Another Challenge


The response on the challenge I threw up in the air last week, has been delightful. Thus, I have decided to keep doing a couple more. As mentioned when I posted the challenge last week, I will get back to the photos that were submitted in a later post. However, for now, I want to challenge you with a different task.

In my last post Start with the Box! I made a point of needing a box to be able to think outside of the box. That is to say that we benefit from learning the basics of the craft before bending the conventions of the rules or guidelines that comes with the traditional craftsmanship. But as soon as we have a grasp of those rules or guidelines we should start to bend and break them.

In Photography and the Art of Seeing, Freeman Patterson recommends writing down a list of rules we assume to be true of photography… and then break them. Here are ten rules that recur repeatedly:

1) Focus on the centre of interest.
2) Fill the frame with the subject.
3) Do not shoot between 10 am and 3 pm (the light is too harsh).
4) Don’t shoot against the light.
5) Hold the camera steady.
6) Follow the rule of third, e.g. 1/3 sky and 2/3 land or vice versa.
7) Obey the light meter.
8) Photograph children (or pets) at their own eye level.
9) Avoid lens flare when shooting against the sun.
10) Keep the camera level with the horizon.

Before I get to the challenge, I need to tell a saying we have in Scandinavia about the differences between the countries when it comes to rules. Do you know what separates Swedes, Danes and Norwegian from one another? The Swedes follow the rules, the Danes don’t give a damn about rules, and the Norwegians break the rules.

As the good Norwegian I am the challenge will be in accordance with my inherent being: How many of those previous mentioned rules can you break in one picture? Like last time, post a link to the photo here in a comment, and I will pick up the photo and showcase it in a later post.

I look forward to seeing your photos.


105 thoughts on “Another Challenge

  1. Love this challenge Otto. Hope I make time to “break the rules” in the next day or two so I can play too!!! May I share your challenge link on FB?

          1. I posted a pic on your thread, but it’s not a great pic or anything, just happened to notice it broke almost all the rules except shooting into the sun 🙂

  2. That’s a tough challenge Otto, not so much to break these ‘rules’, that’s easy and do it all the time, but to get as many in one photo as possible!

  3. LOL! I’ve spent a lot of time deliberately breaking 1, 4, 5, and 9, though not necessarily all in one shot. I also break 3 and 10 fairly often, though not really as a matter of deliberation. Though, come to think of it, yes, I’ve deliberately broken 10. As for 2, I sometimes like the subject spill over the edges of the frame.

  4. Being from my parents half german and half it alien when ti has to do with following rules and “making an effort” to break them is something part of my DNA…
    PS: now what was that…something about focus on the centre of interest?

  5. Well. I’m half Swedish, so maybe I will keep half of the rules! I think it would be hard to break all the rules and still have a worthwhile photo. But, it does seem to me that clusters of rules can be — and probably are — broken together. I shot while the sun still was high (#3), shot against the light (#4), didn’t use a light meter since I don’t have one (#7), and went for what I think is lens flare (#9). The good news is that I love this photo, taken at a historic Texas fort. Now you know what happens when you shoot through a hole in a cactus!

      1. When you shoot through a hole in a cactus, you get this photo! That’s what caused the sunburst. I saw the cactus pad with the hole in it, and came back later to see if I could capture the sun shining through it.

        That’s funny – five rules broken is just half, so my half-Swede should be happy.

      2. Another rule I’ve learned is always to save my original files. That way, I can go back and change the processing. It does look better not centered, so I’ve learned something about the rule of thirds. But we’ll leave it centered for the challenge, since that’s another rule broken.

    1. i see you asked someone what they meant to focus on, i totally meant to focus on the tall grass in the foreground, but the cam was moving hahaha

      1. Thanks Otto. I always am amazed when I take an action I don’t want to take, only then does new understanding come, yet I continue to forget this, and procrastinate and miss the goodies!!! Accountability is a motivator; not wanting to look bad in the eyes of someone else. You are good at getting people to do what they don’t want to do. I’m like that too, for other people, but not so much with myself:-).

  6. Hej Otto, vilken festlig utmaning, den vill jag absolut försöka mig på. Hoppas jag hinner få till något.
    Mycket bra inlägg “start with the box”.
    Bästa hälsningar

  7. not easy to this challenge, I have no idea which photo to use, definitely broken with the rules I have several, as they often are bungler. Well I’ll try to find something if I can.
    Thanks dear Otto. Greetings, Patrick

      1. Thanks, Otto, There is of course an obvious answer to the question: the pattern. I took a bunch of photos in that series that afternoon, all of them various patterns created by trees in relation to the sun, though I also took a couple shots of just the sun. I’ve long been interested in photographing, not just things, but relations BETWEEN things,

  8. Loved the rules, always great to know them as it can be fun to bend them and work around them…but in the end they always serve a great purpose. As for rules, I generally follow them until I see something striking and then only by breaking the rules does the shot come alive.

  9. I hope you don’t mind another photo from me, Otto. This is a “shaky-cam” photo, where I deliberately move the camera while shooting. I “discovered” this technique while taking evening shots of the New York City skyline. I’m basically a street shooter, so I don’t walk around with a tripod. That means that the camera may move during the longer exposures required by low light evening and night shots. That resulted in a lot of shots being “spoiled” by camera movement.

    Yet I couldn’t help but notice that I some of those shots the composition was fine. So, why worry about a little blur? It’s not as though people hadn’t seen 1000s of photos of the New York skyline. I’m not really trying to document it for posterity. I just want to put an interesting image on paper. That, of course, is the attitude of an “art” photographer, which I sometimes am. So, why not deliberately move the camera and see what you get?

    In this shot my “subject” is a small apartment building. I held the lens with my left hand and zoomed it by rotating the camera body a quarter turn or so. The white streaks are street lights:


    1. Of course I don’t mind another photo. On the contrary. And I am totally with you when it comes to the way you have achieved this photo. Deliberately moving the camera is a great way to get something different.

      1. Thanks, Otto. And this brings us back to rules. Once you think of photography as painting with light, what are the rules? Now that I’m not trying to document something, I can do anything I want to, and Photoshop lets you do so much, no?

        Well, no. Once you’re into “art” all kinds of Photoshop manipulations you’d never use in documentary photography now become legitimate. That’s true.

        The trouble is that there’s so much you can do with Photoshop it can be overwhelming. So you’ve got to find some things that interest you and in effect create your own rules. These are the rules of your aesthetic. You don’t have to write them down, and they don’t have to be explicit. But you need a sense of what you’re doing.

        Of course you can change them whenever you want. Every once in awhile I’ll go through a phase where I try lots of stuff just to see what happens. Then I pick out one or two things I like and add them to my “rule book”.

  10. Another great and interesting challenge Otto. If I may, the first link is another photo for the ‘what do you see’ or first challenge – I call it family
    This link is for breaking the rules. I didn’t get 10 not even close. 1- not using the meter, 2-lens flare, 3- middle of the day, 4-too strong a contrast (is that the same as not using the meter?), 5-chromatic aberration (I think that’s what all the little coloured spots on the petals are called), 6-shooting against the sun. Well maybe I got more than I thought 🙂

  11. One more, Otto. I like to photograph flowers, outdoors, in beds or in the wild. Which means that if i want to look up at a flower from below I’ve got a problem 9unless it’s a sunflower two meters high). I can’t put them on a pedistal on a table. And, while I could get down on my stomach, when I did that I’d crush a bunch of flowers.

    So, what to do? The obvious solution is just to hold the camera down below the flower, point the lens up, and let autofocus do its job. It works just fine. Except that I don’t know exactly what I’m shooting untill I’ve taken the shot. I get lots of shots framed in ways I’d almost never do deliberately. Many of those are unusable. A few a just fine. And some, like the one below, ride the border.


      1. Yes, I think it’s interesting, Otto. And I’m glad you agree.

        I do a lot of experimenting and I have a lot photographs where I’m not sure that I’ve got anything. It helps to have other people’s views. There’s a tricky balance it seems to me. You’ve got to “follow your muse” as it were. But you don’t want to get lost in the weeds where no one can appreciate what you are doing.

        One thing that struck me is that, compositionally, this photo is a lot like the one posted by robert quiet photographer on August 30. Both photos have most of the ‘action’ in one side of the photo. In his photo it’s on the right side; in mine it’s on the left. Both photos are wildly assymetrical, yet somehow balanced.

    1. Interessant ikke sant? Vi har så innbygget i oss hvordan bilder skal se ut, at det er vanskelig å bryte ut av mønsteret, bevisst. Men som du sier, skjer det hele tiden når vi ikke vil. 🙂 Takk for bidraget, Monica.

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