365/500 #1

Back in October 2017 I embarked upon a challenge to take a picture a day every day. Said pictures to be shared to a dedicated Flickr group as soon as practical, ideally on the same day but no pressure if not. I  initially set out to create a daily image for the 63 days that remained in 2017 in the hope that it would give me the experience needed to attempt my first full 365 in 2018.  Back in February 2015 I’d attempted a picture a day for 28 days and whilst I made the 28 images it was not a success, I even resorted to photographing the contents of the car boot at eleven pm one evening with my phone as we checked into a hotel. However, I recently passed the 500 image mark, that is over 500 consecutive daily images! I’ve been reflecting on the experience and am going to share these reflections over a couple of posts; this one and another in a day or two.

The image that started it all back in October 2017

Why did I do it? I certainly asked this question on more than one occasion over the last 500 days! It’s definitely been a challenge, both creatively and logistically but there is no doubt it quickly became a habit, just part of my normal, daily routine. There is also a huge amount of personal satisfaction as each milestone ticks up. A week, one month, 50 days, 100 days, six months, one year … each milestone provided a further goal to aim for, to aspire to. It’s a useful motivational boost as each milestone is passed.

I use a spreadsheet (more on this in part two) to catalogue each image noting how many are posted on the day and other factual data. I also make a point of writing a short (well, usually it is short) caption for each image. I belong to a dedicated 365 group on Flickr, we limit ourselves to around 50 members at any one time, and by being part of the group I get a sense of community, support and of course some welcome encouragement and feedback. Feedback can be motivational or constructive and is often both. A simple “like” can lift the spirits and I just wish I was able to comment on more images from my fellow members every day.

Image 58 from the 63-2017 project

On a practical level I quickly learned to carry a camera at all times. My smartphone made a good substitute early on but I soon got into the habit of dropping one of my smaller cameras in my bag or pocket whenever I went out. The Fuji X100t has been the workhorse for this project and in fact is now stored in my bag permanently. I have however used every digital camera I own, or have owned, during the past 500 days a fact I have also tabulated in part two.

One of the infamous medication at Christmas images – see below

I vowed at the start that pictures of my breakfast or arty shots of my Americano in Costa Coffee would be taboo. Whilst some of the everyday shots of life in Elland are bordering on the banal, they are to me slices of social history (I don’t mean to sound pretentious) whilst pictures of my coffee would by my reckoning be simply lazy although I totally get that for some people it’s an important part of the documentary process. It depends on your personal objectives I guess. The most difficult couple of days came over the Winter of 2017/2018, less than five weeks into the challenge. I contracted pneumonia and spent the next three months on steroids, antibiotics and under virtual house arrest to avoid hospitalisation. I kept the 365 alive with macro images shot in the back or front yard or still life set ups in the spare bedroom. Numerous images taken from the bedroom window tested my creativity. There were two consecutive days when I physically couldn’t manage even these simple activities though but on both days I made it downstairs long enough to snap pictures of my medication hanging on the Christmas tree – surely the most banal images I’ve snapped during the challenge but still they tell a story (see above for an example). Many images during this period were shot on a full frame Nikon D800E digital camera which, as is revealed in the next instalment, [spoiler alert] has largely been replaced in my day to day photography by Fuji X-series cameras.

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.

Bokelicious: image 365-2019-083

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 to the newsagents for the daily 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 an “insurance shot” 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 also 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.
  • 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.

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