About The Daily (a photo blog)

 

The motivation to start this project was to really embrace the practice of photographing on a daily basis. Practice & repetition. The plan: Take at least one image, process & upload…each day, for at least one year .

The idea really came to me after reading “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron and while reading “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell.  I had been following the exercises from “The Artist’s Way”and doing my morning journal for about 4 -5 months or so.  It struck me one morning that while I enjoy writing, what I really wanted to “practice”was photography.  And while the morning journal exercise was intended to be free form, without judgement or a lot of thought……just write, I figured why not do this with taking pictures?

“Outliers” comments on the notion of practice, repetition and preparation to the effect that you become optimized to take advantage of a given situation and/or opportunity if one were to present itself…..timing if you will.  So as someone who has started on an artist’s path as an adult, a second career, the idea of practice, practice, practice, resonated with me.  So on October 24, 2009, I began my daily practice.

It’s been interesting.  I found that I became more present aware  and open to all possibilities.  Sometimes I would seek and this became stressful.  I then decided I would try “asking” to be shown something.  Yeah, it may seem a little odd but I went with it.  More often than not this approach seemed to work.  I tried more to relax, enjoy the process, embrace the moment and be grateful for the opportunities.  It’s really why I like photography in the first place.  More often than not I’m “lost” in the process and my mind is quiet of the useless “chatter”.  Kind of like a meditation of sorts.

I usually do this after my regular work day, so anything has been fair game. Some times it’s local, other times I travel around the “neighborhood”. Needless to say, my neighborhood seems to get larger & larger…

Visit The Daily Gallery.

Just an update – 10.24.11:  Today marks the 2nd anniversary of The Daily Gallery. I’ve been fortunate enough to follow through on this self-assignment and have not missed a day during this period.  It certainly has been interesting with many different challenges as well as many rewards.  It’s become part of my lifestyle and a great daily practice.

I started The Daily Blog about 10 months ago to go along with the gallery, so it has become part of my daily practice as well and it’s still evolving.

Last Spring I was given a book – “The Practice of Contemplative Photography – Seeing the World with Fresh Eyes” by Michael Wood.  Through the book I discovered Miksang, which basically, is concerned with uncovering the truth of pure perception – “…our experience and expression of day-to-day moments becomes more rich and endlessly varied—beyond what we think……”  It’s a philosophy and practice that really speaks to me on several levels.

This past weekend  I took the Level 1 Miksang Workshop.

As I continue to move forward with the gallery, my plan is to incorporate the Miksang practice.  Click here to learn more about Miksang

 

Third Anniversary Update – 10.24.12:

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been three years for the self-assignment and Practice.  A photo a day.  Everyday.  It’s become part of my life.  Something I  just do.  A priority. A commitment.

I find that some days are a challenge.  If I’m sad or lonely, tired or unmotivated and otherwise uninspired, it’s a challenge.  But I just take a step and move.  Then take another and another.  Eventually I have the thought to take out the camera, but I don’t.  Not yet.  I keep walking.  I listen to the thoughts as they race in my mind.  Often they are self deprecating and fearful thoughts.   I breath.  I breath.  I walk.  I then just try and let it happen.  Try and just be present and see.  Then when I least expect it, something happens.  I reach for the camera and I shoot.   Poof.

Other days it’s no effort.  It just flows.  No thoughts.  Free.  Easy.

I’d like to pretend that I don’t really care about the outcome of each day and that my ego doesn’t play into it, but I’d only be kidding myself.  What I can say, is that when I don’t force things and just let it happen I really enjoy the process.  I’m energized by what I see.  And yes, I’d have to say that the images to me seem more interesting and I like them.   At the end of the day I try and let go, detach and realize that it is what it is.  A photograph.   That tomorrow is another day and the practice continues.

What I can say is that I’m really wanting more animal life in my photographs – people and other animals.  I love nature and the environment, architecture and glimpses of things.  But lately, within the past 6-8 months or so, I’m wanting the emotion that is derived by seeing, feeling & hearing animal life.  My Animals & Their Human Companions Project has influenced me in this regard.  So I’ll see where this takes me.  Who knows.  A new twist and an interesting challenge for the upcoming year…..

 

Fourth Anniversary Update – 10.24.13:

Four years.  I’ve been doing The Daily consecutively now Four years.  I often don’t really think about it as a major deal.  Others, friends more specifically, mention that it is a big deal.  Perhaps they are just being kind?  On the other hand, to do something consistently for 1,460 days does show dedication and commitment.  My initial intention was just to practice.  Every day. Practice.  Of course I’d want to improve my skills, my craft, my way of seeing along the way.  I believe that was my initial motivation.  On some level I still believe this is true.

However in 2011 I had discovered Miksang and while I had not been following the specific processes and procedures laid out in that practice when I initially started back in 2009, I do feel that I had been following, or perhaps developed is a better description, a similar set of principles and conventions along the way.  But I wasn’t really aware of this.  It’s not really until fairly recently when I began to understand this more fully.

Certainly those who specifically study Miksang have a different sense of more formal understanding and training – guided by basic Buddhist principles and fundamentals which are woven into the Miksang practice whose roots started about 40 years ago from what I can gather.  These systems helped me to more fully understand and engage in what I was already doing, but definitely in an expanded way.  It’s all about education.

So The Daily took on somewhat of a different character for me once I understood these things.  I could respond differently with greater intention and commitment.  I think this is definitely more obvious, at least to me, between years 3 and 4 then in previous years of my practice.

While my initial intention as mentioned, was to practice each day, a way to become a better photographer if you will, what I believe has happened is that it’s become something much greater in terms of my general psychology.   Photography transforms my state of mind.  While doing this I am often fully absorbed and engaged.  I’m not thinking of life stressors, such things as loneliness, back pain, money, what tomorrow will bring, mistakes I’ve made in the past, how this or that will occur in the future, how much I dislike my current circumstances, etc.  If I’m in good spirits, or in a beautiful place I still become absorbed and perhaps my feelings are enhanced, but I’m still engaged and absorbed.

If I’m also able to include subject matter that I have specific passions for, things that are meaningful and purposeful to me, then I experience a more heightened state.  I flow.  This could be something in nature, like seeing a heron, or a bald eagle, a flowing river or beautiful pond, or inspiring architectural design, or perhaps seeing a musician I enjoy, etc.  I certainly have heard others speak of similar experiences whether it be while photographing, playing an instrument, playing sports, etc.  The “In The Zone” concept.

I became more aware of the psychological aspects, benefits really, of my practice when studying both positive psychology and mindfulness practice literature over the past year.   One may often associate mindfulness practice with meditation.  This often seems to be how it is described as if the two terms are synonymous.  However, I think that other things may be considered as mindfulness practices and thus may yield similar benefits as well.  At least that seems to be my experience, especially as I have done this photography practice every day, for at least 1 hour each day (I think the range is between 1-3 hours in general).  And I’m not suggesting that this is a replacement for meditation.  In fact I think these other forms of contemplative practice augment meditation as they actually become a vehicle to practice mindfulness in our daily lives.

For some this may actually be the launching pad into meditation as I’ve heard many people comment that they have difficulty sitting to meditate, “I just can’t do it….” are comments  will hear.  If they perform some mindfulness activities and are educated to appreciate the benefits of these actions, then they may actually be more capable to participate in sitting meditation.  Just a thought….

As I learn more, it seems that this notion of contemplative practice is broadening to include many different activities, not just meditation and I feel photography (as well as other art forms), is a great medium for this.

It’s often interesting to examine subject matter used for The Daily in retrospect.  Quite often the material “selected” expressed thoughts, themes, and generally relevant things that were going on with me emotionally, psychologically, spiritually.  This is not always the case but it does occur frequently enough to take pause.  I recall one specific day fairly recently.  I was in NY and I had already been out photographing.  I was at a friend’s for dinner and we began a discussion of patterns – more specifically, behavioral patterns – the how’s and why’s, do they work for us and if not what do we do about them kind of conversation.  The answer?  Sorry, no free lunch here.  Your guess is probably just as good as mine…

Anyway, later that night I got home and was completing the other part of The Daily, the processing, uploading, posting aspects.  As I looked at what I had photographed, the majority of images were of patterns of one kind or another.  Really fascinating.   I believe I even commented on this within the post itself – I don’t recall the actual date, but  sometime in late August/Early September I believe.

Something else I realized is that at times when I feel (felt), without purpose and direction, The Daily keeps me going.  It’s become purposeful within itself.  I think I’ve always approached photography in terms of “showing the beauty” in all things.  That even the most mundane thing has it’s own inherent gifts, value, grace, charm, etc.   Perhaps no different than anyone else taking pictures, I don’t know…..  But I guess it’s something that speaks to me and that in a time when there is so much digital noise and a strong emphasis on the bright and shiny, there’s something to making the most of the realness of what’s there, right in front of us that intrigues me, at least a different truth – in the realness of what exists.

OK, so on a technical note, something a little lighter, what I can say is that I’ve been using exclusively my Olympus OM-D E-M5 for about 1.5 years now.  There may be a handful of images in The Daily that are from my Canon.   The size and format of the micro-fourthirds is really great.  While I appreciate my full-frame DSLR and use it for my architectural work, the more I use the Oly, the more I want to use it day-to-day.   It’s so much easier to carry around and use and has made the process for The Daily that much easier.  I’ve used in very low light coupled with the Pany 20mm/1.7 pancake or the Oly 45mm/1.8 with great results.  Surprising at times really.  Plus I have a RRS L-bracket so can shoot on a tripod as needed.  Bonus.  I’ve even used it with some older freewire wireless triggers and flashes.  And it works great.

I would like to try out the Pany 12 – 35/2.8 and 35-100/2.8.  While I appreciate the 12-50 as a day wal-around, it’s on the slower end in low light situations.  I’ve played with the two Pany’s a little at the store (Precision Camera, a local gem of a shop btw), but would like to spend a few days with them.  Also the new Oly 12-40/2.8 (and compare it to the Pany 12-35), and the 17mm/1.8, plus the Oly 12mm/2.0, 75mm/1.8 & 60mm/2.8 macro would be fun to try out.  Pany also has a 7mm-14mm/4.0 that would be interesting.  Not to mention the new body, basically the E-M5 replacement (at least I don’t think they are making a real E-M5 upgrade), the E-M1.

It would be nice to see someone come out with a quality 24mm equivalent tilt-shift lens for MFT.  The downside of using a current Canon with an adapter is the 2x multiplication factor – you lose the wide angle.

I’ve heard many good things about the Fuji’s that I’d like to check out them as well and use them for a few days – the X100s and perhaps the X-E2 until the updated X-Pro 1 comes out.  Their zooms are on the slow end but hopefully they will come out with a couple of faster ones.  Plus some of the specialty lenses like a tilt-shift.   Sony’s new Alpha a 7 cameras looks really promising for yielding full-frame high res output, once they compile some lenses that are worthy of the sensor, so perhaps in a year or so.

So begins the fifth year.  Let’s see where we go from here….

Cheers.

Dave