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Don’t Try This at Home: How I Accidentally Deleted 40,000+ Photos from My Hard Drive

Due to my limited French, I found myself amidst a problem which still happens to haunt me today.

Between 2009 – 2013, my family and I lived in Lyon, France. At the time, my children were 7 and 4 years old.

I often reflect on those four years of our life with fond memories. Did we actually take our little family to the other side of the world to live in a foreign country where English wasn’t spoken?

And better yet, actually survive?

Yes, we sure did!

Family in Venice, Italy

My husband was responsible for building a medical factory. As he was away at work for long hours of the day, I had the exciting, yet tiresome job of ensuring the kids were happy and settling into our new lifestyle.

I remember driving our daughter to school on her very first day. Being the middle of winter, it was dark outside even in the morning. The streets were covered in a beautiful white blanket from the snow which had fallen during the night.

Driving in Lyon France

My husband and I had only ever seen snow on the top of mountains in New Zealand when we went skiing. To see it in a city environment was very surreal and we had to adapt quickly to driving on snow.

Driving in Lyon France

In the first three months of our new life in France, we had so many things to get used to:

  • Long days at school with two-hour lunch breaks
  • No school uniforms
  • The weather – I was especially feeling the cold after being so used to years of the Aussie sun.
  • The language barriers – I awkwardly stumbled my way through my first few months of conversations!

My husband’s work contract was signed for one year. We took this as a sign to travel as much as we could in those short 12 months.

However, one year turned into two, and by the end of our four years of settling into our new found ‘home’, we begrudgingly returned to Australia.

While in France, we spent most weekends travelling as a family. It was easy to jump in the car with the children and within a few hours, be in a different country, medieval village, or our favourite ski spot, La Féclaz.

La Féclaz, France

Due to my limited French, I found myself amidst a problem which still happens to haunt me today.

All of the photos I take are shot in RAW format. This means that the camera takes the image data from the sensor and saves it in an unedited and uncompressed format on the memory card.

This takes up a lot more space on your memory card or hard drive than a JPEG file.

I had over 40,000 photos saved on my relatively new iMac computer. And due to the sheer amount of data that I was trying to store on it, it would continuously shut down on its own accord.

Thinking that the new computer was faulty, I had an Apple technician come to the apartment to diagnose any issues.

The technician had limited English and my French was no better. After a lot of attempts at communicating with one another, I finally agreed for him to delete the “weird-looking files” to create space. Subsequently, this would speed up my machine.

Warning: photographers, don’t try this at home.

Because unfortunately, for me, this is where things unravelled.

They weren’t “weird-looking files” at all. They were actually the sidecar information that holds all the data of a RAW file.

And since they were attached to those 40,000+ RAW files of our French travels, I lost all image data!

Yep. Cue the funeral music.

I didn’t realise at the time what had actually happened.

It was while I was halfway through my Diploma of Photo Imaging when it all hit me at once. I was learning the structure of a RAW file and the importance of the sidecar.

Immediately, my mind rushed back to that moment in my apartment where I allowed the technician to delete all of those “weird-looking files”.

My heart sunk and I was devastated.

I lost every single one of our precious photos of our time abroad.

From the magic winter days in the snow with my family to the weekend trips country-hopping; four years of memories completely gone, just like that.

Lesson learnt the hard way: ensure you have a workflow set up for storing images.

A combination of knowledge and hindsight now reminds me to store all of my assets in three locations.

Fast forward to now, and every so often a Facebook memory will pop up on my newsfeed; a bittersweet feeling. Mostly though, a sad consolation prize to what was lost.

While I have the JPEG photos uploaded to my social media, due to their low resolution, I unfortunately cannot print them any bigger than a 6”x4” print.

I have a display in our stairwell, which I look at each time I walk past.

Nerissa J wall art

It’s a visual reminder of our time there; allowing me to reflect on how small our children were and how much they have grown in the years since our return to Australia.

Not to mention, the collection of artwork displayed on my wall reminds me of the importance of printed memories. The tangible kind that you can physically touch and enjoy forever, regardless of the amount of computer or phone storage you may have.

It’s not until you look back that you realise how important it is to have memories of your loved ones through life at certain moments. Because that’s exactly what it is, a moment!

Nerissa J wall art

Looking to capture your family’s special moments? Browse through my portfolio and get in touch. I’d love to tell your story.

N. x

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