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!

Done!

Done!

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.

Reaching the halfway point.

Day 183/365: Reach­ing the halfway point.

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.’

DSLRs vs Compacts

DSLRs are way more obtru­sive com­pared to compacts.

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.

Danbo getting cold feet.

Day 334/365: Danbo get­ting cold feet.

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. =)

The Work­flow

Typical 365 posting

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.

Num­ber Crunching

I love sta­tis­tics. Num­bers tell a story when pre­sented. And a 365 report wouldn’t be com­plete with­out some solid num­bers to show off.

Project 365
Report Card
  • 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:

Time of the Day

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.

Comments per shot

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.

Lens Usage and Type of Shots

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.

Project 365
In Num­bers

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.

A project of a lifetime

A project of a lifetime.

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.


by shenghan in Internet, Life, Photography on 24th February, 2010 at 10am, Wednesday, February 24th, 2010 10:41 am GMT +8

17 Comments

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  1. LiewCF said

    inter­est­ing project. how did you gen­er­ate the statistics?

    • ember said

      I tab­u­lated all data man­u­ally in Excel. Exported the data as CSVs and gen­er­ated the graph­ics using Google Chart API via a Word­Press plu­gin: Easy Chart Builder.

      I know, I wished I could auto­mat­i­cally pull data right off Flickr and feed it directly into Google Chart API. But my pro­gram­ming ain’t there yet. =)

  2. Max said

    Con­grat­u­la­tion. => I like the graphs, pie charts and the analy­sis you made, a story of your Project 365. Time flies and now I don’t really feel right with­out click­ing your pho­to­blog link on my Google Chrome every­day. I the pho­tos you took very much. I am your top fans. =P Start a new Project, no mat­ter what, as long as I can see the pho­tos you take. Love them. =D

    • ember said

      I know! You’ve been such a great sup­porter. Thank you so very much. =D I don’t feel right myself not tak­ing and post­ing pho­tos any­more, haha. Actu­ally though, I think you’re the one who’s sup­posed to start a new project, not me! C’mon whad­dya think, hmm? =D

  3. Vyz said

    May I know how you gen­er­ate the graphs in your blog? Any spe­cial soft­ware needed?

    • ember said

      I’m start­ing to won­der why is every­one so inter­ested in the graphs? I used a spe­cial pro­gram called Microsoft Excel 2010. =P The pie charts and Time of the day graphs were gen­er­ated with Easy Chart Builder. I added/edited a lot of other extra graph­ics to my graphs in Pho­to­shop too.

  4. Guchi said

    con­grats bro. i’ve been fol­low­ing your blog and pho­to­blog for a long time now

  5. Lucy said

    I really want to give this a try, but I know that I could never do it. My days are pretty much the same, and noth­ing excit­ing to take a photo of. I’m not really allowed to take pho­tos of my stu­dents and post­ing them onto the inter­net with­out their per­mis­sion. I’m not sure that I want to go through the has­sle of doing that.

    Your pic­tures were won­der­ful to look at, and I felt as though I were able to watch your progress and growth through this project. I’m glad to have been a part of it. Congratulations! :)

    • ember said

      That was exactly what I had in mind prior to start­ing this project, Lucy. I don’t think my life is any more inter­est­ing than yours. Take for exam­ple I absolutely envy peo­ple liv­ing in tem­per­ate cli­mates — being able to do a Project 365 through all four sea­sons seems so much more inter­est­ing. It’s too bad you couldn’t upload pho­tos of your stu­dents though. But then a lot of my 365 shots are just snap­shots of mun­dane, everyday-things, too. =)

      I’m even more glad to have you with me in my jour­ney, Lucy. You can imag­ine how grate­ful I am for your sup­port. Thank you!

  6. this is so cool. :D

  7. Fahriee said

    Don’t think I have to men­tion how impressed I am with your work, man..hope to see more of them in the near future. :)

    • ember said

      Aw thanks, Fahriee! Wouldn’t be where I am today with­out inspi­ra­tion from pho­tog­ra­phers like you too! =)

  8. jixing said

    Con­grat­u­la­tions on com­plet­ing the project! It would not have been suc­cess­ful if there was no deter­mi­na­tion and sta­mina to meet the goal. While it is won­der­ful to look back, reflect and savour on what we have achieved, the impor­tant thing now is to move on. I have also been fol­low­ing your work. The cre­ative “juices” are famil­iar, I must say! Hon­estly, it has been great and the best part is you enjoy doing it. Move on !

  9. ember said

    @Guchi, Glad to have you on board all this while!

    @mikhaelkueh, thanks!

  10. Vista said

    Now its time to upload the pho­tos to 1x.com. BTW ur pho­tos are veeery nice

  11. Ras Mhd said

    luv ur works bro:)

  12. ember said

    @Vista, amaz­ing photo gallery! Thanks for the intro.

    @Ras Mhd, thanks!