Personal Photography Projects

Some of us need a little boost when it comes to practicing our photography and that is why I’m describing a new aspect of my photography.  I’m going to take on some photography projects.  I have many reasons for doing this.  One reason is that it gives me a focus, something to concentrate on, when I go out to take pictures.  Another reason is to have something to photograph to fill the widening gap when I’m not traveling.  Another reason is to help me while cataloging my pictures.  And my primary reason is to improve the quality of my pictures.   As I describe my process, you might see other good reasons that will motivate you to take on similar projects.

Up to now my pictures have mainly been of things I’ve seen while traveling, or just while walking around the neighborhood.  It has been my practice to just shoot whatever strikes my eye.  In addition, they have been one-time events; i.e., go somewhere and take some pictures and then don’t go back to the same area or take the same picture twice.  I refer to it as “been there, done that.”  While I think of it, let me also say that this type of shooting could have an effect on what type of cameras and lenses that I need.  I’ll get back a little later to how my “projects” might impact my insatiable gear acquisition syndrome.

I have been looking for a way to improve both the quality and quantity of my pictures and so far the concept of projects seems to be the best for me.  I finally realized that if I narrowed my scope that my opportunities for photography could actually grow.  Some people take on a project of photographing a single type of object like old barns, fences, flowers, etc.  While this helps them to see and search out subjects to photograph, I found that idea to be too limiting.  I need an approach that allows for more variety and creation.  My solution is to focus on a limited area rather than a specific object.

My idea is to photograph a specific area that is rather small and close enough to easily go to in all kinds of weather through all of the seasons of the year.  The size of the area could be as small as a single small flower bed, a single pond, a single street, or a single block or two.  My idea is to go back to one area and discover images that most don’t see even though they are right there in plain sight.  In addition, while the subject might be a relative constant, it will challenge me to see it differently and to note how it changes over time, the seasons, as other things affect it, etc.  What we need to remember is that all things change.  The existence of all things is transitory, nothing is permanent, entropy marches on, we live in a world of constant change, and there is a beauty to impermanence if we only look for it.  In addition, how I photograph my projects will change over time.  The challenge is to always find something new in my photography.

Having a project with the idea to record the changes throughout the years and to find new ways of photographing the same things will give me a focus.  It will force me to concentrate on the changes and thus I will have something to photograph other than just my first time impression as I walk past.  I will have a reason to photograph the same object multiple times along with the challenge to record it from different perspectives and I don’t have to develop elaborate plans to go someplace farther away just to take pictures.  I’m trading a variety of places and subjects while traveling for the challenge of photographing the same things differently.

Another way projects should help me is in my cataloging, filing, or labeling system.  As I go to different places, I usually create a file folder labeled by the place and my computer is filling up with different folders.  While concentrating on just a few places I can use a single folder for each project.  Since I rename each picture as I download it off of my cameras and use the date and time that the picture was taken to ensure that I have unique names for each picture, this will enable me to help track the changes that occur over time.  This system will also help me to clean out unnecessary pictures.  My intent is to concentrate on a limited number of pictures for each project.  As time goes by and I get better pictures I can throw out the older, lower quality pictures.  One of my primary goals is to improve my photography and having multiple pictures of the same objects over time should help me in analyzing my pictures and improving them.

Another aspect of having projects is that I have to decide what to do with them.  As time goes by I can keep sorting through the pictures that I have and only keep the best to display.  One idea I have is to develop a small set of the best pictures and to make a book of them, or put them into a short video about the project … and keep updating it.

I mentioned earlier that I think having projects will also help me with deciding what cameras and lenses I really need.  I have to say that in the past I have been attracted to the latest cameras as technology improves and that “my wants” will never end with that approach.  In addition there is no such thing as the perfect camera if you don’t know what you are going to be photographing.  By having specific projects I should find that my needs relative to camera and lenses are narrowed down to specific requirements and I can then research those specific types of cameras, etc. as time goes on.  In addition, since I’m focusing on small areas, having a light-weight camera isn’t as important.

I hope you noted above that I mentioned projects … plural, not singular.  Since I am retired and have the time, I plan on taking on multiple projects, but I haven’t decided on specific ones yet.  My multiple projects will also include variety in the types of pictures.  For example, I need to get up from this computer more often and get out for more frequent walks around the neighborhood each and every day; therefore, one of my projects might be the area defined by our ponds and creeks here at Homewood of Plum Creek.  The focus of that project would be on wildlife and nature, and since it involves short walks, I would probably use my heavier, weather resistant Pentax K-5 with multiple lenses.  Another project that I am considering involves a few streets and blocks of downtown Hanover with a focus on the changes in manmade objects, entropy, impermanence, etc.  For that project I might use my K-5 with a short zoom or prime lens or just my Fuji X100 since it will involve more walking.  Another aspect that I’m considering is shooting a project with one camera and one lens, maybe a macro lens.  I’m using many of the pictures and experiences that I have been exposed to since moving here to pick the projects and that is one reason you have seen diversity in my blog pictures as well as in my processing style which is also part of my changes.  So far my biggest concern is the proper size of a project.  I’m afraid of erring on too large or too small of an area.  I may have to try a variety and then refine them as time goes on.  I mentioned in an earlier article that I was going to take on photographing entropy and I still plan to do that, but I’m now thinking that I need to define the area.

In summary, remember that my object is to take more pictures and improve the quality of my photography.  My projects are not to limit my photography.  I will continue to take additional pictures of short-term projects relative to events and happenings as they occur.   If any of you have any good ideas for projects or suggestions that I might not have thought about, please let me know.  In addition, think about taking on some projects in your own photography.


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  3. Dee

    It sounds like you are going to be busy, I think projects are wonderful, they do keep us focused. I am looking forward to seeing the results of your project.


  4. NR | ExP

    I look forward to your projects, John. Pushing yourself is certainly a great way to improve photos, but the added focus in your pictures gives your outlet more direction. I’ve been doing a lot of time lapse+video lately and my compilations will be a good video in a few months. I found out early on in my photography that I’m definitely one of those people need that direction, projects was the way to do it with.