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Gratitude – November Photography Challenge

The photography challenge has become something that many people participate in on Digital Photo Mentor each month. I couldn't be more thrilled when I see your photos and read the stories about your images and what you have learned by doing the challenge. I'm grateful to have you here as a reader and this month we're going to do something to celebrate gratitude.

Last month's winner

First, let's wrap-up last month's challenge which was to Shoot Wide Opened using a large aperture on your lens. There were so many great images and awesome lessons learned and as usual you all blew me away with your sharing and being helpful to each other. So thank you for that!

Some of your comments and the lessons that you learned include:

  • I learned that contrary to what I thought (that a small aperture setting was needed to get sharp stars), that shooting wide open at the proper settings can produce tack sharp stars. Lesson learned; with the proper setting, I can still get tack sharp stars with a wide open setting, as long as the focus is spot on! – Dennis Mortlock
  • I knew about shooting wide open, put sometimes you forget about all the things that you have in your arsenal, so this taught me that I need to be experiencing more with what I know.  – Arch Boothe
  • Lots of learnings. Very hard to hand shoot a macro shot when there is a breeze. Focus point is key. f2.8 is very narrow in-focus range so must select the subject carefully or it just doesn't work … but love the separation when it does work. Thanks for the inspiration! – DKH
  • Through this exercise, I learned just how shallow the DOF is at f/1.2 (shallow!), how close I could focus with this lens, and how the field of view changed as compared to my 23mm lens. – Heather
  • What did I learn? Had to pay attention to my settings, walk around the subject, try different angles, look at the light and how it played on my subject. Enjoyed doing this challenge, got a lot of practice, and I had fun. – Gerald Dantin

And the winner is . . .

Photo by Nutmeg66

A randomly generated number was assigned to all the eligible entries and the winner was chosen from among those. Congratulations to – Ed! 

I'll be in touch by email for you to collect your prize.

New challenge – photograph and celebrate gratitude

This month I thought it would be appropriate to have gratitude as our theme challenge. Thanksgiving in Canada was last month but it's coming up soon in the USA, and well, any time is a good time to be grateful.

What I challenge you to do this month is to photograph as many of the things you are grateful for as possible. Look around and see what is important to you. Who are the people, and what are the things you feel gratitude towards? Go photograph them! These are my girls!



  • Your family (spouse, kids, parents)
  • Your friends, neighbors
  • Don't forget your pets too
  • What about your job? Boss even? Co-workers?
  • Sunshine
  • Your car
  • How about quiet? Think outside the box, and how can you photograph that? Or peace?
  • Dinner? Have a particularly favorite meal? Photograph it.
  • Your camera – that one might be tricky but get creative. Use your phone if you have to or a mirror!

Why do this?

In doing this you get double benefits. There's the photography aspect, and then there's just being willing to appreciate all the good things you have in your life. Who can't use a little more of that?

In a few weeks, I head down to Nicaragua again with a photography tour group. We'll be working with kids and families there, some of whom have almost nothing. Every time I go there it's humbling and gives me a big jolt of perspective on how much I truly do have. Celebrate Thanksgiving (if you're in the US) and really mean it.




So if we go down that road, how about being grateful for; clean water, the ability to read, electricity, the internet, food, that you live in a country where you have freedoms others don't, and so much more.

I'm grateful for so much but I know it's easy to forget how much I have, how much we all have. If you're reading this you are in the minority in the world, and make more money than 80% of the population, and it's likely higher than that. In Nicaragua alone, something like 80% of the population earns less than $2 a day.

So this is not a technical challenge, it's one you need to do from the heart. Really feel it, and let it show in your images.

How to participate in this month's challenge

In order to participate in this challenge and be eligible for this prize you need to:

  1. Upload your favorite image (or 2-3) of gratitude in the comments section below
  2. Tell us how you shot it (what lens and settings).
  3. Tell us about your experience doing this challenge?  Do you feel truly grateful? Did you do justice to your subject? Tell us about that.
  4. Upload your photo, shooting info and what you learned by the cut-off date of December 10th, 2016 (11:59 pm EST or UTC-5). NOTE: please do NOT save your images as TIF (they will be too big to add in the comments, must be under 2mg) and please do NOT email your images to me for critique. I cannot give personal critiques by email, leave your images below and I will comment there.

Please note: if you do NOT fulfill all the steps above your entry will not be valid. Just adding the photo will NOT be counted as an entry. I want to hear about it too, please. The point of these challenges is to help you learn something new – tell me about that.

You may post more than one photo, and do this as many times as you like over the month (you can comment as many times as you like, and share as many photos as you want – but it will be counted as one entry per person). The more you practice the better you’ll get at it, like anything – so share away. I also encourage you to share the link to this challenge with a friend, so you can do it together!

Tour group participants riding camels in the sahara
I'm grateful I get to travel and do stuff like this! You can too – join me in Morocco next spring.

The Prize

This month the winner will have a choice of prizes between:

So get shooting!



You are here: Photography Tips » Gratitude – November Photography Challenge

  • Dr.Syed

    I have a problem sometimes , I do get to see strong noise , even at the shots taken at ISO 100, which is more obvious at 100% zoom on the screen, whats the possible reason and whats the solution, can you help me in this regard

    • David Welter

      I’d like to hear this answer as I just ran into this problem. Thanks

    • Davidh Digman

      What camera/lens set up are you using? Are there any settings that the shots have in common (ie: are you shooting full manual, part-auto or full-auto; are you shooting RAW or JPEG)?

      It could be an issue with your camera and lens combo combined with lighting and your shooting mode.

      • Elizabeth Maurer

        I agree. I have similar problems with my D5100 with a 50mm 1.8 lens. My close up shots look good but anything at a distance are grainy.

      • See my reply to his above. Your lens cannot cause noise nor can shooting mode. But the length of the exposure and processing can.

        • Davidh Digman

          Thank you! I thought some lenses with some cameras could create noise. Must be mistaken!

          • Would be news to me. No, from what I know, and I could be wrong, noise is caused by three things:
            – high ISO
            – long exposures (the sensor heats up causing noise)
            – blue channel noise (the B in RGB stands for blue and all images are comprised of 3 layers of those colors. Noise lives mostly in the blue channel. So when photographing anything blue (like night time or shadowy areas) noise will creep in there.

          • Davidh Digman

            Blue channel noise is not something of which I’ve heard! I have sometimes taken shots in the forest and mountains with a little more noise than I’d like. The local forests are primarily eucalyptus gums, which have a distinct blue tinge. We even have a mountain range called The Blue Mountains as a result. Is there any way of counterracting blue channel noise?

          • Only in processing. You can use PS and go to your channels and only apply noise reduction to the blue channel.

          • If you look at all 3 you will likely see the most noise there.

    • Hi Dr. Syed – same questions. I cannot answer that without seeing one of your images and knowing all the data: camera used (lens is irrelevant as the lens cannot cause noise), ISO, aperture, shutter speed, RAW or JPG, file size, and how did you process it? Did you boost the exposure in processing? That will add noise also. So will shooting at night or a long exposure. It’s not just ISO that causes it.

  • Davidh Digman

    I cannot post my images for some reason.

    • Which one worked and which didn’t? Just for other’s reference.

      • Davidh Digman

        Normally I use Mozilla Firefox in an Ubuntu environment but found it won’t post images.

        So I switched to Google Chrome and my problem was solved.

        • Yeah Chrome is good for most things internet related. I’ve had photo ordering sites systems not work in FIrefox or Safari but did on Chrome. It’s my go-to now.

          • Davidh Digman

            And mine now that I understand the problem!

  • Davidh Digman

    I made this image inside a mortally wounded but still standing mountain ash tree in Sherbrooke Forest, Victoria, Australia. That forest is my favourite piece of planet Earth. I am grateful for how the place reminds me of my early childhood, when my parents, brother and sister would go for bushwalks there and picnics. These torn internal timbers also remind me of how grateful I am to have lived a life of anguish, joy, fear and hope. We are all of us mortal and that mortality is part of what makes everything worthwhile. This is also within the forest where I have my first professional writing gig, wherein I got to write a series (that became a column) in a little local alternative lifestyle newspaper. It reminds me to be grateful for impending death, as it can be every bit as beautiful as are the tattered timbers within this mountain ash tree. Those timbers have stood since before Europeans invaded Australia and even injured, still they work to stand tall and true.

    Technical details are:

    Taken on my Pentax K-5II with an 18-55 mm lens. I set it at 18.0 mm to get as much of the interior as I could. I used f/10.0 to capture the nearer and more distant portions sharply. I used 1/80s, ISO400 and an exposure balance of -0.70 eV. Processed in the GIMP in Linux Ubuntu to deepen some of the shadows.

    • thank you for sharing this. Poor tree.


      Gorgeous,lovely textures

      • Davidh Digman

        It was the texture that was the main drawcard for me. Thank you!

  • Davidh Digman

    This is the exterior of the tree I uploaded previously.

    I adjusted the orientation of this to make the tree trunk appear above the viewer. I am grateful for the fact that there are things above me, greater than me, and that that means I have things to which I may aspire. The branches in the sky touch the branches of adjacent trees, and I am grateful for the connectedness of all that lives.

    Technical details:

    Taken on my Pentax K-5II with an 18-55 mm lens set at 18.0 mm to get as much width of trunk as I could accommodate. I used f/8.0, 1/100s, ISO800 and an exposure balance of 0.00 eV. Processed in the GIMP and RAW Therapee in Linux Ubuntu.

    • The Kooky Kiwi

      I like the perspective in this picture!

      • Davidh Digman

        Thank you! I felt rather small beside it, and I wanted to share that scale. Those ash trees are huge, and ancient.


      Beautiful,great perspective

      • Davidh Digman

        Thank you!

  • Valerie Hunter

    This photograph is entitled, “Pondering Innocence” shot with Canon 70D, 1/160 sec at F5.6, ISO 100, 56mm (Canon EF-S18-135mm, f/3.5-5.6 IS STM). The sun was very strong but allow the colors to pop without overpowering the subject. As well, with the movement toddlers bring, the shutter speed allowed me to capture the moment more clearly. Bringing down the highlights and the blacks gives it more depth providing just the feel I wanted.

    First let me say, that I’m truly grateful for this beautiful little three year old. While typical toddlers are difficult in someways to shoot, this particular one is a natural and made the entire experience an utter joy. I see this as him unknowingly being grateful for the innocence he can still enjoy.

    • Davidh Digman

      Love your use of depth of field to literally focus the subject.

      • Valerie Hunter

        Thank you….I was a little concerned about getting it at the right moment but got lucky!


      Lovely photograph

      • Valerie Hunter

        Thanks so much!

    • Lovely thanks for sharing it

  • The Kooky Kiwi

    This is my submission for the November Challenge. This photo encompasses a few things I am grateful for.. My daughter, just for being my daughter, grateful she agreed to model so I could practice my photography and time.. the time spent having a fun afternoon taking a million goofy pictures to get this one for the album. Taken with my rebel t6, kit lens 18-55mm, natural light, iso 400 (i think from memory). Taken in full colour and converted to black & white. I left a “hint” of colour because I like it… I think it adds dimension.


      Beautiful frame,very pretty photo.

      • The Kooky Kiwi

        thank you kindly

    • Davidh Digman

      I like what this black and white has done for her eye highlights, the grain of her hair and the reflections from her lips. It seems she has some variation in tone (some subtle darkening) in her cheeks, so is there a way you could bring that out more? It may be of interest. Nicely posed and framed! Portraiture always terrifies me!

      • Have you considered my Portrait Fundamentals course? Might take some of the fear away?

    • Great job.

      • The Kooky Kiwi

        Thank You Darlene. Happy New Year to you!

  • Jim Furey

    Remembrance Day
    In Burnaby there’s an extended care facility for our military veterans.
    For a few years now, at this time of year, local school kids have bedecked the lawns with Canadian flags,
    to show respect and remembrance of our veterans.
    My wife’s Mom, a veteran of WWII, lives here, and is in her 101st year.
    We remember.


    • How lovely, a great memorial and 101? Wow!

      • Jim Furey

        WOW for sure! We all call her the Energizer Bunny – she just keeps goin’ . . .
        Thanks for your reply.
        I hope the school kids keep this one up – it matters.


    This image i shot one afternoon,last week.Just on impulse the light was good,and i was lucky really.It makes me feel grateful for the free things,that you can take for granted.In regards to this it was seasonal colour,and the changes that autumn brings.This was in Aperture Priority at f/5.6.

  • Jayanta Adhikari

    This is my first submission for the November Challenge. I am grateful for the Earth…without this beautiful planet, we are not able to survive at all! Though we are hurting her, polluting her and making every efforts to destroy her. But still she is trying to help us …
    Taken with my Sony A58, 30mm Macro lens at f2.8 and with a shutter speed of 1600, and ISO of 100.

    • The Kooky Kiwi

      I quite like this picture. For me it gives me feelings of calm. I especially like the beautiful colour tone.

  • helenmp

    I have always felt so grateful for being married to a kind and caring husband and I’m so grateful for our lovely family – 3 children, their spouses and 9 grandchildren. I was amazed at how well this photo came out because we were in a dimly lit room, I only had my compact camera and had to use its not very powerful pop up flash on auto so I wasn’t expecting much. I used a Panasonic TZ70 1/60 f5.2 ISO1000 and I learned that that flash is quite acceptable for quite close up photos with only a tiny bit of red eye. I’m glad this isn’t a technical challenge, but I think I captured the feeling of family love between Grandpa and two of his granddaughters.

  • helenmp

    I am so grateful for living in a beautiful country (UK) and for having the eyesight to see it and the ability to walk into the countryside. I was out for a walk late afternoon in early November and the sun caught the colours of the autumn leaves and it looked amazing. I was pleased that I managed to capture the feel of the scene – the brightness of the fallen leaves and the suns rays contrasting with the dark tree trunks.Having reading about capturing the sun’s rays I actually learned how to do it in practice, with some trial and error! I used a Panasonic GX80 with a 12-32mm lens at 12mm (=24mm at 35mm equivalent) I used aperture priority f20 at 1/60 which put the ISO up to 1000. I did just a little processing to slightly brighten the picture.

  • Valerie

    This photo brings a sense of gratitude for children everywhere and especially my own. I call this, “Squawk at the Mama”. This Japanese White Eye found on Maui seems to be looking at me and saying, “Do you see what deal with?”. Being grateful for the

  • Valerie

    This photo brings a sense of gratitude for children everywhere and especially my own. I call this, “Squawk at the Mama”. This Japanese White Eye found on Maui seems to be looking at me and saying, “Do you see what deal with?”. Luckily, I caught the first moments of this little guy leaping from his nest for the first time. The Mama flew back and forth checking on him while I watched. Being grateful for the beautiful minds and energy of children is sometimes difficult during the squawking, but later we seem to find it amusing as well as comforting to remember.

    The photo was take with a Canon 70D with a Canon EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM at 1/50 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400. I brought up the exposure and dropped down the highlights a touch. Unfortunately, this was a lesson in being ready for that special moment. In hindsight, I would have bumped up the ISO so that I could have obtained a faster shutter speed to get a more crisp shot of the temper fit.

  • Valerie

    Freedom, freedom, freedom. This is all I can say about this photo. I found a sense of irony that this beautiful bird chose to fly in and out of a fence. The freedoms we enjoy makes me think of this bird and the freedom he has to fly and pass through most obstacles. We can also choose to enjoy and be grateful for our freedoms and work to overcome our obstacles as well.

    The photo was take with a Canon 70D with a Canon EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM at 248mm, 1/200 sec at f/5.0, ISO 200. I did bring the highlights and the whites down some due to the angle of the light. It helped, but would have liked to taken a bit more glare off of his left side. Fortunately, he was making his way in and out of the fence which gave me a chance to capture it as best I could. Still a lot of learning!

  • Dennis Geller

    This wasn’t taken exactly on Veteran’s Day, but it was close. There was a time, before the Vietnam War, when the American flag was a straightforward symbol, for most people. When the flag became a symbol of political protest its political usage engendered hatred and violence. Now of course it is not only a straightforward patriotic symbol representing old values and a more modern symbol of protest (at its best, protest against the ways that America does not seem to live up to its best promises) but also routinely a commercial symbol as well. I have been developing a series attempting to capture many of the less traditional ways that we see the flag today, but this image grabbed me as representing the deepest and most shared meaning of the flag today.
    ISO 1600, 20 seconds, 18-55 mm Canon Lens (at 37mm)

  • Rebecca Cullimore

    I have had a hard time shooting this month, but keeping this challenge in mind has really helped me focus on what it is I am thankful for. Here are a couple of my favorite, not necessarily for technical brilliance, but for what they represent to me. I am thankful for my mother who lives close by and has taught me so much and is now teaching my son. I am thankful for my husband and his ability to let loose and have fun. I think the pictures captures who they are. Both my husband and mom can be uncomfortable around the camera, so I love how I captured them doing what they do naturally.
    They were both shot with my Tamron 24-70. I used flash for both. The one with my mom was shot at ISO 500, 24mm, f/6.3, 1/160. The one with my husband was 32mm, ISO 640, f/3.2, 1/200.
    Thank you for these challenges!

  • Dennis Geller

    I was proctoring an SAT exam, in the room of an English teacher. On the
    shelf was this book. I had read it in Junior High, and my essential
    memory was of extreme distaste — like swallowing a dusty burlap bag.
    Even years later, when I discovered Edith Wharton’s other books, I
    stayed away from this one. But there it was, and I had 3 hours, so I
    picked it up. The forward (by Anitha Shreve) made it sound like one of
    the great books of all time, and — damned if it wasn’t! I was entranced
    by the spare elegance of the writing and the subtlety of the story,
    which there was no chance I would have appreciated in the 9th grade. I
    was really so grateful to have had the chance to read it that I went to
    my car after the exam for camera and tripod and set up a shot. As I
    recall, I shot a few set-ups and left, and then went back to school
    after I looked at them and did the whole thing again. What I learned was
    that it’s good (though sadly rare)to be able to recreate a shot, and
    hence to always keep that option in mind for studio work. (Yes, I also
    learned something about rereading books I gave up on decades ago, but I’d
    had a similar experience at the previous year’s exam with The Scarlet
    Letter, so maybe it doesn’t count as “learned”). This was a Canon
    18-55 mm (at 390 km) ISO 200, 2.5 sec at f/6.3

  • Folake Abass

    I have recently returned from a week in Istanbul, Turkey. I had a most wonderful time there and throughout my trip and as a result of this challenge, I found myself being grateful for everything. For every encounter, every smile and every interaction. From the man selling me roasted chestnuts, to another selling pomegranate juice on the corner. From the woman with her young child begging on the corner, to the car that stopped in the middle of the road so I could cross. For my hotel and every member of its staff that made my stay so memorable and provided me with a place to rest my head at the end of every day. But most of all, I found myself being extremely grateful that at the end of the day spent walking the streets of Istanbul, I was able to return to my room and see the most amazing view of the Bosphorus Bridge. In the mornings I would wake and watch as the sun rose over it and at night, I would enjoy it in all its splendour once the lights were turned on.

    In the finally analysis though, I’m truly grateful for the gift of travel. To see, and experience all that exists around me is one of the greatest gifts that I’m grateful for. I could have posted photos for days but I chose this one of the Bosphorus Bridge for this challenge. It was shot with a Canon 50D 200mm lens, ISO 400, f/11, 1.3s.


    • I love that last part – I too am grateful for the gift of travel. That I’m able to do it. I think when you see more of the world, experience different cultures, barriers and walls start to fall away. Understanding takes the place of anger. Acceptance and appreciation over hatred and prejudices. I feel that I’ve experienced just a small tip of the iceberg that is the world we live in, but so many people do not venture out of their own country, or even city! I too loved Istanbul!

  • P James

    I am aware that I’m late in submitting photos for the challenge, but I’ve been busy with life. Still, I wanted to share what I am grateful for. There are really too many things to list, so I’ve narrowed it down to a selfish, yet unselfish subject. Selfish, because I wanted to take the photos, yet unselfish, because all I wanted was to capture the moments for someone else. Our neighbors recently welcomed their first baby into the world. We were so fortunate to meet him when he was only 2 days old. I immediately asked his mother if she’d arranged new-born photos. She had received a package as a baby-shower gift and had an appointment scheduled in just 8 days. I asked, with trepidation, if I may take a few photos sometime in the next week, as practice. My neighbor was so gracious and we arranged an afternoon. She understood my experience in photography and was very patient. I was extra cautious with baby and mom always had her hands right on him, unless he was lying comfortably on the floor, on padding of course. Well, things didn’t go exactly as planned with fussing and messes but I managed a dozen “keepers” that I gave to the couple. I expected noting in return because I was so grateful for the opportunity. So here are a few of my “grateful” moments. I used my Canon 70D, 60mm macro for the black and whites or my 24-70mm for the color portrait. The black and white hands was 1/25th, F2.8, ISO 500 with window light and a reflector on a overcast day, the Heart Hands and Feet was 1/160th, F2.8, ISO 125 with a speedlite in a softbox ETTL and the color portrait was 1/160th, F2.8, ISO 125, with the Speedlite in the softbox with grid, ETTL -2.

    • These are fantastic!! I’m sure she was thrilled. Did you ever see the ones she got in her “package”?

      • P James

        Thanks Darlene. I’m flattered by your reaction. She was thrilled by the photos. I have more photo ideas for her and her husband who has some very unique tattoos including getting his son’s name on his wrist. So I really want to capture that, even if he is a few months older. I haven’t seen what the professional photographer captured but my neighbor did mention that they weren’t as “personal” poses as I had envisioned. So at least I feel like I’m on track, I’m learning and my confidence is growing. Nothing like fear and common sense to hold me back….
        Perhaps I’ll be in Drum with you soon…

        • That old fear again, tell it to knock that off! As for Drumheller sounds good. Just know I’m not leading the April one, we have Bruce Clarke doing it as I’ll be leading the tour to Morocco.

  • Great image!

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