Tuesday, January 12, 2016

366 Days in the Life

by Kelly

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”  Annie Dillard

1,095...the number of days in the past three years...the number of days that I have picked up my camera in the past three years.

I started my first 365 project in 2013 with the goal of improving my photography.  As it turned out, photography has become a way of life for me.  It is my daily practice for my pursuit of mindfulness and being fully present in my own life. And here I am...1,095 days later, still taking a photograph everyday.

As each of the previous three years has drawn to a close, it's always the same question...is daily photography something I want to continue?  Is it helpful?  Is it worth the time and energy?  Do I have anything left to say, photographically speaking?

As in previous years, this year my answer to the question was yes.

In the case that you have decided to take on a photo 365 (+1 for leap year) this year, I wanted to share with you a few thoughts and insights that I have gained from the past three years.  Because, like all new endeavors, it's easy feel inspired and motivated in the beginning.  But as with any year-long project, there will always be bumps in the road.  And, for me, January is a big one.

The short days of January are my achilles heel, and so to combat the problem, I usually try to take my photo in the morning.  But on this morning I was running late and decided that I would do later.  Except that I had to work late and it was dark by the time I got home.  So this was my shot for January 7, 2016.  There is nothing spectacular about this photo other than it's sort of homey.  But this is my real life and this shot tells that story.

I think this might be the most important piece of advice that I could offer someone embarking on a 365 project...you will take some less than stellar photos and it's best to just go ahead and make peace with that right now.  I mean until the day that I can make a livable wage taking pictures of my beside table (kleenex box and all!), my other responsibilities to my family will always come first.  It's not that I am not making my photography a priority - because I am! - it's just that I have to be realistic about it. And when unexpected things like this happens, I take the shot and move on.

But when time does allow, I expose different compositions and perspectives.  I play with exposure - currently I am experimenting with under-exposing my shots a tiny amount.  Loving the deeper, richer tones and moody shadows.

More than anything though - more than camera settings or post-processing - the skill I am working on the most is my vision...my creative vision.  Learning to see things in a new way.

And I think that is why I continue to take photos everyday...because there always so much room for growth here.  

So if you have embarked on a 365 (+1) project this year, don't get intimidated by the number.  Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint.  All you have to do is pick up your camera and take a picture.  There is no 365 police judging your work.  There is no one to answer to... just your heart and desire to capture the magic and wonder in your life. And this year we have 366 opportunities to do so.

Until next time,


P.S.  In case you didn't know, we have a special Flickr group just for photo 365 projects.  There you will find thousands of inspiring images taken by the talented members of our community.


AFishGirl said...

My first year doing a "366." This is a really helpful post, Kelly. I put a blog post up, not sure if you go to my blog anymore, it's been dormant for so long. Okay, into the day, with camera in hand, to see all the beautiful moments.

Carol said...

this is so true! When I was doing my kitchen table series I used to think 'who needs to see my keys on the table again!' -but I still like to look back at those photos because they really do show what my life was that year. As for you, we have all watched you grow through these photos! Your photography is stunning, calming, homey, peaceful. Your style is so unique, and I think these dailies have done that. I can also see that they have made you think. Do you think you would have really seen these differences in the light while you play with exposure if you hadn't taken a daily look ? Perhaps you would have, but I think taking so many photographs gives you a deeper look and understanding. Three years is a long time and quite an accomplishment. You should be proud of yourself!
Your advice is well taken!

terriporter said...

I completely agree with both you and Carol. Daily photography is a real commitment but oh, so worth it! After doing a couple of years of 365s, I didn't do one last year and I missed it so much. As a result, my photography kind of stagnated and I wasn't growing as a photographer. I also stopped seeing all the little details of my life. Looking for what you want to shoot that day keeps your eyes open and noticing. So I've started my 366 for this year and will be doing it right along with you. Thanks for the tips!

Dotti said...

Well, I guess I'll just join the chorus here! It has been my privilege to travel along with you, watching your 365's emerge and watching you grow as a photographer and a person. It has been a joy! Daily practice really does help us improve. I'm on the bandwagon this year as well, doing a photo - or more - everyday. By choice, I prefer my DSLR but sometimes it comes down to the iPhone. The important thing is to 'see' all the beauty around us and in our lives, humble though they may be.

Cathy H. said...

Great words of encouragement, Kelly, and as always such breathtaking photos! I've always enjoyed your daily look at life. I haven't done a 365 in a couple of years, but I decided to give it another try this year. Doubts have climbed in and I've already been wondering how I'll accomplish this goal. So far, I haven't been to inspired! Almost quit once and I'm only a few days into the year! But, after reading this I know I want to continue. Your words "learning to see things in a new way" that's what will inspire me each day. I think I'll print them out and put it by my camera! Thank you for this very timely post!

kelly said...

@fishgirl, @carol, @terri, @dotti, @cathy...thank you so much for all the kind words friends. love having you as kindreds on this journey. xoxo

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