Project 365: The one where she almost quit

by DaniGirl on April 24, 2009 · 10 comments

in Photo of the Day

In the 95 days that I’ve been working on my 365 project (to take and post a photo every day) there were a few days near the beginning where I almost forgot, but for the most part, I haven’t come close to missing any days or thinking about throwing in the towel. Until this week. This week, I almost quit.

Mind you, I was tired and cranky and feeling overwhelmed in general, and I might have been considering throwing in the towel on a LOT of things that particular night, but the 365 was the one I was most frustrated with. Much like blogging, the damn project has taken on a life of its own, and much like the kids, demands way too much of my attention.

When I started out, I was simply taking pictures and uploading them. The picture-finding was the stressful part; once I had one, or sometimes a couple, that I liked I’d simply upload them directly to Flickr and into a few groups and I was done. Very occasionally I’d do a little crop, or a little adjustment after the fact, but rarely.

Then in March I discovered post production, and every photo was hauled in to Photoshop for adjusting of levels and curves and brightness and exposure. I started reading a couple of Scott Kelby books and figured out how to paint with light and use textures for layers and was blown away by how much fun I could have manipulating a photo. Then in early April I started shooting in RAW, and I was taking dozens, sometimes even hundreds of photos each day — all of which had to be reviewed and sorted, and then a couple of them selected for more labourious adjustments in Photoshop.

It was too much.

For one thing, I just don’t have that kind of time every single day. For another thing, I was getting extremely frustrated with every shot. I was suddenly aware of what my photos *could* look like, if only I could pry open Photoshop’s inscrutable tools and force it to do my bidding. But of course, I simply don’t have time to stop and learn how to do it properly. What I’d been doing — skimming through Kelby’s books and plucking out the occasional tutorial — works to a certain extent, but not when you’re trying to find the time between hauling your pre-toddler off the bookshelves he’s just scaled and empting the dishwasher and feeding the dog and, well, you know.

The other main reason I was getting frustrated is because I have made friends with some supremely talented people on Flickr and quite honestly, found my own work suffering by comparison. Beloved kindly pointed out that most of them are, in fact, professional photographers (and some very very talented amateurs!) and I am, at best, a dilettante. At least last time, when I was feeling anxious about getting my pictures in Explore, I could step back and see how ridiculous it was to be pining for esoteric bragging rights conferred by some random set of online intergers. This is more fundamental — the central question of whether my pictures are “good enough” and how to make them better. How to make them better without neglecting everything else that’s important in my life, that is.

Sigh. It’s been a lifelong motif for me: I’ve decided I want to do something, and now I want to be very good at it. Right now. Immediately. Why is it taking so long? Oh, and I must be good every single time, too. And I wonder where Tristan gets his perfectionist anxieties from?

So in the end, I didn’t quit. I’ve scaled back where I can, though. I’m back to shooting in jpeg for everyday, and I’ll switch to RAW on days when I know I’ll have more time to play. I’m trying to limit the post-processing and stick with whatever comes SOOC – straight out of the camera – wherever possible. And mostly, I’m trying to get out of my head and stop being so hard on myself.

This is the picture I took the day after I decided to quit and then not to quit. It’s a picture I’d been toying with in my head for a while, and frankly, I think it’s great. Nothing like success to buttress a faltering ego. It’s another try at shaped bokeh – the little music notes are actually just white LED Christmas lights in the background, and they have that shape because I’m holding a card with a music note cut out of it over my lens.

93:365 Musical bokeh

(Of course, it made me a little twitchy that this one didn’t garner enough attention to possibly be recognized by Explore, because I think it’s actually better than the one that did make Explore, but I was mostly able to repress that line of thinking and just enjoy the fact that I took a pretty picture.)

This next one was for the monthly scavenger hunt. The expression is priceless, but the colour is really messed up. Our laptop is set too bright, and all the manipulating I’ve been doing with the RAW images looks great on the laptop but looks awkward on other screens. Another reason to get back to basics, I guess.

91:365 Bitter!

(After that first face, by the way, he loved the lemon. No babies were harmed in the shooting of this picture!)

Here’s the rest of this week’s photos — kind of uninspiring, IMHO, but there’s always next week.

88:365 Suburban sunrise

89:365 Gears

90:365 Hogsback Falls

(We were at Hogsback Falls on Sunday afternoon and there were two maniacs KAYAKING down the falls, from the bridge right over the main drop. And I thought Project 365 was a harrowing hobby!)

92:365 Baby blankets

94:365 Flower vendors in the Market

So it seems like every week I have some new issue I’m sorting out with regard to this project. Are you guys at all interested in these philosophical ruminations on my motivations, or should I just put up the pictures and get out of the way, and keep my nouvelle-artiste angst to myself?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Unknown April 24, 2009 at 7:45 am

Hi, stop being so hard on yourself, do it for your own pleasure and enjoyment and nobody is perfect…

2 DaniGirl April 24, 2009 at 8:09 am

Unknown, your comment made me laugh at myself. I’m so lucky, I even have kind anonymous commenters — kind and smart, apparently. Little too much time in my head this week, methinks!

3 Beryl April 24, 2009 at 8:42 am

I completely feel your pain. I too am a Type A to the point that I am now super obsessive over this projct. I want so bad to be able to do what the great flickr photogs can do. But I struggle with the time element as well. Looks like you are finding your balance, and I truly do enjoy seeing what you come up with each day. Don’t be so hard on yourself and try to be proud of what you’ve accomplished in this short amount of time! ๐Ÿ™‚

4 liz April 24, 2009 at 8:45 am

I love seeing your pictures (’cause I think you’ve got a great eye for a picture!), and I really love hearing about your process in getting them.

One of the things that is really interesting in your discussions is discovering WHY a picture disappointed you. What were you going for that you didn’t capture. And then, in a picture that you felt was successful – what made it successful?

5 colleen April 24, 2009 at 1:41 pm

OMG, I just take the pictures so at the end of one year I will have a pictorial of my certainly isn’t clever and artistic like yours but provides me with a sense of pleasure. The other thing I do is take a photo of each book I have read and a photo of ticket stubs or programmes of all “artistic” events I have attended. I keep these photos separate but do think it will be interesting to look next Feb. to see what I have read and seen. By the way, I didn’t start my 365 until Feb.9th.

6 Amber April 24, 2009 at 3:36 pm

I am enjoying the ruminations. It’s interesting to me, because I can relate. Maybe not so much about photography, but about perfectionism and finding external validation and all of that stuff. So I vote for sharing your musings with us. ๐Ÿ™‚

7 kate April 25, 2009 at 6:37 am

The thing about flickr explore is that it depends more on your community-building skills than on your photographic skills — or at least as much anyways.

When I was starting out, I just shot things I found. It’s only now that I’m starting to think about setting up shots. So I really admire that you’re already doing that. I’ve had a sort of mantra over the last year-plus, because I’ve had a lot of momentum and I really don’t want to lose it (which happened to me before around 2000 and took me six years to pick up a camera again). If I get discouraged about not being good enough or not getting on explore, or whatever, I just tell myself above all, just keep shooting. As long as you keep shooting, you will get better. (It’s a lot like writing that way, where the main thing that separates the greats from the not-so-greats, is the drive to keep doing it.)

8 embem30 April 25, 2009 at 12:28 pm

I just stumbled upon your blog in a 365 group discussion, and it’s interesting to read about your experiences with Flickr/365/Explore. I feel much the same way about things. I’m constantly trying to make my 365 shots better and feeling jealous about those people who make Explore constantly. I’ve come to the conclusion it does require some “pimping” or marketing, so although I’m making more of an effort to comment on other people’s pictures myself, I’m not going to agonize about it.

In terms of post-processing, have you tried Lightroom? I don’t have Photoshop myself, so all my editing is done in Lightroom. It’s designed to make the workflow easier and faster, especially dealing with RAW. You can quickly sort your pictures to find the best ones and do all your crops and curves adjustments without having to open everything individually in Photoshop. It doesn’t do layers, but it’s good for those basic adjustments. If you’ve got the money to spare, it may be worth a look.

9 Kerry April 25, 2009 at 1:17 pm

I have this to say about that: suck it up, buttercup. Making art is hard work. So is writing. Writing comes a little more naturally to you than photography. You can do this, and you will never be any happier with the results. Art’s a bitch of a mistress that way :o)

10 Jody April 27, 2009 at 5:28 pm

I don’t comment so much on these posts but I enjoy them quite a lot. Don’t stop if you can manage to keep it up

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