Project 365: Lessons Learned

I’m one month into Project 365, where I take a picture every single day this year. At the bottom of this post are the pics from all 31 pictures taken in January 2010. Most I like, some I hate, a few I love. But I’ve learned a few lessons learned thus far in Project 365, and here they are…

  1. Taking a picture every day is hard. No shocker there. It can lead to mundain photos of just daily life, things that are quite boring. And when I’m inconvenienced by something that takes my attention away from taking a photo, or keeping my eyes peeled for something photo worthy, I find myself struggling at the end of the day to take a photo and that usually leads to something really lame or boring. Lesson learned: No matter how hard it is, I must strive to take a photo either earlier in the day or if I can’t I must take a photo that is not as boring as convenience might lend.
  2. It’s hard to be creative when you’re not feelin’ it. Forcing creativity usually results in really lame pictures, forced. However, I do find myself spotting moments of humanity’s sadness in daily life, in the world around me, moments of humanity that I want to capture, someone pushing a shopping cart of cans up a hill, and I want to take a photo of that, but there are so many reasons why I don’t, mainly that it seems degrading to the subject. Lesson learned: Find something beautiful, no matter my own definition of beauty. What I think is beautiful could be something quite sad, quite cold, but yet beautiful. Like that stupid plastic bag dancing in the breeze in American Beauty. Sorry for the lame example, but it makes the point.
  3. The iPhone camera is simply not good enough for this project, not even close. I’ve been using the free Adobe Photoshop app to tweak the photos, but the original photo leaves much to be desired. Lesson learned: bring my point-and-shoot with me wherever I go, at the minimum. If I can, bring my Canon EOS 40D.
  4. I’ve been doing Project 365 with Ali and that helps a lot. Doing it together really helps each of us remember, and it’s a lot fun too. We’re experimenting a bit, and challenging each other and having a lot of fun. I’m helping her learn her Nikon D40 and learn more about digital photography, and doing this project together everyday helps both of learn from each other and inspire each other.
  5. Be spontaneous. I’m just getting the grasp on this now. Wednesday evening I got home from a doctor appointment around 8pm and there was a possum in my driveway. Most people would say “big deal.” But I immediately reached for the camera. Why? Well it’s a quick pic for my daily quota, but also it’s something different and unique – something I don’t experience every day. Taking pictures of my dog Elmer, while he’s cute and all that, is just kinda routine, expected. A possum in my driveway, a little different. Lesson: have a camera with me and be ready to take a picture of those moments that pass as quickly as the come. Be quick, be spontaneous, be confident.
  6. Raise the bar. Over the last few days of January I’ve been trying to take pictures that I’ve always wanted to take. A picture of a droplet, intervals of the moon (or sun), star trails. There are many more pictures I just want to take to cut notches in my belt, if you will, and to prove to myself that I can do it. It’s easier to take these kinds of photos that take a lot of time when, well, when I have the time. But the more I cut my teeth on these kinds of challenging pictures, the easier it becomes to take them. Key lesson here to just keep raising the bar for myself, don’t be afraid to take pictures I may think I’m not good enough for; I just may surprise myself.

So far what I’m really enjoying about this project is how it demands my attention and a commitment. I love that I must dedicate a little time every day to being creative, and taking a break from everything else. I love that the pictures also show me where I’ve been, or what was on my mind, or a mood I may been in, or a circumstance, the weather and seasons, or even a new idea I’m toying with. I’m using a variety of lenses, from my Canon EF-S 70-200 f/2.8 to my 60mm macro lens or 15mm Tokina fisheye. I’m using them to help guide me as much as I’m choosing them for certain subjects. That’s a cool record of daily life that I can look back on. Also, the pictures that I’m choosing for Project 365 each day are just one photo among many others. I am taking other photos of other things, or of the same subject. So I have a record of that in Adobe Lightroom too, and all tagged properly so I can look back at my library. Very cool indeed.

I’m looking forward to more! I think getting through the first month was the toughest, making it a habit and routine is the hardest part. Now it’s part of my daily routine.

OK, onto February!

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Whatcha Lookin' For?

Not much to see here other than lots of links to my other places online. So check it:

My photography site is here, at Ben Saren Photography.
My professional blog, is here at Your Suspect.
My company is CitySquares – Your Neighborhood, Online.
My personal blog is at ben.iswhoi.am.
My lifestream is on the right of this page.
My twitter is here, and I got another right here.

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Bread & Puppet


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It’s certainly not for everyone, but it has a certain appeal. I first went to the Bread & Puppet’s Domestic Resurrection Circus in Glover, VT in 1995, before I ever knew a thing about the theater and circus. These parties, held for 27 years, grew into a drug fueled spectacle of hippies, ravers, punks, you name it – thousands and thousands of people gathering on a couple farms for a weekend of music and partying. The thing that struck me most about these parties was that so many people of different colors, backgrounds, countries, tastes, could all gather together and get along. Strangers were no longer strangers. My experiences at Bread and Puppet were some of the best of my long and reckless youth.

My last year there was the last year. I woke up in the morning, August 8th, 1998, in my tent, hot and sweaty from the morning sun to my friend kicking my tent and demanding I wake up, which I did after hearing the words “someone was murdered.” That was enough to get me out of the tent. A mere 20 feet from our campsite on the farm were police and yellow tape, and a body bag ready to be carried away. Someone had died, violently, as rumor had it.

The sting of that experience has never left me – I’ll never forget the horror that crept up my spine that morning. A mere feet from me was a lifeless body – and that this person’s life ended at some point during the night – while perhaps no one even knew it. That amongst thousands of people, one person could be killed, and no one would notice, was a solitude I’d never considered before.

Here is a great history of Bread & Puppet’s Domestic Resurrection Circus.

A couple years ago I heard that Bread & Puppet was in town, here in Boston, at the Boston Center for the Arts, and my wife, who was also in attendance in 1998 (before we’d met) and I went to the show. We were blown away, by the depth of symbolism of the performance. The puppets brought me back over 10 years to the first time I saw similar ones, on the fields in Glover, VT.

Last week I volunteered to take photos of the Bread & Puppet performance at the BCA, and thoroughly enjoyed the chance to take part in B&P from a totally different perspective.

The times have changed, but in some ways, some things just remain the same.