A 1955 baby book with a blue cover. A white lamb appears in a field of flowers.

Combining Multi-TIFF Files

When digitizing my family’s memorabilia, I have elected to use the TIFF file format for all photographs. I am using the multi-TIFF format for documents like brochures, wedding certificates, and baby books. Sometimes the scanner freezes before I am finished scanning an item, which means I have to save my multi-TIFF file before it is complete. Rather than scan everything again, I have discovered I can finish the scanning, save a second multi-TIFF file, and then use the Preview app on my iMac to combine the two multi-TIFF files.

Why multi-TIFF?

Both of my scanners, an Epson V600 and a Canon MX922, supposedly enable me to scan documents as multi-TIFF files. But, I run into various problems, including error messages before I have finished scanning the entire document and scanning as multi-TIFF but the output files end up being separate TIFF files (instead of a single multi-TIFF file). I know multi-TIFF files are not common (I have had multiple folks tell me they have never heard of such files), but they are lossless. As I archive family memorabilia, I want my archive files to be lossless, knowing I can always create a copy in other file formats for various purposes. So, I am attempting to proceed with multi-TIFF files for select memorabilia. I didn’t find much help regarding manipulation of multi-TIFF files. I’m documenting my experience in case it helps others.

Multi-TIFF problems with the Epson V600 and Epson Scan 2

I made the following selections in Epson Scan 2:

On the left, a scanning application window shows scan settings selected; on the right, the cover of a baby book appears, ready to be scanned.
I checked the box to add or edit pages, and I selected Multi-TIFF as my image format.

I hit Preview, set my marquee (the dotted lines around the baby book cover), and then hit Scan. After the scan pass, the Add Page window appears:

A window from a scanning application. It reads, "Add Page" at the top. There are four options to select, each with a very brief descritpion.
None of these options yield the desired result.

Add seemed to be the obvious choice here, since I had only scanned one page and I had 18 more to go. But wait! Do not select Add before placing page 2 of the document – when one selects Add from this window, the scanner proceeds to scan. Unfortunately, this means you cannot set the marquee for any subsequent images. That’s a problem, because I don’t place my images in the upper right corner (where the scanner has an arrow directing placement). If you place an item into this corner, some of the item is cut off during the scan. So, I always place my items on the scanner bed, about 1/2” distant from any scanner edges. But that means I always need to adjust the marquee a bit, because I never place subsequent items in exactly the same position as the first item.

I tried selecting Edit instead:

A window from a scanning application is titled, "Editing Page." The image of a baby book cover appears and is selected; there are options to reorder and to rotate. A user can also choose to Add, Cancel, or Save.
An improvement over the Add Page window, but still not the flexibility I desire.

This was marginally better. Remember after your first scan, you won’t have a preview option for any subsequent pages in your document. But, you can view each page from this window, and if you don’t like the results (crooked, partially cut off), you can delete a particular page, reset the document as best as possible (remember, no preview available), and continue in this manner until you get acceptable results for each and every page. If that sounds tedious, it is! And, the results still weren’t as good as I desired for archival purposes (I wanted to be able to adjust a marquee before each and every scan).

I decided this was a good time to switch scanners.

Multi-TIFF problems with the Canon MX922 and Image Capture

I made the following selections in Image Capture:

A window for the Image Capture application shows the first page of a baby book on the left side and selected settings on the right side.
I selected Format: TIFF and checked the box for combining into a single document.

Placing the document and then selecting the Overview button allowed me to draw the marquee appropriately. The scanning took longer with this device and software, but I plugged along. At least, until I received an error message. The Scan button disappeared, so the only option was to close the application and save whatever pages I had scanned into a single file. This has happened to me multiple times when scanning with this device and Image Capture – before I finished with a long (10 or more pages) document, the scanner and/or Image Capture stopped working.

I elected to save the multi-TIFF file (with the first 11 pages of the baby book) and do some research.

Combining two multi-TIFF files using Preview on a Mac

I had 11 pages scanned, with 8 more to go. I started scanning again, with page 12, and finished. At this point I had two multi-TIFF files that I wanted to combine into a single multi-TIFF file. I thought that I found some assistance online, but none of the links I reviewed helped me to resolve my issue. Here’s what I figured out:

  1. Select both multi-TIFF files in Finder.
  2. Right click and open in Preview (mine opened in two different windows).
  3. Select one of the files as the “base” file, and drag pages from the second file into the base file.
  4. Save the base file once all pages have been added from the second file (the pages will still be present in the second file, they are being duplicated in the base file).

Once you have all pages in the base file, Preview’s Contact Sheet view makes it easy to arrange the pages as you wish:

A window from the Preview app on a Mac; it shows 19 baby book pages and a drop-down list in the upper left. This window allows the user to view all 19 pages at a single time, making it easier to reorder them.
Use the Contact Sheet view in Preview to reorder pages.

This workflow only worked for me if the files were both multi-TIFF files. I tried this workflow with a series of TIFF files (each with one image). If selected in Finder at one time, when opened in Preview, they appeared as shown below:

A Preview window showing a series of images on the left, in a single column. On the right is the top image, which is the cover of a baby book.
This is how single TIFF images appear in Preview; no way to combine them.

I was unable to save a single multi-TIFF file from this window.

When I opened two TIFF files (each with a single image) in separate windows, I was unable to combine them (dragging didn’t work) to build a multi-TIFF file.

Summary

I don’t have a solution for building a multi-TIFF file from a series of single TIFF files, but I did figure out how to combine two multi-TIFF files; I assume this process would work for more than two multi-TIFF files.

What if you want to undo your multi-TIFF file? That’s easy, and there are plenty of articles on how to do so. To create multiple TIFF files from a multi-TIFF file, just drag each page from the multi-TIFF to the Desktop using Preview.

For archival purposes, I am saving the multi-TIFF files to my hard drive (which has multiple backups). For sharing with family, I separate the multi-TIFF files into single TIFF files and upload them to Lightroom. I am not aware of any photo managing software that handles multi-TIFF files. Once the individual images are loaded into Lightroom, I elect to stack them.

The back of a photograph with a date of November 1952. The "2" is crossed out and replaced with a "3."

Front and Rear

Consider the rear of your images as you are digitizing. Perhaps you want to preserve the handwriting of a deceased loved one, or your own childhood handwriting.  Maybe whatever was written there made you chuckle. You might want a record of the stamped photographer information or numbering from the development process.  Obviously, names and dates recorded on the rear can help you to organize your scanned images.  A note of caution:  based on my own experience, the information on the rear isn’t always correct; don’t get so deep into digitization mode that you fail to identify inconsistencies.  And what’s up with my use of the term “rear” instead of “back?”  

I miss their handwriting

My mother and father passed away in 2017 and 2018, respectively.  I did a so-so job of keeping cards and notes in their handwriting.  If I had known my mother would be diagnosed with Alzheimers in my early 30s, I would have kept more!  As her disease progressed, I did commit to preserving more items my father wrote to me.  When I find their handwriting on family photos that I am digitizing, I feel an urge to preserve it.  

Infrequently, the writing appears on the front.  I am not sure why my father chose green marking pen and the front of this photograph instead of the rear.  I could crop this out, or use a brushing tool to paint over it, but I plan to keep it just as I found it. 

A picture of an infant girl in a yellow dress. SUSAN is written in block capitals in the lower left corner of the photo. The photo has a light pink background.
My father’s block capitals in green marking pen.

Susy & Kenn

My eldest sister is 18 years older than me.  She left home in 1974, and she was married in 1975.  We don’t know the exact year of this photo, but she believes it was shortly after her marriage, so mid-1970s.  The family archive has several copies of this photo:  8 x 10”, 3.5 x 4.75”, and two wallet-size images.  On the back of one wallet image, someone wrote, “Susy & Kenn.”  It’s a child’s writing, so I am pretty sure it is mine.  This brought a grin to my face when I saw it, for several reasons.  I don’t remember calling her Susy.  I also think the spelling is interesting – I would have expected Suzie or Susie.  I also imagine the excitement of a newly-married couple having a photo taken together:  paying for copies in various sizes, wanting to share with family, and carefully monitoring the expense.  Even a wallet image would have been precious.  This was the 1970s, remember. Six-year-old me was probably pretty excited to receive this wallet photo.

A man on the left and a woman on the right pose for a formal portrait. The woman is wearing a pink sweater and has shoulder-length brown hair. The man is wearing a white button-down shirt and has a mustache.
My newly-married sister and her husband, ca mid-1970s.
The back of a wallet-sized photograph. In a child's handwriting is written: "Susy & Kenn."
Pretty neat printing for six years old.

A young mother, one year behind

I have only scanned about 30 images, but I have already encountered two errors on the part of my mother.  This image of Susan says 17 months old, with a date of November 1952.  But Sue was born in 1952, mid-year.  This is clearly November 1953, not 1952.

A 17-month old girl is standing in a driveway. A 1950s car is behind her in the garage. She is wearing pants, a coat, and a hat tied under her chin.
All bundled up for November in Ohio.
The back of a 1950s photo. A woman has written her daughter's full name, age, and the date taken (month, year).
I trust the number of months over the year.

For this series of formal portraits, most had both Sue’s age and the year on the rear.  One was completely blank; fortunately, my sister’s changing appearance over the years makes it clear where that particular photo belongs.  Another had only the age on the back (6), but then I noticed that the copyright stamp included a year with an “8” at the end.  It read, “19 8” – but I know it was the 1950s, so 1958. That would be the correct year for age 6.  One photo had a year and date, but they didn’t agree.  The age was 5, but the year was 1956 (age 5 would have been 1957).  By comparing the photos across the years, I was able to deduce that the age was correct, and the year was wrong.  Plus, my mother had the year wrong on that other photo (above), so she probably made the same mistake here. I am not judging my mother for getting the years wrong on two photos of her young daughter.  Time was probably moving very fast!

A screen shot of four images of a young girl. From left to right, she is age 3, 4, 5, and 6.
The second image had no date or age; the third image had the incorrect year; the last image only had the year in the photographer’s stamp.

Storing the rear image

I wanted to scan front and rear as multi-TIFF images, which my Epson scanner will do.  A multi-TIFF file has both images (front and rear) in a single TIFF file (just as you can have multiple pages in a PDF file).  However, I was only able to create multi-TIFF files successfully in the scanner’s Document mode; in Photo mode, the output was two separate TIFF files, not a single TIFF file.  Document mode is not acceptable to me for scanning photographs (the quality is insufficient), so I settled on scanning the front and rear as single TIFF files.  Below is an example of my file naming convention.

A screen shot of six filenames demonstrating the use of "front" and "rear" at the end of the filenames.
I want the front image to always appear before the rear image, so I avoided using the term “back.”

If I had used the term “back,” those images would have sorted before the corresponding “front” images (“b” comes before “f”).

Stacking images in Lr

I am using Lightroom (Lr) for managing my photos, and there is an ability to stack images.  Using this feature, I can associate the front and rear images in Lightroom and only display the front. 

Two 1950s photographs appear. A young girl on the left and a man and daughter on the right. Both have a small "2" in the upper right corner.
Both of these photographs have a single stacked image beneath them.

Simply click on the number in the upper right corner to display whatever is stacked:

An image appears on the left with a "2" beneath it. To the right, two other images appear. One is the front of a photograph, the other is the rear of the photograph.
Unstacking the images on the left shows the front and rear of the actual photograph.

Stacking is also useful when you have digitized a variety of related images.  These formal portraits and proofs from my sister’s senior year of high school are also stacked in Lightroom.

On the left, an image with an "8" under it appears. To its right are eight other images, each a bit different. They are of a female high school senior.
The eight senior portraits are unstacked in this screenshot.

Summation

I do not have an overwhelming number of photos with information on the rear.  Certainly, scanning the rear of photographs makes for a longer digitization process.  I intend to be selective.  I am not scanning the rear just because something appears there.  I consider whether the content has meaning to me or to others in my family and scan accordingly.

A 3.5" gray floppy disc with the label, Grandma. It is on a lime green background.

Letting Go

Part of digitizing a family’s memorabilia is acknowledging when to let something go.  Not every thing can be retrieved.  You can continue to regret what is lost, or accept that it was just not meant to be discovered.   Folks really do try to assist you in your quest, but despite everyone’s efforts, some things will not reveal themselves to you.  Focus on what you have instead of what remains elusive.  Keep moving forward.

A Single 3.5” Floppy Disk

My sister provided me with a select number of items to digitize on behalf of her family and our family.  One item was a 3.5” floppy disk labeled, simply, “Grandma.”  We imagined it to be a transcript of an interview that my nephew conducted with her, or a school paper he had written about her (she died in 2017, after living with Alzheimers for over a decade). My nephew graduated from high school in 2008, so we assume the disk dates to the 2000s.

A 3.5" gray floppy disc with the label, Grandma. It is on a lime green background.
This floppy disk promised a Grandma story but came up short.

Over four years ago, at a prior workplace, someone lent me a USB floppy drive that enabled me to read a bunch of 3.5” work disks.  I would have borrowed it again to read this single disk, but I don’t work there anymore or even live nearby.  The work experience did assure me that many floppies can still be read successfully, and that most of the documents on them can be opened in word processing software.  Based on this past experience, I was optimistic.

I researched buying a USB floppy drive.  I would only be using the drive to read a single disk, so buying one seemed impractical.  My husband suggested I locate a business that specializes in outdated media.  I found Reborn Audio/Video.  I called first, and was told the charge would be about $20.00.  I took a USB drive with me so that they could copy any files found on the floppy onto the USB drive for easy access by me when I returned home.  They even said they could finish it up that same day, as long as I dropped it off early.  This was during the COVID-19 pandemic, so they were only open one day a week.  I called later that same day and was told that there was nothing retrievable on the disk – that it appeared to be blank.  I wasn’t shocked, but I was disappointed.  I had expected to encounter difficulties actually opening and reading files on the disk, but it had not occurred to me that the disk itself might be blank.

I picked up the disk and the USB drive and brought them home.  I returned to the idea of buying a USB floppy drive.  Maybe a different drive would yield better results.  Maybe the person at the shop hadn’t done a thorough job.  They ended up not charging me, so I began wondering, “How do I even know they tried?  What if they got distracted by another project and just told me there was nothing on it to get me out of the shop?”  So, I researched purchasing a USB floppy drive.  I came across a helpful How-To Geek article from May 2020. I was happy to see I am not alone in still trying to retrieve data from old media.

The article provided terminology on what kind of device to search for.  I considered eBay as well as B&H.  The item at B&H was out of stock; I returned to eBay.  My husband pointed out that the quality of an older device from eBay would probably be better anyway.   I could buy a USB floppy drive for a few dollars more than what the gentleman at the shop had quoted me if he had been able to access and copy the files.  So, why not?  I made my first eBay purchase.  The drive arrived in the original box, with original packaging and even instructions!  It worked when I connected it to my iMac.  But, alas, when I inserted the floppy – it did indeed read as a blank disk. 

I am sure the employee at the shop really did look at the floppy.  I just wanted to believe there was something he had failed to do, or that his hardware couldn’t read the disk properly, or something.  But, it was not meant to be.  It’s blank.  Maybe it always was.  Maybe the Grandma file was lost years ago.  Per the text exchanges below, my nephew doesn’t even remember what was supposedly on this disk.

A text exchange between two people. An image of a 3.5" floppy disk appears, then the sender asks if the recipient remembers any details about the disk.
The recipient responds that he doesn't remember what the contents are. The sender ultimately informs the recipient that the disk was blank.

 As I write this, the disk is propped up on my desk.  Once I post this, it will be time to dispose of the empty Grandma floppy disk.  Whatever story it held (or never held) is gone.  I’ll focus instead on the many memorabilia items that we do have.  

An Idora Park Transcript

In August 2015, my 89-year-old father was interviewed by a graduate student at Ohio University.  The title of her research was, “Remembering Idora Park.” Idora Park was an urban amusement park on the south side of Youngstown, Ohio.  My father grew up in the nearby Fosterville neighborhood and worked there as a young man.  Idora Park’s famous ride was the Wildcat wooden roller coaster (per Wikipedia, in 1984, it was still ranked among the top 10 roller coasters in the world).  I recently finished a book about Youngstown titled, Steelworker Alley:  How Class Works in Youngstown, by Robert Bruno.  The book mentions wildcat (i.e., unauthorized) steel mill strikes multiple times, and it occurred to me that this is probably where the roller coaster got its name.  The book notes there was a local high school baseball squad with the name Wildcats.   

In addition to offering fun for the kids and families of Youngstown, Idora Park provided summertime employment; as someone who had visited the Park and worked there, my father was an ideal research participant.  He signed a consent form for the research project, and he kept a copy. On the consent form, my father checked “YES” for agreeing that a written transcript of his recorded interview could be placed in an appendix of the final product of the study.  He also indicated that he had been employed by the Park.  

This was exciting!  I wanted to locate the transcript, or perhaps even the recording. My father passed away in 2018, so hearing his voice again would be a true gift. I went online to locate the final product.  OhioLINK has an Electronic Theses & Dissertations Center, where it was easy to find the completed thesis:

A site for research at Ohio public universities. The screen shot shows a particular project, "Remembering Idora Park: Landscape, Memory, and Discourse in an Urban Amusement Park."

On page 9, the Table of Contents lists three Appendices:

Three appendices to a graduate thesis are listed as A, B, and C. They appear on pages 203, 205, and 207.
A portion of the Table of Contents from Sympson, M. (2016). Remembering Idora Park: Landscape, Memory, and Discourse in an Urban Amusement Park. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

My heart began to sink.  “Appendix B: Interview Participant Basic Information” didn’t sound like it would contain full transcripts of those interviewed.  I proceeded to page 205.  My father’s name appears there (last name in image below), but the information is indeed basic:

Eight lines from Appendix B appear. The columns include Name, Decade Began Visiting Idora Park, Former Employee (or not), and Hometown.
A portion of Appendix B from Sympson, M. (2016). Remembering Idora Park: Landscape, Memory, and Discourse in an Urban Amusement Park. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

OhioLINK does list the advisor.  I went to the Ohio University (OU) site, and he is still at OU.  I sent him an email, explaining the situation.  He reached out to the author on my behalf.  I was hoping that the detailed information was archived somewhere else at OU, but apparently not.  The author did indeed get in touch with me.  Unfortunately, for privacy reasons, she had deleted all relevant files after a period of time had elapsed.  She didn’t include the transcripts in the appendix based on advice from her committee, due to length concerns.  The author indicated that the only other place the transcripts might still exist is at her parents’ home.  She said she will check next time she is there.  She may or may not remember to do so; either way, I appreciate her taking the time to exchange a few emails with me about the situation.  

The missing transcript is another piece of memorabilia that felt like it was within reach, but in pursuing it, I came to realize it would remain inaccessible to me.  All I can do is take the time to read Megan Sympson’s thesis and capture a bit of what Idora Park was like for the many kids who enjoyed it and worked there over the years.  A quick search for my father’s name indicates he is referenced several places throughout the thesis.

People on a carousel. Three horses appear in the foreground.
Me on the Idora Park carousel, which now resides in Brooklyn, New York.

Negatives and Photos Tossed

My parents moved to a continuing care community in 2009, several years after my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimers.  Within the first year or two of moving into the community, my father tackled the family photo albums.  They were well organized by year, but without a lot of labeling.  For the 1970s in particular, many photos had suffered from the self-stick album pages deteriorating over time.  The images had yellowed considerably.  I remember our father proudly telling me and at least one of my two sisters how he had gone through the albums and gotten rid of images that were, in his opinion, compromised.  

I pleaded with him not to toss anything else, explaining that technology was getting better all of the time, and that images could often be restored.  He felt very bad about the actions he had already taken.  He had no way of knowing about restoration.  He promised not to toss anything else, but of course many were already long gone.   I was especially disappointed, as many of the images that had suffered the most (and thus been tossed) were those from my childhood.  The images from my sisters’ childhoods (15-18 years older than me) had fared better (they were in the same crappy albums, but somehow benefitted from a superior development process).

The negatives were also gone.  Scanning images from the negatives would have been perfect, given how compromised the prints had become.  But, the negatives never made the move to the continuing care community.  I know exactly where they were kept in my parents’ home.  The back closet, near the screened-in porch.  Upper right corner, on a shelf, same area as the photo albums.  My mother always kept the negatives in the development envelopes and just continued to shove them up there when the prints came home.  When did the negatives disappear?  I don’t know.  My mother kept them for years.  Did she decide, one day, to toss them?  Were they thrown away when a caregiver helped pack that closet prior to their move?  I don’t know.  I’ll never know.  

Some prints from that timeframe do survive, and the others are just gone.  There were no duplicates back then.  By the 1990s, duplicates of prints were common.  But not in the 1970s, at least not for my family.  So I will have to learn to treasure the ones I have and to not dwell on the ones that cannot be recovered.  I tell myself that the albums belonged to my parents.  My father didn’t mean any harm.  He thought he was doing us a favor, getting rid of items that, in his opinion, had no value anymore due to their deterioration.  It was his right to redo the albums, reorder them, and toss things.  It never occurred to him to consult us.  What he did made perfect sense to him.  As my mother would have said, “It is what it is.”

In Summary

As I reflect on these lost items, I am also grateful. In the first two instances, individuals really made an effort trying to help me retrieve memorabilia.  In the final instance, the harm done was unintentional.  In each situation, you proceed with what you do have.  Take comfort in knowing that you did your best.  Some things are meant to carry forward with us, and others are intended to be lost to time.  Treasure what is still with you and let the rest go.

And now for the final question: is anyone out there in need of a functioning 3.5″ floppy disk drive?

A flock of pigeons in a gravel parking lot. They are in a spot of sunlight, between two spots of shade.

Light and Shadow: Two Weeks of Lightroom

My Lightroom education the past two weeks has been to alternate two tasks: reviewing forum posts for tips, tricks, and common dilemmas; and uploading, adding metadata, and organizing a limited number of images. I have some work to redo based on my forum reading. Within Lightroom, I have focused on establishing a backup, adding keywords and captions, and experimenting with formats for the title field. I sense that I am still resisting obvious paradigm shifts.

Lightroom Queen

Peter Krogh’s books pointed me to Victoria Bampton as a Lightroom (Lr) resource. I discovered she is the Lightroom Queen behind items in my various Google searches. She has written a number of books (to address the different Lr products/plans) and manages a series of forums for Lr users, where beginner and advanced users are welcome.

I am using Lightroom, which used to be referred to as Lightroom CC. It’s still confusing to just call it Lightroom, because there is such a long history of various products, services, and plans. The Lightroom Queen forums refer to Lightroom as “cloudy” to distinguish it from Lightroom Classic. I have concentrated on reviewing posts related to “cloudy.”

Basically, I am reading all of the posts in the “Lightroom desktop apps (cloud-based service)” forum, 1-3 pages of posts per day, just to educate myself. It is a little tricky, because as I get to older posts (early 2019 and further back), features have been added by now that address some of the post concerns. I’m not sure how far back I should read, as the information will become more and more dated.

I’ll need to tackle Victoria’s books for Lr (she updates them to reflect Adobe releases), and she also has a blog I want to read through.

A red brick building against a cloudless blue sky. The building says Barteldes on the left side and Seeds on the front side. A fire escape is visible on one side.
Reviewing forum posts feels like planting seeds: Barteldes Seeds building in Denver’s LoDo.

Backups: local storage

Before uploading too many images into Lightroom, I wanted to consider storage options. The idea behind the cloud plan is that you don’t have to worry about backing up everything on various hard drives, etc. You trust Adobe to handle that. Of course, who does? Maybe someday; it’s a paradigm shift. I’m actually ready for that, but my husband isn’t. There is an option to store locally, so I have selected that. As best I can tell, the local storage is of unedited originals, no metadata (or not all metadata?); hubby and I agreed this is sufficient. We have Time Machine to back up our hard drive, so we have that redundancy as well.

I’ve seen comments on the Forum stating that the intent of local storage really isn’t for backups, although they acknowledge it can serve that purpose. I’m still figuring it out.

A men with his back to the camera is beginning to walk down a set of outdoor stairs. His legs are no longer visible. A park and buildings are visible in front of him.
Cloud storage? The future. Walk into it.

Adding metadata

I am still struggling with this a bit. I have worked out a format for the title field of my images, but it is a long format. Krogh doesn’t include anything descriptive in his titles – just his name, date, and numbering. I am beginning to see the value of his approach. People in the forums debate how detailed file names and title fields should be, versus relying on keywords for that purpose. What information to enter into the caption field was pretty clear; it is intended to be long-form, so that is how I use it.

Lightroom is a database, and if you are still tempted to organize using folder structure and file name structure, it starts to feel like a square peg in a round hole. You actually cannot edit the file name in Lightroom (cloudy). Can I get comfortable with this? Some users cannot. The Lightroom Queen says “…it just doesn’t matter.” Except that it still feels like it does, or should…or used to. I recognize that I am trying to use the title field as a file name field; is this what I should do? Probably not. Do I need to loosen up on my desire for structure? Probably so; further research required. Another paradigm shift.

The facade of a building. The building is white, but most of it is not visible. Most of the photograph is a metal sculpture with three vertical panels.
The structure represented by this building facade in downtown Denver is what I seek for my images in Lightroom (maybe too much).

What I am delaying for now

  • I’ve taken a break from watching tutorials. Some were way too dated, or were focused on Lightroom Classic (definitely no point watching those if you aren’t subscribing to a plan with Classic). Even for the “cloudy” tutorials, after the first few segments, they all seem to jump into editing. I’m just not ready to focus on that; I am still figuring out how I can consistently organize my images and apply metadata. It was one of the Udemy tutorials referenced in my prior post that first made me aware of the local storage option, so they have been useful, to a point.
  • I want to read Peter Krogh’s DAM 3.0 book, but I think Victoria Bampton’s Lr books need to take precedence. Krogh covers a broader range of material, and I need to stay focused on Lightroom for now.
  • I joined Scan Your Entire Life (SYEL), but I have not returned to scanning at this time. Once I discovered the Lightroom Queen forums, I decided it was best to invest time in understanding the nuances of Lightroom. I want to establish certain standards up front before I get too many images scanned and uploaded; I desire to minimize rework (I’ve accepted there will be plenty). SYEL does address Lr and other tools for managing photos, so I should peruse it next, after I have consumed most of the relevant (i.e., “cloudy’) Lightroom Queen material. I did pay for an annual membership to SYEL, so I shouldn’t delay too long. Maybe SYEL can help me decide on file naming (does it matter?) and how to use the title field.

Make it YOURS

The journey for each of us will be different as we collect family memories (older ones, newer digital ones) and decide what to do with them. Considerations include identifying tools, establishing ultimate goals, and determining how much time and effort we can (or want to) put into a final product. Make your journey just that: YOURS.

A darkened alley in a city has the letters Y-O-U-R-S strung across it, from the front of the alley to the back.
YOURS: an alley in downtown Denver.

A bed of pink tulips are in bloom in the foreground, with a couple of large rocks among them. A large apartment building and several smaller buildings appear in the background.

Seeing the Light: Lightroom

I’ve been debating what software or application to use long term for organizing photos. When we invested in an iMac (~2014), I expected I would use the Photos app indefinitely. Slowly over the years, I realized that might not be the case. Yesterday, I purchased a monthly plan for Lightroom (Lr), the cloud version. In this post, I’ll summarize my decision for choosing Lightroom as well as my first 24 hours using it. Future posts will address additional Lightroom features, as I discover and utilize them.

A debate with myself

For the past 4-6 years, I used Photos on my iMac. I experienced at least one upgrade of the Photos application in that timeframe, which was uneventful. The Photos app has been easy to use, but I have occasionally experienced minor problems, including navigation, keying data, and identifying people. I successfully organized a subset of my photos into 174 (!) albums, added keywords, and performed basic editing. I also created several slideshows.

The question that has been in front of me for several years was whether Photos was the best long-term tool for my use. I am not a professional photographer. I need to have access to the functionality mentioned above, and I would be happy with additional functionality, provided it is not overwhelming. So, I have always remained alert to alternative software and applications.

In addition to managing photos for myself and my husband, I have volunteered to digitize my parents’ family photos. I want a tool that can facilitate sharing with two sisters, a niece, and two nephews. I want all of these photos to be in the same application as my own photos, but I also want to be able to distinguish them. The organizational tools need to enable this.

Migrating photos from one system to another is not easy. There have been attempts over the years to standardize things within the industry, but it hasn’t happened yet. I don’t want to feel that I am stuck in a particular system (like the train cars on the bridge, below). It is important to me that I have multiple export options and that I will not lose metadata in the process.

An old iron viaduct housed several train cars, one painted pink, the others painted blue. The entire viaduct is fenced off.
These cars aren’t moving off of this old viaduct in Denver, CO.

You (still) get what you pay for

In Unmasking Free Online Storage, I addressed “free” storage. The article is over three years old, but my views have not changed. I still believe in paying for quality service, support, features, and design.

My first exposure to Lightroom

I was first introduced to Lightroom via Peter Krogh’s The DAM Book (DAM = Digital Asset Management), which I read in 2016. I heard more about Lightroom as a member of APPO (Association of Personal Photo Organizers). A couple of years ago, Adobe introduced Lightroom CC (now just Lightroom), which it distinguished from Lightroom Classic. I was curious but found articles on the topic overwhelming; I didn’t understand enough to process what the differences were. And so I waited, and kept using Photos. But, I was careful about how much I uploaded into Photos – I still sensed that I would be migrating at some point.

A church steeple and four windows, viewed from the side of the church. The church is a light brown stone; the four windows are arched. A gold cross is atop the steeple.
Things that are meant to help you can still feel intimidating: St. Elizabeth’s in Denver, CO.

Continued research

I attended an APPO conference in Raleigh, NC, in 2018. Peter Krogh was the keynote speaker. He also had a display table and a breakout session. His presentations featured Lightroom, so I was further exposed to it at this conference. After (too) much debate, I purchased Krogh’s The DAM Book Guide to Organizing Your Photos with Lightroom 5. It took me another year to begin reading the book. After finishing it, I realized I was going to proceed with Lightroom.

I researched the Lightroom options. Lightroom [CC] vs. Classic was making more sense to me; I had learned enough to comprehend the differences. I was getting much more comfortable with cloud storage, the appeal of sharing and accessing via multiple devices, and everything being synced immediately. Although my photos are important to me, they are not my livelihood. I don’t want to have to manage a series of drives for backups. I do want a backup beyond Lightroom, and I am confident I will incorporate something into my workflow for that (future blog post).

A red stone sidewalk with an iron fence on the right side. The fence is casting a shadow onto the sidewalk. The sidewalk extends to the end of the photograph.
A path forward: Ninth Street Park in Denver, CO.

My first 24 hours with Lightroom

The Adobe site has a variety of tutorials for Lightroom. I watched several of them (3-5 minutes each). Investing 30 minutes of my time was enough for me to realize that the navigation and features felt comfortable; things were not so different from Photos, and I knew that I would not be at a loss. There were three different Lightroom plans. I didn’t want Classic, so that left one option, for $10 a month and 1 TB of storage. It’s easy to add storage if needed. I really don’t know how much storage I will ultimately need (for my own photos plus those of my parents). I digitized files as JPG previously, but I intend to digitize as TIFF from this point forward (TIFF files are much larger, but not lossy). Being able to easily increase storage for a reasonable fee is a nice feature. So far, I have imported about 30 photos into three albums.

It took me a while to find the Info button so that I could enter Titles and Captions (File Name is a different field). I have added Keywords. I don’t want to load too many photos too fast, as I am still experimenting with Title formats. Peter Krogh recommends MyName_Date_#### for File Names (the #### is for consecutive numbering of images). I am not sure if I will be editing File Names; I need to research whether it is possible to do so in Lr. I considered applying Krogh’s File Name approach to the Title field. Since I am not a professional photographer, I figured I could skip the MyName portion, but then I realized that portion could help me distinguish my own photos (SCKO), from my parents’ family photos (CAMPBELLJM), from grandparents’ photos (ZIMMERMANDE, CAMPBELLJH).

A list of 12 Title field examples appears, each one has YYYYMMDD in the middle.
I am still evaluating options for the Title field in Lightroom.

Krogh recommends that all photographers utilize the Copyright field, since we all post so much online. So, I am populating that field as well.

Additional resources I need to tackle

I am very much a Lr beginner. I see my path, but I am moving along it slowly. Just as we are all working to navigate a COVID-19 world one day at a time, I will continue forward on my Lightroom journey one step at a time.

A headshot of a woman wearing a bike helmet and sunglasses, with a pink and tan bandanna tied over her nose and mouth.
Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic: face mask experimentation for a bike ride.

I have identified a few next steps, before I load any more photos into Lr:

  • Udemy training via Denver Public Library (free!): three courses; I expect I will start with the bottom one.
Three Lightroom courses are listed, each with an icon/visual on the left, then a brief course name and description, then ratings (all 4.3 stars or higher).
A screenshot of Lightroom courses offered by Udemy, available via the Denver Public Library.
  • scanyourentirelife.com: this site offers a membership; while I was a member of APPO, I didn’t want to spend the additional money. Now that I have decided to focus on my own photo collection (versus digitizing for others), this site seems like a better fit.
  • LinkedIn Learning: Learning Lightroom CC (under two hours, $29.99). LinkedIn Learning was formerly lynda.com. I always found the courses to be excellent, but since this one will cost me, I think I’ll give the Udemy courses a try first, supplement with the Adobe tutorials, and then determine if this is worth the price.
A single course offered by LinkedIn Learning, with an image of a cathedral on the left and the course name and duration on the right.
A beginner Lightroom CC course offered by LinkedIn Learning; I like the release date of late 2018.
Two round tables with guests seated. The table in front has nine guests, the table in the rear has six guests. The back corner has a Christmas tree.

Automator: HEIC to JPEG

I occasionally have a need to convert my iPhone HEIC images to JPEG. Previously, I only needed to convert a couple of images at a time. I accomplished that through Preview on my iMac, one image at a time. After attending a winter wedding, I wanted to convert 54 images from HEIC to JPEG. I came across a How-To Geek article, explaining how to use Automator on my iMac for this task; I had results for my 54 images in less than a minute.

The need identified

The newlyweds set up a share site and asked various attendees to upload their photos to the site so that the couple would have access to them in one location. After culling my images from two events, I was ready to upload them…or so I thought.

The site selected by the couple didn’t support HEIC format. My largest group of images was 54, and I didn’t want to use my Preview approach to save each image as a JPEG. A quick search yielded this How-To Geek approach using the Automator application on my iMac.

A screen shot of the Automator application on an iMac. There are three sections in the screen shot. In the right section, two Actions have been added to achieve the desired result.
Executing the How-To Geek instructions that will convert my images from HEIC to JPEG.

It took me five minutes to read the article, open Automator, build the Quick Action as described, and achieve my desired result.

Modifying the Quick Action

As the How-To Geek article mentions, a Quick Action can be saved and reused. The one change I needed to make was to change the To: folder to a generic “HEIC to JPEG” folder on my desktop so that when I ran the Action next time, the resulting JPEG images would be placed in a generic folder. (I wouldn’t always want my JPEG images in the Alex-Ally wedding folder.)

First I created the “HEIC to JPEG” folder on my Desktop. Then, I edited the Quick Action:

A screen shot of a Quick Action on an iMac. On the far right, options have been save selected images to an "HEIC to JPEG" folder as JPEG files instead of HEIC files.
The To: folder now specified is on my Desktop and can be used as a temporary place to store any converted HEIC images (not just those for Alex and Ally’s wedding).

I will make it a practice to immediately move, upload, or otherwise act on the images in this folder and then promptly delete them from the folder so that it is always empty, ready for the next conversion.

Relief

Finding a simple solution that was quick to implement and can easily be used again (I just need to remember to right-click) gave me the same sense of relief felt by these two ladies at the conclusion of the reception.

Two ladies in a banquet room that has been cleaned up after a reception. Tables with white cloths and skirts
Cleanup happens fast. Relief that a festive and joyful reception has concluded.
A group of five girls on a front bench and three behind them, each holding white slips of paper for a swim heat.

21 Hi8 Tapes Transformed For the 21st Century

The transfer of 21 Hi8 tapes to a digital format took 28 hours; splitting the resulting files into 452 edited movies required months of detail work.  Is it worth it?  I believe so, since the end result is the way we store and consume videos today:  we don’t have a series of unrelated events in a single file that is one or two hours long; rather, we have a number of separate video files that we can view individually or combine in a creative way if we choose.  Fortunately, the way we consume video in the second decade of the twenty-first century provides us with much more control than was afforded us in decades past.  It is simply more practical to share clips from old tapes than it is to share a digital file of the entire tape.  

In a previous post, I discussed the benefits of breaking videos that are hours long into individual clips.  I still believe that a first step should be to capture the videos in their entirety, if your only copies are on tape.  Tape degrades over time, so preserving your memories in a digital format is something you should tackle immediately.  The upper end of the life span for tape is 20 years.  Some of the tapes I recently worked with were older than that (1990 – 2011), and they were in fine shape, but yours may not be.  Don’t tempt fate if the only copy you have is still on tape.

The client’s 21 Hi8 tapes (and 2 audio tapes); I grouped and labeled them by type of tape.

Transferring using Vidbox

I discovered the Vidbox device a few years ago.  I have used it with a VCR and with two different camcorders, with S-Video, RCA cables, and camera-specific cables.  I did experience problems with a continuous feed when using the S-Video, which I solved by avoiding all USB hubs and power strips and disconnecting unnecessary devices.   Power was not an issue when using just camera-specific or RCA cables.  

There are demonstrations of Vidbox available, and all were positive; I can add my experience to that list.  I have now transferred over 30 tapes with the device.  It connects to your computer via USB and then to either a VCR or a camcorder using the appropriate cables.  The instructions on screen are clear, and if you encounter issues (as I did with the S-Video), then Vidbox support is available by phone.

Another option is to have the tapes transferred by a local camera shop, a photo organizer, or a national company.  If you use one of these approaches, be clear regarding what file format will be delivered to you, whether you will be able to edit the files, and what media will be used (USB, EHD, DVD, etc.) for delivery.  

The client did not know how much footage was on the 21 tapes. As shown in the chart below, eight tapes had about two hours of material, nine had about one hour, and the remainder had a half hour or less.  The total number of hours for all tapes was just under 28.

Creating and editing clips

I used iMovie 10.1.9 to separate hours-long video into separate clips.  Consider a hypothetical one-hour tape that includes Christmas, an indoor birthday, and swimming at an outdoor pool.  I begin by selecting all of the Christmas footage and copying it into the iMovie project pane.  Then I watch the footage and observe breaks in the filming.  I separate the footage and add transitions for each of these breaks (Cross Dissolve is my favorite transition).  The Christmas movie might end up having four different clips (opening presents, cooking in the kitchen, eating dessert, playing with toys), with transitions between them.  The indoor birthday movie might have ten different clips.  The outdoor pool movie might have just a single clip.  

I inserted transitions between these basketball game clips wherever there was a break in the original footage.  The yellow tint can be improved with auto color balance (below).

Auto color balance

A number of the clips benefitted from auto color balance, which was part of my base rate.  Examples of video that improved after auto color balance included:  indoor basketball games (above), some outdoor swim pool shots, and events in the kitchen.  Generally speaking, outdoor shots with grass did not improve with auto color balance (e.g., soccer games, Easter egg hunts).  I found that whether auto color balance would improve a clip or not depended on the direction of the light source relative to the camera, use of a camera light while filming, and the source of light being natural or artificial.

Auto color balance improved this footage from a preschool pumpkin-carving video; the yellow tint was removed.  

It also improved this footage of father and child at an outdoor swim pool by removing the unnatural shade of blue.

This footage from a neighborhood Halloween parade did not benefit from auto color balance, since it was filmed outside.

So many Power Rangers (1994)!

I always apply auto color balance to the individual clips within a project.  As the videographer was shooting and possibly changing position, the light may have shifted.  While one clip benefits from adjustment, a different clip may actually look worse.  Although it can be tedious to apply to each clip and view the impact, I highly recommend it; one size does not fit all.  

Manual color correction options (versus auto) are available in iMovie, but that level of adjustment was not within the scope of this particular project.

Determining dates of clips

If cases and/or tapes are dated

For this collection of 21 tapes, some cases were dated with years and a brief description of contents (eight cases were not labeled at all):

  • Softball 2002
  • End 4/5/96
  • Beginning 10/7/93  End Myrtle B. 1994  

The tapes themselves were not labeled, so I had to be aware that if a tape had been placed into the wrong case, then the case label might not be appropriate for the tape inside of it.  I made a note of each case label as I began to work on that particular tape, as it was my first indication of what might be on the associated tape.

If the video itself is dated

The case labels were a starting point.  Dates recorded using the camcorder proved to be very reliable, when they were available.  The camcorder manual explained how to view the date while playing the tape (it could be toggled on and off).  While capturing the footage using Vidbox, I made sure to toggle the date and timestamp off.  While editing the clips, I would replay the tape in the camcorder, toggle the date and timestamp on, and use it to date the clips.  The camcorder date and timestamp were not always available, even on a single tape (i.e., it would be available for some footage but not for all footage).  I utilized it whenever I could.

A toddler in a bath tub; his mother appears to the right in the picture.
A Christmas bath.

If neither of the above are available or reliable

There is always a bit of detective work associated with dating of tapes and clips.  The client provided me with some key dates (anniversary, birthdays, baptism, etc.)  If you cannot determine the date for a particular event, continue working with other material that follows on the same tape.  If you ultimately determine the date of events before and after an event in question, the two known dates can at least sandwich the unknown one.  In many cases, I ended up labeling with seasons if months could not be determined.  There is a caveat to this approach, however.  In a few instances, I could tell that an event was out of order on the tape.  Perhaps something was accidentally recorded over (someone grabbed the wrong tape), or perhaps the intent was to record over something that was no longer needed.  You cannot always rely on the order of items on the tapes themselves.  Consider the age of individuals in the footage and the season to help you determine if something is out of order or not.

Information can also be gathered from the video and/or audio.  This does require taking time to watch and listen to the recording so that you can identify any clues.  Below are a few examples of dating clips using clues within the audio and video:

  • July 4, 1990:  reference to July 4 (Independence Day) in the audio, and I was confident of the year.
  • Sunday, September 2, 1990: audio reference to Sunday night; this clip followed Labor Day weekend clips (known from audio).  I was confident that the year was 1990, so I could determine the dates of Labor Day weekend that year.
  • October 20,1990; Notre Dame score was 29 to 20 (on audio); they played Miami on that date with that score.  This date also matches the newspaper headline in the video – Oakland As and Cincinnati Reds in World Series (those dates were October 16-20, 1990).  
  • Friday, April 1, 1994:  I was confident of the year, and there was mention of it being Good Friday on the audio.
  • January 7, 1996:  date was available from local newspaper coverage of a blizzard on this date; it was revisited by the newspaper 20 years later in 2016.

Most of the examples above were audio clues (except for the newspaper headline).  An example of a video clue was this brochure from a piano recital (a bit hard to read:  June 4, 2000).

This is how the brochure appeared, briefly, in the video.  Upside down and a bit fuzzy.

Diving terminology

Both children in the family participated in springboard diving during the summer months.  I was unfamiliar with this sport and the associated terminology, which made dividing the clips and naming the movies challenging.  I didn’t know how many dives were performed at a particular meet, whether the kids alternated or not, and what “DD” meant (announced as each diver stepped onto the board).  

I learned to use background imagery to help determine if diving clips had been filmed on the same day or not.  The umbrellas at the tables, where the dives were positioned relative to other structures (buildings), and the attire of spectators and coaches all helped me to determine if what I was viewing was a different dive meet than prior footage.

The site USAdiver.com had a table that helped me decipher the terminology used when the divers were announced.  Each dive had a number (101), a letter (A, B, C), a description (back dive straight), and a degree of difficulty (DD = 1.7).  Having access to this information enabled me to label the movies with more accuracy and to add appropriate titles.

File formats

I used an iMac for this project, so Vidbox Video Conversion for Mac provided me with .MOV files.  After creating and editing the clips in iMovie, I researched export options.  I ultimately chose Quality:  ProRes.   The higher the quality and resolution, the larger the file size.  There is debate as to whether ProRes is “overkill” for video shot in the 1980s and 1990s.  However, the goal here was to enable preservation of these videos/clips for the long term (i.e., decades).  There is general agreement that ProRes is a format that is likely to enable future editing (the larger file size means there is a lot of data retained) and easier migration to new file formats when the time arises.  Since ProRes files are large, individual movies can always be further compressed if smaller files are needed in specific circumstances.

Vimeo’s blog post was helpful as I considered archival needs, and this Video Compression Guide points out that further compression is always possible if you retain a higher quality master version.

Don’t forget the Memory Stick

This particular camcorder had a Sony Memory Stick.  It was similar to an SD card, but longer.  I set it aside while I focused on the tapes.  Fortunately, I made a note to remember to check it before wrapping up the project.  I truly did not expect to find any material on it.  

The camcorder manual, which the client still had, provided information on how to view the Memory Stick contents using the camcorder.  About 20 images were templates of some sort, but then still images began to appear.  There were ultimately 33 of them.  I wasn’t sure if the client would want to save these images or not, or what quality they would be (the manual specified they were JPG, but not what resolution).  I knew she had invested in a good camera and had used it at the same events where the camcorder was present.  I wondered if these still images might already be reflected in her print or digital photo collection.  I used my iPhone to film the images as they played on the camcorder.  I shared the resulting video with the client, and she confirmed that she wanted to retain the still images.

I found out the Sony Memory Stick was proprietary technology.  Sony customer service was helpful and directed me to Best Buy for a device that could read a Memory Stick.  There were a couple of devices with widely varying price points.  The less expensive one was out of stock, but I found a comparable device elsewhere.  The client was agreeable to spending the $24 needed for the device to access the Memory Stick, so those 33 images were copied to a CD and an EHD for her use.

Wrap up

I give credit to the parents, the videographers in this family.  They still had the camcorder, cords, and manual.  The tapes were in good condition, with some labeling.  Often, audio had been used to record the relevance of the event being filmed.  There was not a lot of wasted tape between events filmed.  Occasionally, the camera had been left running, capturing grass, the lens cap, or a counter – but there was only a handful of situations like that.  Overall, the video was easy to work with and decipher. 

I shared a selected number of movies with the client via Vimeo as I progressed through the project, so I received some early reactions to the work product.  I am anxious to hear from the family as to which events surprised and moved them the most, upon viewing all of them for the first time in a decade or more.

“I love these!!!  Thank you SO much! I am so grateful that we are preserving these diving memories. The middle school birthday party is HILARIOUS…and slightly painful to watch, haha. I was, in fact, a teenager once.…”

~Maria M. in Richmond, VA (July 17, 2017)

“I was able to view the videos and was delighted with them.  Thanks so much for doing such outstanding work!”

Rebecca M. in Richmond, VA (May 1, 2018)

ALL IMAGES ARE USED WITH PERMISSION FROM THE CLIENT.
Deere snow removal equipment on a flatbed truck. The Rocky Mountains are in the distance, with significant cloud cover.

Roadblocks in Digital Photo Organizing

Depending on the challenges encountered, digital photo organizing may involve the evaluation of thousands of photos for a variety of reasons. There are apps and software to assist with various parts of the process, enabling you to navigate around the roadblocks you will face.  Preserve the original file structure for reference, and then apply a systematic process to a copy of the original files.

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A woman in an orange shirt and hat with a backpack on. The red rocks of a canyon are behind her; she is holding up her hands to celebrate successfully crossing a stream without falling in.

iMovie: First Attempt

Is video part of your vacation memories toolbox?  I advocate for video as a supplement to online photo galleries, photo books, and printed photos.  The ability to capture voices, antics, and movement is unique to the video format.  With some basic training to help you efficiently navigate iMovie, you’ll find it is easy to create a comprehensive video story from a series of clips, taken on a variety of devices.  You can add audio (music or specific sounds), transitions, titles, and credits.  Splitting clips and editing out unwanted content is straightforward.  

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