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.

Orion Nebula

Orion Nebula
A Place Where Stars are Born - Orion Nebula - 500mm cropped - f/6.3 - 20 seconds - ISO 3200 - Tracked and Post Processing Applied

Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Time To Escape - A Moment of Extremes

Life has a way of creating Moments of Extremes. All of us face them, some more than others, but all of us must deal with challenges that catch up with where we are in life to hover over us like some kind of haunting apparition. The unique thing about such moments is they tend to create a need for an escape, a way to block out the difficult moments even for just a little while. Like the variety of extremes we all face from time to time, the way we escape from them comes in many forms. I use several, anywhere from wading a favorite fishing creek, to sitting atop a grassy knoll overlooking an ancient prairie, or taking a hike to a local farm pond, to standing alone on a warm, clear, summer night gazing up at the heavens. Whatever the form of escape, I will most often carry a camera along with me to capture the unique flavor of the moment. Doing so tends to reinforce the recuperative effects by allowing me to share the experience with others.

Living away from the city surrounded by corn and wheat fields and relatively dark skies, I am privileged to experience some of the best moments of escape by simply stepping outside. This summer, as I prepare to host a summer session of a night sky photography workshop, I find myself drawn once again to the almost supernatural healing effects of standing alone on a dark clear evening, pointing my camera toward the sky. By using its light gathering ability, hidden wonders that lie just out of sight, almost within reach, come to life. As I do so, the extreme moments filled with trials, fade away, replaced by a sense of wonder and amazement.

I ask myself, "I wonder what is hidden...there, next to that single star." Then I point the camera locked onto a tripod, and make an exposure. That single star, a blessing really, shining there just waiting for me to see it, is suddenly surrounded by countless others that lie hidden just out of sight where our eyes were unable to discern them because, well...we simply failed to look. They each have a name, the Bible says of the stars. In my newly found extreme moment of escape, I deeply wonder who they are.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Pleiades - Viewing the Seven Sisters Cluster

There they were, a bright little cluster of stars hovering high in the night sky; Alcyone, Asterope, Celeano, Electra, Maia, Merope, and Taygeta. Names from mythology of seven sisters, the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione, floating and seemingly spinning across a cosmic ballroom with their lightly veiled gowns slowly whisping as they turn. We know them as The Pleiades Star Cluster, one of the brightest and easiest clusters to see in the night sky.

The cluster actually consists of hundreds of stars and is easily descerned with a pair of binoculars and just as easily photographed. They are one of the highlights of the late winter and early spring sky events. They float just out of reach, taunting and teasing Orion, The Hunter Constellation now brilliantly hovering in the southwestern sky. They are beautiful stars, bright with a crystal glow against an ebony sky their names forever etched into mythological stories and legends.

With my camera firmly attachd to the sky tracker, I made a few final tracker adjustments and test captures to verify the alignment, then I rotated the camera and pointed toward the Seven Sisters. With its characteristic buzzing, the little 1 RPM motor began its slow rotation to offset the relative movement of the stars caused by the spin of the earth. After a few seconds to allow the tracker to settle any vibrations, I pressed the remote shutter release and simply counted; 30 seconds, then 45, then finally 60 before releasing and closing the shutter. In an instant the image popped across the view screen and the Pleiades Seven Sisters Star Cluster offered a pleasant refresh of the day. My enchantment of their beauty continues.