Already, just a month into this year-long project, I am deeply pleased and satisfied. The rhythm of the days is growing, the change of the seasons recorded each day in the changing light and atmosphere. I have photographed and written every day, seven days a week, for a month now and it’s been a great experience. I’ll include here a selection of favorite images from this month.
At this point I have shot over 2500 images. Of those, I’ve selected about 75 that are pretty good. Of that 75, I would say perhaps 5 or 10 are of sufficient quality to print and sell. That’s a lot of less than wonderful images, but that’s always the way it is in photography. I’m very pleased to have the 5 or 10 really strong images. If that were to continue for a year, I’d have a lot of really nice images to show for my effort.
As time goes on, I am being more selective in the shots I take. If I look through the viewfinder and the shot doesn’t look that great, I’ll pass. I’ve shot some parts of the walk so often now that I won’t bother adding another sort of nice image to my collection. I think that trend will continue as the year passes with exceptions for particularly fertile times of year when there are lots of changes, such as spring and almost certainly fall.
I began with a lot uncertainty and trepidation, unsure of my ability to create new images over such a long time in such a small place; even more unsure of myself as a writer. Actually, I was not so much unsure of my writing as of whether anyone would be interested in reading about what I am thinking and doing. Each day I was doubtful of my ability to find new things to photograph but now that anxiety is fading as each day shows me new things without hesitation.
Looking ahead to an entire year of daily photography it is still difficult to imagine continuous productivity over that long a period of time and over such a small area, but the continual change in weather, light and atmosphere are making it seem possible.
Each day I begin with a shot of the dirt road I walk to the woods. It’s a nice shot with the road receding down a hill between overarching trees. That shot alone changes every day with such remarkable variety that it could stand in for the entire project. Snow, sun, clouds, rain, fog and all the myriad variations of each make every day’s picture unique. I’d like to put together a montage of all of these road images alone to illustrate the incredible variety of nature.
Along with nature and landscape, I’ve been photographing my dog Jamie. It’s been fun to capture some of his happy moments, his energy and focus each day as we head out to the woods; the mellow relaxation as he returns home with me. He’s appeared in many of my landscape photographs as well as he waits patiently for me to take my pictures.
I’ve had a hard time capturing many of the subtle little looks he gives me during a walk. He changes his demeanor the moment he sees the camera pointed at him. But I’ll keep trying, because those moments express our relationship and are priceless to me.
I think many photographers make a mistake in chasing around the country and the world, going to famous photographic destinations, unconsciously trying to reproduce images they have already seen. When I began photographing, I imagined that travel would be a big part of what I did and a nice part at that. It was something I looked forward to.
Instead, I have photographed only here in my home state of Michigan. I’ve traveled a bit, going to the famous beaches and forests that our state is blessed with. I find that I make the best photographs of places with which I have a deep personal relationship. I’ve tried photographing places I have visited, even for substantial periods of time, but I have not been able to make meaningful photographs in these unfamiliar places.
With this project I have moved as close to home as possible and I’m photographing just the five or ten acres of woods and trails where I walk my dog each day. And it turns out to have been an inspired choice. Rather than making a handful of two or three-day trips a year to special destinations, I’m photographing every single day in the same place. I’m going to see every possible kind of weather, all the changes, subtle and dramatic, that happen in the course of an entire year; something you can never do when you travel to destinations.
I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to see beautiful new images appear every single day and so wonderful to be deeply engaged in the passage of time and weather in the outdoors. I’ve already waded through deep snow, bundled up against bitter cold, relished clear winter sunshine and endured rain and fog, and I’ve only been at this a month. What a joy to find something so unexpected just for having taken the risk to undertake something substantial.
I think many non-artists think that artists somehow manufacture new things either through industry or imagination or some kind of magic. But the wonderful secret is that an artist is just as surprised by what they create as is their audience. I don’t really know what kind of images I’m going to capture each day. I just start out walking and notice what my eye is attracted to. I pay attention to what I am noticing in the world around me and then I explore that thing with the camera. I can’t tell you what a great pleasure that is. I so look forward to the months ahead.