Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to look at it more closely. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out in a hammock...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

Kentucky Skies

Kentucky Skies

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Foreground: Establishing A Sense of Place



Landscape photography is all about creating a sense of place, a connection to home, to now. Oddly enough I bet I have hundreds of landscape shots whose images stretch to the far off horizon. More often than not, that is about all you see in those images...the horizon, which in and of itself does little to register a sense of place. What really creates a great landscape photograph is one that incorporates three basic elements: A Foreground; A Middle Ground; and a Background. All three are important, but it is the foreground that establishes that sense of home, of being there.

Establishing Place begins with the foreground elements. These closeup items help the viewer to ascertain what it was like to be standing in that location when the image was taken. An effectly composed foreground ties the viewer to the scene and can provide not only important visual clues, but can jump stir other sense stimulating elements into life, such as aroma, sound, and touch.

Take the image shown above. One can almost smell the damp prairie grass, hear the prairie wind, and feel the roughness of the rocky outcropping. It draws the eye into the image where it drifts across the rolling terrain to land on the horizon. Visually, you are there seeing, hearing, and feeling the same things the photographer saw and felt at the time.

When wanting to capture an effective landscape image, always begin with light, but anchor it with a strong foreground.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Snap Shots...They Really are Okay

Back almost 25 years ago a few buddies and I took a long multi-day float trip down the Buffalo River, one of many over the years, in Northwestern Arkansas. I guess we floated and camped for 3 or 4 nights and traveled 50 miles or so. Great fun we had getting away from work and enjoying doing what we enjoyed most doing...fishing and floating. While temporarily stopped beneath a place called The Nar's, a unique landmark about midway down the rivers route, I managed to catch the largest smallmouth bass I've ever caught. Man what a fight it was trying to muscle that fish out of a deep hole with a strong current swirling around. Once I lifted it clear of the water, I held it high to show it off with a giant grin on my younger face.


My buddy lifted his disposable 35mm camera and snapped a couple of snap shots to capture the moment. What he captured was more than a picture of a big fish, he spontaneously captured a great deal of emotional satisfaction.

All through this blog I write about how to take better pictures hoping that maybe someone might actually improve on their technique and discover the joys of creating amazing photographic art. In the process, sometimes I come across a bit critical of the Snap Shot. So, this blog post will sing the praises of such photographs, because...well, I have way more snap shots laying around than I do works of art, and you know what, I wouldn't trade them for anything.

You see, snap shots are just that; a quickly captured spur-of-the-moment moment. They have an uncanny ability to capture the thrill of the moment, the excitement of the catch, the surprise of it all. No posed or thought out image could ever capture the spontaneity of the snap shot.


Some years ago Kodak and Polaroid and maybe other camera/film producers marketed a whole series of quick use instant cameras. They were extremely popular and for good reason; you got to see your images within a minute or two. Teens loved them, they were great party cameras. Most important was the fact that millions of spontaneous photos were taken, just for fun, and they were amazing.

Today I will look back on all the snap shots I took and can in an instant recapture the moment. I remember places, names, events, and most of the dates when each of those images were created. I have stacked on a bookshelf a dozen or more photo albums, some I call Brag'n Books, stuffed with hundreds and hundreds of mostly snap shots. Oddly enough, I don't have more than maybe a half dozen individual 'Art Works' photos displayed anywhere. And, you know what...the snap shot images are a lot more fun to browse through.

So, if you ever read anything of mine where it sounds like I am being critical of the snap shot, think of it only as a basis of comparison when trying to discuss how to take fine art images. I love snap shots, probably more now than I ever did back when I originally took them. They really are Okay..:)