The great photograph archive project


How many photographs do you have? 10,000? 20,000? More? I don’t know how many we have but I do know my iPhoto library had crossed 20,000 and that wasn’t everything.

The problem statement is that over the years – decades – I have used lots of things to manage photographs. Picasa, Flickr, iPhoto, Dropbox, simple files and folders. Attempts have been made to migrate from thing to thing until, in the end, I went back to files and folders after reading Bradley Chambers’ optimistically titled but wonderful short Kindle book, Learning to Love Photo Management: Managing Photos In The Smart Phone Era.

After a non-trivial effort I normalized everything into a file structure based on year > month > event. This is the only way to manage a large library. Other tools should be used as editors only and under no circumstances should you surrender your library to an application. If you would like to manage your library entirely randomly, iPhoto is a great choice.

Then I had an epiphany. This is the second part.

You know that old shoebox of photographs you got given from some vague Great Aunt. You haven’t sorted it. You never will. And that shoebox contains a small fraction of the number of photographs in your digital dumpster.

Why are you keeping all these photographs around? Because digital storage is basically free. But it plays on your mind. You should back all of this up. “One day I will organize all this.”

Or perhaps you have more narcissistic motivations – photographs are sacred historical records! There was arguably once some legitimacy to that thought. After all in 1880 getting a photograph was a big deal. Even more recently one had to buy film and have pictures developed. We’re old. Today kids take hundreds every week – not even with a camera, but a phone.

In fact at the rate I’m going by the time I’m retired, dead, or in jail, I might be curating a library of hundreds of thousands – perhaps even a million – digital pictures. And then when I’ve had enough of this world and move on to better things, what am I going to do, leave a hard drive digital shoebox of photographs in my will for some relative to pawn off on another relative?

So what’s the epiphany? A photograph only has value when it’s shared. Photographs help to keep relationships alive, tell stories, build bridges, make us laugh, or feel something else. A photograph really is worth a thousand words. A photograph today is no longer a sacred relic. It’s more like a phone call.

Words unspoken, not worth speaking, or unspeakable, will be deleted. All others will be published.

So begins the great photograph archive project. I have been methodically going through, folder by folder, year by year and month by month, sorting, deleting and publishing what’s left into Flickr. The home of this great project is here.

Why Flickr?

First you get 1TB of storage for free and can upload the photographs in original format without any quality loss.

Second you can sort photographs into albums (my months) and collections of albums (my years).

For example:

Our photographs by year.
Our photographs by month.

Third, you can apply all sorts of metadata via tags. So you can tag photographs as “sunset,” or “snow,” or “beach,” or “alfred.” Why would you do this? Because you can then sort by tag, leading to the fourth benefit.

Fourth, you can turn your photographs into things like books or wall prints. For the last few years I have enjoyed giving photo books as gifts. A bit narcissistic but I think people enjoy them more than trinkets from So what if I wanted to make a book of Alfred prints? Show me all the #alfred tagged photographs and voila.

Fifth, I’m not sure if this is a real Flickr benefit or not, but a tool called Bulkr let’s you backup everything in Flickr locally. I don’t have any particular concerns with cloud storage but every now and then online services are hacked, go bankrupt, etc., and I’d hate all my photos to vaporize with no backup.

So the great photograph archive project is in full swing, with over 2,000 photographs shared and more from the digital shoebox every day.

– Anthony, Waukee, Iowa


Chalk and cheese – Iowa and Airstreams


Iowa is generally slightly above mediocre in most demographic metrics. Where it does very well is in education, which keeps the surrounding states well supplied with young ambitious-otrons and where it does poorly, again sticking strictly to objective metrics, is its rather surprising tax burden. Well educated and highly taxed? Chicago here we come. Until we have kids – then we rush home again.

But this post is concerned with enjoying an Airstream when you live in Iowa. The problematic metric is Iowa’s public land ownership ranks 47th out of 50 states. The only states with a smaller percentage of public land ownership are Rhode Island, which barely counts for this analysis, Connecticut, likewise, and New York.

Iowa is 91% the size of all three combined but with just 13% the population. Connecticut alone, less than 10% the size of Iowa, has more people.

Indeed Iowa is the only state not on the eastern seaboard with precisely zero acres of National Forest.

What’s up with that? Corn. And in fairness part of the reason is Federal land ownership is low in Iowa.

In any case Iowa doesn’t pair well with our version of Airstreaming.

– Anthony, Waukee, Iowa

20,049 miles of moving


The data nerding doesn’t stop . . .

year month mileage moves
2013 September 1,216 4
2013 October 1,876 7
2013 November 1,895 7
2013 December 1,639 6
2014 January 1,436 4
2014 February 1,947 7
2014 March 1,687 5
2014 April 1,463 6
2014 May 1,993 7
2014 June 1,020 5
2014 July 873 8
2014 August 1,703 8
2014 September 1,024 3
2014 October 277 1

Our towingest month was May of 2014, with nearly 2,000 miles of moving and seven moves. Our busiest months were July and August of 2014 with eight moves each.

Interestingly though, and without thinking about it at the time, the number of moves we made each month and distance driven each month were very similar. On average we drove 1,432 miles a month and made 6 moves. That seems to have been the natural cadence.

So on average we moved every five days and each move was on average 257 miles.

– Anthony, Waukee, Iowa

393 nights visualized

Click here for interactive map.

Nerding out with CartoDB.

The bubble size represents how many nights were spent in a given location. You’ll see that Pomona State Park in Kansas was overwhelmingly our favorite location.

Hover over the bubbles to see the location and total nights spent. Click on the bubbles to see that location’s web site. Zoom in and move around for more detail.

Two locations were omitted: one, a storage unit in Orlando, Florida, where the Airstream spent a week while we rented a vacation home with our family. Two, an overnight in a Wal-Mart parking lot in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia.

One final note – the bubbles are drawn to zip code. As you zoom all the way, do not expect the bubble to represent the precise location.

– Anthony, Waukee, Iowa

393 days in an Airstream

Pawnee National Grassland, Colorado

We moved into our Airstream on September 17, 2013 in New Jersey after driving – #all3 – from Iowa.

Since that day we spent 393 days on the road, 78 of which were in Kansas, sold our house, overnighted in 19 states, moved 78 times, towed 20,049 miles and kept the water running between -14F (-26C) and 100F (38C). Despite my groans, it never went to a dealer for repairs, which is something of a testament.

On October 15th, 2014 we ended where we started.

Ended? Well there is some news. In October we bought a new home in Iowa, half a mile from our old home but very different: a nice new townhome with no exterior maintenance. No grass to water, no snow to shovel.

So without maudlin we have concluded the biggest adventure of our lives. I could go on about why we returned to home ownership. In the end I’d sum it up very plainly: this is an adventure best experienced without a “real” job. We reserve the right to restart again some time in the future.

What now? We will keep our Airstream, enjoying it rather like it was designed to be enjoyed. We hope for many more years of joy with it – recreationally. Meanwhile, our work and day-to-day life will not require worrying about frozen pipes, laundry or propane. Or having to wash dishes.

It is no exaggeration to describe our experience as life changing and I believe we may have found some peace. Never again will the aquisition of possessions matter much. Nor even the aquiring of experiences. Nor popularity, nor achievement. Not that these things are bad. I think it’s all quite a lot more simple. “Love is all you need.”

For now I don’t anticipate updating this blog. Continuing would turn it into a series of Airstream “how tos,” for which there are the Airstream forums. Or it might wander off into a general journal which was never our intent. There are posts I had planned but have not yet written. Data collected and not shared. Despite great temptation otherwise, I’ll let it be as it stands now.

I do plan to leave this blog online. Perhaps it will be interesting to others. The same with our Twitter feed. I suspect we will continue to update Flickr with new Airstream adventures.

If you’d like to reach out, please do. We’d love to meet you.

– Anthony, Waukee, Iowa