Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Reflections on Project 365

I have thought about finishing Project 365 ever since I started. A year ago, I was full of enthusiasm for the resolution to take a picture every single day of 2007. Some days it didn't seem hard at all, but it wasn't long before I ran into the hard days, and whenever, especially in the first half of the year, I thought about how many more days there were to go, I found it really daunting.

From the beginning I set rigid standards for myself. I had to take a picture every day. I had to either actually click the shutter or set the self-timer on the camera myself. I couldn't use a picture that had been taken by someone else or on some previous day. I couldn't miss a single day taking pictures, though I never promised to post my picture every day on time. It did not start out, for me, as a blogging project or internet related at all; the blog was just a place to collect the images and, to a degree, hold me accountable. So I posted Sunday pictures on Monday mornings and occasionally missed posting a day's picture by a day or so for various reasons.

But I never missed taking a picture.

My daughter has persevered by my side in the project. She has been every bit as disciplined as I, and her encouragement along the way has been a real boon. There were many evenings when one or the other realized she had not yet taken a picture and a reminder saved the day. We made a good team.

Aimée tried to choose a picture for the day that somehow represented that day. I cared less about that and more about taking quality pictures. Some of her pictures don't really represent her days at all, and many of mine are not very good, but it helped to have goals in mind nonetheless.

When I started I hoped the exercise would improve my photography. It has done that, I think, and a whole lot more. I learned to use the macro setting on my camera for closeups, learned more about depth of field, learned not to use the flash whenever possible, and, near the end of the year, learned some ways to make the flash a little less damaging to the picture. Looking at Aimée's pictures helped me improve my framing of shots--she has such a good eye. And I learned to take lots and lots and lots of pictures in hopes of getting one or two good ones.

The other major benefit for me was the way the project increased my awareness of my natural surroundings. Many afternoons in the spring, summer, and fall, I found myself pictureless and went outside in search of something to photograph. I discovered a world of wonder in my yard. Oh, I knew there were squirrels and chipmunks and turkeys and spiders and flowers and grasses and trees out there before, but wanting a good picture meant much more careful looking, more waiting and watching. Did you know spiders build the most amazing webs in the fall? And what are chipmunks doing when they sit very still for a long time making that chirping noise that makes their throats wiggle? What were those agitated squirrels looking at as they quivered and chattered on those low branches? I have a better sense for what blooms when and what insects are likely to be out and about when, which plants the dragonflies and damselflies like best, and where to look for mushrooms in the grass. I am better acquainted with the screech of the blue jay and the screech of the hawk, the rustle of turkeys (they care not a whit about noise!) and the smaller rustles of the chipmunks.

My eyes were wide when I had my camera around my neck, but that sense of looking and listening and being aware of my surroundings spilled over so that I have been more alert more of the time even when I wasn't on the hunt for a picture. I see hands in the grocery store that I would like to photograph, a couple on the street, the sky as I'm driving, the birds inside Costco (which I meant to photograph this year but never did).

And so, what now? There were times in the year--in the summer and fall, mostly, when it was relatively easy to find a good picture outside--when I thought I'd do Project 365 again. But as soon as winter set in, not the pretty snowfall winter but the cold, wet, feeling-stuck-inside winter, I knew I couldn't do another winter taking still lifes indoors just to get a picture. Maybe another year--but not this year. I must admit that while I was really looking forward to the end this month, last night after midnight, when I had completed the challenge and taken my last picture, I felt a little let down: It's over. I did it, and that feels great, but... It's over, and that's a little sad. Not sad enough to make me do it again in 2008, but a little sad. I will miss the discipline, the feeling of doing something most people don't do (and succeeding), the excuse to carry my camera everywhere.

I fully expect to continue to take pictures. I've taken up digital scrapbooking, and I need pictures to scrap! And I still enjoy photography, perhaps even more than I did when I started the project a year ago. I won't be posting here any more, though. If you're interested in the view into my life that the pictures this year has provided, bookmark my other web site, Honeypot Rambles, and look for pictures--and words--there. I am unlikely to post daily, but I may make an effort to post even more regularly now that I'm not posting here. And thanks for the views and comments and encouragement along the way!

One last word, to my e-list friends who are just starting or restarting Project 365 as I end: Have fun with it, stick with it, and enjoy the ride! I am just a little bit envious. Just a little bit.