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How do you get to be a better photographer? Shoot. Shoot a lot. But as Edward Crim will tell you, volume is only half the story.

Having spent decades in photography and the past six years as a full-time pro, Crim has fired the shutter millions of times. “But any creative person can get stuck in a rut,” says the 54-year-old.

So Crim decided to do something about it: He gave himself a 365-day assignment. His subject: St. Louis, MO’s Forest Park, the city’s 1,293-acre epicenter of nature, culture, and the arts, which isn’t far from Crim’s home. His project: Shoot in the park every day of the year, starting January 1, 2009.

“I’d taken engagement and wedding photos in the park many times over the years,” he says. “But I’d never really seen the owls, muskrats, and other wildlife, and this project has helped me see the familiar in a new way.”

Think it’s just another whimsical “photo-a-day” project? Hardly. For one thing, Crim set up a website to showcase his photos and chronicle his efforts (www.forestpark365.com). For another, Forest Park is huge-dwarfing New York City’s Central Park by nearly a square mile.

I talked with Crim 75 days into the shooting, and “effort” is the operative word. “It has spun into a whole lot more time than I thought it would,” he confesses. “There have been times I’ve been out in the park an hour before midnight.”

Typically, Crim spends two to three hours a day in the park shooting anywhere from 170 to 300 images, pulling from his arsenal of Canon EOS gear (1Ds, 1D Mark II, 5D, and 30D). Each evening, he devotes another couple hours to editing and posting about 30 images.

“Dust is the only thing I edit out of a photo,” he says. “I prefer to present things the way I see them. I’m trying to show people what’s really there.”
What’s there?

Classical architecture. The building shown in the photo at left is the St. Louis Art Museum. “It was the only permanent building built for the 1904 World’s Fair: ‘Meet me in St. Louis, Louis, meet me at the fair,'” Crim points out. “It was designed by New York architect Cass Gilbert, who designed the Minnesota and West Virginia State Capitols, and the U.S. Supreme Court building.”

Animals. In addition to the 700 species in the St. Louis Zoo, Crim’s encountered diving kingfishers, giant snapping turtles, and mating ducks. “I have new respect for wildlife photographers,” he laughs. “Try getting a small nervous bird to sit still for you. I’d rather photograph a bad kid.”

And, of course, people. “I’ve been out on a couple of 10-degree days,” he says, “and there are always people in the park.”

Joggers, anglers, rugby players, a man who’s fascinated by great horned owls…”I just walk up and say ‘Hey, that looks interesting. Can I take your picture?’ And nobody has said no.”

But still, how can someone who feeds his family working with a camera devote at least five hours every single day to an income-free creative project?

“It is very demanding,” admits Crim, who on the evening we spoke had an assignment at a corporate event. “But I’m one of those guys who works well under a deadline.

“For me, the creation of these images and meeting all of these people is enough.”

Is it making you a better photographer?

“Definitely. And it has put me in an awfully good mood.”

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