The internet abounds with blogs devoted to individual and group 52/365 projects, where photographers post a new image every day or week, with or without self-imposed parameters. I've resisted embarking on a similar project, mostly because I felt that imposing artificial "rules" on when or why to make photos would restrict my creativity or become a slog that I resented having to conform to. Well, two weeks into a similar project, I'm changing my tune. Recently, I was reviewing my image archive, and I realized that most of the photos I shot during the last few years were made on assignment, as part of a book project, or during a workshop I was leading. While I'm grateful to have the opportunity to shoot often while getting paid, there is a certain joy that comes from shooting with no strings attached. There's no pressure to perform and experiments that fail are no big deal.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to come up with a project that would allow me to shoot every day, as easily as possible, just to get me out and seeing things through my camera. The one "rule" I've imposed on myself is that any image I shoot must be made at 6:30 a.m., and even that rule has some wiggle room - I'll count anything shot between 6:15 and 6:45. Other than that, I'm allowing myself to shoot any subject (I expect there will be a cat picture or two on those days I don't feel like getting out of bed), and in any style or format I want. So far, about half the time, I'm using my iPhone, and instead of this becoming a daily slog, I'm finding it's a part of the day I very much look forward to. It's getting me out and shooting in my home area of New Hampshire's Seacoast more than I've done in years, and by the time I get to my studio, I feel like I've already accomplished something for the day. I can also see the potential for a few different bodies of work that will come out of this.
Why 6:30? First, there are several months of the year, where the light can be just fantastic at that time of day around here. Second, (and probably more importantly!) with two kids at home, my wife Marcy expects me to be around and helping out in the morning to get the kids ready for school, which means I need to be home by 7:00. It's a little against my nature to pack up my gear and head home when the light is still good, but it just focuses my attention a little more during the half hour when I have the opportunity to make a picture. In the past, this restriction kept me home altogether, but now I feel like I'm using it to my advantage and finding the challenge to be a lot of fun. And it's pretty cool when the kids ask to see my new picture every morning at breakfast. I'm also looking forward to seeing the results of this project 6 months or a year from now, when the images will show a variety of light (it will be pretty dark here at 6:30 in a few weeks) and seasons.
To simplify the process, I've set up a Tumblr blog for posting my 0630 photos, which you can see here: http://ecophotography.tumblr.com/. It's especially easy when I shoot with my iPhone as I can post right from the field with the Tumblr app.
If you have your own Tumblr blog or 52/365 project, post the link in the comments - I'd love to take a look.