In praise of discipline

Someone asked me today whether I still own a copy of Strunk and White. (Always will.)

In one of my famous free-associations, I got to thinking about the small books that have had the biggest influence on me over the years.

One of these is Chased by the Light, by photographer Jim Brandenburg. It’s a visual record of a challenge he set for himself 11 years ago, when he decided to shoot just one frame every day for 90 days.

When I first saw Jim’s extraordinary book, I was transfixed by the poetry of his photos. They perfectly captured the desolate beauty of northern Minnesota.

I still love the photos. But over the years, my appreciation for this book has transcended its indelible images.

First and foremost, Jim’s beautiful book has taught me about the necessity—and virtue—of maintaining a daily discipline. Whether it’s yoga, photography, writing, or math, our practice can grow only with careful and patient attention. And that requires discipline.

Blogging has been a great way of getting back into the discipline of writing—something, anything—every day.

But what about photography? I already take photos almost every day. Lots of photos.

I pondered Jim’s experiment and wondered whether I might shoot differently if I knew I had only one frame.

So that will be my experiment, and my discipline, for the coming week: I will shoot only one frame per day.* I’ll let you know how it turns out.

*Unless I happen upon something truly amazing that absolutely must be documented for future generations, like Bigfoot riding the Loch Ness Monster, or aliens landing on the White House lawn.

2 comments

  1. Discipline and quality over quantity. It’s similar to what it says in the Elements of Style–no excess words. Similarly, no excess frames. It would force you to focus on what is the absolute most beautiful thing you will see that day, and then capture it when it is just perfect. Great idea.

    • Great observation about the parallel with The Elements of Style!

      I already shot my one frame for today: A co-worker made himself some “bling” out of paper clips. I don’t know that it’s the absolute most beautiful thing I’ll see today, but it sure made me laugh.

      Thanks for your comment!

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