There and Back Again {365/365}

A year has passed and so marks the end to my personal 365 Project. It's been a journey. Originally, I started this project as a fun way to mark the passing of a year. Instead, it blossomed into a journey of personal discovery and the catalyst for new pathways in life. I don't mean to sound dramatic. Thousands of photographers, both amateur and professional, have taken part in the 365 Project ritual since it's beginnings in 2004. They have all done it for different reasons with different outcomes. Most often they finish it, glad they accomplished it and even learned a few things. Everyone puts in their own level of effort into each posting.

At the start, I gave myself three challenges to help me keep the level of my shots somewhat on the 'high-end side' as they would be appearing on my pro site and would still be representative of my work: No snapshots, no arm-length self-portraits, and NO skipping days because I couldn't shoot something or didn't want to. This definitely proved to be harder than I first thought, but in hindsight the challenges helped me grow.   I admit, there were times after a long day I was begrudgingly shooting something - anything - at 11:50 pm.

These added restrictions each and everyday to an already demanding project brought my strengths and weaknesses to a stark reality real quick.  In the end, the process changed my overall view of photography and my relationship to it.

First, I discovered I was way too reliant on equipment. I now see this as a huge weakness. (Hello, my name is Andrew and I'm an equiptoholic.) Equipment, indeed, does not make one a better photographer and it DOES NOT take better pictures - truly. What makes one a better photographer is understanding and appreciating the nature of light. Only then, one can use equipment, not as a crutch, but as a tool. Some tools are better than others. You would never use a rubber mallet to bang in a thin metal nail. One of the most important lessons I learned was to use my knowledge of light to choose the appropriate tool to achieve my goal.  This is where the art comes in.

Consequently, I learned that simplicity is your greatest tool and I started using it without realizing it. And this became one of my greatest strengths. I don't like complexity in or outside of the photographic realm. Simple is beautiful. Keeping the shot simple most often let's your subject shine. Adding extra lights or extra props just 'because' detracts and creates all sorts of stress at 11:50 pm.

Looking back through the project, I see that my best photos come from this idea of simplicity. There's nothing to detract from the subject and the viewer isn't left confused and overrun. The Shakers had it going when they said 'Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free.'

Simplicity put me on a path that I enjoy being on. I started shooting more and more things I liked to shoot. One of them being food. I just love shooting anything food related! I love the simple nature of food and revealing a side of it we just don't see everyday. I love the shoot where I can stop and think; I can plan and take my time on (within reason, of course). I'm not a fan of the 'shoot now or forever lose it' kind of stuff. For those, I am more than willing to leave it in the more capable hands of the event photographer. I'm too much of a perfectionist to be fully satisfied!

This is why I fell in love with my Hasselblad. It fits my style of shooting and my thought processes perfectly. Fully manual, it doesn't try to think for me, and is built to last. A few people have even written me and said they've noticed I've been shooting more and more with the Hasselblad and wondered if I have forsaken my Canon 5D. Not at all! The Hassy is just the better tool for shot I need. In fact for today's image, I used my trusty 5D mark II.

A loyal follower emailed me last night and asked if I was going to continue this project beyond 365. "Hell, no," I replied. I could tell she was disappointed and asked, "Why?" Well, I have other projects I want to work on and other things I want to do. New paths have opened up!  At the beginning I set out to photograph a year and I did just that. Time to take what I learned and move on down these new roads.  I have more room to improve, more ideas to grow and I am excited to see what is in store!

Do I recommend others doing this project? Hell, yes!!! Just. Do. It. And set your expectations high each day. Even if you only have a point & shoot camera. You will learn so much about yourself and your photography will vastly improve. You will find a bit of yourself you never knew you had and you will embrace it and nourish it for the rest of your life.

I, now, take to heart and truly understand a quote from my favorite novel, Atlas Shrugged:

"The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours. But to win it requires total dedication and a total break with the world of your past .... Fight for the value of your person. Fight for the virtue of your pride. Fight for the essence, which is man, for his sovereign rational mind. Fight with the radiant certainty and the absolute rectitude of knowing that yours is the morality of life and yours is the battle for any achievement, any value, any grandeur, any goodness, any joy that has ever existed on this earth."

Get out there and shoot :)