Buried Treasure

Buried Treasure

Our digital archives have a tendency to gather virtual dust, but they could be filled with buried treasures. Here are my thoughts on unearthing those treasures.

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There’s a funny thing about our archives of digital negatives—and I’d be willing to bet that you’ve probably noticed this same thing before, too, even if not consciously. Sometimes we find ourselves going through them, or at least I do, as sort of a little trip down memory lane. Or, on occasion, it’s because we’re looking for something we might have overlooked. But whatever the reason, doubtless you do the exact same thing that I do, which is to pause on some of those old images that capture our interest momentarily.

Invariably, we end up moving on from those images. We’ll shrug and think to ourselves that if they weren’t worth processing the first time around, they’re not worth it this time, either. And then we go on about our business, looking at other things within our archives, never really acting on those things that made us pause.

Maybe that’s a mistake. It’s a lot like doing a double take. Any time you’re out in the world and something grabs your attention enough that you do that quick double take, there’s a good reason for it. Perhaps it’s the same with our digital negatives. If there’s something there that is making us do these double takes over and over—and I have to admit, there are several in my archives that I’ve given a second, third, fourth and fifth look—then that might mean that these are photographs we should act on. It could mean that this is our subconscious telling us that there is more here than meets the eye at first glance.

If we keep coming back to some of these images, what does that mean? It could mean that they’re worth post processing—or maybe not. Maybe there are other approaches that you can take.

Most importantly, they’re worth thinking about. Can you base a project around these images? It could be that even though a single image that keeps catching your eye can’t stand on its own, it might be perfectly suited to a series of images that you’ve yet to dream up.

Or maybe these are the photographs that are worth retaking. If the weather wasn’t right on that day but the composition was solid, or if there are issues with the composition that could be fixed by going out and creating the photograph again, then it’s worthwhile to put this on your photographic to-do list.

Our digital archives are a strange place with hard drives or cloud storage absolutely filled with “could have beens” and “almosts.” For most of us, these negatives gather virtual dust for years on end. In fact, there is a tendency to forget what is even tucked away in our archives. So it’s worth going through them sometimes because you never know when a new perspective or new knowledge might lead you to do a double-take—and thus, stumbling across hidden gems and buried treasures just waiting to be explored.