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"365 Photos"

It is now just over 3 years since my 365 project turned into more of a “100” project, and I’ve been looking back over some of the photos I’ve taken, and reflecting on the fact that I actually really miss doing it.

If you needed any further persuasion as to why it’s a good undertaking, this is what I got out of doing it, and what I miss about not doing it.

1) It made me look at the world.
And I mean really look. Since stopping taking a photograph everyday, I’ve drifted back into a sort of haze again as I walk around, with my mind on other things (currently intractable French philosophers!!) While I was 365ing I was attentive to everything going on around me, in case a flower, or a person, or a stone, or a cloud presented itself for that day. I suppose it’s a bit like mindfulness, being fully present. I’d go so far as to say it made me appreciate creation, and hence become more aware of God all around us, all the time. It made me “wonderous”, if you’ll forgive the grammer.

2) It challenged my creativity.
One of the things that surprised me is that the 365 wasn’t actually that hard, in terms of finding subjects. There was no day when I didn’t have a photo for that day – except for the once or twice when I’d had such a busy day that I’d plain forgotten. That said, because I’d decided early on that taking the “same” pohoto twice was just boring, I did sometimes have to be quite creative and inventive, and the 365 encouraged this. It made me a bit more intentional about photography projects as well, like the water drop (did I mention that I won a prize for that? Oh, I did already – ok). It also pushed me to try about projects from photo magazines, and recreate others’ shots that I really liked – not to mention Danbo!!.

3) It meant I always had my camera with me.
In the age of smart phones this is perhaps a lesser consideration, but sometimes there is a one-off moment in time begging to be captured. Like if a butterfly flies into the office. Having your camera ready and primed at least promotes the possibility of the moment being captured. For me personally there is a quality and composition element to this – I love my smartphone, and the camera’s pretty good (and I use some pictures from it sometimes for my not-365), but it’s not the same as my real camera.

4) It provides an life record.
This one actually surprised me a little, and it’s only in looking back over the last five-and-a-half years’ of photos that I’ve realised that all of life’s ups and downs are recorded there. Whether that’s mundane or life-changing. The ripening of the blackberries in the garden and harvesting of photos are alongside my Mum passing away and me starting ordination training. In retrospect this is obvious I guess – after all you’d expect to take a photo of what is distinctive or foremost in your mind for that day. But it still hadn’t really struck me until I was looking back over the whole set a few weeks ago.

5) You really get to know your camera.
There is no substitute for experience and practice, and by the end of my first 365 I knew my old camera inside out and upside down. I knew how it responded to different lighting conditions, what the tricks were for focussing. I knew what different f-stops looked like, and what shutter speeds were in danger of blur. I knew how far I could push the ISO, and which lens were good for different things. In fact, it’s now not unusual for me to operate the camera in ‘M’ mode, particular if I’m using flash. Now obviously the above applies to a (D)SLR camera in particular – but even cameras on smartphones have their quirks, and I’m often still frustrated with the result of a photo on my phone, without understanding why it’s come out that way. It was just the same with my DSLR at first – a 365 soon fixes this!!

6) My photography got better.
This is, of course, entirely subjective. But I look back over some of my photos, and think “Wow – that’s actually a really good photo” (even occasionally prize winning. Did I mention that?) Now I wouldn’t dream of saying that every photo I took in 2015 is better than any I took in 2012, and I certainly don’t think that every photo I take is “good”, by any objective standard. But what has changed is the number of photos “behind” each one. So when I started, I would take dozens, if not hundreds, of photos to get one I was happy with. Now I take maybe 3 or 4 – I still sometimes need a couple to get happy with the exposure, and then a couple of different composition options. And actually, even though I do take 3 or 4, it’s often the first one which I end up choosing as being the best.

7) It was a communal activity.
When I was doing it for “real”, on 365project.org, one of the highlights was the community element. It’s amazing to join in this activity with others’ doing the same time. They give you ideas and encouragement, and you likewise encourage them back. I came very close to making some good friends on that site, as we walked together for the year, and if I was a more gregarious person (and had they not been in the states!) I would have loved to have met them in real life.

In the interest of balance, there were three downsides I can think of.
1) It does take time
In fact, the reason I stopped is because of the time that was needed. It’s not actually the photo-taking time which is the problem, it’s the post-processing. Downloading them off the camera, doing post-processing and watermarking (both of which I’ve now given up on, in the meain), then uploading, tagging, and describing them.

2) People get annoyed with you always taking photos
Especially close family!

3) It can get expensive
It doesn’t have to be expensive by any means, but it so tempting to buy some more equipment to enable you get a shot you’ve seen someone else do, or a danbo, or whatever. Some shots are simply not possible without a tripod, or a flash gun. Some shots are not possible without a fast lens, or a macro lens (or at least extension tubes). This also can end up with a large collection of photography equipment which has to live somewhere. My rationale is that it’s all money well spent – for instance a lens should really last you for a lifteime, unless you choose to upgrade.

Since the 9th May 2011, I have posted 1,305 photos, each attributed to a given day. At the time of writing, 2,034 days have passed since then, which gives me a rate of just over 66%, or in order words I have posted a photo in 2 out of every 3 days for the last 5 years.

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