Project 366 – finished

The marathon is over and I’ve just about managed to stagger over the finish line and collapse. Phew, what a year.

January - A foggy Millenium Bridge
January - A foggy Millenium Bridge

Unassuming beginnings

My daughter Rose, one day old
My daughter Rose, one day old

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.

New skills

Death comes to London Bridge
Death comes to London Bridge

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.

Raspberries
Raspberries

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

Battersea Power Station open day
Battersea Power Station open day

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).

Ironmonger Lane, City of London
Ironmonger Lane, City of London

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?

Rachel and Richard
Rachel and Richard

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.

What now?

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.

Lloyds building, City of London
Lloyds building, City of London

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.

Summary
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.

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.

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.

One photo a day – half-way

Since the 1st of January 2008 I’ve been taking part in ‘project 365+1 2008‘, signing up to take a picture every day and posting it on flickr for all to see.

181 - soft toy

Today is the half-way point of the project and so far I’ve not missed a day. This is a far more difficult task than I would ever have imagined, I mean, how hard could it be to just take a picture every day? Well, if you want a nice one, then it can be a bit tough.

I went into it with no particular plan or goal other than to finish the year out. I kind of regret this now a bit as I think there is huge scope for projects within the project. I can still do many of these of course, but it would have been nice to have done them from the start.

I’ve tried to take good and, where possible, arty shots, but I think now that it may well have been more interesting to do a proper daily ‘photo diary’ documenting my life. I sometimes think ‘maybe next year’ but also ‘I wouldn’t put myself through this again’.

Quite a few people in the group have fallen by the wayside, but I feel quite determined to see out the year, It’d be a huge achievement.

See all the ‘one ohoto a day’ posts.