365:2011 Picture Project

Winter morning sunriseIn October of 2005 I purchased my first digital single lens reflect (DSLR) camera. It was an original model of the Canon Rebel, an XT. That year (mostly at Christmas) we took 3274 pictures. That was up from 1324 in 2004. But in 2006, the first full year with a DSLR, we took over 13,000 pictures. We did the same in 2007 and 2008. Some time during 2008, I upgraded to a Canon 40D and in 2009 we took more than 25,773 pictures. I was getting good pictures, but I was using the “Mongolian Horde Approach” to photography. If you are unfamiliar with the term, it means I was taking hundreds of pictures to get a few good ones.

In 2010 I decided to change my approach. I wanted every shot to have the potential to be a good photograph. To be able to do that, I needed to understand photography well beyond focusing and pressing the shutter button. I turned to my old, reliable friend, the podcast. Since I listen to several TWIT podcasts, I started listening to This Week in Photography. That podcast had been going for several years, so I started with number one and went through the backlog until I caught up. Along the way, one of the members of TWiP started his own podcast, Photo Focus. I started listening to that one too. There were a few other podcasts that I occasionally listened to, but most of what I learned came from TWiP and Photo Focus.

Of course, everyone on the podcasts was saying, “take more pictures.” So in 2010 I did take more pictures, more than 40,000. In the past I had used Google’s free photography management software, Picasa. I highly recommend it and the price is right, but in the podcasts everyone was using Aperture (an Apple only program) or Adobe Lightroom. I picked up a copy of Lightroom and am learning to use that. (Lightroom keeps track of the total number of pictures on my computer. That is where I am getting all these numbers.) I also bought a copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements. It does 95% of what the full version of Photoshop does, but at a small fraction of the price.

This year I am doing a 365 project. This involves taking and publishing a picture every day for a year. If you look at my numbers, taking a picture every day is not a problem for me. Last year I took 5000 pictures with the point-and-shoot I keep in my jacket pocket. But a 365 project is more than just taking a picture every day. I joined a Flickr group called 365: the 2011 edition. Each week there is a new theme for our photos. I learned early on in the podcasts that themes make better photographers. Anyone can take a picture of an interesting topic in good light, but by restricting the topic to a theme requires more skill, not just technical skill, but creative skill.

By participating in this 365 group (there are more than 800 members), I am also getting more people to look at my pictures and give me valuable feedback. Social networking is important in photography. Last year I started posting my Flickr pictures in Facebook. From that, my average picture view went from 3 to 30. Now that I am a part of a group where everyone is interested in making better pictures, I am looking at more pictures and more people are looking at my pictures. It’s going to be an exciting year in picture taking. There is still time to join us.

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2 Responses to 365:2011 Picture Project

  1. KJ says:

    Currently working in a Social Studies classroom I have planned a photography project for students coming up in the semester. I agree that anyone can just go out and take a picture but asking students to work around a specific theme forces the students to work harder and than explain why they took the pictures they took.
    Almost all of our students stated that their families owned digital cameras but in a recent class discussion we learned that many did not truly know how to use them. By allowing students to use a new form of technology it is our hope that students will allow their imaginations to run wild and create a truly great slideshow with detailed explanations.
    In a recent professional development meeting our principal was speaking of the importance of incorporating technology in the classroom. We often think about laptops or tablets as ideal tools, but digital cameras can be very effective. Photographs allow students the freedom of personal choice as wells as the possibility to explore and document certain areas of interest.
    I had never heard of the 365 day project but think that it is an excellent idea. While our students are doing this on a much smaller scale it is our hope that they will truly enjoy the experience.

  2. HeatherGVSU says:

    Perhaps the 365 project could be adapted to any classroom and create a great learning experience. One of the obvious changes that would have to be made is the fact that most schools do not have class 365 days a year so it would be limited to the days that school was in session. My thoughts on this project are still forming but somehow the days would have to be divided up between the students. Then during each class session students would take pictures of what they felt the important things were from that class period. Perhaps the pictures would be of a formula that we discussed and written on the board, or perhaps it would be a picture of the new piece of lab equipment that was premiered during the class period. The pictures could then be uploaded to a class website where the pictures could be viewed. There would be a year’s worth of pictures about what was done everyday in the classroom. Viewing the school year through the eyes of the students could offer insight into what students are picking up from the lectures and activities that are being done in class. This project could also offer an outlet for students whose learning style is not necessarily along the traditional lines of classroom learning.
    There are of course considerations such as privacy if the student’s faces are in the pictures as well as being careful who can view the website that they are posted to. The details haven’t quite come to me but I think there is potential for offering a different way to look at what goes on in the classroom and it would offer students a chance to learn about photography and maintaining a website. Whether it is totally practical I’m not sure, but it could be an interesting experiment.

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