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.

F-4 Phantom

F-4 Phantom
F-4 Phantom

Monday, November 1, 2010

Anticipate the Potential

I spend a lot of time just driving around the back roads of Kentucky mostly around the area where I live near Alvaton.  It's a good way to find those lost scenic corners that offer great photo opportunities.  I've discovered the trick to finding these great locations is being able to visualize the potential of an area. Many times I'll find a location and the lighting conditions at the time are too bland or flat and the photo op just isn't working.  But, by looking beyond the current conditions and visualizing the potential of the location, I'll realize that if I come back another day at a different time or maybe during a different season, then the light just might be where I can capture an amazing photograph.

While performing these preliminary scouting trips over the years, I've began to understand how the varying nature of light changes the dynamics of a location.  One place I found a few years ago is a good example of how this works.  I found myself driving down a winding and progressively narrower country road that eventually came to an end atop a rise where a gate blocked the way.  From that vantage point, to the south and east the landscape dropped into a valley toward the Barren River that snaked along a bluff on the backside of the valley about a quarter mile away.  There was a barn, a cornfield and pastures, with a few cattle meandering around.  The hills that rose high above the river provided a wonderful backdrop.

It was the middle of the afternoon on a late summer day and the light was rather boring and bland and the photo op just wasn't working.  I snapped a few quick shots for reference, but more importantly, I recognized the potential of this location simply because the lay of the land offered a great view of the valley.  Morning fog was sure to gather here when the weather began to cool off.  So, I bookmarked the location and left myself a mental note to return someday.

A month or so later, when the first hint of fall colors were starting to show, I returned and was able to capture some of the best images I've ever taken.  I was greeted with some amazing fog the hovered in the valley, and the first light of morning illuminated the scene with soft warm light that mingled with the cool flavor of early fall.  Anticipating the fog paid off in a huge way...understanding the dynamics of the lighting conditions helped me to visualize the potential of this location before the conditions even existed.  I've returned to this spot a number of times since then and I'm always amazed at how the diversity of light during the seasons dramatically enhances the dynamics of the moment.

Taking great photographs is often a matter of anticipating the potential of a location and doing a bit of footwork.  Look beyond the obvious, and be willing to place yourself where and when the greatest potential exists.

Keith Bridgman

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