The 52 x 7 = 2015 Project

The three churches, Mahone Bay

Readers not interested in photography can skip this post, but don’t worry, we have plenty of offshore voyaging stuff in the pipeline and this is a bonus post—it’s not part of our twice a week publishing schedule. OK, with that out of the way, I can write about my second favourite subject.

One of the best ways to learn to take better photographs is to set oneself a project. (I have been working on my Fishing North Atlantic project for some 14 years, but that is a project of limited opportunity—no fishermen or fishing boats equals no new photos for the project.)

So I have been looking for something that will inspire me to photograph more often and to really think about my art and craft over an extended period. The classic, particularly at this time of year, would be the 365 project, in which a photographer commits to make at least one photograph every day.

Good for some people, I’m sure. But I’m a travel photographer, focused on telling a story, not on just trying to get one good photo. Also, I know there will be a lot of days when I will be too busy with this site or our boat to have much creativity left over to make photographs, and therefore I would “just phone it in”, as actors say when they have not really engaged.

So I modified the classic 365 project and am calling my project the 7 x 52 = 2015 project—OK, just a tad arithmetically challenged, but we are talking art here. Read on to learn how this works and what I hope to accomplish:

My Rules

Here are my rules:

  • Started last Monday in 2014.
  • Ends last Sunday in 2015.
  • Make and publish 7 photographs every week. (Publishing may be delayed by being out voyaging with no internet.)
  • I can make as many photographs as I want, but I must edit down to just 7 to publish.
  • I must have made all 7 in the week in question. No trawling my stock for the good stuff. No saving stuff for next week.
  • No near-duplicates allowed. Yes, I can use 2 shots from the same place or situation, but they must be of different subjects and compositions.
  • I can use any camera I want, even my phone.
  • I will deliberately avoid boring pretty pictures—the world simply does not need any more over-saturated sunsets!
  • The seven photos will tell a bit of a story of my week.

My Goals

I hope that this project will:

  • Nudge me to think more about potential photographs, which will in turn make me more aware of my surroundings and more in the moment as I go about my daily life.
  • Encourage me to photograph in situations where I would normally say, “there’s nothing to photograph”—there is always something to photograph, saying there isn’t is simply an admission of failed vision.
  • Remind me to carry my camera with me, even more than I do now.
  • Improve my already reasonably good editing skills. (You know what one of the major differences between good photographers and hackers is? Good photographers bury their crap.)

My Progress to Date

Click on any image to enlarge.

Week one was easy since the weather was lovely, we were out for a couple of hikes and I had a lot of errands to run in the car.

But week two was much more challenging since the weather deteriorated and we spent most of our time getting ready and then traveling. But then again, continuing to make photographs in weeks like that is much more what the project is about anyway.

Come On In, The Water’s Fine

I’m doing this for myself, since I’m convinced that to be a better photographer I must first create images that please me…and conversely, that I must try to be my own toughest critic.

But having said that, if any of you (AAC members) would like to come along for the ride, I would enjoy your company in some kind of group.

I don’t have the bandwidth left over from AAC to manage this, but if one of you is interested in setting up and managing a group on Flikr, Facebook, or whatever, I would be happy to post my images there, including all the data so you can see what camera, lens and settings I used for a photo—one person has already asked for this and so here is week #1 and week #2 on Flikr

Update 15th Jan 2015

Jim Patek has set up a Flickr group, to see what we are doing and join in click here.

And since I didn’t give you any notice prior to starting, what say we move the start date to the last Monday in January (26th) and I will try to keep it up for 13 months, so we all end together on the last Sunday in January 2016 (31st)? Heck, join as any time for the rest of the year.

Also, I want to make clear that this is not about technical skills or killer uber-cameras. Shoot with your phone if you want, this is about vision, not pixels.

Oh yes, one other thought: I don’t mean, or want, this to become any sort of competition.

Sharing

Having said that, if we used Flikr, or some other service that supports albums of other people’s photos, those of us who wished to could curate albums of our favourites of the photographs made by our fellow participants—might be fun.

Who knows, maybe at the end of the year we will publish some kind of a favourites album here at AAC.

We will now return to our regular programming.

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Meet the Author

John

John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

31 comments… add one
  • Jim Patek Jan 12, 2015, 12:39 pm

    Good morning John

    Thank you for adding the parameters of your photos. They are very educational to those of us in learning mode.

    For years while I have been cruising around, I have taken many photos. Some of these, mostly scenery, shot in good sunlight, were actually pretty good. Many the photos I really wanted to record that did not have inherently good light or a balanced composition were terrible and I would not have known a thing about the technical side of photography, the art of photography nor the benefits of photo editing. At this rather late stage I have decided to make an effort to become a photographer instead of taking snap shots. I am about to embark on my next mission and I do not want to come back wishing I had been able to capture a scene that I will never experience again. I am nervous about it but I think your group approach may provide even greater incentive and with feedback, a learning experience. So, count me in.

    I started out using the the Panasonic Lumix FZ10 and made a progression to my current and fairly new camera, the FZ1000 so I am still using what they refer to as a bridge camera as opposed to the DSLR’s. I have been doing some video instruction via Lynda.com that I have found helpful. Helpful enough to make me curious about the lenses and settings you have been using to achieve your great results. My son, a budding professional photographer based in Auckland, has pointed me to a web site 500pics.com that he tells me provides similar insight. But, since I like photos that relate to the water and surrounding scenery, gaining some more understanding of how you compose and shoot your photos will help a great deal.

    All the best

    Jim

    • John Jan 13, 2015, 1:38 pm

      Hi Jim,

      Well, it looks like we have a bit of a bust here…just you an me. Still let’s work together. If you want to set up a Flikr, or whatever, group, I will join it.

      As to editing, if you are not using it already, I would strongly recommend Adobe Lightroom.

      My other recommendation is don’t worry about getting a DSLR, smaller cameras are so good now that most people don’t need that added complexity, weight, and expense. You FZ1000 should do just fine.

      Looking forward to seeing what you come up with each week.

      Hopefully others will join us as time goes on.

  • David Lyman Jan 12, 2015, 12:53 pm

    John
    I recently looked at your portfolio of images from the Bob Krist workshop at Rockport. Nice. What year was that? If it was prior to 2007, I was still running the place. I founded it in 1973, know then as The Maine Photographic Workshops, and ran it for 34 years. Bob is a great and fun teacher. He led workshops for me in Cuba, Tuscany and Maine for m,pore than ten years. We became the best of pals. I retell his story of trying to photograph rainbows over the island of Dominica. The fisherman whose boat he rented asked what he was doing just drifting a mile off the island. “Waiting for Rainbows”, says Bob.
    “Rainbow are freshwater fish, Mon!’
    “No, rainbows in the sky.”
    “You want to see rainbow in the sky . . . here that a hit of this,” offering Bob a pull on his big fat reefer.
    Back to your 52 x 7 assignment. When I was at The Workshops, I gave a Monday morning lecture about the creative process to each new incoming class. One of the suggestions I gave was to make 36 images a week, that’s a roll of 35mm film a week. By the end of the year, you’ll have exposed 52 rolls of film, 1,800 images. Those 52 rolls did not include any commercial or assigned work—the images I talking about were personal, self assigned, or images found as you stumbled through your day and week, recognizing a composition, a moment of light . . . a photograph.
    Now, creating these 1800 images is only part of a three step process. Next, you have to create a contact sheet of these 36 images, and look at it. I still create paper contact sheets from my digital files. There is something magical about the process of looking at series of images, crossing out the duds and circling the “keepers.”
    Next comes the wall. A space in your office, studio, home that you are forced to look at every day. A 4 x 8-feet of Homesote is about the right size. The refrigerator is not it. Make 4 x 6 or 8 x 10 prints of the frames you circled and fill the wall with those images. Do not worry about the order, that will come later. As you look at your wall, it and your images may speak to you, showing your weaknesses: lousy framing, bad light, tipped horizon, cameras shake, missed focus. . . the list goes on. But the wall may also show you where your photography is taking you. As you move images around on the wall, re-ordering them, makes pairs, triplets, sequences, themes to your vision may emerge. This is not an intellectual process, so don’t go thinking too much about what you are doing. Play with the images. Let the wall and the work direct you. Not you directing it.
    From the wall may come an essay, a series of 10, 20 imagers that define you as a photographer. Five images is not it! A portfolio is no less than 20 images, anything less is just a “work-in-process.” When I designed the MFA degree program at Rockport College, now Maine Media College, the application process required a portfolio of 20 images to be considered. The portfolio is you. It what you show to magazine editors, have on your website, from which comes an exhibition, a book.
    So, if you are serious about getting better, better at anything, it takes practice . . . just doing it, a lot. 36 frames a week is not asking to much, is it? Hell, I find it hard to keep my shooting under 100 images a day, now that it doesn’t cost anything to press the shutter.
    One more point John and I’ll let you get back to work, and I can get back to editing the video I shot of last November’s delivery of a 41-foot Lord Nelson from Newport to Bermuda and the BVI. I’m pitching the cable networks on a reality series for yacht deliveries in the fall. The NARC Ralley is ideal for this, full of fast boats, interesting skippers, and crews going off shore fold the first time . . . then there’s the Stream to cross, NW gales, squalls, broken gear and terrified crews to deal with. So, my last questions is, are you going to add video to your site. The GoPro camera system with its line of rigs and attachments has opened out the process of capturing true action in a gale. Even Krist is on the band wagon and is shooting video . . . its just another way of telling stories.
    I’m working on a book of my lectures on creativity . . . it deals with the process of turning dreams and ideas into reality. Your website and online books have me thinking about doing something similar with the writings I’ve done over the years on photography, the creative process and what I discovered working with photographers and filmmakers at The Workshops. It would be like the wall for my writing. I notice you really never finish a book, but are always tweaking chapters.
    David

    • John Jan 13, 2015, 1:16 pm

      Hi David,

      I agree on the benefits of printing 8×10 and then living with them on the wall. In fact that’s exactly what I do. Having said that, I don’t recommend that course of action for people who are just starting on the path to being better photographers, particularly if they have a limited amount of time to give to the craft. My reasoning is that getting a halfway decent print is, as you know better than I, very challenging in and of itself and can distract people from making a decent photo in the first place.

      And, no, no plans to dive into video. My primary job is to produce good content about offshore sailing for our members, who keep the lights on around here. Doing video well—and there is nothing worse than poorly done video—is a huge undertaking that would distract me from that primary responsibility.

      Having said that, we have started using short clips to illustrate articles and will be doing more of that next season.

  • David Lyman Jan 13, 2015, 1:52 pm

    John
    Yes, crafting an image takes skill, knowledge, some software, time and an eye. I used to make my own B&W exhibition prints from negatives, but not now. My HP office printer creates acceptable digital “work prints” for the wall. Hell, the local drug store makes acceptable 4 x 6 prints. Before I consider sending out a digital file to be printed “professionally,” which is expensive, but not time consuming, I need to look the work print for a long time. The investment of time, or money, is a good gage of an images value as what will represent me and my vision.
    The digital print-making process is now more technically complex than darkroom work ever was. Besides, most well known photographers use outside printers to craft their images. That was true back in the film based days of photography, and more so now. I recall Paul Caponigro, the B&W landscape photographer admitting he was no longer a photographer, but a printmaker as most of his energy was going into printing from negatives he made years ago. Ansel also separated the photographic process into two realms. “The negative is the score (the idea), the print the performance.” From a single negative many manifestations can be made, just as each musician will bring to the music a different interpretation. I could go on . . . but won’t.
    David

  • Jim Patek Jan 13, 2015, 3:11 pm

    Hi John

    OMG! Just me? Now that’s intimidating. But, I will see what I can do with Flickr which I think makes sense in any event.
    I do have Lightroom 5 but like the fundamentals of photography, I am learning how to use it.
    Thanks John.

    All the best,

    Jim

  • Bill Wakefield Jan 14, 2015, 9:05 pm

    Hi John,

    This is a good idea. I would enjoy participating, and selfishly, this may be just the nudge I’ve needed to become a bit more proactive with my photography. Thank you.

    While I can commit to the photographic schedule [and agree with the ‘rules’] I may not aways be able to meet the posting and participation schedule. Why? Because our cruising plans for this year may occasionally [Apr-Oct or so…] preclude routine access to WiFi and/or cell service.

    How long might the blackouts last? Let me be precise: Maybe a couple of weeks every once in a while- give or take… [Cruising…]

    I will, however, always be able to send and receive text only emails [uuplus via sat phone] to at least stay in routine contact and offer a guess as to my next opportunity to participate during any ‘internetless’ periods…

    If everyone can tolerate me ‘missing a deadline’ on occasion [and then only for technical reasons…] and truly feels it would not be a detriment to the project or hinder the group’s weekly momentum, then please count me in.

    Otherwise, I will certainly understand and enjoy cheering you on from the sidelines.

    Thank you for creating yet another opportunity to learn…

    Best regards,

    Bill

    • John Jan 14, 2015, 9:19 pm

      Hi Bill,

      I should have put the point about publishing blackouts in the rules, thanks for pointing that out. I will be in exactly the same position for large parts of this coming summer, and I bet Jim will be too.

      So, I have added that to the “rules”.

      Welcome aboard. I’m really struggling this week, so misery loves company!

  • Jim patek Jan 15, 2015, 12:04 pm

    Hi John and Bill

    I will be sailing from mid March until its over but at a minimum, four and a half months but only six weeks of that will be somewhere where I cannot hook into wifi (I think). I am going to try my hand at blogging this one so there will be more pressure to communicate and upload photos.

    Thanks John.

    Jim

  • Jim Patek Jan 15, 2015, 3:34 pm

    Hi John

    It’s set up. It’s with considerable angst that I now ask for the email addresses for you, Bill and anyone else who is an AAC member and is interested in joining the group. I made it a Public, Invitation Only group (hence the need to send invitations) that has the following characteristics (taken from the website):

    •Invite-only public groups are useful for small groups who wish to focus on a particular theme, but want to maintain control over membership.
    •Anyone can view the group page, but the only way to join the group is by invitation.
    •Admins can choose to show or hide discussions and/or group pools from non-members.

    The administrator can change this to private but cannot go from private to public so I went with the semi restricted public option.

    Our url is https://www.flickr.com/groups/aacphotoproject/

    I will fix up the background after I have a few of your photos to choose from. Not having done an upload to Flickr I am not sure how the photos are arranged in the Group album but I suspect it is a dump. Only way to find out is to upload. Better get shooting.

    Cheers,

    Jim

  • Bill Wakefield Jan 15, 2015, 3:45 pm

    Hi Jim,

    Thanks for taking the initiative…
    I haven’t used Flickr in years, but will gladly play along.
    John, given the public nature of these posts [and my personal love of spam…] is it possible for you to convey our email addresses to Jim privately?
    I also have a separate Yahoo profile if that is what is required.
    I thank you both and look forward to getting started.
    Cheers!
    Bill

    • Bill Wakefield Jan 15, 2015, 3:52 pm

      Whoops. Never mind, John.
      I see that by going to the Yahoo project link Jim provided we can make a private request to join this project.
      This I have done via my old and esoteric Yahoo profile. I also provided Jim my private email address in case it is needed.

      Cheers!
      Bill

  • Jim Patek Jan 15, 2015, 9:34 pm

    Hi Bill

    I found you and you are all in. It will be fun to see where this takes us. I am such a beginner I am sure I will derive the greatest benefit. Thanks for being willing to have a go.

    All the best,

    Jim

  • Bill Wakefield Jan 15, 2015, 11:50 pm

    Thank you, Jim,
    That is a pretty nice composition you posted to kick-off this new group. Hints of Ansel Adams…
    I, too, look forward to learning. I find the more I learn the more I discover how much I don’t know…
    My submissions during these next 6 weeks will be quite unrelated as I will be changing locations almost weekly.
    I did manage to get started today, so I will be able to post my 1st submission next week right before location change #1.
    Cheers!
    Bill

    • John Jan 16, 2015, 12:58 pm

      Hear Hear, on Jim’s shot. And I agree completely about the constant learning. In fact the more I learn the more critical I get of my own stuff to the point that I have a hard time looking at many of my older images, often ones that I thought were really good when I made them. I suspect and hope that process will continue for as long as I make photographs—there is no done-learning.

  • RobertB Jan 16, 2015, 4:17 pm

    I’ll join in. It sounds like a great idea.

    What is mean by Jan 26 start date? Is that the first post for the previous week’s photos? Or when we start taking pictures for the upcoming week?

    Robert

    • John Jan 16, 2015, 5:13 pm

      Hi Robert,

      Welcome. The date you start taking photos, was my thought. But hey, start any time you want.

  • SimonWirth Jan 18, 2015, 6:55 am

    I’m in to. I really hope I’ll manage to stay in, too. But we will see about that.
    After thinking about something like this a long time, I take the jump now and risk it.
    Just hope I’ll manage a few decent shots.

    Regards
    Simon

    • John Jan 18, 2015, 12:23 pm

      Hi Simon,

      Welcome! Yes, it’s kind of a scary commitment isn’t it? After two easy weeks where the shots flowed, I’m having a hell of a hard time tracking down the muse this week. Still, I guess that’s the point—makes us shoot even when it’s not easy.

      • Simon Wirth Jan 21, 2015, 1:39 pm

        Thx for the kind words John.
        What I fear more than not finding the muse is the knowlage that I’m really bad at editing, not to say I don’t have a clue what I’m doing there.

        Regards
        Simon

  • David Lyman Jan 19, 2015, 1:45 pm

    There’s an assignment I gave to my photo students at The Workshops who were suffering from visual constipation. It can be used to prime the pump, get you outside, looking around, considering compositions. Most times this will lead you to something else. I’ve used this etude for 40 years, and still use it. It’s a great way to “warm up” and stretch. I now have a portfolio of images. Its’s called “Doors, Walls and Windows.” No matter where you are there’ll be buildings around. Find a wall with windows and door, and arrange the elements within the camera frame. This etude is an exercise in composition. Musicians do the same thing with cords, notes and beats. The cords and note are the elements, the beats are the space. You are simply playing with the geometry. Most compositions will work, some better than others. We are not trying to makes great photographs here. We are just fooling around. In the process, you may create a frame that really works, but you won’t know that until you get back and look at your work.
    I have a portfolio of my selects (“Keepers”) of this self-assignment on my website. I add to occasionally. You’ll find there a body of Doors, Walls and Windows I made while in Bermuda last spring delivering a boat back to Rockport, Maine.
    John . . you’ll recognize the location . . . it’s in St. Georges.
    I’m a bit busy editing the video I shot on a delivery in November, so I’ll not be joining you in the project, but would like to see what folks are contributing and make comments when so moved.
    David

  • Bill Balme Jan 20, 2015, 3:04 pm

    I think – hope I’ve initiated sufficient to warrant an invitation…

    Look forward to participating…

  • Jim Patek Jan 20, 2015, 3:10 pm

    Hi Bill
    I believe if you go to the URL below you can make a request, then I go on and accept the request. Thanks for participating.

    Jim
    https://www.flickr.com/groups/aacphotoproject/

  • David Lyman Jan 20, 2015, 6:46 pm

    Jim
    I went to the link you suggested, but found I haves to register with Yahoo and get a Yahoo email address. I have enough email addresses to contend with, and want to limit my exposure to search engines with my information.
    Any other way of sharing images, besides flickr?
    David

    • Bill Wakefield Jan 20, 2015, 8:54 pm

      Hi David,

      I believe the Yahoo account is what is required. Yes, Yahoo email comes with it, but in the 16 years I have had mine, I have yet to receive 1 piece of email. [And like you I was not interested in another email account…] This is because I designated a different account to receive any correspondence originating with Yahoo [mostly ‘Groups’ I belong to.] I have never received any spam from a Yahoo source that I am aware of.

      I have not revalidated it still works this way by setting up a new account, but suspect it still allows you to disregard the Yahoo email it issues in favor of your chosen address.

      I hope this helps.

      -Bill

      • RobertB Jan 20, 2015, 9:08 pm

        I was about to write the same thing as Bill. I have the Yahoo email as a sign-in account name, but the email service is not even set up. You should be able to designate where you want correspondence to go.

        Robert

  • Jim Patek Jan 20, 2015, 7:44 pm

    David

    I had the job of setting it up and its linked to my personal Flickr account that I established for the sole purpose of establishing the group so I have not been looking in from the outside like you. I did have to establish my own yahoo account to get started and while its been only a week, so far I have had zero emails from Yahoo or Flickr or anything related to Yahoo. There are other cloud services but I think John suggested Flickr because its free and will hold a terabyte of data, well in excess of other services such as Dropbox. And I have to say that it is very user friendly. I can truthfully say…idiot proof.

    It would be great if you could join in.

    Jim

  • Bill Balme Jan 23, 2015, 1:36 pm

    I hope I didn’t break any rules by uploading a couple with people as the main subject matter… was part of this week’s efforts…
    Would like to be able to rearrange the order of appearance – to tell the story of the week – but maybe that’s not so important…
    Cheers all!

    • John Jan 23, 2015, 2:18 pm

      Hi Bill,

      Not at all, I, for one, am much more interested in photographs with people in them than any other genre. In fact it looks like this week for me is all about my muse.

  • Bill Balme Feb 13, 2015, 3:22 pm

    I’m enjoying seeing everyone’s efforts on the Flickr page… wonder if it might be appropriate to suggest that when we post, we make a comment perhaps about our favorite submission of the week – just to see if we can get some comments flying.
    I think we’re all looking to improve our photography – and simply publishing our efforts without comment doesn’t really accomplish that, does it?

    • John Feb 14, 2015, 10:22 am

      Hi Bill,

      Good idea, I will try and do that. I’m also making an effort to go through the group photos every week and favourite the ones that really jump out at me. I’m intentionally being very selective in the ones I pick because I think that being so helps the most. After all I consider that I have done well if I can make 10 photos a year that I really like.

      Having said that, I should make clear that I don’t in any way set myself up as an arbiter of good photography, but I do think that it helps to have others indicate which of our images really call to them—it often comes as a surprise too!

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