During the time I've participated in this ongoing contest, I've been lucky enough to have won quite a few Photo of the Day mentions, and even a few Photo of the Month honors. And, the real icing on this cake is a photo that won Photo of the Year - 2008 (black and white category).
This photo is of an old abandoned car in the ghost town of Bodie, located off of Highway 395 near Bridgeport California. The original image was taken with a Canon 300D (DSLR) as a RAW file, and converted to black and white in Photoshop. NOTE - This is something I learned awhile ago, always take your photos in color, even if your camera has an option to shoot directly in black and white. It's very easy to convert the color image to black and white, but almost impossible to go from black and white to color.
Back to the photo of the car, I think the thing that struck me when taking photos that day was the clouds and sky. Although my wife and I have been to Bodie many times (and didn't plan on going this day), I couldn't help but wonder what photos would look like with the wonderful clouds we were seeing. So, off we went. Not a quick trip either. Bodie is 13 miles off of Highway 395, and the last 3 miles are on a very bumpy washboard dirt road. Turns out that it was well worth the time and effort it took to get there, with a perfect deep blue sky and fantastic cloud formations.
Fast forward to September, 2011. While camped at the Silver Lake RV Resort on the June Lake Loop we were blessed with some amazing afternoon thunderstorms. We were only about 15 miles from Mono Lake and I just couldn't help wondering what that lake and strange tufa formations would look like with these dramatic clouds. So, off I went. Here is just one example of what I experienced (and the shot that won Photo of the Month):
If you want to see the State Parks website you can go here: http://www.myparkphotos.com/
So, I think the moral of the story is to look for something to set your photos apart from all of the others out there. Sometimes it may be because you got up earlier than everyone else and caught the warm, golden light of the sunrise, or you put yourself at the right location at the right time for some drama in the sky. Good luck and happy shooting!