I Take Pictures. Every Day. By Amy Medina
I have always been fascinated with taking photos of everyday things, and now I take photos of them every day.
I was always a sporadic shooter. You might know the feeling: Going months without taking a single photo and then suddenly some blog (like Steve’s), or book (remember those?), or movie, or new camera gear rekindles interest and provides inspiration for two straight weeks or even months of shooting. Then as suddenly as it started, that excitement dies down again and the camera goes back in the cabinet, bag or closet for a while. I didn’t want to be that photographer anymore. I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to take it up a notch. I wanted to see if I could be creative every day. I wanted to learn more and develop more of a personal style.
So in July, 2009 I decided to commit myself to taking at least one Picture-A–Day.
Camera Leica M8 – Lens: Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon
Common objects can be beautiful to me.
So, the PAD Project begins…
No more “it’s too cold, rainy, hot, hazy, foggy, or smoggy to go out and take pictures”. No more “I’m too lazy, tired, bored, busy or drunk”. Okay, I really don’t drink, but you know what I mean. No more lame excuses. Each day I would have to take at least one photo and post it to my online gallery, twitter and facebook. I would find time for photography each and every day.
Camera Leica M8 – Lens: Voigtlander 40mm f/1.4 Nokton (single-coated)
Rain and adverse weather never keep me away from going out and taking a photo.
Matter of fact, the lighting of misty drab day can be wonderful.
At the beginning I was using mostly my [new] Olympus E-P1. I had just purchased it the beginning of July and it was part of my inspiration to start the project. Being so small and yielding such good quality files, there was no excuse not to have a camera with me all the time. However, what the E-P1 helped me realize was just how small my M8 already is and how much I truly love shooting with rangefinders in general. Though occasionally I’ll still shoot with my now neglected E-P1, for months I’ve been doing my PAD photos almost exclusively with the M8 and taking a whole lot more photos with both her and my Zeiss Ikon.
Camera Olympus E-P1 – Lens: Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 Heliar
An example of a park I’ve passed by a million times in my life,
but had never stopped to visit, or even photograph, until my PAD Project.
What do I shoot? Some days I take my time and go to a favorite spot, a new beach (not a nude beach, though that might prove amusing), or take a drive into an unexplored neighborhood. Sometimes it’s a previously undriven road on the way home from running errands. In the winter with shorter days and sunset coming early, you’ll often find me between meetings or deadlines, on a lunch break from work, rushing to find something to shoot (can’t I just win the lottery, please?). Once in a while my daughter gets to be my model, though she’s a teenager and doesn’t have the patience to let me chase her around with a camera much anymore. Twice I’ve taken photos of my cat, but I try to spare the world from more cat photos. Beaches, abandoned buildings, interesting signs, garbage cans, mailboxes and chickens (yes, chickens!), I’ll shoot anything that looks interesting to me. And sometimes — more often than I should admit — I go out in my pajamas and slippers to take my picture of the day.
Camera Leica M8 – Lens: Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 Heliar
I love to visit old and abandoned buildings. I remember going to this theater as a kid.
Mom would drive us there on Saturdays. I’ve heard they’re tearing it down soon.
Imagine, if you will, a forty-year-old woman (oh god, am I really 40 now?!) who dresses too young, wears her hair like a boy, sporting several tattoos, stumbling around some abandoned building, bad neighborhood or desolate beach in her fuzzy slippers, Leica around her neck. If you see her, you’ve found me trying to taking my daily photo. I got snow in my slippers once.
How do I come up with ideas? Well some days I wake up knowing exactly where I want to go and what I want to shoot. Other days the idea gets formulated while I’m driving around observing my environment. One day my husband and I were driving along and low-and-behold there was a “stray” chicken dawdling along the side of the road. This is not something you see on Long Island all that often! It just had to be my picture for that day…
Camera Leica M8 – Lens: Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Nokton
A chicken roaming the streets on Long Island? Really? (and no, he didn’t tell me why he crossed the road)
…So sometimes the photo brings itself to me.
After starting this project I quickly realized that there are times I have multiple ideas on a given day, so I’ve learned to be patient. I create a pushpin for them using Google Maps (thanks iPhone) and keep a running list as future suggestions; I will return to those locations when the light is good, the weather is what I hope for, or the time of day is better suited to the photograph.
I don’t take my camera bag with me anywhere. I hate camera bags. They defeat the whole purpose of having a small easy-to-carry camera. All but the camera I’m using and the lens I choose for the day go with me, and I actually tend to keep the same lens on for a few days, or even weeks at a time. I might spend two weeks with my Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon and then switch to my recently purchased Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Nokton for a few days. I almost never have more than one lens with me, and if I do it’s only because I’ve brought along my Zeiss Ikon (film rangerfinder) camera.
Camera Leica M8 – Lens: Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Nokton (LTM)
This is a beautiful old cemetery in the middle of a strange neighborhood not too far from where I live.
It’s been severely neglected over the years.
I even started developing my own film this year. Once in a blue moon, on a day I finish up a roll of film, I can develop it the same afternoon and then scan and post a photo from it that night as my PAD Photo. So much fun! If you’ve never developed your own film I highly recommend it. I know, I know, it seems so “old school” — and it is — but there is something incredibly satisfying about it! And self-souped black and white photos can be stunning.
If I could only get my hands on a nice used Leica M6 or M7 I’d be in heaven. Alas, it will have to wait…
Camera Zeiss Ikon – Lens: Voigtlander 40mm f/1.4 Nokton (single coated)
Film: Arista Premium 100 developed in Diafine (in my bathroom!)
There is just something really special about true black and white film. I took this one in NYC.
Does every day yield a work of art? Of course not. One day I was sick in bed and took a picture of my feet. Another day I was stuck at my in-laws and ended up with a photo of a bowl of salad. Once in awhile my vision just doesn’t play itself out and I end up with a photo I absolutely hate, but I post it anyway. It’s all part of the learning process, even if what I learned is what I did wrong.
One interesting thing I didn’t expect that my PAD journey has brought me: It’s a bit of a photographic equivalent to “stopping to smell the roses”. I notice my surroundings a whole lot more. More often now, I take more scenic routes and avoid highways. I stop and look at or explore places that have always been there, but I never really noticed. Little churches I didn’t know about, wonderful beaches I’ve never been to, interesting shops and fascinating neighborhoods I’ve never visited, but have always been in the surrounding area where I live. I spend more time at the beach (which I love), I visit local parks more often, and I scan Google Maps for new uncharted territory, even if it’s only 15 minutes from home.
Camera Leica M8 – Lens: Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon
My daughter wants me to buy this… I think she needs to get a job and buy it herself!
My photos aren’t always what you’d expect. On Thanksgiving most were waiting for a photo of a turkey, or my family, or a beautifully set table. All nice things. However, on the way to dinner my husband, daughter and I stopped at a Potter’s Field cemetery I had recently discovered and read about online. It’s historical in nature and is very close to my in-laws’ house (who knew?). We stopped and walked around and I took some photos. I talked to my daughter about what it means to walk through a Potter’s Field and how important it is to be thankful for the people that love you, because there are some that pass on from this world who go unloved. It was a moving experience to be there — a good reminder to be thankful for the truly important things in life — and it was my PAD Project that inspired the trip.
Camera Leica M8 – Lens: Voigtalnder 15mm f/4.5 Heliar
Thank You Number 38… for the most important Thanksgiving Day reminder.
How long will I continue? That’s difficult to say. My initial goal was to get to at least six months. When I reached the 180-day-milestone, I thought doing a picture-a-day for a year would be a good goal. I’ve recently reconsidered and thought that getting to 1000 photos could be interesting, but I’m not fully committed to that quite yet.
The way I feel about it in the last few months is that the longer it goes, the more fun it’s become. I supposed I will continue as long as it keeps feeling good to do so.
Camera Leica M8 – Lens: Zeiss 50mm f/2 Planar
This has recently become one of my favorite spots to go and sit and look at the water. You’ll often find me here still in my pajamas.
Through my Picture-A-Day Project I’ve started to develop a style. I’ve been able to refine my technique, both in the camera and on the computer, and have learned a great deal about what I like and don’t like and how that relates to the message I want to convey through one of my photos. I’ve been taking photographs for a long time, but it’s only through this Picture-A-Day adventure that I’m starting to feel like my photography means something. I’m finding my photographic “voice”, if you will.
But more importantly, it’s brought a new sense of appreciation for the people, places and things I come in contact with every day in this life. I celebrate the beauty and ugliness around me, for it’s what makes this world an interesting place.
My mother says I can take a picture of garbage and make it look good. But she’s my mom; she has to say that. My PAD Project has helped me start to believe it.
Camera Leica M8 – Lens: Zeiss 50mm f/2 Planar
I love sharing my photography with other people, so feel free to follow along on Facebook, Twitter and in my Gallery!
…and a special THANK YOU to Steve Huff for inviting me to write this article and for his great website! (From Steve: Thank You for writing it and for the inspiration!)
~Amy Medina – aka. DRabbit – from DangRabbit.com