In Search of the Unexpected: August’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

August means deep summer; those warm, sun-drenched days when energy wanes and you look forward to a light summer read and cool drink, preferably in front of a water source.  It’s easy to stop noticing and see each day as a replica of the one before, sameness after sameness lulling your senses into summer-time hibernation.

There’s nothing like a camera lens to wake up the senses…especially if you are on the lookout for the unexpected.  Sometimes it is the sound that first captures your attention…this military helicopter came unusually low to the ground as I walked on the beach, swooping in close to the cliffs along the shoreline.  Military helicopters are usual—but so close we could wave at the pilot and he waved back is unexpected!


At the zoo, it was the unexpected color—or lack of color—that attracted my attention.  Baby flamingos are fluffy and gray, in great contrast to their vibrant elders.  These guys almost look like they were photoshopped to black and white.


Hiking can bring it’s share of the unexpected as well.  Climbing to the top of Mt. Woodson we found some natural beauty, along with a forest of communication towers!


And on another hike, this phone booth sat along the trail…I guess you never know when you might need to make a call!  (I didn’t check to see if it was in working condition.)

unexpected-phone booth

Where I live, we seldom find the unexpected in the weather.  Night and morning low clouds with afternoon sunshine is almost a mantra for forecasters.  So the unexpected rain the other morning created quite a stir at the restaurant while we breakfasted.  Lightening flashed and thunder boomed…and the raindrops poured from the sky.  Walking across the street to the car had me walking in ankle deep runoff!


At UCSD, I had walked by this metal tree many times…there are a few as part of an art collection there.  But until a few weeks ago, I had not noticed the contrast between the organic shape of the metal tree and the angular lines of the distinctive architecture of the library behind it.  The unexpected similarities and differences made me pause when I saw it from this new angle.

unexpected-metal tree

It was a gathering crowd that drew my attention as I walked down the beach yesterday.  A surf class? A party?  No…a dead shark with a not-so-dead octopus slithering out of its mouth.  The crowd moved in, fascinated by the close up view of this creature.  I found myself equally interested in the people in the crowd, the ways their bodies leaned in.  And notice the mom holding onto her boys…


And my macro lens can always be depended on to help me see unexpected beauty.  I’ve been watching the dandelions in my yard (there are only two or three) and photographing the different stages of their growth.  Between the yellow flower and the iconic fluff ball stage, there is a stage where the dandelion looks dead.  But through my macro lens, I was able to capture the hint of what was yet to come.


So August’s challenge is to look for the unexpected as you enjoy the last of the long light and warm days (at least in the northern hemisphere).  And to help you look, here are some prompts—one per day—to focus your attention and spur your thinking.

1. People

2. Place

3. Nature

4. Plants

5. Animals

6. Horizon

7. Food

8. Transportation

9. Light

10. Home

11. Smell

12. Sound

13. Garden

14. Inside

15. Thing

16. Drink

17. Sky

18. Outside

19. Neighborhood

20. Weather

21. Early

22. Texture

23. Words

24. Interaction

25. Walk

26. Arrangement

27. Trash (#Litterati)

28. Architecture

29. Close up (Macro)

30. Landscape

31. Pleasure

Once you find the unexpected and capture a photo of it, post a photo each day with the hashtag #sdawpphotovoices to Twitter, Instagram, Flicker, Google+ and/or Facebook (the more the better!), so that we can all enjoy the posts.  If you are game for some more playfulness, compose a blog post about a photo, a week’s worth of photos, write a photo essay, make a video or slideshow or try a learning walk! You are invited to create a pingback by linking to this url or post your blog address in the comment section. It’s fun for me to see what others are doing with the same prompts I am using!

With summer in full swing, it’s the perfect time for some playfulness and experimentation…look for the unexpected in your world–let it surprise you, delight you, maybe even horrify you!  You can post every day, once a week, or even sporadically throughout the month…whatever works in your life. You can play this game by posting your pictures in the order of the prompts or post the one you find on the day you find it.  You get to make your own rules!  Be sure to share and tag your photos with #sdawpphotovoices so we can find them!

6 thoughts on “In Search of the Unexpected: August’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

  1. margaretsmn

    I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to play this fun photo game because our school starts up next week. Eh, gads! And I am not ready. Today, however, on Whidbey Island I saw a bald eagle. My phone could not capture it, but in the binoculars, he was majestic. Thanks for keeping me looking.

  2. Matt Jewell

    Hi Kim,

    These photos make me want to get out and play–head up to Idyllwild, head down to the beach, while away a few hours in a sidewalk cafe–not to mention notice more!

    Can I repost this on SDAWP Voices? I’ll be sure to include the link to the original post so that you get ping backs.



    1. kd0602 Post author

      Absolutely! I’m definitely in that play mode… In spite if the fact that I’m sitting in a meeting that is about to begin–in Montana! Definitely have the urge to go out and look for the unexpected.

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