Well, here it is, day 365. I have taken and posted a new photo every day since February 11, 2009. I have, on occasion, been late in posting my daily picture, but for one entire year I haven’t gone a single day without taking a photograph.
Looking back, I realize that what was most valuable about the project, ironically, had nothing to do with photographs at all. For me, the project bloomed into a form of meditation, like the Zen practice of mindful walking. Take a photo (or in my case roughly 100 photos) every day for a year and you become deeply attuned to the world around you. The weather and the light and the locale take on a heightened significance, and you gradually realize these inanimate things have a life and spirit all their own.
Camera slung over my shoulder, I walk with my dogs in the same woods every morning, and I feel that I have—quite literally—gotten to know the trees. There are individual trees that I have photographed over and over; I know when the light will hit them just so, I’ve watched them stand steadfast amidst snow and driving rain, I’ve delighted in their first buds of spring. I’ve heard strong winds strain their aging branches, and watched one old soldier come crashing down right behind me. I have blurred them and thrown them out of focus and zoomed in on their bark and growths of moss and lichen.
Of course, I didn’t just point my camera at the woods. I was fortunate enough to take several wonderful trips over the course of the year; I also explored my town and neighborhood like a stalker. The quotidian and domestic were subjects on those days when the weather or my mood kept me indoors, and a nearby historic greenhouse was often a fail-safe muse.
Another valuable aspect of the project had little to do with photographs either, but with connections. Over the course of the year my husband, my mother, my children, and far-flung friends and family have told me that they keep up with my life and moods through my daily photos. Taking a photo every day is also a wonderful way to mark time and slow it down just a little bit. I look back through my photos and am reminded of how much a year can hold, from the mundane to the monumental. We acquired a goldfish (still alive), a puppy and a beloved new daughter-in-law. We took a trip to Prague, a city I have wanted to visit for many years. I mourned the one-year anniversary of the death of my father.
And along the way I took a few pictures that I’m proud to have captured.
By my rough estimate I took between 30,000 and 40,000 photos over the course of the project. Being a ruthless editor, I probably sent 75 percent of them right to the computer’s trash bin. Still, the remaining RAW files have clogged both my laptop and desktop computers, and an even more ruthless edit is in order (and a new backup drive). Regardless of the numbers, the project was a creative boon and probably made me a better photographer. Creativity, I’ve learned, is 95% effort. By forcing myself to create a new image every day, I HAD to get creative, try new things, take risks, and learn to just accept it when I posted a lousy or boring image. There’s nothing wrong with taking crappy pictures now and then, as long as you learn something from them.
And today’s image? It’s just a snapshot of the woods that I love, on my daily walk with the dogs, in the middle of a snowstorm. The camera really can be a useless tool when trying to capture a scene as beautiful as this, but useless or not, I had the damn thing with me. ☺
“How different everything is for the craftsman who transforms a part of the world with his own hands, who can see his work as emanating from his being and can step back at the end of a day or lifetime and point to an object–whether a square of canvas, a chair or a clay jug–and see it as a stable repository of his skills and an accurate record of his heart, and hence feel collected together in one place, rather than strung out across projects which long ago evaporated into nothing one could hold or see.”
From “The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work” by Alain de Botton