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04/24/2015 01:03:22 PM · #1
The weekly themed challenges at DPC offer us an opportunity to explore genres, topics, styles, and techniques we haven't tried before, or even known before. For those of us who join in our photography infancy, it is a splendid place to learn about all these things. But what happens when we've been at it a while, and we have reasonably mastered dof, pov, rot, and a bunch of other acronyms? What about things like concept, interpretation, creativity?

This is where I find myself these days. A recent slew of "literal" challenges (lawn, air, fish, clamps) had me feeling very uninspired, and I wanted to explore "alternate" interpretations of the challenge theme. I'm having mixed results :)

As anyone who as ever "colored outside the lines" knows, it can be a risky thing to do. In a themed challenge, who of us has not received the DNMC opinion when we've tried something "different"? Naturally, the more "different" our interpretation is, the harsher it will be judged, most especially in a challenge with a highly literal theme. The more vague the connection of our image to the theme, the closer it will be to the brown.

But what about the converse? What about those images that have a definite connection to the theme, even if they are not a literal interpretation? I have seen many such entries get slammed score-wise. As an example, and assuming the technicals are solid, a "spoon" challenge, where instead of a literal photo of a spoon, the image is a couple "spooning"? The English language is confounding because so many of its words have numerous meanings. But it is also what makes it a joy to play with, and gives us a door into visually exploring those alternate meanings.

So how do we encourage creativity while maintaining a tangible connection to the theme? To begin, I'd like to unclump several assumptions about our own images:

- if we choose to experiment, we must be prepared to accept that not every experiment is successful
- if we stray from the theme path, we need to accept that a few/some/all may not want to/be able to follow us down the rabbit hole
- just because we have a great idea, it may not be a great picture

This last point is one that many of us fail to consider. I have (in my opinion) seen many entries that were incredibly clever, original, different, yet on clearly connected to the theme, but are really substandard in terms of technicals - not intentional choices like blur/grain/etc, but badly lit, poorly acted, etc. While I embrace the yearn to experiment, I feel that image quality should not be sacrificed for the sake of originality.

I feel this expansion of interpretation is also part of the learning curve at DPC. How many times have we seen a member write "when I first started I didn't get all the "blurry messes", but now I actually prefer them" [with "blurry messes" synonymous with "creative interpretation"]? How do we encourage that? How do we help each other expand our interpretive vocabulary?

And finally, yes, I concede that "good", "bad", "creative", etc. is all "subjective"; that for some, "badly lit, poorly acted, etc." can actually be assets to an image; and that "solid technicals" are not everyone's photographic goal.
04/24/2015 02:22:29 PM · #2
I enjoyed reading this, thanks.
04/24/2015 02:38:58 PM · #3
What we need is a series of "out of the box" challenges:

Out of the box: spoon -- take a picture of anything that fits this title, but you can't take a picture of the utensil: spoon.

Out of the box: cat -- show us a cat without taking a picture of one
04/24/2015 02:42:50 PM · #4
yes: "just because we have a great idea, it may not be a great picture." for so many reasons, but not necessarily/primarily matters of skill.

I am finding that a lot of what seems to come close, simply does not come close enough, and I have to let go. ultimately liberating, and space saving, but not wholly without agony.
04/24/2015 02:57:43 PM · #5
One of the things I really appreciate about the site is the threads / comments rewarding lesser-noticed images or images that scored very high for their creative take on a challenge or for the cult appeal or what-have-you. I'm all for the challenge requesting creativity, but I personally appreciate it more when it comes unexpectedly.
04/24/2015 03:02:18 PM · #6
just because we have a great idea, it may not be a great picture.

?

' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/2000-2999/2088/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1147537.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/2000-2999/2088/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1147537.jpg', '/') + 1) . '
04/24/2015 03:03:04 PM · #7
Originally posted by tanguera:


While I embrace the yearn to experiment, I feel that image quality should not be sacrificed for the sake of originality.


This almost feels like you would prefer those of us with less than strong technical skills not enter the challenge?

I sometimes, okay rarely, get technicals good. So my entry would either be a technically poor and boring spoon, or a technically poor but possibly slightly more creative entry. I prefer to try and allow my brain a bit of happiness by trying for something somewhat creative.

And while I have skipped entering when I only end up with true awfulness, I think I would leave the site if I didn't feel welcome to play along during the learning process.

Hopefully I am misinterpreting.
04/24/2015 03:12:45 PM · #8
Originally posted by vawendy:

What we need is a series of "out of the box" challenges:

Out of the box: spoon -- take a picture of anything that fits this title, but you can't take a picture of the utensil: spoon.

Out of the box: cat -- show us a cat without taking a picture of one


Why does it have to be "specific" challenges?

Like the fish one I had seen a couple images that totally fit outside of the box and I LOVED them...
I would like to expect those to be perfectly accepted as part of a regular challenge instead of that specific challenge named "out of the box" take it for what it is.. different cultures, it means different things and that is why I love DPC to be opened up to new things . I love that others can do things without fear or guilt and just enter boldly knowing that their entry might end up at the bottom.

~~~~
Originally posted by tanguera:

While I embrace the yearn to experiment, I feel that image quality should not be sacrificed for the sake of originality.

I don't think she is saying that at all. I did not take it that way..

As far as editing goes, I totally suck at technicals and I am trying to learn a process for editing which still has not went and stuck through my grey matter, I consistently have issues trying to figure out how to crop and edit properly.. so I do it blindly (literally), I am totally starting to understand that every image needs to be done differently and they do not fit within a work flow

Message edited by author 2015-04-24 15:20:38.
04/24/2015 03:18:42 PM · #9
That's a conclusion you shouldn't jump to.
We are all learning. Forever.

Originally posted by Jules1x:

Originally posted by tanguera:


While I embrace the yearn to experiment, I feel that image quality should not be sacrificed for the sake of originality.


This almost feels like you would prefer those of us with less than strong technical skills not enter the challenge?

04/24/2015 03:21:44 PM · #10
That's what I'm saying too ... Some of the personal "ribbons" handed out by ' . substr('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21.gif', strrpos('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21.gif', '/') + 1) . ' Posthumous and the like feel just as good as being on the front page - even if it didn't score high enough to be there. Creativity should be an assumed consequence of a generic or seemingly boring challenge. For "Fish", I had a splendid OOTB idea that may have even scored well, but I had no time to do it =(

Originally posted by jgirl57:

Why does it have to be "specific" challenges?



Message edited by author 2015-04-24 15:22:01.
04/24/2015 03:23:37 PM · #11
Originally posted by Jules1x:

Originally posted by tanguera:


While I embrace the yearn to experiment, I feel that image quality should not be sacrificed for the sake of originality.


This almost feels like you would prefer those of us with less than strong technical skills not enter the challenge?

I sometimes, okay rarely, get technicals good. So my entry would either be a technically poor and boring spoon, or a technically poor but possibly slightly more creative entry. I prefer to try and allow my brain a bit of happiness by trying for something somewhat creative.

And while I have skipped entering when I only end up with true awfulness, I think I would leave the site if I didn't feel welcome to play along during the learning process.

Hopefully I am misinterpreting.


Indeed....

That leap about my preference, good grief.

As I said at the end of the post, I'm discussing "goals" which may not be universal for everyone.

I am actually talking about balance, and even more importantly, context. When we offer up an image, where we place to be seen will determine how it is received. On "feel-good" sites such as Flickr, FB, etc., our friends, fans, family, will offer nothing but adulation. On any site where its merit is considered in relation to other images, the response will surely be different. And on a site where we are shooting for a specific theme....

If we want to experiment, push the envelop, stop worrying about pesky "technical" stuff, then we need to accept the risks, score-wise, on this site. Though on occasion that sort of out-of-the-box thinking IS rewarded, more often than not, it isn't.
04/24/2015 03:31:28 PM · #12
Originally posted by vawendy:

What we need is a series of "out of the box" challenges:

Out of the box: spoon -- take a picture of anything that fits this title, but you can't take a picture of the utensil: spoon.

Out of the box: cat -- show us a cat without taking a picture of one


Wendy, as others have responded, I'd rather we apply this thinking to any challenge that is posted. I'm not as much concerned with the photographers who attempt new/different/risky/etc., as their efforts do receive recognition on the site. I'm more interested in the voter, especially in such literal topics as lawn, fish, etc. Any challenge that is so specific as to exclude half our members (mountains, deserts, fjords, skyscrapers, etc., etc.), should they automatically not enter because there are no skyscrapers for 500 miles around them? Or should we at least appreciate their creativity in trying to satisfy the challenge?
04/24/2015 03:44:11 PM · #13
I've come to enjoy the idea of everyone voting according to their own desires. I wish people would do it even more unabashedly and do away with such thoughts as "I don't like this image, but it's probably considered a good image so I'll give it at least a 5". Don't worry about what other people think and just vote on your own scale with your own agenda.

Creativity is always a risk, everywhere it is dared.
04/24/2015 03:44:49 PM · #14
Ah ha. Thank you Johanna.

I think the other part of my struggle is that nearly every challenge involves something new to me. So try as I might, some difficulty (reflections, lighting, shadows, live people) crop up and I just don't capture what I aimed for. One time I was able to spend nearly 20 hours during the week of challenge on one idea and then I was fairly successful. I keep thinking my speed at getting the right image will increase but it isn't yet.

My goals relate primarily to providing a happy place for my brain. Strong images would be nice, but if I am really honest, that isn't a top goal for me right now. (Life times and work obligations wrecking havoc on my generally positive outlook - so the escape photography provides is priceless despite less than successful final products).

My highest votes often go to out of the box ideas. Maybe because I find those so inspiring I am trying too quickly to attempt similar creativity and my photography would actually improve if I went more basic?
04/24/2015 04:02:44 PM · #15
Originally posted by posthumous:

I've come to enjoy the idea of everyone voting according to their own desires. I wish people would do it even more unabashedly and do away with such thoughts as "I don't like this image, but it's probably considered a good image so I'll give it at least a 5". Don't worry about what other people think and just vote on your own scale with your own agenda.

Creativity is always a risk, everywhere it is dared.

04/24/2015 04:06:00 PM · #16
Like I said, different goals for everyone! !!

Maybe breaking down the learning process into smaller steps WOULD help. Everyone learns differently. The important thing is that you keep having fun with it, and just keep trying. Have you checked out my very first entry at DPC...?

And yes, Don. Sort of what im angling towards
04/24/2015 05:13:59 PM · #17
This is interesting, Johanna.
Paul, (Ubique) opened my eyes a few weeks ago. I have always focused on "does it meet the challenge" rather than 'is it interesting".
It felt liberating. It was the same moment when Steve Hill asked "why are you showing me this"? It's a process .....
04/24/2015 08:11:38 PM · #18
Sometimes a photo(grapher) is rewarded other than with the numerical score; check out some of the comments on this Brown-ribbon winner in the Dr. Seuss challenge ... ' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/0-999/676/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_506222.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/0-999/676/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_506222.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

Sometimes "literal" can have more than one meaning, as in the Neon challenge ... ' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/0-999/246/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_98108.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/0-999/246/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_98108.jpg', '/') + 1) . '
04/24/2015 08:46:08 PM · #19
There were a lot of great comments and opinions 'back in the day'. Do you know how many prints of the 'mushrooms" were ordered Paul?
04/24/2015 08:50:14 PM · #20
Originally posted by MeMex2:

There were a lot of great comments and opinions 'back in the day'. Do you know how many prints of the 'mushrooms" were ordered Paul?

No one buys prints these days -- or those -- at least not from me ... though someone (not from DPC) once bought a 16x20 metallic print of this ... ' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/0-999/572/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_415582.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/0-999/572/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_415582.jpg', '/') + 1) . '
04/24/2015 09:19:58 PM · #21
I am sure that shot is a treasure for train aficionados.
04/25/2015 07:36:56 AM · #22
Nice read Johanna.

I've got a good example for what Johanna said:
"- just because we have a great idea, it may not be a great picture"

In the previous LAWN challenge, I entered:
' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/2000-2999/2088/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1147293.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/2000-2999/2088/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1147293.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

I just did not want to take a photograph of grass, but I wanted to submit something. It still satisfied the challenge description 100%, as there was no description that grass should be involved. It's a bad, semi-out-of-the-box image. No craftsmanship displayed or good technique employed.

So really,Johanna is telling me to pull up my socks, and put more into it, as a good idea should be the starting point, and not the whole thing, while not saying I should have produced a sharper or cleaner or whatever image.

I agree with her 100%.

Message edited by author 2015-04-25 07:37:58.
04/25/2015 11:14:20 AM · #23
Originally posted by herfotoman:

Nice read Johanna.

I've got a good example for what Johanna said:
"- just because we have a great idea, it may not be a great picture"

In the previous LAWN challenge, I entered:
' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/2000-2999/2088/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1147293.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/2000-2999/2088/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1147293.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

I just did not want to take a photograph of grass, but I wanted to submit something. It still satisfied the challenge description 100%, as there was no description that grass should be involved. It's a bad, semi-out-of-the-box image. No craftsmanship displayed or good technique employed.

So really,Johanna is telling me to pull up my socks, and put more into it, as a good idea should be the starting point, and not the whole thing, while not saying I should have produced a sharper or cleaner or whatever image.

I agree with her 100%.


Yes!!!! Exactly! I feel that we communicate our thoughts, ideas, and vision through our images. If the concept is oob, it will be more challenging for us to successfully communicate it and even sell it, if we don't also put effort into the craft.
04/25/2015 11:43:34 AM · #24
Originally posted by tanguera:

Originally posted by vawendy:

What we need is a series of "out of the box" challenges:

Out of the box: spoon -- take a picture of anything that fits this title, but you can't take a picture of the utensil: spoon.

Out of the box: cat -- show us a cat without taking a picture of one


Wendy, as others have responded, I'd rather we apply this thinking to any challenge that is posted. I'm not as much concerned with the photographers who attempt new/different/risky/etc., as their efforts do receive recognition on the site. I'm more interested in the voter, especially in such literal topics as lawn, fish, etc. Any challenge that is so specific as to exclude half our members (mountains, deserts, fjords, skyscrapers, etc., etc.), should they automatically not enter because there are no skyscrapers for 500 miles around them? Or should we at least appreciate their creativity in trying to satisfy the challenge?


You're missing the point, though. The people who already appreciate out of the box know how to see things that way. This is a learning site. There have been many people, myself high up on the list, that have said that their tastes have changed. That they've truly learned to appreciate and look deeper into things. But there are many things that have led to this. It's not just looking at the challenge.

One of the big things in helping me to appreciate the seriously more off the wall stuff is actually participating in it. Yes -- I'd look through the posthumous thread, but mostly think "why in the heck..??" But once I started trying the blur, the artsy fartsy, the funky, the out of the box, it led to a significantly greater appreciation of the results and the process. You don't just point a camera with a longer exposure and move and get something wonderful. It takes skill, it takes patience, and it takes a good eye.

That's why I recommended specific challenges. To help everyone start to see how difficult it can be to be out of the box, and yet still be near it. To expand their horizons, their curiosity and their minds.

We can tell people to be open-minded all we want. But doing will get them there soooo much faster. It's the best way to grow the appreciation of almost anything. You can speak more knowledgeably and you can appreciate greater the things you've done than the things you've noticed in passing.
04/25/2015 12:12:15 PM · #25
Yes Wendy, I do understand your point, and agree that doing is the fastest way of learning. I would support any challenge that encourages us to flex our brain muscles. Which, actually, we can do with any challenge, if we so chose...

But the point of this thread is to address the "literalness" that often accompanies certain types of challenge themes, and is more about concept than processing.

As I said, English is confounding and exciting because so many of its words have multiple meanings. And in many cases, the same word can be a noun, a verb, an adjective, etc.

I'm simply suggesting that when voters look at a challenge with what seems to be a very literal topic, they not automatically dismiss as DNMC without considering an alternate definition. Fish, for example, is a noun, a verb, and can be used as an adjective.
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