Well, there we go, my first challenge as a photochallenge.org contributor! I’m really looking forward to contributing to the community of which I’ve been a part for some years now. My challenges will be losely grouped around the theme ‘Storytelling’, or how you can use your photographs to convey meaning, emotion, a series of events or a sense of wonder.

For this week, I’d like to invite you to shoot a self portrait…without yourself. That’s right, your submission should be about you, but without showing you as a person. To be frank, this idea isn’t my own, it’s an assignment that many photo clubs and schools use to get people thinking outside the box and have fun.

Self portrait without self by SabbathPhotography

This assignment invites you to think about yourself from various perspectives: what is it that makes you YOU, and how can you capture this in an image? How do you translate things like personality, character, likes and dislikes into photographs?

How do I do this?


There are countless approaches to telling your story. For instance, you can gather some objects that tell a story about you, your hobbies, things you hold dear, or that define you in some way, and create a still life. In this case, it’s the objects that tell the story, like in the picture in the introduction. This is perfectly fine; if you go for this approach, I’d encourage you to focus on composition and lighting.


Another way of tackling this challenge is focussing on your storytelling style, and how it reflects your personality. The picture below, for instance, shows the photographer’s love for chocolate. However, it’s the minimalistic approach with clear lines and a balanced composition that conveys the main message here: the photographer’s need for order and being in control.

Zelfportret zonder fotograaf – Kevin Kwee

This approach is great for playing around with various techniques. Think: macro if you’re a nittygritty-detailed type of person, blur or deliberate-out-of-focus for the dreamers amongst us, or simply breaking all the rules if you’re a bit of a rebel.


As a final example, here’s one of the shots that I took as part of a self portrait series. With this picture, I tried to convey the feeling of being awake in the middle of the night, and not being able to get back to sleep. As a frequent insomniac, this is a very familiar situation for me, and in a way, it defines a lot of who I am, because people will notice immediately the next day 🙂

Self portrait – Maaike Groenewege

Feel free to combine aspects of all approaches, and don’t forget to add your own personal flavor!


  • As much as I like you all, a self portrait without self means that I don’t want to see you at all  🙂 So no silhouettes, no reflections and no pictures of you.
  • Since we’re all on photochallenge.org, let’s assume that we all like photography. Of course, I cannot forbid you to include camera gear in your picture, but I would like to challenge you to go one step further, so that we don’t end up with dozens of pictures including cameras.
  • Other than that, HAVE FUN! Don’t be afraid to experiment, give your own personal twist to a challenge and try something different. The photochallenge community is one of the most friendly groups of people I know, so whether you’re just starting out, or have some experience already: we’re always looking forward to your contribution.

Group rules

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • 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.
  • The posted image should be an animated still image and not a video.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

2013 Challenge, Week 51: Bokeh

Last week we got to focus on light and try out light painting. This week we’ll feature light and the effects of the aperture, but the emphasis will be on the out-of-focus area of the picture. This week’s theme is Bokeh.

Bokeh is a Japanese word that refers to the blur-quality of a lens or photograph. It’s most noticeable in night shots where lights are out-of-focus, but any shot with a short depth-of-field will have areas where you see the bokeh, especially if light is coming through the background.

“Bokeh Overlord” by Patrik B

Bokeh doesn’t just refer to blur, it’s the quality of the blur, and that quality changes from lens to lens. There are plenty of examples of bokeh around the Internet. If you want to learn a little more about it, Nikon has a good article with nice examples. And there’s always Wikipedia.

“Bokeh Effect” by Andrew Abogado

One of the reasons I choose Bokeh as the theme for this week is because there are plenty of Christmas lights around at night to use as subjects.  You can start indoors…

“Bokeh Ninja” by Nick Harris

Then move outside.

“bokeh” by Janne Hellsten
“Bokeh Season” by Alejandro C

If you do choose to shoot at night, be sure to grab a tripod. During the day you can get great bokeh shots without a tripod, but at night with the slow shutter speeds, a tripod is essential.

You can even get creative and create custom bokehs with stencils. The shape of the aperture is what determines the bokeh shape, so if you put a stencil on your lens, your bokeh with be the same shape. This example uses a heart shaped stencil and results in a heart shaped bokeh.

“Shaped Bokeh Test” by Gianmaria Veronese

As an extra challenge, see if you can come up with a custom bokeh by creating your own stencils. If you’re not the DIY type, Bokeh Masters has few kits available. With Christmas this week, you might not be able to get one shipped in time for this week’s challenge, but it would be a good investment for future use.

As always, post your shots on Facebook, Google+, or Flickr. Happy shooting!

2013 Challenge, Week 50: Light Painting

“Light Painting” by Josh Hawley

I’ve been saving this challenge for the time of year with the longest nights, because once you try it, you will want to do more of it!

“Blood Is In My Heart Again” by Thomas Hawk

Light painting is a technique that involves long exposures and the introduction of additional light sources throughout the exposure. The results you will get depend on the lighting used. In the first example, the photographer lit steel wool on fire and spun it around, producing a shower of sparks. In the second example, the photographer used colored gels over a flashlight to paint the walls with color during the exposure.

“Knapp’s Castle, Electrified” by Toby Keller

To experiment with this technique, you will need a camera that is capable of doing long exposures. If your camera has a Shutter Speed Priority mode, you may be able to set the time to several minutes. If your camera has a Bulb mode, you can use it to keep the shutter open longer. Other cameras may have a night mode which will keep the shutter open.

“The Garden Sheds” by Simon & His Camera

Once you have the shutter open, start adding light. If you keep moving, you will not be visible in the photo, but the light will show up. With some practice, you can write words and draw images with the light.

by Illum

With some patience, you can make 3D objects with light that appear to float delicately on the landscape.

“Train Track Light Sphere” by Conrad Kuiper

Anything that produces light can be used to paint the scene. Here are some suggestions:

  • A flashlight
  • A flashlight covered by colored plastic (gels)
  • Your phone
  • Laser pointers
  • Fire (but be careful)
  • Fireworks, such as sparklers (but don’t break any laws)
  • LED’s
  • EL wire
“Phone Call From Hell” by Jeremy Brooks

This is one of the more challenging themes, and it can take some time to get satisfactory results. But it is a lot of fun to do! This is a challenge that you can involve other people in as well. Get your friends to bring lights, and paint the scene together. The image you see above was lit by several people. It’s a fun way to collaborate with both photographers and non-photographers.

As always pick your best shot and share with the Photo Challenge Community. Participating in the 2013 Photo Challenge is fun and easy. Post and share your images with the Photo Challenge Community on  Google+Facebook,or Flickr.

Now set aside a couple of nights this week, and get out and shoot!

2013 Challenge, Week 47: LOW ANGLE

It’s time we started getting down and looking up. This week’s theme is Low AngleLow angle shots are generally taken from below eye level, looking up. Changing your point of view helps you see scenes from new perspectives, which can lead to more interesting compositions in your shots. 

Getting a low point of view can be a challenge, especially with the weather turn cold and wet.

010/365 - Dusting
Dusting by djwtwo

Getting down on the ground can help you see new subjects, or familiar subjects from an new perspective.

Day 7 - Low Point of View
Low Point of View by AlwaysBreaking
On the deck
On the deck by stephen-cleary

Low angles also let you see the world from the perspective of our four-legged friends. They always look up at us, maybe we should look up at them for a change.

Ruby by Bev Goodwin

As always post your best shot and share with the Photo Challenge Community.  Post and share your images with the Photo Challenge Community on  Google+, Facebook,or Flickr.

2013 Challenge, Week 46: DISTORTION

“A Hollow Man” by Jeremy Brooks
“Water” by Alice

Where can you find distortion this week? One great place to look is in reflections, especially reflections in water or windows.

“Salk Institute Fisheye” by Justin Brown


Another good source of distortion can be the lens. Fisheye or extreme wide angle lenses will lend interesting distortion to images, causing the lines to curve in unnatural ways.

“Tunnel” by Doctor Popular

And of course, you can always add distortion in post processing. If you would like some tips on doing this, search “Appsperiment” on Flickr.

As always post your best shot and share with the Photo Challenge Community. Participating in the 2013 Photo Challenge is fun and easy. Post and share your images with the Photo Challenge Community on  Google+Facebook,or Flickr.

Now get out and shoot!

2013 Challenge, Week 43: Neon

Looking over the themes for this year, I was surprised to see that Neon has not been a theme yet. Well, let’s remedy that this week. Grab your tripod, and hit the streets after dark to find some neon.

There’s an entire photography subculture around shooting neon. The soft, inviting glow captivates photographers. Just do a quick search on Flickr and you’ll see millions of examples.

Neon America
Neon America by theqspeaks

Many neon signs are works of art, and if you live in Las Vegas, you can visit an entire museum devoted to the art form. Even if you’re not in Vegas, there are probably plenty of neon signs around for you to shoot.

Las Vegas Neon Race Car
Las Vegas Neon Race Car to Me by Nutch Bicer
Neon SLR
Neon SLR by Jeremy Brooks
Neon 100
Neon 100 by jbhthescots
Neon by jayneandd

As always post your best shot and share with the Photo Challenge Community.  Post and share your images with the Photo Challenge Community on  Google+, Facebook,or Flickr.

Also, if you’ve missed a few weeks, feel free to catch up and post shots from past themes. We all have busy lives, and getting out to shoot every week isn’t possible for a lot of us. No worries, look back through the themes and grab some shots when you can.

2013 Challenge, Week 42: CHEMISTRY

Chemistry. The study of composition and properties of substances and elementary forms of matter. Or maybe it is the class you hated the most in school.

“The Chemist” by Martin Biskoping

What can you find this week that fits the theme “Chemistry”?

“Chrome Alum Crystals” by Paul’s Lab

If you feel stuck, do some research on chemistry in everyday life. You may be surprised at how many things we take for granted are the result of a better understanding of chemistry.

“Chemical Fluorescence in Color” by Woflram Burner
“You Found Drierite” by Chris Smart

As always post your best shot and share with the Photo Challenge Community. Participating in the 2013 Photo Challenge is fun and easy. Post and share your images with the Photo Challenge Community on  Google+, Facebook,or Flickr.

Now get out and shoot!