There has been a lot of excitement this week as I did something completely different! Why should you be interested? Because I want to encourage you as a nervous camera user to do the same!
At the start of this year, I encouraged you all to grow your skills and take part in a photo challenge to push beyond your comfort zone. I just entered my own first serious challenge and I want to share my experience so that you can see that not every event is beyond beginners who want to try expanding their creative photography skills.
Here’s what I did and discovered about taking on your own challenge.
- We have to create opportunities for our creativity.
Wellington Photographic Society’s Challenge
Wellington’s Photographic Society (WPS) announced it was holding a challenge (with prizes!) Thankfully this was not a photo a day challenge but it did have a time limit, and photos had to be in black and white.
There would be several themes to choose from so, of course, my interest was piqued.
What would photographers have to do? My first task was to check the WPS requirements so I was prepared and didn’t go rushing off like a crazy person.
- Photographers could use any camera – compact, smartphone DSLR and film camera.
- Strict Time Limit of 10 hours. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- You could work alone. No need to register or show off your camera to anyone (which was great for me I feel intimidated by some of the fancy devices people carry around).
- Camera users had 10 hours to think about, execute and submit five photographs on the themes chosen by WPS.
- The four themes were released online at 10 a.m.
Themes for the Challenge
- People in the Community – Show us the heart of the community and what makes it special.
- At the Coast – It is more than beaches. Show us what is happening at a beach near you.
- Highlight the Shadows – Make the most of black and white using light and shade.
- Man-Made – A broad theme: anything that has been made by man.
What would you have made of the themes? Would one jump out at you?
Deciding How to Work with A Challenge
My first task was to review the opportunities and plan how I could interpret the themes as a novice photographer. I sat down and thought – which themes resonated with me? There is no point struggling with a theme you don’t feel something for in your heart.
An appealing theme has to trigger a response and ‘Man-Made’ gave me a lot of photo challenge ideas. There are two sculptures by local artist Guy Ngan within walking distance and I knew I had my starting point.
The gleaming chrome of ‘Elevating Worms’ has a smooth and spare look I hoped would be effective in black and white. A different version of this photograph was submitted for the competition.
A Surprise Photo Opportunity
Street photography, also sometimes called candid photography, is photography conducted for art or enquiry that features unmediated chance encounters and random incidents within public places.Wikipedia
I am not a ‘street photographer’ and don’t usually feel comfortable taking pictures of strangers in the street, especially to take part in a photo challenge but I found myself with an unexpected opportunity to do some street photography. There was a crowd gathered near the Event Centre in Lower Hutt. Shouts, cheers and the clatter of things being dropped drew me over. What was going on?
It turned out there were young skateboarders more than happy to show off their moves and I took a bit of time to adjust my settings. Then, I practised my street photography for a while.
Capturing Shapes and Texture
A thought came to mind as I took the bus towards my next destination, Petone. I wanted to combine the work of man and nature and knew there was a tall granite sculpture, created by Louise Purvis, in Petone. The sculpture marks the popular Te Puna Wai Ora artesian water fountain.
A portion of the well’s flow cascades down the tall sculpture and surface tension of the water makes the granite almost shimmer. The photograph below catches the sheen of the flowing water as it slides down the stone.
This picture looks cool and dramatic but I am guessing not many of you will have seen the sculpture so, I am including a photograph of the whole of the sculpture. It is taller than the buildings around it and is a beacon of rest and refreshment.
The weather had kept dry and I was grateful I had made the decision to travel by bus and not by my motorbike. I popped everything else in a rucksack and just carried my camera.
Revising Your Challenge Images
I looked forward to reviewing my black and white photos on my computer when I got home. I had taken nearly 300 photos. Some immediately stood out as likely candidates and I put these in a folder and slowly narrowed my pictures down to five favourites.
I did some adjustment in Affinity Photo and submitted them to WPS by email. Then breathed a sigh of relief and collapsed in a tired but happy heap.
- TIP: The review stage is important in any challenge or contest so don’t rush submitting your images. The review gives you a chance to see what worked and what didn’t.
Post-production work allows you, the photographer, to adjust images where you did not get settings right and make small (or large) adjustments. There is nothing wrong in adjusting a photograph afterwards. Professional do it, you can do it too.
The final step for any challenge entrant is checking the images and making sure they are the correct size before submitting them to the judges. Always check to see if your image has a maximum size requirement.
I hope you learned a few tips from my dash around the challenge. Thankfully most challenges don’t have such a tight deadline. It was fun and I am sure there will be some amazing winners when the results are announced next week.
Do you have any questions about joining a challenge? Let me know in the comments.