My Life As A Competitive Photographer

To say I’ve been having fun with my Canon Digital Rebel camera would be an understatement. If it moves… if it doesn’t move… if it exists, I will take a photo. No subject is too exciting, none too mundane. You can’t snap thousands of pictures without shooting at least a little indiscriminantly.

With that in mind, I’ve jumped in with both feet at DPChallenge. It’s a website operated by two twenty somethings. DPChallenge hosts a variety of photo challenges – weekly contests. Some are for guests, others members, others still for previous challenge winners. I am just a guest, but I’ll join in the next few days.

I’ll get to the photo competitions in a second. I’ve got to tell you about the site. It is one of the best examples I’ve seen, maybe the best example, of how to manipulate a database to create web content.

Every entry in every challenge is referenced and cross referenced. So, you can look at all of a person’s entries. That might lead you to one from a specific challenge, so you can look at all the entries to that challenge. Or maybe you want to see what’s being done with the camera you use. Pretty much, if there is a connection between two pieces of data, this website has found it and can connect them.

The challenges work like this. A topic is thrown out and pictures are entered. The entry period is normally a week and the photo must be taken within that period. Once all the entries are received everyone gets a chance to go through them and rate them on a scale of 1 to 10.

The DPChallenge officianados are very stingy graders! The winner of last week’s open challenge, a spectacular photo, got a 7.393. I’m not sure Ansel Adams would have cracked an 8.

Last week my entry in the “Bizarre Nature” challenge got a 6.334, 21st of 226 entries or the 91st percentile. I was pleased.

I have now entered three completed challenges, with two in the top 10% and the other a little above the midway point in the entries. Shooting a photograph to satisfy a topic is difficult to do.

I struggled for the last week to try and get an entry to this week’s challenge, “Macro Without Bugs or Flowers.” I shot fruits and vegetables, my kitchen sink, rock formations. I pretty much took a closeup of anything I could think of. Nothing worked.

Finally, this afternoon, with time running out, I took a closeup of Helaine’s eye. I was surprised to see the reflection of our window there. I sharpened it and played with the levels. Then I converted the photo to black and white. I was proud of what I had done.

Then the voting began.

Almost immediately I realized I had made a mistake. As I went to vote on the others, I notice somewhere between 10 and 20% of the entries were also single eyes! I liked mine, but I’m sure it will be lost in the shuffle.

Within the first few hours I could see the trend in the voting. I am currently at 3.8333 – my worst showing. One commenter (who gave me a 4, above my average) said, “Um, I just cant take the noise. 4.”

He’s right. The picture is very grainy(click on either picture to see them blown up) – though I thought that was part of its charm.

It will be a long week watching this shot take its lumps. And it will be a long week trying to plan out my next entry. The topic is “Black & White II.”

Reduce the world to a palette of grays, and focus on light, shade, line, texture and form.

What can I do to be creative and original with good technique? We shall see.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *