Thursday, March 23, 2017

Once Around on Instagram

So yesterday marked five years since I completed the project. For the past year I've been posting a photo each week for "Throwback Thursday" on Instagram which has been both a pleasant voyage of rediscovery and a reminder of how I never want to do such a project again! The first photo I posted in the series was the unfurling trillium, a photo that garnered all of 14 likes :-) However, my following on Instagram (such that it is) has increased a little since then, so I'm already up to 34 likes on the final photo! Yay! Go me, eh?

Alas, Instagram doesn't make it easy to show all the photos I posted from this project. While I did use "#OATS" and "#OnceAroundTheSun" tags, they were also used, alas, by many other people for all sorts of random photos. Sure go ahead and look at #oncearoundthesun and you'll see my photos in the mix. It would be interesting to see if anyone could identify my photos based on style alone. I know that they stick out like a sort thumb to my eyes, but that's because I know them so well. With a more neutral eye, I'm almost tempted to still say yes because so many of the tagged photos are just so different to mine, but maybe you should judge for yourself.

Monday, April 2, 2012

That was once around the sun

It's over... done and dusted. It's been a year in the making and, to be honest, I'm glad it's finished. And I'm amazed that I actually succeeded. Or did I? The goalposts shifted very early on in the project from a photo per day to a "good" photo per day. Here, I define a "good" photo as one that I will want to look at again (and, hopefully, again and again). So did I take 366 "good" photos? I think it's too early to tell, but I think the answer is probably no. Give me another couple of months to look through the set and see which photos I linger over.

One thing that I was curious about was whether taking daily photos would improve my photography skills. I'm probably not the person to judge that, but I think I have become more particular about the kinds of photos I size up now. I take far fewer repeats than I used to (with the exception, perhaps, of glacier lilies...), as well as reducing the number of marginal shots (especially at full zoom).

Would I recommend such a project to someone? I found it hard work, especially at first, so I would say it depends on that person, and what photos they enjoy taking. How likely is it that you will be able to take those kinds of photos? Is it weather-dependent? How much spare time do you have to think about and set up shots? All these factors come into play.

I would say that anyone interested in taking a photo-a-day should be prepared to wake up every morning with the thought in your head: what am I going to get a photo of today? A list of candidates really helps relieve some of that pressure, but it only goes so far. Of course, if your photographic criteria are more relaxed than mine then it's easily possible to take a photo per day.

Another important factor is how much you like your camera. The days I felt worst about this project were the days I had the camera I didn't enjoy using. Having a camera (or two) I enjoyed using made all the difference - it makes you feel like you can take anything.

So after all that, would I do it again? No, absolutely not. It was a fun experiment but I don't see any need to repeat the process. I don't feel I have anything to gain from beginning another project, and I see plenty of things around me to photograph without the artificial need to take a picture every single day. Plus this project really got in the way of dealing with all the other photos we took over the year. The only type of project I might try would be a once-a-week photo diary, but that won't be for some time now. The next project is to turn the photos into a book-shaped souvenir :-)

It was an interesting, pleasant and often fun journey, but as always it's good to be home. And that was once around the sun.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Statistics from around the sun

It's been over a week since the project ended, and I've had some time to reflect on how the journey went. But before I put down those thoughts, I wanted to lay out the bare numbers.

Of the 366 photos, 190 (52%) were taken in landscape orientation, 157 (43%) were portrait and the remaining 19 (5%) were square. That's interesting to me as I hardly ever turned the camera round to its portrait orientation when I first started taking photos; it must be Maria's influence, as it's something she does a lot. The square photos obviously didn't start out that way, but some subjects really lend themselves to a square crop.

I used three cameras during the year. The Nikon D5000 SLR was the most heavily used with 266 photos. No surprise there - it's our best camera and the one I enjoy using the most. Next comes our most recent pocket-sized addition, the Canon SX230HS, with 52 photos, which is closely followed by our older Canon S3IS with 48 photos. The newer Canon got its 52 photos in less than 3 months, compared with about 7 months for the older S3IS for its tally of 48. I stopped using that camera altogether in October, and I doubt I will ever use it again.

Going by the tags on the photos, I took photos in 64 locations of 34 different kinds of subjects. And I took photos on all 7 days of the week :-)

Of the 64 places I tagged, 30 were visited only once, 12 were visited twice, 8 three times, 4 five times and 5 twice. I visited no place 6 times or 9 times, but I did visit the Sunshine Coast 7 times, downtown Vancouver 8, Stanley Park 10 and Jericho Beach 11 times. Then there's a big gap until one location I visited 22 times (Kits Beach) and then the big two: our home neighbourhood (Kitsilano) with 81 photos, and work (UBC) with 119.

The top ten subjects were water (45), flower (44), bird (37), mountain (36), transport (32), sky (32), tree (31), art (26), people (22) and architecture (21). A dozen subjects were targeted less than 5 times. The rest were somewhere in between. Some of the subjects probably overlap slightly and I doubt I've been as consistent as I intended to be - I have sea and water and snow as separate subjects, whereas to be truly accurate they would all be the same thing (i.e., water!). But the trend is clear: I really like to take pictures of natural subjects. I'm surprised by "transport" sneaking in at number 5 - I have quite a few photos which contain ships, aircraft and/or bicycles. "People" is also a surprise as I'm not really much of a people photographer. Or at least, I wasn't until I started taking on the role of semi-official photographer for the Tiddley Cove morris dancers.

As I mentioned at the 90 per cent mark, I'm really not an indoor photographer. Only 15 photos (4%!) were taken indoors or had indoor subjects, and not all of those were taken on days with bad weather. For the rest, I ventured out in whatever weather - rain, sleet and snow, windy and calm, sunny and cloudy.

How many photos did I take to get my 366? I'd be a while counting but it's in the thousands. I plan to go through and create a Flickr set of the "also-rans", the photos I took that I liked but didn't make it as a daily photo. I also have a pile of photos of subjects I planned to revisit on another day but didn't. It will be interesting to see how many of those I have :-)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Day 366: Returning to where it began

Do you believe in happy endings? After today, I might just begin to do so. To finish off this project I decided to return to the place it began, Lighthouse Park. In my mind's eye I imagined how poetic it would be to end the year on the same note on which it started with a photo of budding trillium. I headed straight to the spot I'd seen them last year, fully expecting to see white flowers poking through fresh green leaves. But mother nature decided that I shouldn't have it so easy: I found myself standing next to the low fence looking forlornly at a single green shoot barely six inches high. Nothing to do but to take its picture anyway.

So there I was, standing in a dull and cold Lighthouse Park, rain clouds threatening overhead, with a somewhat anti-climactic photo in hand. What next? Where was I going to get my finishing photo? Surely I couldn't let the project end with such a "nothing" photo? I looked at the map and picked a trail I had only walked once before, which took me to one of the park's rocky promontories, in search of the flower that had actually brought me to Lighthouse Park this time last year: white fawn lilies. I knew it would be too early to see them in flower, but perhaps I could find a leaf, or a bud?

I wandered around, doing my best to ignore the snow pellets, rain and cold wind. No sign of any flowers; and then something caught my eye. A single leaf, which I recognized immediately as from a lily. I crouched down and saw another - then a bud, and more leaves. I set about recording the evidence, hardly able to believe my eyes. I moved on and barely 10 metres further I saw another pair of leaves with a bud, and another and another. I picked my way carefully through the litter of dead pine branches, found a comfy spot and fetched the tripod from my backpack. A dozen photos later I figured I had my shot, and, marvelling at these wonderful little flowers-to-be, reluctantly put away the camera gear. I could not believe my luck. To top it off a pair of bald eagles squawked in the tree tops across the cove, and a hummingbird squeaked in the nearby pines. And only then did the rain begin in earnest.

Fawn lilies in bud
Lighthouse Park, 22 Mar 2012

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Day 365: 0.986 degrees to go

The penultimate day and I'm scratching my head - what shall I photograph today? I found myself in downtown Vancouver under unexpectedly-sunny skies and decided to walk home over the Burrard Street bridge to size up one of my favourite views of the city. I stopped mid-span and to size my photos: the conditions could not have been better with snowy peaks peeking through the city canyons and the flat calm water reflecting the blue sky. But it was this view that caught my eye - zooming in on the Inukshuk in English Bay (which, actually, was on my photographic list for this project) offered a perspective on Sunset Beach that I really liked, and I could follow the curve of the seawall path from there into Stanley Park.

And with that, I am less than 1 degree off finishing.

Following the seawall
Vancouver, 21 Mar 2012

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Day 364: Along the old straight track

Some months back I was at the Commercial Skytrain station, admiring the view along the tracks towards downtown Vancouver, and kicking myself for not having the camera with me. I added it to my list and today (which is the Spring equinox - woohoo!) I took the bus out east and ticked off another photo from my now exceedingly-short list. The light isn't as good as it was 10 minutes earlier when I first stepped off the bus, and the sun had dipped below the clouds just moments after I crossed the road. I was also hoping to catch an approaching Skytrain, but in retrospect, I'm glad the photo is empty of trains - the exposure time was too long to stop them and I think a blurry train would have detracted from the photo. It'll just have to do as it is :-)

Today's title is brought to by the Jethro Tull song "Cup of Wonder" which includes the line "sung along the old straight track", though it is not referring to railway tracks.

Skytrain tracks pointing to Vancouver
Vancouver, 20 Mar 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

Day 363: Night bridge

Another of Stanley Park's famous landmarks, the Lions Gate bridge was somewhere on my list of photographic targets but it wasn't until I saw a picture taken by a friend that I decided on a dusk shot. I've wanted to take a photo like this for some time, having seen many night shots of the bridge. With only a few days to go, my chances of including it in this project were diminishing by the day. And so, a rainy Monday evening saw me (and other photographers) standing on the bridge over the causeway, taking numerous long exposure photos of traffic on the bridge. I tried using the polarizer to help cut down reflections, but to my surprise (and disappointment) it had no effect. However, all was not lost - it acted as a perfectly good neutral density filter, allowing me to get longer exposures than was otherwise possible. Despite the rain threatening to soak the camera I got my shot.

I also have a graphic reminder that the bridge is a suspension bridge, with the oscillation of the bridge deck showing up in two photos taken back-to-back, about 20 seconds apart. You don't notice it while you're on the bridge as it's quite slow, and it's masked by all the vibration from the traffic. It's given me another idea for a diptych which may appear at some point in the future.

Lions Gate bridge at dusk
Lions Gate Bridge, 19 Mar 2012