Why You Should Take a Photo a Day

Every day
I see or hear
something
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for –
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world –
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant –
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these –
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

 –Mary Oliver

sunset surf

I started taking a photo every day as a New Years Resolution for 2012. It came about because I wasn’t really the type to remember to bring a camera (or remember that a useable camera existed on my phone), and I’d go ages without ever bothering to capture any of it in photographs. It seemed sad. Months of happy (or sad) memories with no visual reminders.

So what started as an effort to change my habit gradually provoked a full-on lifestyle change, which, two years later, is still a work in progress. I take (and post) one photo every day.

It started out rough at first. I’d forget, and then resort to something cliche or uninspired like my treadmill screen or yes, on occasion, my lunch. If I made it until 10pm without remembering, my dog became my hapless victim, and more often than not I couldn’t bear subjecting all my Facebook acquaintances to the lame efforts, and failed to post.

However, little by little, I got better. The photos became both more inspired, and more consistent. Where I only managed to post a photo 200 days of 2012, the numbers improved in 2013 – to 275. Still plenty of room for improvement, but if you break it down, the lapses didn’t come from a day here and there, but rather long stretches of falling off the wagon.

It’s only three days into 2014, but I’m more committed than ever. In fact, I wish more people would try it. Heading into my third year, there are several beneficial side effects I’ve discovered from my habit:

doggy heaven

1. It is an excellent exercise in stopping to appreciate beautiful/funny/unusual moments as they come. It’s easy to think in passing that the sky looks pretty or a cat on a leash is hilarious. But when you’ve disciplined yourself to capture one good image each day, you get better and better at recognizing when you might be experiencing a/the highlight of your day. It also allows you to reflect on those moments each evening when captioning/posting it.

2. It creates a beautiful, and relatively concise record of the year. A visual reminder of each and every day — the high points pared down to just one shot, and something carved out of the mundane.

3. And finally – and I hesitate to admit this – but the practice has, on occasion, been the extra incentive I need to MAKE something happen in a boring day. I’ll occasionally take an alternate route home, the dog for an extra long walk, and on some rare occasion I’ll even say yes to an invitation when I might have otherwise said no, because my treasure hunt isn’t yet complete for the day. I wish it didn’t take needing a picture to agree to something I’m on the fence about, but needing some interesting image does provide an added incentive sometimes.

But, in fact, it doesn’t take weddings or beach days or long road trips to capture a nice image. Beauty is all around us, everywhere we live. It’s in the small, quiet moments, the “untrimmable light of the world.”

This year I vow to keep up (and hopefully improve on) my habit, and I’m taking it a step further. I’m bringing my video camera everywhere too. I’m taking my cue from this TED talk:

And this gorgeous video:

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