The Digital Journalist
Letters from Central America:
Some things To Do In 2006

by James Colburn

1) Get A Date.

Actually set a date. A photographer friend of mine recently had an experience that could have turned into a big problem.

This photographer went on an out-of-town assignment and, as with most people, didn't reset the date and time on their digital cameras to match the date and time of the place where they were. In fact, the camera's time and date were way off.

Now under normal circumstances this wouldn't matter much unless some of said photographs wind up as potential evidence and you have an investigator saying, "You said you didn't take any pictures until Tuesday but these photographs are clearly marked Monday. You've got some explaining to do to the grand jury." Cut to long explanation of setting the camera, or failing to set the camera, to the correct date and time ...

So why don't we take an idea from all those sailor types and set our cameras to Greenwich Mean Time (actually these days it's UTC or Universal Coordinated Time)? It's easily available on the Web here. If there's ever any problem you can point to this column and say, "It was his idea!"

Besides, you can always change to date and time when you ingest the pictures to your hard drive using Photo Mechanic or iView or whatever.

One other idea would be to set your camera to random important dates in history (the date and time of the first bomb dropping on Pearl Harbor? The Battle of Agincourt? The first time Deep Purple's Ritchie Blackmore ever played the opening riff from "Smoke On The Water"?)

Your choice.

2) Record your camera.

Make a few high-quality sound recording of your current digital or film camera going off and plead with the producers of TV shows like "The West Wing" and "CSI" to stop using that recording of a Canon AE-1 with power winder that they recorded back in the '80s and have been using ever since. You might also want to tell them that nobody uses those "potato masher" flash units any more and that the sound of a camera without a motor is "click" and not "click, wirrrr."

3) Get paranoid and get another hard drive.

An external hard drive is cheap enough now so that you should have one attached to your computer. When you ingest your digital photos from your compact flash cards you should tell Photo Mechanic to copy all those files to the hard drive in your computer and to the external drive AT THE SAME TIME.

Then forget about the stuff on your external drive until it's full or the drive in your computer crashes before you've had a chance to back up your data. When your computer's hard drive does crash, instead of running around the room screaming and scaring your spouse and the kids you can laugh merrily and think, "I've got a back-up of that."

4) Put some money into savings.

If you're a freelancer or you do some freelance work you should, without fail, take 25 percent of every check you get and immediately throw that money into a savings account. Then forget about the savings account.

Come April and tax time, instead of running around the room screaming and scaring your spouse and kids because you don't have any money to pay the IRS you can laugh merrily and think, "At least I've got most of it salted away in that savings account I keep forgetting about."

5) Be nice.

Be nice to those cranky 80-year-old photographers. After a couple of drinks they might have some really, really funny stories to tell you. If you have a good enough memory you can re-tell them when you're a cranky 80-year-old photographer and take the credit. The young photographers will think you're a genius.

How do you think they managed to pass Beowulf and The Illiad down through the years?

© James Colburn
Contributing Writer