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

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Story Photo - Fallen Heroes

Tucked into one corner of a local cemetery in Bowling Green is a memorial dedicated to fallen veterans.  It covers maybe an acre or two and is surrounded by trees which bloom in the spring and blaze with color in the fall. Spread across these special grounds are row after row of small white headstones each marking the final resting place of a Kentucky veteran.  The oldest marker dates back to the Spanish American War, others range from World War I through Vietnam...a few from more recent times.  I've always felt there was a story here...one single story that speaks of a greater collective sacrifice shared by all of the men interred within these grounds.  Capturing this story photograph turned out to be more difficult than I imagined.

At first glance one might think it would be easy...just point and shoot...and you've got the picture story.  In fact I'm not so sure there is a definitive process one can use to consistently capture a story like this with a camera.  It takes the right kind of shot...the perfect light that expresses, character...emotion...drama...sacrifice...gratitude...all traits not easily captured digitally in a single image.

During my walks through this quiet place, I always sense a feeling of solitude...one that speaks softly...one that asks, "What visual image can one find to say thank you to these men..."  Simply photographing what I saw fell well shy of what I felt.  Photo opportunities were all around...colors and light that reflected the serenity of this memorial...but, capturing the emotion of the moment seemed to always elude me.  By chance, on one hazy bright morning, when the first light of day filtered through the trees, the one story I wanted to capture appeared among the shadows.  It lasted but a brief moment as I walked along the path that curved around the compound.

The hazy sky cleared briefly, and one beam of light suddenly illuminated a single headstone where a small American flag leaned.  Across the top of the headstone lay some foliage and the base was stained with a reddish brown with streaks of dirt stretching upward from the ground toward the name carved into the stone. The flag cast a shadow across the lower outside corner, beyond and across the background other scattered markers lay darkened in the subdued light of the shadows.

Something wonderful happened at that moment...this was the shot...no time to think it through...it just looked right.  With tripod level with the name on the headstone, I knelt a few yards away, obliquely to one side...framed the imaged...and released the shutter.  A few seconds later the light faded once again into the morning haze.

Later, after loading the days work into my computer, I began to sort through the images and came to this one shot.  From first glance this single photograph stood out as it captured the emotion of the moment more deeply than all the others.

The flag that leaned against the headstone, along with its shadow that caressed the stained surface, appeared as though it were gently embracing a fallen hero.  The reddish brown stain across the bottom appeared as old battle wounds that had long ago left their mark...and the splashes of dirt that stretched upward from the ground reminds one of stained tears from battle weary eyes.  Surrounding this scene in the shadows stood other markers as reminders of the cost of our freedom and the debt that we can never fully repay.

Here at last was that one special photographic moment that told the full story of this serene place...the greater collective story...captured in a way that honored these fallen heroes...their sacrifice and service to their country...to us all...not forgotten.

Keith

2 comments:

Maryellen said...

Keith, your depiction of this scene and the photograph itself evoked emotion and tears. My dad, although his life not taken by war, gave most of his life in service. He had many war wounds you could see and many unseen and unspoken. He would be so proud to know there are still many who take pride and would take the time to search for capture of this moment in time to eloquently express the full story. Thank you.

heartland frugalista said...

This is absolutely stunning. Beautiful. Thank you for honoring them. My family was there:
http://tinyurl.com/64au22b

Wishing you peace this Fourth of July.