As a hobby, photography might not seem all that complicated or restrictive when it comes to scheduling. You can't generally go fly fishing or play golf in the dark. You can only ski in the winter (at least in PA/NY). Even cycling, my other favorite thing to do, requires some planning.
But photography - you just pick up your camera and go take pictures of...whatever. After all, it's an artistic passion! Art does not wait until you can set a play-date with yourself! You don't need to 'pencil' anything in.
Mmm, yes and no. Sometimes it's fun to mount the macro lens and sit at the kitchen table and mess around with a bowl of fruit. Or to experiment with lighting subjects in the studio, should you be fortunate enough to have access to one. And of course, don't forget about your cat or dog, ever the loyal standby for when you want to press the shutter button but can't really think of anything else to photograph.
But I'd argue that if you really want to improve your skills and possibly land 'that' shot that makes a session worth all the time and effort, consider looking for great 'excuses' for taking pictures.
I belong to the Lancaster County Photo Meet-Up group, and that's basically what they're all about: they find events that might be fun or challenging to photograph. This past Saturday, I went to Civil War Days at Landis Valley Museum - something I might not have heard about or even considered before joining the Meet-Up group. Of course, the more socially-oriented folks like to mingle with other group members.
They have critique sessions and contests with different themes. The current contest, is something yellow in the food category. Bananas come to mind, of course, and I'm sure there will be lots of those. Each member can submit two. What a great motivator - and one that didn't come from your own brain, so maybe you'll encounter topics and themes you normally wouldn't think of on your own. Kind of like keeping your fitness training going by signing up for a 5k in the fall.
Local concerts and parades provide great opportunities as well, and if you happen to know the fellas in a band they certainly appreciate free images. Slimfit is my favorite local band AND they're photogenic and still small enough to be very accessible. A Slimfit show is a perfect excuse to blow the dust off the long lens and get out there and fire away. Long's Park concerts are great for this, too.
Anyways, my point is that when I really feel like mixing it up and practicing with different lenses and techniques, I look for suitable events and start entering dates in my calendar. It doesn't have to be anything you've previously had any passion for, or interest in. The key is that they provide opportunities to tell interesting stories with your camera and learn new things. Think of these events or outings as 'gigs' and yourself as a photojournalist, harvesting images for your favorite magazine or web site.
In no particular order, some things I definitely want to photograph soon:
How about you?
Oh by they way, anyone got any ideas for this yellow food category? I'm still stuck on bananas. Lemons, maybe? What about a food that started out as some other color but TURNED yellow...that might be it...hmmm...