Editors Note: A guest contribution from Capt. Denis to The Prepper Journal. As always, if you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly receive a $25 cash award as well as be entered into the Prepper Writing Contest with a chance to win one of three Amazon Gift Cards with the top prize being a $300 card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today.
Out of all the personal belongings lost in a disaster, family photos seem to be what is regretted. Those precious memories of your ancestors, kids growing up, and the good times together with family and friends. When you have to leave quickly before the SHTF and can only grab a few essentials like your bug out bag, may be some extra clothes, and a hand full of valuables. You toss them in the car with the wife, kids, pets and go. You do not have time to grab up everything or the space to carry with you all you wish to carry.
Be it a flood, wild fire, tornado or some other disaster we have planned for, there are always those items that are not included in our plan. Photo albums are bulky and, if you are like me, most pictures and negatives are in boxes put away in a not-so safe place. I only think about them when I want to share a memory with someone or just wish to reminisce. We rarely look through them anymore, but we still treasure them for the next generations. It is our history and our legacy to pass on.
After the recent floods here in southeast Texas, I have heard it stated several times how sad people are that they lost all their precious photos. Pictures are our lives and memories. They are the fabric of our soul as we age and move ahead in life. Once the muddy waters or flames get to them, they are lost forever. That is why we must take the time to sort through them, mark the event or occasion, and save them somewhere secure. The best way I found to do that is by having them digitized and cataloged. I do my own, but there are professional services that will do it for you at a very reasonable price.
Honestly, cataloging the images yourself is enjoyable, but it is also very time consuming. Nevertheless, before sending off any images or negatives for scanning professionally, you will have to go through them, sort by subject, and cull out any that you feel are not worthy. When paying for the service you may not want to pay for digitizing bad pictures. Although a good service will clean images, using their professional equipment that will repair some pits or scratches, a bad picture is a bad picture and no matter what you do, you cannot fix a bad picture.
Since I am most concerned with the do it yourself scenario here, I will not touch anymore on the professional services other than to say if you interested in going that route, you may want do a search on the internet to find a service, their prices, and specifications for digitizing images. Some offer video digitizing as well, for your home movies/video files. Most services use digital software known as Digital Image Correction and Enhancement or digital ICE. It uses a filtering technique during the scanning process to adjust color shift and correct some image degradation. The scanning software I use has its own version of Digital ICE that does a satisfactory job for my needs.
For the do it yourselfer, to save time, it is best to do the cataloging and scanning in steps. The first thing I did was to take a box of old photos and go through them. As I sorted them, I tossed the bad one, those pictures that are out of focus or are too messed up to work with. It is hard to part with them, but there is no need in keeping pictures that are not usable. You can take a dark or light photo or one that has some color shift and correct it. Even photos that are torn or damaged are repairable to a certain extent, but a bad picture is a bad picture. So to save space and time, I decided to just toss them.
Once I get a collection together, I put them in order so that they are together with like photos. You get the idea; you want your scans to be grouped together so they are easier to catalog later. Once I have them in order, I will set up the scanner and prepare the computer side. I want my scans to go into a specific folder with a certain file name and number that categories them. Software like Adobe’s™ Light-Room makes it easy to catalog photos with tags, making them searchable. If the photos are all of the same trip or same subject, then tagging a folder of image files can be done in a batch process, where all the files will be done at once which saves the time of having to do them individually.
Once you have sorted through and scanned all your photos, saved them in their proper folder, and labeled them and added tags, it is time to keep them stored in a safe place. Of course, a cloud service is ideal for this, although they are vulnerable to an EMP attack as are most digital media, so I will let that one sort itself out. However, for keeping images safe from floods, tornadoes, fires, and other such disasters, it is always best to keep a copy of all files at an offsite location. For this, I use a RAID (mirrored) drive, external hard drives, and even high capacity flash drives. The RAID drive has two drives that are mirrored so that if one drive fails the other has the same information on it. My RAID drive is here on location to back up my computer’s hard drive. For offsite, I use an external hard drive and flash drives.
With cost of digital storage so inexpensive these days, it is easy to have your memories stored in a safe place. For external storage, a one-terabit drive will hold a lot of image files. Each time you have some new files, just write them to the drive. If that one fills up, then add another drive. As I continue to add files today using digital equipment, I just save those to new folders on my existing drives or purchase a new drive as these other ones fill up. It is also a good idea to keep more than one external drive of images in a second location. The more copies the better. Disk drives do fail as do flash drives. So by having several copies if one fails this is an additional safety measure. Besides keeping image files saved in this manner, I also keep my document folders duplicated and saved offsite as well.
I have a lot pictures I have taken through the years from traveling around the U.S. and the world. Many hold a special memory I want to keep, while many are what I consider photographic art, for example, of some obscure landscapes or a still life that will someday be a vintage photographs. Many photos I have taken over the years are of places that no longer exist. As family members pass away and new lives are added, our albums grow. Looking through the photos I have taken over years and remembering the past is a very special time. After a major disaster has radically disturbed our lives, taking some time to look through old photos can be a real moral booster and help to take away some of the despair.
Editors Note: My bug-out bag has a small album of laminated photos, less than 20. I would carry these if they outweighed my ammo and food. A personal choice.