Friday, April 9, 2010

10 Great Photography Projects – The Assortment or Grab Bag List

This is the last article in the series of 10 great photography projects. This final article is not so much a project but a list of challenges that can be project-like if approached with the intent of learning about photography, skills and the art of seeing.

Photography should be a life long passion of constant learning and exploration. If you are continually doing the same types if photo styles such just walking around and capturing interesting images then your learning opportunities quickly diminish.

With the previous articles I hope that you may have found a challenge or interest that you might choose in the hopes of pursuing something new. If not I hope this list may find more interest with you.

The key to growth is just to keep doing what you are doing and at the same time to always have opportunity (challenges) for growth.

I have several photography projects underway this year, first and foremost is SoFoMoBo that kicks off in June. Challenging but definitely rewarding.

Next, and this project derives itself from sitting too long in a spot (backyard patio) and getting strange ideas, is about the scenery around you. Just over the hedge are 4 birch trees that always seem to get my attention. I have decided to do a year long study of those 4 birch trees in all light, seasonal weather and other climatic changes. All the same in framing but each at a different time. Then select 12, not necessarily monthly, photos to convey a time story of these trees.

Taken with the setting sun hitting the left face only

This image, viewed on the computer, may not seem more than a bunch of fine squiggly lines. The final image (12,000x9,000 pixels) is a composite of many more detailed images such as the photo below shows. The section is from the birch tree just right of centre and going up the left wavy branch to where the branches start. When printed full size, if I ever decide to make this set, they would be approx 4 ft by 3 ft'. This is a very good size to observe all the fine details.

I will also be looking into a collaborative photo book production, not with photos but the written word. This one may slip into next year.

A List of Ideas

Tell a Story in 10 or 'X' number of photos
If its true that a photo is worth a 1,000 words then 10 photos should make a story, at the very least a short story.

With only 10 or any number photos, but ideally the number should be decided before you start, develop a story that viewers can take away by just observing the set of images. No titles or any descriptions to give the thread away. Ask viewers to describe, in a sentence or two, their thoughts or feelings they have about the set of photos.

Web – Blog Project Contests
The web is full of many interesting nooks and crannies and in some of these corners there are great opportunities to challenge yourself and even measure your skills against others. They are not prefect but each site seems to have its own preferred tastes.
DPChallenge has about a dozen challenges a month. Some are free and some are closed to paying members.

Fred Miranda runs both weekly and monthly challenges.

Digital Photography School (DPS) while not only being a great provider of photography related information also runs numerous challenges and weekend projects.

Epic Edits by Brian Auer is another wonderful resource blog has run challenges.

Life and Learning through the Lens by Darwin Wiggett has run several photo contests and takes the time to display daily on blog the entries with a photographer's description.

PhotographyBB runs monthly assignments as well as providing and in-depth monthly e-magazine. has 4-week themes and monthly challenges.

I spent an hour photographing a potted Hydrangea plant with a zoom and a macro lens. In this image, I like the full range of tones from blue through to magenta and how they seem to be gently floating.

Several Images of macro Hydrangea plants were combined into Photoshop and by adjusting the blend mode of layers and sometimes inverting the colours...very unique patterns emerge.
Collage and overlays

If you have the use of digital photo-editing tools with layer capabilities, such as Photoshop or GIMP, then try combining or blending the layers together to create new composite or collages. You can blend texture into areas or even add new sections from other images. It's easy and fun with no preset rules. Just the imagination and time to play.

Slide Show to Music
In some ways, this is similar to the "tell a story in 10 photos" but with this version, the goal is to link a series of images to a musical score or song. There should be some harmony (a pun) between the photos chosen and the music.

Why not try some video compilations. As a photographer we, through many techniques, try to convey a sense of motion, action or drama from a still image. Not always easy.

Find a video recording device, preferably portable and create video sequences. Intersperse stills with video clips.

If you are primarily a colour photographer, then for a period of time only shoot Black and White images. This is not the same as taking a colour image and converting to B&W but where you choose a scene or subject beforehand because of its B&W characteristics.

B&W, because there is no colour information being presented to the viewer, is even more about the compositional elements such as lines, curves, tones, negative spaces and all those other good design decisions.

Purposely photographing in this manner will help you better focus and compose images with those design decisions in mind. Colours, while wonderful in their own right, can bias your views on what makes a good subject and can cause you to miss those other important elements.

One again I hope that some of you will have found and idea or variation on a theme in this series that you want to pursue. I find that when it comes to learning projects at least artistic ones that there is really no right and wrong with outcomes. It should be more like you have a sandbox (a frame) and a rake (texture) and just playtime. Who cares how it looks.

Niels Henriksen

For about a month I have been without Photoshop program. The older CS3 version was not migrateble to Windows 7 and I didn't want to buy CS4 since CS5 was due to be out in a short while. I was able to confirm that the CS4 64-bit version worked well but the trial period has been over for a while and I just sit and wait patiently. Since all files are in NEF, its a problem to get a converter. I did try Ufraw that is supposed to integrate with GIMP. But had driver problems.


Anita Jesse said...

You come up with the greatest ideas. The only negative is that you sometimes make me feel lazy. I want to tackle all of them!

nielsp said...

Thanks Jesse:
As long as you get out (or inside) to photograph regularly then your doing just fine.
I try a limit, not the ideas but, the actual projects I undertake within a year. There always seems to be so much to explore that its easy to start something new and unfortunately not all of mine get finished.

By deciding to start a few photography projects a year it helps me focus on getting to completion, which not always my strong suit in shooting images.

Its somewhat easy to get good images randomly here and there but how to get good sets of images. Now that is where more creativity comes in.

Niels Henriksen


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