This time last year I was feeling a bit down, and thought I needed a bit of a challenge to motivate myself. So I started the Flickr photo a day thing. If you haven't seen this, the clue is in the title – you aim to take a photo a day for a year. You don't have to upload one a day (I didn't always have connectivity), but you have to take one a day and you have to take it. That's all.
So what did I learn from the process?
1) I'm not a very good photographer
2) I didn't really improve as a photographer much in terms of technical ability, but it forces you to start looking for photographs in the everyday objects and scenes, so I developed more of a photographer's mindset.
3) I need to get out more. Often I was either working at home or in the office in Milton Keynes. You soon run out of things to photograph in these settings. I would like to offer this up as a contender for 'Most Boring Photograph in the World'
On the other hand, I do quite like this one:
4) It introduces you to new tools and ideas. Just being around Flickr and other people (particularly good photographers such as Sarah Horrigan and Juliette Culver) makes you try new things. I played around with some iPhone apps and also used DailyShoot for inspiration.
5) Usage is unpredictable. Our old friend unpredicatbility raises its head again. I can't tell you why some images gained more views than others (the milk bottle one above was strangely popular, maybe as an example of boring photography).
6) Creating your own presentation archive. I did a presentation recently using only images from my own Flickr set. It was interesting how I could put them to different uses, which I hadn't intended when I took them. This one I probably knew I would use in an OER talk:
But I didn't really have the changing nature of higher ed in mind when I took this:
7) It's the whole that counts. Individual photos are usually not up to much, but as I got past 200 I knew I'd have to finish it, just to have the set. This is not unlike running or studying. Then the overall set becomes a mildly interesting record of a year.
8) A little cheating is ok. Well, I'm not going to be kicked off the course am I? So I used one photo that my wife took:
And on a couple of occasions I took two photos in one day and used them across two. I'm sorry. Note: I'm not saying a little cheating is ok in other realms, here I'm only cheating myself, and only a little bit.
9) The best camera is the one you have with you. I started carrying my Olympus E-450 with me a lot, but even so many of my photos are done with the iPhone because that's what I had when I was out.
10) There is a relationship with formal learning. I like these semi-structured autonomous tasks. They provide a structure and commitment to doing something you are interested in. I've argued elsewhere (and in my forthcoming book) that higher ed shouldn't see itself as being in competition with informal learning. I think exploring and being open to these synergies will be a good model for higher education to follow.
That's it. Here's the photoset in all its glorious banality: