One of my favorite ongoing challenges is to find a mundane object like a park bench and take 25 good images with that subject as the dominant object or focus of your image. My version of this challenge is a bit tougher than most. I like to call a challenge done when I have 25 finished images of the subject. That means, properly exposed, toned, edited and culled images. This can be a huge undertaking and can last for weeks or months. If you have read any of my blog posts here, you know that I love ongoing projects and I have many going at any one time – including all the basics of composition, point, line, curve negative space etc.
My version of the 25 shots challenge not only involves 25 finished shots, but the selection of one final image to represent that body of work. I have completed this project many times, and this is only one example of a final image chosen out of my 25 final images. This is a bench along the West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz Ca. I ended up shooting this bench many times to get 25 satisfactory images. I shot in rain, at night in the middle of the day at sunrise you name it. I shot at different angles to the bench always careful to keep the bench as the primary focus of the image. I used different techniques such as HDR, long exposure, 10 stop ND filter during the day, and this final one which involved some light painting. You have seen the glowing orbs in the middle of a field many times, that is light painting, you set a long shutter speed at night and then light your subject with a small (or large) flashlight. Generally, I find light painting to be garish and unrealistic (like HDR). In this case I used a flashlight with a CTO (Color Temperature Orange or Convert to Orange) gel to light the ground in front of and the sides of the bench. I also used the bare bulb flashlight to slightly light the iceplant in the middle ground of the image. This shot alone took two evenings to do and is one of the hundreds of images I took of the bench to get a final.
The skill of culling or sorting your work is one that is really emphasized in this challenge. Getting 25 final finished images is tough enough, but choosing one image out of 25 similar images can be very time-consuming. In this instance, I took my 25 final images and started whittling the stack down over two days. Sometimes ones I cut from the final stack got added back in. At the end of the day you have a small body of consistent work on a single subject matter, and by the time you choose your final image to represent the project, you have gained several personal skill levels in culling your work.
If there is one challenge that you undertake to get better at photography, this would be the one. Let me know how you did on this project, I love to hear feedback about the challenges I post here.
Get out there and take some pictures!