Just click

On New Year’s Day, rather quickly, a couple of girl friends and I decided that we were going to tackle Project 365 — taking a photo a day — together. I say rather quickly because as K. and I were discussing it on Twitter, Z. joined in and said she’d like to take part too, but none of us set a start date until I mentioned it. Then K. proposed right then as a start date.

It was kind of what I was afraid she would say and what I didn’t want to hear. I actually already had a photo for that day, but I didn’t like it and told her so — it was my reason for not wanting to start that day, even though it was the first day of the year and made perfect sense to start.

Three days in, I find I’m really thinking about my photos and what I want to share that day. Not exactly uncommon — as a journalist, when I’m writing a piece that might not have event action tied to it, I still have to think about how to get a somewhat interesting shot of the subject (and trust me, it doesn’t always happen). Recently, doing the online paper, I find I’m doing more of making sure I get certain kinds of shots and mentally editing while still in the field — I’m thinking about what would look good on a page, how many photos I can/should run on a page and how the front page should be set up. That especially — I will specifically set up one shot for the cover, because there are certain things, most notably room for text, that I need on the cover. There are occasions where I just shoot and pray that something turns out for the cover (usually fast-paced events), but when I’m doing an event like that, I try to make sure to have a backup.

But with Project 365, I usually decide on a shot, and then make some time in my day to make that shot happen. Like Jan. 2 — I knew I’d be driving for most of the day, but I would be stopping in Edmonton, and I wanted to stop at Tutti Frutti. There. That was going to be my shot.

As I was walking down Whyte Avenue to get to Tutti Frutti, however, the shop next door had some animated bears in the windows, playing musical instruments. I noticed it as I went in as some families had stopped to look; I noticed it on my way out because some more little kids had stopped to look and their moms were explaining what was a cello and what was a viola.

It would have been an easy shot — standing further back on the sidewalk already, I would have had the window with the bears in it and the backs of their heads, but I didn’t take it. I already had taken my shot for the day, and that was it.

This is part of the reason I wanted to do Project 365. Most of my journalistic traits, I try to turn on and off (that’s a whole other discussion as to whether that’s good or bad); it drives me crazy when my mom tells me to be inquisitive at family gatherings. The ones I can’t help are editing habits and when I hear a siren, my ears are going to perk up. That’s just the way it is. But if I see a cool shot, chances are I’m not going to rummage around for my camera, or even my phone. I’m just going to keep going. And that’s a horrible thought process.

The rut I’m in with thinking “I’ve already got my shot today, I’m not going to bother someone else for a picture,” makes me think of The Only True Genius in the Family. It’s one of the books that has languished on my bookshelf for the last couple of years and was one of the first books I read when I started my bookshelf purge.

In the end, the main character tries an experiment that she discovered her late father, a photographer, used to do. He only allowed himself to take one picture a day. He could carry around his camera as much as he wanted and frame as many shots as he wanted, but he could only click the shutter once.

As she tries this, the main character is constantly wondering, “Is this the shot? Is there a better shot later today?”

It’s a neat exercise in self-discipline, but it’s also a lot of pressure. And frustrating when you miss the shot.

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