After Hours: a photo a day for 1,462 days
Bruin staffer Jonathan Wilson has taken at least one photo every day for more than four years to improve his photography skills and make art every day. This gallery is just a small sample of the more than 1,400 images on his website, jawsnap.net
, along with excerpts of his captions. This photo by Ayumi Pantell; all others by Wilson.
“Tonight I made homemade pesto without a food processor. I won't be doing that again for a long time ... It turned out great but it was just too much work for too little return. Here you can see all the raw ingredients before they got chopped up.”
"I did it!" Wilson wrote to celebrate the final photo of his four-year project. "My tradition has been to get a photo at the beach for my last shot of that year. I wanted to get a little more creative this year, and I thought this would be a fitting concept."
This sunset photo capped year three of the project: "Underneath the [Santa Monica] pier I found lovely golden light streaming through the spray tossed up by the waves, and I knew I had some good shots. You'll be happy to know I earned this photo - waves got me more than once."
"A day or two ago I noticed that if I left a little bit of water in the sink and turned on the garbage disposal, awesome standing waves appeared. That shimmering, magical pattern was just begging to become a daily photo."
"This is Brody, he just turned 1."
This cupcake for Wilson's wife's birthday "wasn't pink. It was chocolate creme pie and was various shades of brown, but I thought that pink would make a more compelling photo."
"Here's my wife, holding a smile while she gets blown back and forth near the ocean ... her face is correctly exposed, even though there are several places that are blown out, and of course the background is all but featureless. "
"This photo is simply a lit candle on top of a running Roomba vacuum."
Wilson has an eye for details that are easy to miss: "[This is] the banister of some stairs at Powell Library at UCLA. UCLA's mascot is the Bruin, and you can see bear faces on each of the columns."
In UCLA's botanical gardens, "[this] squirrel blended perfectly with the brown and tan tones. I tempted him/her towards the camera by pretending I had food and took a bunch of shots. I hope you don't think I'm mean by only pretending to have food. UCLA squirrels are among the fattest around."
"I caught this little leaf-shaped bug crawling on the screen door."
"Not sure what tree this is, but it's just starting to bloom. The building in the background is Kerckhoff Hall at UCLA and I took the shot as I was walking back to my office. ... I played with the color and luminance in Lightroom and ended up adding some vignetting to bring more focus to the blossoms."
Bunche Hall at UCLA: "I liked how this reflective building looked with the tree ... [and] how the dirty streaks on some of the windows showed up."
"This barcode-like, seizure-inducing excuse for carpet is what I get to look at every day. If you 'unfocus' your eyes, you can see an image of the Bruin bear*... Why is there a traffic cone in our office? [I don't know], but what I do know is that this carpet is off the hizzle.
*No, not really."
This photo is the result of "riding my bike to the farmers market, buying too much food, and trying to get it all home safely. It actually wasn't a big deal at all, but I did get a few looks when I was trying to pack it all up. I sure do like being able to eat my daily photos."
"Isn't working late great? If I worked a normal 8 hour day, I totally wouldn't have noticed this lovely shaft of light illuminating that rock in UCLA's Inverted Fountain. Totally worth it... sure...
Contrast, color balance and clarity adjustments in Lightroom added to the look, but the main thing is the slow shutter speed."
Bruins will recognize this UCLA chair, Wilson wrote. "You might also remember the awful sound that they make when you drag them across the ground, which you have to do because HOLY C**P THEY ARE HEAVY. ... I've wanted to get a photo of them for a while because they cast interesting shadows."
This sunset photo, "Watch Out for Waves," was taken at Huntington Beach.
"While pondering what sort of desperation shot to take on this Sunday of Super Bowls, it hit me that if I cut two almonds in half and put the pointy ends back to back, it'd look like a football! So... uh... yeah. Here's the amazing result of that eureka moment..."
In this installment of "After Hours," a series about faculty and staff with fascinating, all-consuming hobbies or side jobs, meet UCLA staffer Jonathan Wilson. The 30-year-old is a dedicated amateur photographer who challenged himself to an extreme task on “leap day,” Feb. 29, 2008: to take one inspired photo every day for four years until the next leap day in 2012. He completed his 1,462-day odyssey last week on Feb. 29.
Jonathan Wilson. Photo by Ayumi Pantell.
: Jonathan Wilson
Day job: Tech support in UCLA’s Young Research Library, where he’s a research technology and support coordinator.
: The web community 365project.org
, where tens of thousands of people already take one photo a day for a year, usually with the same goal that Wilson had: to challenge and improve his photography skills.
With a twist: “I had decided to do a daily photo, and leap day was coming up. A lot of people do the whole ‘365 project,’ and I thought it would make it unique to challenge myself to four years of the project, from leap day to leap day. It gives you a reason to go out and take a photo every day and make it fresh and unique. My intent was to create art, not simply upload a photo to a website.”
The rules: “Each photo has to be different and unique for that day. I try incredibly hard not to repeat myself.” While some days he chose his one image from hundreds of photos, other days he ran low on inspiration, but always maintained his minimum one-photo-every-day rule, and took every shot himself — no stand-ins allowed. “I really took one every single day. The one blemish was in year two, when I was really sick and it just didn’t happen.” If he knows he’ll be away from the computer for a while, Wilson makes sure to continue taking at least one photo every day to upload later. “Posting everyday is a soft rule. Taking the daily photo is the hard rule.”
"Pre Pesto," by Jonathan Wilson.
: “I'm a firm believer that the gear isn't that important — it's knowing how to use it — but my current cameras are a Nikon D80, Canon S95 and my iPhone 4S. For the rest of my gear, it’s kind of cardboard-and-a-random-piece-of-cloth most of the time. For the white backgrounds, I have a few pieces of poster board and foam-core board. A lot of the photos with black backgrounds are just against a piece of suede cloth. It’s always the same scrap piece because I only have one. And I have a single flash that does the lighting. So to get certain types of photos, I’ve had to get pretty creative. A good example would be the set-up
for the knife blade with the pesto ingredients
Keeping it simple: “A lot of people buy more photo equipment than they need, but if you force yourself to experiment and get creative, it becomes obvious what gear is worth paying for, and what you can do with a piece of cardboard and some tape.”
"Here's to Four Years," by Jonathan Wilson.
: “I really like the one I took on the last day of the project — the two wine glasses on the beach
at sunset. I made a sunset-on-the-beach photo a tradition at the end of every year of the project. I added the wine glasses this year to make it special, sort of toasting the end of the project, and I thought it had a very California feel to it. Another favorite is the one from the end of year three, the sunset under the Santa Monica pier
. That turned out far better than I could have imagined. I also really like the photo of the knife with the pesto ingredients
The local angle
: “A lot of the photos are from UCLA,” such as this squirrel
, this familiar chair
, this “seizure-inducing excuse for carpet
,” and this vaulted ceiling
. “But I try really hard to make each photo unique, so even if I’m taking a picture of a building I’ve photographed before, I try to make it different somehow. Of course, after four years, it’s getting harder and harder to remember what I’ve already done.”
The “desperation” shot
"Almond Ball," by Jonathan Wilson.
: “The 365 community has come up with the term ‘desperation photo,' which is when you realize that you haven’t taken any photos all day, and you’re sitting at home, and you have to think of something really quickly. Surprisingly, sometimes the desperation photos turn out even better than the photos you plan.” One of Wilson’s desperation shots includes this Super Bowl-inspired almond-football
, made by cutting two almonds in half, discarding the rounded ends and uniting just the angled, football-shaped points.
The never-ending project: Even with the leap day-to-leap day project completed, Wilson said, “It’s become so much of a habit to take a photo every day, I have no plans to stop. I really enjoy it.”
Growing desperation: “I’ve already taken a picture of every interesting thing in my house: knickknacks, things my grandfather bought when he was young. So it makes the desperation shot a lot harder now because there’s not nearly as much to choose from.”
"Windy Wife," by Jonathan Wilson.
: “My wife, Ann Wilson
, is wonderfully supportive. There are times when I definitely take too many photos, like if we’re taking a walk and I keep stopping all the time. She has lots of opportunities to get annoyed, but she doesn’t. She also helps me set up some photos, like when we worked together on the leap day photo for 2012
Not in it for the money:
“People can buy photos from my website, jawsnap.net
, so I have made a few dollars from people buying prints. A restaurant somewhere — Atlanta, I think — needed a photo to be part of a big wall mural and they found one on my website
and bought the full-resolution download. But I wouldn’t call myself a professional — I’ve spent far more money than I’ve earned. My wife came up with a term I like: I’m an extreme hobbyist.”