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 on a blanket under a summer sky...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. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

National Corvette Museum

National Corvette Museum
National Corvette Museum

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Capturing Character

Character is to photography like flavor is to food. It becomes what is savored the most. The image comes alive because of the visual appeal it presents and becomes the defining essence of whatever it is you are photographing. Whether a portrait or a landscape, every photographic opportunity is defined by its character. Capturing character therefore becomes one of the utmost important missions for every photographer. Recognizing character, then capturing it comes with experience.

Recognizing photographic character may in fact be one of the most difficult principles to master for photographers of all levels. Partly because there is such a wide range of possibilities, one can easily look right past it. One of the more obvious points of character is found with capturing people. Creating compelling portraits is all about capturing character. Without it, all you have is a Xerox image of someone. Character is what defines their personality and character definition is most often associated with how you use light and shadows to enhance the persons features. Soft light, harsh light, back light, sidelight, direct light, filtered light, defused light, daylight, low light, shadow light, big light, small light, all of these play a role in defining the character of the person you are photographing. Recognizing which one to use for each individual moment requires you understand the effects each of these can have on your subject. To develop this understanding requires that you shoot using all of these kinds of light. Without practise, no amount of instruction will improve your ability to apply what you want to do.

I once heard a former player for the legendary University of Oklahoma football coach, Barry Switzer ask his coach why they had to run these plays a thousand times in practise. Barry's answer was classic..."...because 999 is not enough". His point was to make the execution of the plays instinctive and that comes with repetition. The same applies to learning how to employ techniques that capture character. The more practise you get, the more instinctive it becomes, and eventually you begin to see or visualize the end result before you ever snap an image. Practise not only involves the mechanics, it involves the mental aspects as well. Learning to see photographically and thus learning how to capture character only comes with a great deal of perseverance.

Becoming instinctive is the key. If you have to think about what you are doing all the time, your results will often reflect the indecision you are encountering. Of course at first you do have to think about it, but go about it in a creative way by asking yourself, 'I wonder...or What if...or I want to see what this does.' Sometimes what you experiment with may work in one situation but not in another. Regardless if it works or not, you will have learned something in the process.

This applies to every form of photography. Think conceptually about finding character in the moment and move away from simply photographing things. Use this wonderful element called Light to your advantage and apply it in as many ways as you can imagine for imagination is what will elevate the character of your photography to a newer, higher plain of accomplishment.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

What I learned about photography during 2016

Every year I learn something new about photography. Sometimes what I learn is simple and sometimes what I learn really opens my eyes. What is most important is to keep learning. So here's a list of insights about photography I gained this past year.

1.  Old lenses are just as good as new ones...they're just cheaper to buy.

2.  It is good to look through your old photographs to see how far you have come...and to verify how far you still need to go.

3.  Stick to what you know to perfect it, but do not be afraid to branch out and try new things.

4.  Focusing on a project regardless of its scope is more efficient than taking random pictures and relying on random chance.

5.  Take notes and write about your experiences in the field. Keep them in some kind of journal or blog, then take time to read back through them from time to time.

5a. Don't worry about your writing skills, just write...your skills will improve over time as will your understanding of photographic principles. The writing helps you understand what is happening.

6.  There is a difference between being 'Well Dreamnt' and creating experiences by following your dreams.

7.  Photographing in the middle of the day in bright sun is actually okay provided you do it wisely and understand how to use the sun to your advantage.

8.  Even small weddings are hard to photograph effectively by yourself...but they are also very rewarding to do.

9.  Backup everything right away...and keep extra SD cards available...they can fail on you.

10. Share you work with others and always be open to critical review...others see your work differently and can provide insightful criticism.

11. Spend lots of time admiring other photographers work, but review it from the persepctive of 'How did they do that'...and then see if you can duplicate the technique.

12. Not all photography has to be a work of art. Snapshots are important family history pictures.

13. When photographing a group of teenagers...feed off their energy and use their energy to generate those magical moments.

14. Teenagers are great!

15. Shooting with off camera speed-lights doubles your potential as a photographer. Use them creatively and avoid the cliche.

16. Big skies are amazing but sometimes difficult to find in Kentucky.

17. Photograph everything...don't just always shoot the ordinary subjects. Look at the world with a creative eye and even a static display can become a work of art.

18. Harvest time can provide some fantastic photo ops.

19. Not everyone is as enthusiastic about photography as you are...but that is okay.

20. and finally....Find some time to just have fun with it and don't worry about always having to create a great image. The great moments will come...but when they don't, just have fun.