California Dreamin’

Derick Carss
Aug 29, 2015 · 2 min read

One year on the West Coast, Part 1

Three months ago my wife and I packed up our lives and headed West, moving from New York to San Francisco. It was our second long-distance move in a few years, having emigrated from Scotland to America in the fall of 2011. The fact I initially chose the word fall and not autumn probably tells how settled I feel in this country, and rather than seeing this move as an upheaval, it seemed like another adventure.

Adventures should always be documented, and I’m glad I chose to do so in my first year on the East Coast. I undertook a photo-a-day project, and while it occasionally became a chore and there were inevitably days when I felt uninspired, I still carried my camera and grabbed a shot of something. On the best days I captured something special, on the worst something mundane, but more often than not I forced myself to explore in hope of finding something weird or wonderful and it helped me get to know my new home.

Looking back on that collection of photos with the perspective of a few years I can see a story and, like the folded page of a novel, every image takes me right back to that chapter. I can also see what I learned as a photographer. The hectic schedule forced me to be inventive and undiscriminating; I shot everything from candid street shots, portraits and considered landscapes to the seasons and abstract compositions. I can see where I succeeded and where I failed, but I also began to appreciate which shots I enjoy taking most.

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Day 53: The Empire State Building

When we decided to move to California I knew I’d have to undertake a new project that would capture the adventure, but I wanted different parameters and outcomes. Taking a photo every day sometimes meant gathering a lot of average shots, so my first decision was to focus on one per week. At a slower pace each shot could be researched, planned and considered. I could take the lessons I learned previously and try to apply them with more craft. The second decision was to keep all the photos landscape in orientation. This restriction may be problematic at times, but it may also force creativity when those situations arise.

Beyond these simple rules I only had one concern: by the end of this project I want to find my voice as a photographer. It sounds pretentious but developing a style will give me a greater chance to become really competent in one area. I’d rather be a master of one trade than a jack of them all and pursuing the type of shots I enjoy most will make the whole project more fun. I plan to write updates on how the project progresses and what I learn.

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