A reporter tries an art project, and learns about creativity

This post isn’t strictly about journalism, but bear with me, I’ll get there.

I learned through my friend Jenny about a neat project called Fun A Day. It’s geared toward creative types and the idea is to make art each and every day through the month of January.

A lot of us have the blahs in January, and it’s a motivator to get off your duff and do something creative. I loved the idea right away.

While my day job is as a reporter, one of my hobbies is photography. I’m sort of the family photographer, always photographing the little kids, the special occasions. Occasionally, I’ll do some nature photography, shooting pictures while out on hikes or out kayaking. (Photography while kayaking is a fun adventure! Try it some time … just not with an expensive camera the first time.)

When I shoot for work, I’m usually taking pictures of people in hats (watermen, biologists, cops, environmentalists) bending over looking at some sort of seafood (crabs, oysters, fish).

When I set out to take a picture each day in January, I knew I would not have my usual subjects handy. I don’t see my family every day, I don’t have time to visit parks during the week. And besides, it gets dark really early in January.

But more days than not, I found interesting, cool things to photograph. Some of my pictures were total duds. But I had a few I really liked.

I also kind of on a whim decided to make all of my pictures black-and-white. I usually shoot in color. I learned that some things look way cooler in black and white. Other times, things that look awesome in color just don’t translate well into black and white.

This is my first photo, a shoeprint in dried mud in my neighborhood:

Heart-shaped shoeprint, photo by multimedia journalist Pamela Wood.

For this one, I learned cold weather is not my friend. It was one of the few frigid, windy days we had in January (in the 20s) and I got windburn on my right wrist from shooting:

Rose bush, photo by multimedia journalist Pamela Wood.

This one is my favorite from the  month, a tree branch that I kind of silhouetted as the sun set:

Tree branch, photo by multimedia journalist Pamela Wood.

As I noted, the sun sets really early in January. That made outdoor pictures a challenge for me. Here’s a nighttime picture that I managed to pull off. One of the few  glimpses of snow we had this month:

Snow at night, photo by multimedia journalist Pamela Wood.

I spotted these chairs near where I parked my car in Annapolis one day. If I hadn’t been doing Fun A Day, I would have noticed them, but kept walking. Instead, I took some pictures:

Chairs, photo by multimedia journalist Pamela Wood.

This one turned out cool and moody:

Tree, photo by multimedia journalist Pamela Wood.

I made this one with my iPhone. A reminder of the saying that the best camera is the one that you’ve got in your hands:

Snow, photo by multimedia journalist Pamela Wood.

Sometimes the picture you get isn’t the one you wanted. The creeks and rivers had an awesome fog on them one morning, but by the time I was able to get out of the newsroom on my lunch break, the fog was gone. But I liked how this picture turned out, with storm clouds moving out from over the Severn River:

Severn River, photo by multimedia journalist Pamela Wood.

Here’s one of the few with a person in it, my cousin Billy during a wrestling tournament:

Wrestling, photo by multimedia journalist Pamela Wood.

And last but not least, I couldn’t go a month without shooting downtown Annapolis, could I? I saved City Dock for my last day:

Annapolis City Dock, photo by multimedia journalist Pamela Wood.

So those are my favorite pictures. But I promised that I’d make this about journalism, right? This is a reporter’s blog after all.

I think there are lessons I learned in this art project that I can apply to being a reporter.

Reporters aren’t exactly creative types. We aren’t fiction writers — we can’t make up our characters or the situations they’re in for our stories.

But we can think differently. We can be always on the lookout for new or interesting things.

I found that when I was doing Fun A Day, I always had my eyes on. By that, I mean that I didn’t just rush from Point A to Point B as I went to the newsroom and interviews and ran errands and did the 8 million things we all do. As I was out and about, I tried to keep my eyes open, to look for interesting things.

Sometimes I took detours. One day, on my way to the State House, I took a lap around the grounds before I went in. It took just a few minutes, but I saw and photographed interesting things I had never noticed before.

That’s what I should be doing as a journalist — peeking around corners, going down a different hallway. You never know what interesting photo — or story — you might find.

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