I’m the kind of person who likes a narrower focus on my photography. Photo projects keep me engaged and often lead to bigger things, like my Japanese Garden project that lead to two books, numerous print sales, gallery exhibitions, speaking engagements, interviews, workshops, and more. When I started photographing Japanese gardens, I had no idea any of that was going to happen. My friend Christian Heeb has continually worked photo projects on the side while also taking travel and landscape images. His Native American images brought him fame in Europe, and recently his Dreamscape and Pax Americana images have led to books, gallery shows, print sales, and content for social media. Currently he is dressing up like Uncle Sam and posing in different locales as he travels the country.

Projects can also assist a conservation effort. Oregon photographer June Drake had a project of photographing the waterfalls around Silver Falls in my state of Oregon back in the 1930s. His hope was that the Federal Government might preserve the land as a National Park, but instead it is now a preserved State Park. Conservation efforts are good reasons for a photo project, and they may help preserve a piece of land nearby or help preserve threatened animal or plant species. The project could be as small as a neighborhood wetland or as large as the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (which is again threatened), but all contribute to a good cause and a worthy project.

I find that projects also help to keep me out of a rut. Sometimes when I’m feeling uninspired, I can go back to my project, put my nose to the grindstone, and begin photographing something that’s meaningful to me and that gives me energy. I find it’s the best medicine to keep me motivated. Maybe I’ll head out to the badlands somewhere and photograph rocks, or maybe it’s off to discover another ghost town or place on the fringe of decay as I work on two of my current projects.

I think projects help make me a better photographer too. Projects force me to photograph under difficult conditions and make me think creatively by focusing on concepts for my work. All that rubs off on the rest of my photography.

Recently I had a project for a book on Oregon with the Photo Cascadia team and publisher Timber Press. Before deadline, I was able to travel the state and fill in some of the holes I had in my Oregon portfolio and this October the book Oregon My Oregon: Land of Natural Wonders will be published.

At the end of your career, when you look back on all the projects you’ve accomplished you’ll find they helped to build a coherent, diverse body of work that gives you something to cherish. These projects can evolve over months, years, or decades, and you’ll know when you’ve said all you can say on each project, and when as all things do, it will come to an end.

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