As I thought about everything on that drive, the photos I was most devastated about were my travel photos, especially from my sabbatical in Nepal, India and Bangladesh. My extended travel there was one of those times in my life where I can point directly at it and say the experiences literally changed my DNA. Honestly, I could’ve easily pulled over and cried for a day or two over losing those photos alone, but at the same time I felt sort of at peace. I knew in my soul I hadn’t lost the experiences, only lost the material representations of those experiences. In fact, the experiences there are what allowed me to accept losing the photos.
Over this past week, losing the photos has obviously still been on my mind, but it’s not consuming me. I can’t say I’m laughing about it just yet, but at least I’m not nauseous anymore. I’ve purchased a couple more multi-terabyte storage drives and some cloud space to store things going forward with hopes this will never happen again. You could say I’m now working under the title of the “Department of Redundancy Department”.
I lived, I learned.
On a positive note, my buddy Jason who I traveled to Nepal/India/Bangladesh with still had some of the photo CDs I’d burned for him so I’m gratefully getting those back. A few other friends have sent me photos I’d taken of them in the past, so there’s that. I’d made prints of my favourite or more meaningful images from all of my travels so I still have those. I know I’ll never be able to get everything back, but at least there is something.
I’ve also decided to keep the corrupt external drive for a while with hopes that technology may advance to the point where something can be harvested from it. Not overly optimistic, but you never know.
I’m now looking at this miscue as a catharsis of sorts. Yes I lost the photos, but it also makes me appreciate all the associated experiences that much more. I’ve thought about all the travels and life experiences more this week than I have in years, which has been absolutely wonderful. Who knows, maybe this will even put me on a new path to becoming a better photographer, one who appreciates and treasures every single image I produce even more…and one who backs up their work in more than one place.
Climb high. Ski fast. Live simply.