I’m approaching the first quarter of this years ‘one photo a day’ project and things are still going pretty well. I’ve got quite used to carrying my ‘big’ camera at all times again, although it is feeling huge and cumbersome against the modern crop of smaller good quality camera’s that are out at the moment.
Wide angle, long exposure
Since I broke my ‘nifty fifty’ (50mm 1.8) in January I’ve only used my 17-40mm lens. This means that I can’t really help but do a lot of wide angle photography. As I have been shooting a lot at night (in these short days), I’ve had to be inventive about having a tripod to cope with the long exposure times.
I have a small, very packable, little tripod that has been really useful. I have more often, however, just used bits of street furniture to rest the camera on. Bollards, telephone exchange boxes, ledges, crossing signs and other flat items on the street have all come into play at some point. Obviously this means that I don’t always get the angle I’d prefer, but it does mean I can be fairly fast at taking a shot and getting on my way.
This sub-project has gone fairly well so far in that I have now racked up 16 or so portraits, mainly work colleagues and a few family and friends. This is fine of course. I do subscribe to a group on Flickr called ‘100 strangers’ that encourages taking pictures of people that you don’t know and recounting the story as well as the picture. I am in awe of this and would like to find the courage to give it a go myself but I’ll have to see on that.
I’m looking forward to continuing the project into the summer, especially as I will be working in a new area of London that I hope will offer lots of new photographic opportunities. I might also be able to find a new crew of models for my portrait project maybe?
I am getting a modest windfall soon and one of the questions is whether to invest in a new lens. I’ve not had a new bit of glass for over six years (since I had children) and it would be lovely to treat myself. It would be also be wonderful excuse to take more pictures of course! I’m looking at various options by I currently covert a 35mm 1.4. My only consideration is that my camera body is quite old and if that goes kaput I’ll be left with a lot of lenses and no camera!
Well, I seem to have cleared the first month of daily photography without too much difficulty and to my own surprise it has given me a new lease of (photographic) life.
I’m really glad that I’ve chosen to stick to black and white photography. At first glance it seems to be quite a constraint but I’ve actually found it very liberating. I’ve also found that because I know it will be monochrome it naturally means I look for shots that suit the medium. In the past I’ve often shot for colour and as an afterthought switched it to b & w.
My two mini-projects have been to photograph streets, usually on a long exposure and to attempt to get as many portraits as I can and so far I am pleased with both.
As in previous years I’ve also found myself looking at other peoples work on Flickr a lot more which I really enjoy.
I’m still not sure that I’ll keep this up for the whole year but I’ll certainly keep going for now!
Having completed ‘one photo a day’ (365) projects in 2008 and 2011 I know what a commitment it is and to be honest I never thought that I would be doing one again. So what has brought me back?
Firstly, I’ve been scrambling around for a personal project to get my teeth into for the year but nothing was really tempting me. The second thing was that during the latter part of last year I started to take one or two pictures a week around the City of London and in black and white. I was quite pleased with the results and got some very nice comments and it made me think that this could be a style and theme for the year.
Whilst I was very proud of finishing the last two projects they seemed more about stamina than photography and in particular the results were quite a mish-mash of styles and a mix of monochrome and colour. I’ve heard of other ‘project 365’ people who have put all of their pictures in a photo book but this is something that hasn’t tempted me as my photos haven’t hung together as a collection.
The idea this year (I hope) is to move on from my previous attempts and create a collection of photographs that have a theme and have a consistent style. The one hard rule for 2014 then is to have every photo in black and white. Less hard and fast is that I intend to take a lot of urban street pictures and, where possible, portraits.
I’m determined not to put myself under too much pressure so my thoughts at this point is just to go as far as I can, even if this is just a month or two. Let’s see after that.
In 2008 I completed my first ‘One photo a day’ for a year project. I found it quite a struggle and it almost drove me a little crazy at times. When I was finished I felt very burnt out for photography and it took me quite a while to get my mojo back. I tried fairly hard to get good, arty shots each day and possibly got a bit frustrated and upset if I didn’t get what I was after. When I finished, dazed as I was, I felt an amazing sense of accomplishment.
For this years project I went into it with a whole different attitude. This time I told myself that it would be more of a photo journal rather than an art project and I gave myself full licence to take ‘cop-out’ shots where necessary. With work and kids there are enough stresses in my life so I also said that if it got a bit much that I would just give it up. The fact that I’d already notched up one before helped here.
How did it go?
With all those pre-conditions I actually found it fairly easy this time, I certainly can’t remember a time that I felt pressured or in a tizzy about it. I more or less took my Canon 5D around with me everywhere, despite it’s bulk. It was therefore fairly straightforward to get a shot somewhere in the day. Equipment-wise this year, I had a better camera in the 5D rather than my old 20D but no macro lens as I’d sold it to get my iPhone. I remember relying on the macro quite a bit in 2008 to get those shots indoors at night. In a way I’m glad it wasn’t an option this time as I took more pictures of scenes rather than objects which suited the photo journal approach better.
The big issue this year was not so much taking the pictures, it was uploading them to Flickr. It’s interesting to note that since i’ve had a smartphone where I can take a picture, edit it if necessary and upload it within seconds or minutes it now seems an imposition if it takes longer. The knock-on effect of this has been that I now resent having to take out my memory card, plug it into the card reader and input the photos into Lightroom before editing and uploading. At first I would upload my photo each day but by the end I was doing it every 5-6 days.
Projects within the project
I had two main mini-projects to help me along during the year. The first was to document my cycle route to work which for a while was giving me 1 or 2 pictures a week. The other was an (overly) ambitious project called ’52 Portraits’. The idea was for me to take one portrait a week for the whole year. I loved the idea of this but I think i should have planned it a whole lot better as I kind of ran out of people willing to have their picture taken after about 20 weeks. Still as long as it lasted it gave me another day each week that I could include in the overall 365 project. Despite neither of these mini-projects quite coming off I’m glad I had a go as they gave me a bit of focus early on. They are also topics that i can easily pick up later if I want to.
Am I a better photographer?
My own self assessment is that I’m a much more rounded photographer this time around than I was in 2008 and the equipment that I’m using is a lot better. On the other hand I think I’ve also become a lot more accepting of snapshots and less worried about ‘arty’ shots than i was. In a sense my photography has come full circle. I’ve gone through being irritated by people being in my pictures and the desire to get the perfect framing and exposure. I’m a lot more interested these days in just recording what I’m seeing. I certainly take a lot more pictures of the family than I used to. I therefore wouldn’t say that I’ve got much better technically but I have got a lot more comfortable in my picture taking.
I completed my first 365 (actually 366) in 2008 and this one in 2011 which makes me due another one in 2014? As I rely on taking so many of these pictures on my way to work I don’t think i could face doing it again till I work (or live) somewhere else. I have no immediate plans to move by then but you never know what will be happening?
A less stressful and angst ridden project this time but also slightly less fulfilling one somehow. That said, I’m glad I did it and would consider doing it again one day. Not in 2012 though.
Well here I am again doing a ‘photo a day‘ project where I’ll be trying to not miss a day until the end of the year. I was really burnt out after my first time doing this project in 2008 so I was a bit nervous about doing it again.
This time though, I was determined to be a bit more casual about it and not beat myself up about the quality of my daily shot. I was also keen to add more of a diary element to my uploads and try and make it a reflection of what I’ve been up to. Now that I’m three months in I can say that I’m feeling good about it so far. I’ve not felt particularly pressured yet and I seem to have got my shots without too much heartache.
Projects within a project
I’ve got two particular projects on the go with ‘Project 365’ that certainly help.
The first is one called ‘52 portraits‘ which from the title you can guess involves taking 1 portrait per week. Portrait photography is something that I’d like to be better at but this mini-project has really given me the impetus to practice regularly. I’m certainly enjoying it so far and I think I’m going to have a lovely portfolio at the end of it.
The other mini-project is documenting my cycle to work (Sydenham to the City). There are several interesting features on my route that I’d like to gradually record if I can.
With my mini-projects taking up 2-3 photos a week it takes the pressure off the other days that I have to find something to photograph. The other nice thing is that now the clocks have gone forward there is a lot more evening light to take a picture either on my way home from work or in the early evening. This really helps. If it wasn’t for the neatness of doing a calendar year I think starting a 365 project in the summer would be a far better time to kick things off.
Anyway, going well so far but as i know from last time, the hard yards and dark days are still ahead of me.
The marathon is over and I’ve just about managed to stagger over the finish line and collapse. Phew, what a year.
I started the ‘one photo a day’ project on a bit of a whim. I thought to myself that 2008 would be a pretty significant year, mainly because my first child was going to be born in May, and I reckoned project366 would be an interesting way of recording her birth and first seven months. In many respects I wish I’d given it a bit more thought, specifically with regard to choosing a theme or mini-projects. Part of the problem was that I’d assumed that taking just one photo a day would be so easy.
As things turned out, it was really tough and going into the third quarter I really hit ‘the wall’ and nearly quit. Now that I’ve finished, however, I’m really glad I persevered and got to the end.
I was really keen to increase my technical camera skills this year, particularly by getting the most out of my camera. Prior to 2008 I still mainly used the ‘auto’ settings on my 20D, which I’m a little embarrassed about. What finally got me out of this rut was reading the book ‘Understanding Exposure’ by Bryan Peterson. This book cleverly never mentions any specific camera or lens and therefore doesn’t really date. What it does do, however, is very simply explain how to get creative exposures, how and when to use minimal or maximum apertures and other ‘tricks’. I’ve really tried to have ago at many of these and it’s been really fun trying them out.
A big goal was to start shooting in fully manual mode, however, this has not quite happened. The reality is that I almost exclusively shoot with ‘aperture priority’, choosing ISO and aperture for each shot but leaving the camera to pick the shutter speed. Having to set up shutter speed in addition to aperture I’ve found takes that tiny bit longer and has put me off. I may have to roll-over this goal to 2009.
It’s notable that I only got one new lens this year, the classic EF 50mm f1.8. I’ve tried to concentrate on making the most of the equipment I’ve got before I get any more.
Variety of shots
Alongside the task of weaning myself off of ‘auto’ mode was the aim of taking a bigger variety of pictures and branching into new areas. When I first bought a DSLR camera in 2005 my sole interest was landscape photography. I got so blinkered for a while that I got a bit upset if any people at all were in my pictures.
In 2007 inspired by stuff I’d seen on Flickr I started to take more pictures of London and my local area. Project365 only increased this trend, particularly as a lot of the opportunities for photos in daylight would be on my way to or from my work in the City (for the record I do not work for a bank).
One of the new types of photography that I’m really interested in now is street photography. Carrying a camera with me nearly all the time has meant I’ve been able to take those improvised street shots when I see something interesting or unusual.
I’ve also been keen to increase my portrait skills and over the year I’ve been making an effort to get better at this. Something that really helped inspire me in this was going on a short lighting course. I’ve since been able to practice some of the techniques that I learnt and I’ve largely been happy with the results so far. This is an area I want to continue to develop in the future.
What have I learnt?
I have a much better understanding of the technicalities of photography, though this is far from complete. I’ve grown my ‘photographers eye’ into lots of new areas and I ‘see’ a greater number of shots than I did a year ago.
Whilst I feel that my lighting skills have come a long way it is a subject that I really hope to develop over time.
One thing I won’t be continuing next year is a ‘one photo a day’ project. I’ve found it rewarding, but also quite exhausting so I’ll be easing up a bit.
Also, other than generally hoping to improve my photography skills still further I have a few specific aims and goals.
Firstly, I’d like to upgrade my equipment slightly and get a full frame camera such as a Canon 5D. I feel that this will add some versatility and to an extent quality to my photography. I’ve no immediate plans to get an more lenses.
I’ve felt for a while that the ‘one photo a day’ project has held back a number of smaller projects that I’ve been thinking of doing and now I’ll be able to do them at my leisure. For one, I want to document my local area in greater depth. Secondly, as I have a bit of a fascination with cafes, I might do a small photo diary of the ones in my bit of London. I have a few more ideas sketched out, but we’ll see about them.
I may have given up doing a daily photo, but I won’t give up a daily activity. I’m going to try to emulate, in a less ambitious way, an annual report in the spirit of that of Nick Felton. I heard an interview with him on the Boagworld podcast and it inspired me. If I manage to pull it off it should be an interesting, though slightly dweeby, insight into some aspects of my life.
This project has been hard work and a great chunk of commitment over the past year and at times I might have gladly given it up. I am, however, really glad that i’ve stuck to it and I feel that this has been a huge achievement that I’m really proud of. Pleasingly, thirteen of the pictures from this project were added to the ‘Explore‘ section of Flickr, something that shouldn’t matter but kind of does.
I’d really recommend this project to anyone wanting some motivation to do more photography but I would also warn anyone that this is a huge commitment.
It’s been an interesting and wonderful journey. It’s been emotional.