Pictures of You. Pictures of Me.

Last edited on Sun, 8 May 2011 00:48:25 -0400

101011.pngIn 2008, I had visited Vancouver for 10 days to see what the Canadian West Coast was all about. With me was my then brand new Nikon D40 DSLR camera. Vancouver was beautiful and I had returned with a filled 4 GB SD card. Unfortunately my laptop had been struggling with free space for some time, so I had decided to invest in an external hard drive.

At the time it seemed like a great investment. Upon buying the hard drive, I felt like I had all the storage in the world. I went a little psychotic to be honest. I started downloading TV shows I had never heard of and movies I'd probably never watch. I made backups (sometimes even two backups) of my documents, music, and pictures. And I started putting lots of new pictures on it too. I also changed the setting on my camera to save larger photos. In a nutshell, I became very dependent on my external drive and what I hadn't realized was that I was storing a great deal of data on it that had never been backed up. Until one day the realization finally hit me just as hard as my external drive hit the wooden floor of the apartment I was moving out of. I lost of lot of irreplaceable data that day including all the pictures of my Vancouver trip.

Today, I have almost 50 GB of digital pictures. 42 GB of those pictures have been taken between now and 2008 - mainly because I took up photography as a hobby around 2007.  The oldest digital picture I have was taken on the 17th of January, 2002. That's 8 years worth of photos I have and I don't intend on ever losing a single photo again. Buying a new laptop with plenty of storage, and then backing up regularly on an external storage worked fairly well for a while but I knew in the back of my mind that both my laptop and my external storage were vulnerable to theft. And since they sat on the same desk, they would probably get stolen at the same time.

Hence I decided to go with online storage. I paid for 80 GBs of storage on Picasa (this was actually the first time ever that I had directly given money to Google) and while this probably is a much safer place for my photos, I'm still not free from worries. Here are a few questions that I should probably ask Picasa support at some point:

1. I set my pictures to be private, but how private are they really? Can some mentally disturbed data sciences engineer at Google plot to kill me by putting my picture on some sort of Mafia hitlist? On a more serious note, can the FBI, CIA, NSA, or Interpol access my pictures at will?

2. What happens when Google's storage fails and I lose all my data? I have a feeling they won't take any responsibility. No one ever does these days.

3. What will Google do to my pictures if I fail to make my yearly payments? Will they simply delete everything, or will they freeze my account until I pay up? Or will they punish me by releasing my pictures on Google images and adding funny moustaches on my face?

Despite all my worries, things have been going fairly well with Picasa. An awesome feature of Picasa is a built-in facial recognition tool that attempts to detect and identify faces. I spent almost four hours training it, and I believe that I have come to a point where Picasa has detected and identified all the "relevant" faces in my pictures. It's nice to have my pictures organized by faces. I basically have a list of the names of all the people I have ever photographed and at any time I can pull up the photos of any one person. And this brought up some interesting insights. Obviously, some of my friends were photographed more than others, but the numbers were quite astounding.

Here are the 5 most photographed people that appear in my albums since 2002:

1. Me - 2,472 photos
This is interesting because photos in which I appear are rarely taken by me. This shows how often I let others use my camera and also highlights the significance of other people's contributions to my albums.

2. Neha Sinha - 1,510 photos
Neha being among the top is not surprising given that she had a great smile and was always around me (and my camera) during our final years of university. But her beating the next person by almost 500 pictures is actually surprising. I've only known Neha since 2005, and she really only started appearing in most of my albums since 2007 - about the same time when I started taking up photography as a hobby. I would argue that between 2007 and now, there are more pictures of Neha than there are of me in my own albums.

3. Nahita Nishmin - 1,057 photos
Dear Nahita has been the subject of so many of my photos for a combination of three reasons - she's fun to hang out with, she loves taking pictures, and she's gorgeous. Unfortunately Nahita and I have met only a handful of times since we parted ways in high school back in 2005 - which means that 1,057 is quite the impressive number.

4. Jon Bennett - 1,053 photos
Jon and I are travel buddies. Together we have been to Vancouver, Whistler, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax, Cape Breton Island, Charlottetown, Fredericton, Madrid, Barcelona, Nice, Monaco, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich, Zurich, the Swiss Alps, Florence, Naples, Venice, Rome, Vatican City, Pompeii, Athens, Ios, Santorini, and London. I would've had more pictures of Jon had I not lost all our Vancouver pictures.

5. DongNi Zhang - 837 photos
My classmates at Waterloo will recall that I spent a lot of time with DongNi - in fact I think I spent more time with her than anyone else during my 5 years of university. So 837 is actually a very, very low number. I'm not sure why I have relatively fewer pictures of her. But nonetheless, she was a lot of fun to photograph. In general, I love taking pictures of people who love to pose - it makes photography enjoyable for the both of us, and the results are usually great, if not stunning.

If you enjoy more statistics, then read on.

It was tediously difficult for me to determine the absolute number of different people photographed since a lot of my pictures were taken with crowds in the background causing the faces of random strangers to get picked up by the facial recognition tool. But here are a few statistics:

  • Roughly 18,000 faces detected in roughly 15,000 photos. This averages over 1 face per photo. I'm not sure how correct this number is. I do have a lot of pictures of just scenery where no faces appear. But I also have a lot of group pictures where several faces appear.

  • The total number of people I personally know who appear in my photos is 202. Among them, I have the email addresses of only 108. This is partly due to the fact that a lot of these are my family members back in Bangladesh who probably don't have an internet connection, or even a computer for that matter (I bet more than half of them are experiencing a power outage as I write this blog).

  • Already mentioned some of this above but once again: 47.4 GB of pictures in total. Oldest picture taken on 17th Jan 2002.

Personally, I feel that all this is quite amazing. In 1997, I had 2.5 GB of storage in total. In 2002, I moved up to 20 GB. In 2005, I moved up again to 80 GB. Today, I have 80 GB alone on Picasa for just my photos.

If any of you are curious as to what photos I have of you, or how many photos I have of you, feel free to get in touch and I will be more than happy to share those photos with you.

And in case you missed the song reference in the title: Pictures of You by The Last Goodnight.