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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Related Posts About Challenges
- Suzanna Burke Flash Fiction Interview #1
- How to Lasso a Wild Carrot in 99 Words-No More-No Less Interview #2 – Charli Mills of Carrot Ranch
- How Responding to a Photo Challenge Focuses Your Writing and Increases Your Followers – Guest Post #3 Terri Webster Schrandt Sunday Stills
- One-Word Writing Prompt Challenges Interview #4 Esther Chilton
- How to Run a Successful Writing Challenge for Four Years Counting Interview #5 Colleen Chesebro
- Why One Blogger Chose to Participate in Rather than Host Photo Challenges Guest Post #6 Susan Gutterman
- How Four Strangers from Around the World Coordinate a Weekly Photo Challenge Interview #7 Lens-Artists, Tina, Patti, Ann-Christine, and Amy
- “For the Love of Challenges” Explained – rationale for interview series.