Always Write Interview Series #8

#Bloggers Hosting Writing and Photo Challenges

Hi friends, I’m Marsha Ingrao, editor of my hobby blog, Always Write, a blog to serve like-minded bloggers and participate in my  hobby of blogging.

My guest this week doesn’t need an introduction if you’ve been following photo challenges for a while or are one of the 1,500,000 views she’s had on her blog. Like many of those who have been interviewed, I cut my blogging teeth on WordPress Daily Photo Challenge and Cee Neuner’s Fun Foto Challenge and Odd Ball Challenge. I miss that one since many of my photos are odd balls.

Since she’s from Oregon, where I went to high school, college, started working and got married, I’ve always felt a special bond knowing some of the places she goes to photograph.

Cees Fun Foto Challenge – ships

What prompted you to begin to host a writing/photo challenge?

I started hosting photography challenges on a website that was basically for photographers, before I started my blog.  So when I started my own blog and saw that individuals could host a challenge on WordPress, I started my Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge. I just like to encourage people to take photos and have a lot fun with photography.  That’s how I came up with the name.

What is your purpose in hosting the challenge? How does it help photographers?

I host for a couple of reasons.  I find challenges gives me an incentive to go out and take photographs year around.  I like finding photos that fit different topics.  It has really expanded the range of photos that interest me.  I started out basically taking flower photos, now I shoot all sorts of things.

On the Hunt for Joy Challenge – Brighten up dull chores.

The other reason is that I want to encourage people to take more photos.  We develop our eye for photography the more we take photos.   

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, says it takes 10,000 hours of working in a craft or profession to become an expert in it.  I’ve seen many bloggers turn into outstanding photographers over the years, because they keep practicing their passion for photography. To me, witnessing this new passion in someone else is pure joy. 

One of the very first challenges I took part in called for pictures of purple cars.  I had never shot cars before, and I live in a small town so the odds of seeing a purple car weren’t good.  I kept my eyes open, though, and actually found a couple of cars to shoot.  It was so much fun that I’ve continued to shoot cars, motorcycles, planes, trains… topics way beyond the flowers I was used to.  It opened up my world.  And the adventure continues to this day.

Fun Foto Challenge – orange car

By the way, shooting automobiles is fun and challenging, especially show cars.  They are always polished to a high shine and the reflection takes some working around.  It can be hard to keep your reflection out of the photo, or fun to include sometimes.  Cars have angles that are unusual and you have to move around them to get a good shot.  I love to go to car shows.  The people are always friendly, the photography is great fun to do and you can learn a lot about composition, lighting, reflection, and staging.

How long have you been doing this?

Hosting challenges?  About 12 years or more.

How much time does it take? 

Hosting challenges does take time.  More time than I care to think about.  I really don’t count the hours, because I do it for fun.  In 2008, I had to quit work due to illness and I’ve not worked since.  I had just gotten into taking photography rather seriously, since I bought a pre-DSLR camera.  It was as close to a “fancy camera with lenses” without having to change lenses.  I felt like a grown up taking photos, and some of the photos I took with that Sony camera are still some of my favorites. I now have a full frame mirrorless Sony A7III camera with multiple lenses.

Anyhow, back to the question.  My blogging takes up about 3-5 hours a day.  Some of that time is hosting my challenges and the other times I’m finding challenges that I can participate in and share my photography.

What steps do you take to get your challenge ready? 

I keep lists of topics I’ve used over the years so I don’t repeat them too often.  I keep up my challenge pages weekly.  I really don’t plan ahead of time what photos I will use for my challenges.  I wait until the morning of my challenge and put my post together.  I’m not a writer, so finding photos and writing a short description is all I need.  

On the Hunt for Joy Challenge – Go “eye bombing.”

I try to find a variety of photos that match the challenge theme, and hopefully give ideas for those who get stuck with a topic.  I like to encourage people to “think outside the box”, and to look at things with new eyes.  I’ve seen other challenge hosts over the years make their topics too narrow, too specific.  I feel it eliminates possible participants right away.  For me, the fun of being part of a photographic community is sharing, learning, stretching what we do.  It’s a craft, and the more we practice it, the most interesting our photographs become.  You start really seeing the world with new eyes.  

How do you follow up with your participants?

I actually try to go out and comment on each blogger’s post to my challenge. I want them to know that I took the time to visit their blogs and actually look at their work.  I know I probably miss some people, just because of the high volume of responses to my challenges, but I try to touch everyone.  I follow a lot of bloggers and rely on my email so I can catch most of their entries.  I also go through the pingbacks on my blog daily and try and catch them that way as well.

How did you attract people to participate? How do people usually find out about your challenge? Are you a part of a group on social media that picks up your challenge and promotes it?

Fortunately I’m pretty popular on WordPress, so people tend to find me easily.  I really don’t know how they find out about my challenges.  I think it is because I run some popular challenges and new people find links to my blog that way.

Years ago WordPress ran a weekly photo challenge.  I participated in that challenge all time.  When I first started blogging, I would go through all the pingbacks and hit like on every single entry and oftentimes would comment.  I actually still do that from time to time on other people’s challenges.  It is a way of getting to know new people and photographers.

Is your challenge like a club where you put a widget on your website or embed something on your post?

Flower of the Day Challenge

I do have banners for all my challenges. If bloggers want to add them to their entry or for blog side bars, they are free to do so.  I encourage them to add my challenge name in their tags.  None of this is necessary, though, to participate in my challenges.

On the Hunt for Joy Challenge

Do you determine winners? If so, how?  What do you do with the entries? 

I don’t determine a winner.  Photography is an art that speaks to the heart and eyes.  A photo I really like because it touches my soul might not speak the same way to someone else.

I have just recently started featuring bloggers each week on my Fun Foto and Black and White challenges. [I did this way back when I started my challenges.] By featuring them, I’m giving them more exposure to a wider audience.  I really try to feature bloggers who are new to my challenges or new to blogging.  I also like to acknowledge bloggers who have joined in playing with me for years.  I have even created a banner that says “featured blogger” on them.  

Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge – heads and facial features

I keep a detailed list of who I recently have featured, so people are not featured too often.  I pick six bloggers out of each challenge, so there are people who do get featured more often, just because they play weekly.

My hope for this is that people start talking to other photographers and help grow their own communities.  I know when I get a conversation going with a blogger, I tend to feel closer and more connected to them.  

What about a Facebook Group or Page, or a group in other social media? 

I really don’t use Facebook at all.

Do you post or promote the results or links anywhere?  Nope.  I have a FB page and Pinterest page, but I use them strictly to show flowers and my Pick Me up posters.  Most people don’t even know I exist other than my blog.

Flower of the Day

Cee’s Personal Story

I did not ask Cee to share her personal story, but she has done so on her blog in a couple of places. Her story adds another layer of admiration to what she does for the Photo Challenge world.

“On March 23, 2001, my life changed forever. It was the beginning of the nightmare of Lyme Disease. What we thought was stomach flu turned into a 40 day coma and brought me to the brink of death.

cee-hospital

At first we didn’t think anything of it. I thought I had the same stomach flu that had been going around my office at work. But then I started having difficulty breathing, so Chris knew that it wasn’t stomach flu and called the paramedics. Before we could reach the hospital, they had to pull the ambulance over so that they could intubate me. I had lost the ability to breathe on my own. As my lungs failed, that started a whole cascade of failures.

Upon entering the hospital, my blood sugar was 1,400. Normal is 100 and death usually occurs around 1,000. When the paramedics came, I was still walking and talking. I had no history of diabetes before this. We didn’t know it at the time, but my pancreas had already shut down. My body had become acidotic, and was dissolving itself. I was bleeding internally. My kidneys also failed, so my body lost its ability to filter out toxins. The doctors didn’t think I’d live through the night…” Read the rest on her About Page.

Cee’s Challenge Home Pages:

On the Hunt for Joy – https://ceenphotography.com/on-the-hunt-for-joy-challenge/

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge – https://ceenphotography.com/fun-foto-challenge/

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge – https://ceenphotography.com/cees-black-white-challenge/

Flower of the Day (FOTD) Challenge – https://ceenphotography.com/cees-black-white-challenge/

Cee’s Purple Car Collage 

Fun Foto Challenge – purple car challenge

Thank you for joining me here at Always Write to learn more about Cee Neuner and her many splendored challenges. I’ve been honored to have her as my guest today and I look forward to participating in more of her challenges in the future. Please join in.


59 responses to “Why Cee Neuner Has Successfully Hosted Photo Challenges for Twelve Years”

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  4. bushboy Avatar

    The purple car challenge makes sense to me now. Cee, me and cars….I always try to find her in the reflection 😀 😀 Thanks for a great interview. Lots I already knew and a bit of a new insight into Cee

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      …or Cee me IN cars (a reflection, that is.)

      Liked by 1 person

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  7. Amy Avatar

    Enjoy reading the interview. Thanks, Marsha. I have learned so much from Cee!!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      I have, too. She’s a treasure. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Cee Neuner Avatar

      You are so kind Amy. 😀 We go back together so many wonderful years. It’s been fun watching you grow into being a fabulous photographer.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Amy Avatar

        I have been inspired and educated by you. About blogging and photography. I’m so grateful, Cee! I 💖💗

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Cee Neuner Avatar

          I’m so happy if I played a small roll into your success. 😀 😀

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Amy Avatar

            A big role allowing me to grow and enjoy photography 💗💕

            Liked by 1 person

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  10. anne leueen Avatar

    Thanks to you Marsha for this interview. I really enjoy Cee’s posts and sometimes take part in her challenges. Cee has encouraged me to branch out from my usual photography subjects which are horses. It is fun to photograph subjects that are not moving and experiment with other aspects of photography. I also enjoyed learning a bit more about Cee’s history with her challenges.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      Thank you so much Anne. She is an amazing woman. Not moving objects are easier. I am learning to stage items a little better for still life pictures. I’m not good at that.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Dora Avatar

    I enjoyed this interview so much. I love her good-natured approach to photography as well as her skill. The pics you posted do a great job capturing the breadth of subjects Cee covers through her lenses. And they really are a feast for the eyes … and the soul.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      I agree 100%, Dora. Thanks for stopping by and leaving us a comment. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Ludwig Avatar

    Thank you for revealing this side of Cee. Now I know a bit, no, a lot, more about the person behind those emails about blog post that I enjoy every morning.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Cee Neuner Avatar

      Thanks Ludwig. I finally got a couple of cute windows for your challenge. So maybe next week, you will be getting a post from me 😀

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Ludwig Avatar

        You are one busy blogger, Cee! Love to have you join in whenever you can!

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Marsha Avatar

      Thanks, Ludwig. I do, too and I’ve known Cee for a long time.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Marsha Avatar

      Ludwig, Cee said you host a challenge and my ears perked up. Would you be interested in giving me an interview about your hosting experience?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ludwig Avatar

        Sure. May need to go a bit slowly as I am also getting a photo gallery up right now. Lot’s to chat about.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Marsha Avatar

          Perfectly understandable. You have my email, so just shoot me an email. 🙂 Good luck with your gallery. Is this a physical gallery, or digital? Where is it going up?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Ludwig Avatar

            Marsha, the gallery I am working on is for the Peachtree Corners Photography Club. It will have its grand opening on September 19, 2020 in connection with the Atlanta Celebrated Photography festival. It will be online only. https://gallery.pcphotoclub.org/

            Liked by 2 people

          2. Marsha Avatar

            What a great opportunity for you. Our world has moved online, hasn’t it? I have been in your lovely city for a National Council for the Social Studies Convention about 11 years ago. I fell in love with the cobblestone streets, the horse-drawn carriage ride, the museums and the Presidential Library. It was a fabulous weekend, one I will never forget.

            Liked by 2 people

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  14. Cathy Avatar

    Very interesting and informative, Marsha and Cee. I’ve only become serious about photography in the last few years and am enjoy the challenges, and learning more all the time.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Cee Neuner Avatar

      Cathy, I so love your enthusiasm and of course your photography.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Cathy Avatar

        Thank you, that’s very kind 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Marsha Avatar

      That’s how many of us have learned, Cathy. I’m right there, too.

      Liked by 2 people

  15. lifelessons Avatar

    I, too, was drawn into the world of photography by Cee, whose challenges I’ve been following since 2013. Wonderful interview and thanks for posting the related posts about challenges.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Cee Neuner Avatar

      Thanks for being a part of my blogging life. We do go back a long ways now 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. lifelessons Avatar

        I know.. We’re the old guard!!!

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Marsha Avatar

      Thank you so much for your comment, Life Lessons. I am going to visit your site right now and find out your name! A lot of us owe her a lot. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Cee Neuner Avatar

        I’m surprised you don’t know Judy, she is also a wrtter 😀

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Marsha Avatar

          Believe it or not, I am meeting so many new people, so Judy is new, but I hopped over to her blog, and fell in love with it at once. She thinks outside the box. I love that. I have trouble getting out of my box. So already I have met a new friend because of your interview, Cee. Thanks! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Cee Neuner Avatar

            Both of you have always been special to me. 😀

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Marsha Avatar

            Thank you so much. The feeling is mutual.

            Liked by 1 person

  16. julieallyn Avatar

    I am pleased to see this for a number of reasons. I’ve been a blogging buddy of Cee’s for several years now. My blog, A Sawyer’s Daughter was launched in 2004. Initially, I just wanted to use it to write but eventually – thanks to Cee’s challenges – I became more and more excited about photography. Cee has featured a number of my responses to her weekly challenges and every time I see a post from her saying ‘Congratulations! You’re being featured….’ – well, it never fails to thrill me.

    Thank you for highlighting Cee’s blogging / photography resume. Very much deserved. And thank you, Cee, for all that you do!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Cee Neuner Avatar

      Oh we do go back a long ways. You have always been a dear blogging friend and continue to this day. 😀

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Marsha Avatar

      Julie, I agree with you whole heartedly. I have received her “featured” notice, and it is a thrill. Now I get a chance to give back and feature her. YAY. And I’m meeting so many of her wonderful friends – like you. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. They are treasured.

      Liked by 2 people

  17. Cee Neuner Avatar

    Reblogged this on Cee's Photo Challenges and commented:
    What a blessed day I have had. Marsha interviewed me as well. This past week has been so fun. I hope you enjoy this interview and my responses. Marsha is so kind and caring. I’ve known her for years and it was a total honor to be interviewed for her series.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      Thank you Cee. The honor was all mine. It’s been great participating in your challenges over the years, and I loved getting to know you better. Thanks for the reblog, too. That’s awesome. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Cee Neuner Avatar

        Believe me the pleasure was all mine. We both have bragging rights today!!!! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Marsha Avatar

          True that. And I love that your fans are sending their love. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  18. Cee Neuner Avatar

    Oh Marsha, this interview has turned out so well. What an honor to be featured on your blog. Thank you so much for interviewing me for this special series you are doing. It sure was an honor. I still love that you grew up in Oregon and know where I take photos. That is so cool. It was sure fun being interviewed by you 😀

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      Thank you Cee. I’m loving the responses, too, aren’t you? Your fans love you and are so supportive. You’ve done a lot for people over the years and you never toot your own horn, so here’s a chance to read how much your work means to others.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Cee Neuner Avatar

        It is mind blowing how much people like me. It’s nice to see and actually read and feel. 😀

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Marsha Avatar

          Then my purpose in doing the interview is accomplished. 🙂

          Like

    2. Terri Webster Schrandt Avatar

      Hi Cee! Glad to see you on my Cali-gal pal’s blog! Your story is super inspiring and I’m sure I found you through the WPC in 2015! I love the photos you shared here and I always feel a kinship to you as a photographer and former resident of Oregon! Keep up the good work on the photo challenges and hope to see you back to Sunday Stills in September when I get back from my so-called blog break 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Cee Neuner Avatar

        I will always show up on your challenges from time to time. THe past few of weeks have been hectic. But I’m keeping an eye on your challenge and always hope to join in. 😀 Thanks for always been a fan and supporter of mine 😀

        Liked by 3 people

    3. BeckyB Avatar

      I so enjoyed reading this . . and am in even more awe of you now! And huge thanks to Marsha for interviewing you, this is just wonderful

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Marsha Avatar

        Thanks Becky. It was my pleasure. She’s an impressive woman!

        Like

        1. BeckyB Avatar

          She really is 🥰 and you’ve captured that in your great interview 👏

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Marsha Avatar

            Thank you so much, Becky.

            Like

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