1. Start taking photos 30 years ago.
2. Buy a digital camera. You can buy a very good one for less than $500. Having kids is a plus, as they can read the manual and teach you how to use the camera. (You need to have started having kids a dozen years earlier.)
3. If you’re a scientist, you’ll want to know exactly where your photos were taken, so you’ll need a GPS unit. Follow the same learning path as for your camera, up to downloading waypoints.
4. Downloading waypoints. If your new GPS has a serial connection, your children probably will not recognize it. Your laptop may not know what to do with a serial connector either.
5. Go to the computer store to buy a serial-to-USB adapter. If the person at the computer store looks as though his mother drops him off at work after school, he won’t recognize a serial connector. If you’re female he won’t believe that a serial-to-USB adapter exists. Spell “serial” for him (it starts with an “s”, not a “c”). If you’re female and your mother hasn’t dropped you off anywhere in 35 years, you will have brought along your GPS cable as a teaching aid.
6. While you’re at the computer store, pick up an armload of external drives. You’ll need them when your photo backups metastasize to fill up your computer hard drive, your external drive, your other external drive…
7. You are now ready for a day in the field. Have fun and take lots of pictures: the camera can make all the decision for you; you just keep pushing the shutter. No film to buy! No film to process! Take dozens of shots of everything to be sure that you capture just the right angle and lighting. If you’re a scientist, you’ll be collecting GPS coordinates at each stop. You’ll soon devise a system for naming the waypoints (8 characters maximum) in order to match them to the photos.
8. When you’re back home, download your photos and start editing. This will include cropping your photos and adjusting the brightness, contrast, and perhaps the color. Both PCs and MACs include software to do this. Set aside many hours for deciding which of the dozen photos you took of those beautiful wildflowers is really the best one.
9. At the end of the first day, when you're sneezing from the wildflower photos and have broken out in hives from the sagebrush photos, you’ll realize that you need to make a list of your lovely photos so that you can find them again. Open up a spreadsheet. If you’re a scientist, you’ll want to include the GPS coordinates. Your spreadsheet should also include the file number of each photo, the date it was taken, where it was taken, plus a short description of the subject(s). If there are people in the photo, you’ll want to include that information, as it’ll save time looking through thumbnails, which get smaller and fuzzier each year.
10. After a few years of taking digital photos someone will ask you for copies of your photos because yours are so very very good and they need a photo exactly like the ones you took on the tour that one time, they just can’t put together their Powerpoint/flyer/brochure without your photos. They’re not sure which photo(s) they need or what exactly they’d like a photo of but they know that one from the tour would be just perfect, could you just send them all?
11. Return to the computer store for CDs and padded envelopes. Pretend you were kidding about the padded cell when the person at the computer store, who looks as though his mother hands them his Binky when she drops him off, looks confused and frightened.
12. Once you’re back home, with the six pack you picked up at Circle K on the way:
* Search your spreadsheet for the photos from the tour. The spreadsheet works great as long as you keep it up to date.
* Locate the photos on one of your external drives. One that hasn’t crapped out yet.
* Create a small spreadsheet, containing information for the photos from the tour.
* Burn the photos to a CD. Dang, why can’t you add another file to the CD? Toss the CD in the trash and burn one with the photos AND the spreadsheet.
* Label the CD, put it in a case, then in a padded envelope and seal.
* Google the person who requested it, to find their snail mail address. They didn’t bother to give you that information.
* Address the envelope.
* Take it to the post office.
* Stand in line.
* Strike up a conversation with the person in front of you in line.
* Mail the letter.
* Exchange business cards with the woman you were talking with in line.
* Stay in touch with her and learn that you have friends in common.
13. Go home to wait for the photo recipient to thank you.
14. Continue waiting.
15. It’s been three months now: stop waiting.
16. Enjoy seeing your photos in Powerpoints, flyers, and brochures. Swell with pride when they appear without attribution. Become ecstatic when you see your photos in print with someone else’s name on them.
See how easy digital photos are?