When photographers get together to talk about our pictures the words “something different” are always bandied about.

It’s that “different” thing that has kept me going for so long as a photojournalist (That, plus the good fortune of working for a newspaper that is still around when so many others have left us).

I’ve talked before about how even among focused and intent observers, each of us brings something of ourselves to every picture we make - our life experiences, curiosity and our own visual vocabulary.

That “voice,” if you want to give it a name, can be nurtured and honed like other skills. I am always assigning myself exercises, like our department’s one-camera-one roll-B&W-film projects. And recently, going out of the old year and into 2022, I started making a “different” picture with my smartphone while out on my morning walk. It’s not an original idea by any means - some call it a Photo-a-Day, or 365 Project. I even did it once before, for 366 days (a leap year), but it does help keep me focused and concentrating on the world around me, even when I travel the same streets every day. Here are two of my recent favorites:

A wall that wishes it were a pole; and a visual experiment trying to take a photo of light passing through a quarter-sized hole (in a traffic cone) without looking through an SLR, composing it instead on the back of a phone with an off-center lens, as I am looking directly into a low-in-the-sky sun.

That’s something you can easily do at home yourself, the next time you are out with your camera, or phone. Think of it like a Photo 101 assignment: look for shadows; texture, complementary colors, utilize negative space, find a silhouette, patterns, or shoot one thing from five different angles (there’s that word again).

My morning walks are on my own time, but I try to bring that same effort to my job. At year’s end, on a slow night between Christmas and New Years Day, I tried looking past the holiday scene around City Hall in Philadelphia. (Those are moving cars! Not the usual reflection photo).

On New Year’s Day, the annual Mummers Parade was postponed because of the forecast for rain. So instead of watching it on TV on my day off, I was back at work when they rescheduled it, and got to cover the country’s oldest continuous folk parade. My challenge: no pictures of wenches waving their umbrellas in front of my lens. Or string bands performing with City Hall perfectly lined up behind them. I like the Mummer couple at the top of this post. Or this well turned out spectator:

This week I will be covering the 106th Pennsylvania Farm Show. I don’t know what “different” images I will make, but I know I will not photograph the 1/2 ton butter sculpture or any 4-H’ers sleeping in stalls beside their animal entries. Check here next week to see how that worked out.

Since 1998, a black-and-white photo has appeared every Monday in staff photographer Tom Gralish’s “Scene Through the Lens” photo column in The Inquirer’s local news section. Here are the most recent, in color:

» SEE MORE: Archived columns and Twenty years of a photo column