Lessons Learned During My 365 Project
In all the excitement of getting this project accomplished, I wanted to take some time to reflect on the things that this challenge taught me. I discovered that it taught me more than just how to take a better picture. Through the challenge I even rediscovered a few lessons that I had known all along, but somehow had forgotten about. So, without further ado, here are ten things I learned while accomplishing my 365 Project:
- Persistence. Yep, there were many times when I'd be at the end of the day and I'd think "oh boy, I haven't taken my shot of the day yet!" But I'd rack my brain to come up with something quick or just pull out my iPhone and snap something within view. Yes, it may seem like a cop-out to some, but for me it was more of the fact that I made sure I stayed on track. I only missed 3 days throughout the whole year so that's persistence. I didn't let a late nite or a busy day stop me from getting my photo of the day done. I kept at it.
- My family loves me no matter what. Ah my family. Often times the camera got pointed at one of my kids. My boys are real troopers and always willing to pose for me when I ask. They grumble a bit at first but as soon as I get them in front of the camera it's like a switch going on and they start coming up with fun posing ideas and a variety of expressions. Having to get that photo of the day every day soon became a common thing around the house as the months rolled on. My significant other, who refused to get in front of the camera, often came up with ideas or places we could visit on the weekends to photograph. Even a visit from my Uncle Jim, my dad, two of my brothers and a nephew in March had them posing for the camera as well. My whole family was very supportive and I don't think I could have done it without them!
- Lighting. I always knew that getting the best shot is all about the best, or ideal, lighting. I had become obsessed with learning more about lights and lighting so one of my goals with the 365 Challenge was to learn more about lighting my subjects. I know I still have a lot to learn but over the course of the year I got more comfortable working with lighting, even in challenging situations. Whether I was experimenting with available light like in this shot from day 202 using all natural lighting, or working in the studio with my strobes to light a model, I improved how I use the light and how I set the light for each shot. Lighting is crucial, but it's also subjective to the Photographer's eye. What I see in my mind is what I try to portray through the camera and making that work is what, to me anyway, makes a great photograph.
- More love for my camera. I have pretty much always shot using RAW format on my Canon 5D (dslr). I also always shot in Manual mode so that I can control the settings. I usually went about my setup with the settings that I felt most comfortable with. With the challenge I stretched myself to use settings I wouldn't normally use, changing up the exposure compensation. By doing that I feel more comfortable with my camera and actually more in control. I no longer stick to just the f-stop and shutter speed that I feel safe with - oh, I may take the first shot or two with it but then I make some adjustments and check the histrogram to ensure I'm still in teh range I want to be in.
- Rediscovered a love of "analog" photography. During the 365 days I re-discovered my Polaroid camera. I became so obsessed that I became a "Pioneer" at The Impossible Project which is bringing back Polaroid film. I also went a little bit crazy on Ebay and acquired several new Polaroid cameras including 3 foldable SX70 cameras and one Spectra. Consequently you'll see some of my photos of the day were taken with one of my Polaroids. I actually wanted to dig out my 35mm film cameras as well, but never got to that. Perhaps that will be a future challenge for me.
- The best camera. Yep, as Chase Jarvis said, "the best camera is the one that's with you." Many of my shots were taken with my iPhone 3GS and one of my favorite camera apps. I tended to be hooked on the Hipstamatic app, but occasionally I used Chase Jarvis' Best Camera app or the 100 Cameras app. A few other apps I also used but those tended to be the ones I used most when I needed to get a shot and the iPhone was the camera I had on hand. A few shots were also taken with my Canon G11, a higher end "point and shoot" that also takes pretty good video.
- Try a different angle. I found that sometimes, just when you think you have the right shot, you climb up high or get down low and see things completely different. Same goes for getting in close with a macro lens or taking it wide with a wide-angle lens.
- I'm more creative than I thought I was. Some days I started out with an idea for a shot and then, by the time I actually took the shot, it was something completely different. I discovered new ways to arrange props or tell a story with just one photo. The Challenge kept me thinking of what I could capture on camera that would convey a story. I started thinking more creatively. I know I have a ways to go, but with some of the limited props, items and models that I had available to me I think I did pretty good in coming up with various concepts. I still find myself coming up with ideas and jotting them down. It feels refreshing to not always be thinking of a shot that is "stock-worthy" and instead one that is creative and fun. Plus I think it's okay to take a photo because I like it and not really worry about what any one else will think.
- Time Management. There are only 24 hours in a day. In those 24 hours I need to sleep, eat, spend time with family, handle household chores and, at least 5 days a week, spend time commuting to the job, work at the job, and commute home. This goes back to the first lesson, Persistence, but as the months came on, I found myself planning my days ahead of time - thinking about what I could shoot and when I could shoot it. Often times it even involved where I was going to shoot, too. That leads me to the last lesson...
- There's beauty in everything. I remember when I was growing up and we would spend hours riding in the car. Whether we were heading to a campsite for vacation or relocating across the country from Florida to Nevada, I spent a lot of my youth looking out a car window. As a kid I remember staring out the window at the dirt and sagebrush of the Nevada desert and saying to my mom "It is so ugly here! There's nothing to see!" (Anyone who's driven from Las Vegas to Reno, knows exactly what I'm talking about!) My mother, always quick to respond with a positive thought, remarked to me "You can find beauty in everything, even sagebrush and dirt. You simply have to look at it differently." So I stared back out the window with a new vision, looking for beauty. I can't say that I found something miraculously beautiful, but I did find an appreciation for nature and all that we have around us. Remembering this lesson from childhood helped to open my eyes to the endless possibilities of beauty in everything.