The Magic Hour

Magic Hour

There’s about an hour in the morning just after sunrise and an hour in evening just before sunset where the sunlight is especially golden. This is the golden hour, or as I prefer, magic hour. Here in Minnesota we really only get it in the spring, summer and autumn – while we do get it in the winter, it’s a lot less noticeable because the sun is low on the horizon all day.

Last night we had a good rain, but the clouds cleared just a bit along the horizon at magic hour and it made for some really beautiful light. Everything seemed to glow against the dark skies. It reminded me that there truly is magic in this world if you open your eyes to look for it.

Finding Beauty in the Sparseness

Waiting for Spring

While I’ve seen many winters before, this year, as I’m taking pictures and spending more time really looking at winter, I’m struck by the sparseness. Everywhere the branches are bare, the lakes are frozen expanses of empty white snow, the walking and biking paths devoid of people. The is a lot of beauty in the sparseness if one can get bundled up enough to enjoy it. I think when I moved to Minnesota I was so shocked at how cold the winters were that I forgot how pretty it was when the world is blanketed in white and the city sounds are muffled by the snow.  So I’m setting a goal for myself for the next couple of months – I will look for that winter beauty, noticing the intricate forms that the branches of the oak trees make, or the winter feathers of the little birds that frequent those trees.

Why Do a Daily Photo Project?

On the Hanger

I’m sure some of you are wondering why I would want to take a photo every day as a project. It seems a bit daunting and stressful. What’s really the upside if you take on the stress? Well, I will tell you.

For me, there are a number of benefits. The first is that the project functions like a journal – even if I don’t write much about the day, the picture helps me to remember what happened that day, and the circumstances around taking the image. I wasn’t really sure the project would work this way as I wasn’t taking self-portraits, but I think for me it works even better. I get to capture whatever works for the day, me, someone else, or something else. Once I saw that it was really helping me to keep track of my life, one day at a time, I started to look for things to photograph that would capture what I did that day, or how I felt (this is a little harder for me, which gives me something to work on). I’m really looking forward to having a year of daily memories for 2009.

I’ve also found that it’s a great way to improve my photographic skills. I don’t want to post the same thing every day, and I want my photos to be compelling. This means that I need to think about how I’m going to photograph what might be a mundane aspect of my day, not just what I’m going to photograph. While there are some subjects so interesting that even a quick, thoughtless snapshot can make a really compelling image, most of the subjects that I come across in my daily life are not so interesting. This forces me to think about how I compose the shot, what kind of lighting I want, shutter speed and aperture for the shot, etc., and I’ve seen quite an improvement in my ability to envision the shot that I want before I start shooting.

It gives me a chance to be creative, or not. One of the first things that I learned when I started this endeavor was that I needed to plan ahead or I’d be stuck at the end of the day wondering what I can shoot and upload before bed. But once I started planning ahead, a whole new opportunity for creativity opened up. I might decide that today I want to play with long shutter speeds, or work on getting better at using my remote for a self-portrait. Maybe today I want to take a number of shots and merge them together in photoshop. Or maybe today I just want to photograph my coffee cup and get on with my busy day. It’s up to me. Either way I’m learning a little bit – skills that will improve my photography, or maybe just a little about myself.

Is it easy? No. It’s a huge undertaking. I find that I think about photography a lot more (in a good way), but there are just times where I want to leave my camera at home and just enjoy life. It’s very easy to beat myself up about whether today’s photograph is a good one, or to convince myself that my life is boring and not worth photographing. But it is worth it. It might not be glamorous, but it’s my life, and that’s worth remembering, documenting, and cherishing. Photography is a great way to do it.

The 2009 365 Project

Good morning 2009!

If you follow me on flickr, then you probably know that I’ve been taking at least one photo every day since the middle of November and posting it on flickr. For 2009, I’ll be doing the same thing, but in a more organized fashion as a 365-day project. Each picture will have notes about the day and/or the photo so that there’s a little context around the image. By the end of the year I will literally have my “year in pictures.” I’ve created a photo set in my flickrstream specifically for this project, so you can follow along if you like, or, even better, join me in taking and posting a photo a day.