Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to observe it close up. 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 of photography 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.

The Dark Horse Region

The Dark Horse Region
A View into the center of the Milky Way

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Where Are the Men of Vision?

I am one of a generation who was privileged to have witnessed possibly the most fantastic journey ever attempted by mankind, for I grew up during the golden age of man's conquest of space. It was an adventure filled with drama and danger, yet a journey also filled with wonder and awe. It was an effort initiated by men of vision, built by men of vision, and accomplished by men of vision, a vision where an element of significant history was created through the courage of those responsible.

From The Earth to the Moon is an HBO miniseries produced by Tom Hanks some twenty years ago now. The past two days I revisited those twelve episodes and was at once transported back to the days of my youth and was reminded again of just how amazing an adventure it truly was. Had it not been for that grand adventure, the days of my youth would have been mundane and insignificant. Because of it, they were consumed with the excited dreams and revelations of wonders fulfilled.

As the 49th anniversary of man's first landing on the moon comes and goes, most of us have probably forgotten the excitement of the first landing and the possibilities it represented. I sometimes wonder what adventures the youth of today have to cling to. Seems to me, there are few if any and the ones that are fall short of the grand nature of the Apollo Space Program.

America needs another such grand adventure to stir the imagination of the country. Such a thing would once again demand men of vision. We need to once again come together as one and work toward something that will benefit all of mankind, rekindled that sense of wonder, and open up new possibilities. Unfortunately, men of vision in this country are in short supply and often drowned under the weight of forced ideology of which there is an over abundance.

Politicians destroyed the heart of the space program way back when and it has never been the same. They did not destroy it so much thru a lack of funding, what was worse, they destroyed the very dream that elevated the concept of what it stood for through a lack of vision. They did this thru an agenda of ideological perception - where the misguided "my ideology is better than yours syndrome" prevails and serves only to stifle and if possible to destroy the other side of the political isle. Under such leadership, or lack of it more accurately, we as a nation have floundered toward mediocrity. No single leader, no single president, is the cause, but many in public office have contributed to this symptom, and we as citizens have allowed it to fester.

We as a nation need men of vision again, not more ideology. We need men ready to stand firm on truth in the face of negative opposition. We need men who want to elevate, not constantly oppose and deflate. We need our nation to quit pointing fingers to find fault, and ask again what can I do to be part of a solution and to no longer be part of the problem. We need men of courage who are not afraid to look inward to recognize and accept their own failures, then step forward ready to contribute to a grand cause. And most of all, we need a Grand Cause, something to once again employ the best this country has to offer. We need a Grand Adventure driven by men of vision.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

A Telescope, A Young Boy's Imagination, Lasting Impressions

My fascination with the night sky began many years ago when I was a young lad growing up in Southeastern Oklahoma. The night skies in that area back then, and even still today, were dark and clear with low levels of light pollution interfering with your ability to clearly see the thousands of stars. I often would spend hours after dark standing out in the small field next to my grandparents home and gaze towards the sky. A highlight would be if a meteor streaked by or on occasion I could  catch a glimpse of a satellite speeding high over head appearing to be a very dim and small point of light. I knew a few of the constellations, but not many and understood that some of the points of light I saw were planets. About the only ones I could identify for sure was Venus which most often hovered low in the western sky and was very bright along with Jupiter. I must have been somewhere around 14 years old when my parents bought for me a simple and inexpensive telescope. That simple devise opened up a whole new universe and offered me a chance to capture a first glance at the wonders of the moon and a few of the planets.

A Similar Version of my telescope (Internet Photo)
The telescope was a simple reflecting model, also known as a Newtonian, the kind with a concave mirror in the bottom where light entering the top would bounce back towards another smaller mirror near the front that angled the light thru an eyepiece attached to the side. It was a low power beginners model with a small 3 inch mirror which did not have much light gathering or resolving power. Even so, it offered great views of the moon and as I was to discover interesting views of some of the planets.

At my first views of the moon, I was astonished at what I saw. Even though I had many times before seen photos of the moon in science books, for the first time I was able to see it live for myself. And those views were incredible. Craters and mountain ranges and dark Maria (seas) became at once real and immediate. Each night its appearance changed as the moon's orbit caused its terminator shadow to wax and wane. I could not get enough of it, but one evening I turned my small little telescope toward a glowing spot in the sky. Its appearance was different than the stars, a softer tone with a slight yellow color. It hovered rather high in the sky almost calling out to me to have a look.

Keith Bridgman Photo 

It took some time to eventually locate the small glowing speck and when I finally brought the light into focus I realized I was for the first time seeing the ringed planet Saturn. It floated inside my view against a solid black background like it was magically suspended on an invisible string, a small image but unmistakably a real live planet...with a tilted golden ring circling it.

Internet Photo - A slightly larger view of what I saw
 I sat outside long past when I should have retired inside, watching it quiver thru the unstable atmosphere. From that moment on, Saturn became my favorite planet and that little telescope became my favorite possession.

Eventually, I also pointed it toward what I knew to be Jupiter, the largest planet, and in spite of the poor optics I was able to see several of Jupiter's moons as pin points of light extending to either side. Most exciting though was when I first noticed the faint band of clouds that circled the planet. There was no color to any of it, just gray and white and most of the gray was barely discernible.

Internet Photo
Over time I found Mars, the red planet. and on a clear night I could just make out one of its polar ice caps as a white smudge on one end of the small reddish orb. Of course back then I didn't even think about taking photographs of what I saw, but I did at times make crude drawings. It was quite an exciting adventure for it was during that time America's manned space program was just getting off the ground and that little telescope made a young lad feel, however small it might have been, as though he were part of that grand adventure.

Mars similar to what I viewed - Internet Photo

Today, I will from time to time spend a couple hours out on a dark clear evening and point my camera skyward to capture the wonders of the Milky Way.

Keith Bridgman photo

When I do, I am often taken back to those early years and that simple little telescope that helped to open up the imagination of a young boy. There were few things my parents ever purchased for me that generated a lasting impact; one was that simple astronomical devise. A lifetime of memories were generated as I viewed the heavens, the kind of memories that only can be imprinted into a young boy's imagination and dreams.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

It's Not What You Look At - It's What You See That is Important

Great photographers are the ones who know how to see photographically. They have an uncanny ability to observe well past the ordinary outward appearance of a subject to visualize the potential of what is there. They do not look at just the physical elements, they see what others fail to notice and then they apply their technical skill to capture that vision.

Many beginning and novice picture takers rely primarily on the ability of their camera to create a technically good photograph. They often will mistakenly equate creating a technically good photograph with being a good photographer. Sometimes they get it right, but most times they do not always understand what it takes to separate themselves from being an ordinary picture taker of things.

You see an ordinary picture taker takes pictures of what they are looking at, and that is where it usually ends. A photographer who has mastered the art of seeing, will look beyond the physical nature of a subject and visualize how that subject can be captured in an artistic way. In short, they understand how to use light to bring out the hidden qualities of what is presented to them. They rarely take photos, they make and create expressions of art.

They will look into the future to grasp the potential of what can be captured. They sense how a change of seasons, time of day, weather, angles of light, lens selection, exposure values, perspective all come into play when taking a photograph that stands apart from the ordinary. A picture taker will look at something, think it looks good, take a quick snap shot, then walk away probably never to return to that moment or location again. The Cell phone phenomena cameras contribute to this photo ideology as much as anything else. I see it all the time; a quick raise of the hand, flip of the thumb, another selfie, another snap shot of whatever with no or little consideration of composition, light, or quality of moment. It's just a fun picture that will most likely be deleted before too long. Cell phone technology has progressed a great deal in recent years and the potential to create amazing images does exist, but it takes more than technology, it requires a visual commitment.

Someone who places a greater importance on how to see photographically, will observe and remember. They recognize what is possible and return sometimes multiple times until they capture what they have visualized in the best possible light using quality equipment to it's fullest.

This approach is as much a feeling as it is a visual sense. What they photograph becomes a part of who they are. Their images tell the story of how they see the world, of how the world impacts them. They are constantly seeking new opportunities and they lock onto moments like radar locks onto and tracks a moving object.

Looking at the world simply identifies interesting subjects. Being able to see beyond what you are looking at requires the use of emotion to identify what is truly important to us as photographers.