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past and present

And now for something completely different…


We grew up in a pre-digital age. Photography may have lost the aura of magic it surely had when the first cameras were introduced in the 19th century, but compared to the ubiquity and sophistication of modern-day digital cameras we might as well have grown up in the dark ages.

In the month since Munchkin was born, he has been photographed several thousand times. By contrast, there are no pictures of D when he was this little. D’s parents did not own a camera and it was not until some friends came to visit his parents when D was a month old that he was photographed for the first time. They had only one roll of film, and had already taken some 20 pictures so they could only shoot about a dozen frames of D with his parents. Alas, the roll was developed poorly — the last half of it was overexposed and none of those pictures came out. D was half a year old by the time his parents arranged a photo shoot with a professional photographer. Few of those prints survive to this day. Most of D’s parents’ pictures got lost in the shuffle of immigration so there are only a handful of photographs of the first ten years of D’s life.

In a way, the ease with which we now take and share pictures has cheapened photography, devaluing the memories it helps preserve. With blurry pictures of kittens and poorly-lit photos of half-eaten food dominating social media, we are so saturated in photographic images that their noise is overwhelming. Gone are the days when each family get-together would be an occasion to revisit the family photo album. Nowadays, every “special” moment is instantly photographed, shared, and forgotten. Whoever has the time to look through old photos anymore?


Admittedly, we too are guilty of taking too many pictures. When D started going through our files in January, he found that we had close to 10,000 unsorted photos, dating all the way back to last year’s home leave. We limit our post-production to cropping and rotating, when necessary, but even so it took D several months to finish culling and organizing the backlog.


In so doing, we also scrolled through some of our earlier pictures — photos we had not glimpsed in years and, in some cases, in nearly a decade. In Africa, we had become interested in birding, but during our previous travels in South and Central America we had taken many bird photos long before birdwatching appealed to us as a hobby. Of course, they were all either mislabeled or lacked names altogether. Now that we’ve gone back and identified them, here are our favorite bird pictures from our early travels, as well as some new birds we’ve photographed since our last birding post.

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Galapagos, 2006-2007

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Andes (Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia), 2005-2008

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Costa Rica & Nicaragua, 2004, 2009, 2010

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Argentina & Paraguay, 2008

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Indian Ocean (Madagascar, Reunion, Seychelles), 2012

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Europe & USA, 2013-2014

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