I was 32 years old when I first tried it. Eleven years ago. I had two kids. I was working as a counselor. It wasn’t a New Year’s Resolution. In fact, rebel that I am, I began on December 29th.
The picture is titled: Day1/365. The caption says: Giving the 365 a shot. Nervous and excited. . . here goes nothing.
For 87 days I took pictures of the most random of subjects. Game pieces. Crayons. Dead flowers. Deer in our backyard. Charlie and Chanelle. My sisters cat. Eggs Over Easy? I’m not lying when I say the most random of things.
My goal in starting the project was very simple. I wanted to learn to take better pictures. I wanted to become a better photographer. There was no real reason behind it. I was a counselor. At the time, I wasn’t looking for a career change. I just wanted to take better pictures.
After 87 days, though, I gave up.
Maybe it was the morning sickness that came with the baby growing inside me. Maybe it was the surgery to fix yet another running injury. Maybe, and more accurately, I just wasn’t ready to commit.
Less than a year later, in October, I decided to give it another try. The baby inside me and the passion to get better at taking pictures seemed to be growing at the same pace. I wanted to get better. To learn things. To grow.
On October 1st I began again.
The first picture that year was titled: Day 1/365. Captioned: Giving the 365 another shot. Last time I only made it 87 days before getting sick with pregnancy. Trying again.
This time, I did it. I took a picture every single day for a year. From random pictures of things around our house to pictures of our family and the things we were doing and the places we were going.
Looking back at the year, I see the many mistakes I made. Oh my, there were so many. In fact, I can look back and most every day of that first year and tell you the things I did wrong in photography. From over editing to mis-focusing. And from bad color tones to over and under exposing. The problems are everywhere.
But I stuck with it. Year after year after year, I continued to shoot. One day at a time, one picture at a time. I learned. I grew.
Over time, much time and many years, I learned my camera. I learned light. I learned things I didn’t know I needed to learn. I learned the style I liked.
Along the way, I found what I wasn’t looking for: a new career.
My passion grew. And I continued to learn. One day at a time, one picture at a time. Project 365, as I call it, became not only a part of my life, but the life of our family. Year after year, I made sure to pick up my camera every day, with the expressed goal of “growing my skills”.
Slowly, very slowly, it worked.
For ten years, it worked.
As I took the final pictures of my Project 365 in 2021, I had the feeling it was time to end. Our kids are getting older. Life is busier. Teenagers are much more difficult to capture than toddlers. Ten years is a good run, I thought to myself.
On January 1st of this year, I sat down and poured over ten years of pictures. Ten years of memories. From beginning to end, I saw the changes in our kids, the stories we’ve lived, the ways we’ve changed, the joys of these years.
I didn’t see the mistakes I made through the years. I didn’t see the way my style has shifted ever so slightly. I didn’t see photography at all. I only saw the memories. I saw little faces grow older. I saw sacred moments, beautiful moments, silly moments, fun moments. I saw laughter and tears and serious faces and silly faces.
As I worked hard over the years trying to hone my skills, understand my camera, “master” light, and become a better photographer, I missed the true gift of these daily pictures. The daily shutter clicks, the habit, became little more than that–a habit. It wasn’t until I sat down and poured over them that I realized what I had.
An absolute treasure.
I looked through the years of pictures and tried to decide which one I wished I hadn’t captured. Which one was a waste of my time.
There wasn’t one. Not one. The only thing I felt was gratitude. Gratitude for the stories that I am able to recall because of the memories sparked by a single image.
Album after album I saw it. What began as a goal to grow my skills turned into an unexpected gift.
The return on this investment cannot be calculated. It is beyond money or words or time. It is, simply, worth it.
Shortly after deciding that ten years was enough because ‘the kids are getting older’, my mind was changed. Sure, they are 16, 14, and 10. But one day they will be 25 and 23 and 19 or 36, 34, and 30. They are getting older, but there is still so much more time. So many more days.
I asked myself, will I regret doing another 365 or will I regret not doing another 365? The answer came easy.
As I do every year, I ask Charlie and Chanelle and Meadow if they are okay if I go another year and they agree easily. This project is a part of our life and it matters.
Why am I writing this now? Because, maybe a mom of young kids will stumble across this and I want to scream from the rooftop (of my blog) that it is worth it. You don’t have to be a photographer or have a nice camera or know what you are doing. It takes little time and just a little discipline to do it. Pick up your camera, or your phone and snap a photo of a moment you don’t want to forget.
It might feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Keep it simple. Find a system that works for you. (I am happy to share what I do, should anyone want to know.)
It’s not too late.
It’s alway worth it.
To those who have watched our journey in pictures from afar. . . THANK YOU.