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The One Chance Project: My Newest Photography Project

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You only get one chance with a photo

The One Chance Project is a new project – concurrent with my big 2019 photography project – with one simple rule. No post-processing after capture. It’s an extension of my giving yourself photography assignments challenge.

Why do this specific photography project?

There are a few things responsible for the genesis of this photography project:

  1. My desire to spend less time in front of the computer processing photos.
  2. I’ve been getting more and more comfortable with Fujifilm cameras’ amazing out-of-camera JPEGs, using their built-in film simulations and highly customizable user presets.
  3. A feeling of “being challenged” by photographers who say you’re a chump if you don’t post-process your photos.
  4. That ongoing quest to always get it right at capture.

What will this photography project include?

I’ll make every effort to post something every week. I don’t want to make a promise to do so because, you know, life happens and pressure never works.

The posts could include a series of photos that tell a story, or just a single photo that tells a story.

Or I could just post one photo that focuses (no pun intended) on one aspect of photography, like chiaroscuro or compositional challenges.

Maybe I’ll even post a photo that missed the mark, showing what I should have done differently with the composition.

The photos will be accompanied by an explanation of my mindset, background on the story, and technical details.

I want you to do this project with me!

Are you up for the challenge? Are you a photographer who usually only shoots RAW? Or you’re just beginning and want to get some practice? Come see what you can do without any processing!

The guidelines are simple:

  • Set JPG or RAW+JPG for your camera’s file format; upload only the JPG.
  • Editing allowed: Resizing for upload.
  • Editing NOT allowed: Cropping, straightening, dodging, burning, color correction…anything other than resizing!
  • Upload one photo or series of ~5 related photos, no more than once per week.
  • Participate in constructive, social feedback for the photos within the group – what could we have done differently with our in-camera settings or perspective?

Flickr Group & Instagram feature

Join the Flickr Group “One Chance Photography Project” to participate in the project. Flickr has a free plan and it’s just fine for this.

I’m also hijacking the Instagram hashtag #onechancephoto; share your photos using this hashtag to get featured on Instagram.

If interest grows enough, I’ll consider sending out a special newsletter every two weeks featuring my picks from your submissions.

How you’ll benefit from this photography project

Become a better photographer

  • Be critical of how you choose to expose the photo.
  • Pay closer attention to your white balance & color palette.
  • Become proactive about proper framing during capture.
  • Learn your camera so well that it becomes a direct extension of your mind & body; it’s no longer a piece of equipment.

Become a better editor

I’m not talking about editing in post-processing programs…I’m talking about editing “contact sheets.” You’re happy with 18 of the JPEGs you recorded from that street scene, but you have to narrow it down to five.

  • Which ones captured the right moment that makes the composition sing?
  • Can you identify the photos that use an arrangement of line, shape, and color that draws the viewer into the photo?
  • How will you select and arrange just a small percentage of your total photos in order to tell the story in the best way possible?

Learn to accept and give criticism

One of the things I hate is when people say, “great photo.” Are they just being nice or do they actually like it? I wish they would actually say what they like or don’t like about a photo.

We will never become better photographers if all we hear is, “great photo.” Why is it great, what did we do right that we need to continue doing? If something is off, why is it off and how can we improve?

You will learn to identify these things in other photographer’s photos and learn how to tactfully offer suggestions, and praise. On the receiving end, you’ll become comfortable accepting criticism, which is vital to improvement.

I’ll be actively moderating these criticisms and will have little patience for disparaging comments.

“One Chance” first entry – Bodie State Historic Park

I stopped through Bodie as I often do when driving US395. The ghost town has a fascinating history and remarkably well-preserved buildings given the harsh elements it’s been exposed to for over a century. It’s just one of those places that draws me to make the turn down the dirt road off the highway every time I drive past it.

The weather was unseasonably cold & chilly. It was also late in the day mid-week, so there were less than a dozen cars in a parking lot that’s usually full in the summer.

Sometimes when I come here I make bright, bold photos with saturated colors. But this day was different. The indifferent weather and lack of visitors made the place feel really isolated and chilly. I wanted to convey that in photos that showed a cold timelessness to them.

The technical decisions

Gear choice

Custom setting

I used Aperture Priority as I often do. Using a mid-aperture like f/8 or f/11 when photographing establishing views of the ghost town, and switching to f/2.8 to isolate subjects. I used my Exposure Compensation dial in conjunction with my viewfinder histogram to set the exposure, while my AUTO ISO setting maintained a fast enough minimum shutter speed to avoid camera shake or movement. The ghost town is still; introducing movement would erroneously make people feel as if it were alive.

The photos

bodie ghost town
I took a number of town scenes, to try to show the viewer where they’re at. The others just weren’t balanced. This one uses the two buildings on each side of the foreground to frame it, with the winding road leading the eye to the hills.
bodie ghost town
Okay this one gave me a jump. I knew the park rangers lived in some of the houses, but I wasn’t expecting to see a dog looking through the window. This was a compositional challenge, trying to show enough information to establish the scene without too many distractions.
bodie ghost town
Lamps in the firehouse. Interesting, considering that the majority of the town has burned down thanks to accidents with oil lamps like this. One of them is not like the others.
bodie ghost town
Every time I walk into this house I imagine one of the mine’s bigshots talking to a psychiatrist, worried about what’s next when the mine runs dry.
bodie ghost town
The Bodie Cemetery is interesting to walk through. The success of the mine & town seems so distant when compared to all of the lives taken by this unforgiving location.

Overall I think the choice of camera settings was good – if I did it again, I’d knock the color down a little bit. I didn’t want to necessarily do it in black & white because the colors were important to me; the Classic Chrome simulation desaturated would help with that weathered look.

Bodie is a great setting for photographers and maybe I’ll try B&W next time.

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Sunday 16th of June 2019

BTW. I like the new blog theme! Well done.


Sunday 16th of June 2019

I'm looking forward to this! Funny, how rather perplexed I am on "how" to do it. So, I'll have to learn and that's what I like about it. I like processing, but this challenge should help me be more even-handed and true to my intent; even if I'm only being mindful at capture.

I think we could kindly debate the fine lines between LR/PS processing and letting Fuji (or Canon, in my case) work the computations even as we spin the dials of +1 this or that. However, I really have no idea what I'm talking about.

I do hope you get a variety of participants with varied interests. I photographed my folks and brother at the Nevada Marathon this weekend in the Ruby Mountains. Your post made me drop into the menu and experiment with pre-sets, but, damn it, I forgot to save as JPG!

John Peltier

Tuesday 18th of June 2019

I like your first few submissions! Yeah, this is more of just a challenge than anything else. I'll still process photos, but I just want to see what myself and others can do without it. And in the process learn more about composition, lighting, and your camera itself.

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