Lessons from a Photo-a-day project:

Many fine cameras have come my way in the past few years, mostly mirror-less, but also the Sony A99. But none of them have inspired me like the Nikon Df. I love the physical controls, the minimal need for the menus, and the fantastic sensor with its superior high ISO performance. So, in my enthusiasm for this camera, and my desire to improve as a photographer I set out on what now appears an ambitious project, to post a new photo everyday for a year taken with the Nikon Df. At the time of this post I have maintained this project for about 190 days. So what have I learned so far, leaving aside the particulars of the camera itself?
There are pictures everywhere, interesting pictures. Some days are so visually rich that it is difficult to choose just one picture to post. Other days produce only one photo worth consideration so it is posted. Nevertheless, the process of getting up everyday with this commitment is enriching in the sense that it enhances my awareness of the visible environment. It is, as Dan Winter puts it, “noticing that which you are noticing.”
Abandoned concrete silos in Albemarle, North Carolina.
By necessity when I am looking for a good photo everyday I find myself thinking about how to make good photos of ordinary things. Most of my days are full of ordinary things. So this encourages a kind of perpetual openness to possibilities. It also encourages me to take different paths, a different road home from work, a different pattern in my daily routines. These changes have led to some interesting discoveries, and things in the nearby environment I had not seen before.
In is unrealistic to expect to take prize-winning pictures everyday or even every month. Still one of my photos posted so far has won a small prize in a local gallery competition. Others have been put into the files of my stock agency.
For my part I believe this daily discipline is improving my skills, certainly my union with this particular camera. It is becoming second nature to use the controls, and the potentials of various lenses are increasingly evident.
A surprise has been the discovery that people are often very cooperative in being photographed, especially when they know about my project. Even when they don’t know they often seem more than willing to be photographed.
An unexpected side benefit has been what I call the journal benefits. In other words as I scan through the pictures they form a kind of journal record of my daily travels and activities.
I have become more alert to my daily environments. Visual attentiveness, I believe, is a type of contemplation, a spiritual connection between subject and object. It is about being awake to one’s surroundings.
So while I might not recommend something as ambitious as a 365 day project, I certainly would commend shorter projects of this sort as a way to enhance awareness of both equipment and the environments of our lives.
Black Angus cattle in a green field, Piedmont of North Carolina.

Those who have been following the Df365 project will have noticed that I have begun to wander from exclusive use of the Df. Some days it is just more convenient to use some other camera. And those who have watched very recently will notice a fine new camera has joined the Df . More about this In a future blog. Meanwhile, keep seeing with eyes and heart.

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  1. Dan, I think the camera here is not that important, but of course it has weight to what your doing. There’s a documentary approach that I find very attractive and the photos draw me in. I guess the best way to share how I react to them is to say that I get a similar experience from Walker Evans. There’s a raw presence of the subject and the viewer and this creates the movement of the photographic process of viewing. What is absent in most, is you, the photographer and that Dan, is the art taken to an entire new level. I look forward to more images and you have a goos life my friend, go in peace and be Blessed., don

    1. Thank you very much for your kind words, Don. I am enjoying the process as well as the results, and the continual opportunity to try out equipment and methods. Even when it is serious it is, for me, a kind of play. I believe that the urge to play, when rightly practiced, is a gift of God. In a world of so much sadness and tragedy all people need some time to play.

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