In all honestly, I didn’t really think I’d complete the challenge when I set myself a New Year’s Resolution back at the start of 2017. Having failed on so many previous occasions (usually because I can’t resist chocolate!) I haven’t really made many New Year’s resolutions in recent years. 'Getting more sleep' has been the most appealing idea but having a small child was usually the stumbling block to that one! However, at the tail end of December 2016 I heard of a challenge that I couldn’t resist. It’s called the Dogwood 52 Challenge and involved taking a photo every week of the year based on a set theme. The full list for the year was already published and whilst some looked achievable others seemed really daunting, but i thought it would be a good opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone. I have therefore tackled all manner of subjects from ones that I’m familiar with - a child’s portrait; a traditional landscape, to much more challenging ones such as high key, movement and most terrifyingly two (!) self portraits. Some have been pleasantly surprising- the silhouette week is a picture taken on a family holiday that I will always treasure - and others have been harder than I expected; backlit was exceptionally challenging and i was disappointed with the results. (I also felt rather self conscious using a flash on an incredibly sunny day on a beach!)
Why am I telling you all this? Whilst I have learned a lot technically and (I hope) have become a better photographer for the process, I think the main things I’ve learned are how satisfying it is to challenge yourself and do something a little bit different. It would have been very easy to look at the daunting list and find excuses about why i shouldn’t do it - too difficult; not enough time; other priorities, but regardless of what it is, the harder the challenge the better the feeling when you actually complete it. I posted my final picture yesterday and although it wasn’t one of my favourites (could a selfie ever be?) I was really chuffed with myself to think that I had completed the challenge I set myself a year ago.
There was a discussion on the radio the other day about new year’s resolutions and one of the key things to come out of it was to break the goal down into manageable chunks and set yourself little rewards when you reach milestones. It doesn’t matter what it is, if there is something niggling in the back of your mind that you want to achieve, take this opportunity to try it. What’s the worst that can happen? And tell us about in the comments - the more people you tell, the harder it is to back down!;)
So what’s my resolution going to be for 2018 then? There is a follow-on challenge in the series that looks really hard. I have already provided myself with some excuses (see above about not enough time, too difficult etc!) but maybe I need to follow my own advice and challenge myself……
(Part of my challenge wasn’t just to take the images but to put them out there for the world to see so that they can be critiqued. There’s a brilliant Facebook group that provides constructive criticism on each image and I’ve learned a lot but I also thought that the biggest incentive to try my best was to put them on my website. You can therefore see the full 52 weeks at in the dedicated gallery)
For anyone interested in trying out this challenge, have a look at Dogwood Photography.