A Recurring Challenge: Making Art Every Single Day

by Curtis Cunningham /
Curtis Cunningham's picture
Nov 05, 2013 / 0 comments

On January 1, 2011, I began a project that continues to this day: to make at least one interesting photograph each day and then post it online. This project of mine has taken me to some amazing places over the past (almost) 3 years. No matter where I go or what I find myself doing, I am always on the lookout for that which catches my eye. Some days it's easier than others, and some days it's a real struggle to get out, or at least up from my chair, and make the effort to be creative in some way.

So rather than share the hundreds and hundreds of photos I've made since New Year's Day 2011, I'll start by sharing my 10 favourite photos from last month (October, 2013). All of them were made in and around the Smithers, BC area, with the exception being the one for October 13 which I made at my parent's house in Telkwa.


October 2: All Curled Up

On this particular day, I was walking by some leaves on the ground and noticed this particular branch. Over the years I've developed the taste for isolating my subject against whatever background is available. I find that the simpler images speak to me more than a scene filled with lots of things to look at. Here, I liked how the one leaf was curling in on itself, and decided to make that the focal point of my photograph. In processing the image, while the color version was nice, I decided to make a toned version that took away any information that distracted the eye away from the curly leaf. Another thing I like about this image is the bokeh in the background, made from the other leaves that had already fallen to the ground.


All curled up


October 3: Two Lights

I was waiting in the orthodontist's office with my son for his appointment (having my camera with me on situations like this definitely helps to pass the time). What caught my eye was some track lighting on the roof above my chair. When I processed the image, I tried a few different things, but ended up inverting the colours and then adjusting the levels until only the light from the sockets was visible. It was a good example of the importance of taking time to work on your images. It's good to have an idea of what you want to do with the image, but also to be open to trying different things than you'd normally do.

I like this image because of how the lights are "floating" in space. The negative space really highlights the actual lights themselves.


Two lights


October 5: Pointillism

This image is an example of the benefits of going back to the same spot over and over again to do your photography. No matter when I go, I always come back with something interesting. At the end of the runway of the airport in Smithers is a little rise in the ground that gives me a bit of elevation to see over some of the brush in the foreground. With a subject like Hudson Bay Mountain, there's no end to the inspiration I can find. The reason I enjoy going back to this spot on a regular basis is that each time I'm there, while the subject of the photography is the same, the environment surrounding said subject is always different. Sometimes it's beautifully sunny out, and sometimes I almost get rained on. There are bugs and clouds to contend with, but no matter what happens, everything ends up going into the mix to help me produce an accurate reflection of whatever amount of time I spend on that little hill.

What I like about this image is how the clouds above the mountain make like an arrowhead to point down to the mountain peaks that point up to the sky.




October 6: Delicacy

While this image is very similar to the one I shot on October 2, in this instance I decided to let the colour shine when processing. In this case (as in the October 2 image), it was important for me to use a shallow depth of field to get a nice soft background. I had my 24-105 f/4 lens with me and so I shot it at f/4 to get as much separation as possible between the subject and the background.

For this image, I am particularly pleased with the details I managed to bring out in the surface of the orange leaves. As well, the background colours complement the subject nicely.




October 8: River Rock

This image required a little bit of effort in order to get to the spot I shot it from. In Telkwa, BC (which is about 10 minutes or so outside of Smithers on your way to Prince George), there is a train bridge that crosses the Telkwa River just before it merges with the Bulkley River. If you walk down the tracks about 1/2 a kilometer or so, you can walk out onto one relatively dry section of the riverbed and cross to what is normally an island in the middle of the river. Looking out into the river itself, you'll see this rock only because of the relatively low water level the river now has. Setting up my tripod, and using my 10-stop Neutral Density filter, I made a long exposure of the rushing water around the rock.

Images like this are always a lot of fun to make because there's something fascinating about the contrast of the movement of water against anything that is stationary.  Also, long exposures do magical things to the surface of any body of water.


River Rock


October 10: Mirrored

I had walked to the post office to check the mail and on the way back to my home, I noticed the reflection of these tires in some water. I experimented with a few different perspectives but ended up with this one as my favourite. I like that there's almost no physical ground visible within the frame. The clarity of the reflection is nice too. I've read that the mark of a good image of a reflection is that you can't tell which end is really up.




October 13: Moonstrike

After Thanksgiving dinner at my parents' house, I was out on the back deck enjoying a respite from the noise of all my nieces and nephews. The moon shining through the trees looked really nice, but I didn't have my tripod with me to make a crisp shot in the dark. Frustrated with my hand-held attempts at making  a sharp image, I fell back on another technique I use in similar situations - that technique being to use the inherent motion of hand-holding a camera in the dark to my advantage. So I made several exposures where I did a vertical pan of the scene before me.

In every instance but one, I did a straight pan, either up and down or on an angle. I chose this image as my favourite because as I panned the camera down, I gave it a slight rotation. I really like the sense of motion it added to the image.





October 18: Apple

Another favourite exercise of mine is to be creative with ordinary household items. My wife has a really nice (and sharp) apple corer, and so with the help of a poor apple that I had to sacrifice for the sake of art, I went downstairs to my studio. I had previously placed a sheet of paper over some glass which I had arranged above one of my studio lights, and on that paper I arranged the apple that I had sliced up.

My favourite thing about this image is how the light from below really illuminates the details within the apple slices.


Apple, deconstructed


October 19: Huckin’ Eh

Several weeks ago I was up at a race that one of our local bike shops in town was running on one of the trails on Hudson Bay Mountain. Ever since that day, I had wanted to go back and walk the trail by myself, with the intent of capturing the beauty of the scenery that surrounded the trail.

I enjoy this photo very much because I used a pan/zoom technique to create the strong sense of motion. I was standing still on the trail looking into the trees when I shot it, but it truly looks like I'm hurtling down the course at a tremendously unsafe rate of speed.

p.s. The title of the photo refers to the actual name of the mountain bike trail I walked on.


Huckin' Eh


October 24: Backyard Firespinning

We have an old tire rim in our backyard that we use as a fire pit. On this night, my family and I (along with Susie, our dog) roasted wieners over the fire and spent an hour or so enjoying the warmth that provided some comfort against the chill of the night.

One of the things that my son enjoys helping me out with is being a participant in my photography experiments - and firespinning is one of his favourite ways to do that. He had a piece of old 2x2 that he waved around in the air for a few seconds that I captured with my camera.

For me, images like this are a reminder of the enjoyment I get from involving those around me in my art. Who knows if my son will ultimately follow in my artistic footsteps? That's not up to me. But what is important is that he has fun in the process of discovering what he ultimately will do.


Backyard firespinning


You can go back and view all of October’s photos in the albums I've set up for each year's daily photos here (https://plus.google.com/104100725654421261442/photos?partnerid=gplp0). Each year's photos are in separate albums labelled 2011 Daily Photos, 2012 Daily Photos, and 2013 Daily Photos.

Thanks for taking the time to consider some of what I find interesting as I strive to turn ordinary life into extraordinary art. I'm very interested in hearing your feedback on any of the photos you like or have questions about.


Curtis Cunningham, the Northern BC Editor for Wandering Educators, grew up around photographs and fondly remembers spending time with his maternal grandfather looking through his slides. Cameras always seemed to be a part of his life, a fact that can be attested to by the volumes of photograph albums his mother has.

Photography became more serious when his mom bought him a Canon Rebel SLR to take with him when he went to China in 1994 to teach English. After classes he enjoyed walking for hours; photographing all the while. It was good preparation for his current love of exploration.

He started his photography business in 2004 in Abbotsford, BC, and then relocated it to Smithers, BC when he and his family moved there in 2007. He does a wide range of photography, from commercial jobs and passports to family portraits and sport. He loves shooting from a helicopter when the opportunity presents itself, and is especially passionate about the abstract and artistic.

He is a firm believer in the notion that there is beauty everywhere if one takes the time to stop and look for it. The tagline for his business expresses that succinctly: turning ordinary life into extraordinary art.

Visit his website at www.photistry.com.