2014 Challenge, Week 15: STILL LIFE – CONTAINER

Once again it’s time for another still life. This week the theme is container. No, not a shipping container. A container in this context anything you put something else in. Check around the house for a jar, a vase, a bowl, etc. Part of the challenge this week is to take an ordinary object and turn it into unique photographic subject.

by Juan Fco. Marrerochild

Still life can be used to emphasize photographic techniques, like lighting. It doesn’t have to about the subject, it can be a way for you to explore techniques. It’s also a great opportunity to practice the technical aspects Jeremy has been challenging you with.

“Three Spice Jars” by Alistair Hamilton

As always with still life photography, you are in control of all aspects of the shot. You decide on the arrangement and placement of objects.

“A Bevy of Roses…” by jardinoMe

Depth of field is one of the best tools for still life photography. Experiment with different f-stops that allow you to isolate the subject.

“red hot chili peppers” by riccardo bruni

Still life is often done indoors, but that doesn’t mean you can’t explore. If you have a workshop, barn, garage, or shed you can find something to use as your subject. And don’t be afraid to rearrange things to make a good shot.

“still life in barn” by Michael Miller

We all want to see your best shot! So, share your single submission with us all on at least one of our social media groups at Google+Facebook, or Flickr.

Also, here are the links I shared last week with some tips:

2014 Challenge, Week 14: COMPOSITION: RULE OF THIRDS

This week, lets focus on a technique used when composing photographs: The Rule of Thirds. The Rule of Thirds is a composition technique that can be used when laying out a scene in any visual medium – including design, film, painting, and photography. It is one of the most basic techniques, but it is also very powerful. Imagine this grid superimposed on your viewfinder:


If your subject is on one of the red dots, or aligned with one of the black lines, the composition will likely appear more balanced and pleasing to the human eye. Notice how this center of this flower falls on one of the grid intersections, and is aligned with one of the grid lines:

“Rule of Thirds” by Marie Coleman

This composition feels right. The subject is immediately visible, and in addition one of the smaller flowers is on a grid intersection. Even the wires are lined up with the grid. This image keeps the viewer looking.

This guideline can also apply to urban settings just as effectively:

“Week 3: Rule of Thirds” by Melinda Seckington

Many cameras will allow you to overlay a grid on your viewfinder or on the screen to help when composing a scene. Look through the menus on your camera and see if you can find the option. This will help you visualize the division of thirds.

Using this guideline does not mean that everything in your frame must be along perfect horizontal and vertical lines. Notice how this image uses the rule of thirds effectively while also allowing the frame to be divided diagonally by the cable:

“Barn swallow resting from the hunt” by Vicki

This bold image keeps the lines straight, but the contrasting yellow line is placed on one of the grid lines. The resulting image feels more balanced than it would if the yellow line were centered in the frame.

“yellow line on blue wall” by Rui Malheiro


The rule of thirds can also be applied when composing a landscape. Notice how each component of this image – the mountain in the background, the trees, and the grass in the foreground –  occupies roughly one third of the frame.

“Rule Of Thirds” by Zach Dischner

Of course, this rule is really a guideline, and there are plenty of reasons to ignore it — we will get to those in a future challenge. But this week, as you look at a scene, try to apply the rule of thirds. Try the same scene with the subject centered, and then apply the rule of thirds and see what a difference it makes.

As always, please post/share a photo you take THIS WEEK. We love your old photos, but not for the challenge. The point of the PhotoChallenges is for you to set out to create a new photo, to share with us all this week. Share them with us all at our Google+ CommunityFacebook Group, and/or our Flickr Group.

2014 Challenge, Week 13: LANDSCAPE – VANISHING ROAD

As I look at some of my own favorite landscape photographs, I tend to migrate to certain styles and/or certain subjects. I think the same could be true for many of us, with all sorts of types of photos. So as I looked at my own faves, I found that one common subject was some sort of road.

Take the black road

“Take the black road”, by Trevor Carpenter

If you didn’t know already, lessons from more traditional forms of art can lend themselves to the photographer. A study of Rembrandt’s paintings can help the portrait photographer. The impressionists can help us with composition. And on and on. One of the most basic of art projects is the vanishing point. Many who take illustration, sketching, and/or basic art tend to do a few projects with a vanishing point.


“Verge”, by Daniel Zedda

As photographers, we can look out for opportunities to highlight an existing vanishing point. And for this landscape theme, I’d like you to specifically apply the vanishing point concept to a vanishing road, on your horizon. Here’s a brief Google+ post about using vanishing point in your photography, by Brian Matiash.

To be specific, I’m looking for you to compose a traditional landscape, but deliberately include some sort of road. However I want you to compose the image with the road traveling off, away from the camera, towards a vanishing point. Pay attention to balancing where you place the horizon. Sometimes is just works to have the horizon bisect the photo. Most of the time, however, it’s a little freshman to do so. Experiment with having the horizon be high, so that you capture more foreground. Or, place the horizon low, to include more sky. Either way, your photos tend to be nicer, when the horizon is NOT in the middle.

Road to Rome

“Road to Rome”, by Tommy Clark

As always, please post/share a photo you take THIS WEEK. We love your old photos, but not for the challenge. The point of the PhotoChallenges is for you to set out to create a new photo, to share with us all this week. Share them with us all at our Google+ Community, Facebook Group, and/or our Flickr Group.

The Road to Ribblesdale

“The Road to Ribblesdale”, by Luc B

2014 Challenge, Week 12: Nature and Wildlife Photography – BUDS

Spring, it finally arrived. Although it may not look like it outside for some folk, nature is showing some signs of Spring. One that we’re sure to find all over the Northern Hemisphere is a bud. Whether it be from a tree, flower or plant, nature is showing some sort of new life even in Arctic Canada.

Steve Troletti Photography: NATURE & LANDSCAPES &emdash; Blooming Magnolia

The blooming bud of a Magnolia tree may attract the most attention. They’re not only large but are also very pretty. Their large size makes them easier to photograph as a close-up.


Tulips don’t bud as early as Magnolias but in the warmer climate areas they should be ready for some interesting and colorful photography.


A little closer to mother nature, forest trees are full of buds. Some will turn into leaves and  fruit trees will follow with flower buds later in the season. The buds on some trees can be very small. A macro lens may be necessary to capture the full details of these smaller buds.

Budding Cactus

Desert folks, no need to worry, Cactus and other types of vegetation growing in arid areas  also wait for spring to bud and come out in full bloom. Again the larger size of these plants may not necessitate a macro to fully capture every detail!


I got this chart from Wikipedia as a reference to identifying the different stages and types of buds. It should also facilitate the task of locating buds on different types of plants. You can reference the full Wikipedia article on buds @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bud


F.Y.I. the above image is not exactly what we’re looking for :-)

To fully take advantage of the sunlight, early mornings and late afternoons will provide a lower angle and softer light to work with.

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge.org. or #photochallenge2014.
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2014 Photo Challenge is fun and easy.

2014 Challenge, Week 11: STILL LIFE – TOY

Continuing with Still Life photography, this week’s theme is Still Life – Toy

One of the key aspects of still life photography is controlling depth of field. Last week you got practice with depth of field, so this week apply what you learned to still life. You can choose to go with short depth of field, but you can also be deliberate and to increase the depth of field.

This example uses a shallow depth of field to focus on the main character, leaving the scene out of focus, but still provides context.


As always, pay attention to framing and composition. The Batman shot sets a scene and conveys a story. In the shot below, the framing and shallow depth of field help also provide context for the shot. 

“Battle of Bladensburg Toy Soldiers” by Mr.TinDC

Or you can choose to take a picture of your favorite toy and use software to convey a mood.

“Toy tank and Snapseed” by Sergey Galyonkin

In this shot of wooden toys, a wide depth of field is used to allow the viewer to see all the toys. Note the lighting comes from the side, and is full to bring out the characteristics in the wood.

“Box of Hand-Made Wooden Toys” by fellowcreative

Toys are a part of every childhood. Whether you have a favorite toy of your own, or can grab a toy from one of your kids, you shouldn’t have a hard time finding a subject. This week is also a good opportunity to incorporate your object, if it happens to be a toy.

Remember, still life photography is as much about the technical aspects of photography as it is about the subject. Be deliberate in your lighting, choice of lens, and how you set the scene. You have complete control, use that control to tell a story and bring your toy to life.

“Toy Cooper” by nthy ramanujam

And remember to have fun.

“Toy Fair 2012 – Portraits” by Farrukh

We all want to see your best shot! So, share your single submission with us all on at least one of our social media groups at Google+Facebook, or Flickr.

2014 Challenge, Week 10: DEPTH OF FIELD

This week the challenge moves to a creative technique that can be used to make part of your image really stand out. Depth of field refers to the range of distance that appears to be in focus. The depth of field can be very narrow, with only a small part of the photograph appearing in focus. It can also be very deep, with objects in the foreground and background appearing in focus.

Notice the shallow depth of field in this image. The hand is in focus, while the neck of the bass is out of focus.

“New Toys” by Graham Binns – Aperture f/1.8

In this example, the depth of field is very deep. The heads of grain in the foreground and the trees in the background are all in focus.

“Depth of field./Profundidad del campo.” by Simon Harrod – Aperture f/11

Now, the question is: How do I change the depth of field? It’s simple! Just change the aperture. The aperture is the opening in the lens that allows light through to the film or sensor. The size of the opening is given as a number, referred to as an f-stop. Each lens will have its own range of f-stops. For example, the Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens has a range of f/2.8 – f/32, while the 50mm f/1.2 has a range of f/1.2 – f/16.

“Needle” by Dwayne Bent – Aperture: f/2.8

A larger lens opening will give you shallower depth of field. A smaller f-stop is actually a larger opening, so f/2.8 will be much shallower depth of field than f/11. Most cameras will have some way to control the aperture. Some cameras have an Aperture Priority mode that allows you to set the aperture directly. Some cameras have Scenes that will influence how the camera selects the aperture. If you are not sure about how to adjust the aperture on your camera, it might be time to dig out the manual or use Google. You can also ask a question on the PhotoChallenge Facebook or G+ pages.

“Pool” by John McStravick – Aperture f/5.6

Take some time to experiment with the aperture settings on your camera this week. Take the same shot with multiple aperture settings and see how it influences the photograph. Try to use depth of field to improve the composition and interest of your image this week.

“Spectacle” by Thomas Abbs


We all want to see your best shot! So, share your single submission with us all on at least one of our social media groups at Google+Facebook, or Flickr.

Now go have some fun!

If you want to read more about depth of field, here are some links to get you started:

“Depth-of-field Explained”

“Tutorials: Depth Of Field”

“Plumbing The Depths (Of Field)”

“A Tedious Explaination of Depth of Field”

2014 Challenge, Week 9: LANDSCAPE – PANORAMA

I’ll be filling in for Trevor this week, but I’ll stay faithful to Trevor’s Landscape theme. Before I start I have to say that I’m very happy with the effort everyone put through with my birds in flight theme. The interpretation, the amount and the quality of the images were outstanding.

This week I want to to take your Landscape images to the next level. I love landscapes but sometimes there’s just no wide angle lens wide enough to capture the beauty presented to us. I love to shoot my landscapes with a 35mm or a 50mm lens and take several images to be stitched together into a final panoramic image.

Don’t worry, an easy to use tool is available for free from Microsoft that will allow you to stitch your images together. That’s if you don’t already have a software solution at hand. It’s called ICE (Image Composite Editor). You can download it directly from microsoft at http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/redmond/groups/ivm/ice/

Premières neiges 2013 sur les Préalpes fribourgeoises ce matin / First snow, Fall 2013 on the Fribourg Alps this morning

In the example above I used a Nikkor 85mm mounted on a Nikon Full frame DSLR to create an image made of 28 seperate images. It allowed me to capture the first snowfall on the Fribourg Pre-Alps and the Church of Sorens in high resolution from my balcony in Sorens, Switzerland.

Les Préalpes fribourgeoises

Above I decided to go larger and get the full impact of the Fribourg Pre-Alps tucked behind the Gruyère lake from the Belle-Vue in the country-side of Sorens, Switzerland. I used a Nikkor 35mm lens mounted to a Nikon DX format DSLR.

lac Neuchatel, Estavayer-le-lac

Panoramic images aren’t limited to stitched images from DSLR cameras. Many hybrid and compact cameras have a panorama function built-in. In the above image I used my Android phone and the Panorama-360 app to create this 360 degree view of the terasse at the Estavayer-le-lac beach on Neuchâtel lake in Switzerland.

Morning at lake Neuchatel / Matin au lac Neuchatel

There’s no reason to let your lens limit the width and height of your landscape images. Again I used my Android phone to capture this field in an orchard located high above Lake Neuchâtel in Châbles, Switzerland. All done with the built in ability of Android 4.4.

Get creative, shoot your landscape and stitch your images into one amazing landscape!

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge.org. or #photochallenge2014.
  • The shot should be a new shot taken for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2014 Photo Challenge is fun and easy.