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Photographer’s Diary – Where We Go From Here

Maserati at Sebring. Original digital image. [Photo by Jack Webster]

By Jack Webster

I was looking though some of my old files of racing negatives and slides the other day and it got me thinking – where are we headed in photography?

I can currently find original negatives and slides from races that took place ten, twenty, thirty or forty plus years ago, scan those images and make new, modern prints of very high quality.

Just like I can do with those old negatives, I can pull up my digital files for more recent races (I started shooting digital in 2001) and also make outstanding prints from those files.

However, what I am wondering is what is going to happen to those digital files in the next 40+ years. Will they fade into the ether as technology changes and old systems are left in the dust? Will I have to (or someone else in the future when I am gone) continually update and back up those digital files so that they can be retrieved at some point in the future? Even the best DVD backups can only last 20 years or so, so what happens 100+ years from now? A thousand years from now?

Like I say, I started thinking about this as I was going through old negatives and slides. In their case, I still had the original image as it ran through the camera and since they were stored in a cool and dry place all those years, they were in excellent condition. Even the old Ektachrome slides (which can fade with time), were in good shape. I have started making digital scans from some of this old material, so at a minimum I will have both the original material and a digital backup.

However, as I said before, one cannot possibly forecast what may happen in the future. Just look at how quickly technology has changed already in regards to digital photography. Back in 2002 I was shooting with a camera that produced 6 megapixel images, while today I am using a camera that produces 25 megapixel images – a four-fold increase in resolution in just a few short years. Plus, there are cameras today that put that 25 megapixel image to shame. Who can forecast what will exist in another five or ten years? No one.

One can only hope that as new technologies arise, photographers who have documented the history of motorsport (and all other areas of history as well) keep up on changing systems and constantly back up those images so that in the future they are not lost.

It is worth thinking about.

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Jack Webster
Jack Webster has been shooting motorsports since the early 1970's, covering Formula One, CanAm, F5000, TransAm, GrandAm and American Le Mans races, among others. In addition to his photography, he has also worked on racing teams, both in IMSA and IndyCar, so has a complete knowledge of the inner workings of motorsport. Both his photography and writing can be seen here on racingnation.com
Jack Webster

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