When memory eludes me…

Here’s a thought for today, in the absence of Microsoft’s new Vista operating system. Don’t want to break the Dell which does all necessary PC stuff and seems happy on XP Home Edition, even if that makes people laugh. The last pre-Intel Mac OS and presumably the current Intel incarnation have a Find function in the ‘Finder’, not exactly analagous to Windows Explorer but the system’s interface for all operations and present no matter what you do.

This ‘Find’ function has been amended at some point to go right into the EXIF data of files. I shoot loads of pix of products, for magazine articles. My HDs are loaded with processed and filed still life snaps of Nikons, Canons, everything that passes through. In the past, if I did a search for ‘Nikon D200’ I would get a dozen files which happened to be named Nikon D200 or had that string within their text. Now, I get every single image which was shot on the Nikon D200, whether raw .NEF or processed .JPG. The ‘Find’ command is digging in and locating the camera text string within the file headers (metadata).

It’s very useful as well as a bit frustrating. I can create, in one ‘Find’ action, a window with every single shot I have ever taken on that camera. So, if I need a shot from a particular camera, I can locate a full choice of them using ‘Find’.

But – I can’t find my Sony raw files this way! I have to search for .ARW (hardly difficult). The JPEG files all contain the string ‘Sony A100’ (not Alpha!) and I can find 5,000 and more in a few seconds. The raw .ARW files obviously do contain the camera name, but it is encrypted or compressed. Searching for ‘EOS 400D’ finds all the Canon raws as well as the JPEGs. Same goes for the Fuji S5 I was using recently. They have their maker names readable in the raw.

One use I have already made of this search function has been to view all the shots taken on a particular camera type during one period, because I knew there were some missing shots. I thought I had processed all the .ARWs from a card with several dated folders on it (I always use sequential file numbering and date folders). Doing a search for the week in question, and Sony A100, found me a whole set of JPEGs from my normal RAW+JPEG setup and quickly located my missing folder.

But I can no longer find my product pictures so easily! This Find function is available when looking for something to Open in Photoshop, or Place in InDesign. You’ll realise that with all the files I have on-line on my array of HDs, I could do with just finding filenames, the old way.

If you use a Mac, you may wonder – why can’t I find all my pictures taken at 1/125, or anything shot at 70mm, or at f/6.3? The metadata isn’t stored in that form. It’s coded numerically and Photoshop, or pBase.com, or any EXIF reader interprets the fractions and numbers according to their container, turning them into photographer-speak.

Impressively, all my pictures on just about any Konica Minolta digital camera have ‘Konica Minolta’ embedded within their files whether raw or JPEG. Searching for that one double-barrelled name brought my typing down to slug response as the Mac stumbled along building over 25,000 thumbnails!

Welcome or not? I’m sure there’s a nerdy solution to stopping ‘Find’ from delving into the depths of digital Khazad-Dûm and encountering a thumbnail Balrog. I’m no command-line mucker, I just buy the computer and expect it to do everything for me. Now Apple has made it do too much!