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

Monday, September 26, 2016

The One Day Adventure Shoot

Walter Mitty and I are closely related. You remember Walter. He's that cartoon character from many years
ago who in real life is rather timid and meek, but in his daydreams he is this swashbuckling adventuresome heroic character. Well, maybe we're not all that closely related, but I can certainly relate to the character.


Too often I tend to approach my photography with a timid approach, more like the real Walter Mitty style, and fail to live up to the adventuresome daydreaming character approach. I suppose there are moments when I've been a bit more aggressive chasing down a photographic moment to subdue it with a feeble attempt to be...should I say heroic? Most of us find it difficult to merge time and resources at the same moment to pursue those adventure outings. Sure I'd love to hike the Grand Canyon from Rim to Rim, or spend a week or two paddling the Boundary Waters area. I'd even settle to travel around to some of the other national parks and take snap shots. Problem is, when I have the time to do such things, I rarely have the resources, and when I do have the resources I inevitably do not have the time or even worse, those resources must be resourced toward something more urgent like paying the mortgage. Well, that is where the One Day Adventure idea comes into play. Most of us can find one single day every now and then to pursue an adventure.


The trick is to recognize where the opportunities lie near your home and then plan ahead to take advantage of the limited available time. I live in Kentucky and fortunately there are a lot of One Day Adventure opportunities nearby. Within an hour maybe two, I can drive to multiple locations and spend an entire day adventuring and photographing. I tend to do this quite a lot, sometimes more successfully than others.

There are extended times when I find myself locked in and unable to get out much. When the confinment continues on for an extended length of time I feel like I start to lose my identity and those old desires to be adventurous start to wither. What is bad is I often do not even realize how withered they have become until I happen to watch a program or read about another person's adventure. Sometimes jsut sitting on the porch in a rocking chair watching the summer rain will trigger some distant memory and I will once again begin to long to feel the wind and see the sky. That is when the old Walter Mitty in me begins to kick in.  Eventually, those daydreams stir me to action and I will rediscover who I am by getting out and about.


You know, ole Walter has been a good friend in a way. Without his influence I dare say my life would be rather mundane and dull. Those Walter Mitty-like daydreams can often become a reality even if just for a single day, and that sure beats sitting around listening to the pee frogs chirp.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Mid-Day Blues - Think Classic Black and White

Trying to create a great photograph in the middle of the day with a bright blue sky and lots of sun is often like trying to drink from a firehose, too much of a potentially good thing. This is especially true for color photographs. The harsh light and shadows creates strong contrasts that are just not condusive to asthetically pleasing photographs. Color images require moody light which most often occurs early and late in the day. But, all is not hopeless for shooting in the middle of the day...if you think in Black and White.

Black and white photography is all about contrast, shape, and form. A blue sky day with bright sun is the perfect setting for black and white. Throw in some of those white puffy summer clouds and you have an Ansel Adams formula for great artistic expression.


There are many times I will shoot scenics in the middle of the day and when I do I am almost always thinking in terms of Black and White. I have in my book collection several Ansel Adams books and I am regularly browsing through them. Not only are his photographs incredible works of art, they are great instructional resources as well. A high percentage of his photographs were taken in the middle of the day. Most of them include those dramtic cloud formations against a black or almost black sky. I often wondered how he achieved that black sky look. Of course he accomplished this by using filters and various kinds of films and print paper along with darkroom techniques that enhanced that look. However, I discovered how relatively easy it is to duplicate this look in the modern digital world.


When shooting those big sky scenics I almost always use a polarizer filter. By itself it will reduce glare and darken a blue sky. When converting the image to black and white ( I use Silver Effects ) that blue sky will become very dark and when adding a bit of red filter processing and toning the blue values down, the sky begins to look a lot like Ansel's creations.


Point is, do not dispair about having to shoot in the middle of a bright blue day. Begin to think in terms of black and white and you will discover that you can shoot all day long and achieve amazing results along the way.