365 Challenge - Month 1

I’m now just over a month into the 365 challenge and it is starting to be quite a learning curve.

I’m finding that I’m having to get really creative with how I get shots, which is obviously part of the reason for doing this whole thing. But I don’t think I was expecting to be putting the work in quite so soon!

I’m not one for resting on my laurels and don’t like the idea of repeating shots, or the idea of a shot. OK, I’m accepting that some days are going to be easier than others, and some days a shot is not going to be as good as other days. But I still want to try and get a different angle on something, or a different technique.

I think I’m managing it so far. But it’s not easy!

The weather has been quite variable. There’s been some gorgeous, sunny days which has allowed me to play with shadows. There has also been some rain - which has made me think differently about things (whilst trying to prevent my kit getting wet!). I’ve also been out with one or two of my film cameras, which has mean me shooting some stuff on my iPhone. That’s been quite interesting - I’ve found I have a couple of nice shots from that.

Last week, I contacted Erik Witsoe, whose 365 monochrome challenge inspired me to do my own (see blog post from February). He’d said on his website that he was open to anyone wanting to contact him if they were doing their own 365, so I thought I’d pop him an email to find out how he worked through some of the tougher patches of creativity. And I got a very nice, detailed and swift reply from him with some great advice. It’s nice to find a fellow photographer who is not only making great photos but is also a lovely person and willing to give up some of their time like that. It’s things like that which keeps one inspired.

One of the things I took from Erik was to just keep trying different things. Not to always take it so seriously. I think I started out in a bit of a panic about having to capture something, whereas now I’m starting to relax into it a bit. Which means I’m actually just getting on with taking photos and enjoying the process more. After all, there’s always something else that might pop up around the corner that makes a great, unexpected shot.

Talking of which, one thing I have always wanted to get into and not been confident enough about is street portraiture (for want of a better term). And today, a perfect opportunity arose.

It was pouring with rain, and I’d been trying to get some puddle reflection shots. Just after I’d been doing so, I saw a Big Issue seller’s bright umbrella, camping chair etc in the rain. It was a nice splash of colour and I grabbed a shot. Suddenly, the Big Issue seller leapt into shot and posed for me - I wasn’t really happy with the couple of shots but said I’d be back in 5 minutes to buy one of his magazines. Luckily, when I got back (in even heavier rain) he had one mag left. So I bought it and had a quick chat as he packed up, asking if I could get another couple of shots. And he was quite happy to do so.

So, below is my first street portrait. His name is Anthony. He’s a thoroughly pleasant chap.
I’m not sure if it’s the best portrait ever (although hopefully I captured something about him) but it’s a start for me. Not just in actually taking the photo, but the whole idea of getting over that barrier of chatting to a stranger and taking their photo… and them being quite alright about it!

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And here are some other faves…

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365 Challenge - the first couple of weeks

Somehow the past two weeks have zoomed by and I appear to be in the thick of my 365 Challenge.

As I said in my last journal entry, my 365 Challenge has two rules: it’s all to be in monochrome and there has to be someone in shot that is important to the composition.

I’ll be honest: I’m finding it a bit trickier than I thought. Some days more than others.
This is for a couple of reasons….

Firstly, my rule of getting someone in shot. That in itself isn’t an issue, but getting someone in there which is important to the composition and isn’t just incidental makes things hard at times. There have been a couple of days when I’ve become very aware of not many people around, although a wander round town at lunchtime always seems to give a couple of photo opportunities. Added to that, weekends have been tricky - working in town means weekdays aren’t such a problem. But there’s less people on the weekends near where I live.

Secondly, sometimes finding the time to get some shots is harder than I thought. I usually shoot quite a lot but some days I don’t get anything. Now I’ve set myself a challenge I have to get something! But I don’t want it to be anything - I want good shots (even though I’m well aware that not every day of the year is going to bring something fantastic). And this past week has been hectic at work so I’ve often not had the time to get out with my camera.

However, I am finding that it is changing my approach to my photography already. I’m finding that I’m shooting with more sense of purpose and also noticing possibilities for a shot more than before. I’ve taken to hanging around in a spot for something to happen to make a shot work (see the puddle shot below) or scouting out a location (the guy on the rooftop - I walked round that building several times for a good angle), as well as my usual opportunistic shots.

The Flickr link to the 365 Challenge is here

These are some faves from the last couple of weeks….

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365 Challenge

I’ve been thinking for some time about doing a 365 challenge but for various reasons have never got round to it. The usual reasoning (in my mind) is that I’ve wanted to start on the 1st January and do it for a whole year. And so it never seems to have happened.

Recently, I came across the work of Erik Witsoe who is capturing some gorgeous photos. And he has done a couple of 365 projects which started whenever he wanted during the year (See here for some loveliness). Which got me thinking that actually, it doesn’t need to start in January. I can do it whenever I please. After all, surely the very essence of a 365 project is to be doing it for yourself?

So, I decided that the 1st March was to be my start date. Which is tomorrow.

A couple of people have said to me that I take a lot of photos anyway, so why is this challenge? Which is a good question.

I think I want to use this exercise to focus my work a bit more. I want to be able to give a sense of story in one photo. I look at a lot of photography that is classed as ‘street photography’ and there is a saturation of shots which just show people on the street walking or standing about which don’t seem to have any aim. No context, no feeling of back story, sometimes not even interesting composition. I’m not saying my photos to date are giving Cartier-Bresson a run for his money, but I do strive to have something interesting within my shots.

But as with anything in life, I want to get better at it.

At first I thought I’d really try and restrict myself. I was thinking of having one film camera dedicated to the project where I could take only one shot on it per day. But even though that would probably get me better in some areas, I do still want to get some really good shots that I’m proud of! And if I’m restricting myself to just one shot then I can envisage getting a bit frustrated after a while, which is not the point of the project for me.

So I came up with some very simple rules for myself that should give the project focus and consistency without being too restrictive:

Firstly, I’m going to shoot all of it in monochrome.
Secondly, they all have to have someone in shot that is important to the photo.

Those are my only restrictions. I was wanting to add a third rule that the photo has to suggest some kind of story. But over the duration of a year, I’m not sure if that is possible. There are going to be days when the things I encounter out in the world don’t lend itself to suggesting a story.

So, just the two rules. And what I want to get out of it at the end is a sense of structure, some strong storytelling, and a lastng document of a whole year. Furthermore, I want to see that I have got more confident in getting in closer and more personal with subjects.

I’m quite excited but also slightly nervous, which is a good way to be with something like this.

Oh, and next year is a leap year. So it’s actually going to be 366 photos. D’oh!

(Flickr link to follow)