I completed my first 365 project in February of 2011. I started that project on a random day of the year, the day I discovered the site. I enjoyed doing the project, but I did not take 365 masterpieces. I took a few photos that I am really pleased with, a lot that were good, some that were okay, and a few that were bad. But I took a photo every single day for 365 consecutive days without cheating.
I didn’t continue to do the project after I had completed the initial 365 days because I was getting burnt out. Part of it was that Les and I, and 4 animals, were living in a teeny, tiny lake house (less than 700 square feet), we were often snowed in, I was working all the time and dealing with a series of terrible bosses, it was very frustrating. But part of it was that I was fed up with the site, like every user based content site, it was a bit of a popularity contest. Toward the end I was focusing more on spending time on the site, coming up with captions and comments, than on taking good photos. I’m not blaming the site for that, but it can be discouraging to see someone posting amazing photos, taken with $2,000 lenses and lighting equipment and then Photoshoped to perfection. Especially when a person posts them every single day when you’re posting photos of your feet taken at 11:55 at night. I think the main point was that I started the project to challenge myself, but by the end I was focusing too much on other people.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all bad, I had a lot of fun too. I went places I wouldn’t have gone, I talked to people I wouldn’t have normally talked too, and I learned an awful lot about how to use my camera and Photoshop. And I took some photos that I’m really happy with. I never would have gotten as good without doing the project. And while I was doing it I noticed more. I saw things that I wouldn’t have seen if I hadn’t been looking for a photo.
Since I completed the first challenge I haven’t stopped taking photos, but I really only pull the camera out if we go on a trip. I did attempt a second 365 project beginning in September 2011, and I based it on vocabulary words in an attempt to change it up a little, challenge myself more, and to limit that time I spent focused on other people. It worked fairly well for the last point since I had a title and most of a caption built right in. But computer and other technology problems brought that one to a premature halt after only about 2-and-a-half months.
I’ve read several articles and some discussions on 365project.org in the last few weeks about creating art for others vs. for yourself, and about using a 365 challenge to get better at photography vs. documenting your daily life. So when the first of the year came around, I decided that I was going to do it again, and do it for an entire calendar year this time instead of just 365 consecutive days. I was missing having the camera around all the time, and most of all, I missed seeing things more like I did when I was always looking for a photo. I told myself when I started this time that I wasn’t going to stress about views or popularity, I wasn’t doing it to document my day to day life (so it would be okay if the caption was short or if I didn’t write one), I wasn’t going to skip days even if the photo sucked, I’m doing it so that I can see the world around me better. I still comment when I see a good photo, I still follow people because I enjoy the interactions, but I’m not going to worry over it this go ’round.
And then yesterday I was stirring half-and-half into my coffee and I was so struck with how cool it was that I immediately stopped and grabbed a camera. That’s how I know this is a good idea.