By Guest Blogger Ryan Brady-Toomey

I love photography. I love it. Seriously. I love it so much that I often get too caught up in keeping up on my contact’s photostreams, participating in group discussions, and finding new photographs that wow me. In doing all of this, I sometimes would let my own photography fall to the wayside. I would not go out to take photos as often, I would say that the weather was bad, or tell myself I could not think of what I wanted to photograph. I was starting to get lazy.

So after being on flickr for more than a year, I decided it was time to get serious.

I thought about what I could do to motivate myself. I wanted to grow in my own personal skill and satisfaction of my abilities as a photographer. I needed structure, so in December, I started to ponder doing a 365 project. With all of the different 365 projects out there…where to start? Anyone who has been on flickr for any amount of time has run across someone doing a 365 project. The premise is simple: take one photo a day for a whole year. But what to take that photo of? Some people will take a self portrait every day, but I know I am not that pretty, so that was out. Some people take a photo of just anything. I liked the openness of “anything,” but I knew I would fall into the trap of getting lazy again. Some people take a photo that pertains to a theme every day. At the end of the year, not only do they have 365 photos to look back on, but a cohesive body of work. A contact of mine on flickr, Walter Ezell, is a professional food photographer that truly loves what he does for a living. At that time, he was in the late stages of his 365 project: 365 Breakfasts. He took a fantastic photo of his breakfast every single day for a year. He would make new dishes and discuss the recipe, or he would take a photo of his breakfast at a restaurant or wherever he was, and you could tell he had a blast doing it! His passion inspired me to do a project with his amount of drive and gusto.
I needed a theme.

So when I started to think about what theme could keep me going for a whole year, I thought about several aspects: what would satisfy me, what would help me to learn and discover new things about myself, my art, and the subject of my theme? Then it hit me: I always want to show others the beauty that surrounds me every single day. I believe that you do not have to travel to a distant country or an exotic locale to find beauty – its right outside your front door if you are looking for it. So there I had it, I wanted to show everyone my little corner of the world. I did not want to leave myself an out to get lazy or miss a photo, so I gave myself a guideline: every photo had to be within 365 steps of my apartment. I would never have an excuse that my subject is not available, its always right outside my door!

So on New Year’s Day, I stepped outside into the snow with some trepidation and knew that this was the beginning of something special. I began counting my steps, and realized that maybe 365 days was not enough. But every day since then, I have revealed another small scene from my neighborhood to flickr, and I feel like I am growing. I knew I wanted to push myself, to try new things, to attempt different shots, to know my camera by feel, to further explore this art that has so utterly fascinated me. Since starting, I have come across so many things it is amazing that they are all so close to my home ( and some inside of it! ) : antique cameras, cats, train tracks, fire hydrants, signs, shopping carts, star trails and color… yes, color, even in the dead of winter! I have become bolder, attempting street photography like I have never before. I have become more observant, noticing things that no one else sees. And I have become more grateful, for the fact that all of this I get to see whenever I want.

I never knew just how large of a distance 365 steps was, nor how small. I am constantly seeing things just beyond my range, and have to remind myself that that is someone else’s photo, someone else’s story to tell, and mine is right here, under my feet.

Ryan Brady-Toomey is a hometown photographer from Cleveland, Ohio.  Ryan is a self-proclaimed “Olympus Fanboy,” dedicated to showing his the world Ohio at its best.  Follow him on Twitter and Flickr.