The above was taken right at midnight on New Year’s Eve and is my last photo in the Project 366 that had me taking a photo every single day of 2008. Done at last!
By one measure, I failed miserably at this project. By my count I missed at least 8 days (including a 9-day span in December where I missed 5 days), and that doesn’t include the fact that I kind of bent the rules to my advantage sometimes – in some cases using photos taken after midnight to count for the previous day, in other cases using them to count for the next day. I did not miss a single day in any way, shape or form until early August, but after that I completely fell off the tracks. More than just missing days, I also just lost inspiration, and the majority of my shots from September and later were totally rote “I’m taking a photo for the sake of taking a photo” shots taken at the end of the day. At that point I had completely stopped enjoying the project and probably should have quit altogether, but I was too stubborn for that.
By a totally different, and arguably more important, measure, the project was a resounding success. I originally embarked on it because my D70 had been collecting dust in my closet. I would take it out for parties, Ultimate tournaments and backpacking trips, but otherwise never touched it. This seemed like a giant waste since I’ve always loved taking photos (especially since getting my first SLR from my brother in 2000), so I was looking for some way to motivate myself to just get out and take more pictures. On that count, I succeeded way more than I could have possibly imagined. I took over 400 photos in the first week of 2008. I took 10,000 photos in the first three months (compared to 16,000 in the three and a half years preceding). And it only went up from there. I got my D300 in April and have put the shutter through some 40,000 actuations already.
A second goal was to actually improve my photography, and while this is subjective to a certain extent, I at least think that I’ve succeeded. I look at my photos from 2007 and before and cringe, which is a good sign. I am much more confident with a camera in my hands now that I’ll be able to get interesting photos of whatever it is I’m looking at. On a technical level, I’m also much more comfortable with the basics of exposure – I knew them intellectually before, but now I know them instinctively (shooting in manual and adjusting on the fly at concerts has helped immeasurably in this respect). I also am way more comfortable using flash than I’ve ever been, both on- and off-camera, though I still have plenty to learn here. Compositionally, it’s harder to pinpoint clear improvement, but I think I have a better eye than I did a year ago, and am just generally more perceptive.
Finally, and this was totally unexpected, I transformed myself into an event photographer. I discovered a real joy for concert photography, and am in the process of expanding this passion to other sorts of events – for instance, I’m scheduled to do my first wedding this May. I developed a pretty efficient workflow for processing massive numbers of images from concerts, sports events, newsworthy happenings and so on. I started building a brand for myself, with the website and blog, watermark, business cards, and so on, which has helped get me some gigs I definitely didn’t foresee at the beginning of the year. The upshot is that while a year ago I was contemplating sneaking my camera into a tiny club to shoot an obscure rock band (above, my Day 16 shot), this year, exactly 365 days after I took the photo above, my first concert shoot will be Metallica at the Verizon Center, a 20,000-seat arena.
An odd consequence of this development has meant that my more free-form “artistic” photography took a bit of a dive in the latter part of the year, when I was focusing most of my energy on live music photography. I got some great shots in the first few months of the year that I wouldn’t mind hanging in an art gallery (and I did, kind of, if you’d consider Artomatic that kind of thing), but in the latter part of the year most of my stuff was more documentary-style. I was doing much less of the “carry the camera everywhere and take pictures of any random thing that strikes my fancy” thing, and I’d actually like to get back to that a bit. I definitely did that during my trip to Beijing and it netted me some shots I really love, like my Day 234 photo:
Ironically, it was that trip to China, where I got tons of keepers, that hurt my photo-a-day the most. I had several thousand images to process after that trip, and while going through them I had absolutely no energy left over to take creative photos every day. (The jet lag certainly didn’t help.) I fell into a bit of a creative funk at that point and never fully recovered, choosing instead of focus my creativity in concert and other specific event shoots. It was at this juncture, too, that I started missing days here and there.
So starting in September I was kind of feeling like the project was drudgery, and I was taking crap photos just for the sake of taking photos. Not really the point of the project. Nevertheless, I’m glad I stuck it out, I’ve learned a ton, and I’ve rediscovered a passion for photography that certainly isn’t going anywhere. I just have to figure out how I want to channel it. I’m not doing a new 365 project in 2009 for obvious reasons, but I’m certainly going to figure out some goals for myself with regards to photography, and I think it’s going to be a fun year.