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

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Photograph What You Feel

I was the only person on the lake...somewhat of a surprise being it was Saturday.  The sun was a good thirty minutes from rising so the soft first light of morning outlined the treeline that undulated across the top of the ridge.  There was an ever so slight breeze...just enough to move the wispy fog that clung to the surface of the lake into ever changing forms and ghost like apparitions.  For August, the cool morning air seemed out of place...I didn't complain.  The only sound was the gentle report of the paddle as it propelled my Old Town canoe across the surface.  Two...three strokes on one side...then the other...and back again...someday I will actually learn how to do the J-stroke...but on this morning I simple zigged and zagged a crooked line toward the upper end of the lake.

A couple hundred yards from the put in, I slowed to a stop and turned to my right just a bit.  As I drifted and looked up at the last of the stars still shining I noticed hovering above the eastern ridge was a crescent moon glowing bright white against the blue of the morning light.  This was certainly one of those photo moments worth taking.  I knew it would require a long exposure in the low I moved toward the west bank and found a slippery, but level spot to get out and setup the tripod attaching the camera in the darkness as I ducked below an overhanging limb.  Several long exposures and I shoved off time to over evaluate the images...I needed to close the gap between me and the upper end of the lake before the sun climbed too high.

My fishing rod lay stretched across the starboard (right) side of the canoe.  Around me I could see bait fish jumping as predators hunted for a meal.  No time to cast a line...the morning was growing brighter.  Previous excursions taught me that the best perspective for morning shots on this little lake would be found on the upper end looking back to the east.  To my right I noticed the 'Big Rock' glowing in the dim light and reflecting off the perfectly calm surface...I had to give it a try...No time or place for a tripod...just have to bump the ISO and hold it steady...two quick shots (which turned out to be a bit too soft)...and I continued toward my morning rendezvous.

A few minutes later I rounded the point that stretched toward the earthen dam...connected a deep diving lure to my fishing line and made a few tentative casts as I kept one eye on the eastern ridge.  First light of the morning changes so rapidly that sometimes by the time you get the camera out of the bag (or waterproof box in this case) what was there a moment before is gone.   I put the fishing rod down and simply drifted and watched the performance reflect off the mirrored surface of the lake.

The wispy fog grew thicker as the air cooled and the gentle currents of air launched them into a splendid choreographed swirling dance set to the symphony of the sounds of dawn.  The horizon grew brighter and the glow began to build...pastels...reds...grays...blues...oranges...yellow subtle this time...not as bold as on previous trips.  It was a feast for eyes hungry for reflective moments afield.  True to its nature, what played out on this morning served to calm a tired spirit.

Over the next thirty minutes, I snapped about a 150 images...all the while keeping in mind what I wanted to capture was what I was feeling...less so what I actually saw...which was amazing in its own right.  To accomplish this I worked the exposure compensation button almost as much as I did the shutter release...applied the use of a graduated neutral density filter to bring the sky and reflections closer to the same exposure value and, most importantly I waited for that defining moment...a moment that can sometimes be elusive and chameleon like...constantly changing...ever moving...always calling and stirring the emotions.  The morning did not disappoint.

By the time the sun climbed above the ridge...the shoot was all but over save for a few random shots here and there.  The next couple of hours was spent mostly fishing and simply enjoying what I enjoy doing most...managed to catch a couple of bass in the process.  Not only did I manage to capture another amazing Shanty Hollow morning...I managed to rekindle that sense of adventure...ever so brief as it was...and when I find time to review the images from that morning...I'll always remember the emotion of the moment...because, after all...that was my mission all along.


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