March Wrap Up
March was, as might be expected, a month of transition. We began the month with a spectacular snowfall that clung to the trees, yielding incredibly photographs. The middle of the month was characterized by a string of sunny and cold days with little to photograph but bark and tree branches, which I really got into. The end of the month is seeing milder temperatures and some rain, with hints of spring in all of the buds on trees and bushes.
This month I shot 2567 pictures with my Canon 5ds and 1207 pictures with my Sony NEX-7 for a total of 3774 pictures. Average that over a year and I would shoot 45,000 pictures, equal to nearly my entire previous production. That will not likely happen, but any way you look at it, I will take a lot of pictures this year!
Of those 3774 pictures, I selected hundreds of successful pictures. I chose perhaps a hundred that were really good, and a fraction of those as the best of the best—pictures that might some day be printed or included in a book. Realistically, there might be only a couple of dozen pictures in that category. Truly memorable pictures could probably be reduced to ten or fifteen. That’s fewer than one in a hundred photographs. Not good odds, I suppose, but still a productive month in my view, especially considering it’s one of the dullest months of the year.
The month has seemed to pass slowly, as I have been anticipating spring and new more upbeat subjects to photograph. You can feel spring arriving in the height of the sun and the earlier mornings, but the temperatures and nature still look pretty wintry unless you look very closely. If you do look closely, then the signs of spring are everywhere, sneaking up on us in preparation for the bursting forth of leaves and flowers.
This month I have made complete peace with the fact that I will photograph every day. I have only occasionally felt that there was little or nothing for me to photograph. I did, however, begin to feel that shooting only in the one location was beginning to be a bit stifling. Could I have continued there for the entire year? Sure, but I think I would have been forcing the idea to no end.
With that in mind, I began shooting in a nearby park as well as my local woods. This is opening up much more varied environments for me to explore and refreshing me a bit as an artist. I will continue to mix these locations for the rest of the year.
As a professional artist, this has been a mixed month. I have had times when I felt that I was making some really strong images, but I also got word from the gallery that has represented me for the last eight years that they were considering dropping me because I had not been producing new work and selling enough in the last few years. Bad timing, to say the least. This issue remains up in the air, but I remain uncertain as to whether I have a way to show and sell my work right now.
If I am honest, this news has shaken my confidence. It’s making me question whether the new work I’m doing is of sufficient quality or of the right character to be sold in a gallery. I am being deeply drawn into studying and interacting with nature as the year progresses. That has been, and remains, wonderful. But many of the images I make are small observations of nature that aren’t necessarily the stuff of gallery representation.
I love being in the outdoors. I love observing it closely and marveling at the beauty and variety of nature and the progress of the seasons. I am also really enjoying the process of blogging, my interactions with other bloggers and other readers. I am deeply proud of the stream of beautiful images that I produce day after day. I love seeing the blog grow and pass through the seasons.
All those things are great—but I am accustomed to measuring my success as an artist by gallery representation and sales, and I’m not sure if I will have that in the future. I am certain that I love what I’m doing, and don’t want to go back to photographing the way I used to—by traveling to spectacular locations and trying to make photographs for sale. I like the modesty of what I’m doing now.
We’ll just have to see how all of this shakes out as the year passes. For now, I try to make beautiful images every day and that’s all I can do.
Jamie, of course, doesn’t know or care what I’m doing. All he knows is that he’s outside and free to roam for longer than he is accustomed to. I think he would rather that I moved faster than I do. He likes to cover the trails at a good pace; it’s what I used to do. Now, I pick my way along, looking much more closely at the world I pass.
The upside for him is going to more different places and spending more time in the outdoors. I let him roam off leash almost all the time when I’m out and he wanders in a small radius around me as I go about my photography. It’s a pretty good life for a dog and I can see that he is relaxed and tired when we finish.
Next month will bring the first real spring to Michigan. I’m really looking forward to it. The new life will enrich the world I’ve been looking at so closely. Green leaves, flowering trees and plants, the shading of the woods with leaves, all will change the character of the outdoors tremendously. It will make the landscape much more varied and welcoming than it is in winter.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the starkness of winter, but after shooting largely the same environment every day for two full months, I’m ready for new life. I plan to really seize this period of change, as once summer settles in, I’ll be in for another long period of relatively little change.
February Wrap Up
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.