Challenge Yourself: Nikon Weekend Digital Photo Self-Assignment

Coffee Culture

Worldwide, we drink over 500 billion cups per year. It is one of the most popular drinks in the world. This fact was already well-known to the coffee lovers at The Bean. On this sun-drenched Fall morning, most were hoping to see the large “Open” flag waving in the coastal breeze. title-weekend-digital-photo-assignment-jim-austin-jimages-apogee-photo-magazine

Meeting the customers, Nikon in hand, was the joy of this weekend self-assignment. I asked about the place.

“The Bean” said Donna Luh, ” is the heart of the town.”  She told me that the coffee shop is a special place where Oriental’s residents go to laugh together, get help from neighbors, swap stories, catch up on the news of eastern North Carolina, and work on laptops with its free wi-fi. Folks walk their dogs there, park their bikes on its lawn, and pause, forgetting the clock as they sip.

I sat in a rocking chair on the porch, taking in a harbor view, and pondered the menu: five kinds of java, baked muffins, gluten free sorbet, gourmet ice cream, and cinnamon rolls. The hum of conversation was punctuated by laughter. When I went inside, I met friendly folk who immediate made me feel welcome: Jim and Barbara Pearson, George Sechrist, Rolf Anselm, Cathy Burt, and Kim Daniels.


On the weekend I chose for this photo self-assignment, The Bean’s owner, Eric Kindle, an Emergency Medical Technician and Firefighter Captain, was assisting flood victims in Princeville, North Carolina (the oldest town incorporated by African-American people in the United States). He was on duty helping the fire station which was under 10 feet of flood water, and rescuing people and dogs left homeless by hurricane Matthew.


With this warm buzz of companionship surrounding me, I thought: this is a fine place for a weekend photo self-assignment. My idea was straightforward: meet new people, include photos of the ambiance of The Bean, and try to portray its friendly coffee culture.  Practicing my shot timing and conversation skills took priority over perfecting the photos.




Self-Assignments, like a fine cup of java, can be a jump starter to get us going. While they nudge us to practice, they get us out to new experiences. They focus our mind on our skill sets.

Here are a few more ideas for getting the most from The Weekend Digital Photo Self-Assignment:

1. LOCATION. Choose a location where you know you’ll make many images. Use a simple gear setup and set up your menu in advance. I took one camera body, a 20 mm 1.8 lens, and a 50 mm 1.8 lens. RAW captures were converted to B/W in post.

2. SUBJECT. Limit your subject matter. I chose to concentrate on humanity in the moment, chatting with folks inside The Bean, and outside on the street, as customers sat, ordered and traveled with their coffee.

3. STYLE. Think about the light, color and tonality of the setting. Here, I wanted to work with distinct high-contrast black and white imagery.

4. EDITING.  Edit, backup and share your best images from the Self-Assignment on the same weekend as you made the shots. Try to learn a new editing skill. For post processing my images, I tried a plug-in to Lightroom and Photoshop: NIK Silver Efex Pro 2 software and its Preset 006 called High Structure > Smooth.









Check out a paperback copy of 52 Weekend Digital Photo Projects (by Liz Walker, Carlton Books, 240 pages, 2016). The projects in Walker’s book range from portraits in natural light and night photography to holiday gatherings, architecture, reflections, motion blurs, special effects, and abstracts.


See the location on Google:
in a virtual view tour of The Bean, by web designer Will Conkwright.


Jim Austin Jimages is a photography educator, Apogee Photo Magazine’s Photo coach, live aboard sailor, and is heading down the southeast coast of the US on his way to Florida in 2016. Find his gallery and books at



All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

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