The Ray Manley Photo Challenge

In 1939, Ray Manley, who was at the time a broke college student in northern Arizona, made a decision that would change the course of his life. Ray decided that he wanted to be published in Arizona Highways magazine, so he purchased 10 frames of Kodachrome. During that era, Kodachrome was not cheap, and Ray could barely afford those 10 frames. He had some prior experience shooting black-and-white film, but not much. Color photography was completely new to him, and he’d never used Kodachrome before. Still, Ray was determined, and he set out to make the most of those 10 exposures. Three of those Kodachromes would be printed on the cover of Arizona Highways during the 1940’s. And it was those three pictures that helped Ray launch a successful photography career, which included publication in National GeographicSaturday Evening PostPopular Science, as well as several books that featured his pictures.

The Ray Manley Challenge is to capture 10 exposures and only 10 exposures, attempting to get a minimum of three good pictures out of it. The intention of this is to train yourself to slow down and really think about what you are doing. It’s about being very deliberate and making every exposure count. Ray had only 10 exposures because that’s all he could afford, and it’s incredible what he did with it. You have unlimited exposures, yet, I know for myself, meaningful pictures are only captured sparingly. This photo challenge is a good way to refine your photography skills, and increase the odds of capturing something good.

I had considered using my Vintage Kodachrome recipe to really mimic what Ray was up against, but decided instead to use any settings that I felt would best fit the scene. I might try this again and use only Vintage Kodachrome, although I’m not really sure right now if I’ll do that. You can choose to do so for an added challenge, or use whatever settings you feel is best. It’s really up to you how you want to tackle this challenge, as the only real rule is that once you’ve made 10 exposures, you are done.

Here are my results:

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Frame 1: Mt Wolverine Reflected In Silver Lake – Brighton, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm f/2 – 0.7 Seconds, f/11, ISO 160

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Frame 2: Flowing Creek – Brighton, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm f/2 – 0.4 Seconds, f/11, ISO 320

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Frame 4: Big Cottonwood Creek – Big Cottonwood Canyon, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm f/2 – 1/5, f/13, ISO 160

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Frame 5: Flowing River Monochrome – Big Cottonwood Canyon, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm f/2 – 0.3 Seconds, f/11, ISO 160

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Frame 10: Hidden Falls – Big Cottonwood Canyon, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & 35mm f/2 – 2 Seconds, f/13, ISO 160

How did I do? I would say mediocre.

In the first exposure there’s that bright stump on the top-left that I really didn’t want to include in the frame. Unfortunately, there was a bridal photo shoot going on just out of the right side of the frame, and I had to pick between including people in the shot or the stump. I chose the stump. Otherwise, I like that picture. I felt like I did a good job of taking my time and creating the best picture that I could with what was there, and I think this is my second favorite frame from this challenge.

The second frame is a well executed photo of a rather bland scene. I feel that there probably wasn’t a better picture that I could have created at that spot, but perhaps I shouldn’t have made an image at all, and saved the exposure for a different location.

Frame three was identical to frame four other than I didn’t get one setting right, so I made another exposure. If I had taken my time just a little more I wouldn’t have made that mistake. Frame four is a good picture and probably my third favorite from this challenge.

The fifth frame is alright. I don’t think I composed it particularly well. I put the tripod with the camera on it in the river, which was a risk. At this point the light that I wanted was quickly disappearing, and I wasn’t taking my time like I should have been.

Exposures six, seven, eight and nine were all failures. I was going too fast. I should have stopped and really soaked in the scene and worried less about the disappearing good light and saved those frames for another time. This was the lesson that I needed to learn.

For the final frame, I made sure that I got it right. I slowed myself down and really thought about how I wanted the picture to look. I moved the tripod a couple of times to refine the composition. This is my favorite exposure of the 10 that I made.

On the drive home, just a little ways down the road from where I exposed the 10th frame, I saw what I thought would have been a great picture. I stopped the car and looked at the scene, but I left the camera in the bag. If I hadn’t wasted several of my exposures, I could have captured this place. I got back on the road and stuck with my restriction.

This project didn’t go quite as well as I had hoped, but it was a great photographic exercise that proved to be valuable. I learned much. I intend to do it again soon, and I invite you to join me in completing the Ray Manley Photo Challenge.

17 comments

  1. fragglerocking · September 2

    Cool challenge, it’s a hard lesson this slowing down malarkey! You did grand.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Khürt Williams · September 2

    Interesting challenge. I would not that this type of challenge – slowing down, etc. – doesn’t work for nature, bird, and sport photography.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · September 2

      It may not work for every genre, but I bet even those genres mentioned could benefit from more deliberate pictures.

      Like

      • Khürt Williams · September 2

        I’ve photographed birds and they move too fast and in unpredictable directions for me to think about composition, camera settings, etc. I have to pick ONE setting for the camera – shutter speed – and let the camera do the rest (auto ISO, auto aperture). It’s a 8-14 frames/second type of photography. Same for sports. I guess I could sit in one position, point the camera at a tree branch and wait all day hoping the bird will land in that spot and do something interesting. I could also sit on the sidelines point my camera at a spot on the field and hope the players move the action to that area.

        Like

      • Khürt Williams · September 2

        Photos are often taken in burst mode to capture the best moment. This means hindered of frames. Most sports require the photographer to frame their images with speed and adjust camera settings spontaneously to prevent blurring or incorrect exposure.

        There is not such thing as slowing down in wedding photography. Or event photography. It seems only landscape photographers talk about slowing down.

        So while slowing down is ok it’s not some magic way to improve your photography just because you’ve slowed down. The only thing that matters is the results.

        Like

      • Ritchie Roesch · September 2

        I don’t necessarily disagree, but playing devils advocate, what did these photographers do before burst mode, tracking autofocus and unlimited exposures? I’m sure having those tools are a huge help and makes getting the picture much easier, but certainly sports and nature photography existed well before those tools did. Limitations improve art, so even though handicapping oneself might make it very difficult, perhaps that ignites creativity. Just something to think about, I guess.

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  3. Khürt Williams · September 3

    Before burst mode and focus tracking, action/sports photographers had a lot of misses and wasted a lot of films or didn’t get the shot. Some had two cameras, each loaded with a roll of 36, and an assistant to reload the camera when the roll was “empty”.

    As with most things, pondering the question and debating with myself lead to an answer. I think the concept of “slow photography” has lost it’s original meaning and has nothing at all to do with “slowing down”. It’s like how some people quote one part of a bible verse, but when you look at the rest of it, the meaning is nothing like the simple verse. The original meaning is lost.

    In slow photography, the photos themselves may be secondary. The goal is the experience of studying some object carefully and exercising creative, intentional choice. That’s it. Can I make a good photo of what I’m looking at? “Making” is essential because it requires intention, which may be the only thing that’s keeping us from producing excellent images.

    So when I photograph birds in their native habitat, I must first study the bird and the habitat to understand it’s behaviours, it’s movements, etc. Only after doing that am I able to “move fast” and get good results.

    Same for action/sports photography. Only after observing football and basketball games, have I realised how different each one is and what technique (and camera settings) I needed to capture these fast-moving games. What worked in football did not work in the even faster moving basketball games.

    The cool thing with living where I live is that I have access to a lot of successful fashion, landscape, celebrity, and wildlife photographers. I’m the annoying amateur who asks a lot of questions, shoots no specific genre. I attend paid workshops and seminars (in New Jersey) where I can sit at the feet of these successful photographers and learn. The photography clubs in this area and good places to meet and shoot with advanced amateurs.

    None of that makes me a great photographer. It does make me a “forever learning” photographer.

    In the case of action/wildlife photography, slowing down means “studying your subject matter”. So maybe we agree after all. 😃

    Examples of where I had to “slow down” to learn so that I could “go fast”. I’m still learning.

    Warbler photos: https://islandinthenet.com/tag/warbler/page/2/
    The hard to photograph pine warbler: https://islandinthenet.com/pine-warbler/
    Football: https://islandinthenet.com/tag/football/

    Links:
    Landscape photographer Loren Fisher: https://lorenphotos.com/
    Fashion/Celebrity photographer Frank Veronsky: http://www.frankveronsky.com
    Wildlife photographer Ray Hennessey: http://rayhennessy.com
    Street photographer Josh Weiss: http://joshweiss.photography/

    Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · September 3

      I think you hit the nail on the head with “intentional” and “studying” and it reminds me of this: a buddy of mine is a golfer (not professional, but pretty good) and he practices his swing constantly. He doesn’t practice at full speed, but deliberately makes sure the mechanics are correct at a slow speed, so that when it is time to hit the ball he does so with precision at full speed. It sounds a lot like what you just said. I really appreciate your thoughtful comment, and your great photograph examples.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Khürt Williams · September 3

        The universe is providing direction to my conversation. I found this article via my RSS feed on Fuji Love after our conversation: https://fujilove.com/being-decisive-while-in-the-moment/

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ritchie Roesch · September 3

        Thank you for sharing! It’s a skill that I am definitely still working on and have a long ways to go….

        Like

      • Khürt Williams · September 6

        I reached out to a professional wildlife photographer, and he agrees with the general idea behind “slowing down”. He took time to learn his camera settings, time to learn bird/wildlife behaviour so that when in the field he can quickly compose and capture the “decisive moment”.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ritchie Roesch · September 6

        Thank you for sharing this. I think there’s a lot to learn, at least I know that’s true for myself. I have a long ways to go before I am where I want to be. We’re all on this journey together, and it’s good when we can help each other out.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · September 3

      By the way, your football shots are especially great!

      Like

      • Khürt Williams · September 3

        Thank you, I had four years (it’s high school football) to practice while my daughter was in the marching band. I only got it (mostly) right in the last year. My daughter started as a college freshman last week so thus ends my “career” in sports photography. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ritchie Roesch · September 3

        It’s too bad that it comes to an end. I really felt the emotion of the events through your pictures.

        Like

  4. Khürt Williams · September 3

    All of those photographers (except for Josh and Ray) live in my neighbourhood.

    Liked by 1 person

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