As 2014 drew to an end, I found myself looking for inspiration. Photographic inspiration, in particular. I have been interested in photography since about 2011, but frankly, I wasn’t very good at it. I had a decent camera, a Fuji HS20-EXR, but aside from an occasional eye-popper, my photos were mediocre.
My brother is a musician and has been known to say that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become proficient at playing an instrument. Not content with being a proficient bass player and cranking out Blues or Top 40 numbers, he invested at least another 10,000 hours with a Hammond B-3 organ before becoming an organist in an small black church, where he learned the gospel style. The man has talent, but talent alone has not made him the musician he is today. It was practice, practice, practice.
As for myself, I never had any formal art training. All I knew about photo composition and technique was learned from reading. Midway through 2014, an online acquaintance and I founded a Flickr group, Compositionally Challenged as a way to learn how to take better photos. We invited a few friends to join us in weekly challenges and gentle critiques. Now, at least I had a clue about Rule of Thirds and Balance, landscapes and macros, etc. If I were in school, I might have been graded a C+ in photography.
Cruising around the myriad photo groups on Flickr, I ran across several that were forming up to do a Photo Of The Day (POTD) in 2015. What a concept! Could I even manage to find something different to photograph for 365 consecutive days? Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Right?
I joined a group called 365: The 2015 Edition, because its smaller size made it seem friendlier and more welcoming to me. The group started out with 410 members in January. Each day, I took camera in hand and managed to get my POTD. Each evening, I scrolled through the photos posted by other members and was amazed and impressed with the diversity.
When the weather was miserable, I discovered the beauty to be found in foods. When I had oral surgery and felt miserable, my subjects were the cats in my lap. I upgraded to a Fuji HS50-EXR camera in April and set about learning its capabilities. Almost everywhere I went, I took my camera with me, and I learned to see photo opportunities all around me. Those photo ops had always been there, of course, but in 2015, I was learning to see them.
Earlier today, I posted my 354th POTD and noticed that the 365 group still has active 279 members. At this point, I have to think that we all will complete the year with 365 POTDs. Two-thirds of the people who started out to do a 365 are going to finish. That really is pretty impressive.
As a result of my 365, my photographic skills really have improved. Explaining my 365 antics to friends, family, and strangers has garnered some interesting reactions. Some have thought I’m crazy; others were amazed that I would take on something like that. I have had fun conversations with strangers. I have learned to see possibilities where I saw nothing of interest before. On the other hand, it has been tedious at times. There were days when I really did not want to pick up my camera, but the discipline of the 365 had taken hold of me by that time and I made myself do it.
Doing a 365 has not only helped me to improve my photography; it has taught me discipline and gained me a few new online friends. Right now, I am very much looking forward to some days when I don’t have to pick up my camera, so I will not repeat that 365. I have, however, signed up for Project 52 : 2016, which just requires 1 photo per week on named themes. I am also considering 100 x: The 2016 Edition, which requires 100 photos during the year, all on just one theme of my choosing.
For 2016, I am going to tackle my own private 365, which is to get at least 20 minutes of exercise every day for a year. Gardening and walking will count as exercise, but on those days when the weather keeps me inside, I will do calisthenics. I have to think I will be a better person for that project by the end of 2016.
I won’t call it a New Year’s Resolution, because they are generally broken by the middle of January. No, I am going to call it what it is: a commitment to do a 365. I am going to do it. And I will be improved by the end of it.
Are you up for a 365? Now is a good time to start thinking about it. Make some plans. What would you like to improve about yourself?