On November 21, 2009 I took my first photo in project 365.
Just before I began I wrote here at my blog:
“I figure it will, for one thing, force me to make better, and more frequent, use of my camera. And probably, in an effort at creativity, I will explore some of the range of functions of the camera that I really haven’t used to date. But keep in mind that I don’t have a super sophisticated camera. That is to say, I don’t have a D-SLR or anything. It’s just a Canon PowerShot — a pocket camera, with no manual control of aperture or shutter, but I’ve been very pleased with the results I’ve been getting from it, and there are things to learn and discover even in simplicity.”
So, did it force me to make better, and more frequent, use of my camera? More frequent, certainly. The rest is arguable. There were days when I very much played with settings and experimented with white balance and ISO settings. But I’ll admit that, as a rule, there were more days when I simply took a picture.
I would say that the macro setting of my camera, this is the setting that allows extremely close-up photos, got more use than any other non-standard setting. If macro could be called a non-standard setting.
I took all the photos with the same camera, a Canon PowerShot SD850. I would say that this was both a good and bad thing. This camera shoots pretty great photos with minimal settings management. But at the end of the day, it is just a point and shoot. It’s a small camera with a small sensor, which means it was easy to carry along in my back pocket or jacket pocket. As the saying goes, the best camera is the one you have with you. So its small size was great. But it also had a limited zoom range, minimal manual controls, and felt very slow between photos. Sometimes when I was ready to start shooting a second picture it was still processing the one I had just taken, and once or twice I caused the camera to freeze or seize by pushing buttons and controls in preparation for the next photo while it was still unfinished with the previous one.
There were days when I very much did wish for more control. In particular, I wanted independent shutter and aperture control. I tried sometimes to force aperture and shutter changes by using ISO adjustments, but it wasn’t always possible to get the results I wanted. Another thing I very much wished for was longer lenses. I discovered my natural photo subject matter inclinations are towards nature and wildlife, and without a long lens wildlife is just an incredibly difficult prospect. I often saw hawks or other animals that I wanted to shoot, but simply couldn’t get close enough.
As I mentioned above, I also discovered that objects can be very interesting in close-up. So I took quite a few macro photographs. The SD850 seemed pretty adept in this regard, although I’m sure there could be improvements here as well with special equipment.
The biggest and most obvious potential subjects to photograph are people, and I almost completely avoided them. I think you might find a couple with people in the background, or some feet showing that I couldn’t crop out for various reasons, but I pretty much completely avoided photographing people. They bring an entirely different set of problems than what I wanted to deal with for this project. I may, now that I’ve finished this, choose to experiment some with people photography, but that will be a project unto itself.
The other thing I discovered is that I’m primarily more interested in capturing the shot itself, than I am in editing afterwards. In the beginning, I did play around some with editing software, changing color and lighting, and removing small details from the frame that might be distracting, but for the most part it took way too much time to be doing every day for every photo. So I basically established a simplified workflow, basic auto color correction and sizing template, and used it for the majority of photographs. Every now and then I might do something a little different, but never very extreme. For me, I wanted to spend more time trying to find my subject and get the shot I wanted, rather than creating an image in software. That’s not to say that I’m uninterested in what this software can do, and perhaps learning more about it, but that’s also something I think I will work on in smaller, more dedicated sessions or projects rather than trying to do it with an every day project like this was.
I never really made myself chase shots exactly. I kind of fell into an easy habit, which might explain a sort of generic consistency to my photos. Some might also describe them as boring for the same reason. Basically I shot the majority of them in the evening after work. When the weather was nice I would take walks in my neighborhood and shoot what I could find. If the weather wasn’t nice, or it got dark too soon, I would try to find an object in the house to shoot. I did not develop any habit of getting up super early in the morning to chase morning light, nor did I go on too many expeditions looking for new subjects; something I thought I might do more of when I began the project. I kind of like to photograph architecture sometimes, so when I began I thought I might go downtown from time to time, and find interesting architectural elements to photograph, but somehow I almost never did. Maybe I’ll do that soon.
One thing I certainly appreciate most about doing this project is that it made me pay attention. Made me keep my eyes open and observing the world, looking for things that might make good photographs. Sometimes I would just stumble across something completely unexpected that just worked. Other times I would find things that looked interesting that I wasn’t sure I could do anything with, but if I spent some time and played around I might find an angle or a shadow that suddenly made it happen. But just being alert to things, the sky, clouds, and light, and patterns, and colors; I think this can’t be a bad thing. So I’m especially glad of the project for that reason, and I hope to continue being observant even when I’m not trying to make a photograph every single day.
So, what now? I don’t plan to put the camera down, but I am sort of relieved to not have to think as I’m climbing into bed, “crap, I haven’t taken a picture yet!” I think I’ll probably do some smaller, more focused projects; whatever strikes my interest when I have the time to spare. There are websites out there that have weekly and monthly contests, and there are things I just want to try that would have taken too much time when I just needed to move on to the next picture during this project. As I already stated, expect some experimentation with using people in photos, and some architecture. If I ever get a DSLR with a zoom lens you will likely see more wildlife photography. And from time to time I’d like to play with creating effects in software, although I doubt that will ever be of primary interest to me.
If you’ve been following along with my project I hope you’ve enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed doing it, and am extremely proud to have completed it, although there were days when I was just annoyed about the whole thing.
Anyway, I’m going to spend a little time now just reviewing the past 365 days and letting the memories come back. If nothing else this project is a guide to the past year—I can’t believe it went by so quickly—and it should be interesting to review it in the form of my pictures.