birthday weekend lookback, january 20

Last year we spent my birthday waiting around for Callum to do his thing at the state capitol, so we decide that it was only fair that for Neel's birthday we do the same. MLK weekend is traditionally a reunion weekend for the past Senate and House pages, and Cal has been looking forward to his chance to see his friends and troll his old haunts ever since he last wandered them a year ago.

We spent the night at his old hotel, and as soon as we checked in, he check out... from us. For awhile, I wanted him to let me know everytime he went somewhere new, but after a multitude of text that said, "Going to the 5th floor. Going to the lobby. Back up to the 5th floor." I said, just let me know when you go to dinner. Seriously. Still, he was home by 11, exhausted but content.

More of the same the next day. Cal wandered away while Neel and I wandered around, looking much like all the other parents who spent the day milling about while their kids had their fling. After being presented on the floor, Cal went for lunch with his friends while Neel and I chatted with a few other families and enjoyed the sun shining on the Capitol. We saw a helicopter fly over head and wondered, was that the governor? But it flew over the mansion before heading toward the nearby hospital. (We found out later that the governor did go to the hospital and spent the night there, as he's recovering from SEVEN broken ribs. Woah.)

Cal had reminded us that MLK Day is also Gun Lobby Day at the Virginia General Assembly. Seems incongruous to me, but what do I know? Pro-gun lobbiers wear "Guns Save Lives" stickers but they also are permitted to carry their guns, and we were surrounded by all manner of weaponry. In the afternoon, the Gun-Control advocates were assembling, complete with a banner made of red hearts and a bagpiper (!), but as Neel and I sat on the steps of the Capitol to watch and listen (and wait for Cal), the Capitol Police came up and shooed us away. Pointing to a backpack left by a fountain, the officer said, "We have a suspicious package. I'm sorry. We have to get you all out of here." As we waited and watched, they moved the crowed further and further away, until, clearly, it was time to go home.

We never heard what happened, but the rally, on the far, far side of the Capitol, went on as we took off. A little excitement for us and a good day for Cal. And Neel? He had an okay birthday too. We got him a rake.

weekend lookback/look forward: jan. 12

Oh, it's my favorite kind of Monday here. Rainy, gray. Mondays are my catch-up days. They aren't new project days. They're map-out, clean up, clear-the-decks days, and I'm always glad when the rain just lets me settle in.

I've been thinking even more about my 365 as your comments came in on the blog over the weekend. And about 365s in general. If I continue with one, this year's version will be my third. It's not actually that hard for me. I tend to hold it very lightly. And that would be my first bit of advice to anyone considering undertaking a project like this. Hold it lightly. Miss a day? Don't beat yourself up. Miss nearly two weeks, like I did this past year after Violet died? Take a breath and, when you're ready, get back to shooting. Have a series of days where you're uninspired and taking your shots of shadows of cats' ears at 9PM each night? It's okay. It'll pass.

The only rules that exist are your own. Some people have projects within projects (I know a woman who's doing her whole 365 in black and white, for example). Some follow prompts. Some practice new techniques each week or month. For me? The best is just to document my day. It's the main reason I pick up my camera anyway, and at the end of the year I have the record to look back on. That's the main reason I don't really want to abandon the project now.

It's easier than you think. Promise. Yes. Some days are hard. Some days you feel stuck. Some days you get sick or just sick of your camera, but if you go back to rule #1 (hold it lightly) and remind yourself that not every photo needs to be a masterpiece, you generally find you can push through.

Worry less. So many people I talk to feel daunted by the prospect of a 365. They think they're not committed enough and can't fathom the thought of a photo every day for a year. But the truth is, it's a project not about 365 photos, but instead about a single photo at a time. Don't worry beyond that. Just take today's photo and let the project take you where it will.

And then, the habits you develop are their own reward. In fact, the rewards are pretty numerous. The growth I've seen in my skill over the past two years comes, in large part, to my work on my 365s. The rhythm and structure that comes from a daily shooting habit can filter into other parts of your life, but it's daily shooting that's helped to train my eye and strengthen both my technical and compositional skills.

Plus, there's the record you have at the end. Either of your growth as a photographer or of your family's year, and if you're lucky, there's both. That's pretty nice.

But for me, I'm at the point where doing a 365 has morphed from "project" to "the thing I do every day." That's okay, but it seems time for something more. I just, 12 days in, don't quite know what that is yet! Yes, it will incorporate film. Just this weekend, my shots for Saturday and Sunday were both on film, so you won't be seeing them on this week's recap. I'm down with that. So for now, I'll follow my own rules to hold it lightly and see where the project takes me.

As long as we're talking about photography, I just wanted to let my local friends know that I'm teaching two classes at MOCA this winter. My Intro to Photography class is full, but I believe there are still a few spots available in my Fundamentals of Composition class. For more information and to register, check here. Thanks, as always, for holding my hand along this journey.