A travel photographer’s worst nightmare used to be the fear of losing exposed rolls of film; before seeing the results of months on the road, fully developed.
If you are new to travel photography, you might not have experienced the feeling of expectation as you carried a clear, plastic bag (for airport screening) of film canisters around the world, like an unborn baby in the womb: What will the places you visited look like to others? Did the light work right on your travels? Will the pictures make it into a guidebook? Are the travel photos even good enough to illustrate your own travel articles?
Travel Photography in The Digital Age
As travel photography has now gone digital, the results are instant.
Photographers in Rwanda can ‘chimp’ (view digital pictures on the camera’s rear screen) as soon as the shutter closes; and compose the image again, if the first attempt didn’t quite say the thousand words it was supposed to.
Unfortunately, the problem modern travel photographers face with digital cameras is that their precious travel images are too easy to delete; by mistake.
Be it by carelessly erasing photos you wanted to keep while making room for more pictures on an almost full memory card, or by deleting all the images before making sure everything was safely transferred to your computer’s hard drive.
Don’t Panic – All is Not Lost
You may feel like crying, or start thinking of ways to recreate the images you thought you had in the bag. I know I did, after I returned from Bordeaux and wanted to illustrate an article I was working on about ‘How to Find the Best Hotel Deals Online’.
The picture I wanted was still on the camera, and so were a few hundred others.
Perhaps I was too impatient to retrieve the hotel images and load them into the article that I somehow cancelled the copying of images and then deleted everything on the camera.
The photos in the folder only showed the pictures taken in Nancy and Luxembourg. Where the ones of Senlis, Le Mans, Nantes, La Rochelle and – more importantly – Bordeaux?
I went to preview the camera. Perhaps they were still there.
If they were, I couldn’t see them.
Whatever you do, don’t take any more pictures.
That’s not a sub-heading, that’s bold for emphasis!
If you are on the road, take out your memory card and keep it safe until you can get online. Hopefully you have a spare memory card; every travel photographer should.
I soon found out that deleting your travel photos on a digital camera works much like deleting anything on a computer. The image files are not really erased, just marked as space available for new files to write on. And you don’t want to be doing that, at least until you can physically rescue what you’ve lost.
Photo Recovery Software
The good news is that there’s plenty of software options to help us travel photographers get back our precious travel photos, but not all of them are created equal.
Much like anything, you pretty much get what you pay for. The free programs I tried – PC Inspector Smart Recovery and Free Undelete – didn’t work for me. But that’s not to say they won’t rescue your travel pics. It’s said that PC Inspector is slow, so maybe I just didn’t give it enough time to inspect my 8 GB card.
I then tried Card Recovery (free trial). With the SanDisk in my laptop’s card reader, thumbnail images of the photos taken in Nancy and Luxembourg started to appear; but the process was taking way too long. I felt inspired that at least the images were still there.
That might have been third time lucky, but Recover My Photos turned out to be my four leaf clover; delivering over 350 thumbnail previews of my recent travels around France, in blizzard blinding speed. I paid for the activation key using Pay Pal and could soon edit the photos for the the article.
When recovering the files, I chose to put them in a new folder on the desktop; to make sure everything was there.
And Then For a Good Night’s Sleep
I hope this doesn’t happen to you; but if it does, at least you can sleep well at night knowing that it is possible to rescue the visual memories of your travels – with a piece of software. Now if only I could get back those rolls of film I lost in Peru.