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.

The Pilot

The Pilot
The Pilot

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Simplicity of Purpose

A few years ago I drove to a location a few miles from home hoping to catch one of those fabulous Kentucky sunsets.  At that time I was still shooting film...which by the way is a great learning tool when it comes to photography...so I was in the mode of thinking through every shot for fear of wasting valuable field time and expensive processing costs.  One thing I noticed back then was that many of my photographs all looked the same...there just wasn't enough variation in them to generate much interest.  Over time I began to more seriously evaluate what I was doing and why I just wasn't capturing the photo's I knew were possible.

I studied other photographers work and compared them to mine.  What I noticed was simply quite revealing, in fact, simplicity was one of the major elements that separated the 'professional' images from my snapshots.  Simplicity of Purpose as it pertains to photography means that everything seen in the photograph should be there for a reason.  Nothing should be in the image that detracts from the story you are trying to show or tell. It doesn't mean that the image lacks for complex details, just that all the details that are there contribute to the image story. When I began to evaluate my images, I realized I was ignoring the context of simplicity in my compositions.

An artists begins with a blank canvas and adds the elements that eventually becomes a work of art.  A photographer on the other hand, begins with a full canvas, and must through effective use of composition and light, remove all the elements that don't belong.  It may require a different lens, or different position or perspective.  It may require that you change the angle or orientation of the camera.  It certainly requires that you have a command of how the camera see's light and how the exposure process works...even with the auto exposure capabilities built into cameras now a days.

On that day I was reaching the end of my last roll of slide film and only had one exposure left.  I didn't feel all that confident that I had captured anything of quality, but as the sun lowered to just above the shallow hill to my west, I noticed there was this one single Queen Ann's Lace standing just inside the fence line.  The sun was a great ball of orange, so I thought I'd try to place that wildflower between me and the sun and see what would happen.  It was a difficult shot for several reasons...one of which was because I couldn't get into the position I needed and had to bend low under the barbed wire and lean way out.  With it being my last shot on that roll, I also had to think about what the brightness of the sun would do to the exposure...and compensated a full stop higher than what the meter reading wanted to use.

When I had the slides developed, as I was afraid, most of the roll just didn't work...but that one shot of the Queen Ann's Lace stood out...primarily because of its simplicity.  It is still one of my favorite images today.

Keith Bridgman

1 comment:

Maryellen said...

you have the passion and the vision...thanks so much for sharing.