Rita M, RIP

Last weekend I heard that Rita, a dear friend from a local church community whom I gotten to know over the years had passed away. You know how sometimes you meet someone, despite the age gap, you get acquainted, not in the sense of a close friend, but still, but a friend nonetheless. She’s always in church, at almost every mass, and she has been a firm volunteer in the parish, being responsible for producing the weekly newsletters and also a regular reader. She’s a cheeky so and so too, and so soft spoken, a very English lady from an era where respect and dedication is everything. From the way she dresses to her hair style, she would not be out of place in a 40’s British war time drama. She is also a very private woman.

There is another reason why I am writing this, partly as a dedication to Rita, but more so because I was in a slight fret a few days ago when Rita’s grand daughter rang and asked if I had the digital files of these portraits as she really liked them and wanted to make prints for the upcoming funeral service.

Now, every photographer worth his/her salt would know about workflow and the archiving process. I was certain I knew exactly where these files were stored. These were taken in June 2008 in Cafe Rouge in Kensington. I even remembered that!

Over the years, I have invested in external hard drives as back ups, and these were before Google Drive and cloud services. From about 2000 onwards, the commercial fashion and wedding shoots were burned to CDs, and I have them readily available still. Some were put on Iomega ZIP drives (remember them?). Around 2006 I got a Seagate GoFlex 2TB SATA shared network drive which was accessible via WIFI and used that as my main back up device and also home to the Time Machine back ups for my iMac. Then about 2011 I began to use Google Drive and DropBox as backups and smaller external plug in drives for portability.

Not really knowing where Rita’s files were exactly, I spent several days shifting through all my current drives, using keywords, algorithms etc but no luck. All I found were website thumbnail files which were about 800 px in height which is totally useless for print. I categorise my shoots files into folders named under year and month, but none of these folders contained the files.

I knew they had to be in the now defunct Seagate network drive but upon plugging in, the app failed to register. Shiite. The drive was making all the right clicks and whirrs but it’s been several years since I accessed it. After a quick search on the internet I found out that the Go Flex system is now no longer working and supported and the only way to get to the drive was to take it apart and somehow connect it directly to the laptop. So, another hour on YouTube self-learning about drive recovery, SATA, PATA, IDE, converters, and adapters I finally ordered one of these [https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B078GZG4ST] . China – Geeks Love You. Amazon Prime 24 hour delivery is amazing. I literally clicked BUY last night and this evening, I got the adapter.

This isn’t the end.

Upon connecting the naked drive with this gadget into my Macbook, the drive popped up instantly on the desktop. However, the drive folder is err.. empty! Nada, although inspecting the drive properties showed it has over 400GB used. How strange. I couldn’t understand why the files weren’t showing up. Until closer inspection brought up the words Windows NTFS on the drive. I am not really clued up about compatible drive formats between Mac and Windows OS but I knew I had to connect it to a Windows machine somehow. Luckily, I have an ageing Windows laptop which I quickly powered up and got it hooked up to the drive and voila! All my backup files showed up.

I finally managed to locate the Rita folder with all the CRW files shot on my Canon 5D with a 35mm f2 and 50mm f1.4 lens and I can sleep easy tonight. There is a lesson to be learnt here, but for now, I can’t think what it is. Goodbye, Rita.