I'm great at starting projects. I'm not so great at finishing them. I have baskets full of half-knitted items, patterns and fabric waiting to be made into clothing, gardens that need tending.
So it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I started a 365-day photography project - not on Jan. 1, but on the first day of spring. My inspiration came from a talk given by photographer Cathy Panebianco on the last day of winter. (Cathy, by the way, will be offering an Audubon course in August on how to take amazing photos using an iPhone, but I digress.)
Cathy belongs to an online community that provides her with a word or phrase every day. Members of the community then create a photograph that captures or expresses the word or phrase. Cathy chose a square format - so every photo in her project has the same dimensions.
Morning light through the giant sugar maple on the grounds at Audubon.
Pictured below are reflections in one of Audubon’s ponds and grass about to release its pollen.
For better or for worse, I chose to go it alone - without a daily prompt, without a community of fellow photographers. I did follow Cathy's recommendation to select a common format for all my project photos - rectangular, portrait orientation, 5-by-4 ratio. I also decided that all my photos would be taken outdoors in natural light, that I would publish them on my blog (even if they weren't very good or very inspired), and that I would share the link to each blog post with my Facebook friends.
This project has been good for me for several reasons.
First, it keeps me practicing. The more photos I take and process, the more I learn. I have taken to saying, "I practice photography," rather than, "I'm a photographer" because the more I learn, the more I realize I have yet to learn.
Second, it provides me with discipline. With so many other projects, it is easy to let things slide. With a 365-day project, there is an assignment. Every day. And because I chose to publish, I can pretend I would be letting my friends down if I didn't post something. Every day. My friends, whether they know it or not, keep me honest. (Mostly.)
Third, it keeps fresh ideas flowing. I'll be using shots from the 365-day project for an upcoming exhibit opening in September at the Prendergast Library Gallery. Not all of my 365 shots are appropriate for this upcoming exhibit, though, and other shots are inspiring ideas for future exhibits.
By the time this article goes to print, I will have posted a photograph for more than 100 days in a row. Confession time: This does not mean I made a photograph every single day. I cheated. There were some days when I was either too busy or too tired to click the shutter release. I have used photos taken on one day as my photo for another day. And one or two days, I broke my "outside in natural light" rule, just so I could have something to post. Still, I'm proud of myself for sticking with it and feel pretty confident I can keep it going. (If only I could be this dedicated with healthy eating and exercise.)
Jamestown Audubon's 2014 Nature Photography Contest submission deadline is June 30. You may have the perfect photo to submit. If not, why not start a 365-day project on July 1 and see what you can come up with for the 2015 contest? Watch the contest website (japhotocontest.com) over the next few weeks to be inspired by the finalists and winners.
The Audubon Center & Sanctuary is located at 1600 Riverside Road in the town of Kiantone, a quarter-mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown and Warren, Pa. For more information call 569-2345 or visit jamestownaudubon.org.
Jennifer Schlick is program director at Jamestown Audubon.