What I learned from a year of daily Instagram posting

White Sands Sunlight Streams

What I learned from a year of daily Instagram posting

What goal would really be complete without some self-reflection on what was actually accomplished and learned? I wrote a bit about the genesis for this website in my welcome story, and about my 2018 goal of posting one photo per day to Instagram. Now, I’m done! So what did I learn?

Probably my biggest takeaway was this - Photography is difficult. It takes a lot of time and effort. It’s easy to look at someone online you admire and wish you could take beautiful photos, write eloquent essays, create immersive videos, etc. like them. But what you don’t see is the immense effort they’re likely putting in.

The story behind the photo above really illustrates the point.

Usually when I get my work schedule for the month, I start doing some light planning for fun things to do in the various cities I will be visiting. Schedules and plans can change, but it’s nice to have some ideas ahead of time. This particular month, I had a short stay of around 18 hours in El Paso. I had been before, but don’t get to visit often. I knew about White Sands and had been looking for the chance to see it again. I made a plan to pick up a rental car after I landed and to spend the afternoon wandering around the dunes. On the way to El Paso, however, I started to come down with some kind of flu-like symptoms. I debated scrapping the trip and spending the day in bed, but wanting to make the most of my short time, I decided to press on. When I arrived it was overcast and the weather forecast called for rain - not ideal. I went to the hotel, dropped off my overnight bag, and packed up my camera gear. I grabbed a quick breakfast and got on the highway to White Sands. It’s about an hour and a half drive out of town and down a desert highway to get to the dunes. I had barely made it out of the city when I felt my breakfast trying to make an untimely exit from my body. The flu-like symptoms were worsening. I pulled over on the highway and threw up. Feeling a little better, I decided to keep driving.

When I arrived at White Sands it was completely overcast and just a gloomy day in general. Even in less than ideal weather, White Sands is still a beautiful place. I found a spot to park, strapped on my camera backpack and started off for a walk across the dunes. The sand here is white gypsum, it feels cool even on a hot day, and is softer feeling than most beach sand. Walking away from the road I quickly realized that it would be easy to get lost. I walked a straight line across the dunes, towards the mountains in the distance to avoid getting lost.

Then, a few hours later, the clouds parted. In the span of a few seconds, the gloomy day transformed into magic. Streams of light cascaded down onto the dunes, illuminating them and creating a wonderful layered effect. Turning around towards the sun I saw a mother and her son also walking the dunes. In the distance they looked like some kind of exotic desert-dwelling people. I raised my camera and framed up what would be one of my favorite photos of 2018. As the sun set lower, the clouds dissipated more and I stayed in the park until after dusk walking around and taking photos.

It’s easy to look back on this photo with the desert-dwellers and think that I got lucky. In a sense, I did, and many times good photographs are taken out of luck. But I think a closer examination of the circumstances reveals all of the actual work - the rental car, the long drive, pushing through the sickness, the lost sleep, the patience with the weather. And this is what I mean when I say that photography is difficult. Good, quality photos don’t just come to you. You have to get out and find them. There may be elements of luck involved too, but they take effort. For this, I’m happy that I committed to posting a photo a day in 2018. It forced me to get out and experience my surroundings, to do more and see more while taking all of those photos.

If you followed along in 2018, thank you! I really appreciate the people who told me they enjoyed seeing my photos throughout the year. Even though I am done posting daily, I’ll still be out there photographing in 2019, hopefully more than ever. Look for more stories soon, and in the meantime, follow me for regular updates, and please consider subscribing below to receive periodic emails with my latest stories.

Casey Allen Signature