Making and managing a mess

Making and managing a mess

Right now my desk is covered in “stuff” and the rest of my study is not much better. I have been pulling things out of drawers and off of shelves to do a little reorganising of my workspace before Summer school starts next week.

Admittedly, I’m not the tidiest person in the world but I find a clear workspace is less distracting. That extends to things in the immediate vicinity “put away” on shelves or in drawers. The problem is I still know the stuff is there and that it represents something I haven’t dealt with. More than once I have found myself unable to concentrate because my attention is pulled towards items on a shelf nearby. A lot of it is just clutter, accumulated over the last few years because my preoccupation with study took precedence over everything except work, leaving little energy for anything else. This semester, the study and work commitments were less taxing so I decided to make this break all about working out whether or not I actually need all this stuff and how best to manage it. Once that is done I can look at making better use of the space freed up.

As I worked through this mess today, I also thought about the project this blog is all about and realised the monthly themes I use have served their original goal of making me use my camera more. They are now clutter, just like the stuff around me, distracting me from what I want to focus on next. This raised the question of what that next goal is and how to use this project to get the focus where I need it.

This is going to need more than a week to work through. It makes sense to stop using the themes after next week and use the next two to three months on planning that next step. Meanwhile, I will still get out and make images to share, so not much will change.

Out of focus

Out of focus

The competition for my attention at present is getting fierce.

  • I have several work projects in various states of progress and new things drop in and out of my task list all the time.
  • School is progressing to an extent but an assessment is looming and I don’t feel well prepared when I should.
  • Photography is taking a back seat to all this other mental debris. It turns out I can’t multi-task and I don’t even want to. 

My energy and focus is a finite resource that I want to direct properly but I find I’m second guessing myself about my choices. This is frustrating.

Culling time

I have not been well for the last day or so. The very last thing I wanted to see was this;


My preference is to have at least 25-30%  free space. My pictures folder occupies 10% of the total drive space on it’s own.  This is like the closet that gets stuff thrown into it to the point of being dangerous to open the door. I’m not the tidiest person but this makes me uncomfortable.

To be honest I knew I was going to run out of space at some point. You can’t just keep dropping hundreds of image files on a drive  forever. The obvious solution is to upgrade to a larger hard drive but I feel that is like lending more money to someone already drowning in debt. Besides, if I don’t upgrade the drive I can spend that money elsewhere, like putting it towards a new computer. Moving the photos to an external drive is an option but my backup regime is complex enough with out having to make backups of another drive.

Instead, I need to explore how I got here to see if there are changes I can make, not just to fix the current situation but to be more sustainable over time. To do that, I will look at the recording, processing and output stages of my workflow individually and see what the options are.


One contributor to this situation was my decision to switch to RAW format last year. To make matters worse I used RAW+jpeg mode on the premise it would save me time converting RAW files to jpeg for use in this blog or uploading to others sites. That made sense before I got Lightroom but now I can stick to RAW alone. True, the jpegs are small but it’s a cumulative thing over time.


The decision to go exclusively with RAW means I can remove all the jpegs that have matching RAW files, so there is another quick win. The other issue with processing is workflow. The switch to Lightroom has simplified things but there was a transition from iPhoto and project images are spread across both applications. As part of the clean up of those duplicate jpeg files I will bring the RAW files over to Lightroom.

The bracketed images made for HDR processing are another opportunity. I have been retaining them on the premise I can go back to them as my skills improve but I’m coming to the conclusion that I can just make more images, so I will pick the best exposure out of the set and remove the rest.  I can recover from backups if I need to.

There are also plugins and apps that I have downloaded and not really used all that much, so removing these will recover some more space

The last change is the hardest one and that is to be more ruthless in editing and weeding out images. I don’t necessarily suck at this but I know there is room for improvement. Currently, I remove images with any obvious technical defects in camera. The rear screen is too small to pick up everything so there is a second round of deletions when I import, again, this is the obvious errors.

Where I need to focus is the final cut. The best way I have found to do this is to park the images and come back to them after a few months so I have largely forgotten what I saw that made me press the shutter button. That helps with objectivity and allows me to be more critical.


With all the changes above successfully applied I will only be recovering space temporarily. I need to think more about the purpose of this growing collection of images and perhaps in turn why I do this. That is a whole other conversation.

What I may look at is producing some photo books from collections of images that were of personal significance. At that point I probably don’t need the digital file anymore. Another option is uploading more to the web so that what I saw and recorded is shared with other people.


There are also all the other files I download in my day to day use that contribute to this situation and may benefit from similar scrutiny. Things like eBooks and podcasts on photography, music and video. It looks like my long weekend will become a 3 day purge of all this digital clutter. Since I don’t feel like getting outside, that is probably not a bad thing.