120 Days In
What I’ve learned so far from doing a 365 photo challenge.
A couple of weeks ago I took my 100th photo for the year as part of a 365 challenge I’ve embarked on. Rushing out the door on the way to work with camera in hand, I knew what I wanted to capture to commemorate photo 100/365. It was a quick detour on the way to the train, and as I reached the spot, I took out the camera, composed the shot, pressed a shutter a couple of times, and off I went with my day.
With some variations, this process of squeezing in a shot a day has been pretty much sums up the last hundred days since I’ve committed myself to taking on 365 photo challenge, and while I was a little skeptical that I could keep up for a variety of reasons, it’s now turned into a daily routine that I’m looking forward to.
I don’t fancy myself a professional photographer — an amateur at best — but it’s always been a hobby that’s stuck with me since I was a kid and inspired by my mother’s interest in the art growing up. You might say cutting my teeth on a Canon AE-1 at the age eight and learning how to manually focus and select the shutter speed for the scene might keep you interested. Through a myriad of cameras over the years, I’ve attempted to keep up with the hobby in ebbs and flows, but often it was only when I “had time” or took a trip that it would come up. While I enjoy the post processing just as much as the picture taking process, it was always overwhelming to do that in a batch when I got back from a trip. It just turned into a commitment of time I didn’t want to take on. So as much as I love my gear and fiddling around in Lightroom, there sat my camera, lonely in its bag with its small arsenal of lenses, batteries, and filters, waiting for some attention. And as I’m starting to appreciate more as I get older, waiting for time isn’t the same as making time.
On the evening of January 1st, I had my current camera, a Canon EOS-M3, sitting on the coffee table. As I looked at it, I asked myself if I think I could try and do a 365 challenge. I’ve tried to before, but failed to keep up with it after a couple of weeks. However, there was something about that moment looking at my camera that told me I could do it, and realizing that my aspiration of improving and enjoying taking photos wasn’t going to happen unless it was intentional. So, as my first act of commitment, it took a picture of it with the second best camera I could have — my iPhone.
From that day forward, I made a promise to myself to take a picture a day by midnight, and post it. To help refine my Lightroom skills, I forced myself to take photo in raw format from either my camera, or my iPhone (which I did in the Lightroom mobile app). There’s been a few close calls trying to capture, edit and post before midnight, but so far I’ve managed.
After 120 days, I’ve come to appreciate a few things; some obvious, some not.
Beauty In the Mundane
It’s easy to be a shutterbug when you’re on vacation, or know you’ll be in a picturesque outing. But on a day to day basis, its been quite a challenge to find a new and unique shot in the course of an average day. At the same time, its made me keep a critical eye out for details in the most mundane daily routines. The daily work commute, errands around town, walking the dog, getting lunch. While on one hand it might seem a challenge to find something unique to capture in landscapes you see everyday, its also an opportunity to find and appreciate something new about what you experience everyday. And when in doubt, take a detour. Perhaps you’ll find something unexpected that’s been there the whole time.
Constrains Lends Creativity
As much I always want to have my mirrorless M3 with me and/or my bag of gear, that can’t always happen. I’ve come to accept that Ill always come upon a subject or a scene where I don’t have what I need that’ll make the shot amazing, and embrace the creativity in constraints. Most of the time when I’m on the go, the duties fall on to my iPhone 7. As the old adage goes, the best camera you can ever have is the one always with you. I can’t say it’ll surpass the quality of an dSLR given the smaller sensor, but with a f1.8 aperture and now the ability to capture in raw, the current iPhone really does open the doors to be far more creative than in past versions with much improved image quality. Its taken awhile to get out of the mindset that ”only a good picture can come from your camera” mentality, but working with what you have at the moment, leaving behind the fear you don’t have all the “right gear”, comes the part that makes the photo great: being creative with what you have on you to capture that moment. You have what you need.
If your like me, you sometimes forget what’s involved with building a new habit or starting a project for yourself. Diving into a new routine can be easy, but making it stick is where the real challenge is. The last time I gave this a try I gave up about two weeks in. After keeping up with this for four months now, taking a photo a day has become less of “what can you capture today?” and more of “how are you not going to break your commitment?!” Even when I was hit with food poisoning back in February, I somehow mustered up energy to keep the streak going.
A project like this reminds you what it’s like to commit and focus on a goal, which for me, I tend to fail at more often than I’d like to admit. We sometimes need to be reminded of all the steps (and work) that leads to something meaningful. We’ve all done it before, but sometimes we need a refresher how discipline can be be cultivated.
So with a little over a quarter of the way done, I’m feeling pretty good of getting to December 31, 2017 having taken a picture everyday. I’m sure Ill get there and be mixed on how easy and difficult it was, but just anticipating the feeling accomplishment over eight months away is pretty addictive. And even before knowing it’ll happen, I’m already thinking about what else to add as a streak challenge. Question is what can you challenge yourself to do in the next 365 days?