On Daily Photo Projects

01.15.2014 :: frozen fog

I seem to have signed myself up for another year of daily photos without fully intending to. My fourth round of Project 365 (from July 2011-July 2012) didn’t feel like much of a success, considering how I had to drag myself kicking and screaming through it. Which isn’t to say I haven’t gotten to that kicking and screaming stage with each round of Project 365. But after that last time, I said I really, really wouldn’t do it again, and I meant it.

02.05.2014 :: iced over

And then, just like every period between Project 365 years, I kind of … totally stopped taking photos like I used to. This time, it’s been different, because sure, I’m still taking photos almost every day, but they’re for my scrapbook. There’s a subtle difference in my head in photo quality based on where I share them: instagram is all phone photos, and has now become the place where I share photos just for fun, or something funny I noticed. It’s also the place where I interact with others the most; many of my old flickr friends have moved entirely to instagram, and I’ve made quite a few new ones through the #projectlife hashtag, which is awesome. Flickr is still the place where I post my “real” photos, the ones I am proud of or think are slightly better than the everyday stuff I share on instagram (although there’s definitely overlap between the two). And then there are the photos that only ever make it into my scrapbook: every day photos that document life or an event simply or less artfully but that aren’t “worthy” of sharing on the internet at large (like blurry photos of Luna playing or being crazy). Sometimes I can’t even describe how I make this decision on a particular photo.

02.19.2014 :: baby kitten/baby belly

All of that to explain that I’ve been taking plenty of photos, but the purpose is totally different. I’m documenting everyday life, but the art and creativity isn’t always there. I haven’t added very many photos at all to my Ones I Like Best flickr set. I’m not going on photo walks or taking photos just because or bringing my “real” camera around with me anymore. When I was in the throes of the first three rounds of Project 365, I ALWAYS had my dSLR with me. Sure, that’s how my beloved XTi got so beat up, but I also wasn’t missing out on photos like I am now. The excuse is surely that the iPhone camera is better than any other phone camera I’ve had… but even with the photos I take on the iPhone that I love, somewhere in there, I know it could have turned out just a bit better.

02.23.2014 :: lazy Sunday

A few of my flickr friends are still working on daily photo projects, and a few others started new ones on January 1st. I took a photo on the first day of the year, and tossed around the idea of doing a photo a day for the month of January… and then got a whole bunch of capslock-filled comments urging me to just keep going for the year. I couldn’t really argue with them; 2014 is going to be a hell of a year, and how awesome would it be to document it like I always used to? To get back into real photography just in time to have the greatest photo subject of all on the scene?

02.24.2014 :: sunset drive

I’m 64 days into the project, and I’m beginning to wonder if it was a super great idea. But then, Project 365 is always the hardest in the winter, when it’s cold and there’s no light and you don’t DO much. I really do miss photography and taking photos I’m proud of, stretching that particular side of my creativity. And if there’s anything I’ve learned about myself, it’s that when I start a project that involves numbering, once I’ve started, I’m pretty unlikely to give up out of stubbornness or an OCD need to not miss a day or end on a random day. So here I am. Again, apparently. Even though I said I’d never do it again.

Never say never again, I guess.

Freelensing

My current favorite photo project this summer is Operation Photo Butt-Kick, which a few of us started together as a way to kick-start our photography creativity. There’s a new challenge every two weeks, and it has definitely gotten me and my camera out the door taking pictures again. Which is kind of the whole point. The current challenge is to find a photography (or photo-editing/processing) tutorial online and use it to take (or edit) a photo. I bookmark photo tutorials all the time, but almost never find a reason to actually use them, so I was really glad to see this one.

I ended up deciding to try out freelensing, based on two tutorials I found: one from Photojojo and another from B&H. (I also watched a few youtube videos.) I’d read about it once a long time ago and thought it was cool … but that’s as far as it got.

Basically, you detach your lens from the camera to achieve a tilt-shift (or lensbaby-ish) blur, or to get a really close-up macro shot. It’s tricksy, though, because the lens is, you know, detached, meaning that it can’t talk to the camera. I tried this out with two lenses – the 40mm pancake (because it’s my new favorite) and the 50mm (which is recommended in the tutorial).

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my two control/test shots; 40mm on the left and 50mm on the right.

I found that the 40mm was reeeeally hard to manipulate and focus once it was off of the camera (duh) because it’s so small. It worked better if I got much, much closer to T-Rex. I also got better/more noticeable results if I tilted the lens farther away from the camera than I needed to later with the 50mm.

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The 50mm has a longer focal length, and that was pretty apparent with this experiment. It also let in WAY more light, so almost every freelensed photo I took was really blown out, even adjusting the settings to try to compensate. I had to stay a little farther away, but got subtle effects with not a lot of tilt, and then some pretty wacky/over-exaggerated effects tilting it farther.

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My camera’s live view mode was awesome for helping to focus, for sure. And I definitely should have done this with a setup that didn’t involve photographing something very small that was directly on the ground, because it meant sitting with my elbows on the concrete trying to balance, and hunching way over to get close enough. Don’t do that. I would love to try this in the recommended types of scenes – streets, cube farms, etc, but I also wanted to do this in the safety of a relatively static environment where I could take a ton of shots and mess around without getting caught. But all in all, this was a fun experiment. Will I use it all the time forever? Probably not. But I’m also glad I tried it.

365 x 4

Oh, Project 365. I can’t seem to ever let you go, no matter how insane you have been making me, on and off for the past six years. (Seriously?) This fourth round was by far the toughest, and despite the struggles, I managed to stick with it, and my last, 365th day, was this past week, the day before my sister’s wedding. (Hence the delay in actually posting anything.)

I went to a party store and bought a giant bunch of balloons. It was very tempting to buy the 3 foot tall silver mylar 3 6 and 5 but I couldn’t figure out why on earth I needed those, so I just went with regular balloons. Squeezing between dinner and bridesmaid manicures, I stopped at my parents’ house, balloons in tow, to get a photo. Except I’d forgotten my tripod AND my remote, so I ended up needing my dad’s help with the final shot. The brightly colored balloons were supposed to go with that whole eight weeks of color thing I started and didn’t really stick with… and it was so fun to be in the backyard trying to get cute, artistic shots with balloons, even though I had to head back out so soon.

365.365 :: the party's over

But I got my shot, and a few extras for fun that I’ll post tomorrow. And mostly, I can’t believe that I did this again. I’m proud, even though this year contained a whole lot more cell phone photos than I’d like to admit, as well as a few missed days entirely. I don’t think I’ll be doing this again anytime soon, but hopefully Project Life will keep me shooting, so I won’t think I need to start another year sometime soon.

Here are a few of my favorite photos from my 30th year.

27.365 :: early morning beach

51.365 :: carlos o'connor's

52.365 :: Mets vs Cubs

107.365 :: evening glow

159.365 :: lights and bricks

165.365 :: twenty twelve

193.365 :: actually, I said, "hell yes."

276.365 :: silhouette

289.365 :: date night

290.365 :: a day in the city

299.365 :: new stripes!

313.365 :: details

The Fourth Time Is Not the Charm

You may be aware that I’m currently in the midst of my fourth Project 365 – my fourth year of daily photos (although the years have not been consecutive; I’m crazy but not over the top crazy, I guess). I started Project 365 the first time in the fall of 2006 because I wanted to learn how to take better pictures, or, I suppose more accurately: I just wanted to take pictures, period, and practice makes perfect. And I still think everyone who’s remotely interested in photography should try a daily photo project at least once, because you learn SO much in the process.

My creation

And when it was over, I needed a break; it was a relief to accomplish what I had set out to do… except in the few months that followed, I hardly took any pictures at all. And I really, really hated that, and loved having my days documented (especially since that first year saw me go from an administrative assistant in a long-term relationship who lived with her parents to a newly-employed librarian in her own apartment and dating someone else). So I started round two on January 1, 2008. It had always bothered me in round one that I didn’t start neatly at the beginning of the year, or, hell, even the beginning of a month. But by the end of that year? Cole, Summer and I started a “save us from our craziness” mini scavenger hunt and I tagged a bunch of photos with the phrase “help we’re struggling we’ll never make it uuuughhhh year two” … which says a lot.

My creation

And then it was over! And I was relieved. And a few months went by and I hadn’t taken any photos so I did a month of photos here and there… and then sneakily started again on October 1, 2009, saying all sorts of reasonable things like “I’ll only go as long as I want” and numbering the photos straight through, rather than xx/365, because that simple thing would CLEARLY allow my borderline OCD personality to just quit whenever I wanted. And I started telling Project 365 to bite me. You know, the project that I keep signing up for of my own free will. I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense… and yet it does. So Jodi asked one day, surreptitiously, how many pairs of shoes I thought I owned… and suggested doing a month of shoes to limp my way to the finish line of round three. And it was awesome.

My creation

September 30, 2010

And again I said I’d never do it again, except if you look closely, right after “done forever!!!!” I wrote “probably” … because I’m an idiot. And then my 30th birthday got closer and closer and I couldn’t help but think how nice it would be to have my 30th year documented entirely….

And here we are. Again. And I’m struggling more this time around, maybe because I’m tired of my end of the day back up shots. Or because I’m commuting an hour and working more hours and planning my wedding and I’m just tired. And more of the photos than I’d like are cell phone shots, and there have been days where I just plain forgot. And all of that is okay because this is my project and I say so, even if the only one scolding me is the voice inside my own damn head.

My creation

I love you Project 365, and I just can’t quit you, except now I really, really kind of need to quit you forever and ever. Maybe I’ll test out a weekly project. Or a monthly project. And I know I said this all those other times, and maybe I’ll document every year of my future children’s lives or something but nothing like this. Because honestly. I have some new crafty projects lined up that I’m really looking forward to, and my new camera will still need to be learned and used but… you know.

But first, I have to get myself through the remaining 63 days. And I was again talking to Jodi, trying to come up with something, because having a theme makes it more fun and less pressure, not to mention themes are fun. So starting today and going through day 365 on July 19 (I could have done 366 because of the leap year, but day 366 will be my sister’s wedding day so I think I’ll be a little bit busy for a big deal “Last Photo” type of thing), I’m going to do eight straight weeks of color.

Each week, I’ve got a color lined up (thanks to Dan’s 8-sided die, it’s randomized, even), and I’ll look for that color for the week. Sixty four colors lite, if you will. Without the pesky colors. I think it’ll be good.

Week 40: Photo Safari

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A few months ago, I spotted a groupon for New York City Photo Safari, and it seemed way too cool to pass up. I was able to convince my friend Irma to sign up with me, and we picked a Saturday in October for our safari on the High Line. I was pretty concerned when I saw the forecast for Saturday, though, and with good reason, because as it turned out? We were walking the High Line with our cameras during Snowtober. We met for brunch first, and thought we were bundled pretty well (me in my rain boots and gortex nerd raincoat, and Irma in her winter coat and boots) until it started snowing in addition to the wind. We stopped for extra scarves, gloves, and hats before meeting with the Photo Safari group. I spent most of the days leading up to the safari worrying about how to keep my non-water resistant camera safe during torrential rain/snow. I ended up bringing a gallon ziploc bag and felt like a tool, but during the parts of our afternoon that weren’t under cover, I was really glad to have it.

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lines. or stripes, depending on who you ask.
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101.365 :: urban jungle
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I’m not really sure what I expected out of the experience, and I think part of that was that worry about the weather took over my brain before Saturday. Our guide explained a few rules, and we introduced ourselves, and then got down to business. We started out in a covered part of the High Line park, and focused on abstract concepts – first lines, and then curves. It was difficult at first, because getting feedback like “yes, but what’s interesting about that?” and “we’re not looking for STRAIGHT lines” was a bit strange. I wasn’t ever sure I understood what the goal was, just that I wasn’t quite getting it. After the abstract shots, we were instructed to put them together and keep composition in mind. Again, I got some that seemed good, and some that weren’t quite there. We then walked to a different part of the park, but it was so windy and our hands were sooo frozen and crampy, so we ended up heading to the Chelsea Market to shoot for a while indoors and out of the snow. Talk about a relief to be inside! At first I was just over it, the being told that I wasn’t there yet… (not that I think I’m perfect or anything) but I kept shooting and eventually everything just clicked. It’s hard to describe. I took a ton of photos of the same things over and over, and the guide was really complimentary about my progress from the beginning to the end.

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curves and raindrops
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I was disappointed that the weather impacted the day so much, just because we were limited to such a small portion of the High Line and our focus was so abstract that I still don’t feel like I saw it at all. Plus, it would have been so interesting to have more subjects to focus on during the projects. I do think, though, that I learned some things about composition and maybe even something so simple as taking different angles, because I often find myself focusing primarily on light. So I definitely got a lot out of it and am glad I went. Despite being freezing and soggy and super exhausted by the time I got back to Penn Station to get home. It was an Experience, that’s for sure!

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Week 33: Wide Angle Love

I sometimes forget that I built an escape clause into this whole Handmade52 project, namely that photos could count if I needed them to. (Yes, again, that old refrain about how my own rules are too strict and I promise I can stop this project any time really I mean it blah blah.)

But a few weeks ago, I asked my friend Pete if I could borrow his wide angle camera lens, just for something different. I knew I wanted to get some good shots of our new apartment, and I figured it would come in handy during my brief trip up to Cape Cod, too.

I didn’t expect to love it so much that I kept “forgetting” to give it back. I guess I know what’s now at the top of my Camera Lenses I Would Buy Assuming I Had An Extra $700 Anyway list.

The lens is the Tokina 11-16mm, which is great indoors and just all around fantastic. I rarely took it off of my camera during the three weeks I had it, and I think I could do a lot of damage with a wide angle and the 50mm. Here are some of my favorite shots with the wide angle lens.

20.365 :: just sit

25.365 :: clam chowder

the salt marsh

Nauset Light

27.365 :: early morning beach

the living room!

32.365 :: draft day

the picnic area

at the paddock

Thirty.

I feel like I have been talking about turning thirty all year. And I guess I kind of have, what with the 30 Before 30 list and everything. (I am still working on a few of the items, and will definitely write to wrap up the list once things calm down a bit.)
July 21, 1982 :: 1
July 21, 1982. One.

As a kid, I had a strange history of putting way too much importance in my own birthday. There were a lot of years of stressing about what the perfect gift might be, or how to spend the perfect day. I have been afraid all along that the oh-so-typical Birthday Stress would be exponentially larger, since Turning Thirty is such a Big Deal And Whatever.

July 21, 1984 :: 3
July 21, 1984. Three. THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR THE CABBAGE PATCH DOLL.

But now it’s here, and I didn’t really end up coming up with anything outrageously noteworthy to do today, unlike most of my friends who have planned big parties or super fun things to do with large groups of everyone who loves them. I couldn’t even think of what to tell people I wanted. And the biggest surprise to me, the same girl who used to FREAK OUT the week before every birthday (it’s the last time I’ll ever swim in a pool while I’m 13!!), is that I’m totally okay with all of it. I am wearing a striped dress and giant pink, red and purple earrings with my purple saltwater sandals, I’ve eaten a bagel and will soon consume frozen yogurt, a beer sampler, and some cupcakes. I’m spending the day with my love. And that is pretty damn great.

July 21, 1985 :: 4
July 21, 1985. Four.

29 seemed like it was going to be The Year, and really? It turned out to be not great at all. There was so much stress and hassle and tears and frustration and for a really large part of the year, it felt like nothing was going as it should, and that everything was more difficult than it needed to be. Right up until this past week, when I almost broke my foot and had unexpected and expensive car repairs. So, no, 29 was not what I expected. But I think that fact is what has helped me approach 30 with increasing excitement and hope the closer it got. My teens were spent knowing somewhere deep down that I just didn’t fit in. My twenties were years of endless searching. For my place in the world, for a career, for fulfillment, for love, for friendship… And as I sit here, newly 30 and perhaps a bit too reflective, I can’t help but feel for damn sure that everyone who has ever told me that their thirties were the best years EVER was SO RIGHT.

Because Dan and I just moved in together and even though the last few weeks have been unsettled and chaotic, things are coming together SO nicely. And I have some of the best friends in the universe. And a craft room. And a brother and a sister and parents who know me better than anyone and who have carried my shit way too many times. And someone who really loves me. And I’m having a really great hair day.

So thirty, bring it on. I simply can’t wait to see what you have in store.

365.1 :: 30