Back on episode 65 of On Taking Pictures, hosts Bill Wadman and Jeffery Saddoris set a challenge to take ‘an intentional photograph that you feel good about every day’. I took up the challenge and ran with it until it became my project 365. I took my last shot of the project on 24 July, and now that some time has passed, I thought I would put together some thoughts on how it was and what I got from it.
The biggest thing I got was probably the most surprising thing, and that is confidence. I’m an introvert by nature, and I’m further along the autistic spectrum than your average bear. For as long as I can remember, I’ve never been able to look people in the eye when engaging with them, but taking pictures has changed that, and it’s amazing! I’ve spent a lot of time over the year processing people’s eyes in photos, and I now find myself making the conscious effort to shift my gaze from mouth to eyes when talking to people, and so I get to see the amazing depth and variety of expression that eyes show about a person.
I’ve also developed the confidence to ask people if it would be okay to take their picture. Not all the time, but certainly more than I used to be able to.
I spent the whole project shooting with my camera in manual mode. I now have a reasonably good foundation of how the trinity of shutter speed, aperture and ISO works and what each of them does not only for exposure, but for a desired look. Before I did the project, I would often forget about ISO!
Interestingly, I never used exposure compensation. It just never occurred to me and, to be honest, I’m still not sure when or why it would be useful when I’ve got the trinity to set my exposure.
And now, having completed the project, I find myself able to get pretty close to the correct exposure before taking my first shot! One of my favourite shots was one that I surprised myself with, because it was the only shot I took that day and I nailed it! I think it was the first and only time of the project that I took only one shot for the whole day and was done.
I bought a Nikon external flash (SB800) a long time ago, but never really figured out how to use it. I only ever used it in TTL and didn’t like the results, so it pretty much stayed in its case. Then I discovered Zack Arias. It was just before he published the 2.0 of his OneLight lighting videos, so I pre-ordered it to get the discount and watched it twice. It’s one of the most useful tutorials of any kind that I’ve ever seen. Zack’s teaching method is exemplary and it wasn’t long before I was online ordering a light stand and umbrella. I’ve no doubt that I will watch his tutorials again, but I do most definitely need to practice a lot more with the umbrella to figure out placement, flash power, etc. The results I’ve had since learning how to use it properly are night and day.
Selecting the right image for the shot of the day was one of the most difficult things, but it was something I got better at as time went on. My wife and daughter were very helpful with this!
It was Lightroom that really got me into photography, which I realise is kind of backward, but its organisation tools really gel with how my mind works. When 1.0 was released, I went through Chris Orwig’s Lynda.com training and I’ve stayed with Lightroom ever since. I’ve installed presets from Trey Ratcliff and Nicolesy and used them a lot to learn Lightroom’s power tools (how about that tone curve?!).
Then there’s Nik. After Google bought them, the price came way down and, after watching Jason Odell’s training for Silver Efex Pro 2.0 , I paid for the suite. Silver Efex is amazing, and once you get your head round the control points, it becomes incredibly powerful. And then there’s Color Efex Pro. There was quite a steep learning curve with that, but the results are outstanding!
As the project progressed, I’d find myself thinking of a Color Efex recipe and having it in mind as I took my shots, and a few times I got some images that were pretty flat unprocessed, but remarkable when my vision became reality. It was one of the most gratifying things about the whole project.
I’ve had a pro account for Flickr for a while, but never really used it much. Once I started the project, I became quite a heavy user and got into groups in quite a big way. I started following people whose pictures I liked and that became a huge inspiration. One of the first people I found was Kevin Schmidt; he was kind enough to share some of his LR presets with me and I found his work inspirational.
The JF export to Flickr](http://regex.info/blog/lightroom-goodies/flickr) plugin made posting and managing the album so much easier, using a smart album in LR and posting to Flickr and Facebook.
I’d never had a picture explored on Flickr, but that finally happened for me with my shot of a rainbow over Holy Isle. It was a pano – stitched in Photoshop CC, which I finally bought a license for. I was at work and got some emails from Flickr to say that my picture had been made a favourite. Then a few more, and then a whole flood of them! It was exhilarating! To be fair, it was one of my best shots from the whole project, but still, I felt rather proud. And then, bizarrely, another two of my pictures got Explored within a week of the first.
Landscapes and Portraits; seascapes and cargo ships
I never really considered myself a landscape photographer, but it soon became apparent that I was wasting the gorgeous part of the world where I live if I didn’t get some landscapes and seascapes, so I started shooting from the beach near work in Brodick in the mornings and got some of the shots I’m most proud of.
I also started shooting cargo ships as they sat in Brodick Bay, looking up their shipping info and posting them into groups on Flickr, and it’s something that I started to get really interested in. It gave me a great opportunity to use my 70-400mm VR lens and I got some pretty good results.
Time management was one of the biggest things to deal with. It wasn’t so much the shooting as the selecting and editing, especially at the beginning when I had to learn what the various presets and plugins did. I never let myself get more than four or five days behind, because I knew that if did, it could be the breaking of the project. I would ideally have liked to be spending the year reading photography books and blogs, doing tutorials and learning how to use the tools properly, but, to be honest, I needed the time for getting the pictures edited and posted. That in itself was a fantastic learning opportunity and I got some really nice edits, even if I couldn’t replicate them!
I’ve learned a little bit about a lot of things so I now have a basic general foundation and it’s really down to practice now going forward.
I thought that the winter months would have been harder than the summer, but June and July were the hardest months because I was so busy with playing music and doing things with the family.
My first passion is for music. I play acoustic guitar in different bands and do solo gigs too. I’ve travelled the world attending workshops and seminars and I play in a variety of styles. But I’ve never actually created anything musically and that has always frustrated me. I could learn other people’s arrangements of tunes, play their songs and accompany traditional music on fiddles and pipes and whistles, but it never really scratched that itch. In fact, I found it so frustrating that, for a while, I lost my enthusiasm for it.
Taking pictures really scratched that itch for me and I think that that’s why I feel so proud at having got to the end. It’s one of the most creative things I’ve ever done and the results are there for all to see.
It felt weird the first day that I didn’t take a picture after the end of the project, and then I felt pretty flat. I guess I should’ve expected that, because that’s how I used to feel at the end of my last exam at uni as well.
And now that some time has passed, I find myself missing taking pictures, but, at the same time, it’s a bit of a relief because I’m still extremely busy and am not sure how I would have managed to keep it going into August this year.
A HUGE thank you to Bill and Jeffery for not only setting the challenge, but for all they do on the show to keep it real. Seriously guys, you’ve pushed me into doing something of which I am extremely proud!
The G+ group has been amazing for support and feedback, and the weekly challenges have given me ideas when the creative soil was fallow.
Thanks to Zack Arias for putting out that lighting tutorial and getting the DEDPXL assignments going. They’ve been great for giving me ideas and thickening my skin a little.
Thanks to Lorraine and Freya for helping with the selects.
Thanks to Kirsty for being a patient model while I moved around my umbrella and climbed up on ladders to get the shot.
See full 365 album on Flickr here: Project 365 on Flickr