Tag: Japan

On Managing Photos

I just deleted over 1200 photos from my recent trip to Japan, which is the most aggressive culling of photographs I have ever done. This is in addition to the initial elimination of some 300 or so photographs which were outrightly out of focus or poorly exposed. Clicking “Empty Trash” is not an easy decision, and I’m glad that I’m not a professional photographer. That would be like being the guy who has to put puppies down at the animal shelter.

Of course, some might argue that deleting photos isn’t necessary, given the ginormous size and relative cheapness of digital storage these days. I can get a terabyte hard drive for under $100, which is just ridiculous. Back when I was a kid, my father bought our first external hard drive for our overflowing Macintosh LC II. We got a LaCie 320 MB (yes, that’s megabytes, folks) for $350, which was a good deal at the time. “A dollar per megabyte, that’s a good deal,” I remember Dad saying. Yep. It was. In 1994.

Anyway, if data storage is so cheap, why bother getting rid of photos? For one, cheap is not the same thing as free. Secondly, if I just dump everything onto a bunch of hard drives, I’ve got to then manage those drives. I’d be stuck moving physical things around instead of more liquid data, so the problem isn’t really solved at all, but in fact exacerbated.

Ultimately, though, the problem is that it’s all just stuff. Granted, it’s stuff that I created, but that doesn’t change the fact that I do not need or want more things in my life. Certainly not things that are of little value, and the photos that I culled were all low-value. Many didn’t have high artistic or technical quality. Others were duplicates of ones I decided to keep. I think that if you’re going to to surround yourself with stuff (and let’s face it, we’re going to do just that) it should be stuff worth having around.

Having decided to keep a few things around, the task of managing those things arises. Even 500 photos is too many for a coherent story, so organizing them becomes necessary. Using Aperture, I’ve geotagged and added faces to all the photographs as per usual. Additionally, I finally devised a keyword (what Aperture calls a tag) system that I think I can use and more importantly, sustain. I borrowed from Scott Davenport who borrows from William Beem, and they offer decent examples of their own keyword systems. The point is to decide what is important and then make appropriate keywords for those things. Then, organize those keywords. Finally, apply the keywords. Voila! Organized photos. It takes a bit of forethought to set things up the right way, but the results are fantastic.

In the end, the extra work allows me to do things with the stuff, like tell stories.

Turning Japanese

When visiting a foreign country for the first time, it is unlikely for an amateur traveller (and I lump myself in that group) to experience anything other than cliché. Therefore, with regards to our recent voyage to Japan: Kimonos! Sushi! Lanterns! Samurai! Zen! Bamboo! Temples! Technology! Tea! I didn’t see any ninjas, but that’s probably because I wasn’t supposed to see them. By definition, if you see one, it’s probably not really a ninja so much as some dude in a ski mask.

But though our days were filled with cliché, that isn’t to say that the experience wasn’t satisfying. Far from it. We delighted when we saw stone lanterns whether they were centuries old or newly carved, and the Japanese put them everywhere. In quantity. Where they don’t have room for stone lanterns, they hang paper ones. Tired of lanterns? Then it’s time to leave the country. For my part, I couldn’t get enough of them, as the hundreds of lantern photos on my camera are testament.

IMG_1679So we ate up the cliché buffet that Japan served us. Actually, mostly we ate Indian food because we’re not really fans of sushi and I don’t get turned on by seafood. Melina had a bit of “row” fish, which I assume was raw and not in fact a description of its alignment. Regardless, she wasn’t impressed by the indigenous fare and at the end of the trip raved more about the Indian butter chicken than the miso soup she’d had. Seriously, we found a couple of great restaurants serving foods from the subcontinent. And I don’t feel like I missed out on the whole “Japan” thing.

We also didn’t see a sumo wrestling match, bathe in an onsen, or climb Mount Fuji, but that isn’t to say that we somehow missed authentic Japan. We squeezed into subways during Tokyo rush hour. We wandered through markets where locals buy their sea weed. Ate shaved ice after visiting a temple on a hot day. Sat next to businessmen on the bullet train. Melina got to use a traditional Japanese squat toilet, and we both experienced the joys of the washlet. We even got locked in a Buddhist temple. It doesn’t get more real than that.

We also petted a dog. Watched cats. In a sudden downpour, we darted for the cover of storefront awnings because we didn’t have umbrellas. We ate at Subway, because sandwiches (tandoori chicken!) are easier than chopsticks. And it turns out that the Japanese do the same things. They eat McDonald’s and drink Starbucks just like we do. The differences are in the details, and while the details are everything, at the end of the day we share more than differ. That’s due in no small part to the fact that the Japanese people have done a marvelous job of appropriating good ideas from other places into their own milieu. It’s not always pretty, or neat, as Tokyo demonstrates. But it does work. American xenophobes could take a cue there.


I really enjoyed the confirmation of my suspicion that they’re fundamentally just like us. Things look different when written in kanji, of course, and Japanese television makes absolutely no sense, but at the end of the day the Japanese have the same wants, needs, hopes, and dreams that we do. They go to work and take walks in the park. They pray for their loved ones. They get bored so they divert themselves with cell phones. Hot weather makes us all sweat. Cute school kids petting deer make us all smile. Call it rock-and-roll or J-Pop, it’s the same thing. Play it loud.

Cultural commentary aside, the best part of the trip was not eating fresh bean-filled pastries or shopping for pens in a stationery store as big as my house, although those events do rank highly. The best part was traveling with Melina. We’ve been discovering the world together for 10 years, and its fair to say that we’ve gotten rather good at it. I look forward to seeing wherever the next decade takes us.

I took about 2000 photos during our trip. You can see a select few, if you’d like.