1. Play with plug-ins and appsPlug-ins and apps, which offer creative effects at the click of a mouse, can help you awaken the artist within. Adjust presets with sliders, and you can create one-of-a-kind images.
Left is the original image from which I created the opening image for this column. I used a vintage effect in Nik Software's Snapseed to create a more artistic image of the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, N.Y.
2. Follow only one photography tip one weekendPick a composition tip and try to take lots of pictures that illustrate that one technique. For starters, try "The name of the game is to fill the frame." After that, try "Always look up." Or, make up your own.
An add-on to this idea is to use only one lens in one weekend.
3. Challenge yourself with HDR and go manualSure, you can put your camera on automatic-exposure bracketing for HDR (high dynamic range) images. In very high-contrast situations, however, that won't cut it. If you don't capture the entire dynamic range of a scene, you've defeated the purpose of HDR. So the idea is to find a scene with a very high-contrast range and capture the entire dynamic range.
Set your tripod-mounted camera on manual-exposure mode, set your aperture and adjust the exposure with the shutter speed. In many high-contrast situations, you may need to take five, seven or even nine exposures. Keep taking underexposed images until you have no "blinkies" on your camera's LCD display. Keep taking overexposed images until you can clearly see into the shadows on the display.
After I created my HDR image in Nik Software's Color Efex Pro, I added the Dark/Ghostly effect in Topaz Adjust.