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Inspiration

Starting a 365 Project With the Fujifilm X Series

· 27.January.2022

It’s been a few years coming but I have finally started a 365 project. I am currently 27 days in and let me tell you: it isn’t as easy as I thought it might be.

As a full-time professional documentary photographer, I am a big believer in personal projects. Although my client projects pay the bills, those clients were often first drawn to me because of personal projects I have undertaken in the past. I usually aim to complete at least one or two a year, as they serve as a great showcase of my creative abilities and style. This year I decided to embark on probably my most ambitious to date: a 365 project using my Fujifilm X Series cameras.

In case you have been living under a photographic rock for the past few years, the goal of a 365 project is to capture at least one photograph a day for an entire year, presenting them as a single body of work. I have been thinking of embarking on this project since early 2021 but given the nature of a year-long project, I had this physiological block of starting it in the middle of the year (I know, ridiculous, right?). So, I waited until January 1st this year to begin my project, which I have called Mauritius {365}.

X100V (f/3.2, 1/2000 sec, ISO 160)

My idea is to combine all the photographs I capture through this project into a book at the end of the year to document a year in the life of Mauritius, the tiny Indian Ocean island where I am based. Most of my work is based on creating bespoke books for my clients and I liked the idea of using the skills I have developed to create a book of my own.

Although I have been considering this project for a while, I didn’t actually put much planning into it at all. For example, rather than preparing a spectacular photograph for day one, I simply headed out on New Year’s Day and photographed a fisherman I came across as I wandered the coastline less than a kilometre from my home. In many respects, this natural, photograph-what-you-see approach is precisely what I want for this project. I don’t want it to be contrived; I want to capture the beautifully unscripted moments of everyday life on this 65km long island in the middle of the ocean. On the other hand, if I had planned a little more, I would have been better prepared for the two main challenges I have encountered with my 365 project so far: opportunity and variety.

X100V + WCL-X100 II (f/7.1, 25 sec, ISO 160)

As might be expected, a lack of opportunity to capture photographs is one of the biggest challenges I have faced with this project. Although I spend around half of my time on the road for assignments, during which time there are plenty of opportunities to create new images, the rest is spent in my design studio, editing photographs and writing the stories that accompany them. So, for every week on assignment, I will have a week in the studio, which presents little or no opportunities for new images. Consequently, this project has forced me to schedule the time to get out and shoot my photograph for the day. In many respects, this is not such a bad thing. As I am sure many other photographers can relate, it is too easy to allow the day to fly by when you are stuck in the editing studio, locked away from the world.

On the other hand, it isn’t a case of just taking 15 minutes out of my day to take a photograph. By the time I head out, find my composition, capture my shot, and get back to the studio, I can easily have been away from my desk for an hour or more. I have to create opportunities to capture my 365 project photographs when I am not out on assignment anyway. Over a year, that time will add up, requiring a degree of commitment I am not sure is for everyone. In my case, while this is a personal project, I will be turning it into a retail book, which I hope will prove popular. Consequently, the project has a specific goal that I am working towards: helping me stay committed.

X100V (f/3.6, 1/1000 sec, ISO 160)

This leads nicely to the second issue I have encountered with this project: variety. I realised pretty early on that while creating 365 photographs in a single year would be relatively easy, capturing enough variety to ensure the body of work, when viewed together, is engaging and interesting throughout was much more challenging. Presenting 365 photographs of the same scene day after after would quickly become monotonous to all but the most enthusiastic viewer. Just a couple of weeks into my project I have found that I am having to venture further and further out of my way to find new and varied scenes to photograph. Goodness knows how far I will have to travel for the last couple of weeks of the project!

So, how will I overcome these challenges? That is where my Fujifilm X Series cameras are coming to the rescue. By the very nature of a project intended to capture everyday moments of life, I quickly realised the best approach was to incorporate the project into my daily life. I was already in the habit of carrying my beloved Fujifilm X100V pretty much everywhere I go, which means it is always on hand if I spot a composition while I am out and about anyway.

Still, there were plenty of times when previously I wouldn’t have had a dedicated camera with me, such as when I was out with my mountain bike. I am a keen mountain biker and usually head out three or four times a week to explore the hundreds of kilometres of trails all over the island. It is incredible how often I discovered fabulous scenes that I have wouldn’t have witnessed if I were travelling by car or other, faster, means of transport. So, since the start of the year, I have been taking my Fujifilm X-T30 paired with the tiny XF27mmF2.8 pancake lens on my rides. I must admit, I have had the 27mm sitting on my shelf, gathering dust for some time. I never quite saw where it fitted into my workflow before now but for my 365 project it has proved invaluable. Together, this X-T30 and 27mm combination is small enough to fit in a saddlebag on my bike yet powerful enough to produce professional quality images in the middle of a field, far from anywhere. As a result, I have had the opportunity to capture interesting and varied photographs while doing an activity I would have been doing anyway.

X100V (f/2.0, 1/125 sec, ISO 250)

So, what advice would I offer anyone thinking of starting their own 365 project (admittedly based only on 27 days of my own project)? It would be as follows:

• Create a specific purpose to your endeavour, rather than simply doing it for the sake of it.
• Find a way to incorporate photography into your daily life.
• Don’t settle for just capturing any image. If you are going to commit to a year of photography, go the extra mile (sometimes literally) to capture photographs you will be proud of once your project is complete.

Of course, I am not even 10% into my project, so my thoughts might well change a few months from now. So, I would love to hear the thoughts of anyone else who has taken on a 365 project of their own. Mine is still very much a journey I am on, so I would be very keen to read about the experiences of others. Right now, though, I am enjoying the challenges this project is presenting, and I think the final book at the end of it will be worth all the effort. If you would like to keep track of my adventures through the year, you can follow my Mauritius {365} blog here.

X100V with WCL-X100 II (f/16, 8 sec, ISO 160)

Paul Choy

Paul Choy is a professional documentary travel photographer and Fujifilm X-Photographer, driven by the desire to tell the stories of the people he meets and the places he visits through the photographs he captures.

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