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No, I did NOT spend an entire year trapped on my balcony (although that would be another interesting experiment), but I DID, however, spend a year photographing my balcony and the plants and animals around it.
I think it’s good to have a long-term project running in the back of your mind, and when I moved into an apartment with an amazing greenbelt view from the balcony, naturally I spent a lot of time hanging out there with my camera. When I started, I didn’t really have a goal – I just enjoyed being outside and shooting – but soon a project emerged.
A little backstory…
While working at The Daily Toreador newspaper, I’d usually get sent on assignments on my own. I was the only photographer at the event and responsible for capturing it as it happened and undoubtably, how I saw it.
On the occasion that I’d get to shoot an assignment along side other photographers (usually Brad Tollefson and Isaac Villalobos), it was always interesting to see the resulting photos. 9/10 times, we’d come back from the same event with completely different shots. In some cases, we had our cameras pointed at the same thing at the same time, yet the photos were night and day different.
Whether that be because we were shooting with different equipment, different focal lengths and apertures, or at different angles, those were choices we made in hopes of capturing that moment in the “best” way we could. Many times I would look at my photos from the “best” angle with the “best” lens, and after comparing it to another photographer’s version of that photo, I’d decide that it actually wasn’t the best. I could have done something differently. I could have seen it in a different way, but I didn’t, because that’s not the way my brain my working at the time. If I shot it again an hour later, perhaps I would have a few different shots.
By noticing this trend over the years, I learned that studying other photographers’ work and learning about their perspectives is extremely useful and expands your own perspective. I also learned that it’s just as important to study your own work, critiquing not only the content of the photos, but the way you saw those moments as they were happening.
Photojournalism is much different than still-life nature photography. You must be ready to take your best shot whenever a moment pops up, sometimes unexpectedly, and you often only get one chance to do so. You can’t just ask your subject to recreate that moment.
With this project, I was able to sloooooowwww down and challenge my eyes to see the same location differently each time I returned to shoot. Surprisingly, I never felt stuck. I felt like there were endless opportunities for interesting photos – I just hadn’t noticed them yet.
But then I thought “What if there were literally endless opportunities to take another good shot?” Would they eventually become repetitive or would you get bored of the location? Or would it be possible to never run out of creative ideas for a photographing a certain location if you kept trying?
If there’s a chance that the answer is yes, than why not keep shooting? That is, of course, as long as you’re still enjoying the process. If you feel satisfied with your collection, than you can walk away. Continually raising the bar of what satisfies you, though, is what makes you a better photographer.
When looking at these photos, I hope it’s hard to tell that they’re all taken from the same small area. I took hundreds of photos over the course of the year, but these are some my favorites. Unfortunately, one year is all I had with this beautiful place. If I had picked a location that I could return to occasionally for the rest of my life, I could test my theory and determine if I would ever stop seeing new shots. Maybe that will be my next project!