Looking Back: 2016 in Review

Personal, Photography, Writing

This hasn’t been an easy post to write. At this point, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve started, and stopped, and then started again.

2016 was awful, in so many ways. Starting with Bowie, and ending with the US election, this has been a terrible year for so many of us. And I really haven’t wanted to do any kind of recap—I’m too focussed on what comes next.

But if I look at the year from a purely creative standpoint, and if I think about what my plans for this year were, I didn’t do too bad.

Going into 2016, I had two major goals: to create more than I consume, and to consume with intention.

I’ll tackle the second one first, since it’s a little more straightforward. I wanted to make it a point to read and watch and listen to media that inspires me, rather than just stuff that fills the time. And I’ve been trying to do that. I’m still not quite where I want to be, but I’ve been watching more movies and reading better books than I did in 2015.

It’s a process, and I’m going to keep it up.

The first goal—creating more than I consume—is a little trickier to measure.

I mean, yeah: I track my time. Strictly speaking, I know that I spent more time consuming media than creating it—especially in the first half of the year. But “time spent” doesn’t really feel like the best way to judge my progress on this particular goal, even though it’s the only way I can think of to quantify it.

This feels like a goal that’s better judged on quality, rather than quantity.

As far as photography goes, this year was… ok. Not great. Despite all my good intentions, I never did get back on track with my 52-Week Photo Challenge. And while I am a little annoyed with myself for that, I’m also kind of ok with it. Toward the end of the year, it was starting to cause more stress than it was really worth: the motivation wasn’t there, my schedule wasn’t cooperating with some of the prompts, and my perfectionist tendencies were starting to get the better of me.

I’m glad I started it, and I really like some of the photos I got out of it, but I also don’t really regret letting it go when I needed to. And I have a photo project in mind for next year that will take some of the pressure off but still manage to give me a bit of a challenge.

That particular project aside, I’m feeling pretty good about my photography this year. I didn’t take quite as many pictures as I would have liked (or as many as I probably should have), but I’m happy with the pictures I took this year, which is a nice change.

The big change this year was writing.

When I started 2016, I didn’t plan to write a word of fiction. I was pretty sure I’d left that behind for good, even though the ideas refused to leave me alone.

And now, somehow, I’ve got an almost-complete first draft of a novel that I don’t hate.

This is huge.

I mean… is it great? No. It’s a first draft. But I’ve already figured out how to fix the biggest problems, and I’m really looking forward to the next draft. I still don’t quite know what I’m going to do with it when I’m done, but I don’t remember the last time I stuck with a writing project for this long (the vague plans started in spring, the serious outlining started in October, and I’ve put actual words on the page nearly every day since November 1) without deciding I hated everything about it, including the very concept of writing.

And I’ve got at least two more story ideas that I want to start writing right now.

For me, this goal was about finding a balance between creation and consumption—spending less time scrolling through Pinterest and Twitter, and more time doing work I could be proud of.

And I think I managed that. I’m still not quite where I want to be, but I’m getting there.

2016 Weekly Photo Challenge: "39. Sound" | Reghan Skerry

Week #39: ‘Sound’ | Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

Photography

2016 Weekly Photo Challenge: "39. Sound" | Reghan Skerry

About a year ago, when I was making the list of prompts for this project, I intentionally added a few things that were… difficult. Prompts that don’t lend themselves to a visual medium like photography.

Sometimes, I’ve really liked tackling those particular challenges, and I’ve been able to come up with interpretations that I’m happy with. Sometimes… I’m not so sure.

I do like the light in this picture, though. (And, yes: I’m going through another black & white phase. I’ll probably be here for a while.)

2016 Weekly Photo Challenge: "36. Freelensing" | Reghan Skerry

Week #36: ‘Freelensing’ | Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

Photography

2016 Weekly Photo Challenge: "36. Freelensing" | Reghan Skerry

I’m back!

Sort of. I’m still really busy with NaNoWriMo (so busy), and I’m still processing my emotions from the US election (I sort of feel like I’m going to have something to say about that, but… I’m not sure. I might not be up to an entire post on the subject). But I’m slowly figuring out how to balance writing with everything else I want to do, and I figure it’s time to get back to work on this “weekly” project.

From a technical standpoint, this was a tricky one. I was able to manage it (the only post-processing I did here was the black and white conversion), but my camera is a little fussy about this particular technique; it took me a couple of days to actually get a shot I was happy with. (And there’s no way I’d be able to do it for anything other than a still life.)

Still, it was a fun experiment, and one I plan to revisit at some point.

2016 Weekly Photo Challenge: "31. Street Photography" | Reghan Skerry

Week #31: ‘Street Photography’ | Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

Photography

When I was making up the list of prompts, I made a point of adding some that would challenge me. Some were technical tricks I wanted to learn, some were designed to get me out of my comfort zone with photography.

This is one of the latter. I love street photography, but it’s not something I’m very good at. When I’m actually out taking pictures, I usually go out of my way to keep people out of the shot.

I’m not sure how effective it actually was in breaking me out of my comfort zone. I mean… I took the picture, but that’s about it. It’s ok, but not great—I could’ve done better if I was willing to try a few more shots, but I just wanted to take the stupid picture so I could check it off my list.

2016 Weekly Photo Challenge: "34. Abstract" | Reghan Skerry

Week #34: ‘Abstract’ | Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

Photography

There’s something about abstract photography that I’ve always really liked. In a medium that lends itself to exact reproduction (and has a history of serious debates over how important that realism is or is not) abstraction feels slightly subversive. If you want to create an abstract photo, you have to experiment, and you have to step away from the “rules” of photography.

And that’s always fun.

2016 Weekly Photo Challenge: "38. Detail" | Reghan Skerry

Week #38: ‘Detail’ | Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

Photography

2016 Weekly Photo Challenge: "38. Detail" | Reghan Skerry

When I post my responses to these prompts, I like to have something to say—whether it’s about the process itself, the technical challenges that I faced when making the picture, or if it’s just something about what was going on that day. But sometimes… there isn’t really that much to say. It’s a leaf. I think it’s pretty.

(I’m still working on my backlog of missed prompts. Responses won’t be in anything resembling order until I’m caught up.)

2016 Weekly Photo Challenge: "26. Motion" | Reghan Skerry

Week #26: ‘Motion’ | Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

Photography

2016 Weekly Photo Challenge: "26. Motion" | Reghan Skerry

Still chipping away at the weekly photo backlog (it would be easier if I wasn’t adding another prompt to that list every week, but… well). This is the oldest of my missed deadlines, originally due way back in June.

The photo, on the other hand, was taken during the Canadian Sprint Canoe Kayak Championships, in September.

Better late than never. 🙂

2016 Weekly Photo Challenge: "33. Depth of Field" | Reghan Skerry

Weekly Photo Challenge 2016 | Week #33: ‘Depth of Field’

Photography

2016 Weekly Photo Challenge: "33. Depth of Field" | Reghan Skerry

Still working my way through all the weekly photos that didn’t get done on time, either because of computer woes, or because of creative woes. This prompt, in particular, really shouldn’t have taken this long—“Depth of Field” might be the simplest prompt on the list, especially given my own habits as a photographer (if anything, I tend to rely too heavily on a shallow depth of field. Always have).

But it’s done now, and that’s what matters. More soon.

2016 Weekly Photo Challenge: "32. Hard Light" | Reghan Skerry

Weekly Photo Challenge 2016 | Week #32: ‘Hard Light’

Photography

2016 Weekly Photo Challenge: "32. Hard Light" | Reghan Skerry

It’s taken a while, but I’m finally starting to get back on track with my weekly photo project.

Having this hanging over my head, and not making any progress at all has been an added bit of stress that I really didn’t need, but I’d rather take care of it this way – slowly chipping away at the project and getting it done, rather than just giving up. (Tempting as that might have been on a few occasions.)

Things are going to be a little chaotic for a while yet: I’ve taken some photos, but not in any particular order as far as the project goes, and I’m still figuring out my workflow on the new machine, which means that I won’t be editing them in any sort of order, either.

But I’m getting back to work, and that’s what counts.