Well, here we are. My 30 day experiment with using only my Panasonic GF1 and its 20mm f/1.7 lens is done. And what have we learned, class?

[caption id="attachment_246" align="alignnone" width="442" caption="Cheers!"]Cheers[/caption]

Let's start with the original goals:

Limiting my gear will force me to find pictures I normally overlook... Hmmm... maybe. Many of these images were not incredibly difficult to find, and part of that had to do with the time I had each day to make them. Early in the experiment, I was certainly motivated to work on this goal, but I discovered that motivating myself to shoot every single day was challenging. I found myself struggling a bit, even after only a week. But there were some where I really did have to work to find them. "Stained Sunset" is a good example, I think, of where I pushed past my usual inclination for a sunset shot and tried something different; something I may have overlooked had I not given myself that extra motivation.

I want to feel more confident about my photographic chops, so I can relax and pay attention to what I want to say photographically about my [upcoming] experience [in Italy]... The encouragement and criticism I've received during this experiment has been terrific.  Everyone who has commented on the experiment as a whole and on the individual images has been very thoughtful and supportive. Several folks liked a picture or two, some gave helpful comments and criticism, and a couple even said they thought they were inspired to give it a shot themselves. That was music to my ears and has been a real confidence booster.

Also, by making sure I was focused and my time with a subject was "quality time," I also gained some confidence in my ability to find an image that I might not have been able to before. However, I didn't really get a big boost in my confidence in my photographic craft. Yeah, I broke through the "photograph a complete stranger" barrier, (see above) but I don't think my craft has improved as much as I had hoped.

Undercut the high expectations I may set for the Italy trip... I dunno. I still plan to shoot like Steve McCurry and create that iconic image for the next cover of National Geographic, and I fully expect David and Jeffrey to pull my game up to that level. (Got that, guys?)

Okay, not really. I do still have a fairly high set of expectations that I'm not sure I could have toned down with this experiment, but I did get something out of it that I think will help. Having limited time to get an image on some days made me really take advantage of the time I had. I think that focus will carry over to the Italy workshop, and I'll be a little more confident that I'll eventually find the image I'm looking for and recognize it when it appears.

So, I think I've managed to learn a little about each of the original goals I set for the experiment. But here's the biggest thing I learned:

Shoot every day I mentioned this after the first week, but I have a lot of respect for anyone who does this well day in and day out. For me, usually the biggest issue was motivation. I'd had a long day at work, or I had other obligations that took time away from shooting and I was sorely tempted some days to blow it off. Shooting as a hobby removes that pressure. You shoot when you want to and not when you don't.

But when you're forced to do it every day, even if it's only for a month, you pick up some focus and self discipline that you didn't have before. It's a kind of focused practice that I think leads to mastery. Sure, a month isn't nearly enough time to master anything, but this is only the second day since I finished the experiment and I find myself looking for images a lot more than I used to. It's become a habit and I love that.

Some of you are probably thinking, "Well, duh. You have to practice at things to get better. That's obvious." But what's not obvious—or at least wasn't to me—is how that habit feels and how much I miss not doing it already. After this past month, I will certainly be shooting more often and with more purpose. Maybe every day, maybe not. But I really want to and for me, that's the best thing to come of this experiment.

Maybe you should give it a try. What are you doing to make photography a habit in your life?