Lessons From a Photo Challenge

Photo challenges come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors. Some are strictly personal as when one of us decides to challenge ourself to photograph all the waterfalls in the county or to learn how to photograph the night sky, or to photograph exclusively with a certain lens for a photoshoot. There’s no shortage of challenges we can create for ourselves.

January 2nd effort.

As 2019 was winding down I was bemoaning the fact that I had not spent as much time behind my camera and tripod in 2019 as I would have liked. So, I decided to challenge myself to get out more, to do more photography in 2020 than I did in 2019. I initially thought I would try to photograph something every day between Christmas and Easter. I had done that a few years ago so I knew I could do it if I put my mind to it.

Then it occurred to me that perhaps I could turn this into a group effort and enlist a few others to join me in this challenge. That thought morphed into what we eventually launched as the Hundred Day Photo Challenge, to kick off the new year. So, I mentioned it in an email to my list as well as on Facebook. Before New Year’s arrived it was suggested that those participating in the challenge might be willing to commit to posting one of each day’s “challenge images” on Instagram and Facebook. To date, I can only be certain that two friends are actually participating. I hope they are finding it as helpful to their photography as I am.

New Year’s Day

What have I learned? Well, the challenge is approaching the 1/3-point and my list is growing. Here are a few lessons I’ve appreciated.

  1. Even though it’s difficult to maintain the daily pace, I can do it. Even though there have been many reasons, some actually pretty solid excuses not to take camera in hand, a little determination can make it happen.
  2. Getting back to the same venues repeatedly can lead to better photographs because we begin to see things in subsequent visits that we missed earlier.
  3. There’s always a composition to be created, even when my mood interferes or the sun doesn’t cooperate, or last night’s promising snowfall quickly disappears from the trees, or thick clouds give the landscape a dull gray appearance.
  4. It isn’t how many photos I take that’s important. I’ve become more concerned with creating images that relate what I’m feeling, what it is in front of me that’s important to me.
  5. Taking time today or tonight to think about where I want to go tomorrow and why gives a big boost to the success of my ventures.
  6. Taking inventory of equipment the night before is also helpful. Often, as I get ready to go out with my gear I’m racing to fit the photoshoot into the day and I can easily leave something important behind. During this shoot, believe it or not, I’ve arrived at my venue of choice only to discover that I left my tripod in the house, or only have one memory card in my camera, or I’ve forgotten to bring my favorite gloves.
  7. Even when I have forgotten one tool or another, I can still get my photo. Like the day I drove 30 minutes to photograph on Chittenango Creek only to discover that I had left my tripod and it forced me to remember how the many ways I could steady my camera, even with my 70-200 mm mounted, without a tripod. I even discovered that creative photos of flowing water can be created that include some camera movement.
  8. I’ve been reminded, too, not to expect the images to be finished as it comes out of the camera. Virtually every photo I’ve composed thus far in this challenge has initially looked flat, even drab. That is until I had a few minutes to “massage it” a little in Lightroom Classic.
  9. The big lesson, I think, is that all thoughtful shooting begets better photography. Maybe a tiny, tiny bit at a time, but as the days and weeks pass, I think I am more able to “see” creative, meaningful, expressive photos and therefore despite less than ideal weather conditions, despite a cramped schedule I become more and more able to create images I’m happy with.

Isn’t that the objective of any challenge?

A few photos from my Hundred Day Photo Challenge: