“The Photo Challenge” Was Really Challenging!

Inside the pianosm

Let me get this out of the way right up front. This challenge kicked my butt.

I could give you a half dozen or so excuses why I wasn’t able to get out to shoot some of the people and places I had planned on, and blah, blah, blah….but the fact is, I didn’t, and I wound up having to shoot right around my house, and well…I took 18 shots total—none of them good.

I felt like I should post something, so I’m posting the last shot I took (in desperation mind you), of the inside of a piano (shown above) because I knew as I was taking the other 17 shots that I didn’t have anything. However, even though I didn’t get a decent shot; I still really enjoyed the challenge.

NOTE: Here’s a link to the flickr Group I set up for anyone who participated in the challenge, where you can upload images you took during the weekend (and following the challenge rules). There are already lots of cool images up there from people who clearly did a better job than I.

The “Oh No!” Moment
I hiked over to a large pasture near my house, with these beautiful cypress trees with a perfect glassy mirror-like reflection. I got set-up to shoot (and it didn’t look nearly as good through my viewfinder as it did as I’ve driven by it a hundred times), but I took the first shot, and then immediately looked at the LCD monitor on back of my camera (which of course was turned off), and even though I was all by myself I had to laugh. How I’ve come to rely on that little monitor!

Click: 22¢ Click: 22¢ Click: 22¢
I remember back when I actually did shoot film, and how hesitant I would be to press that shutter button because each time I did I knew it cost me 22¢. I had that same feeling all over again, of making darn sure that before I took the shot, that it was composed properly, that my settings were right, and that I was really holding the camera steady (By the way, none of that helped).

Time won’t let me…..
Of course, it was the wait that got me. If I thought I really had gotten something, it would have killed me, but knowing I had pretty much blown it, it was easier waiting than I thought.

I didn’t get extra credit
Although I did set my ISO before I started (and didn’t change it, though I was highly tempted to on one occasion), I didn’t get extra credit for not post-processing, because I  had to tweak the White Balance as I had been shooting outdoors and had pre-set my White Balance to cloudy, and needless to say, the Piano wasn’t outdoors. The fact that I needed to change the White Balance was just another reminder of how much we rely on the ability to change WB on the fly with digital, any time the light changes, without having to pop in a new roll of film. I also added contrast and an edge vignette in post (Oh the shame!). Anyway, I didn’t get extra credit for no post-processing, but do I get any love for hand-holding the shot at 0.6 of a second? No? Didn’t think so.

Of Course the Real Winner From All This Is….
The children of the Springs of Hope Orphanage in Kenya. Just a few hours after I announced the challenge on Friday, I got an email from Molly Bail at the Orphanage, letting me know that she knew something was up, because all of a sudden donations were literally pouring in (she didn’t know we were doing this, so it caught her totally by surprise).

So many people really pitched with donations—-it was just amazing. Even people who couldn’t participate still donated, and that really warmed my heart. There were posts from people who went way above and beyond, and literally donated hundreds of dollars (people like my friend and fellow photographer Janine Smith who has an incredibly big heart, and reader Eric Harmon, who couldn’t shoot this weekend, but gave a big donation anyway).

I am so genuinely thankful to everyone who went that one optional step further, donated the cost of a roll of film, and helped  move the orphanage closer to self sufficiency. Your compassion never ceases to amaze me. I feel very fortunate to have you guys as my readers.

More Challenges to Come
Although we won’t be helping the Orphanage every time, I’m planning a new challenge each month, and the goal will be for us all to try new things photographically and creatively (including some techniques in Photoshop and/or Lightroom that will be new to a lot of us), and I hope you’ll share some of your ideas with me of things you’d like to see in upcoming challenges.

By the way….
Did I mention I have big news tomorrow? :-)

  1. Scott, I got out my “old” Nikon F6 film camera (thats hardly been used) and put a roll of Ektar 100 (36 esp) film in it , and yes I too went out in the yard. I also did something even wilder, I put first my Lensbaby fisheye and shot away at some flowers and then put on a 14-24 2.8 for the other half of the roll (only 33 exp).

    I then go to Walmart to find out they only pick up film 2 times per week now so I am going to drop it off on tuesday at our local photo store and get a one day develop. I will then scan it and see what I have. This was really fun as I thought I would never use that “old” F6 again. (everything closed on Monday)

    If you don’t see any thing from me on the Flickr group well……… By the way I going to donate the amount I spend on the project anyway. I know the print will be good from Mpix whatever I put on it!

    The seminar in Atlanta was awesome!! :)

    1. It’s sad that the film have almost disappeared from the market.
      I went out to get hold of Kodak Ektar 100 (36) film for this challenge. Only one store in the entire city are selling that type of film. The only problem I faced was that they didn’t have any Ektar rolls in the storedge which changed my plans to shoot with film to Digital instead :(

  2. Today I decided to carry my camera with me where ever I went. That being said I took it places I normally would never go with a camera. I took it for the 2 hr bike ride I took and while riding I saw some great Spots and was able to capture it. I am only like half way thru the (roll) so I am going to try to finish it tomorrow. I hope they turned out because if not I am heading straight back to the spots. Thanks for this challenge it really did help. Also as soon as I stop being a broke college student I will try to send some money in.

  3. Hi Scott,
    Im glad you wrote this response. I felt terrible when I looked at my images. Although the discipline of learning says to see what has gone right and to learn how not to do what you did wrong. I realized I suck at metering!!! Im gunna go and read my camera manual and have another think about how I meter. Im going to upload my dirty laundry to Flickr tonight:)
    Thanks so much for this idea it was great.

  4. Hi Scott,

    This sounded like a great challenge, but I couldn’t participate. However, I would still like to donate to the Spring Orphanage. I assume we can still do that?

    Thanks for the challenge! I look forward to the next one! Now that I’m retired, I should have a little more time on my hands … My wife has a pretty big Honey due list! :-)


      1. Hey Ken,

        Thanks for the link! I logged on and gave a donation!

        Thanks again,


  5. Hi All,
    Ive uploaded my chunky,blocky overstaturated Jpegs to the Flicker site for all concerned to mock and judge :)
    Thanks Scott for admitting that a hit rate is still a hit rate. When I was shooting film I had so much incentive to get it right first time. Thankfully I came into study right on the cusp of the full conversion of pros in my city to digital. I was lucky to experience colour darkroom printing, study sensitometry and all those fun and mind frying subjects. Its easy to get left behind with digital though. Things change so fast.

  6. First of all, great idea (and cause)!

    Secondly, “…I wound up having to shoot right around my house, and well…”

    This is a point I try to make with my high school students. Shooting in a familiar area forces you to look at the world differently. You don’t have to go to exotic locations to take great photos. (Not that I take great photos. I’m more of a graphics guy than a photographer but the kids want to learn so I’m trying to lead by example.)

    http://maclab.guhsd.net/blog/?p=6367 is about looking for shots in one’s own back yard. In looking it over just now, it’s ironic that this is part of the post:

    Credit where credit is due: If I hadn’t read Scott Kelby’s account of his trip to Tuscany yesterday, this post doesn’t happen (look through his photos). Though you’ll never see it, thanks, Scott!

  7. Scott, thanks. Thanks are mostly for reminding us this Memorial Day weekend that even though we honor our fallen brothers and sisters, we also have something to look forward to and to help out with, the orphans. I must admit that I do look forward to other ‘challenges’ and what they might pertain to.

  8. You say the orphanage won’t be involved each month. Can you toss in a reminder or, since you’ve named Wednesdays as “Guest Blog Wednesday” could you name the monthly challenge “the Springs of Hope Monthly Challenge” just to give us dunderheads a kick in the butt about such a good thing to do? If nothing else, it’ll make new readers ask what SoH is and possibly involve more and more people around the world. Thanks

  9. I loved this challenge and had a great time. I often just shoot around my own home anyway so it was fun trying to find new things to shoot or new ways to shoot them.

    hoping we did some good the Spring Hope kids!

  10. Not being able to get instant feedback was tough but waiting 24 hours for results reminded me of Christmas Eve at 10 years of age. How did I ever wait a week for slides to be returned? This exercise also reminded me of how we take technology advances for granted and, by extension, how we take many things in life for granted (particularly appropriate for Memorial Day weekend). Of course this prompted me to visit the Springs of Hope site and make a donation. You are a great salesman Scott!! The Orphanage is fortunate to have you supporting their efforts.

  11. It was really tough.. the last time I shot a roll of that 4 letter F-Word was back in Oct 2001 and the funny thing about that it was 1 week after I went to work as a rep assigned to Kodak.
    I put tape over the display and while I don’t chimp very often, I do tend to check it out for the first pic.. to look down and not see what I had shot.. well that was HARD.
    Then to post my pics on Facebook without any editing? Oh my.. (oh I took a model I had just finished shooting outdoors to do it.)
    The pics really do look good but they are not all correctly exposed.

  12. Scott, read your challenge but couldn’t really see what all the to-do was about. If you can use your optical viewfinder, you should be able to get a decent shot. The LCD screen on my Canon Power Shot A1100 is useless for composing scenes under normal outdoor light conditions and never figures in any shot that I take. I recently returned a similar camera in the same price range because all it had was the LCD screen for viewing and it became vividly clear to me what the term “point and shoot” entailed. You got what you guessed at. It’s OK if it means trying to capture a fleeting moment, but no good usually comes from such an effort.

  13. I love a challenge that is quite hard but far from impossible. Ffor me this one was perfect.

    It reminded me why I never really got into photography when I was a kid (20 years ago) and my father tried to teach me. He held a weekly lesson for me for some time but I couldn’t really grasp the different values results and since it took a few days until I could see the result I had forgotten what I did.

  14. Scott,
    what a great challenge and a great cause too. I enjoyed the challenge, but just like back in the film days, I had to shoot over two days, but I didn’t peek!

    Looking forward to the next one!

    all the best

  15. (Scott’s Photo Gallery at the top of his blog)
    I hope this post is read although it is Off Topic from your original post.

    I just purchased your “Photo recipes Live: book and video”. I love it! It is like a private class with just you and me! I thought a cool thing for you to do would be having a studio setup shot, (pulled back showing equip used) for each image up in your blog picture gallery. I try to reverse engineer them and a setup would be oh so neat.
    Just think about it??

  16. Hey Scott, just passed by to say this Photo Challenge was a really, really, reeeeeeally good idea! And I would even say that linking this with the orphanage for the first Challenge was a brilliant thing to do, very noble of you.

    I’ve been following you for some time now, just lead two of your Photowalks, and they were such good experience as well.

    It’s great that you can touch people’s heart with your ideas, and that’s so cool, because you don’t see many persons that are willing to spend some time of their busy schedule to do that. I truly see that you do this with all your heart. You’re a great person, just want to say that!

    Thanks for this first Challenge, in which I gave a good walk trough the neighborhood!

    You can see some of my pics at the Flickr group, they’re already there! If you prefer you can look directly to my Flickr Set » http://www.flickr.com/photos/joaojunqueira/sets/72157624051448597/

    Thanks again.
    Hope to hear about you soon!

    João Junqueira

  17. Hi Scott, I just wanted to say thank you. I live just north of ATL and attended the workshop last Friday. What a great day…thanks so much. A blogger friend encouraged me months ago to buy your Digital Photography boxed set and they are just so darn great. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    I never had a “need” to take photos as my mom is the family member who doesn’t so much as ride to Target without her camera. But in 2008, in the thick of an international adoption process for our son, I told my hubs that I thought I NEEDED an SLR. lol. We have traveled the world together, he and I, and I never felt I needed one until the reality of this trip…one to meet our son…was looming over me. So we bought an entry level Canon. You know, why would I need more?

    Well, we traveled to Thailand last September to meet our Joel and I’m so grateful for that little Canon. I was able to get shots that we will cherish forever. Not technically amazing, mind you, but night and day difference from a point and shoot. And now, three lenses later…a tripod {with a ball head, thank you very much}…getting my feet wet for two years with PS {albeit Elements}…and having friends ask me to photograph their children…has been such a turnaround in my thinking about photography.

    Wow, how long this is. So sorry. The point is, my eyes welled up when you simply mentioned the orphanage Friday. I mean, I knew from reading your books that I liked you…thought you were a great writer and would be nice in “real life”. But I googled the name of the orphanage last night and was just blown away. As a mom of a previous orphan, thank you. For seeing the bigger picture and for caring about “the least of these”. We were blessed with two daughters by birth and now a son has been grafted into our family from the other side of the world. It’s been an unbelievable blessing.

    Thanks again. I’m so grateful to you…

  18. So I like Scott had a similar issue with just not getting this done in a timely manner. I ended up shooting around my house outdoors. I did get reminded of a few things. One I really want to look at the LCD (the LCD was why I got back into photography as a professional) but the other thing it reminded me of is that there is a lot to shoot.

    Even though I had planned on going to a Memorial day event and was saving my shots for then (we ended up not going), beauty and light can be captured anywhere anytime. From a simple Vista, to flowers up close, to a snapple bottle that someone threw in the flowers (I ran out of film before I could shoot it, so I picked up the bottle and threw it away.)

    If I got one take away it is that I love the freedom that digital allows us to have as photographers. I thought about that .22 cents I spent every time I clicked off a shutter in the past, but it also reminded me how as a photographer you can make the mundane into art.

    Most of it probably not good from me but it spurred the creative juices so the assignment did exactly what you thought it might. Thanks for the challenge and looking forward to the next.

    1. So when I made the comment I had only taken the pictures, I hadn’t developed them. Now that I have developed them wow are they just average. We really do rely on the tools. I didn’t do any editing to mine not even a crop. I applied a camera profile of a NikonD2X II, as I do to all my photos and exported them. That was it. I would do a lot of editing on these but these were the 6 best. CDG Photo is the poster, would love feedback if you have some.

  19. Scott…GREAT idea all the way around!

    First of all, this challenge definitely made me slow down and think about the mechanics behind the photo instead of just firing off shots. I think it’s a practice I’m going to try to put into practice more often.

    Secondly (but more importantly), as a missionary kid born and raised in Africa, it always touches my heart when I see how many generous people there are who are willing to give to those who are less fortunate. …Thank you.

  20. This is a great challenge for an even greater cause. I made a big no-no right out of the gate. I checked all of my settings, EXCEPT one critical one…you see…the last time I shot, I was working on a HDR photo. Well, you can imagine what happened here; two under, one ok, two over. I finally figured that out somewhere about exposure 15 of 27! If I had been able to look at my LCD, I would have seen this on the first shot. But I didn’t cheat and I learned from my mistake. I managed two semi-ok flower shots! Thanks for the adventure Scott!

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