Staying Put for the 2018 Holidays – Photo & Downsizing Projects

Spending a week in Tempe, AZ at the first of November allowed us to gear up for our upcoming month-long stay in Desert Hot Springs CA (DHS).

Knowing we planned to return to Tempe for Christmas, there was finally enough time to complete some needed repairs on the Jeep. Last summer, while driving in South Dakota, the car was sprayed heavily with fine, sharp gravel from road construction. We put the jeep in the shop and I got started on a couple of projects before taking off to Desert Hot Springs with our “other” car for transportation.

Photo Downsizing Project

Scanning is a team effort!

Mom’s 80th birthday was approaching and I wanted to make her a photo book which meant my vintage photos would need to be digitized and organized.  Prices at scanning services  were not in the budget, especially with the huge quantity of photos and the need for quick turn-around. I captured the photos with my new “Flip Pal” mobile scanner that I got for ancestry documents (June 2020 update -Flip Pal manufacturing ceased). It did fine, even though is wasn’t designed for this volume. Digitizing photos makes perfect sense for our mobile lifestyle and it’s so nice to have access to our photos on the road. Photos are such powerful memorabilia and one of the hardest things for me to downsize. I recommend tackling memorabilia at the beginning of the downsizing effort, if possible.

It might be obvious that albums take up a lot more space than loose photos, but it was surprising to see the physical evidence. Multiple large rubbermaid bins full of albums and many more boxes of loose photos were reduced to ONE photo SD card.  Technology is amazing!

The first step was power scanning so there was very little time spent judging image quality or culling duplicates. I scanned as many photos as possible during that week in Tempe and took one small box with me to Desert Hot Springs. With the birthday deadline only 3 weeks away, it was a hustle to finish scanning and organizing the photos to begin creating Mom’s book. After Christmas, Bruce’s photos and some straggler albums that popped up out of the closet were also scanned. I have always loved photographing people but the quantity I had shot was surprising to me. All together ten thousand six hundred photos scanned-WOW! A future project will be scanning slides when I get the right tools.

Mom’s PhotoBook Project

Curating a set of photos for Mom’s book was a tough one, especially since she’s the family photo librarian (I must be the assistant librarian now!).  This project brought an unexpected and delightful application of over 20 years of skills creating fine artwork, photography, presentations and training materials.

A few people were trying to get key missing photos to me and it became a scramble to hit the birthday deadline because the photos were still coming in right up to the day I had to stop!  It seems photo storage and accessibility is affects almost everyone:

  • Pre-digital photos are stored in many ways – some albums, some boxes or envelopes and not easily accessible.
  • Some had lost photos in house moves or water damage.
  • Most people are not aware of the impacts of image quality on a project like this. Some images that started out ok had been saved adjusted and resaved which further reduced the quality.
  • Many photos were duplicates. In the 80’s and 90’s it was popular to get double prints to share, or to get images on a disc along with the physical prints. What to do with the dups? Do we take time during scanning to cull the duplicates? I decided to just scan away figuring I could delete unwanted images in the future (or not).
  • Some images are only available framed on someone’s wall. Removing images from frames can damage old photos.
  • Many early snapshots were already used for other purposes like scrapbooks or collages are no longer available for scanning.
  • Digital images are inaccessible on out-dated computers and storage devices. If they haven’t been transferred or backed up, it doesn’t matter how good or meaningful they are. They are gone.
  • Photos become lost when mobile phones are upgraded without data backup.

My advice for a project like this:

  1. Take the highest quality image to begin with
  2. Preserve the original if adjustments are made. For example, each time a jpg image is saved it loses detail
  3. Digitize physical photos with a scanner set at minimum 600 dpi, which is probably overkill. Get the largest print in a series scanned as large as possible. I used a flatbed scanner for larger images. But keep in mind that scans may not print well if enlarged.
  4. Download photos from your phone and camera into your photo library regularly and especially before upgrading your phone or devices
  5. Back up your photo library separately from your computer to avoid loss and transfer data from computers before they are upgraded
  6. Organize your photos. I use Adobe Lightroom and keywords to find images throughout my catalog

For this project, I just stuck to the deadline and created the best photobook possible using whatever vintage and current picture mix was available without alerting Mom and ruining the surprise. My scans were done at 600 dpi and most of the photos were 4×6 size. I was really happy with Shutterfly software and the quality of the printing with two comments. First, images seem to print darker than they appear on screen so adjust accordingly.  Second, watch the  photos placed directly at the page edge, the printing process can cut 1/8 inch off any photo placed there.

With long hours and lots of help, the book project was finished on time and it did surprise Mom! She shared the book with family throughout the Christmas holiday so I felt like I was a part of the Oregon family celebrations even though I was almost 1,300 miles away.

Desert Hot Springs (DHS) Thanksgiving

The month stay at one of our favorite parks, Catalina Spa and RV Resort in Desert Hot Springs was a very nice change from our busy Fall travel schedule. Located in the Palm Springs area, the resort is close enough for the kids to join us from Arizona and Southern California.

Thanksgiving week was festive. A tent on our site made a great spare bedroom for Megan and Ian slept on the couch bed for a couple of nights – his visit was cut a bit short because he was feeling sick, but he felt better once he was back in his home environment. Dinner was a breeze with Whole Foods pre-cooked sides and a scaled-down turkey breast which fit nicely in the RV convection oven.

Aside from Thanksgiving with the kids, and the focus on the photo projects, we did enjoy some adventures.  Joshua Tree National Park is a favorite and we took a couple of trips there. We brought our other car for transportation while the Jeep was being repaired and repainted.  The extra car was not set up for towing so I drove it from Tempe while Bruce drove the RV.  It’s been quite a while since I drove a manual transmission and I only killed the engine once! There are lots of things to do in the Palm Springs area but we never do everything we want so I’m sure we will return again.

Besides Joshua Tree visits and wonderful sunsets against the snow-capped mountains, one of my favorite memories was swimming in the hot-springs-fed pool during a rainstorm.  As the rain hit the surface of the mineral-rich water, it would bounce up and explode into a beautiful starburst, leaving a large shiny bubble on the surface of the water. The bubble would pop with a sing-song ‘plink’ sound. It was quite a light show and symphony with thousands of raindrops, starbursts, bubbles and popping sounds all across the pool. I felt like I was in a fairy land!

Ready for pickleball

After the kids left, Bruce and I learned to play pickle ball! It’s an easy transition from tennis to pickle ball. The pickle ball racquet is like a very large, square ping pong paddle which is perfect for hitting the wiffle-like pickle ball over the net. The game is fast and usually played as doubles so it’s great for socializing as long as no one gets too serious! This park has eight brand new courts and has a lively community with plenty of court socials and tournaments. We enjoyed it but we still prefer tennis when we can find any courts that haven’t been overtaken by pickle ball players. To our friends who say this game is for old people, try it, you might like it!

More Downsizing projects over Christmas

Our trip to Megan’s for Christmas ended up being a month-long visit. It’s nice to have the flexibility to stay longer and have a place to park the RV behind the gate with water and electric. More time to complete some other projects was welcomed.  Bruce was chasing down an electrical issue on the RV and I went to work scanning his vintage photos as well as some stragglers photos that showed up as I was going through my boxes.

Since I was on a roll after finishing photo scanning, I kept going with another round of downsizing and reorganizing of the RV and clearing out some of our storage boxes. I culled clothing, garage items, office supplies, kitchen gadgets and art studio supplies. It felt really great to reset after a couple of years on the road but, we still have too much stuff. We may decide to stop traveling someday so we still have tools, artwork, some favorite kitchen and home decor items stored at Megan’s. Yes, we kept the Instant Pot but didn’t bring it with us in the RV this time and we haven’t missed it yet.

Ian joined us for several nights at Megan’s and we enjoyed a beautiful holiday feasting, laughing and board gaming like we typically do. It would have been even better if our Oregon family weren’t so far away!

After a month in the shop, the Jeep was finally finished so we loaded up the kayaks and got the RV ready to head East toward Florida where there are some awesome paddling opportunities.



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