At the beginning of the year, I made a promise to myself: that I would make more time for doing what I love.
I committed to taking photos for 35 minutes, for 35 straight days, using only a 35 millimeter lens. Today—four countries and over 35 days later—I am sharing some of the results of that experiment: exactly one image from each day of shooting.
Ironically enough, my journey ended with me in an airport. The first image you see below is one of that last ones I took, on Day 35, at the Abu Dhabi international airport, as I was waiting to come home after two weeks of travel. It was the end of my experiment, but it felt more like the beginning of a larger journey.
When I started this experiment, I asked a few simple questions: "will I still love to do something when I'm disciplining myself into doing it every day? When I'm scheduling it? When I'm doing it even if I'm tired or not in the mood?"
Overwhelmingly, the answer was: yes, I still loved it. In fact, I love it more, thanks to being disciplined about it. There were days when I was tired, and not in the mood; days when I was running on just a few hours of sleep, when—after working a 12 hour day—the last thing I wanted was to take photos for 35 minutes. That is, until I started shooting.
Having to photograph when I was tired, or simply didn't want to, helped me discover something new about photography. The camera can completely transform my mood. Its weight in my hand numbs my worries. Looking through the viewfinder, my eye sees nothing but what is directly in front of me. It is like a form of meditation. Despite taking time out of my day, it gives my mind space to rest, recover, and regain its energy.
I also realized the value of shooting every day. I became more fluid, more comfortable, more fearless, and less distracted. I have long been completely familiar with my camera—my beloved Canon EOS 6D. But the daily discipline helped me become more familiar with myself.
I became more at ease talking to others and taking pictures of them, particularly strangers. I hesitated less often when taking pictures of someone or something interesting. I had less fear of asking someone if I could take their photo, and felt less embarrassed if they said no. Photography felt more and more like a natural extension of myself, like breathing or walking.
But perhaps most importantly, I learned that if I hadn't forced myself to shoot every day—if I hadn't made myself take photos when I was exhausted and irritated—I never would have realized how revitalizing photography could be. It makes me wonder what else I haven't yet discovered about photography. And it makes me want to keep going down this path.
I will be doing several more experiments like this over the course of the year. This first challenge, though successful, felt unfocused. The most difficult part of this project was finding some kind of connection between all of the random photos I took. I'm hoping with my next experiment to learn how to tell a more cohesive story with my photos.
So stay tuned, and safe travels.