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

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Golden Hour - Plan Ahead

Chasing the light can wear out a photographer, and it can get a bit expensive with near $4.00 / gal gasoline prices.  It's better to do less chasing and more planning.  A few years ago I watched a video by legendary National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones where he advocated one very important piece of advise that has stuck with me ever since.  What he spoke about was not just for photographers...but for everyday living really, and it makes a lot sense.  What he said willing to place yourself at that point of greatest potential.

Think about that for a minute and break it down...Point of greatest yourself.  When it comes to photography a simple philosophy such as this can make the difference between capturing ordinary photographs...or capturing ordinary things in an extraordinary way.  Visualize if you will some of the greatest images you've ever seen.  What was it about those images that captured your imagination?  The location...perhaps...the subject...maybe.  Odds are if you really thought about it, what really captured your imagination was how the photographer placed himself in the very best position to capture that particular moment in time.  In essence he was willing to do what was necessary to be in a position to capture the absolutely best light of the day.  Doing so requires planning ahead...doing your homework...anticipating the potential of a location and recognizing what kind of lighting conditions will best fulfill capturing the vision you have for your photography.

One of the very best times is what is known as The Golden Hour.  This can be defined several ways...but the way I define it is a combination of the first fifteen minutes before and after sunrise and the last fifteen minutes before and after sundown.  Together that gives you a full hour of the best light of the day.  I'm not necessarily talking about sunrises and sunsets...although most of us are naturally attracted to them for obvious reasons.  Try not to get mesmerized by the boldness of those moments, instead, look around and see what kind of effect that light has on the things around you.  That soft light...golden light...pastel light will often give a location or an object a uniquely different look and appeal.

Take for instance this photograph taken a couple winters ago in Kentucky.  It was very cold and the night before a winter storm had covered the landscape with a beautiful pristine layer of snow.  The clouds had cleared, the sky was brilliant, and a full moon was hovering over the western horizon not long from setting.  I was up before dawn and drove to a location I had tried to photograph several times before with little success.  Even so, I knew that location had was just a matter of being ready when the opportunity presented itself.  The sun was a good fifteen maybe twenty minutes from rising, but the pre-dawn sky carried a lavender glow which was reflected in the snow.  This was the moment I had hoped for...and it was rapidly moving toward its finality. Using a tripod, I made several exposures over the course of several minutes before the amazing light evaporated and the sky became too bright.  It wasn't until after I had downloaded the images that I realized just how amazing this photographic moment was.

Being at that place of greatest potential, being prepared, and using the first light of the golden hour all combined to created a wonderfully simply, yet powerful winter scene.  It was the glow in the sky that created the amazing light...the snow simply enhanced the moment.  Planning ahead...being prepared...understanding the impact the light of the golden hour has and then being willing to place yourself at that point of greatest potential will more often than not result in great opportunities.


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