Today is Day 204 of my 365-2018 project and the 267th since I started creating an image a day and posting it to Flickr. I’ve noted before that the 63-2017 set me up nicely and indeed as I sit here this afternoon pondering which of this morning’s images to use for 365-2018-204 I’ve realised that it has indeed become “just” a part of my daily life.
I did try a picture a day project a few years back and whilst I did manage to take a picture a day it was a struggle, many of the images were of mundane things, snapped just to get an image, any image. I photographed the suitcase in the boot of my car at 11pm one night with my phone. So what am I doing differently in 2018?
Well, first off is state of mind I think. I am relaxed about the project and despite publicly proclaiming the project by joining a Flickr 365 Group I have not put myself under any pressure to “perform”. At the start of the project it was my first, waking thought – I woke up thinking about getting my picture of the day. Until I captured that day’s image it was in the back of my mind constantly. Now though, whilst I am still mindful of the project I am less consciously thinking about it and if I do think about it then it is only in the context of deciding what I may want to photograph.
On those days when I don’t expect to go out anywhere I’ve taken to making an image early doors; having an image as a form of insurance removes the pressure at a stroke and I don’t think I’ve fallen back on this insurance more than once or twice in the last nine months.
I take a lot more notice of what’s under my feet as it were. I’ve always made photographs in the back yard especially when the flowers are blooming and insects are buzzing. But just recently I’ve “seen” rather than just “looked” and have found interest in the otherwise mundane. This conscious act of freeing my mind has extended beyond the borders of my back yard though and I “see” so much more around me now, especially in the localities with which I am most familiar. In this sense I am a better photographer than I was last year.
Whereas in the past photography was a specific activity that I planned in advance I now find that photography is just something that I include in my daily routine. I often take my wife to work at 7am and rather than turning around and coming straight home I have taken to spending ten or fifteen minutes taking photographs before going home. I don’t miss the fifteen minutes in the context of my daily chores and I exercise my photographic muscles in the process. Some days I drive in, noting the light and by the time I drop the wife off I know exactly what I am going to photograph and from which vantage point. I created a very pleasing series of blue-hour images in this way none of which would have been taken in the past when photography was a specific something that I did. I now photograph as part of my routine daily functions such as breathing, eating and sneezing.
On days when I have chores at home I regularly take a short walk early afternoon, partly to stretch my legs and get some fresh air but mainly to give me the opportunity to look for images. I always carry a camera and whilst I may not come back with that day’s image every time it has proven a very fruitful activity and greatly increased my knowledge of my local patch and it’s possibilities.
The picture above of the former Elland Town Hall building and its Grade II listed telephone boxes is a case in point. Wandering that way the previous day I realised that if I returned on a bright sunny morning with blue skies and bringing with me the fisheye lens I could make a very pleasing image contrasting the brickwork warmed by the morning sun from behind me with the bright blue sky. The fisheye would be needed to get it all in and by leaving enough space around the subject I could correct the lens distortion. Sure enough, the following morning dawned with ideal conditions so I timed my daily walk to include this location whilst the sun was still in the optimum position. My daily image, taken within an hour of rising with no stress, no hassle and as it happens fitted in simply by knowing what I wanted to do and making a small detour when going to the Post Office. The 365 is genuinely part of my daily life it seems.
So much of what is needed for a successful 365 seems to come down to your state of mind I feel and how you approach or think about things:
- I carry a camera all the time – even when walking down for the papers;
- I look AND see, noting what might make a good image and under what circumstances – greedily storing away opportunities for the future;
- I do not rely on photography “trips” – every time I leave the house is a photographic opportunity – it’s a state of mind;
- I make opportunities out of my daily routines;
- I no longer worry about what other people might think of my images – I photograph anything that takes my eye, that moves or amuses me – if others like it then that is a bonus;
- Train yourself to look beyond the obvious – floral portraits have been a staple of my back yard photography in the past but there are also shapes, shadows and the play of light on the steps if I look and see;
- Don’t Panic! If you are really concerned about capturing that day’s image then try to take a photograph before breakfast – it’s amazing how that frees you from worrying and sometimes it turns out to be better than you’d anticipated;
- Embrace the location, the weather, the light – cameras work in the rain and the dark – in fact dark, rainy nights in town can make some great images – just get out there;
- Sounds counter-intuitive but stop thinking about the daily image – free your mind from the worry and your creativity can come to the surface – sounds a bit “New Age” thinking but it does work – trust me.
We talk about muscle memory a lot in photography. Consolidating a specific motor task, in our case changing ISO, adjusting the exposure compensation or whatever, into memory through repetition builds this so-called muscle memory. It is important, so the thinking goes, because it enables us to deal with the technical aspects of photography on auto-pilot freeing the mind to think about aesthetics and creativity. I am starting to think that beyond the technical aspects there is still an element of creative muscle building going on. Taking images, with a purpose, every day is exercising all our photographic muscles and with repetition and practice comes competency and a greater ability to “see”. To misquote a rather hackneyed phrase ” the more I practice the more I see”.
So, my five penn’orth on the subject of the photographic 365 based admittedly on just 267 days experience. And before anyone thinks I’m implying this is easy – I am not. It can still be hard work but by approaching it with the correct mind set and incorporating it into part of your daily routine, rather than a standalone activity, it is possible to ease the burden and more importantly really enjoy the process whilst expanding your skills and competency at the same time. Win-win.