Take Pictures, Lots of Them

There’s an ad currently airing on American television in which the main character tells the viewer to “Take pictures, lots of them. In 20 years, you’ll be glad you did.”  Honestly, I can’t remember the advertiser, or much else about that ad, but that one line stuck with me. Maybe it’s because I’m a photographer and pictures are not only my livelihood, they are my life.

In reality, I think people are actually taking more pictures than ever before. Consider just how easy it is to record images on devices such as phones and tablets, let alone digital cameras.  People are snapping pictures of themselves, their kids, their dogs, their food, whatever, every time you turn around. Just the other day, for instance, on my drive to Vancouver B.C., I watched in amusement as a couple, one-armed with a digital camera, the other with a phone on a ‘selfie stick’ struck a variety of stances in front of a bed of flowers planted in the color and shape of the Canadian flag. Their on camera antics were highly entertaining as I, and a long line of others, inched towards the border crossing in our cars.

So yes, people are undoubtedly taking more pictures than ever before. But it’s the second part of that advertising phrase that TK me.  In 20 years, will the people who took those images, or their progeny be able to see those pictures, or even know where they to find them?  It struck me because recently Photo Central, a photo supply store in Winnipeg, Manitoba, posted this image here onto their Facebook page.

The caption of this image from Photo Central says it all. Make prints of your precious photographs so you'll have them when your technology is outdated.
The caption of this image from Photo Central says it all. Make prints of your precious photographs so you’ll have them when your technology is outdated.

They have a point, one that I hope everyone who clicks a camera or presses a phone will take to heart.  I print all my own personal and professional digital images for myself and those of my clients.  Because, as I so often explain to potential clients who say they only want ‘digital images’, I want them to have that image in 20, 30, 50 years or more down the road.

Photo Central’s picture drew my attention too because one of my brothers’  recently had been researching our family history on-line.  He started it to determine whether or not one of relatives, James Crooks from North Carolina, fought with the Union forces at Gettysburg during the Civil War. He didn’t.  During his hunt, he uncovered not only some new tidbits about the family–that some members served in the American Revolution for instance–but found some old photos of great, great, great (maybe another great in there) relatives.  Like this one of Catharine Darr, who,  according to the research done by my brother, was the mother-in-law of one David Crooks of Lincolnton, N.C. , our great, great-grandfather and the father of James, mentioned above.

While reseaching the family history, my brother came across this old photograph of Catherine Darr, the mother-in-law of my Great, Great Grandfather.
While reseaching the family history, my brother came across this old photograph of Catherine Darr, the mother-in-law of my Great, Great Grandfather.f

It is he, who, according to family legend and my own father, told his son James when war between the states was imminent that “one day, these rivers will run with blood. When they do, you need to go North.”  In 1864 at the age of 19 or 20, he signed up the 13th Tennessee Calvary Regiment.  He may be one of those pictured in the reunion photos found on the regimental website. (I’d post one of the pictures here but the website strictly forbids copying them.)  But I can show you the photo my brother found of Catharine Darr who lived from 1794-1888, was married to Jacob Barrier and was mother-in-law to David, father of James.   Had this been an image taken with digital technology, we might not have this photograph.

My brother also found photos of the “Rock House” built by Adam Sprach Sr., our sixth great-grandfather. who was born in Pfaffenhofen, Germany in 1820 and came to the U.S. with his parents. They settled in North Carolina. In 1754, Adam moved near  Bethabara, N.C. and built himself a sturdy house, seen here,  of uncut stone, laid up without mortar, except for plastering inside. As you can see from the photos, there is a lower level beneath this one-story house. 

Adam Sprach's rock house had a basebment with an outside entrance so he could herd his cattle inside when under attack.
Adam Sprach’s rock house had a basement with an outside entrance so he could herd his cattle inside when under attack.

According to my brother’s research,  the house basement had an outside entrance so that during attacks, Sprach gathered his cows and drove them into the basement for protection. Each room also had loopholes, through which the defenders could fire. You can see in the pictures both the lower level door and loopholes in the walls.  But if these photographs didn’t exist, we would see neither.

This was the North Carolina home of one of my relatives. Even though it's a pixelated image, you can get an idea of what the house looked like.
This was the North Carolina home of one of my relatives. Even though it’s a pixellated image, you can get an idea of what the house looked like.

Then there’s the photo that I love best, the one of my own Grandfather Crooks’ sister, Katherine Crooks Moore.  She was a music teacher and is shown in this wonderful old photograph from 1907 in a class portrait. I believe that she’s standing, fourth from the left on the back row.  Don’t you wonder where they got all those guitars and mandolins?  Particularly since instruments weren’t cheap or easy to come by in those days.  I had never seen this photograph, or remember seeing one of my Grandfather’s sister before this one.  It’s a delightful picture to have. I’m glad it survived.

My great aunt is among these budding guitarist in this historical photo taken of her class in 1907.
My great-aunt is among these budding guitarist in this historical photo taken of her class in 1907.

Of course, my point is, that taking pictures is great.  But whether it’s a snapshot done with one of your own devices, or a professional portrait created by someone like myself, without prints, the images you take today might not be around in 20 years. And it’s anyone’s guess whether they’ll be there in 100 years or more, like these of my own family. Prints offer you a glimpse into your personal past, they bring alive your history and they are, by and large, permanent. Digital images can be deleted, erased, lost in cyberspace, corrupted or become merely ‘inaccessible’. So take pictures, lots of them. But please, also be sure you have prints of at least the ones most important to you because one day, someone’s brother may want to look back and learn about your family history.

a

Autumn Hike Destresses the Day

There’s nothing like a hike to escape the stresses of a workday.  Especially in autumn. Especially here in the Pacific Northwest.  So when I found myself overloaded one day last week, I picked up the phone and asked one of my buddies if she would like to join me for a short hike.  She had the day off and was happy to spend part of it on the trail.

We had originally hoped to hike that day, to leave early in the morning, drive up to the Mount Baker National Forest and take one of the many wonderful hikes up there. But an eye appointment for her and work issues for me preempted our plans. Besides, the weather forecast was a bit ‘iffy’, as it so often can be here this time of year. Rain was in the forecast and neither of us were excited about hiking in inclement weather.  So we cancelled our plans.  Yet as the day wore on, no rain appeared although the wind had steadily picked up causing white caps to appear on the water in the bay.

There's nothing like an autumn hike to help destress the day.
There’s nothing like an autumn hike to help destress the day.

I spent the morning tackling the things I needed to do in my studio. And when I felt I had most of it under control, I shot off an e-mail to my buddy, whose vision was blurred by the dilation from the eye exam and consequently stuck at home, to see if she’d be up for taking a shorter hike closer to home.  Fortunately for us, we live in a place that has an abundance of greenways, trails and wilderness areas within the city and county limits.

The Lake Whatcom Trail quickly leads you into a woods of towering trees.
The Lake Whatcom Trail quickly leads you into a woods of towering trees.

It’s easy to quickly get to a trailhead within minutes of your home, no matter where you live in the city.  It’s one of the reasons I love living here. The problem is deciding which one to take because there are so many choices.

We settled on one of the easier but still scenic and beautiful trails–the Lake Whatcom Park trail.  It’s a mostly flat, well-maintained trail that starts at the north end of the lake and follows the shoreline for three miles south.  I had not walked that trail for more than year and quickly agreed when my friend suggested it. I picked her up and together we drove out to the park entrance and the parking lot.  This trail, because of its proximity and relative ease, is a popular one for people with families and dogs. The parking lot is usually full, particularly on our warmer summer days. As this was a weekday, and in the middle of the afternoon, there were only a few cars.

Gorgeous sculptural tree roots cling to the boulders and old growth stumps.
Gorgeous sculptural tree roots cling to the boulders and old growth stumps.

The great thing about this trail is that you are quickly into the forest.  And a few minutes later, the trail descended out of woods to follow the shoreline. From there on, we had the lake on side and a densely green woods on the other.  Occasionally, there would be outcroppings of huge boulders from which trees somehow found a way to cling.  Surprisingly, much of the deciduous foliage was still very green. I had expected to find much more color on the leaves and had brought along my capture to hopefully record it.  I guess the nights have not yet been cold enough to bring out all the fall brilliance although in the section of the city where I live, which is at a little higher elevation, autumn is in full swing.

Trees along the trail hadn't yet changed to autumn color although this little leaf seems to be doing its best to encourage the rest.
Trees along the trail hadn’t yet changed to autumn color although this little leaf seems to be doing its best to encourage the rest.

There was still plenty to photograph and kindly, my friend waited patiently as I stopped along the way to set up and capture a shot.  The clouds above the lake were dark and threatening, but no rain.

The Lake Whatcom Trail follows the beautiful northern edge of the lake where stormy clouds added to the drama on this day.
The Lake Whatcom Trail follows the beautiful northern edge of the lake where stormy clouds added to the drama on this day.

The white-capped waves crashed against the logs that had fallen and lay on the shore as we set out, but later calmed some. The waterfalls that ordinarily tumble full down the cliff side were there but only a thin stream of what they would have been during a wetter year. It was possible to see them  from the trail through the branches of golden leaves but could have been easily missed. Still there was plenty for my friend and I to stop and admire and investigate.

Neither I nor my friend were sure what this growth was at the end of the fallen and moss-covered log.
Neither I nor my friend were sure what this growth was at the end of the fallen and moss-covered log.

We only encountered a handful of people on the trail this day.  It was nearly like we had the place to ourselves.  We didn’t walk all the way to the end, turning around to retrace our steps at the two mile marker.  By the time we arrived back at the parking lot, we had been out just about an hour and a half.  Not so long that I couldn’t get back to my desk and finish up what I needed to do but long enough to give us both a much-needed refresher from the stresses of that day.