Project 365: A Look Back
23,000 photos weighing 75 Gigabytes, 2,400 Flickr and blog comments, 32 Flickr explores, 2 campus semesters, 3 term breaks, 27 days of hiatus plus three hundred and sixty-five days later, my Project 365 is a wrap. What a journey it has been!
I started this project without much expectations, with only the desire to observe the limits of photography with a dSLR. I was brimming with excitement with my new dSLR camera then — though I wasn’t new to photography – but what better way to do that than to dive head-first into this project?
Fast forward a year later, as I hit the upload button on my final shot; hitting the red ‘X’ on Photoshop and then closing my Project 365 folder, I felt a rush of joy that accompanies the sense of liberation. An immense weight dragged off my back. Nothing was more gratifying than seeing the auto-generated completion counter on my photoblog showing a proud, ‘100% done!’ I blinked, for a moment, this is it?
Then the sadness sets in. The shoot-process-upload routine has become a ritual I perform every day to please the 365 gods I’ve devoted myself to for a whole year. Project 365 has become a part of my life. I wake up worrying about what to shoot; space out in lectures thinking of a setup and go to bed relieved that I have the day’s shot done and uploaded. Now a mere click puts all that behind in a blink of an eye.
This is going to take some getting used to, I thought.
Emoness aside, the project is by far, the lengthiest self-motivated long-term endeavour I’ve ever successfully completed in my life. That’s why it’s gonna deserve a good, hard look back on how I did it and the obstacles that plagued it’s entire duration.
Getting that shot
Taking my camera everywhere I go
When I started Project 365, I knew I had to bring my camera everywhere I go. Tugging my camera around during outings are okay, the real obstacle was when I had to inevitably bring it to campus — daily. The last thing I wanted was being labelled a show-off who just can’t help showing off his shiny new dSLR every single day. And let’s face it – a dSLR, even the tiny 1000D – isn’t as unobtrusive. The moment you yank it out, a good number of people within eyeshot would definitely look your way. There are times you’d wish to have a big banner above your ahead bearing the words, ‘I’m on Project 365! Suemeifyoucanttakeit.’
So yes, I brought my camera with me to campus every single day for the past year. It spends most of the day tumbling around in my backpack, only seeing daylight when I’m with my close friends – who’re fully aware of my project – when I see a shot or feel comfortable enough to whip my camera out.
The creative spark
Maintaining a Project 365 stream requires a daily dose of creativity I didn’t have. While there are days chock full of activities and events that ends up in a post-processing nightmare, more often than not there were those boring and uninspiring days that beg of you to give up.
The first thing I’d do when the clock strikes – literally – at the eleventh-hour, is to quickly browse through Flickr’s Explore photos. Granted, not all Explore photos are great ones. Computer algorithms can only do so much to compile a collection of ‘good’ photos every day from the Flickr archive, but there are quite a few legitimately good shots out there daily that might give just that spark.
Then there’s the 100-steps challenge. The idea is to drag yourself and your camera outdoors, walk a hundred steps and start taking photos of anything at the end of your path. I don’t follow the hundred-steps rule that strictly, but I often find myself taking strolls in the garden snapping high and low so I can be done with the day’s photo. There are also days after classes where I take a detour somewhere for a short solo photowalk that can be very rewarding at times.
Danbo saves the day!
Somewhere in the 200’s into the project, I decided to get myself Danbo, an action figure from the manga, Yotsub&! I don’t think I’ve formally introduced Danbo yet, so here goes. In the manga, Danbo is actually a robot costume made of cardboard and was donned by Miura to entertain a curious Yotsuba. Despite appearing only very briefly (a single chapter, to be exact), the robot with geometrical features stole the hearts of many.
There’s a reason why I thought Danbo would be helpful to my Project. I was intrigued by how expressive — or the lack thereof — Danbo can be. Tilt his head up, he can express anything from being dreamy to excitement. Swing his head back down, he’ll appear downright sad or just simply, afraid. And that sort of flexibility is especially useful when you have to shoot something daily. =)
A typical 365 shot you see posted takes an arm and a leg to produce. Taking the shot itself is just the beginning — the real headache starts in the digital darkroom. The photos go through rigorous polishing work in Lightroom, of which the best of the best are subjected to a stringent selection process before the last photo standing is delivered to you.
Seriously though, there are generally two types of shots I do in my 365 — snapshots and set-ups. Snapshots are usually quick takes of life as it flies by, like that quick moment as a child hands out titbits to a monkey; or candid photos of my friends in the labs. Set-ups are exactly what it means, ideas and subjects that are set-up in advance allowing me to explore different angles and variations in the process.
I use Lightroom for cataloguing and post-processing of my photos. Photos would normally go through adjustments such as white-balance, exposure correction, split toning and curves to name a few. Candidates for posting are then exported in full size and thrown into Photoshop, where sharpening, brushing and any other pixel-level editing are necessary.
The final shot for the day is then exported from Photoshop and uploaded to Flickr via the very useful Flickr Uploadr. While I throw the photo into Uploadr, I’ll do the write-up for the Photoblog post and grab the photo URL from Flickr as it finishes uploading. The moment I hit Publish, the photo would be up fresh on both Flickr and my photoblog.
I love statistics. Numbers tell a story when presented. And a 365 report wouldn’t be complete without some solid numbers to show off.
- Start: 18th of January, 2009
- End: 14th of February, 2010
- Total days: 392
- Days of hiatus: 27 (3 hiatuses)
- Misses: 1 (Day 161)
- Total effective days: 365
I could’ve plotted the following graph off the back of my head:
It shows the time the day’s shot was taken and when it was uploaded. This graph could’ve roughly been my internet-surfing habits for the past year (especially the Postings plot).
While pretty self-explanatory, I like how the graph reflects my love of shooting during the golden hour. Seriously, who could resist taking photos when everything is cast in a shade of gold? The graph also shows evidence of a few (28 days, to be exact) shots that were taken after the day technically ended at midnight (0000-0200hrs). When life got too hectic, I gave myself a little leeway to end the day only when I retire to the sheets, not after the clock hits 12 midnight. If I’d spend a day and gone to bed without a shot, then only it’ll be a missed day.
Another interesting graph to look at is the comments-per-shot plot. I’d take the opportunity to explain why I cross-post my photos to Flickr and my Photoblog. Flickr is a massive photographic community that’s bound to bring recognition to your photos if they’re worthy of it. But not wanting to leave my friends / non-Flickr readers out of the fun, I created the photoblog.
So photos posted to both sites have distinctive sets of audiences. I’ve also found out that the volume of Flickr comments are understandably based mostly on the quality of the images; whereas Photoblog comments can be influenced by my write-up if I occasionally share some thoughts and updates, if not based on how good the photo is. The graph clearly shows how Flickr comments can in-proportionally spike due to Explores but with Photoblog comments hovering about the same average all throughout. Interesting.
I’m actually surprised to find out the type of shots I’ve been taking for the past year are rather healthily spread-out. I thought Nature and Campus would’ve snatched a good chunk of the pie. Of my arsenal of lenses (of two), I clearly show huge bias towards the nifty fifty. One reason that might even remotely affect this was that my kit lens was sentenced to a 61-day stint in the Canon ICU back in May.
- 32 Flickr Explores
- 1 Flickr Front Page
- 2,420 total photo comments, of which:
- 1,375 on Photoblog
- 1,050 on Flickr
- 2,700 views, most viewed photo on Flickr: 211/365: Mine
- 222 favourites, most favourited photo on Flickr: 340/365: Coffee Chaos
- 84 comments, most commented photo on Flickr: 340/365: Coffee Chaos
- 21 comments, most commented photo on Photoblog: 109/365: Chaotic Beauty
The Last Words
I’ve said it on my final 365 post and I’ll say it again. What started out as a project with low-expectations became a fulfilling experience thanks to all of you — readers of my Photoblog, awesome Flickr contacts, fellow coursemates and fellow photographers that made Project 365 a blast. You guys are the catalysts to the completion of this project, no less.
I opened the door committing myself to this project last year without much certainty, it is without doubt that I emerged from the other end of the path a different person today. It’s amazing what a year of photography can do.
I’m now enjoying life after 365. So much so that I haven’t been shooting for the past week! Haha. While I’ve said that I won’t be continuing on another project 365, I figured that I should give it another round in the (distant) future. It was really tough at times, but it was well worth it and definitely deserves another try. =)
With that, I officially sign off this ultra-lengthy post of an equally lengthy project of a lifetime.