Tips for a ‘One photo a day’ project

I’ve been musing for a while on some of my thoughts on the ‘one photo a day‘ project that I’ve been taking part in since 1st January 2008. Here are some tips you may find useful.

Many of these tips assume that your keen not to miss any days and desire to be a completist.

1. It’s a huge commitment.
Before I started, I massively underestimated quite what a long term undertaking it is. Taking a picture every day doesn’t sound like much of a chore, and in a way it isn’t, but doing it for 365 days straight can get to be a grind. This is not to say that I’m trying to put anyone off, just that you should start with realistic expectations.

2. Always carry a camera with you.
Unless you never go out, it’s good to just carry your camera with you everywhere. This has been the main revelation for me during the last year. So many times in the past I’ve seen a cool thing to photograph and never had a camera on me. Not a problem this year, my only issue is generally not having the most appropriate lens.

3. Focus on a theme
One excellent idea for this project is to focus on a particular subject or theme for the whole year. The most popular is probably self portraits, but there are plenty of others you might want to do. Taking an idea from the film ‘Smoke‘ you could take a picture of the same place (maybe at the same time?) every day. Another I’ve thought of would be to take a picture of my dinner every day, wouldn’t that be a revealing record? One big advantage of focusing on one subject is that it takes away the problem of ‘I can’t think of anything to photograph’. On the downside, it limits what your show at the end of the year.

Its worth giving this some real thought before you start.

4. Have projects within the project
Another approach is to set yourself mini-projects throughout the year. These can be anything of course, but I think they break down into two main categories – ‘Change’ and ‘Documentary’. Change projects are essentially recording things that are likely to be different over time. This could be a tree in different seasons, a building being constructed (or demolished), a baby or small child growing up. A documentary project could be photographing all the cafe’s in your area, street life of the town you live in, your friends and family, essentially anything you could group together into an interesting portfolio.

5. Take a ‘safety’ photo in the morning
Even if you’ve planned to take a picture of something particular later, take a safety photo as early in the day as possible. This could be the view out of your bedroom window or your dog or anything, even if it’s not that great a shot. The point is, it’ll really hurt when your on day two hundred and something and you forget your camera or doze off in front of the telly and miss that daily picture. Taking a ‘safety’ photo is a great habit to get into and can save your project.

6. Have an ‘ideas’ notebook
When you start, you’ll think of lots of things to take a picture of, maybe ten, twenty or even fifty things. While this is plenty to get on with, your going to need to take 365 pictures by the end and it’s good to be ahead of the game.

I found it really useful to have a notebook that I could scribble photo ideas in as they occurred to me. I also found that this often sparked off even more ideas. This meant that on those days where I was otherwise lacking for inspiration I could scan my notes for something.

7. Macro, low light and flash
During the winter months when daylight is short or as often happens, you’ve not taken a picture all day, it’s 11 o’clock at night and your desperate to take a picture of something round the house – this is the time for macro, low light and flash photography. If at all possible get yourself a macro and/or low light lens (if you have a dslr) and a proper flash/home studio set up if possible. This really opens up the possibilities of interesting photography when stuck at home or at night. Unless your super organised this can happen quite a lot.

8. Have access to a back-up camera
Apart from forgetting or being ill, the other thing that may force you to miss a day is camera failure. Even if your very careful with your equipment, malfunctions can happen and in these unfortunate instances – have a back-up. The best solution is to own at least one other camera yourself, but if not, do you have a friend or relative willing to lend you theirs at short notice?

9. Accept the odd ‘cop-out’ shot
This project is a marathon, not a sprint and even the most enthusiastic of us have our low, un-inspired days. On days like these, take a shot of anything and just live with it and certainly don’t beat yourself up for not keeping to your usual standard. At least one or two of my shots a month are cop-outs, but the point is that I haven’t missed a day!

10. Try new things
A project like this is a fantastic opportunity to learn how to use your camera better, experiment with new techniques and generally improve your photography. Take a trip out of your comfort zone – if you usually take landscapes, have a go at portraits, if your thing is architecture, try some street photography and if you’ve never tried it before set up a mini studio at home – it’s not as hard or expensive as you think.

If you only get one book on photography, you could do worse than Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. It’s easy to improve quickly and a great way to start making that difference to your photos.

It might also be the time to do that photography course you’ve thought about or join a club and definitely get involved with different groups on Flickr, they can be an enormous source of encouragement, advice and inspiration.

Summary
This can be a really wonderful and rewarding project and i’m sure when you finish you’ll be really proud of it. Good luck and happy shooting!

If you’d like to read about my own thoughts at the end of my own project, read Project 366 – finished.

Expedition: Knoydart

Loch Nevis
Loch Nevis

They claim it is ‘the remotest place in mainland britian’ and by ‘remote’, they mean it has no road connection. Having said all that we actually found it very accessible, all things considered.

Every year, my friend Andy and I try to have a weekend of adventure, preferably taking in some mountains and camping and walking. This year our expedition was to the Knoydart peninsular in Scotland.

Sleeper
It’s a little old fashioned and has probably lost a bit of it’s glamour, but i’m quite a fan of the caledonian sleeper service. It runs from London Euston to various places in Scotland, but particularly for this trip, it goes to Fort William in the Highlands. We got on the train at 21.15 on Thursday and were in Locharbor by 10.00 the next morning.

Friday: Knoydart Peninsular
From Fort William it was another train up to Mallaig. This journey, made famous by the Hogwarts Express, is one of the most picturesque in the whole country. From Mallaig it was a short 45 minute ferry over to Inverie on the Knoydart peninsular and we were there by 15.00, not bad for somewhere so remote.

Trekkers
Trekkers

The Knoydart is a large, wild, rugged and very beautiful area of Britain. It has three Munros and numerous other wonderful hills and mountains. It has a flourishing population of deer and many wonderful birds of prey including the Golden Eagle and Sea Eagle, although I didn’t actually see any of them (grrrr). What really attracted me was it’s remoteness and feeling of wilderness. I say ‘feeling’ as it is, like all of the Highlands actually closely managed, in this instance by the Knoydart Foundation. The foundation is good enough to supply a ranger service and runs an excellent bunk house/hostel.

The Old Forge
The Old Forge

After setting up our camp we made our way to ‘The Old Forge‘, the only pub in this here parts and enjoyed a wonderful dinner of locally caught langoustines.

Saturday: Munro bagging
There are three mountains over 914m (known as munros) in the Knoydart and we planned to climb at least one of them. Many people make it an ambition to climb all 284 munros and these people are called ‘munro baggers’. Whilst I think it’d be a nice thing to do, it might be tempting to miss out some other great hill walks below 914m and in any case with my 5 or 6 ‘bagged’ munros i’m a very long way off.

Ladhar Bheinn
Ladhar Bheinn

We set off on the saturday morning to climb ‘Ladhar Bheinn‘, which at 1020m looked fairly respectable. There is a 3-4 km walk in to the mountain on a very reasonable track that leads you almost to the base of the mountain. From here and for the next three hours it was just a relentless and increasingly steep climb.

The weather started fairly clear but the summit was cloud covered all day and as we neared the ridge of the mountain it started swirling around us. The wind started to take effect now as well, so fieirce that we could only just stay upright and a few times were knocked over. We eventually saw the trig point that marked the summit emerging from the mist, what a relief, we’d made it!

Waves
Waves on Ladhar Bheinn

We’d originally intended to walk over to Barisdale and camp there. The path from the summit narrowed considerably now and with the wind it was clear neither of us fancied it and eventually I suggested that we should turn back. The very narrow path, the very high wind and our very heavy packs didn’t make for a good combination and I think we made a good decision.

My legs were really wobbly from exertion on our journey down the mountain and I was very glad when we made the valley floor. The walk back to Inverie seemed much longer this time of day and we only made the campsite just before sundown.

Sunday: Putting the amble back into ramble

Low tide on Loch Nevis
Low tide on Loch Nevis

It was a bit of a wet and windy night under canvas and we emerged in the morning feeling the effects of the tough walk yesterday. After a brew and breakfast we decided to go for a bit of a more sedate walk today. We had a nice walk along the coast of the peninsular returning to Inverie in time for lunch at The Old Forge. In the afternoon we walked back down the valley towards Ladhar Bheinn continuing to soak up the wonderful views.

We were into our third day without a shower so we thought it might be nice to have a night in the bunkhouse. This is a basic, but excellent value for money hostel, run by the foundation and it was so nice to get clean and feel human again.

In the pub that evening we had the bonus treat of a touring band double bill – Claes Cem a fine danish band and the Injuns a talented british one. I feel bad, but for me the danes edged it and were really good. A really great final evening.

Monday: Homeward bound

The ferry home
The ferry home

We would have liked to hang around longer, but we had no choice but to get the 11.00 ferry to Mallaig. It was a shame to leave so early as our sleeper didn’t leave Fort William till 19.00. This meant we had a long wait in Mallaig, which is a slightly depressing fishing town. Enjoyed the train journey again, god I love those mountains!

Summary
It’s always nice spending time with Andy, no matter what the conditions we manage to keep cracking jokes with each other. As a big bonus I got to see the mountains of Scotland, something that always makes my soul sing. It may be because I live in the city, but I really live for a bit of wilderness and this will keep me going for a while.

A top place and top trip!

Project 366 – the final quarter

Apple keyboard
Apple keyboard

Since the 1st January 2008 I’ve been taking and publishing on flickr at least one picture a day.

So far, against all odds, I’ve not missed a day. I’m part of a group on flickr that all started at the beginning of the year and gradually and for various reasons, many people have dropped out. Often it was that people ran out of inspiration, but more often recently it has been because people have missed one or more days and are so annoyed with themselves that they give up.

Whilst I’ve been fairly diligent in getting the daily shot, I am getting quite weary of the project. I’ve been taking pictures of ‘anything’ just to get the daily picture and I now feel that I’ve missed the chance to be more creative and interesting. I think now, that I should have had one or more things that I should have set out to photograph – projects within the project.

The city in the rain
The city in the rain

One I thought of recently would be to take a picture of every meal, every day for a year. Slightly mundane on it’s own, it would be interesting to have a record of your dinner every day. I just re-read this and it seems quite a dweeby idea.

I have three months to go and unless I have equipment failure or a major illness I think I’ll complete the project. I’ve not been looking forward to it for a while though and in many ways it’s stifling other, smaller projects that i’d like to do. In a way I feel it’s draining my creativity from what could be more interesting things. Or is it I’ve just lost interest?

I’ve also been mulling over many of the things that I’ve learnt and I’ve built up a number of thoughts and maybe advice on doing a project like this. I may save this for a separate post.

Ilfracombe, North Devon

What with having a new baby in May, we kind of missed a summer holiday, which made us determined to do something before it got really cold. This turned out to be a really good decision as the summer has been fairly rubbish, weather wise, and our autumn break was mostly in beautiful sunshine.

Day One – On our way

A view of Capstone Hill from the patio of our cottage
A view of Capstone Hill from the patio of our cottage

When planning this trip I thought ‘an early start and miss the traffic’ was an ace idea. When the alarm goes off at 4.15am though it seems a bit less inspired. Drowsiness aside, we did make really good time and even with a few lengthy stops got there before midday.

Stopped in the lovely little village of Combe Martin and enjoyed the lovely sunshine while eating our lunch. In the afternoon we found our apartment in Ilfracombe that turned out to be really nice, cosy and its patio has a nice view over the town to the sea.

We had a quick wander around the town and ended the day with a take out curry. yummy.

Day Two – Tunnels/Beaches

Tunnels/beachs at Ilfracombe
Tunnels/beaches at Ilfracombe

I’d heard before we came that Ilfracombe doesn’t have a beach or at least not a golden sandy one. What it does have in a slightly mysterious way are the tunnels/beaches. You go through a series of tunnels cut through the cliffs that lead to a couple of small black-sand beaches with a tidal pool lido making for safe swimming.

Seeing as how my swimming has been coming along and I need a bit of sea practice I thought that I’d have a bit of a dip. I got stripped down, popped on the swimming cap and leaped in. What I hadn’t quite counted on was how bleedin’ cold it was going to be. I think I lasted about 45 seconds and got out. I really should have taken more notice of all the other people wearing wet-suits.

Spent most of the afternoon with a cream tea and nice read of the paper.

Day Three – Morte Point and Woolacombe

Woolacombe Bay
Woolacombe Bay

The weather was sunny, if a little windy so we wanted to get out and see that great coastline. We drove along to Mortehoe, a very pretty little village just along the coast, making mental notes of the cream tea situation (a day without a cream tea is like a day without sunshine!).

We harnessed Rose into the new baby carrier and set off for the point of death, named so for the large number of ships that have been wrecked on the shore. Interestingly enough there is a small bay on the point called ‘Grunta bay’ after a ship full of live pigs was wrecked there.

The walk was really pleasant with ace views down the coast to Baggy Point and Woolacombe Bay. We saw a shepherd herding his flock with his dogs and on the point we saw a bird of prey hovering effortlessly in the wind. Amazing.

Popped down to Woolacombe in the afternoon looking for a cream tea, but it was slim pickings. The beach here is marvelous and the light was fantastic in the late afternoon.

Day Four – Lynton and Exmoor

Coast path near Lynton
Coast path near Lynton

One of the reasons I was excited about going to this bit of the country was the opportunity to see Exmoor National Park. We thought we’d start off gently by seeing Lynton/Lynmouth and after a bit of fortifying cake and a coffee we had a really pleasant walk down the coast. The views here, like most of north Devon are absolutely wonderful.

In the afternoon we drove out onto the moor and ate our lunch looking over the bleak and slightly desolate heathland. Drove on to Simonsbath and had a little walk in the woods. Then it was onto Exford for what turned out to be the best cream tea of the trip. Yummy yum yum.

Day Five – Birthday Lunch

Lobster Salad at The Quay
Lobster Salad at 'The Quay"

Milled about our apartment in the morning, and then went for Deborah’s birthday lunch. I’d done a bit of research beforehand and it seemed that ‘The Quay’ owned by Damien Hirst was the best restaurant in the area. It was there that I’d decided to go.

For the full review, check out the blog post on ‘The Quay’, but in summary the food was excellent and the service fine, though a bit casual for the price. All together, a very pleasant experience.

In the afternoon we ambled about the town enjoying the fine weather. We finally got to the top of Capstone Hill with it’s stunning views of the town, harbour and surrounding rocky coastline.

A really nice day.

Day Six – Westwood Ho!

Stones from Westwood Ho! beach
Stones from Westwood Ho! beach

This was the day we’d set aside to go on a trip to the Isle of Lundy, something i’d been really looking forward to. Much to my surprise all 267 places on the boat were booked, even this late in the season. I was a bit gutted about this, but i’ve learned my lesson – book ahead.

Picking ourselves up from this disappointment we thought we’d go a bit further affield and, after glancing at the map, my eye was drawn to ‘Westwood ho!’. Any placename with an exclamation mark in it deserves a visit.

We arrived at this little seaside town, that was more ‘kiss me quick’ than twee and had a fine stony beach. We’d just sat down for our lunch when we realised that the tide was coming in and coming in quite quickly. We hurried off the beach and to the safety of a tea shop (very average). Had a walk and really got to appreciate the amazing stones on the beach. They were of a decent size and most had a pretty white marbling and I was tempted to nick some.

Not sure if it was quite worth the trip, but I do like that name!

Day Seven – Friends

Ilfracombe
Ilfracombe

I started the day with an early morning swim at the local pool. I tried to pay them, but they consistently failed to be around in the lobby, so I go a freebie. I may well be a wanted man in Ilfracombe.

Deborah’s friend Eleanor had recently moved back to Devon and it seemed natural that we meet up as we hadn’t seen her since our wedding last summer. Eleanor works down here as a vet and we got a number of fascinating though occasionally gruesome stories.

The weather was glorious, Rose was cute and all was well with the world.

A lovely and relaxing day.

Day Eight – Home
Sadly, all good things have to come to an end and it was time to go home. We had hoped to stop off somewhere nice on the way, but the south west was under a deep blanket of fog all morning so we just made fast for home. I’d been slightly dreading the long drives, but they both turned out to be fine in the end.

Summary
All in all, we had a really nice time, made all the more special for being Rose’s first holiday. To be honest, she barely seemed to notice the scenery, but it was a trip D and I will both cherish.