February 14, 2013
Dusk at Cape Cod

the constant search

shut·ter·bug [shuht-er-buhg] noun (Informal) an amateur photographer, especially one who is greatly devoted to the hobby

I recently embarked on an endeavor called Project 365. Though it sounds like some kind of secret UFO operation, it actually involves taking a photograph every day for a year (hence the 365). These photos are then posted on a website where others of a like mind have done the same. The aforementioned others are from across the nation and around the world. They, like me, are shutterbugs.

I’m not sure how this idea sounds to anyone not enthralled by photography, but since I am, I dove right in when my sister introduced me to this project. Taking a photo a day may sound simple, but that’s not necessarily the case. I, for one, would not be content with just any photo. It has to have some merit, either aesthetically or because of some meaningful connection to my life that particular day. This can be challenging. I had not been in the habit of taking my camera everywhere I go. This actually has turned out to be a beneficial practice, though, for so often over the years I have thought to myself, “Wow, that would be a great picture.” Except I had no camera. Now I do.

And what are the subjects of these photographs? Anything and everything. Whatever might catch my eye at any odd moment. The everyday world (as opposed to the Vacation World where most photography seems to take place) is full of seemingly mundane sights that are interesting and beautiful in their own right with a virtually infinite combination of shapes, colors, and textures. Light and shadow can transform something simple into the sublime. Through the lens of a camera, one often really sees rather than merely looks.

vineyard, Oregon

light and shadow

Photographs have been part of my life as far back as I can remember. I recall with great fondness the “snapshots” of the 1950’s. Even as a child I was fascinated by those black and white images on the small square prints with the serrated edges. I still have albums filled with these, a chronicle of my sister and I growing up: birthday parties, Christmases and Halloweens, visiting relatives, and family travel.

My first experience taking pictures took place during a Boy Scout trip to Stewart Air Force Base. I had apparently proven my trustworthiness to use the old Brownie to take some snapshots of my own. I was thrilled. Having only one bit of parental advice (“keep the sun at your back”), I charged into this world of photography with great gusto but less than ideal results. No matter; this budding hobby soon turned into a lifelong passion.

one of my first photos, Boy Scout buddies at Stewart AFB

one of my first photos, Boy Scout buddies at Stewart AFB

Over the ensuing years, my equipment changed, but only very gradually, partly at the mercy of a very restricted budget and partly because of a reluctance on my part to forge into the technological unknown (an aspect those who know me well are familiar with). I used a simple Kodak “box” camera at first, then graduated to an Instamatic. This Instamatic served me well all the way into my early twenties. It was the camera I brought with me to record my incredible Peace Corps experience in the Philippines. Here, though, I gained my first exposure to the 35mm cameras used by some of my older colleagues, and I knew this must be in my future so startlingly better were their results. When I returned to the states, I acquired my Minolta SLR, my companion for the next three decades. I joined the digital era only when an accident claimed the Minolta, and I now am firmly ensconced.

an Instamatic shot from the Philippines

an Instamatic shot from the Philippines

The many albums and even greater number of plastic boxes containing thousands of photographs and slides from these years attest to my enthusiasm. These have been joined by over twenty-two thousand digital images burdening my computer’s hard drive. They are a remembrance of our wonderful travels. They have captured memories of weddings and friends old and new and those who are no longer with us. These are moments of our lives frozen in time, and they have become essential possessions, one of the first things most people would try to save in the event of a fire or other disaster.

How to explain this seemingly irrational obsession? It is somewhat like what my wife and I do at the beach. Each time we go — and that is quite often — we walk miles along the sand searching for shells. Our collection is large and consists of shells of all sizes, shapes, colors, and condition (yes, stored in the basement near the photographs and slides). They are from shorelines from Cape Cod to Captiva. But the next time we’re at the beach, wherever it may be, we will look again. Why? The never-ending search for the Perfect Shell.

So it is with photography. As good as a photo may be, there is always that possibility for an even better one. And is there such a thing as a Perfect Photo (or Shell)? Probably not, but this desire to find one lies so deep within our nature that it can never be satisfied. So for as long as hope exists, we shutterbugs will be out there with our cameras, focused on the world around us, trying to capture that elusive image that will shake our souls and still our hearts.

a simple beauty of nature

the simple beauty of nature




  1. Lewis Jenkins sent me a link to “Faith”–which he related to so strongly, and then I found this, which I relate to strongly! I’ve never counted the number of photos on my hard drives but after every trip my wife and I take, I come back with upwards of 2,000. I whittle them down but end up saving many that, deep down, I know no one but me will ever glimpse. But that’s okay. I’m sure the total is in the tens of thousands, like yours.
    I’ve enjoyed reading your stuff.
    Mark Wieting

    • Thank you for checking out my site. Lewis is one terrific human being, and I’m glad he connected to “Faith.”

      Yes, photography is in my blood. Have you tried Project 365? It’s both fun and a challenge (plus I’ve gotten to “meet” so many like-minded shutterbugs from around the world).

      I justify keeping all of the photos I do even if FOR the very fact that I am the only one who gets joy out of them! (And, no, my wife does not concur!)

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