The Big Ugly Self Portrait Challenge

I am in love with The Big Ugly, a blog overflowing with beautiful and inspiring self portraiture. Lauralyn, the photographer/subject/writer of the blog uses what she calls “Cheap Camera/10 second timer Self Portraiture” to capture her images, which are often shot in incredibly intriguing locations and usually leave me wondering, how on earth did she manage to jump so high or get into that position in 10 seconds, let alone create such an amazing photograph in the process??

So when I saw she was having a Self Portrait Challenge, with the rules deeming that each player must use her same “dash” method, I had to try it! Since I typically use my DSLR camera and remote to capture my self portraits, I knew using the 10 second timer method would be a challenge. I even decided to go a step further and use an old FinePix XP point and shoot camera and shoot in an outdoor location, to really push myself and get a feel for what her process is like. Although she uses a gorilla pod, I actually forgot to bring any sort of tripod, upping the ante even further.

Jake came with me for moral support (and as a lookout ), but he wasn’t allowed to help me in the photography process in any way. At first I tried climbing a tree, wedging the camera between some bark to shoot up my body. After one shot that seemed promising, the camera slipped, and I wasn’t able to get it to balance again. Here is the sole photo from that attempt, which I think is actually kinda cool in its own way:


I also tried hanging from/posing by the same tree, without any results I was very happy with. After the tree attempts, I headed over to a rocky area and tried lying on/doing a back-bend over/standing on the rocks.

pennysblog_backbendBut I still wasn’t happy with the results I was getting and realized the camera’s battery was already almost dead, so I decided to go for the gold: I set my camera on a nearby bench thing, stripped, and ran across the jagged rocks (stubbing my toe in the process), and threw my arms up as I ignored the pain. The result was my favorite image and the one I entered into the contest. I call it, “Free”:


After the winning shot, I took 3 more photos before the camera died, ending the shoot at a total of 23 photos, only 17 of which actually  had enough of me to be recognizable in them.

I already admired Lauralyn’s photographs, but now I am in even more awe of her work after trying the same methods she uses. In the process of trying to capture just one decent image, I ended up sweaty and tired, with a bleeding toe, a mild allergic reaction in the form of a rash on my thighs from straddling the tree, and a new admirer (did I forget to mention a curious guy spotted me at one point?)

When I got home and looked through the images though, I knew it was worth it. I doubt I could have captured the same image if I had time to think and consciously pose like I usually do. There is a magic that comes from spontaneous moments in the creative process, and somehow I managed to get my whole body in the frame and capture a spontaneous, natural pose and feeling.  I’m so glad I joined in on her challenge, pushed myself beyond my comfort zone, gained a new perspective on self portraiture, and discovered some other talented artists in the process.

Originally she said there would be 5 winners, but since only 9 photos were entered, and they are literally all amazing, we all won free snazzy Big Ugly T-Shirts! Go us! 🙂


8 thoughts on “The Big Ugly Self Portrait Challenge”

  1. Molly

    Oh my I should do a version of this.. I managed to get a couple of other shots that I didn’t send in… and like you it reminded me of just how tough things where before I got my trigger but it also reminded me that I need to get outdoors more often


  2. Penny Post Author

    @jemima- thank you!
    @Molly- Thanks! I enjoyed your challenge post as well 🙂
    @bumper- thanks! A spear, that’s a good idea lol.
    @fridayam- Thanks 🙂
    @Dee- Thanks Dee! The challenge was an adventure, wasn’t it? And amazing results all around!

  3. Lauralyn

    Oooooh! I’m so STOKED that you shared the details of your foray into dash photography! I was so happy when I received the photo that you submitted to the contest (cuz it’s dope!) but I havta say, there’s something super cool about the first shot that you wrote about in this entry – I’m really diggin’ it! Anyway, Thanks again for participating in The Big Ugly Challenge – it really meant a lot to me that you took the time to do so 🙂

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