In Part 1 of this article, we covered the initiation of a photography project and the immense value of having a support cast. We also looked at gathering themes and idea and my method of keeping track of them and the usefulness of introducing props to provide a new focus. Photography projects are great to try something different, and the value of descriptive comments to record the thoughts, feelings and intent of the each project photo are also invaluable later on when you want to revisit an idea.

In Part 2, I want to go through a few tips on how to get through the project, and outline a few of my shortcomings in projects of the past.

 

18/365: Portal. (C) Kevin Cheng.

18/365: Portal. (C) Kevin Cheng.

Celebrate

I cannot understate the value of celebrating every achievement and milestone in the course of a photography project.

Whether it is a Project 365 or Project 52 or anything else, the journey can be frustrating at times. To reach a milestone of a month, a quarter, understanding and mastering a new skill are all reasons to celebrate.

Take this photo for example. It is Day 18 in my Project 365. Not even a month into the project and there had already been days where I had struggled for ideas. I remember this day clearly, though, because for most of the day it has been raining, I was at a loss as to what my shot of the day would be. On the way home from work I pulled into a park and took a walk, I took a few frames but none of them turned out until I saw this scene. This shot was the one that cemented in my mind, me experimenting and learning how to get the star burst effect in camera. It might be a little thing in the grand scheme of things, but for me that unlocked a mystery and a lesson I would never forget.

 

Play With New Toys

Some of the best photos come from experimenting with new gear.

Obviously, you’re not going to go out and buy a $3000 lens every week, but think about what you can do on a budget to try new things. Check out second hand shops for old tilt-shift or wide angle lenses, even if they’re for old film cameras and require adapters. Contemplate trying a remote for slow exposure and capture star trails. Buy a cheap Nifty-Fifty and play with shallow depth of field, and then try some camera hacks such as reversing your lens to try macro photography. Finally, experiment with your lighting — from flash to ghetto lighting to natural light, learn how light works with your camera.

 

A Simple Trick

A friend about to embark on his own Project 365 was curious to know how I managed it. Just how do you manage to pull the camera out every day and take a photo?

Learn not to pull your camera out, but rather to just carry your camera everywhere.

We have all experienced. You see that perfect scene, a smile from your children or a beautiful sun set or a local event that would be great to capture, but you don’t have your camera on you. You might get strange looks while walking through the shopping centre, but if you always have your camera around your neck you will be ready when you spot a shot. This will help you get through the project if, for no other reason, missing those photos can put you in a funk of “Oh, I could have had something so much better…”

 

So What Happened to Kevin in 2010?

In a nutshell:

353/365: Wind Blown.  (C) Kevin Cheng.

353/365: Wind Blown. (C) Kevin Cheng.

  1. Started a Project 365
  2. Got hitched
  3. Resigned from one job
  4. Traveled (honeymoon)
  5. Started a new job
  6. Drove around a lot for the new job
  7. Became a father
  8. Learned never to sleep again
  9. Watched a lot of TV whilst learning never to sleep again
  10. Finished Project 365

 

What Were Kevin’s Hiccups In the Project 365?

  1. Did Kevin manage to take 365 photos on his DSLR? Truthfully, the answer is no. There was one photo that I just could not get right in DSLR. I did not have a lot of time to take the shot, gave it a good go then grabbed the point and shoot. It is ok, I forgive myself. It was a special day. ;)
  2. Did Kevin take a photo every single day? Again, the answer is no. One photo was taken at 1am after I cleaned up a housewarming / celebrating our marriage / and the “oh we are expecting a stork delivery” party.

 

Why Were the Project 52s Incomplete?

Some people might think, after successfully completing a Project 365, a Project 52 would be a breeze right? I thought the same too when I came off the 365. In my head I already had the first seven weeks of 2011 planned out with the Danbo shoot. I got to week 13 and missed a beat. There were a few more missed weeks until Week 27 then my project really went off the rails. To be honest I have no distinct recollection why, but looking at the photos, my son was only a few months old and being first time parents the learning curve was pretty steep. I suspected that I simply ran out of time and energy to pursue a photography project. I may also have consciously decided that I didn’t want to make every week a photo of my bub as a way of “appeasing the project schedule”.

After the first 7 weeks, I did not feel like I was exploring any new techniques or concepts. With the exception of Week 11 which required a massive crash course in Photoshop and took crazy amounts of time to process. Hands up anyone else been crazy enough to do a handheld, six frames panoramic exposure featuring a fast moving object? My hand is up. On the bright side, this photo came in 6th in the 2011 Epson Panoawards.

11/52: Carousel. (C) Kevin Cheng.

11/52: Carousel. (C) Kevin Cheng.

2012 and 2013 I lost the plot when I got stuck on a theme. I blathered on, procrastinated, promised myself I will figure it out and catch up. Of course, it never happened and I fell further and further behind.

In hindsight I should have just carried on, either attempting what I really wanted and risking it not being perfect, or just answering the brief so I didn’t get stuck. I allowed myself to be bogged down by indecisions and procrastinations in the previous two years. Whilst the preference is to have stunning photos every time, if it does not happen it just does not happen. It would still have been a learning experience to give it a go.

Don’t be so afraid of failing that you never even try.

The other point I wanted to make is, compared to a Project 365, having a week for each photo feels like plenty of time. Naturally, I put pressure on myself thinking having a full week per shot meant I had to do something spectacular and with a wow factor. And every week when I came up with something “just adequate”, I felt a bit let down. No doubt that contributed heavily to the procrastination when I came up against a “difficult” theme.

Be realistic with your goals and aspirations. Not every image will be perfect. But the important thing is to think things through and make an attempt to create your perfect image, even if it isn’t perfect.

 

319/365: Path Better Travelled. (C) Kevin Cheng.

319/365: Path Better Travelled. (C) Kevin Cheng.

What is Kevin’s personal goal for VOTogs 52 Challenge?

I said earlier that you do not have to publicise your personal goal for your photography project, I am happy to share mine.

This year I want to do more off-camera lighting, learn how to manipulate light and create more dramatic atmosphere. I read somewhere (might have been David Hobby), to say I am a natural light shooter, is a cop out to say, I don’t understand light. All I know is, in order for me to progress and take better photos, I need to understand how to manipulate light.

 
 

I hope this brain dump articulates my personal journeys through photography projects. As I said at the start, this is really the first time I have formally talked about it. VOTogs would love to see everyone succeed in their 52 Selfies Challenge for 2014.

More importantly we are here to bounce ideas off, share advice and generally cajole, bully and threaten and share in the highs and inevitable lows of the journey. Feel free to comment below, or ask questions. There are only some answers that I will need to kill you after answering dance around the topic.

 

Kevin Cheng Bio PicKevin Cheng is a product of East colliding with West, a juxtaposition of old culture and new. Eternally juggling his roles as husband, father, IT boffin, engineer, chef, photographer, gadget reviewer, writer, whisky connoisseur, wine lover and dreamer. He is generally found in a highly keffinated state and is a workaholic who does not understand the meaning of slowing down. He can be found sporadically on Flickr or say hello on Twitter @aerokev.

 


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