If you’re Erik Madsen, the answer is all of the above. Since Dec. 31, the Brentwood resident has taken a photo a day, chronicling life around him from the spectacular to the surreal; the mundane to the magnificent – a 365-day commitment that has taught the amateur photographer to look at life through a unique set of lenses.
“I never thought when I started this that it would become so addicting,” said Madsen, a behavior specialist with the Contra Costa County Office of Education. “It’s just one photo a day, but it has really conditioned me to look for and see things that you wouldn’t normally see. I learn something new every day.”
Madsen was inspired to take the daily photo plunge from a cousin who has been snapping a shot a day for nearly five years. It was his commitment that spurred Madsen – an amateur photographer – to take up the gauntlet.
“The first picture I took was of my wife’s eye,” said Madsen. “And from there I just started taking photos of anything that caught my eye. It’s just one photo a day, but some days it’s hard. It takes a lot of dedication.”
Since that first day, Madsen’s dedication has inspired him to find the beauty in such gifts as a solitary drop of water, a perfectly popped kernel of corn and the innocence of a child’s smile.
While countless websites exhibit the photo-a-day concept, complete with subject suggestions and technique tips, Madsen – who posts his work on his online site every day – prefers to let inspiration strike on its own.
And for more than 280 days, he’s hit the target in a variety of venues, including East County’s majestic landscapes, Dorothy’s ruby slippers, food, faces and bugs – lots of bugs.
“Insects are my son’s favorite pictures so I have a lot of those,” laughed Madsen. “I started shooting them for him and now it’s one of my favorite things to photograph.”
Madsen’s day job with the county takes him to school sites throughout East County where he works with the special education population. As his students have come to admire the growing wall of photographs in his office at Heritage High School, Madsen has begun to think about ways to transfer his love of photography into the classroom.
“I probably have a couple of hundred prints on my wall, and the students will often come in and look at them and point and smile at them,” said Madsen. “They usually gravitate toward the bright colors and the bugs, the spiders and flies and wasps. And I started thinking that doing something even as simple as making black and white printouts of the photos for them to color might be something they’d enjoy.”
Madsen has at least one ardent fan in friend and colleague Jessica Isherwood. “He’s a wonderful inspiration to local residents and showcases how beautiful our area really is,” wrote Isherwood in an e-mail to The Press. “He has so many beautiful photos.”
“It’s funny,” said Madsen. “I’ve got a little following, and sometimes if I don’t get my picture up right away I’ll get a message from someone asking me where the photo of the day is. It definitely keeps me on my toes.”
As Madsen approaches his 365th photo, he admits that the initial project will likely be expanded. “I’ll probably just keep going,” he said. “This project has kept my hands on the camera and kept my technique fresh. At first it’s hard to shoot something once a day and then it becomes routine, like going to the gym. Some days are harder than others, but once you start doing it, you find you really need it. I’m definitely hooked.”
To view Madsen’s photo-a-day gallery, log onto http://on.fb.me/T5OfRS.