The Black and White Photo Challenge


Every few months or so, one of those internet chain-mail-like challenges gets passed around. You know the ones I’m talking about. Someone posts something on a particular topic, they in turn nominate someone to do the same, and it gets passed on and on and on. About a week ago I was nominated for one of these challenges but this time it was on Instagram and I got really excited.

I’ve been using Instagram for just over a year now and I’ve been hooked since the moment I joined.  I’m a visual person. I’m observant, learn things best when I can actually see and/or do something, and creatively I’m drawn to the visual arts (mainly photography and videography). I’m surprised I hadn’t joined sooner.

I love the simplicity of Instagram. In a nutshell, people share photos and you can like and comment on them as you please. I can be as active on the social media site as I want or I can just peruse various feeds of users. I’ve actually found that since using Instagram, I’ve upped the ante with my photography. I’m following some seriously talented people, so it gives me a daily dose of inspiration and motivation to keep working on my craft. It’s true what they say; surround yourself by smarter and more creative people and you’ll in turn rise to the occasion.

The most recent challenge that’s making its way around Instagram is the 5-Day, Black and White Photo Challenge. The task? Post one black and white image, 5 days in a row. It sounds simple enough, but if you follow the hashtags #5shotchallenge and #blackandwhite on Instagram, you’ll see how creative some people are getting.

I was really excited to get nominated by the incredible Andrea Rees, aka @wanderingiphone. She’s a professional photographer who’s been focusing on iPhone photography for the last few years. I’m always blown away by what she’s able to capture with just her iPhone. She’s also the founder of The heART of a Woman Project in Khayelitsha, South Africa, where she teaches impoverished women mobile photography so they can capture and sell images of South Africa. She’s always in need of used iPhones, so if you’ve recently upgraded your phone, consider donating your old one to a good cause!

Ok, back to the challenge.

I was allowed to post new or old photos, but once I started I had to post a photo every day after that for 5 days. I decided that I wanted to revisit some notable moments on my past travels. I approached it more as a reflective piece about where my travels have taken me and how they’ve impacted me. Maybe I thought about it too much.

I don’t always post black and white photos but I think they can produce some of the most powerful images. Once you strip away all the colours, all that’s left is the captured subject. I find myself looking a little longer at black and white photos than I do coloured photography.

So here are my 5 black and white shots I selected along with a little back story on why I selected each.


Bruges, Belgium
A small side street in the city of Bruges, Belgium.

The first photo I posted was from a recent trip to Europe this past May. It was the first time I had traveled for more than two weeks since returning from my backpacking trip in 2012 and the first time I had traveled solo in quite some time. For 4 weeks I visited London, England and Bruges, Antwerp, Gent, Leuven and Brussels in Belgium. My goal was to experience each city as the locals would, taking my time with each while working on a number of personal video projects, the first of which should come out within the next month.

Bruges was an interesting experience. The small historic centre is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list and boasts an impressive amount of original medieval buildings. But everyday, hoards of tourists would descend on this little town in bus loads and take away from the quaint little-town charm it’s portrayed to be. There was a noticeable change in the atmosphere as 5pm rolled around and the buses departed. It’s a walkable city and I found the best way to really experience it was to get away from the city centre and just get lost in the side streets.

Malaysian Street Food
A Malaysian woman prepares pork hokkien mee in the streets of Penang, Malaysia.

This shot was taken on my first trip to Malaysia, during that backpacking trip I mentioned above, back in 2011. Malaysia arguably has the best cuisine in Southeast Asia. It’s a melting pot of Chinese, Indian, and Malaysian food. One of the best examples of this is on the island of Penang, particularly on the streets of Georgetown. Every evening, vendors set up shop for the night serving up a specific specialty. The woman above worked a noodle soup stall with her son serving pork hokkien mee. The flavours were incredible. So incredible that we ate here two nights in a row. Don’t be afraid to sample the street food when you travel. It’s cheaper and usually better than what you can find in a restaurant.

The side door entrance at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, England.

One of my favourite subject matters to photograph when I travel are doors. Not only do they tend to embody the culture of the country I’m in, but I feel that doors can tell really great stories. I often look at a door and wonder who has passed through them, what kind of elements or situations have they had to endure, and the reasoning behind the stylized decisions. If these doors could talk… Sometimes it’s the ornateness of the frame and sometimes it’s just the simplest of details, like the door knocker that draw me in. Next time you travel, make a point to check out the doors!

New York City
Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City.

As I was looking back on photographs to choose for this challenge, I noticed another running theme in my images; architecture. The lines, the patterns, the design elements. I may have overlooked a career path during highschool. This was taken on a trip to New York City in 2012. It was my fourth visit to the city but the first time I had ventured out of Manhattan. I stayed in Brooklyn for 10 days exploring the neighbourhoods instead of the attractions. On my second last day, I decided to walk the length of the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan. I couldn’t get enough of the cables running off the bridge tops like spider webs. The lines, oh the lines!

Temples in South Korea
The immense structure that is Guinsa Temple in South Korea.

The final installment of the black and white challenge was a photo of Guinsa Temple in South Korea. The country holds a really special place in my heart. From 2009-2011, my husband and I lived in a really small town in South Korea. We taught English to middle school children and overall loved the experience of living and working in Asia. Temples are a big part of the culture in Korea. Visitors can even experience what’s it’s like to live in one at a ‘temple-stay’. They’re actually really stunning in full colour, but I thought the black and white brought out how grand this structure was and mightiness of the dragon statues that guard the front.


If you’re not already, make sure to follow me on Instagram! And if you’re interested in seeing what others are snapping, follow the hashtags #5shotchallenge and #blackandwhite on Instagram.