A little over a year ago I decided I was going to do a photo of the day project for 2013. My parameters were that each day I would post a previously unposted photo of mine to my Flickr account and share it here and on Facebook (I started sharing on G+ too but then it wasn't working on my phone, which I don't use to post the photos but do use to read posts, and I got annoyed with it). My biggest motivation to do the project was to create a self-imposed structure for me to wade through the thousands of photos that I had taken over the past few years and had not processed or really spent significant time evaluating. I also wanted to get in the habit of posting more photos. Beyond that I did not have a defined goal for the project, however I achieved and learned way more doing it than I anticipated, and I ended up meeting newly created goals along the way.
I completed the project on January 11th of this year. It ran into 2014 as I was trying to get 365 photos posted and I started it a little ways into 2013. I actually ended up posting 366 photos as I somehow miscalculated. Oh well. The complete set is here
. I more or less posted one photo every day. There were days and weeks where I got behind and then I had to post tow or three a day for a few days to catch up, but I did it. It feels like an accomplishment of sorts.
I wasn't happy just posting any picture. Very early in the project I realized I wanted the pictures I posted to be good ones (by whatever metric I was/am using) and interesting in some way to people other than me. As I was posting them publicly on Flickr they would not be photos of the kids. I wanted to be able to tell a story about the photos as well. I knew when and where all of them were taken, and was typically able to remember how many of the particular photos came to be.
Early in the year, finding photos to post was easier. I had a lot of previously unevaluated work, work that netted a lot of good -- and sometimes great -- photos. The first months of the project I plowed through a lot of older photos and found new keepers. I found a lot that I had previously overlooked. Some, like Bee Joy
, one of my favorite bee photos, almost wound up in the trash folder previously. Bee Joy as it is now is a crop of a much larger picture. I previously had not thought to zoom in and crop and see what I could make of it. Instead I was so frustrated that I hadn't gotten close enough to the bee that all I could see were the large, mostly non-inspiring shots when I first downloaded the photos and they sat there, ignored, for nearly a year. Bee Joy was a game changer as it showed me that there were so many unexplored-by-me ways to look at my photos and ways to make better photos out of ones originally captured. I started to learn to really sit with my photos and work with them, and think about them, and try different things with them.
One of the techniques I used quite a bit during the year was doing black and white conversion on images that I thought composition-wise were good, but color-wise left a lot to be desired. Joe Decker had said at some point that if the colors were not working in a photo then take them out. This is very good advice. I was very excited when I converted a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge
to black and white and it finally -- finally -- looked right. I had taken the photo in 2011 and was really frustrated that none of my shots of the bridge that day looked very good. Then I discovered that they just really did not look good in color and this one was quite nice in black and white. That was another game changer for me as I no longer felt tied to the idea that my color photos had to remain color photos.
This informed my choice to try something with a shot from Joe's Sunol photo workshop back in 2012. I had this shot of the oaks in the rain and I felt like I should love it but I didn't. I loved the shapes but the entire picture was green and yellow and it was chaotic, and not in a good way. I wasn't entirely pleased with how it looked in black and white either. What I did like, however, was pulling out all color except for orange. I was very happy with the final product
My success with Oaks in the Rain led me to reexamine some photos from our 2011 Yosemite trip. There was one shot that I really wanted to love but it wasn't working for me. Once I pulled all the green out it had new life and Giants
is now a favorite of mine.
It wasn't all working at the computer though. I was of course consistently shooting new stuff all year. What the project did for me was make me a bit more mindful and pushed me to get at least one shot in each outing that I was pretty confident could go in the photo of the day project. This meant that I not only started looking harder for special shots, but that I also was working harder to get the shots I wanted. The time spent editing and processing taught me more about what did and didn't work on initial capture and I have gotten better about getting more of what I want when I first shoot it. It also has given me an idea of the types of shots that work and the ones that don't, not matter how hard I try. I shot more pictures this year than ever before and more of them are good ones than before. The improvement is nice to see.
The project also prompted me to spend more time on my photography. I spent at least an hour, on average, everyday working on photography. Often it was more than an hour. A lot of that was editing and processing time, some of that figuring out if certain pictures should be made into something good or if they just sucked. A lot of that time was actual shooting. Working on something everyday makes you better at it. That certainly was my experience with this project.
An interesting off-shoot of this project was me starting to show and sell my work. Spending so much time during this project with my photos helped me better discern which were good versus just OK, and which were very good/great versus just good. I got my work into three juried art shows this year and I sold 28 prints. I was also stunned that in one of the shows that had a "people's choice" award I saw that my photos actually received some votes as one of the top three of the show. I certainly did not win that award, but I was pleasantly surprised that my work stood out at all to anyone (other than S. who voted for one of my photos on his ballot). I won one award this year: Honorable Mention for the county fair's "Photos at the Fair" contest and I got some interesting nice notes from the judges.
All this is not to say the project was without its challenges. I was challenged in big ways with this project. After the first couple of months of getting the low hanging fruit I had to work a lot harder to find older photos that would meet my standards for the photos of the day. There was many a night when I was convinced that I had nothing more to post, that I couldn't find anything else good out of what I had. I found ways to dig deeper in my work and ways to step back and rethink what I was doing. It was these times that prompted more conscious shooting when I had the opportunity to be out with my camera. This also gave rise to a lot of thought about what would have made not-so-great photos better and how I could improve while shooting which did lead me to improve while shooting. So there is that. I was also challenged just by trying to keep up. Some days I just didn't have the time or energy or brainspace to deal with posting anything. There were points when I got so far behind that I didn't think I could catch up. I pushed myself to do it, to keep up or get caught up, and I am really glad I did.
For 2014 I am transitioning to a photo of the week project. I just do not have the backlog and/or ability to shoot all the time to make a photo of the day project work this year. I am excited about the photo of the week project and I plan to keep posting outside of that as well.