Getting Back on the Horse

For those of you who might not know, I’ve been working, for the last three months or so, on a photo-a-day challenge that I set for myself. Every day, I try to take a photo on my Motorola Droid. Then I edit the photo using photo-editing apps available for the phone. My goals are relatively simple: I just want to take some pretty pictures on a smartphone whose camera has been much-maligned, to improve my eye for composition and color, and to force myself into the discipline of doing a daily project like that.

My results thusfar can be seen in the below Flickr slideshow:

It’s been a fun project, and it’s gotten me thinking about the weird, science-fiction quality of our lives in the days of mobile computing… I have a phone that includes a better camera than my first digital camera, and has better photo-editing software than the first photo-editing program I used. On a two hundred dollar device with about ten dollars worth of software on it.

And it’s been a lesson in perseverance. I know some of my pictures are much better than others, but that’s less important than the fact that I’m getting one every day. Some days I cheat a bit, if I can’t get a good one or I’m too busy or whatever, but I’ve been generally pretty good at sticking to the schedule. Regular production yields more results than trying for perfection every time. And that’s been something I’ve learned a lot from, by itself. This is how you acquire craft. This is how you get books written, how you learn an instrument, how you really get anything out of life: you try, every day. Some days will be breakthroughs and some days will be crap. But you try.

And then two weeks ago happened. I was having a busy week, between work, family, and social commitments. And I got a couple days behind. And then a couple more. Eventually, it got to the point where I was a full week behind. This may not seem like much, but it was enough to make me have a minor crisis. What should I do? Abandon the project? Try to catch up?

I decided to just start back up as if nothing happened. And I think it was the right decision. Getting one decent picture a day is hard enough. Two a day, even for a week, would be next to impossible, and would probably discourage me from re-engaging in the project. I’m changing my previous expectation that I post them to the web daily, mostly because of the bugginess of the best Android Flickr upload app.

Quitting or trying to catch up would be overlooking that value I’m discovering in daily work and gradual improvement.

And plus, it just feels so good to get back on the horse. Why ruin it?


After yet another abortative attempt, I’ve realized that envisioning this as a 365-day, one a day project was just unrealistic, given full-time employment, half-time grad-student-hood, and my two-hour daily commute. All I was having time to take was pictures of people and things on the subway. It was getting repetitive.

I’m not ending the project, just re-envisioning it as a periodic, ongoing project. I’m changing the Flickr set description accordingly and readjusting my expectations. Because while it was a rewarding project, it was less rewarding than working, paying bills, getting my PhD, and trying to have a social life.

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