Mem­o­ries we might edit, one day...

Canal Boat - - Me & My Boats -

Some­where buried in the stor­age con­tainer that houses those of our be­long­ings we can’t fit on the boat, but which we may well need when – or if – we re­turn to dry land, are some large card­board boxes that are very pre­cious to us.

There, in dozens of scrap­books, photo al­bums and en­velopes of prints and neg­a­tives is the story of 40 years of fam­ily life. In our last house, it filled an an­tique oak chest to burst­ing. One day we will sit down and sift through this moun­tain of mem­o­ries to try and or­gan­ise them into some­thing more ac­ces­si­ble.

I now have a grow­ing moun­tain of boat­ing pic­tures to add to the col­lec­tion. Not in card­board boxes but on CDs, hard drives and the com­puter I’m us­ing to write this col­umn. Stored un­der my fin­gers are no less than 10,000 im­ages – three quar­ters of them re­lated to boat­ing. I still can’t get my head around this dig­i­tal world (let alone ‘cloud’ stor­age) which can cram so much into so lit­tle.

Will I ever sort them out? I re­ally don’t know. The great strength of dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy – that one can take pic­tures so eas­ily – is also its great weak­ness: you end up with so many. Sav­ing them on to the com­puter is the easy bit; edit­ing them down is much, much harder. I try, I re­ally do but I rarely suc­ceed.

I love tak­ing pho­tos and treated my­self to an ex­cel­lent Canon Pow­er­shot bridge – cam­era last year, largely be­cause of the wildlife pho­tog­ra­phy po­ten­tial af­forded by its fan­tas­tic zoom lens. The canals are a great lo­ca­tion for pho­tograph­ing wildlife, even if most of it is rather cam­era-shy. After a year of try­ing, I fi­nally man­aged my first de­cent shot of a king­fisher to go with the dozens of blurry, grainy ones!

Sun­rises and sunset shots taken over water are of­ten very spe­cial – I seem to have hun­dreds of ’em – as well as scenic views, shots of the boat moored here, there and ev­ery­where, and of Seadog Brian (gen­er­ally sleep­ing in a spot of well cho­sen sun­shine).

But what I have most of is shots of our chim­ney, plank and pole on vir­tu­ally ev­ery canal in England and Wales. When I started blog­ging some years back, a blog­ger friend sent me a jok­ing mes­sage: “now I ex­pect to see hun­dreds of pho­tos show­ing the roof of the boat.” I laughed – I’d seen his pic­tures – but he was right. When you spend most of your day at the tiller then you can’t help but snap the view ahead – along the roof.

What I don’t have is many pic­tures of the var­i­ous in­ci­dents and mi­nor dra­mas we’ve been in­volved in over the years. When you’re try­ing to pole off a mud­bank, bow haul­ing through thick weed on the Mid­dle Level or rush­ing to help a hire­boat crew who are getting caught on a lock cill, you can’t shout “hold ev­ery­thing” while you skip off and take some snaps. Even when I fell overboard on the Thames I couldn’t take a ‘selfie’ as my cam­era-phone was in my pocket, fast-fill­ing with river water.

What I don’t have ei­ther is many pic­tures of me. It’s a lit­tle sad, if you re­flect on it, that in so many fam­ily photo al­bums, there’s a rarely seen fam­ily mem­ber, who’s the one busy behind his cam­era.

That’s one virtue of the cam­era-phone selfie, though I can think of few oth­ers. Mrs B has an iPad, which does take nice pics, as does my iPhone but it’s just point and hope in sun­shine for you can see noth­ing on the screen.

But a far greater short­com­ing of mod­ern pho­tog­ra­phy, I think, is its im­per­ma­nence. Our kids snap away then post their pic­tures on Face­book or In­sta­gram but what hap­pens then? Will they just have to rely on Face­book re­mind­ing them that they have mem­o­ries to look back on? One day we will look through our chest of mem­o­ries but I won­der if they will be able to.

Enough philosophis­ing, I must get back to cat­a­logu­ing my 10,000 JPEGs.

‘When you’re rush­ing to help a hire­boat getting caught on a cill, you can’t shout “hold ev­ery­thing” while you take pho­tos’

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