I get into a kind of Photographic Seasonal Miserable Disorder every winter because I seem to dwell on all the reasons I can’t take a good photo in my house–it’s too small with clutter in every nook and cranny and the days are too short for me to do any natural light work after JDubbs gets home–but I am also reluctant to shoot outside on a chilly winter’s day. Professionally there isn’t anything new on the horizon and I am insecure about embracing the mediocre light in our house–embrace the grain? Orchestrate more play in my bedroom with the best light? Take fewer photos? Take more? There’s not much more to say other than I was in a photographic rut, taking the same kind of photos in the same places with (mostly) the same equipment for years. I was restless.
Well, at the end of 2014 I reflected on my professional photography and I felt pretty confident about in which direction I want to head in that arena, but what about personally? What about what started it all, me taking photos I love of my kids? How do I get back to that? I decided that in order to get out of my rut I needed to challenge myself to take different kinds of photos, in all kinds of light, and learn to make the best of whatever light and room I am given. After all, I take photos in people’s homes all the time–what better exercise than to find the very best places and lighting in my own difficult location and learn to transfer that flexibility elsewhere? And that led me to decide to do a 365 project, where I take a quality photo every day, but also to participate in a 52 week photography challenge at My Four Hens Photography, where I can be part of a larger group of amazing photographers, be inspired by their work and feel gratitude at the support it provides me.
At first, looking at all the amazing photos on the Facebook group daunted me, and I was hesitant to share my photo for the first week’s theme, “Fresh.” I took a photo I was happy with, of my fresh dog Baxter sleeping on the bed (somewhere he is definitely not allowed to be), although I will admit it was more of a photo I thought I was SUPPOSED to take than one I was inspired to take. I’m happy with it overall and I got some small positive feedback on it.
Here I embraced the tricky lighting and used a small enough aperture to eliminate the clutter of a post-Christmas toy-strewn living room. I love his floppy ear and love the quilt he’s laying on, made by my great-aunt. Overall, I took what I thought was a decent shot and never gave it another thought. Not my best effort, but it was a start.
This week, the theme is “Story-Telling” and when I saw the photos I took this Sunday of Jax and his Legos, I knew there was no better story that I could tell than a 6-year-old boy guarding his creations. I posted it with a little trepidation that it wasn’t “serious” enough–mixed light sources! high ISO! haphazard composition!–but the photo was so much more ME. I was in the moment, playing Legos with my kids, I happened to have my camera handy so I snapped the shot as it was happening. I didn’t orchestrate the light or consider rule of thirds. If I had, I would have missed it, and that is definitely not the kind of photographer I want to be.
And you know what? This photo, which is so much more true to myself and my style, the kind of photos I love to take, already has 150 likes in 6 hours and has tons of comments from people who can totally relate. It may not be a perfect photograph, but its story rings more true. That’s the kind of photographer these projects are going to help me become. The one who is confident in her style and technique, and shares what makes her happy.
Oh, one more good thing. This 365 project also forces me to pick up my camera every single day, and on a day like today where I know my afternoon is full of after-school activities and an extra-credit research project on bats (seriously), I forced myself to grab my camera and sneak in on Little H as she was taking her nap because it was the only good capture I’d get.
I’m so glad I did. Not only because I got to capture the sweet little details of this wonderful soul, but because I also tried something new–a softer, lower-contrast editing style which I haven’t mastered and want to embrace more. These projects are giving me the opportunity to not only see my life in a more inspired way, but also a chance to try out some new post-production techniques without risking photos for my clients. It really has inspired me. I look forward to what photo I will take every day.
So, if you feel like you’re in a rut in any facet of your life, 2015 is just 13 days old. How can you change it, embrace it, practice it, master it, alter it, combat it, learn to love it? 2 weeks into this year and I already feel invigorated. Just wait and see how I grow.