Respice Prospice: Project 365

Friday, 14 January 2011

Looking Back, Looking Forward

It’s two weeks since I finished my 365 Project. Looking back now I can’t actually believe that I managed it the whole way through with no cheating and not one single day missed! For me it was a huge technical learning curve and for the most part an adventure in thinking and seeing creatively; occasionally just another chore which had to be got out of the way before I could relax at the end of a long day.

After a couple of relatively camera-free weeks and some time for reflection, I’ve put
together a few musings on the concept:

Things I've learnt
1. Daylight Matters
I did the classic 1st January – 31st December format, rather than starting part-way through the year. I thought it would motivate me more that way, and it did: my goal was to start on the first day of the year and finish on the last. I work full-time which meant that the project had to be fitted in and around the demands of a 9-5 day. At the beginning, starting off all super-keen and full of inspiration, the shorter UK winter days didn’t seem to have too much of an impact on my ability to get out and about – in fact on working days I actually lef
t the office a lot more during lunchtime that I might otherwise have done. As spring approached and the UK summer brought with it, if not much warmth, then at least longer days, shooting outside after work became an option. However, come late autumn and a return to the early darkness that marks the closing of another British year, I found it a lot harder – my creative juices weren’t quite so fresh and I had become more complacent about being able to ‘get a shot in somewhere’, which meant that some nights ended up being a mad scratch around at home to find an interesting subject.

2. I love macro!
I quickly learnt that I am really drawn to close up work and
details. A quick shuffle through my blog confirms this. Different angles, textures and shapes fascinate me and throughout the year I found myself seeing all sorts of interesting things that I’d never really looked at properly before. On the other hand, this discovery has prompted me to be mindful of taking a wide range of shots and to try and get more people and places into my work.

3. Zooming is only part of the equation
At the start of 2010 if you’d asked me about fixed length lenses I would probably have asked what was the point? If you can’t zoom in and out then what can you actually do? Not so now. After my own experimentation and lots of looking at other people’s pictures, reading websites and blogs, I was begging Santa for a 50mm lens by Christmas (he kindly obliged
by the way so watch this space!)

4. It takes more than one shot to get a picture you’re really satisfied with
And even then you might not be completely happy! I’d heard so many times that professionals take hundreds of pictures to achieve that one perfect shot, but it’s not until you’re faced with it day in, day out that you really appreciate this. Now I generally take at least 2 shots of everything – I’ve learnt that that one tiny change or steadying of the hand between photos can make all the difference to the clarity of focus and the quality of your final picture. What seems well-focussed on your LCD screen can look very different when you open up the file on your computer – take more shots to be sure you’ve got it.

5. Post Production can work wonders
Using Gimp I’ve learnt a whole stack about editing photos and polishing them up, from a quick tweak on brightness here or increasing colour saturation there, to a whole shot makeover, I’ve produced some impressive results. I’ve also learnt when to leave pictures alone and appreciate that sometimes I can produced a ‘pure’ shot which looks lovely just as it is!

6. If I can stick to this, I can stick to almost anything
I’m a pretty tenacious person so I didn’t have too many doubts about my ability to keep going with the project. I did have concerns about how I would deal with a potentially missed day – would it break me or would I be able to take it in my stride and get back on track? Luckily it never came to that. On reflection, I’ve realised that the completion of the project has given me a new kind of drive and faith in myself that I can stick to other goals in my life (present and future).


Tips for 365-ers
1. Carry a camera at all times
Even if it’s your mobile phone! Once you get going you will see so many opportunities for shots that you just don’t want to miss. If you see a potential picture, take it with whichever camera you have to hand: I made it my mantra to never look back and ‘wish I’d taken a picture of X’ as that would have actually made a better daily
photo than the one I finished up with.

2. Don’t be shy about using several cameras of varying quality

As well as my fancy DSLR I took a lot of shots with a compact point and shoot and even one or two with my iPhone. This picture, taken with my compact, made the final shortlisted ten for the Urban Section of the iStockphoto Britain iS Competition in February 2010.



3. Aide-Mémoire
After the first few ‘honeymoon’ weeks begin to wear off, start some kind of system to remind yourself to take that daily picture. For me it was as simple as moving one of my cameras to a prominent place in my bag, home, wherever, so that every time I walked past it I would remember that I needed to get my shot in within the next few hours. It worked and I never missed a day.

4. Post your pictures somewhere on the web
I loved (and still do!) the sense of solidarity and community which I’ve got from my blog, from other people’s blogs, from Flickr and other websites. As well as getting constructive comments about your stuff, it’s fantastic to see what other people are up to – for me, this was the single most important source of inspiration when I felt myself starting to flag and creative energy was running low. Half an hour or so’s surfing and I was back up there, full of ideas and ready to get back in the saddle!

5. Upload work regularly
So that it doesn’t become an overwhelming mound that puts you off every time you think about it. Oh, and organise your pictures carefully so that you know where they are and you can show them off easily. For me that got a bit tedious at times, but now I’m happy that I have a neatly filed system from which I can easily track down photos I want to look at.

6. Keep going!
Stick with it. You will feel demotivated, you will feel like you can’t be bothered any more, you will think you can’t possibly find another idea anywhere in your head. I felt like that, several times. But I ploughed on and I am so glad I did – not just because I achieved the final goal of 365 pictures, but because I continued to learn about my camera and also about myself and my ability to rejuvenate and get creative again. It’s an inspiring and positive conclusion!


Would I do it again?
Ahh – the question everyone’s been asking! For the moment, no. I’m happy this year to take everything I’ve learned and continue developing my photography in a more leisurely way. I don’t miss having to get that shot on dark, rainy days and needing to post regularly so as not to get too far behind. A few mini projects this year perhaps? Let’s see. I think on another occasion I might set out weekly themes or concepts for myself to guide me in subject choice: of everything, I think that deciding what to photograph was the hardest thing to do during the second half of the project. Fine if you were out somewhere interesting for the day with lots of photo opportunities, but much harder after a long, dark day at work.

Thanks
I couldn’t finish my ponderings on Project 365 without thanking everyone who’s followed my work and inspired me through their own. Mostly people I’ve never met, but all great folks who pop up to greet me whenever I log onto my computer – cheers guys and girls! Thanks also to friends and family who’ve supported me and given me their honest opinions. And thanks finally to my long-suffering partner, Mario, who has spent so many hours waiting for me all round the world while I stop to ‘quickly take a shot of this or that’ and vehemently hates having his portrait taken – thank you my lovely!

And there’s more, so don't go away!
Project 365 might be done and dusted for now, but I’m still out and about: check back soon to see more of what I got up to on my recent trip to Latin America.

3 comments:

  1. Just like I've enjoyed your pictures all year long, I really enjoy this post. I am just starting my 365 and I find it very helpful :-)
    Thank you! You taught me that it is ok to just post the picture sometimes, even w/o post processing :-)

    You will *love* the 50mm!

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  2. Great tips, thanks for sharing your experience. I think I'm still in the honeymoon phase but I do expect it will get harder...and daylight does matter! I know I'm much happier with the end result when I get it in before dark.

    I love macro too!

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  3. A great post, and well done on completing (sorry I'm a bit late in saying it!!) I continue to look out for your shots!

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