Monthly Archives: January 2011

why I don’t like photo a day projects…..

30 Post 365 Project: 3 of 365

First, let me say that I’m only 3 days into my first 365 and I can absolutely see why people struggle to get it done. I’m only shooting 30 minutes or a little more and I’m feeling the “crunch” today with time. Wow! You really have to push yourself to get it done.

This statement by Michael Frye, in a microcosm, is why I don’t like photo a day or 365 projects…

I have nothing against them — but personally, I can’t see a purpose for me.

I’ve met too many photographers who’ve committed to one who get in a few weeks or months and find themselves at 10PM at night, taking a picture of their stapler just to do something, and about then, they seem to wonder “WHAT AM I DOING?”

There are many aspects about being a better photographer that this not only doesn’t help, but I feel gets in the way of. It’s not about improving your eye for composition, or practicing your post processing, or studying technique, or extending your craft. It’s about pushing the button — to me, it turns into grunt work very quickly, and sends a message (which I don’t like) that the only thing that matters is pushing the shutter button. How does that improve your craft?

So my recommendation is this: If you go into this kind of project, understand what your goal is and know why this project is going to help you with that goal. The day it turns into a grind you regret starting, or that you don’t feel like it’s helping those goals — stop. it starts being destructive the day it starts making you hate touching the camera….

And remember that pushing the button is really a minor part of being a photographer, and not necessarily a major aspect of photography. if all you’re doing is hauling out a camera once a day and pushing a button while pointing it at something, why are you doing this?

If what you need is some project to force you into the habit of taking pictures — great. but realize that at some point of the year, you’re likely to start taking pictures just for the project, and not for the larger goals. When you do that, ask yourself if the project still makes sense.

And realize that there are many other things you should also be doing to continue your growth as a photographer, and do those as well.

For me, that’s why I made a decision to do the Saturday Foto Fest, and the Friendly Feathery Sunday postings. It forces me to evaulate my portfolio every week, and make choices — and it also forces me to add new material on a regular basis so I don’t run out of stuff to post; but it also recognizes time realities and the other aspects of my life, and that I feel more that it’s about the finished product over time than about a daily ritual of button pressing.

If you want to do a 365 project, have fun! and I guess that’s my point. The day if stops being fun is the day you should stop. Don’t continue just because you started it; continue it because it’s helping you with the goal you set when you started it.

Looking forward into 2011

Welcome to 2011. If this is how you feel, remember: you did it to yourself, but it’s temporary.

I’m really looking forward to 2011 with anticipation. There have been a number of challenges the last few years, but that which does not kill you makes you stronger, and so far, I’m still breathing. 2010 turned out to be the year I started thinking forward again and deciding what I wanted to focus on, and now that 2011 is here, it’s time to start pushing those things forward.

I don’t know about you, but here in my life I’m interested in way too many things for my own good. My planning isn’t so much about “what should I do?” as it is deciding what of the things I want to do I need to defer, because if I try to do them all — none of them get enough time for me to do them well. One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned the last few years is that I do, in fact, have limits, and while it’s a lesson I don’t like, I’ve learned to try to focus and prioritize and do fewer things well instead of simply pushing harder to do them all.

I have, at least to start the year, chosen to focus on three projects. There are a couple of other projects that I may add to the list later (or replace something on this list with if it makes sense), but I’m not yet ready to talk about them in public, because they depend on decisions by others before I want to commit resources to them. I’ve got a total of five projects on my “A” list right now, but only three of them are at that point I can talk to them and move forward on them now. We’ll bring the others into the light if and when it makes sense.

I’ll be talking about each of these things, but right now, I want to focus on one.

The first — and clearly the most important — project for 2011 is my health and my weight. I was diagnosed diabetic in late 2009 (joining about 1 in 10 of the American population), and 2010 was in many ways a year for coming to grips with diabetes and learning how to keep it controlled and keep things stable. As a friend and fellow diabetic told me, diabetes is one of those things that is no big deal at all — and something you have to take great care with. For 2011, I don’t want to just keep the diabetes under control, but to take the initiative and shove it as far out of my life as I possibly can — by taking off the extra weight I carry, by getting in better physical shape, by learning to be better at managing diet, there’s a good chance I can live life without using diabetic drugs and managing this strictly through lifestyle and diet. It may not happen — but we’re sure going to try.

It’s also crucial that this weight comes off for other reasons; getting it off will reduce the impact of the apnea, and perhaps let me be rid of the darth vader machine I sleep with. Needing a CPAP to sleep has some impacts that might not be obvious at first, but here’s one: you can’t camp or backpack. Life is tied to a hotel room with electricity (which excludes Curry Village in Yosemite, also) — and that impacts your ability to explore as a nature photographer. That was one factor that led me to decide not to try to go pro in my photography this year. another impact on my photography — when you’re carrying around a lot of weight your center of gravity if affected, and so is your ability to scramble off trail or even get down on the ground for a shot and get back up again without looking like a grounded walrus. And when you lose your balance, bad things can happen. Losing weight will in a very direct way make me a better and more capable photographer.

A third aspect of this is — my knees. In late 2007, I was out taking photos and walking when I stepped in a gopher hole and tore the meniscus in my right knee. In talking to the orthepedic surgeon, he showed me the xrays and explained that it wasn’t about going in and cleaning it out, it was about delaying replacement as long as possible, due to the arthritis in both knees. Thanks to 500mg of Relafin twice a day, the knees have been quiet and stable since, until about a month ago when they started acting up, and it’s clear I need to go in and have another chat and probably up the dosage. But the single best thing I can do to improve my knees is to take weight off.

If there’s a plus here, it’s that I weight what I weighed two and a half years ago, and I weigh less than I did at my max in fall of 2008 (but not by much); it’s something that it’s at least not going up. On the minus of that, starting in the fall of 2008, I lost a fair bit of weight — because of the diabetes, and it came back once I started treatment. I do wish I’d been able to keep some of that off, but that’s life.

In American culture — the land of Nancy Reagan and “just say no” — the answer to these problems is seemingly simple: eat less, exercise more. If only; if there was truth to that, the world wouldn’t be having this massive obesity crisis and we wouldn’t be having this conversation (and — hint — pretty much every place some variation of “just say no” is proposed, it fails miserably, whether it’s teenage sex, smoking, catholic priests and little boys, or losing weight. So can I please suggest that we as a society get past simplistic slogans and deal with real problems using real solutions? thanks).

In reality, it’s really complicated. I’ve come up with a set of things I think will work — and now that the holidays are over, it’s time to see if they will; and what needs to be adapted and changed. I’ve also done a lot of research into this whole shebang, and I’ll share some of that with you over time. And no, don’t expect daily weigh ins or any of that; it doesn’t work for me, and it’s incredibly boring for you. but we’ll talk when it makes sense and there’s something useful to say.

This is an initiative I have to make succeed; if I do nothing else, I have to make this work — or I have to decide I can’t, and then start looking at other options seriously, like surgery. And frankly, I look forward to gastric bypass even less than the thought of going through knee replacement, because gastric surgery would be admitting failure over something I honestly believe I can solve — and in fact have been working to solve for the last few years. And now I’ll find out if I’m right, I guess.

The goal? for now, let’s just leave it at ten pounds, and then start on the next ten. I need to lose 100 pounds to get back to the weight I was at 30, and that’s probably a two year process. Step one is to just take that first step, and then build on it… It’s a good question what my goal weight ought to be, but that’s another one of those complicated discussions about something people like to make simple…

and hopefully we’ll chat about that soon.

Until then, to all of you, I hope your 2011 is as good and positive for you as I plan on making it for me.