Day 100: I am grateful for completing this challenge, for family through thick and thin, for the friends who spurred me on, for the kindness of a neighbor where I’m staying to let me sit in her yard and tap into her WiFi for a few minutes while she’s at work, for the healthcare workers who are caring for elderly parents in ways we can’t, for the rain that held off long enough for me to take dogs for a walk, for writers who I’ve met through our common passions who are now friends, for nature preserves, for museums, for quiet afternoons curled up with a book, for road trips, for opportunities to speak for those who can’t, for ……….
A couple years ago, a friend challenged me to join her in participating in a happiness challenge. She was going through some life changes, and was attempting to focus on the things that made her happy rather than the negativity and pessimism surrounding her. Every day, whether she felt like it or not, she took a picture of something that made her happy and posted it on Facebook with a little blurb explaining the picture and why it made her happy. She had so much fun, and realized her attitude was so much better, that she did it twice. I enjoyed watching the pictures and reading her notes, and could see my friend’s outlook on life improve. At the time I didn’t have a smart-phone capable of taking and posting pictures, and it just seemed like too much of a hassle, so I declined her invitation.
During that same time period, I was becoming more and more interested in photography. I read books, watched hours of how-to videos, and followed some fabulous photography blogs and photographers. Due to migraine-related issues with light and camera flashes, I became intrigued with natural light portraiture, golden hour, and nature photography. A few friends are brilliant professional photographers, and a number of friends are excellent amateur photographers. Many of these friends were doing a year-long photography challenge and encouraged me to join in.
Coincidentally, or not, during that same period in time, I was feeling convicted that although I was careful to share praises with my requests during prayer times, I was slacking in my overall attitude of gratitude. Dealing with invisible disabilities, season of life changes, and the career and living changes we had recently chosen, I found myself a bit overwhelmed with what was going wrong and what was complaint-worthy in my world. A friend from church mentioned she was starting a gratitude challenge in the new year and suggested I join in.
So many challenges, so little time…
When I got my new android I was extremely grateful to upgrade my technology, and my first thought was to start one of those challenges. But which one? The other big question I grappled with was whether or not I could realistically post every day. I don’t like starting something I know I can’t finish. Due to the chronic nature of my health, I knew I would lose the challenge within the first week. My first decision was to consider it a goal rather than a resolution. I would post on Facebook as persistently as possible until the challenge was complete. It would not be everyday, and I would be OK with that. I then realized that being grateful would lead to being happy, and for my purposes gratitude was more important than happiness. I remembered my friend who posted a daily picture of what made her happy, and decided I could combine the #100DaysOfGratitude challenge with the #365PhotoChallenge.
“In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” ~~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Today marks the posting of Day 100. Arguably I’ve been grateful more often than I have posted, but sharing my gratitude with others has been eye-opening. Most days I attempted to link being grateful with the photo subject. I shared pictures of family and friends on my personal Facebook timeline. Pictures of nature, places I visited, and writerly activities were posted on my FB author page starting about halfway through the challenge. Some sources of gratitude and their corresponding photographs made such an impression that I also shared them on Twitter. Not surprisingly, the majority of my gratitude photos have been of loved ones, nature, animals, architecture, and my most long-suffering model—Gizmo, my service dog.
All the photos I have taken for the #365PhotoChallenge were on my Android, a Samsung Note5. One of the main reasons I chose that device was the fact that it had such a powerful little camera compared to other smart-phones on the market at that time. I didn’t want to be limited to only taking pictures when I planned ahead and had a larger camera in tow, so using my phone’s camera made sense. Additionally, as I was just learning and starting out, I didn’t want to invest in a more expensive digital camera until I knew if this was a hobby I would want to further develop, and what features were most important to me. I have experimented with different lighting, functions and settings on my camera, editing, filters, portraiture, selfies, still photography, cityscapes, nature shots, and street photography.
What I learned by doing the #100DaysOfGratitude Challenge:
- I have yet to find the pattern as to why some posts received lots of love and some nothing. Subject, date or time of posting, which page I posted on, time of year??? I have no idea. It bothered me at the outset, but then I realized I was being grateful publicly because my soul required it, and I was taking and sharing pictures because I enjoyed it.
- For all I have learned about photography, light, composition, editing, and camera settings, I know there is so much more to learn.
- In life, gratitude, and photography, often the view is too broad, overwhelming, and confusing. By focusing on a smaller portion of what I see and blocking out the rest, the specific, simple, and clear image emerges.
- I definitely would like to invest in a better DSLR camera with different lenses, and perhaps take some classes, but I’m not passionate enough about it to ever be more than a hobbyist.
- A little editing and cropping in everything I do, almost always improves the finished project.
- In shooting natural light and nature photography always take the shot, even it it’s not perfect. The perfect moment may never come, and when this moment is gone, the sun and subject will have moved, and the natural expression can never be recreated. The same is true of expressing gratitude. Even though the moment might have been less than ideal, or the comment somewhat awkward, I have never regretted thanking someone, although I have many regrets for neglecting to express my gratitude before it was too late.
- People may grumble about posing for pictures, but they always love being presented with a great photo, especially if it commemorates a happy occasion.
- A few people and pets that I have photographed are no longer with us. I am beyond grateful that I was able to capture those happy moments in candid photos.
- Possibly the most important lesson I’ve learned is that quality, life-affirming, life-altering, take-your-breath-away moments of gratefulness cannot be planned or posed. I must be always aware and prepared to capture those moments.
“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.” ~~John Milton
If you have completed any of these, or similar, challenges, I would love to know what you learned from the effort. Please comment below.